Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Miracles in Weymouth

Such a crazy week! Here's an update on our investigators:
Steve and Olha: are coming to church regularly, and Steve has quit smoking (three weeks thus far!) We're so proud, and Olha has been reading the Book of Mormon in Russian. I feel like she is progressing very slowly, but progressing nonetheless.
Shirley: is on date for the 14th, but she's definitely got some concerns we need to clear up. Authority needs to be made plain, as it does for the Fijiians.
And Cheri, who is learning how to stay in tune with the Spirit and who loved the Plan of Salvation, especially since Melanie came with us. I love it. She committed to a soft, and we're excited for her to come to church next week.
We picked up ten new investigators this week (our district's goal was 12) and had a whole mass of crazy times, including the most frightening teach I've ever been in. The lady is less-active, and the elders were teaching a gay lodger of hers named Mike. He was not interested in whether God was there or not (his past was one of adultery with the rector's wife?), and Fiona went off about how the church had criticized and condemned her (she's smoking, drinking, taking morphine during church?), her mad little eyes bulging in cold fury. The Spirit was so far gone that I was legitimately concerned for our safety. When she came back downstairs, catheter bag a-swinging, she brandished an orange piece of paper at us and declared that it was the email that was the reason for all her problems with the church and that she wanted us to read it. I said loudly, "No. That's not our stewardship." (She said it was disgusting and pornographic, and I have no doubt that it was.) Housley got up, announced that we had to run, prayed, and pushed me out the door, Fiona talking all the way about how the people in Weymouth were part of the great and abominable church...we got out and RAN down the sidewalk. It took ages to shake off the jitters from having the Spirit totally leave the room.
But contrast that with teaching Cheri, who loves the Book of Mormon and wants to quit smoking (we have said nothing about the Word of Wisdom) and has felt the Spirit's presence and absence and wants to be baptized when it is confirmed to her as truth. Such a sweet spirit in her home...she even loves the color white :)
In other fun things this week:
-We knocked into the home of a ninety-year-old woman, who had no idea what was going on, and when Housley tried to sit on the couch, there was a stuffed cat (alive once?) with sharp teeth and something that looked very much like blood running down the front.
-Sister Housley got asked out by a new investigator, who just got out of prison.
-We're looking to do another exchange next week, on Monday (I won't email til Thursday)
-Coolest new investigator? Wanda. She's Inuit, from Canada, and just moved. She's looking for a church to baptize her children, because "they need to get baptized." :) We're hoping they're over eight, but we'll see.
Anyways, still learning lots from the basics. When people apostatize, it means they're not reading, praying, studying the scriptures, and following the prophet. We have to do those things to function as members. We have a member who may no longer attend because she feels laughed at and excluded--it just means she's not reading and praying and doing those things she needs to do. Primary is not a place for children, it is for adults. Doctrines are teachings that are fundamental to our salvation, and going into "deep doctrine" without those fundamentals is foolish. Everything hinges on whether Joseph Smith was truly a prophet--that's why we teach the Restoration first, before anything else. Pray. Ask. If you're struggling with some question or whatever, don't hide it and fuss--just pray and ask. If it doesn't come right away, keep at it. He'll answer you in His own time. As missionaries, people always say, no, you won't convert me. We're not trying to. This is about you and the Lord. Pray. Find out now.
It's so refreshing to be teaching the basics. The Gospel is simple: Faith in Jesus Christ, Repentance, Baptism, Receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and Endure to the End. Repeat. How to stay strong? Obey, pray, study, follow the prophet. Everything else is an appendage to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and teaches us how to apply it more fully, but this is the framework. Do these things, and you will never go astray.
Thanks so much for the fan mail! Go out and fill others' lives with the Spirit. Open your mouths. Be an instrument in the Lord's hands so that you can recieve so much more joy in the life to come ;)
Love from,
Sister Willard

Friday, July 22, 2011

Exchange to Winchester

Hellooo from the seaside! 
As the title stipulates, I have now gone across Poole-Portsmouth Zone to Winchester with Sister Kernek. She's from L.A. and is a BABE and a half. (Fun fact: Boys need to write her. Any prospectives, ie: elders currently or formerly serving, she can be reached atkylie.kernek@myldsmail.net and http://kyliegoesonamission.wordpress.com/2010/07/01/ (she has business cards?) Anways, she was so fun to serve with. 

Winchester is hoity-toity, super posh and have too much money to pay attention to us (or propriety, for that matter). So Weymouth is chavvy, whatever...they are super polite and we can start a conversation with almost anyone in town. Winchester was the opposite. I did get to teach a cool guy named Michael and extended a baptismal date, so if he gets baptized, it could count...? 

