Monday, February 10, 2014

Going Where I Need to Go

Hey Guys,
      I still can’t really comprehend that this is my last email to you before I come home.  Everything is a blur.  I’m caught between fantasy and reality, though I might say that, the reality is I’m still on my mission and the fantasy is that home is around the corner.  I absolutely loved dad’s email this week.  I think it ought to go on the blog.

      So, what can I say to wrap up my mission?  I don't think I can really wrap it up. Let me tell you how I feel right now.  I feel very content and at peace.  I feel that what is coming is right and that I’m progressing and going where I need to go.  I have grown a lot over the past two years.  I remember in a blessing I was given that my mission would be the equivalent of a 4-year college education.  Well, I have graduated from the college of personal relationships and people skills.  I feel my capacity and ability to relate, love and get along with others has increased greatly and that the Lord has helped me to be a better companion.

      I gave my final testimony in the Bloemfontein Ward yesterday.  I was wondering before the meeting what on earth could be shared.  I felt deep and thought about how my growth has come by faith and what that means to me.

      I’m going to keep this one short.  My mind is blanking.  I will take more time to myself to write out my feelings about the end of my mission and try to send them next Monday, and maybe that can go in the blog.

I love you guys.  See you soon.

Elder Gold

Editor's Note: 

      Well, as to Landon's request for his dad's letter to be posted on the blog, here it is.  For those of you who don't see it in the first couple paragraphs....this is all sarcasm and Landon will not be staying for another two years in Africa.  Just Saying :-)

My Dear SonShine,

      How does the scripture go… ‘Ask and ye shall receive”? Well, you must have asked real hard  for this – so here goes… I know you didn’t want us to talk of home in this letter – that you wanted to focus on the final week of your mission – but I thought I might share with you what it’s like here now so you can feel blessed that you don’t have to come home for a while…

      We have talked to Pres Zackrison about the current condition of the world on our side of the globe and he agrees that you should spend 2 more years in South Africa. As you may have heard, San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant has melted and the radiation has been quite annoying to say the least. The good news is we are saving a lot of money on shampoo. Mom and I are doing fine (as evidenced by this recent photo of Mom – she still looks Beautiful to me) and Jordan is back on the motorbike – even though there are really no roads to drive on after the solar flare hit… Funny thing – Mom and I are losing a lot of our hair, but Jordan's seems to be more fuzzy.

      The recent typhoon that happened on Ground Hog day made a mess of our backyard – mainly because that’s where the roof is now. Stanley is excited because he thinks his doghouse grew by a factor of 100.

      It’s been quiet here the past few days after the 9.8 magnitude earthquake – mainly because all the neighbors got swallowed up from the massive sink holes that opened up. It’s been a pleasant experience to not have to wake up every morning to Geoffrey Livingston’s 150 decibel exhaust on his bug. On the other hand, it’s hard to tell when morning breaks since the air is filled with thick ash from the eruption of Saddleback Volcano (who knew that was a dormant volcano???…weird.)

      Mom and I are going to Long Beach next Saturday (Feb 15) for Valentine’s Day to see Brian Regan. (The “subject” in this letter is from a new video that we saw.) It’s normally a 40 mile drive – but with the current road conditions after the Atomic Bomb that North Korea dropped on us, and the fact that all the gasoline is being rationed to 1 quart per family per month, I suppose we’ll just go on our bicycles – we plan to start riding early Morning so we can get good seats. Should be fun.

So enjoy your extended stay in South Africa – we are doing fine.

We love you,
Daddio and Mommio

Monday, February 3, 2014

Still Striving To Find

Hey Guys,

      So, what do I say this week?  We definitely did a lot, and are still very busy. On Tuesday and Wednesday we were in Kimberly on exchanges with the four Elders out there.  We had a good time, and were able to help them some.  

      The rest of the week we were proselyting in our area.  We are still striving to find more and more people to teach.  It’s coming along.  Our ward was just assigned a new Ward Mission Leader.  He is a fireball!  I feel that he will be great to help the ward move forward in its missionary efforts.  In church yesterday the bishop announced the goal to split the ward by the end of the year.  The ward was shocked, and I think that is why this Ward Mission Leader is now where he is.  He served as a missionary in the Capetown Mission about five years back so he understands the importance of the work.

