Guest Testimonies

Saturday, May 31, 2014

"If you're not having fun, you're doing something wrong!"

And it came to pass that in the two-thousand and fourteenth year in the reign of Jacob Zuma in the land of South Africa, in the fifth month there came many trials allowed and many blessings at the hand of the Lord unto his servants in Daveyton. And this is an account of their journeying in the past weeks…
                Haha so much for corny blog openings  :P to clarify though, there are a lot more blessings that we have received as opposed to trials here; I just had to make my opening line sound “scripturey”. Man time is just flying though! We’re already in week 5 of this transfer and I can’t believe it! I feel like I barely know my companion and this area yet we’ve been together for 4 weeks now. I guess that goes to show you that time really does fly when you’re having fun!! And mission is meant to be fun! To quote a good friend’s advice before I came out here: “If you’re not having fun, you’re doing something wrong” and I 100% support that statement! Mission is a fun experience and if you’re serious and stern all the time, you may not enjoy these best two years as much as you could! Now, that being said, I feel that the Lord has provided me with the opportunity to learn from a companion that you really CAN have fun while being obedient. They are not two separate things and they can both be achieved together. As we can figure that out on our missions, we will be hooked up and it will set a pattern for our lives back home when we don’t have a white handbook but when we still have all the commandments and advices from our leaders. As far as lessons learned so far on mission, I’d rank that as the biggest one I’ve learned in these past 4 weeks here with Elder Stilgoe in Daveyton.
                So some good news/bad news about the whole blog thing is that: Good- Elder Graham, the new missionary being trained by Kewuti, brought on his mission an Alphasmart keyboard. It’s what we used to use back in the good ol’ elementary days for keyboarding class and it has the little 4-line screen to see what you’re typing and its approved by the church for missionaries to use! (At least that’s what he says; that other Missionaries in the states use them…) but its super nice that he lets me use it for the little free time that we have because I get to type my blog as the week happens and then just take 5 min to upload it on email day! Soooo convenient and nice for #missionlyfe. The bad news is that sometimes (like last Monday) technology fails so hopefully this time, it’ll work!
YO YO YO so this p-day (may 19th) I got to jam with one of the coolest, talented, and most humble guitarists in the SAJM, Elder Edeyoach (Eddy-ow) from Polaou (Palau?). Yo he is amazing and we had a blast playing some classic music and I finally found someone who taught me “snow (hey oh)” by the Chili Peppers!! Washa! Needless to say, I had a great time on p-day.

                But in other news!.. My new favorite holiday has got to be Mothers Day!!! I’m definitely not a mother but I got to Skype home and talk to mine on the 11th and man that was the best!! Technology truly is a blessing and how cool is it to be able to talk, laugh, see faces, and even say a family prayer from 9555miles away!?!? And a bonus is that instead of bringing any feelings of homesickness or trunkiness, it dispelled such feelings and just brought a smile to my face the rest of the week. Another lesson learned on mission: I LOVE MY FAMILY TOO MUCH!!
                This week we’ve have also been able to have zone meeting! That was fun to go to and meet more missionaries and create more friendships. It was weird being the new guy again in the zone but it means that I’m progressing! And we have a zone activity on Monday so it’ll be fun to develop those friendships a little further.
As far as the work goes, Daveyton is pretty sweet! We’ve been doing a little finding and have found a couple new investigators to teach and so we are planning to put some more people on date to be baptized! But since I’ve been here, I’ve noticed something that’s really crucial as a part of missionary work and the thoughts of Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley tell it better than I could when he says: “There is absolutely no point in doing missionary work unless we hold on to the fruits of that effort.” I’ve heard it before on mission but haven’t really SEEN it until here in Daveyton where a lot of the lessons we teach, about 50% are to try and reactivate less-active members. It’s been sad to see these people who were just baptized without any support system, without a calling, and some without much of a testimony anymore and who attend others churches while still saying they believe in our church. On one hand, it begs the thought of what were previous missionaries thinking when they thought this person was converted and what do I need to do to make sure the people I teach truly have experienced conversion BEFORE baptism and on the other hand, what can we do as missionaries to help them find/dust off their testimonies. It brings a new dynamic to the work that I haven’t been able to see yet but it’s a cool thing to be a part of. In the past 3 weeks we’ve had one sister and a brother come back to church and start reading their scriptures! The Word is True!!!
Stilgoe and I are having a blast being companions and we are able to work hard and have fun. One of the things I’m glad to learn from his example is that we can still do missionary work and have fun! I think sometimes I forget to smile and laugh as much and lets be real, that’s just boring! So I’m glad I’ve had someone to remind me to just have fun because again, in the wise words of Don “Beef” Sorenson: “if you’re not having fun, you’re doing something wrong.”
And so I conclude my post with that advice kids, if you’re not having fun in living the gospel, you’re doing it wrong!
p.s. Cardon Smith, are you really coming to serve in Johannesburg!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

