Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Happy Christmas!

I've won a bookmark, a cookie cutter in the shape of a heart, two foil crowns, and jokes that barely surpass those on Laffy Taffies. We need crackers in the states, I think.

Christmas was well fun. There were loads of nonmembers at church, and then we headed to Tricia's for most of the day. Her family was over and we chatted with them whilst they helped themselves to the open bar. Tea was delicious--ham and roast potatoes and turkey (Brussel sprouts are gross) and gravy all over everything. Pudding was chocolate mousse and Christmas cake, which is a really soft fruit cake wrapped in marzipan and frosting. I couldn't face Christmas pudding. It's a fruitcake that's been soaked in rum or port for about two months (they started making these before Halloween) until it's all gelatinized and they bake it. Somehow I passed on that one.

The rest of the evening was spent doing karaoke, which I've never done. Christensen got all into it, and they wouldn't let me leave until I'd done one. So after all the Buddy Holly hits, Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, and that one song from An American Tail, I got Christensen to sing Amish Paradise with me. They thought it was hysterical (we can't rap) mostly because everyone here mistakes us for Amish at some point or other. I was sad to leave when Debbie arrived at half six to shuttle us to Skype.

This week was awesome. Considering it's Christmas, we got 17 lessons in and we've got a goal for 23 this next week to make it forty. The Lord wants us to fulfill our goals. We couldn't manage a Christmas baptism (there were 23 of those in the whole mission, so it wasn't just us struggling with seasonal commitment) but at least we can get twenty lessons a week.

Our pool consists of:

-Vishal: From India, went to Catholic school, and think that the principles taught there have really hindered his ability to be happy like all the jerks he works with who are rich and mean and have everything going for them because if he tried to be nasty he would feel horrible inside (as we all do). We're teaching him the PofS today to help explain what true happiness is, even if you're trying your best and things aren't working out.

-Cindy: Still slow going. She totally believes everything we tell her and she's very susceptible to the spirit, but we think she's struggling with depression that's not getting treating, which would really explain her nervousness and such. We're trying to get her daughter interested, at least after the holidays are over.

-Tricia: Breakthrough this last week in making the gospel real to her. We're trying to get her to stop smoking, but it won't be easy. She quit once before and nearly got divorced because she was so grouchy.

-Trisha: Former member, offended by the bishop's lack of warmth to her, which is completely understandable. It's not exactly a huge ward. We're doing our best to build her faith and help her feel the Spirit when we're with her...she's got good member friends, which helps a lot.

Those are the big ones we're working with. It's really cool to see the Spirit work on them, even if you've given up hope that they're even paying attention, you find out they are. I'll be grateful to get back into the swing of things after the holidays are over and everyone's back to school and work and such. With Nana's money that she sent I bought some super cute dresses and a top on Boxing Day to expand my tired wardrobe. It's not nearly as tired as Christensen (her cardigans are just sagging because they've gotten all stretched out).

Things are going well on Jersey. We're doing our best to energize the members at the moment...I don't think they've ever met sisters like me and Christensen who sort of tell you like it is and are loud and talk smack during the ward pictionary game...I think they're a little shell-shocked. With any luck, I'll still be here for a few months more and someone like Sister Kutsevytch from Ukraine will join me and we'll really blow their minds.

It's something I've had to learn--not to expect anything from the members. You have to make nice with them and give them compliments and uplift them at every possible moment. That's the missionary's job. If they're not responding with referrals and such, try harder and pray to discover what the Lord would have you do. At Christmas we had like ten presents each under the tree...scarves and gloves and spa sets...I was shocked. You won't hear an article in the Christmas Ensign from ME that says, "It was Christmas on my mission, and no one had given us any presents" like they all say. Our Christmas was rad. Yvonne's friend was wanting to meet with us to learn more about the church at the end of it. We're so lucky to be here!

Happy Christmas, everyone! I'll have to make some good resolutions and let you know :)

Love from,
Sister Willard

Monday, December 19, 2011

One Week 'Til Christmas

News from this week:

-Our numbers are awful. It's always like that right around Christmas. Everyone is eager for us to call them in January.

