Monday, May 30, 2011

Low Hanging Fruit

Big news. Dad, are you listening? We have a baptism. Yep. On Saturday. Shekinah went to Portsmouth for church this week (the amazing traveling investigator, she's so solid), and met with Elder Lang (the elders before us were him and Elder Carter, who went some eight months without a single baptism), who got her all lessoned up and interviewed. I am so excited! Elder Carter's coming from Bristol to baptize her himself (I made the Zone Leaders say yes). I have absolutely nothing to do with her getting baptized; all we did was show her the Restoration DVD and run underneath a very tall tree to catch the falling fruit. I promise to take pics and send those too.

In less big news, we have the greatest Zone leaders ever. Roe and Smyth bought us battered Mars bars on the way back from District Meeting (see above pictures). It was a bit like eating a Nutella crepe, and my poor arteries suffered for ages afterward. I got to hold a bunny at the Lawfords, Weymouth is uber-famous for sand-sculpting, the Esplanade leaves me sunburned every single fetchin day and sunscreen is a fortune out here, and one of the worst things that could ever happen is two dinner appointments on the same night. Surprise! Happily, our little publicity stunt during Mutual got us third place in the sandcastle contest and quite a lot of attention. Next it'll be the Plan of Salvation carved out of the sand.

Contacting around here, people are funny. We can talk to most anyone (although we definitely got growled at yesterday) and carry on a polite, intelligent conversation. We teach all day out on the streets, and people can feel the Spirit. They get chills, they feel warm, they start crying right outside Cafe Nero. We get so excited and commit them to pray and read, which of course they will. But the moment we ask if they'll meet with us, they jump ship. It's like building a really cool sandcastle and having the audience come up and stomp on it..."Bye! Good luck!" So weird. I guess it's true when they say the Gospel comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable. I'm this close to getting on a soapbox and crying repentance old-school, but everyone already thinks we're strange. Maybe I'll just commit one person to baptism every single day. Then they can't say they didn't know. Sister Housley is really good at relating to people and answering their honest questions, things like, "God has never done anything or shown any signs," and she announces, "Hi! Here we are!" So help me, we WILL pull every possible miracle out of the woodwork.
Like Olha. She is so excited to speak to us more about what we know and why we know it. She's also going to teach us to paint, something we're both really excited for. Who says we won't come back from England refined after all? Besides Olha, who's so sweet and so intelligent that we're confident for that couple's active membership by the end of this transfer, most of the less-actives are single women with children, who've opened their homes and their hearts to us in ways the branch can't even imagine. Like difficult children, those who aren't interesting in joining or coming back to the fold, all we can really do is love them. President Monson always tells stories about the life-changing power of love, from those widows to Warden Duffy in San Quentin penitentiary, people always respond well to those who love them.

Sister Housley is so great. Our pdays have been really chill, and I'm learning a lot about smiling even when people are grumpy at you. A lot of walking outside to and from appointments means I'm relaying plots of different movies (Tangled, Social Network, stuff coming out soon) and English history, and she tells me awkward dating stories, running in China, and people back in Exeter like her RC Jo, who came to see us on Wednesday (best day ever!). She's determined to teach me to beat-box, despite my total whiteness. And we have a good time distracting ourselves in the downtime with goofiness.
This mission is so rad! Who said baptisms are impossible in the Motherland? We are tearing it up out here :)
Besides, the only recorded baptism during Jesus' ministry was His own. How important is it that we become converted ourselves, before we try to testify to others?
Love from,
Sister Willard
P.S. The BYU walking group came down and did a fireside, and normal people are starting to seem strange already. Maybe it was the overtly Americanness...loud and obnoxious (I'm not affiliated with them...)...

Monday, May 23, 2011

One Month Already!

Dear everyone,

What a lovely pday! First cloudy day we've had in a long time, and since I don't have money for sunscreen, it's a day off for the cancer cells. Thanks for writing! Sister Housley will send pictures as soon as she can. Next Monday is a bank holiday, so we'll be emailing on Tuesday.

