Monday, November 28, 2011

Last-Minute Sacrament Talks

So I had to speak yesterday with less than a day's notice. After Peter was finished explaining his conversion, I didn't have 15 minutes as warned, but a full 30 minutes to fill. Scary stuff, especially for this very hard-to-please ward and a pair of nervous investigators. But the Lord blessed me with loaves and fishes of material. I spoke on what it's like to be a new member of the church, reminding the members that they can't just say Mormon jokes and not sit by these people or else everything gets really exclusive and unhelpful for the missionaries. I got to talk about Alma and Amulek's friendship, Boyd K. Packer's spiritual medicine (prayer, service and bearing testimony), and describe some real investigators I taught back in Weymouth to get the members to imagine what it's like. Every new convert came up afterward and thanked me for saying what they're all was my very first talk that I didn't write down, and definitely the longest I'd ever given, but the Lord blessed us with His spirit and me with calmness.

Tricia came to church! We've taught her for a few months now, and she managed to overcome her fears and attend for the first time. I couldn't be prouder of her. Some people we teach are so ready for the Gospel and recognize its healing portents immediately...some need to experiment and read and pray to determine whether it's a good thing or not, let alone whether it's necessary. The Spirit is preparing the hearts of the people and some just cook a bit slower than others. (Island culture features SLOWNESS as its top speed for doing anything, so it's hard to get things underway at a normal American speed.) President Shamo wants us to baptize in November (check) and on Christmas Eve/Day as a present for the Savior. It feels all sorts of idealized when you say "white Christmas" and you mean white jumpsuits. I hope we can manage it--all our baptismal dates vanished, so we're back at square one. We'll see. Heck, we baptized TWO people in November--what more do you want? :)

Here's our 4 new investigators we're praying for: (Join us!)

-Jane. Recovered addict, lives alone. She was given a Book of Mormon some years ago, and she reads it regularly. She says she feels so much peace from it. She reminds me so much of Lauren Lippens :)

-Claire. No real belief in God, but she does believe in angels. Very busy. We've taught her a first and she agreed to read and pray. We're hoping she'll make time for us to come and teach in her home.

-Cindy. She has one teenage daughter and many, many rats. Many rats. They scamper around the house and have wrecked the furniture. She's not a hoarder, just not all that sensible. She felt the Spirit so much while we were there and clearly wants to follow God.

-Morris. 21, from Portugal, here working. The elders met him and he agreed to meet us. Not too much religious background beyond Catholicism, but we taught him the restoration and he said he'd keep an open mind. Good guy.

Last Monday we went to the Jersey War Tunnels, which is the Underground Hospital the Nazis used when they occupied the island. There wasn't a camp here, but if you were found with a radio, you were shipped off to Germany to be in a camp with everyone else. Everything was rationed, Jersey girls dated German soldiers and were ostracized, no one was allowed to drive cars or go fishing, a curfew was instigated, people tattled on one another, people drowned trying to escape...the occupation lasted for five years with very few civilian casualties, but they were really isolated from Churchill's attempts in the UK. The museum was really cool--lots of propaganda and photos of heroes. We were given mock passports of Jersey citizens before going in. My girl was 18 years old. She was approached by a German soldier (attacked, jumped, whatever) and she told him to back off. She got arrested and died in Ravensbruck. Sad days. It was a really cool place to visit, just to see the history of this place.

Our more edifying experience of the week was our movie night; Sister Christensen received 17 Miracles from her dad, so we invited the ward to watch it with us. 17 Miracles is about the Willie and Martin Handcart companies, and it was so cool to see everyone be so British, including Alex Mackenzie (she played a Scottish woman, but whatever) who used to be YW President here. If you haven't seen it, see it. Ignore the cheesy bits (T.C. Christensen, what were you thinking?) because it's fantastic. Everyone was crying. There were a couple less-actives there and even a nonmember husband who attended. Huzzah! Best day ever!

The other bit of news is that this afternoon we're off to Reading for the Sisters Conference and will be able to do an exchange in the Visitors Center at the temple! Whether we can attend, I don't know yet. The elders in Peckham and places close by visit on pday, so I hope we can go in. If anything, we can go in a month when they fly us out for Christmas! It'll be so nice to see everyone again :)

Love from,
Sister Willard

P.S. No meat on Thanksgiving was a little degrading, not gonna lie.