Fun fact: Rich English folk don't like it when you laugh at them. Why so serious? Guy, I hope someone HITS me if I get that uptight. Winchester's mission leader picks up roadkill and takes it home so his German wife can cook it, and I'm pretty sure I might have eaten some that evening; the rest of the night was spent avoiding "Dracos" and "Ginnys" (gotta speak in code so you tract the right people). So all in all, I'm hoping for another exchange this moves. Sleepovers are the best!
Updates on our investigators:
Martha, Makela, and Steve (The Fijiians): Cannot get enough of the Book of Mormon. As soon as I told them they could be descended from those peoples, Steve started reading and as of Monday last has finished 1st Nephi. They're struggling with grace and the trinity (who isn't in this town?) but since they live down the lane, we've been writing down Q&As and sticking them through the letterbox. We answered questions like "Why a premortal existence?" and "Is Jesus a prophet as well?" and "Trinity or three separate beings?" with Bible and Book of Mormon scriptures. Totally rad. They are progressing beautifully: pray they'll come to church this week.
Adam and Katrina Poole: She's accepted a soft commitment for baptism, but no time to come to church yet. He's still skeptical, but she says there's a new spirit in their home and she just feels so much more calm and patient  and every time we come over, she gets "goosebumps, like it's a tingle of promise, you know?" So cool. They're definitely less religiously-structured and very open-minded, but have a crazy schedule.
Shirley: Goal for her is August 14th to be baptized. She's absorbing amazingly--Church is definitely overwhelming (3 hours, heck), but she LOVES the Plan of Salvation and we're excited that she's coming to church. Bonding with the Relief Society and everything :)
Cheri: She's our other golden we knocked into--she has read both pamphlets and we dropped off a Book of Mormon yesterday with our testimonies in it, and we're meeting her this week. She just drinks in everything we say, it seems like. She's been looking for the true church for some time, and does NOT agree with J-Dubs because she researched them and concluded so. This chick is serious!
Shekinah: Is NOT dead, and has returned from Ireland. We spoke to her on Saturday and she's looking to be taught again, but still maintains her hectic schedule. We'll see if we can't get her back on track for baptism.
So yeah! Very exciting, juggling all this goldens. We're working hard on maintaining daily contact with all our investigators so we don't lose them. Real investigators love daily contact, so says PMG...so it'll only weed out the not-serious ones?
Other weird things:
-Keep getting hit on
-Sister Kernek said she learned happiness and enthusiasm on our exchange; I learned not to bash? I wasn't, I swear!
-I love super cheesey 90s seminary videos
-Going to the Withreads yesterday, they gave me a box of hair dye and decided it was time. So yes. My hair is dark now. Housley keeps looking around for her companion.
Oh, Weymouth is the Promised Land! I'm so excited for our first baptism, and our fireside on temples, and to stay here til New Years':) That would be acceptable. Hooray! Only 15 months left--Gotta get to work!
Love from,
Sister Willard

Monday, July 11, 2011

Best Ward Ever!

So we went tracting with the youth on Wednesday. It was dark, rainy and windy; none of the leaders showed, we ran out of cars, and our little men and women looked terrified. We armed them with pass-along cards, leaflets, and surveys with questions like, "If God still spoke to us today, would you care about what He said? (yes/no/other)" maps, and divided them up into groups. Me and Housley split up and took one side of the street. My little deacons were so scared--I did nothing as they did their first house, and I was so proud! They said after that, it was easy. I agree. I've been doing a lot better talking to people on the streets, because the only other option is teaching less-actives, and I want to do that as little as possible. We got a bunch of referrals, but the best part of the night: Joe (prospective missionary), Primary Valiant Luke and Jarome (bit autistic) went off knocking in a group. After tagging cars with cards, they knocked into this one house and announced who they were. The lady said, "Oh, I'm sorry, we're Jehovah's Witnesses." Jarome turned around and walked away ("Shame," he said, matter-of-fact), leaving Joe and Luke standing on the doorstep. Made my whole night.

 Other cool happenings:
-My very first Zone Conference! We discussed Shamo's rogue plan for member missionaries to get involved to double the active membership in Europe in just a few years. We also discussed using time wisely and what a perfect week looks like. We also learned that sisters are way better planners than elders (we only need to be out 18 months, rather than 24--this is why). 

-I won a lot of respect from my district after some 5 minutes of heroic frisbee-playing last pday.

-At conference, Shamo announced to everyone that Elder Paraso (in my district) was a pro wrestler. And then, looking at me because I was in the front row (?), he said, "Have you felt his arms? They're like steel!" And I, the ever-confused, said, "Why are you telling ME this?" Housley died. 

-We did this fantastic hike around Portland, absolutely beautiful, scrambling over rocks and seeing pirate graveyards and caves; mental note, to do at a future date WITH a future date :)

-Sunday we had 6 investgators come to church (we were expecting 8 as well!), which is the most in the zone, apparently. We didn't do much besides pick up Shirley, who's a solid new investigator we picked up the other week. She's got a lot of PofS questions, but teaching is slow-going because it's a lot for her to soak up.

