Monday, February 27, 2012

February 27. 2012

Hello again everyone,

This week was interesting, but not very fun at all. I know that's not what being here is about, but I didn't think that it would be this depressing constantly.
First, I'll talk about the good things that happened. We've started to get some referrals here and there and we picked up 2 new investigators this week, Dineo Muholi and Andrew. They are our Heavenly Father's children and deserve to hear the gospel. Dineo is a 14 year old girl who is in a part-member family that we came across as we were trying to visit members of the branch. She is one of the sweetest girls ever though and gives some of the best prayers I've ever heard. She's going to be baptized near the end of March. Andrew is a guy from Malawi, but I haven't asked him about the pizzia there yet. He's a black guy and is a Roman-Catholic, but he has been reading the Book of Mormon we gave him, and unlike most of the people we've taught, actually understands most of it. He's also on schedule to be baptized at the end of March.
I saw something funny too. One day we were biking, like usual, when we passed this truck stopped at a light and one of the Africans in the bed was rolling what looked to be a massive blunt. He looked up from his doobie rolling and noticed that 2 missionaries saw what he was doing, but he just smiled unashamed and continued on. The funny thing is that he was in the middle of traffic, not even really trying to hide his illegal activity. I thought it was funny.
I had my first real experience this week with a guy who wanted to Bible bash. I feel bad for going as far as I did, because there was no way that either party was going to sway the others opinions in the slightest. I actually found myself getting quite angry and my heart rate started to go up. I had to eventually just tell the guy that we needed to leave. He did know his scriptures very well, but he took certain verses to be absolute truth while completely ignoring other contradicting scriptures. He told us that the bible is perfect and that it is exactly the word of God, but if you know the Bible's history it isn't so clear. Anyway, I had to leave. I felt horrible though after I left and I'm never going to do it again.
We had my first Zone Conference this week which was pretty good, and I also went on exchanges to Alex again which was awesome. I find that I'm the happiest when I'm not in my own area. I did eat some chicken feet off the side of the road. It actually just tasted like normal chicken except that if felt like I had a miniature hand in my mouth which was hard to get over. Other than that it was good though. It did come from a pretty sketchy area though, so I hope I didn't get a parasite or anything.
After we exchanged back, I went back to my normal state of depression in Alberton. I cannot wait to leave this place. I've only been out 3 months, and the people here are already starting to kill my greenie fire. It sucks.
I did get to witness Edler Blake take a pretty crazy spill on his bike the other day though. It was raining like crazy and we were already drenched when some lady pulled out in front of Elder Blake. He slammed on his brakes and because the ground was wet, he laid over his bike and bounced his face on the pavement pretty hard. He has a pretty good scrape on his face now. The worst part about it is that the lady didn't even get out of her car or even roll down the window. She just gave a little apology through her closed window as she drove away. It was lame, but kind of funny at the same time. That pretty much describes a lot of the white south africans here.
Thank you all for the letters. I'm sorry that I don't have enough time to reply to many of them at all, but I do read and love them. I love you all and hope you have an awesome week.