Monday, November 21, 2011

First Zone Conference on Jersey

We had the raddest workover this weekend; the elders from Poole came via Vomit-Comet to Jersey, and as soon as we procured helmets, put them to work on the high street so we could run to our appointments. Elder Roe is from SLC and was in High School Musical, looks like he's from Lebanon, and has been my Zone Leader since I got here. Elder Olsen is from Georgia and is getting through uni with his basketball scholarship (he's 6 foot 8 or something). As far as I know, the ZLs have never worked over the Channel Islands, and the perfect sunny days were only a bonus; in the space of 3 hours, we got a ton of potential investigators and we got to see Roe and Olsen's finding and teaching approaches. It's always dodgy when there's two sisters and two elders, so on the high street we made sure to gravitate about 10 feet from each other when we swapped. Roe was practically weeping with joy at how cool Jersey was. Yes, we are super cool :)

It was so nice because Himelright was always oozing with compliments after an exchange with the ZLs, and he'd repeat a Roe approach to us ("Hi, my friend and I are Christian missionaries, and we're sharing a message about how God's true church has been restored to prepare the earth for the second coming of the Messiah") and I was always complaining about how we could never DOO that because we're sisters. Once in a lifetime opportunity to learn. I guess I really felt a lot better about things because they find a lot like I do--their approaches are similar, the say the same things and help these people feel comfortable whilst being very direct. There's really only a few ways to say, "Do you believe in God?" It's always really good to work with other missionaries and see how they operate.

And speaking of other missionaries, the next morning we were graced with the presence of Guernsey for Jersey's very first district meeting! Woo-hoo! Apparently it's like £30 for two on a round trip, so I'm thinking we might be able to do district meeting more often in the future. Farnsworth was so happy to be off Guernsey (he's only been there two months, but it's hard work) and with the prospect of elders' sleepover and pday, they couldn't contain their exuberance. :) District meeting was so good; we practiced helping our investigators say kneeling prayers and solve their concerns, which is such a vital part of helping them come into communication with God. I learned that I make good analogies, I need to keep better eye-contact, I ask good questions when resolving concerns (ie: "Is this important to you?"), that I need to liken the scriptures more, and that I make the investigators feel really good about themselves (that little skill is all down to Christensen, who validates everyone's prayers, even if they're silent. You did so good! Investigators like to hear that.) Mostly it was exciting to see all the missionaries there and take dorky pictures in town. I hope things go well for Guernsey.

Despite our best efforts and President Furbank being there, we had no one at church. No Linda or Holly, Joanne, Catia, Tricia, or Alan. Poor Sister Christensen. This place has been really difficult because it is so isolated. We were attacked at ward council and our ideas died in subcommittee as usual by way of the defeatist few. David O. McKay said that in the kingdom of God, there are builders and there are murmurers. I'm doing my utmost not to be a murmurer, but to lift and motivate and bless this ward. There is so much potential in the beautiful families for doing good, but for some reason, they make excuses and think they can't help or that it's not their job. It's not hard to see that this attitude has infiltrated from the top down. I'm confident that if we can develop charity in ourselves and continue to encourage and be patient with the members as well as everyone else, they will begin to trust us and we will put this whole church thing back into their hands where it belongs.

We had a phone call this week from a very timid sister who said she felt impressed to give away the Book of Mormon we left her to a guy at work, and she said if he called, his name was Mario. We're praying for him to call us, please oh please. Just the fact that she did that was a miracle. I'm sure she felt all kinds of reassurance from the Spirit and I hope she'll have another missionary experience soon. See? There are fantastic members who are still inspired to do good! We may just have to set the example for them. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to serve in a ward that doesn't necessarily function well so I can remember always to maintain the "I will go and do" attitude I was always taught to have. In the meantime, while Brother Mackenzie texts us to keep breathing and remember that change takes time, I'm grateful for the Atonement to help take the load off our shoulders. I'm also grateful for the Spirit. Sometimes I don't feel it because I'm feeling resentful or frustrated at the lack of compliance (why can't everyone see things MY way?), but when the Spirit is present, we're able to progress and touch hearts in a way that was totally impossible before. When Aaron was brought before the king, he said, "If thou wilt spare our lives, we will be thy servants". Sometimes we feel like bishop wants to kill us (or the other way around), but the attitude to have ALWAYS as a missionary is one of service. That brings the Spirit real quick.