-Knocked into this Fijiian family...3 new investigators at once! We taught the first and they were STOKED to hear they could be descended from BofM peoples. (Sometimes you say something, and then think, "Why did I bring that up?" This was one of those experiences.) So cool! I hope they don't get anti'd or something mad.

-The Whytes need to quit smoking, then they're set for baptism. Steve has gone a whole week without, and Leigh's mum from the ward. I'm so proud of them all!

-They also don't have apple cider or Reese's here. It's a travesty. I ate dog for the first time.

Anyways, such a rad week. The Lord has blessed our hard work, and we've made a goal to do better daily contact with all our investigators, so we don't lose them in transit. It's hard in a place that's so far-flung, but the weather's held up real nice. I'll have to send pictures soon--the library's computers are archaic. Thanks for compiling this package so quickly! I'm excited to add a little more spice to the bland comfort food here--these Brits don't know what they're missing. At least they've got curry. Thanks for still writing me and such--keep going to church, give the missionaries referrals and volunteer for teaches! 

Okay, it was a hot dog. Missionaries shouldn't lie.

Love from,
Sister Willard

Monday, July 4, 2011

A week of Firsts

We spent all week it seems in Recent Converts/Less-Actives' homes, teaching, gardening, wallpapering. I will be a pro when I get back home. RCLA work is hard though; you invite them to come back to church, and they always are ready with some excuse--"I'm too busy, I'm out of town, I have to work, my back hurt, I have to go into hospital, my son hates primary, I have to stay with my boyfriend"...after a week of hearing that, you just want to dust off your heels and go high-streeting all day. Depressing for sure. I will never go less-active. I don't ever want to break Heavenly Father's heart like that, nor do I ever want to face those pioneers who gave up everything so that I could attend on a regular basis. No excuse could measure up to that kind of sacrifice or devotion. Sister Housley, from working with RCLAs and stuff, has really kicked against the excuse-mentality and is very straightforward whenever she speaks to people. "There's no excuse. Whatever."

This week was one of FIRSTS for us. I got to mow a less-active's lawn with an electric lawnmower. It was like a giant vacuum for the yard, and I spent the afternoon contemplating electrocution. We keep getting approached by raging alcoholics who only want 20p (you'll be happy to know that your tithing money is NOT going to fund another booze fix) and blame God for their problems. That is a tough life to lead. We've got this place here called the Park District--because the prisons and asylums keep losing funding and get shut down, they're all flocking to Park's government housing. Just last week, there was a stabbing and someone threw acid in someone's face. No guns means that people get creative, I guess. Sister Housley determined that Wey-town is more sketch than Exeter, and we don't go into the Park District after 4pm. Shame--there could be a lot of potential down there, but two sister missionaries already attract the weirdos like flies. (They all hit on Sister Housley as well...don't come here and bleach you're teeth, you stick out too much).

It was also our first mission prep class, taught by reactivated Bro. Rowbotham (served in Marseilles), the first time eternal investigator Kevin showed any interest in learning from us (also the first time he hit on Sister Housley), the first time Mike prayed,  our first time going running in the morning, our first mission fireside (we showed the Joseph Smith movie and shared testimonies and everyone invited someone to come, which was amazing), the first time Olha came to church in a dress...good times. Tyler sent the Prince of Egypt soundtrack, and Sister Housley announced (while doing situps to "Deliver Us") "This must be what being in love feels like!" Any music anyone wants to send us, we will listen to it until the CD breaks. No joke.

Next week will be even better. No more trying to teach RCLAs on the beach while cross-dressing bands are playing and topless chicks from Spain are tanning nearby. (I wish seagulls would attack the latter.) Huzzah! The sanity of the high street, now that we've got Restoration and PofS pamphlets, we're not completely resourceless.

My two favorite miracles this week:

1. Got a referral from the office regarding the Whyte couple. They live about an hour's bus ride away, and they called asking for a Book of Mormon. We met with them and learned that they'd been taught in Norwich right up to the point of baptism before the Navy moved them. We showed the Restoration, and they were like, "Yeah! Those other churches are crazy and we're right and he totally was the prophet and the Book of Mormon is WAY better than the Bible!" (we'll have to work on that). But we left feeling really enthused about their determination to progress. Might have trouble with smoking, but we'll do our best.

2. Knocking on Portland, a younger lady answered the door. I said, "Hello, we're missionaries from a local church." She said, "What church?" and as soon as she saw that we were NOT Jehovah's Witnesses, she said, "Oh, do you have any leaflets?" and stuck out her hand. She had a little son and said that she'd been looking for a church for ages, doing research and such, and she wanted us to come back and teach her. Man, how crazy was that? People really are searching. We're praying that we totally don't screw up this miracle :) When in doubt, don't do something stupid.

Anyways, that's about all I can say for now! Hope your Independence Day is grand, and all the English are a bunch of poor sports, except the members, who can see that the Church could only have been established in America :)

Love from,
Sister Willard