      How is the M------ Family??  GREAT!  Ma M------ now has a calling as a visiting teacher and is Super excited about it.  The boys Jarom and Matthew (not their real names) passed the sacrament yesterday, and they passed with such reverence and class.  It was amazing.  Their mother was so, so happy to see her boys exercising their priesthood to serve the ward.  We likewise were very

      My companion and I are doing really well together.  We haven't always seen eye to eye and there have been a few bumps in the road, but it’s all worked out.  Just know that when I come home, I will be a changed person, but not a perfect one.  I might have grown a lot in the last two years, but I still have a lifetime more of growth ahead, and I’m looking forward to it :)

      Next week, please don’t mention anything about me coming home.  To be 100% honest, I don’t feel at all like I’m going, and I don’t want to.  My mind is on my mission right now.  Of course we are having some fun in the process, but I’m not thinking about home.  Today seeing the flight itinerary, release date and temple trip kinda freaked me out.  But I pushed it out for now.  If there is anything you want to ask me about home, ask me after next week's Monday emails.  You could ask from Tuesday on, and I’ll probably see it later in the week before I go to Durban.  Thanks :))

I love you guys a lot.  I'll see you soon.

Elder Gold

Editor's Note:
      With all the adventures and experiences Landon has had on this journey the one thing that shines above many is his obedience to the Lord and and his willingness to act upon those things he knows to be true.  His willingness to serve down to the last step and detail is seen even in the finite of actions.  His tithing is accounted for in his home ward back here in California and in needing to be complete with his accounting he sent his dad this message. 
“Could you please give another dollar to tithing for me?
 A few months back I caught this huge spider, which actually
 wasn’t a spider but a close relative.  I think you remember
 the photos.  Some other elders wanted it so bad they gave
 me 40 rand for it.  I just want to round up to a 
dollar if you could.  Thanks!”

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Family Baptism

Hey Family,

      This last week was the week of the baptism!  It was all very, very exciting and spiritual.  Let me start from earlier this week.  The north side of Bloemfontein has had problems with water.  Early in December we were without water for five days!  Which is rather astonishing because of the class of the suburbs on the north side.  Two weeks ago we were without water for another three days, so thinking forward we filled the Baptismal Font up on Thursday.

      Saturday was the scheduled day of the baptism because the daughter traveled all the way from Piet Retief so she could be baptized with the family.  We also wanted to confirm everyone on Sunday, so that’s why the baptism was planned for Saturday.  So, Saturday afternoon (2 hours before the baptism), we asked the Carliles to go check the water, and to top it off with warm water.  They urgently called back to tell us the water had all drained through a small leak in the plug, and the water was gone AGAIN!!  I was reminded of Nephi's words, "After all you can do," except this time there was no grace.  So, my companion and I were in the township going to pick up some other missionaries who wanted to come to the baptism.  I was driving down the road thinking about what to do, when the thought of Brother Van Der Leek's pool came to mind.  I pulled over and called the Carliles, and they told us that only moments earlier the Stake President (who was at the chapel) walked in and told the Carliles, "Go to the Van Der Leek's.”   So, under the direction of the spirit, we made last minute arrangements for the baptism to be done in the pool.

      We held the service in the chapel, then caravanned to the Van Der Leek's.  I was appointed to baptize the family.  It wasn’t my choice, but after asking them and asking the bishop, it was asked of me to do it.  They have had a lot of interaction with the Relief Society but not so much with the

brothers in the church yet.  After the baptisms, we were gathered around in the back yard as the sun drew nigh.  With about thirty ward members present, missionaries, and investigators, we all sang the hymn "The Spirit of God.”  It was nothing short of the most appropriate hymn, and I felt and imagined angels around.  I believe they were there.

