It’s overdue to write an update on Ft. Apache. Ft. Apache is on the Whiteriver Indian Reservation up in the mountains near Pinetop-Lakeside. It is almost exclusively a branch which has Native Americans attend. Over the years, over 1000 in a community of 5000 were baptized. But, some of the traditional ways have a pull that is not in harmony with the Gospel and alcohol, tobacco and drugs often claimed those that had been baptized shortly after they were born again. Only 40 – 50 attended the Branch last Fall. And, 1 set of missionaries served the branch on a part-time basis (think 1 day a week).
But, the Lord remembers his covenant people and surely this people, too, will have an opportunity to be blessed by the “hastening of the work.”
I recently wrote to the Elders (and now Sisters) in Ft. Apache giving them some guidance on what they were to accomplish there:
“Dear Ft. Apache Elders:
I have felt to write all of you and let you know of my love for each of you.
The Lord is in this work. There are wards (yes, I said plural) to be built there all to be staffed by the righteous descendents of those live in the area. To do so, you will need great faith, great works, and the Lord’s blessings upon you — and those come from your obedience. Remember this scripture:
Doctrine and Covenants 64:34
34 Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; and the willing and obedient shall eat the good of the land of Zion in these last days.
This labor is one step at a time. You must continue to point the way to the temple for all of your branch members. It is ONLY those covenants that will make them strong enough to resist the temptations of the world. I repeat, only the temple has the power to overcome the effects of the world. Your recent temple trip will be repeated hundreds and perhaps thousands of times before the Rescue is complete.
The primary reason Satan has had such an influence over the Saints there is that they have not been able to get to the temple soon enough (if at all) and he has beaten and robbed them (think of the Parable of the Good Samaritan – and how the target of the Adversary is our covenants) of their baptismal covenants.
You are to rescue them to the temple! Then they will join in your rescue to others as they become strong enough to overcome the Adversary through their temple covenants.
Of course baptize those that are prepared and the children of those you rescue, but your foundation must be strong enough to support the weight of the new members – and that is why you spend so much time building those that are already baptized but need repentance in their lives.
I will send you other laborers to assist you as we are able. Sisters will likely join you in January. Please keep them safe and watch over them always. Also remember to beware of pride; pride is ever waiting to assert itself. Being unified is more important than being “right” (unless the thing you are being asked to agree to is sin).
Our love to you, always.
In September we sent 6 missionaries to Ft. Apache – all full time. With the commission above, they began rescue visits inviting people to return, not to the chapel, but to prepare for the temple (there is a beautiful temple in Snowflake, about 50 miles away). The reason 6 were sent is that any less would not be a serious statement of “we’re here to stay”. Plus, with 1000 less actives, there would be plenty of work to do. Each companionship started rescue work – many making 30 – 40 teaching appointments each week. Though we do not tract anywhere in our mission, we do here for every household has someone who is a less active member in it. The results were swift and positive. By October Sacrament Meeting attendance had climbed to 100, 150 in December and 170 in January 2014. The increase has been so dramatic that the Branch is calling dozens of people to new positions and training them to serve. Seminary was started in December (with missionaries teaching) and 9 – 10 youth attend each morning. Two of the youth are getting ready to serve full time missions this summer.
In January 2014, Sisters joined in the rescue. Again, results have been immediate. Here is a story from one of the Sister missionaries (Sister Rudy):
Sunday was super awesome this week. We were able build a lot of trust with the members and they are all very excited to have us here. We are already working on strengthening the young women’s youth leadership and the girls are getting excited about planning fun young womens activities. Elder Vete taught Relief Society and it was all about visiting teaching so the women there (many who came this week was the first time in a long time that they came) are very excited to become and have visiting teachers. We’re going help them set up a more effective structure for visting teaching.
I am really excited to be here in Fort Apache. I know that the people here are ready to have us sisters. At first I was a little discouraged because I had no idea what was going on and because we had to follow the Elders around all of the time I felt more like a burden than an asset. However, we had a really amazing experience my second night here. It was dark so we were in the chapel since our rules restrict us from proseliting after dark. We had planned on attending young womens but the first counselor asked us to come with him and his wife to deliver some fire wood. On our way out we noticed someone standing by their car. We waved but kept following the first counselors wife. Then the person said hello and without really thinking about it we turned back and went to say hello to her. She was just grinning at us. Since I had just met her parents I assumed that she was a fully active member as well. Our ride was about to leave so I asked if I could hug her goodbye. When I went to walk away I noticed that she was staring after us.
When we returned to the chapel I was a bit surprised to see her sitting inside on the couch since it looked like she was about to leave when we left. She introduced me to her mother and her Mom was staring between her daughter and I in bewilderment. I found out that that night was her first time back in the church building in ten years. Sharalyn, the girl I hugged, recounted her side of the story to me. The way she described it was when I hugged her she could feel the spirit more powerfully than she had in many years. She knew that it was Heavenly Father telling her it was time to come back. We have met with her several times and she came to church yesterday for the first time in a decade. Thank you for having enough trust in Sister Kaufusi and I to send us here. I know now is our time to be here and I am excited to witness the miracles that Heavenly Father is putting before us.”
Below is a picture of the 6 missionaries – Elder Vete is the District Leader (a former zone leader) and is a natural, wonderful leader. He (L) and his companion, Elder Lakatani (R) are kneeling in the picture below. The back row L ro R is Elder Clark, Elder Russell, Sister Rudy, Sister Kaufusi, Elder States and Elder Blankenship. More to come…..