Elder Balmforth

Monday, February 20, 2012

February 20. 2012

Ola ola,
I know the greeting doesn't make much sense, but Africa doesn't make much sense. This week had a lot of ups and downs. Mostly downs, but we're still pushing on.
We started out this week having to do a deep clean of our tiny little flat. We didn't think it was going to take very long, but once we started noticing all the dirt we realized how much work we were really in for. It was required and took our whole p-day. It was really gross too. We found out that the grout between the shower tiles is in fact, not black, but white. I know, it freaked me out too. I don't think that that place has ever really been cleaned by any missionary.
As far as actual missionary work went, we didn't accomplish very much. I think we taught a total of 8 actual lessons last week, which meant we had a lot of extra time to try and find productive things to do. We went through the entire branch list contacting all the less actives and trying to set up appointments with active members, trying to re-establish trust lost by previous missionaries in the area. I think our efforts are beginning to pay off though. We actually received some referrals this week, which is awesome considering that the branch hasn't given us any up to this point. While we called through the less active members though, I started having flashbacks to APX. We heard so many crazy and stupid excuses as to why people left the church. I couldn't believe that members of the church could be so rude to 2 missionaries just trying to help. Anyway, we had to update the list because the branch didn't want to help us, but we got it done. Next week we're going to be starting to teach lessons in Priesthood and Relief Society on "Every member a missionary" to hopefully get the ward motivated to start creating family missionary plans. All of them really need to study what is meant in D&C 88:81. We hope it works.
These last few weeks have been crazy with emergency transfers. We've had 2 major transfers within this single transfer. I had no idea some of the crazy, stupid things that missionaries do. A lot of the time I think that people think of missionaries as just missionaries and don't realize that all of the same problems that exist at home are the same or even amplified in the mission field. Some of the missionaries here do some really bad, stupid things. We were way sad because one of our Zone Leaders, Elder Crawford, was emergency transferred because of the actions of some other stupid missionaries. He was one of the coolest missionaries I've met here.
Not much else has happened missionary wise this week. We did pick up a new investigator, but I don't know how it is going to turn out. I'm not positive, but I'm pretty sure he's a drug dealer. We did confirm Markus and Jessica this week which was pretty cool though. That crazy African guy (Felizberto), from Mozambique showed up again this week and while the Branch President was talking at the pulpit, Feliz stood up and grabbed a bug off the President's collar. It was way funny and awkward because the President didn't know what was going on and looked like he was going to punch him in the face. I busted out laughing on accident during the awkward silence and had to leave the room for a minute.
We were invited over to the Branch President's home for lunch after church where we had lamb roast which was awesome, with an awesome dessert called milk tart.
After church we had another appointment with a family in the branch to help them set up a family mission plan, but of course Elder Blake had to get another flat tire. It is like his fifth one. We didn't want to be late though, so he ran alongside his bike all the way to the far end of our area with his backpack on and everything. It was pretty funny, because he was sweating up a storm by the time we got there. We had to have some elders in the next area over with a car come and pick us up afterward though, because it was late and we were a good 2.5 hour walk from our flat.
That's about all that happened this week though.
Thank you again for all the letters, and I love you all.
Peace out.
-Elder Balmforth

What I deal with every time I try to knock on someone's gate

Alberton sign

Alberton sign

A huge spider with all its babies in a web we found in our flat

The source of all my pain and frustration

Alberton sign

Our flat. It's one room except for the tiny kitchen and
bathroom through that doorway

Monday, February 13, 2012

February 13. 2012

Howzit (as the Africans would say),
Well this week wasn't terribly interesting until the very end of the week. We only had a few appointments again, and some of the people we are teaching we had to drop. So we spent a lot of time tracting this week. We hate having to tract because it rarely ever turns out any good results; it just feels like we're wasting time when we do it, but it's really one of the only things we can do because the members really aren't willing to help us out at all. We try to get them involved, but most of the time they tell us they are too busy. There are a few members that put forth a good effort to help us, but we hate having to rely on those ones constantly. We're, over the next few weeks, going to be teaching lessons in Priesthood, Relief Society, YSA and Primary about every member being a missionary and how to set up family mission plans. I hope it works in motivating the members here because they all have a lot of potential to do a lot of good.
The family that we had to drop this week, I don't remember if I've told you about them already or not, is the Wiesners. They're an old Afrikaans. They basically expressed to us that they were born in the Afrikaans church, and that's where they are going to die even if they come to know that the Book of Mormon is true. They are the most prideful people I've met. They pretty much, in a round about way, told us that they believe that God loves the Afrikaaners more than anyone else. So after like 4 months of wasted missionary efforts, we had to drop them.
We did meet with a new family this week which seems promising. It's a guy named Sakhile and his sister, but they seemed to be very interested in what we had to say so far about the restoration, but we'll see how the next visit goes before I get too excited.
We were also able to eat dinner at the Sheasby's, a less active family, home this week. We have been visiting them a lot lately and they are almost completely active again and it's pretty awesome. They're a young couple with 3 small children, but they are some of the funniest people I've met. Elder Blake and I love going over to their house even though it's a pretty good bike ride to get there and back.
The highlight of the week though, is that we had 2 baptisms on Sunday. I was able to baptize a girl named Jessica, and Elder Blake baptized Markus. 2 white baptisms in the same week. It was awesome. Most missionaries here never get 1 white baptism the entire time they're here. It got the branch excited too. So much, that a couple of the members even came up to us and offered to go on splits with us. That has never happened to me here before. It was awesome. Jessica's mother Yvonne is going to be baptized on the 26th also.
That's really all that happened this week though. I'm really glad that I have Elder Blake as my companion, even though a lot of the time he can be really dramatic. I hear so many horror stories about other missionaries companions that are in the field right now. I only have like 3 more weeks with Elder Blake, and I don't know what I'll do with an area as hard as this one and a companion that I don't get along with. I hope it goes well.
Sorry that I don't have more to write this week. Not very many exciting things happen in this area. I love you all though and hope you all have another awesome week. Thank you for all the letters also.
-Elder Balmforth

