Making coffee for a service project

April 4, 2011

G’day folks!
I hit 14 months.  Wow.
This week was a little bit slower, as a lot of our appointments cancelled with the good people we had found.  Hate those weeks.  But, we did have a good lesson with an investigator named Alyssa, a single mum with a little 18-month-year-old daughter Amber.  She was found on the side of the road by some missionaries who helped her with her car.  She appreciated the gesture so much that she is happy to have us over anytime.  We taught her the Restoration this week, and she agreed to get baptized if she found it to be true!  She wants to read the Book of Mormon now.  It’s exciting when you have somebody making progress.  Unfortunately, she has an important weekly even every Sunday that conflicts directly with church.  We’re going to try to bring her to conference this weekend.  We’re also bringing some fellowship to teach with us this week as well.  Stay tuned.
We also started a new weekly service opportunity at an aged care home.  Elder Smith and I went on Friday morning.  Elder Smith made some coffee and scones while I read the newspaper.  We also took some for walks and listened to their stories.  Elder Smith heard the same thing about 4 times.  But that’s okay.  They’re really funny to be with, and they have a lot of great things to talk about.  I enjoyed it a lot.
Last night at the mission president fireside, I sang “His Hands” accompanied by Sister Solomon and another missionary playing the piano and organ.  After I ran thru it for practice the first time, I had Elder Solomon in tears.  I got it on video, so I’ll get it to you soon.  I know I haven’t sent you pictures yet, but I promise I’ll get some soon!  It’s just really hard to put it together!  I’ll give you plenty of media.  Sorry for the delay!  I’m only trying to do the Lord’s work and all.
I have a funny story… Elder Beck and Elder Manuel in Narre Warren were on their way to an appointment, when a young girl jogged past them on the footpath.  Elder Beck waved and said, “Hi!” because you know, that’s what we do.  As they went into the home, they noticed she stopped several meters down.  As they were meeting with their investigator, this girl waited outside for several minutes, and later disappeared.  Later in the evening, they got a call from their investigator saying a letter was put in the mailbox addressed to “the white blonde kid in the shirt and tie.”  She said she would be happy to give him a hug and maybe go out to dinner.  I think he should so he can get a gospel discussion in there.  What do you think?
Today we have the whole zone together to have a barbecue and play some touch rugby.  Also, Elder Smith and I are going to meet with a member who wants to show us how to pick locks.  The neighboring Elders won’t know what hit them.
Things are good.  I miss you all.  Happy spring!  It’s getting colder here.  I love it.  Hope April Fool’s day went well too.  We put cling wrap around Narre Warren’s car, but ran out halfway up and wondered what the point was.  Next time I’ll have to buy more than 30 meters.  Whoops.
I love you all!
Elder Scott Baker

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Brother Kingi, Founder of the Mongrel Mob, now a Mormon