"Transfer news came in and I found out I was leaving [Johannesburg]"

May 4, 2014
Elder "Tony" in __________!!!!
Alright well, transfer news came in on Saturday night and I found out I was leaving and then on Tuesday at tranfers, we found out where we were going! And now, Elder Smith has been called to build the kingdom in the township of Daveyton! Yo yo yo yo yo it is a different lifestyle here but its sooo cool! Haha livin the kasi life!! Everything is SOOOO different to serving in the city! All the street corners look the same and it'll for sure be rough to try to learn but I already know I’m gonna love it too much! So I’m here serving with Elder Stilgoe! My new companion and the District leader of our district (Daveyton 1 & 2). He grew up in York and now his family stays in Sussex, England. Yo he is a sweeet guy! I can definitely say that this is my favorite companionship so far! We get along too well and we both want to work hard so we both push each other to accomplish our goals and get better! Finally! Haha:) I think we're both in the same boat in the way that we both came from... less than excited companions haha so now we're ready to work again! 
But anyways, Elder Stilgoe is a super cool guy to serve with. He's 9 months on mission and has been here in Daveyton for 3 months. Before, he was serving in Dobsonville in Soweto so township is all he knows; no worries, I’m in good hands! But he played semi-professional soccer back in England and is freakin good! And as good as he is at soccer, he is even better at being a missionary. We both want to get better, get the area better than we found it, and teach with the spirit and so far, that’s what we've been doing. But I can tell that this wi!
So yeah this is a crazy new experience but is going to be fun. The people here are too cool and nice and humble as well! When we tract, sometimes we are able to go right in and teach a lesson right then and there! And when we were in church yesterday, we were welcomed with open arms. #churchistrue :) 
As this is my second area, there were a lot of new changes. Companion, area, ward, people, and even flat and leadership as well. like I said, in the last flat it was just a two man and only us in our  whole complex but now, we have our whole district (me, Stilgoe, Graham, Kewuti) in a 4-man flat here in the suburb of Farrarmere in Benoni (about 10min outside of Daveyton) and it is a party!! (Don’t worry, we keep it obedient haha)
But yeah homies back home, all is great on mission and for the first time I’ve asked myself where the last 5 months have gone! Eish, we call home in a week and that’ll be my 2nd call home :P crazy!! 
But I want to leave with my testimony that the Lord will have his voice heard and His work will go forward. We had a cool experience the other day that confirmed these principles. Elder Stilgoe and I were tracting after a dropped appointment and when we were about to head to our next appointment, our car wouldn’t start. It would turn the engine over but it wouldn’t idle and just die unless it was given gas. So we gave it gas and started to drive hoping it wouldn’t die but then the steering wheel locked up and died and we pulled in front of a house. Seconds later, the owners pulled up and offered to help us. Our phone was dying so they offered to let us into their house to charge their phone as we called the mission vehicle guy. He gave us a solution and by simply flipping the key upside-down, the car started. Without those turn of events, we wouldn’t have met the family much less got into their house to introduce who we are and set a return appointment. MIRACLE!!! But experiencing this firsthand has made me realize that obedience brings success but exact obedience brings miracles! And the Lord will have his purposes brought to pass and Daveyton will soon be the best area in the mission!!! Siyabonga and Salakahle!
Tha's 'bout it!
Elder Smith

"Wow, that's exactly what's happening now! Where can I buy this book?"