As far as the mission, it's been much better since we got bus passes and have begun to get to know the branch. Most of the former ward's inactive, and we've been able to get in a few doors by virtue of our feminine charms (apparently winter on the elders made them look scary), but the active members are really solid. They're anxious to feed us; so far, our dinner appointments have ranged from quiet and polite, to the hosts swapping dating stories, to cluttered and full of screaming children. It's best not to expect a thing, I guess. All the food's been great (who says English food is terrible?)

Pres. Levi has asked us to strengthen everyone's testimonies and not to assume that because they come to church that they understand or believe everything taught there. It's so important to answer questions like, "How do I even know God exists?" and not just shrug it off. A lot of the youth are going away as soon as they hit uni age and are starting families because of it. What's interesting is that a lot of the less-actives we've met have strong testimonies like the three witnesses, but they struggle with things like the Word of Wisdom and feel unworthy to attend. We're going to start on some firesides, youth Q&As, teaching Gospel Principles (there are two investigators regularly attending, and no Gospel Principles?) and kick off this next month (June is Bring a Friend to Church Month). I sure hope we can see some miracles happen.

As far as the work goes, here's a typical schedule:

6:30 Get up, journal (we trek around all day), shower, breakfast.

8:00 Personal study. Currently it's the Atonement and the Gospels.

9:30 Companion study. Practice lessons, finding, finalize plans for the day.

11:00 Contact Weymouth High Street and the Esplanade. Afterwards, lunch for an hour. We'll pack one or go home. Catch the bus to Dorchester, Littlemoor, Chickerell, Portland, Wyke Regis, or any other villages we've been inspired to go. Our goal is to visit as many members as we can, to find out their situation and teach them little lessons. We'll squeeze one or two RCLAs in each day, knock as few doors as possible (knocking can get ugly out here; we prefer warm bodies out gardening or in the park), score some dinner, and barely get back in on time.

9:00 Be back at the flat. Start nightly planning.

9:45 Account daily numbers. We've definitely got some wicked numbers as far as teaches go, but very few investigators.

10:30 Bed. Best part of the day.

My favorite house we've been in thus far is a less active, Steve Hopcroft. He was AP of his mission and loves the church, but he had some traumatic experiences as a POW after mission and struggles with smoking (as does everyone else). His wife Olha is from the Ukraine and she's a BABE (also not a member). Such a sweet lady, the calm reassurance to Steve eager informative stance; what he would like is for her to join the church of her own free will (she grew up in Communism, and he doesn't want to tell her what to do) so they both can get active again. The elders never got in the house. I think she's lonely for some female company. After dinner, she drove us back to the flat, and she asked us, "How do you know?" We bore quick testimony and I think she's golden. We just have to let it sit for a moment, and then call back.

Our other favorite teach of the week was Shekinah! Finally! She's from Ireland and is living with a member lady. She told us she wanted to be baptized the moment she walked into the church building months ago. The elders taught her and the night they left, she told them she knew Joseph Smith was a prophet. So cool. We're off to teach her tomorrow about the Ten Commandments and such, and I'm so excited for her!

Best things about missionary work so far:
My trainer is so boss
You learn to be patient
You feel happy for no conceivable reason
You have incredible spiritual experiences and know that something good will come from it
The members are so fantastic and willing to help out
I'm in the most beautiful place on earth
People are lovely and polite, even if they're not interested
The Lord has blessed us with health and strength and alertness because we've been obedient
Paul Dadds told me, in his Hugh Laurie way, "I can't believe you're a greenie. It feels like you've been out here a year or more." Maybe I've been better prepared than I thought--or maybe you just fake it til you make it!

Bah, out of time! Thanks to everyone who's written--especially you, Marnie. Being a missionary is crazy and exhausting and satisfying and elating and on those days when you don't want to go out but you still do, you see miracles happen and you're humbled by the grace of a God who'll lift you when you do the most you can do.

One month down! Can you believe it??