Anyways...I hope the email works next week. Thank you so much for all your prayers and post and stuff. Happy Thanksgiving! We'll be eating at a vegetarian's house. Nut roast, huzzah:)

Love from,
Sister Willard

Monday, November 14, 2011

Armistice Day

My second Armistice Day in the UK, although the lack of Harry Premier was definitely a bummer. November 11th, at 11am, is a mass 2-minute silence across the UK and France to remember all those who died in the World Wars and those who continue to fight today. Everyone had poppies again, including the missionaries, but riding on bikes through the Atlantic wind of St. Brelade's Bay made me want to splurge on one of those brass poppy pins only the posh people wear. Can I say how FRIGHTENING it is to ride through a roundabout? It's all fun and games in a little Fiat, but when you're cycling at 8pm and the only way to get home is through the city's biggest roundabout, that's when I know the Lord is looking out for His missionaries. Take that, James Bond! You're not cool!

In other news:

-"Jersey beans" are the ones who've lived here for two or more generations. Home-grown brand. They have WEIRD accents. (Everyone else, like foreigners, are "Cacas", or toads in French. We're frowned upon, but not yelled at.)

-They love American accents here.

-Investigators and people on the street offer to buy Christensen food. All the time. We got a huge crepe with bananas and Jersey vanilla the other day. This is the best companionship EVER. Housley said it never happened to her, but she just never said yes :)

-Everyone is so polite, even the local millionaires on the way to board meetings. They don't have time to listen, but at least they tell us so. And nicely :)

-I got to bust out my few Spanish skills with a Cuban woman named Milady who LOVED the Restoration. We're praying that her busy schedule will become less so next week so we can go back. She has a small curly boy named Geronimo.

-White hot chocolate is AMAZING!

-I'm getting so fit (you can't really say that here--it's the equivalent to "hot") and have been able to keep up with Sister Christensen. The Zone Leaders are actually coming to tour the Channel Islands, so they're staying with a part-member family and essentially working over Jersey with us. Yay! Other missionaries! AND we get to put them on bikes. I'm fiendishly excited to see them struggle...they WILL respect us, darnit...

-Did I mention Brother Schenk made us steak?

Jersey is well cool. We've got loads of PIs we'll hopefully turn into proper investigators next week and get them progressing. I've even been studying the Old Testament and seeing more modern parallels than ever before...senior year of seminary was definitely a wash in that regard...but it's so refreshing to study on my own and get more into the politics and the Hebrew meanings and even have answers to those Evolution questions. I used lessons on idolatry in two teaches and at church and was amazed how well it all tied together. Since forever, idols have been looked to as sources of ultimate power and beings/mediums/givers of salvation to mankind. Essentially, man will look to whomever he devotes his time to for salvation in times of trouble. It's so important to reassess our own relationships with God and our time we spend with Him.

I'm so grateful to be a missionary for the pure reason that the time I spend doing His work is so rewarding...I watch the Preach My Gospel training videos and see these elders from San Diego moaning about how no one's been baptized for a whole MONTH, and I'm like, come to England! The Lord will sustain you in times of trouble. Someone asked Mother Theresa about how Calcutta was worse than ever, despite her decades of service and love. She replied, "God did not send us here to be successful. He sent us here to be faithful." I'm confident that our efforts in knocking and cycling and handing out cards and asking people if they believe in God, all of these efforts serve many, many purposes BESIDES "getting baptisms". Perhaps those on the other side are being taught by our example. Perhaps we need to learn and grow to face some future trial. Perhaps that person had a seed planted in their heart that will be cultivated. Perhaps we are just crying repentance so these folks in the Spirit World can't say, "Well, I didn't know!" I do know that the Lord consecrates our efforts to mean SOMETHING to someone, somewhere. Heavenly Father sustains us and strengthens us to go on in the things that truly matter. If what we do, whether in the mission field or at home, doesn't matter or isn't that important, we will forfeit divine help and feel unduly exhausted. If it does matter, the Lord will strengthen us.