April 28, 2014
5 MONTHS TODAY!!!!!!!!! BRINGO!!!!!!!!
Eish it’s been a while! How is everyone back home!?
Eish I can’t even remember the last chance I had to write a blog post it’s been pretty hectic here! (And the fact that we have limited time once a week also adds to that but excuses are 10 pushups so there is no excuse... right coach?) Man I don’t even know where to start! This month of April has been both freakin’ sweet and freakin’ hard! We’ve had a baptism, tons of finding and tons of appointments, exchanges, you name it, it happened! I also found probably my new favorite chapter in the Book of Mormon!
This transfer has been the fastest I’ve had thus far and sho! it went by fast haha but I guess the big news is that Elder Smith is leaving his beloved "greenie" area tomorrow and being sent somewhere that, according to President Omer, "is a wonderful area" so I can’t go wrong right?? Man that’s all I’ve been able to think about this whole weekend is how much of a change it’s all going to be! A new comp, area, ward, people, cultures, flat, transportation situation, etc. I’ve been able to keep telling myself that change=growth so I’m looking forward to it all and will face it with a smile and humble heart so I can learn all that I have to learn! However, this experience is bittersweet and so I very much have mixed emotions. Bitter because I love this place! Central Jozi is the place to be! It’s crazy yeah and a bit dangerous but I got to serve in both of THE Johannesburg wards; the latter being the City itself! I’m very lucky and with that assignment have been able to make very many friends with members and investigators alike. It’s bitter because I have to leave all these people I’m close with; my families away from my family! Elder Raymond and I have also grown super close as we have struggled to rebuild this area and get it pumping again (when we got here, the previous missionaries that we both replaced were only teaching 4-5 lessons a week and this past week we finished with 21 lessons). It’s been hard and we've had to find unique ways of finding (you can’t tract in town, too dangerous) but we have made it work! Finding in parks was our go to and it was successful because we went from a teaching pool of 3 to a pool of 15+ QUALITY investigators! Like I said, I've been very lucky and blessed to have served here! It is a sweet experience though because it means I am progressing on mission! As Elder Matos and I always talked about, progression is an eternal principle and so we've always got to move forward! I’m excited to see what the rest of my mission has in store for me and the people that the Lord has for me to meet and learn from! Again, I’m blessed! 
Some other fun news from elder Raymond's side of transfers is that he will be staying and training for his first time! He is super excited with the trust that has been given to him and is anxious to teach his "son" the best that he can! I’m excited for him as well:) Raymond is a solid guy and a great friend that I am lucky to have learned from and worked along-side!
Like I said, this month, on the 20th, we had another baptism in the 1st ward! Ruth Mayimbi (DRC) was baptized by her Husband Alpha and then confirmed a member of the church yesterday! That is a cool story for sure! Sis. Ruth and Alpha were married up in Congo and he came back down to work to save up money to move her down here (he is Congolese but has lived in SA for a while). So she came down here and she wanted to be baptized because she didn’t have the chance before she left Congo. So elder Matos and I began teaching her and preparing her for baptism! The cool part was that sis. Ruth couldn’t speak English and we sure couldn’t say more than "bonsoir, comment ├ža va?" haha So Bro. Alpha helped us to translate. It was so cool to see the love he had for his wife that was made evident thru the way he translated and made sure that she understood every principle! she progressed towards the date and Elder Raymond and I finished teaching her and she was ready for baptism but was already converted to the gospel:) they are now preparing for the temple in 1 year to be sealed for time and all eternity! The thing I will not forget about this unique teaching experience is the fact that no matter what language you do/don’t speak, the Holy Ghost works on ALL people and in a "language" that is understandable to all that will humble themselves and seek for the truth believing that they can and will find it!