Sister Willard

Monday, May 16, 2011

First Sunday Meetings

Dear everyone,

No emails from anyone yet. Happily, my address is Flat 2, 67 Rodwell Rd, Weymouth Dorset, DT4 8QX. Don't send anything to the mission office because I won't be able to pick it up until Zone Conference or later. Just send it to the flat. I'll be here for a few months. There haven't been any sisters here for over thirty years, the branch says. President is lovely; he's requesting us to help the branch build stronger testimonies. Most of the former ward is inactive because of little silly things, and our job will be to visit them and teach them the basics: pray, obey, study, follow the prophet. It doesn't get easier than that. We had a wedding for time a few months ago that left those who haven't been to the temple offended that a temple sealing would get skated over so quickly--deacons trying to understand temple ordinances and NOT praying or coming to church.

The people here are lovely. We've got a baptism date on Saturday, and we'll see if it goes through. Her name is Shekinah and she lives with a solid member in Preston, but so far she's been impossible to get ahold of. It looks like we'll work a lot with part-member families here a lot, trying to get those investigators dating members to join, and teaching less-actives the basics over again. Super easy, I think. Not brain surgery.

Walking down Weymouth, we run into lots of folks who aren't super interested in religion, but a few who are just looking for a purpose in life. Sister Housley's been teaching me to talk to people and how to teach and how to approach someone whose just thrown a curveball. We taught 10 lessons in the few days I've been here, and it feels like I'm back teaching Primary. As long as you've got the Spirit with you, just testify and he will translate for you.

The elders who were here before us haven't baptized anyone in seven months or more. I think that's why we're whitewashing, just to have some new faces get totally lost in the town and work the whitewash miracles. I also feel like we can get more places because people feel like they have to be polite. If we can get the members involved, I think it would really be beneficial to them and to the town.

I've been studying a lot about the Atonement and about how very little of it has to do with sin at all. It all has to do with balancing the scales of justice such that you feel compelled to change and be like God. Just as jailtime doesn't guarantee remorse, suffering for our own sins will never change us into Godlike beings. We have to decide while we are here on earth to change, little by little, until we too become perfect. We ran into a disbeliever cynic person who said that if he was wrong, God is all-forgiving anyway and he will just say, "Sorry! I didn't know." I didn't yell or anything, but I did say, "You sure ACT like you know God isn't there." Sister Housley said that the gospel is meant to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, and at that point, I was definitely feeling like Amulek in my approach to our cynic and calling him to repent or else. I didn't--we walked away, and I will always think of him and what I would have said should we run into another.

The success of a missionary cannot be measured by numbers. I could have one baptism under my belt a week out of the MTC, but that doesn't mean I DID anything. I was just here to pick the fruit of seeds planted and nourished by all those elders before. Success is determinant on the missionary's commitment to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. For those who reject us, who are not elect, we can feel satisfied that we are fulfilling our purpose in calling them to repentance. They cannot say, because we worked hard, "Sorry! I didn't know." They did know, because they were approached by successful missionaries. That's what we're trying to be. Every time I feel the Spirit work through me and I say something that I never planned to, I know that the Lord is pleased with the work I'm trying to accomplish.

Anyways--hope everything is just dandy at home. Monday is pday, so I hope to hear from everyone soon :)

Love from,
Sister Willard

Friday, May 13, 2011

New Area in Weymouth

Hey all!

So after five hours on the coach and even longer sitting in our
transfer meeting, our trainers spilled in and made quite a show. We
got pics with the president and his wife (who are so quirky and fun
and would despise anyone who made them stop doooing that) and I waited
down the line for my trainer. Her name is Sister Hously--she claims
Utah, but she's been all over. She said "rad" and the "bomb" in our
first ever conversation, and I knew it was destiny that we be

After waiting ages for the office to uncover our flat keys (soooo
hungry after that), we got into a brand new couples' car with the
Poole Zone leaders, Elders Smyth and Roe. Super nice guys, so enthused
to have me come around. (Never eat an entire thing of fish and chips
in a legit place--she and I just shared, and it all turned into a
stomach-brick. Although vinegar and salt was really good, in place of
tartar sauce.) Turns out me and Hously were assigned to whitewash
Weymouth (the leaders are washing out Poole). So basically my trainer
knows nothing about the ward, the p.i.s, the members, where the
library is (although we made it successful then, ha!), the bus
station, the train station, formers, recent converts...everything I
was gonna ask has all gone to the wayside. What's a bit scary for me
is that I'm green, they haven't had a lot of baptisms for some months
now, and definitely haven't had any sisters in YEARS. So no pressure.