Brother Kingi, founder of the Mongrel Mob

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The Johnsons

March 21, 2011

G’day folks!
This week was great!  I had a good week.  We had some major breakthroughs in progress that will be some highlight memories in my mission.  One at a time.
The teacher’s quorum of 14-15 year olds volunteered to do a service project.  They asked us if we had anybody they could help.  The Johnson family came to mind, as they had an overgrown lawn like a forest and couldn’t cut it down themselves.  With an army equipped with whippersnippers, rakes, and mowers, we flattened most of the lawn in an hour and a half.  Graham and Jane were blown away with gratitude and amazement that such young boys would cheerfully do such a chore just for the sake of helping them.  Graham has injuries in his tendons from work to the point that he can barely pour a glass of milk, let along push a lawnmower.  Their young adult boys don’t care enough to volunteer to do it.  They were so happy they offered to throw the boys a party.  They’ve also provided groceries for Elder Smith and I.  Graham even went as far as to draw cartoons of us helping them.  I’ve attached photos.  These are some of the best souvenirs I will ever receive.
After the project, we asked how things were going at home.  They came right out with the turmoil they have experienced.  They said their is no respect or love at home, especially between them and their kids.  Graham and Jane said they have both had trouble working together to fix the problems and leaning more on unhealthy crutches.  After seeing the spirit that was with the boys doing the yard, they both felt certain that they needed the spirit back with them.  Since then, they are determined to read their scriptures, pray, and come back to church.  We are having lessons with them every week as much as we can fit, and working to teach them all about the church once more.  Their enthusiasm and determination is miraculous.  Graham has already stopped smoking completely, and he said his depression has disappeared as well.  It’s incredible.
The other miracle was a refferal from a bishop in a neighboring ward, in Lynbrook.  He does maintenance work at homes, and he met a mother named Wendy who he talked with about the church.  She was told by the real estate folks who own her home that they are going to sell it, so she has to clean it up and move out within 30 days.  It was causing a lot of stress for her.  This Bishop said that we could come and help her clean up.  He also invited her to church, and she agreed to come.  We visited her on Friday and helped her clean the dirt off the walls and repaint some of them.  I did the dishes for good measure.  I could see the stress on her face.  She has a boy with autism and another with asperger’s, and other kids to care for as well.  She really appreciated the help, and we had a prayer with her family.  She came to church on Sunday with 3 of her kids, including the autistic one, Casey.  She loved church.  The ward was perfect with fellowshipping and making her comfortable.  The kids enjoyed it even more.  After church, they were holding up their papers talking about priesthood and baptism saying, “Look, mom!  Look what I made!”
I asked them, “Did you have fun?”
“Yeah!” they all shouted.
“Do you want to come back next week?”
“YEAH!” They were jumping up and down!  So we set up another appointment with Wendy to talk a bit more with her later this week. She really enjoyed herself, which is what we love.  Honestly, few things feel better on a mission than bringing someone to church and them having a good time.  I love it!
Today, we’re going to shift things up a bit and go bowling.  It’s funny how for things like that I can say, “wow, bowling!  I haven’t done that in years!
The weird thing now is that I have almost hit 14 months, which is beyond the whole year hump hurdle.  I’m officially becoming an old dog, a wise man, a veteran.  All the new missionaries will look up to me.  But I still feel new and clueless sometimes!  But it’s okay.  I’ve learned so much out here, and I can honestly say that it is really fun to be a missionary.  This kind of life is completely unique.  Nobody else in the world lives like this.  From morning to night, basically all we do is try to help people, and we are responsible for all the people in entire towns.  And they don’t have a clue.  How weird is that?  But it’s true.  It’s a fun job.
I love you!
-Elder Scott Baker

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The Beastly Berwick Boys

March 13, 2011

Hello family and friends!
So I’m here still with Elder Smith, but Elder Peteru has moved on.  It feels different without him here.  I really miss him.  But, we’re moving forward and having a lot of fun.  We took him out to lunch before he left.  It didn’t really hit him that he was going home until Monday night.  He went really quiet all of a sudden, realizing his mission was over.  It’s a big step finishing your mission.
We had a really good week.  Our district has totally changed now.  Elder Talataina is training a new missionary from Samoa named Elder Ilai.  We also have another companionship that moved into Tecoma, Elder Tarawa who is training Elder McKenzie from Brisbane.  Elder Tarawa was just in Shepparton since I left.  He was trained there.  So he is training his third transfer!  That’s really fast.  So, our district now has 2 companionships of new missionaries, which means everybody has to step it up.  New missionaries have the most enthusiasm, and it leaks into everybody else.
I have a good story… we have one investigator family that we meet with when we can.  The mother is Catholic, but struggles a bit with her faith there.  She respects us because of our 2-year sacrifice, so every time we come the whole family treats us very well.  She’s very kind.  Unfortunately, she is also difficult to teach.  For some reason, she loves to talk.  We came over on Friday night and sat down with her.  No joke, she talked for 2 hours straight without interruption.  I sat there silent just laughing to myself, watching the clock, seeing how long she could go.  She talked about some of her experience at work, some things she’s learned from nursing, and also other life experiences.  I can’t really remember everything because I lost track of the context, and never got the chance to ask a question.  It was incredible.  I’ve never met anybody that can talk like that.  After two hours she finally said, “Oh, it’s getting late.  I guess I held the floor this evening!  Sorry!”  Hahaha…
The Solomons came down from Traralgon because I’m going to sing His Hands for the next mission fireside.  It was so good to see them again!  We got mexican food together.  First time I’d had a burrito in over a year.  Not as good as Anna’s.
I’ve also been told by my companions that I’ve been doing some sleepwalking.  Oh boy.
My time is up.  I love you all!  thanks so much for the birthday packages!  See you next time.
Elder Scott Baker