Other than that, Raymond and I have been finding, finding, finding and as a result, teaching, teaching, teaching!! Haha we  have been able to sort thru all the jokers and find father-led families and all sincere seekers of the truth! One of those guys' names is Michael Ndlovu. Mike found us in Pieter Roos Park as we were contacting and he stopped skating and ran over to Elder Kusi-Poku (Ghana) and I (we were on exchanges at the time) and asked if we were guys who talked about God; we said "yes we do!" From there he proceeded to tell us a story about how some Satanists were also going around the park telling people like him and his friends that there was no God and that Satan had all the power and all that rubbish. So Mike was confused because he didn’t go to church but he still kind of had a belief in God and now he was confused! So he asked us how we could help and we talked about how faith and strengthening what faith we have can help us withstand even the hardest influences of the devil.; right at that moment, my mind turned to the story of Sherem in the 7th chapter of Jacob in the BoM. So I followed the prompting that I had and said something to the effect of "hey man, how about we read a story from this book about a similar situation?" and he agreed. Once we had read thru verse 20, he said "wow, that’s exactly what’s happening now! Where can I buy this book!?" and we told him it was free, mahala (SA slang = free of charge) and that it was his! From there, he started reading and praying and even loves the story of Joseph Smith and is currently praying to know whether or not it’s true. He came to church yesterday as well and said "I loved it man! It feels so good!" but he has definitely been my friend and is preparing to be baptized on the 8th of June:) YO! I love this work!!
Mission life is great! I get to work with and under some great leaders here in the Africa South-East Area and we even get to interact with the Area Presidency! In fact, Elder Renlund was in our ward a couple Sundays ago so that was pretty cool! As well, President Omer is an inspired man of God and a very humble Christ-like servant who wants the best for all of God's children. When we get the chance to interview with him, I can just feel the love he and the Savior have for me! The interviews are very reverent and spiritual moments that I hold closely and am very much thankful for. 
I’ve gotten the chance to go on several exchanges with our DL (District Leader) and with his companion and those are always fun! I get to see new areas and meet new people and also learn from different teaching styles! I’m also getting better at driving on the wrong side of the road! ;) 
But guess what!? If any of you remember a conference talk by Elder Ochoa a couple of conferences ago where he talked about South Africa? Specifically about a boy named Thabiso who was in the Priests Quorum in the Kagiso ward? Well, the other day Elder Raymond and I met Thabiso as he was working at the BK in Park Station! Haha small world of the church I guess:) 
But man this month in our SAJM BOM challenge I found one of, if not my favorite chapter in the book of Mormon! As I was praying to start my study, I asked if I could read and gain an insight into something that I could apply right at that specific point in time. Then I opened up and started reading in Alma 26; which has become my favorite! Ammon takes this time to praise the Lord and to Boast not in his strength, but in the strength, goodness, and mercy of our Heavenly Father! I felt like I could immediately relate to that because in verses 11-37, it’s exactly how a missionary feels!! I love verse 22, echo the thoughts of the latter part of v. 16, and in v. 27, we learn what we can do when anything gets rough. And like Grandma Richards would say "It’s all worth it!" in verse 30. I encourage all of you who get the opportunity to read that and reflect upon the whole chapter because I guarantee that it will be worth your time! And for those that don’t have the opportunity, remember that excuses are 10 pushups and make the opportunity for yourselves!
I love you guys and hope to hear from you soon in letters :) Cheers!
Tha’s ‘bout it!
-Elder David Spencer "Tony" Smith