     What was probably the most powerful and moving experience of the whole baptism were the testimonies borne by the family.  Mama M was the first to start.  She talked about the great light that had come into her life.  How she was introduced to the truth through the restored gospel.  She said some very heartening things: that she knows that what just took place (the baptism) is only the beginning.  That she has her whole life ahead of her to live in the gospel.  She shared how she now has the tools she will need (Knowledge, Faith, Covenants, The Holy Ghost) to endure to the end.

      Tara, the daughter, (names changed for anonymity) next bore her testimony and in part said, "I now know what is needed for salvation.  I am so grateful to my Father in Heaven that He has given me the gospel and Church of Jesus Christ by which I know if I live faithfully and worthily, I will return to the presence of my Father."

      Jarom then bore his testimony, then 13-year-old Matthew.  Matthew started to cry in the middle of it, and looking around, nearly everyone was in tears.  He talked about the great peace and happiness in his life, and the direction he sees now.  They all

expressed pure gratitude towards our heavenly father for the notable miracle, which had happened in their lives.

      The next day, Sunday, the whole family was welcomed and confirmed members in sacrament

meeting.  I have been very surprised and happy with the support and welcoming from the ward.

 The confirmations were beautiful, and based on their countenance and expression they truly did received the Holy Ghost. Then, just to add to the pace and grandness of everything, Matthew and Jarom were confirmed the priesthood during the second hour.  As a side note, these two young men understand with great understanding the priesthood and their duties.

      It was all a tremendous experience, especially for the family. I haven’t seen converts more converted than them.

      So, that was the highlight of my week.  I’m looking forward to the next two and a half weeks I have in Bloemfontein.  I promise I will go out with my shoulder to the wheel.

I love you,

Elder Gold

Monday, January 20, 2014

Learning of One's Potential Through Compassion

Hey Yah Family,
      I’m sure you can probably imagine how I’m doing... GREAT!  This week has been very busy; some trivial things, some important things.  I took Elder Stengile to the bus on Monday night.  It was sad for me.  I love him a lot and really enjoyed our time together.  We did great things, and we both grew a lot.  I was thinking about it last night, about our time we had together.  The first transfer we spent together was mediocre.  He was a little quieter than I wanted and I was a little more free spirited than he was comfortable with.  From my side, I found it hard to accept him as he was for something good.  We struggled to teach in unity and at a unified pace.  Eventually the first transfer came to an end.  We both thought and silently hoped he would go.  The chances of him leaving were very high since he is just one transfer younger than I.  When we found he was staying another transfer, there was a little disappointment.  He surprised me the next week when during companionship study he brought up a list of things he didn't like, and expected a list in return.  We talked, and listened, and compromised and set out to be more unified.  For the next week we were both very open with our success in trying to improve ourselves, as well as being open with the times we failed.  Things began to get better, and then a huge blessing came straight from heaven... I broke my thumb!  Yep, it was a blessing with a purpose.  After returning home from the surgery, I was left with little ability to perform simple tasks.  Since I had only one operating hand, Elder Stengile had to help me get dressed, iron my clothes, fold them, cut and prepare and cook my food, drive, and even write.  His capacity to open up and love grew, and my humility and meekness expanded.  I also began to recognize his attributes as strengths, not weaknesses.  Thus, we became so, so, so close.  Every day was a great day, and no matter what happened, we leaned on one another.  The day after he left, the pins were removed from my hand, and thus was the purpose of my hand fulfilled, and Heavenly Father's will done.
      I’m with another Great Elder, Elder Kinyaka from Kenya.  I've known him for some time now.  We are going to work really great together.  The Wednesday I got my pins taken out, we drove to Bethlehem, and then on Thursday morning we headed to Ladysmith for our Leadership training meeting with the mission president.  After the meeting, we were tasked to take two elders to their new areas.  One was going to Phuthaditjhaba, the other to our zone.  Yep!  I went back to my first area!  We spent about three hours visiting a few families.  You remember Ntate Koma?  He was the one who Elder Dutson and I miraculously found, who wanted a "Mormon Bible.”  He was baptized long after I left the area. But Thursday, I got to see him.  It was a joyous reunion.  I could tell his happiness as the tears came from his eyes and he hugged me. Why do missions have to end?  We also saw Mme Monatisa, who was also baptized after I left.  It was fantastic!
      We are still busy preparing for Mama M's and her families baptism that will be taking place this Saturday.  Things are going amazing for them.  The Ward has welcomed them in a way I have never seen on my mission.  They will not fall out the back door.  There is no back door.
      Let me also tell you a very touching story from church on Sunday.  The sacrament was being passed and I was pondering on how it is that the sacrament changes us and sanctifies us.  I looked up to see three people passing the sacrament.  There were two teachers (14-16 Year-old young men), and one older man named Israel (changed name for anonymity).  Israel was wearing an off white shirt with an old tie.  He had on Green slacks.  His mustache covered his entire upper lip.  He had aged and worn skin and his one cataract eye wandered around.  Let me tell you what I know about him.
      Two months ago I was introduced to him as he was a less active member of the ward.  He is in his 50's, white Afrikaans, lives alone, and has been out of the church for years.  He works a low paying job.  Home teachers in the ward were assigned to him, and one Brother Katali (pronounced Ka-ta-di) really took him under his wing.  He would pick him up every Sunday to bring him to church.  I remember at our ward Christmas party back in November (when he just started coming back) he was loud and smelled like alcohol.  A brother in the stake came to me and whispered, "Can you believe this guy? Why is he here?"  A little shocked at his comment, I said to him, "Well, he is here, and I wouldn't have him be anywhere else.”  I grabbed Israel by the arm, and with the brother from the stake still next to me told Israel how happy we were to have him there.
      He continued to come to church.  He moved from wearing T-shirts and jeans to slacks and off white shirts.  He began participating more and more in quorum classes and even took the calling to be a home teacher with Brother Katali.
      I watched him pass the sacrament on Sunday.  I watched him walk in his own quick way as he took the sacrament to the bishop.  I watched him stand in the aisle as he waited reverently for the bread and water trays to come to him.  I watched joy emanate from him as a big smile spanned his face that only comes when one is in the service of Heavenly Father.  I have been very touched by his journey back into the church, and especially by the care, love and patience from Brother Katali.  I think we can all strive to be like him and identify and love some individual that has strayed, showing them their potential and the way back.
      I pray these last four weeks crawl by, that I may savor every moment of it.  This is the Lord's work.
Elder Gold

