Tuesday, December 27, 2011

December 27. 2011

Hello Everyone,
I forgot to bring the cord to my camera this week, so I can't upload any pictures. Sorry. I will make sure to bring it next time. I hope everyone had an awesome Christmas (And remembered what it was really about), and I hope everyone has an awesome New Year. This week was really crazy and we didn't have very many appointments or lessons or luck with tracting because during the holidays here everyone leaves and goes to the coastal towns. We did go to like six different Christmas parties though, and I've eaten more candy here than I ever have in my life. I actually like the chocolate here, it's a lot better here than it is in the states. This week we had one of the APs come out with my Elder Blake and I on exchanges, so we spent the day as a tripod. The Elder that was with us was named Elder Ssempala, and he's from Uganda. He's a really cool guy and he's an awesome and powerful missionary. He should be though, he's been here for 22 months. Even though he wasn't here very long, both Elder Blake and I learned a lot from him.
We live in a flat at the base of a mountain, and one morning this week we woke up extra early and hiked it and did our studying at the summit. It was really cool, and the view was really cool. I took pictures but I'll have to send them next week. After that we had an appointment with one of the only progressing investigators that we have. His name is Marcus, and he is going to be baptized, the only reason he hasn't been already is because of his smoking addiction. He's cut down a lot, but he has been regressing lately. At the end of our lesson though, we gave him a blessing and he hasn't smoked since. It's been 6 days. The missionaries have been trying to get him to stop for forever and he has never gone and entire day without a cigarette until we gave him the blessing. It was so cool to see the Priesthood in action, and to see how it really can help us to do anything. Marcus only has to make it two more weeks and he can be baptized. It is so cool.

We would be much more productive but the relationship between the missionaries and the branch was ruined by a couple of Elders who were in this area before we were. Since most conversion happens through referrals from members, and not from tracting (only like 1/100 of the people we talk to will take anytime to even acknowledge that we exist) we've decided to focus the majority of our efforts on building our relationship with the Branch members. We're still doing the best we can on our own, but hopefully our efforts to befriend the members will bring a lot more investigators.

This week I also went on an exchange with some other Elders in our district. I was with my District leader Elder Bais (Australia) and I went to Alexandra in the township (Ghetto of all ghettos). Elder Bais doesn't have a driver's license, so I had to drive. That might not sound like a big deal but I've been on a bike since I got here, and they drive on the wrong side here and the first rule of the road is that there are no rules. It's truly crazy scary driving here. I didn't have any time to practice either, they just tossed me the keys and said "ok, drive!" In the township the streets are super narrow and everyone lives in these little shacks made out of whatever was closest to them. And that could be literally anything from bathmats for shingles, to mud or anything. Anyway, I'm learning to drive on these narrow dirt roads with sewage flowing down the sides, on the wrong side while trying to dodge not only people, but goats and chickens and children and RATS. Big rats. It was literally the opposite of the area that I usually serve in. I liked it a lot more though, because there were no stuck up, rich, white people. There was only black people, but they're way more humble and easy to talk to. I committed my first person to be baptized there and they said "What is the soonest I can be baptized?" It was awesome. I hope I get assigned to an area like that next time transfers happen.

Besides talking to everyone on Christmas, that was the highlight of my week. I love and miss everyone, and thank you all for the letters and emails. I really appreciate them. Sorry I couldn't send pictures, but I hope everyone has a happy New Year!!

-Elder Joshua Danger Balmforth

Monday, December 19, 2011

December 19. 2011

I finally left the MTC!! I also got my first real companion. His name is Elder Blake and he is from Virginia. I was so glad. I was so worried because I wanted an American at first. Anyway my companion has only been out for 3 months and he's already training. I'm in an area called Alberton and I'll be here for at least 4.5 months. It is totally not what I expected at all. It is the richest, whitest place in the world. It is like the Beverly Hills of South Africa. I've never seen so many BMWs, Mercedes, Audis and even Ferrari's and Lambo's in my life. It's crazy. Because all of the people are rich and white, none of them want to hear anything about the gospel because they think they have it all figured out, so we don't have very many investigators. So we spend the majority of our time tracting, which you wouldn't think would be so bad except that all of the houses here are huge and have crazy electric and spiked fences with like 10 guard dogs each. I hate dogs. I have a theory that the fences here aren't made to keep people out, they're made to kill you if you try to get in. And because of the fences and dogs we can't even knock on people's doors, we have to talk to them through these stupid little call boxes on their driveway entrances. And when people aren't looking you in the eyes it is a lot easier for them to shut you down. I'm really starting to hate white people, seriously. The only nice people here are the black ones, but we cant teach any of them because they all live outside our area and we only have bikes even though our area is huge.

I have taught a couple of lessons though. But they were to investigators that we already had before I got here. Even though I've only done it a few times I'm already a lot better than I thought I would be. I also went to my first barbeque (Braai) where another missionary in my district and I had a wrestling match and I accidentally gave him a bloody nose. His name is Elder Beenfield. I like most of the missionaries here in my zone, and it makes it a lot easier to be here with people to talk to who get me. On Saturday we got to go to the Temple again but I left my recommend at my flat so Elder Blake and I had to wait around the Temple grounds and distribution center for like 3 hours.

I also went to the Alberton branch for the first time on Sunday. The members are all really nice, but since the holidays are here, there was only literally a hand full of people there. I also had to get up and give a talk with like no notice, but it went ok.