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Backflips to teach faith

March 6, 2011

G’day everybody,
A lot of milestones passed this week.  First and foremost, I am now 22 years old, which puts me right into “young adult” class.  That means I’m supposed to be more responsible than typical teenagers or something.  I’ll try to keep that in mind.  Also, that same day marks a complete year that I have been living here in Australia, which is probably longer than most of you reading this will spend there combined.  Whoah.  Finally, we have a new transfer coming up, so the 6 week rhythm is being reset once again.  Most of us are staying– only Elder Peteru and Elder Hawkins are getting transferred.  Not sure where Elder Hawkins is going yet, but Elder Peteru is getting transferred home.
We had a very eventful week.  My time is a bit short but I’ll let you know the funnier parts.
When I started me mission, there were some kids neighboring us named Jarn, Aliya, and Zack, plus some older and younger siblings.  These three are 10, 8, and 7 respectively.  They love the missionaries.  Now that I’ve come back, they’re not our neighbors anymore but are still nearby.  We got to teach them this week.  With kids, you pretty much can’t rely on them to absorb any verbal instruction.  Luckily, we planned a 4-step killer lesson on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We taught faith by having the kids fall from the top of the couch into our arms, so they needed faith that we would catch them.  For repentance, I did a little role play skit of stealing their stuff and not apologizing, which got their attention.  Elder Peteru explained the metaphor of the Holy Ghost being a “baptism by fire” by lighting a tea bag on fire and it flying up in the air “ascending to heaven.”  Their eyes went wide and they all said WHOAH!  DO THAT AGAIN!  THAT WAS SO COOL!  But they also got the message about the importance of baptism.  I asked, “Who wants the Holy Ghost?”
“Oh!  Me!  Me!  I want it!” they alll exclaimed.
“Who wants to get baptized?” I asked?
“Oh!  Me Me ME!”  Jarn said, “I want to get baptized tomorrow!”
Their mom wasn’t about to jump in that quick, but we were able to set a date for April 2nd.  Their mom used to be a member, but she needs to learn more about Joseph Smith.  That’s our next step for the kids.  They all want to come to church, but their mom isn’t as enthusiastic.
To teach enduring to the end, I told them I would do a backflip.  They couldn’t wait to see it.  But right before I jumped, I said, “You know, I’m not sure I can do this.  I don’t want to.”  Aliya figured it out immediately and said, “No!  You need to have faith!  You don’t have faith!  That’s what he’s teaching us!  You need faith!”  So I confessed, “Well, I guess I’ve done it before, and so I can do it.”  Whoosh!  “Wow!  That’s awesome!”
I’ve never ever seen kids so excited to learn about Jesus Christ and get baptized.  That’s something I won’t forget.
I’ve been feeling better from my sickness, I’ve received proper attention, and I think that this transfer will be much more effective.  We have made good progress in this area, but there is still much that needs to get done.  I think the start of my mission taught me the value of a job well done, but now I have learned about the value of enjoying what you do.  You need to appreciate the little things, and look for ways to laugh as you go about your work.  Otherwise, it’s drudgery.  To have fun, you have to do more than just fill the requirements of what is needed.  You have to push boundaries of what is expected.  Sometimes while we would walk along the footpath, Elder Peteru would give me a push to the side, totally throwing off my balance.  It’s dumb, but it makes us laugh.
I love you all.  Thanks for all the birthday wishes and packages!  Thank you also for your prayers.  I know that I am not alone.  I love the church, I love being a missionary.  Love you.
Elder Scott Baker

