Monday, August 6, 2012

From Darkness to Light

Written by Elder Skankey

When one area of our mission was reopened, I would only hear horror stories about it.  “There is no work.”  “The branch is tiny.”  “The members are difficult.”  “The Branch President is the only priesthood leader.”  It was a land of darkness.  I felt blessed to be in a different area.  

Within two transfers, though, I received a phone call from President Baird.  “Elder, you are going to (this area) and you are whitewashing it.”  He said one thing in particular that I remember.  “Elder, forget whatever things you’ve heard about this area.  It is full of miracles ready to happen.”  President told me that by the end of my time there, I would see the branch doubled, if not tripled.  With that, I transferred there.

My companion, Elder Gottfredson, was a transfer four.  I was a transfer seven.  We had become the first and second counselors to the Branch President.  Our very first night we somehow ended up with no cell phone, no keys, and no idea where our apartment was.  We just laughed for it was the only thing that we could do. 

The first month or two was slow starting, having to get lost thousands of times before finding the person.  The Branch president was stretched to the limit.  He loved to talk about badmitten, not so much about the branch or dendo.  There were only six people at church any Sunday, including us.  To some, this would have been a land of darkness, but with the help of Elder Gottfredson, and the tender mercies of the Lord, we could see the potential that was there in that valley.
We found one person who agreed to be baptized, who within a few weeks disappeared from off the face of the earth.  We found another person, who received all of the lessons, agreed to baptism, and a week before her baptism told us that she couldn’t become Christian.  We knew there were miracles waiting but every time we would get close, it would slip away.

We stayed optimistic though, and worked as hard as we knew how to.  We began bringing less active members back to church, bringing investigators to church, which helped the branch realize that they were not stuck in a rut.  The Branch President caught our enthusiasm.  We could talk about members’ needs, less active members, and our investigators.  He embraced his responsibilities more vigorously.  We were seeing the light beginning to pierce through the darkness.
We met a former investigator, an older lady.  With the guidance of President Baird, we progressed forward with her.  An amazing thing happened.  Our Branch President took time to help us teach her, and bring her to church.  He was hesitant at first, but he soon became great friends with her.  With persistence, and the Lord’s help, we saw her baptized, the first Japanese baptism this branch had seen in three years.  This jump-started the whole branch.

Elder Jessop and Elder Skankey (on right)
Everyone was much more willing to aid us in our efforts to increase the branch.  Elder Gottfredson transferred away, and I received a new elder from the MTC, Elder Tojo.  One of the first things we did was find a less active member .  Elder Gottfredson and I had previously tried to contact him, but never could.  When we first met him, he told us that he had been baptized in Korea, and since then, had not been to church or associated with it in any way for 20 years or so.  He was interested in us teaching his daughter, but he had no intention of returning to the church.  The next day, when President Baird heard this, he told us to give him the Aaronic Priesthood by the next Sunday.  So, that is what we did.  We explained the Priesthood, how it could bless his family, and how he could possess it.  In that week he quit drinking, tossed his coffee, came to church, was interviewed and received the Aaronic Priesthood.  He then came to Church every day for the rest of my stay in that branch, another four and a half months. 

Elder Skankey in front; Elder Tojo behind him.
I was there for eight and a half months, and in that time, with the aid of my companions and the Lord, we were able to bring it out of the darkness and into the light.  There is hope there once again.  Before I left, I saw the church attendance go from 6 people to 14. Doubled, and on the rise.

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