Changes and Transistions

Oi, you! Fam’ly! 

Another week has gone by in the blessed land of Grays, Essex, and transfers have rolled round once again! For those who have been waiting with baited breath to know if I’ll be staying in Grays, the answer is YES. I’ll have been here for 6 months by the end of the next transfer, and I’m really grateful for that. I’ve learned and grown so much from my experiences here, and plus I get to keep my job as the district leader here. (Best job ever, in case you didn’t know.) As well, Tomorrow I’m kicking my son Mthombeni out of the house and expecting the arrival of another bouncing baby boy! I’m so excited! I really enjoyed training Elder Mthombeni these last three months. He and I have gotten pretty tight, so I’ll probably have to go visit him sometime in South Africa. Shucks! Oh, and he’s traveling northward to a place called Huntington, if anyone’s keeping tabs. He’ll do well there. I’m so proud of him! Haha, one of the things I’m going to have to put onto that USB you guys sent me is a music video that we made together. Not gonna lie, it’s probably the most hilarious and stupid thing you’ve seen elders do. 

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The Crew at Districts

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Elders Packer, Speiser, and Skinner all from Idaho!

That’s cool you got to meet Elder Judy back at home!  Man, I love Elder Judy! That guy was the boss. I can’t wait to catch up with him in a year’s time. 

So this week will pretty much be a week of change and of transitions for everybody. I get a new companion; Benson – High school, Sam – Jr. High,  and Mia, you all start school; Jessie already left for USU last week but is waiting for her call to show up now. And to top it all off, we had Grandpa pass away just barely as well. If it ever feels overwhelming or too much to handle at once, don’t worry. I’m right there with you! Don’t forget that these changes are SO good! (Except the 3 Chimichangas going back to school, I know that place and it’s definitely NOT a blessing. Mom, don’t make them go!!!) It made me really glad to remember Dad giving us father’s blessings every year before school started. I really cherish those. I almost forgot to have Dad give me one before I left for my mission last year, remember? I’m so glad we were able to find that quiet corner in the airport so he could give me one before I left! WE HAVE A GREAT DAD! Not to mention Mum, who does anything and everything one might conceive on this planet.

So our friend Dj– is still meeting with us, though it was a bit hard this week because of her work. Fortunately, when she wasn’t there for some of our appointments this week, we were able to talk to her twin 15 year old sons a bit more and get them interested and learning as well! Which is only right, I mean the gospel is all about families after all! 

So I forgot to tell you how my birthday went last week! Holy cow, BEST BIRTHDAY EVER! Not only was it a birthday on my mission, but it was on P-day, and not only was it on P-day, it was the day we had our big zone dinner together! We went to Elder herbertson’s house in Basildon, and they fed us a big, delicious meal, and we got to hang out and relax with the whole Romford zone! It was like a big birthday party, almost! Haha, before going there I stopped by Burger King and stole a paper crown to wear. It was on my head all night!  And Elder Tonks and Sister Faivakimoana, both from my original group, wrote the sickest rap for my birthday and performed it for us! I was blown away, it was so awesome! Then on Sunday I actually made those brownies you sent me and had a proper Birthday cake. Yum!

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Well, today I want to leave everybody with a talk that I came across this week that just set me on fire! It’s “The Call of Duty” by Thomas S. Monson in the April 1986 Priesthood session of conference. I’ve got pretty good duties! Yes, I have cooking duty, but at least I don’t have dead guy duty!

Ofttimes the wisdom of God appears as foolishness to men, but the greatest single lesson we can learn in mortality is that, when God speaks and a man obeys, man will always be right.

A famed minister observed, “Men will work hard for money. Men will work harder for other men. But men will work hardest of all when they are dedicated to a cause. Until willingness overflows obligation, men fight as conscripts rather than following the flag as patriots. Duty is never worthily performed until it is performed by one who would gladly do more, if only he could.”

I slept and dreamt
That life was joy.
I awoke and saw
That life was duty.
I acted, and behold—
Duty was joy.

Robert Louis Stevenson reminded us: “I know what pleasure is, for I have done good work.”

The call of duty can come quietly as we who hold the priesthood respond to the assignments we receive. President George Albert Smith, that modest yet effective leader, declared, “It is your duty first of all to learn what the Lord wants and then by the power and strength of your holy priesthood to so magnify your calling in the presence of your fellows that the people will be glad to follow you.”

In 1950 the call of duty came to me as a bishopI love you all, and I pray for your safety and happiness every day.

Bishops were to provide each serviceman a subscription to theChurch News and the Improvement Era and were to write a personal letter to every serviceman each month. The Korean War was raging. Our ward had twenty-three members in uniform! The priesthood quorums, with effort, supplied the funds for the subscriptions to the publications. Since I had served in the Navy in World War II, I knew the importance of a letter from home. I began the task, even the duty, to write twenty-three personal letters each month. After all these years, I still have copies of many of my letters and the responses received. Tears come easily when these letters are reread. It is a joy to learn again of a soldier’s pledge to live the gospel, a sailor’s decision to keep faith with his family.

One evening I handed to a lady in the ward the stack of twenty-three letters for the current month. Her assignment was to handle the mailing and to maintain the constantly changing address file. She glanced at one envelope and, with a smile, asked, “Bishop, don’t you ever get discouraged? Here is another letter to Brother Bryson. This is the seventeenth letter you have sent to him without a reply.”

I responded, “Well, maybe this will be the month.” And it was. His reply is a keepsake, a literal treasure. It was postmarked “APO San Francisco.” He was serving far away on a distant shore, isolated, homesick, alone. He wrote: “Dear Bishop, I ain’t much at writin’ letters. [I could have told him that seventeen months earlier.] Thank you for the Church News and magazines, but most of all thank you for the personal letters. I have turned over a new leaf. I have been ordained a priest in the Aaronic Priesthood. My heart is full. I am a happy man.”

My brethren, Brother Bryson was no happier than was his bishop. I had learned the practical application of the adage, “Do your duty; that is best. Leave unto the Lord the rest.”

Father, where shall I work today?
And my love flowed warm and free.
Then He pointed out a tiny spot
And said, “Tend that for me.”
I answered quickly, “Oh no; not that!
Why, no one would ever see,
No matter how well my work was done;
Not that little place for me.”
And the word He spoke, it was not stern;
He answered me tenderly:
“Ah, little one, search that heart of thine.
Art thou working for them or for me?
Nazareth was a little place,
And so was Galilee.”

Brethren, let us learn our duty. Let us, in the performance of our duty, follow in the footsteps of the Master. As you and I walk the pathway Jesus walked, let us listen for the sound of sandaled feet. Let us reach out for the Carpenter’s hand. Then we shall come to know Him. He may come to us as one unknown, without a name, as by the lakeside He came to those men who knew Him not. He speaks to us the same words, “Follow thou me” (John 21:22), and sets us to the task which He has to fulfill for our time. He commands, and to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal Himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings that they shall pass through in His fellowship; and they shall learn by their own experience who He is.

Thomas S. Monson

Love, Elder Packer

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