Yay, Sisters Conference! We're going to the temple at the end of the month to train with President Shamo! I'm so excited. It'll be cool to actually meet the rest of the sisters ;)

Love from,
Sister Willard

Monday, November 7, 2011

Going Incognito

From the last District Meeting in Weymouth. There's a story here.

Life on the Rock

So Sister Christensen and I must be made of steel because the English are hands-down the proudest people on earth (close second is New Jersey; coincidence? I think not.) Christensen says they are cold fish. At least, that's the way it is on the mainland. Our experience doing missionary work here is so different. The Portuguese community is so humble and happy to hear about Jesus, a lot of immigrants from Poland talk to us about prayer and how important it is, and even the super posh business people are all kinds of polite and they'll stop and talk to us on the way to their busy meetings.

Christensen and I have been tearing it up! She dies at conference time, and I think Sister Jonutz' quietness really had a toll on her, as this is an island in the middle of the Channel where pdays are solo and district meetings happen over the phone. It's a really good experience to chat with her about life and films and we've discovered very similar interests :) Happiness all around! I hope we're still together at Christmastime. The office did buy a new bike for her, and we'll need another 6' sister after her because I DEFINITELY can't fit onto a 20" frame, no sir. You'll be happy to know that I'm getting really good at cycling all over creation, including tiny, windy European roads and between cars and such. I think the Lord protects His missionaries, which means when I get back to uni I'll definitely get hit.

Saturday was an incredibly stressful baptism, and Sunday was an equally stressful confirmation, but Holly and Linda made it! Huzzah! It was bishop's first convert baptism (He served in France). Robert is still doing really well; he's just lightening up the more we see him, and I'm excited for him to progress even more. I'm always glad when people say they don't have much of a religious background because in England, the Church and how it operates is straight weird. Compared to the vigils and evensong and cathedrals and mass and even the crazy spiritualist churches where they talk to the dead, we really stick out. So we're always a little concerned about our investigators coming to church and comparing it to what they're used to--Robert has very little experience, like Steve, so everything is just accepted. It's nice. I hope missionary work in the spirit world is like this.

Craziest teach: Brother Tiago and Neleo met us in the park (6pm it's getting dark now) and we pulled two benches together. Neleo doesn't speak much English, (neither does Brother Tiago, honestly) so we did our best explaining the preearth life in very small words. Then David from Poland walked by and sat down to learn about the plan of salvation too. So our two Portuguese speakers started chatting about who-knows-what, David dug out his Polish Book of Mormon and Gospel Principles and started reading aloud, and THEN some guy swinging a bag of booze said his name was Shayne and he wanted to sit in too. He said some creeper thing to Christensen, and I was so out of my element at that point, I just started praying that these 4 guys wouldn't attack us in the dark. Gah. The Lord answered my prayer, Shayne got tired of hearing about Jesus and went to drink elsewhere, and we set up another appointment with David. Neleo looked as confused as we did, but Brother Tiago invited the Spirit back with his testimony of the Book of Mormon. So it wasn't a total loss.

Me and Christensen are getting along famously. Our study is staggered, so I'll study at half-six, and she'll study at eight. It's mostly so I'll wake up and we won't interrupt each other's personal study. She's getting to the end of her mission, and study gets really difficult at that point. This morning I studied about how to reclaim a bad ward, according to the advice given by the prophet Abinadi. Tomorrow I'll study how Alma and Amulek did it for the Zoramites. It's sound advice, and not beyond our abilities as missionaries. Sometimes there are serious problems beyond the help of the missionaries, and that needs to be addressed by the Stake Presidency, but as it is, we're on an island and we're all this ward's got to keep them learning the basics. I hope it works! We've got a place to go for Christmas and Christmas Eve--speaking of which, the cheapest way to phone home is to Skype, which means you'll need to get an account. We'll figure out a time that's not unreasonably early :)

Love from,
Sister Willard