As soon as I get to Boots and make a CD of these rad pictures of our
oh-so-kitschy flat (English ghetto, go figure), you all can put names
to places and such. There are seventies style floral curtains, red
velvet in the bedroom, a new boiler struggling to work, a washer and
dryer in the kitchen, lots of food and candy and crisps (elders) in
the cupboards, and a Narnia wardrobe in back with tons of ties and
shoes and pday clothes and a Brookstone converter we are DEFINITELY
keeping. We had to call in the landlord this morning to come check out
the heat, and he explained about revamping the entire outside so we
won't get molded out (Hously kept coughing this morning during study)
and kindly asked us to mow. (Lovely guy, would make a great
Scoutmaster. We might have to break something so he'll come back and
get taught). We're at the top of a hill, with a lovely garden in the
back and a front door that, if you step out and you're not looking,
you could get soaked by a passing car. Down the lane is Asda (so
excited, it's owned by Walmart and has all the bells and whistles) and
the High Street. We've got a JP Morgan card with 120 pounds on it that
gets refilled each month, although I think half of it goes to an
exorbitant bus pass. Sad. But we have to get to church somehow, right?
So glad we don't have bikes yet. Maybe if we make a great impression
on the branch, they'll feed us each night.

Despite our ominous/miraculous beginning, (like as of this morning)
we've run into people who are so willing to hear about the gospel and
we've run out of cards and everything. One of the people we stopped,
her name was Zoe, and apparently she ran into two elders last week on
Portland, the local island. Since no missionaries have been here for
five weeks, either they were out of their area, came down to holiday,
are two of the three Nephites, or they were Jehovah's Witness. She
looked at us like, oh, this is a really strange coincidence and seemed
really happy to talk to us. We prayed with her on the street and were
excited to set an appointment. The zone leaders were excited to hear
about our whitewashing miracles, and I have complete faith that there
are people here who have been prepared to hear the gospel. We just
gotta go and find them.

It's so sunny out on the coast here--all the rowing and boating events
for the Olympics will be here, and just outside our flat is a whole
field of sailboats just waiting to go out. Such happy people here,
even folks who don't believe in anything are happy to talk to us.
Sister Hously taught me to pray with people after you've taught them a
principle and testified and exchanged digits, so as to send them on
their way and invite the Lord into their lives and give a
demonstration about prayer. I think it's been really effective so far.
You've really got to be humble around these proud Englishmen--act like
a cocky American come to save their souls, and they'll kick you to the
curb without blinking. But I think they can feel our love for them. I
certainly can each time we talk to someone--I hope Heavenly Father can
work through me, at least in that way. It's been such a marvelous few
hours already, and I can't wait to carry on.

Sister Hously is really enthused about the work and loves being with
people and making them feel comfortable. She's laid back normally, but
definitely not about the work. We spent comp study this morning (two
hours, whoa) teaching a styrofoam cup with a smiley face on it the
first lesson. He seemed really interested. Then we practiced finding
with the map on the back of the hall door. No numbers yet, but I'm
hopeful. It's always good to practice and get your confidence up, even
if you've only been in the country for three weeks. I prefer talking
to warm bodies rather than inanimate objects personally, but the
practice sure helps you get over the fear and be guided by the spirit
instead. And when your trainer is doing dorky British accents in
answer to my "inspired questions", it helps guide the lesson wherever
you'd like it to go.