Overall I like it here. My legs are going to be huge by the time I leave here because we're on bikes and every appointment we set up is on the opposite side of town than where we currently are.

I found out that at least for the next 4.5 months I will be in an area where I can get and print emails, so that is going to be the fastest way to get a hold of me.

I've really been learning a lot and even though I've not been here very long the way I see things is completely different. Please to your best to obey and do everything that you are supposed to. Even if it seems really small and insignificant. I can't stress how important all of this is. I just love and care for you all so much. And I miss you all a ton. And I want to be with you all forever. I love you all so much. Thank you for all the letters.

Also If someone could please send me a couple of things. I need black athletic type socks(preferably moisture wicking, these church socks aren't doing it for me.). I'd also really appreciate an electric shaver, a couple of tie bars and some more ties.

About Christmas calls:

Dad-I'm going to call you on Christmas Eve at around 230pm Eastern time, so please be home. I only have a few minutes left on our phone, so I'm going to have to give you my number when I call you and have you call me back.

Mom/Kelsie-I'm going to call you on Christmas at around 1000am Mountain time, and I'm going to let you guys figure out where to meet up. Kelsie's number is the only one I remember so I will be calling her phone. Please make sure that you guys answer and are together.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Week Three

Hello everybody,
I wish I could tell you all something new I learned about South Africa this week, but I've been stuck in the mtc the entire time. Pretty much all that I know about this place is what people tell me and what I can see from the window. It's kind of like Spirit Prison. Our schedules are such that we can barely breathe without being told that we can, we're only let out in the yard to play sports an hour a day and to go to the cafeteria to eat. And I'm stuck with a companion that I don't really like while people are teaching us the gospel all the time. Besides that though, everything is pretty sweet. I've started over in my Book of Mormon reading, and It's crazy how differently I see it now. It's not just a book anymore. On Tuesday we went to the Joburg temple and the distribution center again. It was awesome. Everyone needs to go to the temple as often as they can. Also, at the distributioncenter they had this big Book of Mormon covered in wildabeast fur. It was crazy, it looked like something out of Harry Potter. They had a ton of stuff like that, and I took some pictures with it but I can't send them yet. It's been Interesting being here but I still can't wait to get out of the MTC. I'm leaving on the 13th, I'm excited to have a companion who actually knows what he's talking about. Yesterday we had something called TRC, which is where they bring referrals into the MTC to be taught by the new missionaries, and the teachers tell us that all of the people are real investigators but you can totally tell that they're all members. Some you can tell are wearing garments, others accidentally introduce themselves as Brother or Sister and one of them forgot that he was wearing his ctr ring. I thought one of the guys Elder Masaya and I were teaching yesterday was a real investigator until I realized that he had a vile of consecrated oil on his key chain and I couldn't take anything he was saying seriously after that. I also found out that polygamy is legal here because the chef in the cafeteria has 3 wives of his own. Apparently if we're teaching someone and we find out that they have more than one wife we're just supposed to stop teaching them. Today I'm also going on splits with the real Joburg missionaries and I'm pretty excited that I'll get to see some of what this place is actually like. Hopefully I don't get mugged. They had a member who is an ex-cop come in and talk to us for an hour about how not to get killed. It was pretty funny. But other than learning about the gospel and how to teach nothing else has really happened.
What I'm going to try and do since I do not have enough time to read all of my emails and then respond is I'm going to print out the emails as soon as I get on the computer, then respond to the previous weeks questions and read my emails when my time to write is up.
1. I think that as long as it is an attachment and not a link I can open it because of the filters on the computers.
2-3. Anything printed out would be awesome. I just found out that I'm allowed to print here at the MTC but I don't know if there'll be a printer available wherever I go. I'll let you know as I find out.
4. I met up with Elder Dirkmaat in london. He is a pretty cool guy and we'll both be going to the same mission so I'll probably get to see a lot of him.
I love you all. Sorry I couln't tell you more but my time is up. Thank you for all the letters.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Week Two

Dear Everyone,
I'm sorry that I won't have time to reply to everyone's emails right now. While I'm here in the MTC I only have 30 minutes every week to write letters including reading all of your letters. It's actually a pretty stressful event. It's fun being here, except that it is a lot what I thing spirit prison is like. There are bars on the windows and a spiked fence all the way around the property with security guards and such, and our schedule is very strict with people teaching us about the gospel constantly. My companion's name is Elder Masaya (from Zimbabwe), and while I thought it would be cool to have an African companion.. We really don't get along very well. He's pretty much the polar opposite of me. Yes, skin tone also. Other than that, all of the other Elders in my district (8 Elders in my room, and the only 2 sisters here) are really fun to be around. I think they're trying to make me fat because they feed us 4 huge meals a day, and the rest of the time we spend sitting in class. We also keep having to teach fake investigators all the time, even though none of us really know anything and we don't have senior companions to save us when we talk ourselves into a corner. I feel like we're all being given final exams on the first day of class, and none of the teachers will give us any answers. They just tell us to figure it out. Yesterday was awesome though because we had a real referral come in to talk to Elder Masaya and I about the church. It went awesome. I've never felt the spirit like that. We had all the answers and right things to say to him. It was one of the coolest things ever. We also went to the Johannesburg temple for the first time on tuesday and its tiny. The endowment room could only fit a maximum of like 15 people. The whole temple seemed miniature. We also were able to do some sealings which was new. My time is just about up, I'll have more time to write and answer questions and stuff when I get out of the MTC. I love you all. Thanks for all the letters.