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Punishment for Being a Baby?

Dear Mom, 

      I am here at the Carlile's just after my "Operation".  Not quite the experience we all thought it would be.  Let me play for you two scenarios; the first is what was to be expected, the second is what happened...

Scenario 1-

      Elder Gold, his companion and the Carliles walk into Dr. Brashman’s (name changed for anonymity) office.  This long pending day has finally arrived and there is joy in everyone’s hearts as they think of Elder Gold fully rehabilitated, swinging through trees, riding wild animals and writing with his healed hand.  Elder Gold has been dreaming of this day when finally the pins, that have been holding together his broken thumb, will be removed from his hand. 

      Dr. Brashman comes out of his office and warmly greets everyone. He invites all to come and sit in his office.  There is a warm welcoming feeling as they all sit and Dr. Brashman begins to inquire of how Elder Gold is feeling and how the last six weeks of recovery have been.  He shows great interest and concern as Elder Gold explains some of his concerns; the wires protruding out of the skin on the top of his hand, the wire which had made a 180-degree twist, the nerve pain and numbness, which has been subdued, and the new infection that has festered near the entry points of the pins.  Dr. Brashman assures him that those things are possible side effects of the operation, but that he will make a full recovery. 

      Dr. Brashman then escorts Elder Gold into a local operation room.  He presents a number of tools he will use to remove the pins, all of which are clean and well taken care of.  The doctor injects Elder Gold’s hand with a local anesthetic and after five minutes he can’t feel a thing.  The doctor uses his tools like a careful carpenter and in a few minutes, and without any pain, removes the pins.  The doctor bandages Elder Gold’s hand and schedules him for physical therapy to start in the next few days.  Everyone exchanges pleasantries and leaves for Elder Gold to resume his normal life.

