Since it wasn't cool enough that we've met the sailing teams from Japan, Argentina, Poland, Austria, and Hungary, they had to go post a photo of us on lds.org! The choir was really fun to sing in--it was Hark All Ye Nations, and we wanted confetti and fireworks and a giant backdrop of Elder Bednar's FACE to unscroll in the back--but that felt a little too like Mussolini (Elder Botta: "Hey, don't say that!") It was so cool to meet a lot of missionaries that have been out nearly a year. The big question is who I go home with, seeing how they're out 11 months already. We'll have lots of fun reminiscing on the plane, for sure. That Bednar conference was one of the big highlights of the entire mission ;) My question is how you become one of his bodyguards. Do you apply online or...?
Mission news: INVESTIGATORS
-Delvin: Mum is less active in Swindon, and we found him on the street wondering about God and religion. Very smart, very receptive to the spirit. Needs to read the Book of Mormon to settle his puzzling thoughts.
-Derrick: From London, a painter fresh off His Majesty's Holiday and ready for a new start in life. He'd been going to the Weymouth Family Church (we've taught 8 members so far off that flippin congregation--they're all searching, and so help me, SOMEONE is going to get baptized) but the last two weeks he's gotten lost on the way there. So we had him come to church this week. Solid, cool guy.
-The Pooles: We're off to teach them now that school's started up. I think we've been falling down explaining why this is important. I just figure that if you believe in God and want His approval, of COURSE you want to know His will. But people are asking us why we need to know His will, or what's in it for them. For Adam and Katrina, their little children are asking them about heaven and will they recognize each other, and their parents have no answers for them. I want them to get sealed so BADLY! They're such a sweet family and they absolutely know what's important. We just need to make the Restoration more of a reality for them.
-Nina: Friend of Melanie Drinkwater, who is the best missionary ever. Nina came to the Primary Program and LOVED it--those kids are so reverent! Elliot stood at the front with a banner like Miss Congeniality, except it said "Reverently" on it. Brilliant. 3 year old Jack's just picking his nose and putting the Book of Mormon on his head during Scripture Power, and when asked who we follow (while looking at Greg Olson's painting of Jesus holding the sheep) he said, "Follow the deer" because that's what the sheep looked like. I was crying, I was laughing so hard :)
In other news:
-While talking to a homeless guy about God, his pitbull came at me. Stupid dog. No blood, but that's what he was going for. The tramp couldn't care less.
-Sometimes I have to go to the loo in town, and because it's England, public toilets aren't often. If we're in a bind, we'll buy chocolate cookies in Subway so I can use theirs. America also has drinking fountains.
-Because it's getting darker earlier, we keep getting told off for knocking doors late, even though it's barely 8 o-clock. We do keep seeing fireworks though--if we climb the garden wall, we can get a better look and annoy the neighbors by singing American anthems.
-They sell onesies that look like monkey suits.
-Members of the branch keep calling to report member missionary work and they're getting so excited!
It's so fun to be a missionary! As of Thursday, I will have been out 5 months--it feels like NOTHING, like April was last month, and we're getting ready for October conference already? So crazy! I'm excited to see Elder Bednar again and be like, "I talked to him!" He asked us how his QandA teaching was effective, and I said it worked only because we kept our commitment to read his talks beforehand, just like regular missionary work cannot go forward unless the investigator has read and prayed. Don't read the Book of Mormon, and whatever you do, don't pray about it. That's how they get you. It's strange that it's such a simple bit of direction, and yet so many people don't make it happen. I wonder why that is. For those that do read and pray, like Katrina, they're the ones that are benefiting and getting the influence of the Spirit into their homes.
Me and Sister Housley have been talking about the biggest fear missionaries have, and that's that as soon as we come home, every good quality we attained during the 18 months will erode away and we will be the same person we were before we went. I think that it's difficult to see the vital changes in yourself from moment to moment, and even from week to week. It's easier for those on the outside to see it. I think if we set goals to change in specific ways, like learning how to more readily recognize the Spirit, how to pray more specifically and with more earnestness, or understanding the Savior's Atonement and applying it more frequently, the Lord will see those desires and grant us divine help in attaining them. It's impossible, if your heart is in the work with your companion, the members and with your investigators, to come back the same as when you left. I definitely hope to gain lifelong qualities and become a better disciple through this work, and I know that if the Lord helps me, that's exactly what I'll be.
Thank you so much for post and all your support! Keep writing and keep learning--that's the purpose of this life, is to learn to be like God. In the words of Elder Paraso, "You're doin it!"