Sister Hously is totally boss--she keeps saying she got me "because
I'm smart" (whatever, knowing what Tesco is does not qualify as smart)
but it's been great to have a companion so interested in you and your
life. It's been a stressful week for both of us, but now that we know
that neither of us is crazy/uber-trunky/Korean-speaking only, it's
been such a fun ride since. Basically it's been the best week ever.
Again. I highly recommend it :)

Love you all!

Sister Willard

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Last Day in the Preston MTC

“Hearts Knit Together in Unity and Love.”
Mosiah 18:21
May 8, 2011 – England MTC
Left to right:
   Sisters Walker, Baker, Stucki, Mills, Sebald, Delagado, Binnie, Keogh, Willard, Filichia, Williams

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Tracting? What?

Dear Folks,
Hey there! So sorry about not sending pictures home just yet--we've only got thirty minutes to email, and I didn't bring my cable with me. I think I'll just mail the sims card home and make everything so much easier, however, if you'd like to go Netflix on me and send a SECOND card, I am not against it...:)
Anyways, just got back from a delightful Church tour in Preston, Downham, and Chatburn. Those are the places where the very first British saints joined and were baptized. The sun is so beautiful here and I think it's global warming (not). Or the Spirit. Whatever. The villages here are so old andso cottage-y that leaving the MTC is doubly rewarding. Bit of a prison by the second week, right?
Unlike any other MTC in the world, we had the unique opportunity to go tracting in Preston and Manchester on Thursday. Armed with pass-along cards, Book of Mormons (calm down, I know it's wrong), Proclamations to the Family, Joseph Smith histories, and Restoration pamphlets, we boarded a train in Chorley and took five pounds down mainstreet Preston. Me and Sister Filichia admit we were a bit nervous, but once we started talking to people and testifying of what we knew, I just started to feel elated--buoyed up by some unseen hands to declare the word of God.
We talked to a lot of old people (they're slow, and polite enough to say hi), and even though none were willing to give up their "baby faith", I still felt really successful. We made it to the square where President Hinckley did his first preaching and had only handed out cards. We talked to a man on a bench in that park, and he just went off on us about him having the spirit of discernment and knew that we were from the devil and how we had to pray to "his" god, and the Spirit totally vacated the premises. I was confused as to how to get out of there. Sister Filichia said later that she could feel the love Heavenly Father has for that man, despite his being totally deluded, whereas I felt only frustration. She's such a sweet spirit, my companion. It's a rare person who doesn't want to talk to her.
So, after the crazy guy, we had to get back to the station. We were surrounded by people up and down the road, and I didn't want to hurry because someone had been prepared to hear the gospel. At one point, I looked over on a street bench a few toddlers were playing on, and saw a girl our age just eating her lunch. I made a beeline for her (disclaimer: I didn't get a spiritual epiphany or bolt of lightning or whatever, I just felt like I had to talk to her.) Sister Filichia didn't realize where I'd got to for a while--The girl (Holly) looked up and smiled. I asked if she'd ever seen missionaries before. Holly said her friend from uni was a member, and she just started talking about how happy we were and how she wanted that happiness in her life. We did our best not to explode with exuberance (that crazy guy had us there for like twenty minutes with no Spirit at all). I offered her a card and a Book of Mormon. She said she would call her friend again and she promised to read it. We practically skipped all the way back to the station, confident that we had given this girl a chance to change her life. It's not really up to the missionaries to do it for her, but if she's been prepared like we prayed she would be, this would be a turning point for her.
This MTC is so fantastic. We've been able to get on and chat with people who really want to know the truth, teach the instructors who have real-life conversion stories, and just learn about planning and teaching all in really little classrooms where everyone knows everyone else's name. Speaking of which, the sisters became nine this week, with Sister Keogh's friend Sister Binnie joining London South. It's so fun to see who will likely be my companion in future!
Anyways, it looks like time's up. Mother's Day is right around the corner--so everyone knows, I will be calling home 8:30am on Sunday (can't be helped). Love you all and I'm excited to hear from you soon!
Love from,
Sister Willard