Scenario 2 (what really happened)-

      Elder Gold, his companion and the Carliles walk into Dr. Brashman office. This long pending day has finally arrived and there is joy in everyone’s hearts as they think of Elder Gold fully rehabilitated, swinging through trees, riding wild animals and writing with his healed hand.  Elder Gold has been dreaming of this day when the pins, that have been holding his broken thumb together, will finally be removed. 

      They enter the office and see other patients waiting.  They sit and wait themselves.  A door from behind them flies open and, like a whirlwind, Dr. Brashman rushes out of the office, not acknowledging even the presence of the flies.  He grabs a file from the reception, turns and walks back to his office without looking right or left.  As he reaches the door he calls a name without turning his head, "MR. GOLD!" in a thick Boer (Afrikaans Farmer) accent.  Elder Gold and company follow him into his office.  There is a gloomy feeling as all walk into a secondary local operation room attached to the office.  The doctor tells Elder Gold to sit still without making eye contact. Elder Gold sits in wonder; a cold chill in the room, a number of unorganized "tools" laying all over the counters, and a rusty pair of pliers in the corner. 

      Dr. Brashman is speaking as he cuts away the bandage to examine the wires, but no one understands him.  He looks at the wires sticking out of the red festering and pustulating skin, and to the surprise of everyone says, "This looks hundred percent!"  He walks to the counter and continues his talking when Elder Gold pipes up and informs the doctor that it is infected and he had drained puss from the wound the night prior. The doctor turns and, seemingly without interest exclaims, "Good, that'll make the pins pullout easy."

      Puzzled at what his condition really is, Elder Gold stares at his hand.  In the blink of an eye he sees a rusty pair of pliers that had been on the fishers boat just that morning clamping onto one of the wires.  In fear and confusion he grabs the pliers with his left hand and looks up at the Boer and questions why his hand isn't numb.  The doctor looks at him with puzzlement and disdain.  It is quiet.  The doctor tells Elder Gold he won’t numb his hand.  He then said that he can pay big bucks to be put under, but that he does this (pulls wires out of hands without anesthetic) to babies all the time.  Knowing that Landon cannot win the Boer war this time, and that there will be no anesthetic, he compromises by getting the doc's permission to allow Sister Carlile to film the bushman operation.  The doctor impatiently waits a whole five seconds as Sister Carlile positions the camera.  With a grunt and huff he latches onto the first wire and twists with might and force until the wire breaks away from the bones.  Elder Gold lets out a heave.  The doctor then grabs the second wire, only this one is not as kind.  With a little more might, and putting his back into it, he rips out the second wire, and Elder Gold groans.  The doctor turns and begins to talk once again.  He flurries his speech and tells the group there will be no physical therapy (perhaps for punishment for being a baby in his perspective) but that there will be self-rehabilitation.  He continues to declare it will only burn for a few minutes.  The group cuts their losses and scurries from the operating room hoping that life will eventually be restored to normality for Elder Gold.  Elder Gold looks back and realizes for his life, that was normality.   

      Elder Gold

Monday, January 13, 2014

Fresh Start of the Last Leg

Hi family!
      I initially had a lot to say to you today, but my mind just blanked.  Hopefully I can get it back as I write.  Let me get the temporal out of the way.  This has been kind of a funny week.  On Friday my companion and I got food poisoning from some half cooked chicken (courtesy of me).  This weekend we have been confined to our quarters competing to see who can act more miserable.  Sunday we were feeling good enough to go to church and to go see a few members
(since Elder Stengile is leaving today).
      My companion is going down to Amanzimtoti, the closest area to Margate.  I’m getting Elder Kinyaka from Kenya as a final companion.  Strange thing is I won’t even be with him for a whole transfer.  It’s a short five-week transfer and I’ll probably go down to Durban a few days early just to go to Margate for my last Sunday.  But I’m looking forward to the fresh start of the last leg.  I can definitely feel things are coming to a close.  It’s very mixed, but I’m focusing on the work. The M------ family is outstanding.  I’m very much excited for their baptism, and so are they.  The father is still not coming around, but seems to be improving in his family relationships, which is probably the foundational step.  I don’t know if I mentioned, but he isn’t Christian.  He is a traditionalist, but he occasionally prays with his family, which he didn’t before.
      We are going to go to a multi-national soccer match this afternoon with the whole zone.  Ghana vs. Congo.  Looking forward to that.
Anyways, I love you as always.
Elder Gold

Monday, January 6, 2014

A Nice Little Story For You

Hello Mom, Dad, and Jordan,

      The New Year is upon us.  I remember years back when we were celebrating the New Year (I
don’t know when or where) but I had a thought in my little brain.