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Stolen Camera

Hi everybody,
I don’t have as much to talk about this week, but I do want to share one crazy story.
After my email last week, we went to play touch rugby as is our P-Day tradition this transfer.  The park we play at has a skate park nearby, which some of the missionaries enjoy as well.  While we were playing rugby, I noticed a small crowd of boys maybe between 12-15 years old, hanging out right next to our stuff.  We didn’t pay any mind to it though and kept playing.  But, when we stopped, I came to my backpack looking for my camera.  It wasn’t in its pocket anymore.  I searched the rest of the backpack.  Gone.  I checked my wallet.  My cash was gone too.  Stolen.
“What happened?”  The others asked.
“My camera got stolen, and some money too.”
“Who took it?”
“Probably those kids over there.”  They were over at the skate park now.
We all thought for a second, and then Elder Kau’i, one of the assistants, said, “Okay.  Let’s go.”
So this mob of about 8 tall 19-22 year old Elders walks straight up to the kids and asks, “Did any of you guys take a camera?”  They said no, and we asked to search their stuff.  They turned out their pockets, opened up their backpacks, everything.  Not there.  Some of them had cigarettes.  Then, on the other side of the park, Elder Manuel opened up another bag and pulled out my blue camera.  I could tell it was mine straightaway.
One of the kids said, “That’s my bag!”
“Where’s the cash?” we asked.
“I don’t know!  I didn’t take it!” he insisted.
“You didn’t take it?  So how did it get in your bag?”
“I don’t know!  Who took the camera?!  Who’s got the money?”
Nobody was confessing.  So, I called the police.  They arrived about 5 minutes later, we told them what happened, and they searched all the kids again.  It turned out that the boy who had the camera in his bag didn’t take it, another boy had put it there.  He got handcuffed and taken to the police station.  They still haven’t found the cash, but honestly, I don’t care.  I just didn’t want my camera with all my pictures gone.
It was pretty intense, and totally threw off the day, but now I’ll be more careful with concealing my valuables.
We also had a missionary, our Zone Leader Elder Sorenson, get really sick.  He was in the hospital for 5 days.  They thought it was typhoid fever for a while, but it turned out to be something else that’s similar.  He got it because he’s been trying to lose weight by going on a juice diet.  Too many carrots.  Poor guy.
I’ve been struggling with illnesses that have made it difficult for me to work properly.  I can’t go into details, but I’ll be okay eventually.  Just keep me in mind, keep supporting like you always have.  This week has been very hectic trying to make proper arrangements, and at this point it seems the only other thing that will help is just time.  I may not be able to post public updates every week, but I’ll try to get the highlights out there.  Thank you for your concern and understanding.  I love you all.
-Elder Scott Baker

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Happy Valentine’s Day – Year Mark

Elder Peteru and Elder Smith at our feast - 2 Mackers's Dinner Boxes

Elder Manuel and Elder Baker in Narre Warren on exchanges

 

February 13, 2011

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I can’t believe February is half over.  I swear I had hit my year mark just a few days ago.

This week we’ve battled sickness and allergies.  On Tuesday I could hardly think properly.  It’s also harder to focus on teaching when your nose puts pressure through your whole head.  Over there you’re trying to keep warm, but here we have hay fever.  Aren’t you getting pounded by snow?  That’s what I’ve heard.  We’ve also had flooding from rain.  A lot of our friends have had to rip up their carpets and dry out their books.

This week, we had Elder Hamula visit from the Area Presidency with all the missionaries.  I find it incredible how I walked into the meeting feeling sick, tired, exhausted, and a bit irritated, but as the meeting continued and he talked more, I felt reassured, stronger, and more hopeful.  General authorities have the ability to eloquently explain wisdom and new light and persepective that reminds you why what we do is important.  For example, whenever we are using our personalities as an excuse, using the phrase, “That’s just who I am,” we are choosing to damn ourselves.  We stop our own progression when we label ourselves as incapable.  A quote a mentioned was, “To achieve goals we have never before achieved, we must do things we have not ever done before.”  That’s only a snippet of what he talked about. I’m glad I took notes.

We had a service project with a family who needed help with clearing out some rubbish.  We spent some times playing sports with their kids.  These kids used to live next door to me when I was starting my mission.  Their names are Jarn, Aliya, and Zach.  We had an idea to organize a sports day with all of the primary kids and also the families that we are working with.  A lot of the people we know have kids.  I remember playing games like crazy kickball back when I was at Wellington with Mr. S.  We want to make a big activity for the kids so they can make friends.  It’s probably the most fun way to do missionary work that I can think of.

On Sunday we had stake conference, but this one was different from what I’ve seen before.  We actually met via a broadcast from Salt Lake with the general authorties speaking to 34 Stakes in Australia and Papua New Guinea.  Elder Patrick Kearon conducted and spoke.  He also spoke in General conference back in November.  We also got to hear from President Uchtdorf and Elder Scott.  Definitely a good stake conference.

Today we’re going to play some touch rugby again.  I’m getting pretty good at it!  It’s really fun.  I want to try to teach to everybody back home how to play.  It’s like football, but instead of being strategic, you’ve just got to be fast and clever.  You have to work together.  It’s a good game.

We’re having a lot of fun.  The members here are fantastic, they take good care of us.  Hope everybody is doing alright back home.  I’m thinking abuot you!  I love you!

-Elder Scott Baker

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