Me, Jessica, Markus, Elder Blake pre-baptism

My Zone leader, Elder Crawford

Monday, February 6, 2012

February 6. 2012

Hello Everyone,
This week wasn't productive or exciting at all really. We only taught like 6 or seven lessons. We did have to drop 2 families though, which is really sad. The first was the Wiesners who are an older Afrikaans couple. I have never met a more stubborn or prideful people than Afrikaaners. Donnie Wiesner, the husband, has been reading the Book of Mormon from the beginning and is now nearing the end of 3 Nephi, but he pretty much wont accept an answer as anything short of seeing a vision like Joseph Smith. He also told us pretty flat out that even if he comes to know that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and that the Book of Mormon is true, he is never going to leave his Afrikaans church. No matter what we teach him, he thinks he'll still be saved and not have to do anything for it because he believes that God has a special love for Afrikaaners.

The second couple are a young couple named Candice and Andre. It was really strange because all of our lessons were going so well when all of a sudden they stopped returning our calls, and wouldn't answer their door or anything. One day we dropped by and kind of caught Candice by surprise, and she gave us the excuse that she's been really busy at work and that her phone was broken. That would all be understandable except that her boyfriend Andre pulled up then and asked her why she hadn't answered her phone. Even after all of this they wouldn't tell us anything straight up. So we don't know exactly what is going on, other than whatever it is, it's a little sketchy.

There were a couple of good things that happened this week though. Both Markus and Jessica had their interviews and passed this weekend and they will both be baptized this next Sunday. And Jessica asked me to baptize her. Since we've been meeting with her, her mother Yvonne has changed a lot and has become very motivated to bring her life in line with the gospel. She's more than a week cigarette free now and we are planning for her to be baptized on February 26 in just a few weeks.

There were, I think, only 2 other families that we met with this week.The Ntshonyanas, and the Jennnings. The Jennings came to church last week and seemed to like it a lot, and we tried challenging them to be baptized, but the mother Samantha was hesitant because her family is Catholic, so we are just going to keep being patient but persistent in our future lessons. They didn't come to church this week because it was stake conference at a far away chapel. The Ntshonyanas were hard this week though. We didn't really teach them a lesson, we basically just had to convince them that we are not a cult. They come across more anti-mormon stuff than I thought possible for such sheltered people. They did commit to read the Book of Mormon everyday until we meet them again, no matter what people tell them about it.

Other than that this week was pretty uneventful. We went to Broken Wings which is an activity center for adults with disabilities, which was actually pretty interesting and very humbling. I liked it except we had to sing in front of them even though they didn't want us to. They made us sing the U.S. national anthem of all things. We also forgot the pin to disarm the alarm system to the church so the alarm company was dispatched just to find a couple of missionaries in the chapel.
This weekend was also Stake Conference. Elder Carl B. Cook of the Seventy and his wife, along with President Omer and his wife gave talks. It was nice but not terribly interesting. They all pretty much just told stories and bore their testimonies. It was good, just not as interesting as I thought it was going to be having an authority present.

That is pretty much all that happened this week. Thanks again for all of the emails and letters. They really make it a lot easier to be so far away. I love and miss you all and I hope everyone has an awesome week.
-Elder Balmforth