"They say it’s a new year now that January 1st is here.  But all that means is that we went around
the sun once from where we were last year.  Today is also a New Year because we have gone around the sun again, just on a different step."

      I pondered on that thought Tuesday night as we were lying on our mattresses on the flat
roof of our garage, looking up at the stars. I was brought to better understanding as I read Elder Soares' talk from this last conference where he quoted president Snow.  President Lorenzo Snow, the fifth prophet of our dispensation, taught, “It is our duty to try to be perfect, … to improve each day, and look upon our course last week and do things better this week; do things better today than we did them yesterday.”11 So the first step to becoming meek is to improve day by day.  Each day we need to try to be better than the previous as we move forward through this process.  President Snow added: “We have our little follies and our weaknesses; we should try to overcome them as fast as possible, and … should [instill] this feeling in the hearts of our children … that they may learn to [behave] properly before Him under all circumstances.  If the husband can live with his wife one day without quarreling or without treating anyone unkindly or without grieving the Spirit of God … he is so far perfect.  Then let him try to be the same the next day.  But supposing he should fail in this his next day’s attempt, that is no reason why he should not succeed in doing so the third day.”

      So, that was something that struck me.  Anyways, I have a nice little story for you.  Last Monday when I got on the computer to email, I didn’t get moms email.  I figured I would just read it next week.  During the middle of the week, we had three forms we needed to fax to the office.  We faxed them on Tuesday night, but on Wednesday the office said they had not received them.  On Thursday we tried again but had no luck, so Friday we decided to go to the Cluster’s home (another Senior Couple in Bloemfontein; we have Two sets of Senior Couples) where we attempted to fax them again.  The fax number didn’t go through so we had to scan them and send them through my email.  I noticed when I logged on that your email was there so I printed it off and read it in the car as we drove to our next appointment.  It was a very well put and moving story.  We arrived at our appointment.  We were going to see Virginia (name changed for anonymity purposes).  I had the thought to bring the letter so I did.  She has not been moving forward as much as she ought.  She has slowed down and is being a little resistant to Heavenly Father.  As we talked to her, I felt to read her the letter.  It was moving, and she was touched.  I think it was a heavenly sequence of events that led to me having the letter at that time to share with her.
      The M------ family is also doing outstanding.  We fasted with them this last Sunday for their father.  Ma asked us for a blessing of strength and in the blessing the promise was given that her righteous desires and actions will be a standard to her family to which they will rise.  Her daughter and the two sons are EEEAAGEERR to be baptized on the twenty-sixth of this month.  Heavenly Father and we want the father to be baptized with them, so we will see if that is possible.  I know I haven’t mentioned much about him, and that’s because we haven’t sat with him in two weeks.  Hopefully that will change this week.
      As for me, I’m SO HAPPY!!  I couldn’t be more happy.  Especially that I get to be with Elder
Stengile one more week.  Transfers were supposed to happen tomorrow, but were pushed back
one week due to some logistical errors.  This morning four of us went to the military base (Tempe)
and toured the armor museum.  Elder Johnson and I ran the six-miles there this morning in just around 48 minutes.  We were able to go in some of these tanks dating back to WW1.  We also were able to go into one of the top tanks in the South African Defense Force Armory, the Roi Kat (Red Cat in Afrikaans).  It was sick!

      So, as for my hand, YES, I am counting down the days!  “Get these wires out of me!”  Among that, on Saturday I strained my left shoulder while doing pull ups, so I’ll be recouping that.  But, your right mum, I won’t let it slow me down.

I love you guys dearly.  See ya latter.\\

Elder Gold