-President wants us to ask for emails at every possible opportunity but seems unaware that people a) haven't an email in the first place (this whole internet thing is just a fad anyway) or b) don't give out their emails period. Especially here...bankers and lawyers and all sorts of people. I might get a little desperate and steal companies' business cards and email to them. :)

-The high street is totally mad. I think I've successfully posted everything I need to, so I can avoid the post office. Brings a whole new dimension to the phrase GOING POSTAL. But these English really know how to do window displays and they bring out brass bands at Christmastime to play We Three Kings and Hark the Herald Angels Sing. Feel the spirit!

-The weather held...despite everyone saying our flight would be cancelled, we made it to Surrey for the Christmas conference with the Guernsey elders...they haven't been off the island for months.

-I got parcels at the temple this week! In my impatience I opened it all early, but now I've got a stocking and Lands End to keep me warm :)

-Our skit at the Christmas Conference was akin to Harry Potter 4 when the weird French school (Jersey sisters) and Russian school (Guernsey elders) come to see the zone leaders for a district meeting in the flesh. It was well funny, and we even procured the soundtrack at the library when HMV didn't have any HP music whatsoever. (I can't wait to come home and shop at Walmart, FYE, and Kohls.)

-I was on the winning team for all three games at the ward Christmas party--Blind Pictionary, Catchphrase, and Toilet Paper Mummy.

-There were tons of nonmembers there, less-actives, and I got to spend the evening with the Mackenzies who declared that I was not like other sister missionaries (I don't know how I feel about that), but apparently I'm not shy, quiet, demure, or anything like Jonutz or Fekete. I think that's what this ward needs--two bubbly American girls to make them think postive, darnit. I wonder what it would've been like if Christensen and Housley had served here together...hmm...

-We've successfully lost the bike keys, me the first, and Christensen the second. In her strength, Sister Fekete managed to break the tops off both of them, so they were an inch long and itty bitty. Happily we've got more bike locks in the flat, so all will be well.

Speaking of Sister Fekete (from Hungary), she goes home at the end of January and she spent half her mission here (President must have forgot about her. Nine months in one area? Sister Housley is looking at the same ordeal, but at least she sees other missionaries each week). When she ended up in Exeter, an old injury flared up and they had to move her close to London to get operated on. But after weeks of crutches, she's walking! Hooray! That's so cool that Elder Ryan Miller (from Stanwood) knew who she was--she's super quiet and super sweet and everyone in Jersey loved her.

Remember why we have Christmas so you don't go crazy! I might be able to email on Boxing Day, but maybe not. Everything will likely be closed until Wednesday the 28th. Why, the world may never know. I love you all! I've only got 10 months left, so I better get busy!

Love from,
Sister Willard

Monday, December 12, 2011

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

We've had loads of finding time and lots of potentials to work with, but because it's Christmas time, everyone is like, call us after the holidays. It's hard work...we lost most of our teaching pool right at the beginning of the month, and it's been increasingly difficult to find new people who aren't wrapped up in Christmas. Happily the Church has loads of those Joy to the World cards (Elder Johnson: "I do not have a testimony of that movie.") and people are far more likely to say "God bless you" this time of year. And MacDonald’s has a mince pie with custard, so it's not all hard work :)

The weather has been Noah-esque the last few weeks, but today it looks pretty cleared up. They were repaving our awful driveway with all the break-your-suspension potholes, and all the beautiful cement was laid...and then the Flood came and washed it all down the drain. They've finally managed to lay the asphalt and it looks beautiful! Thank goodness tarmac is so weather-resistant, or nothing would get done in England. Rain means we get into more people's homes knocking, but it's always really awkward when a man invites us in.

Cindy is slowly progressing, but it's been difficult to get her to church due to poor sleep (lack of discipline). Tricia is still on for Christmas, and the Mackenzies are letting us Skype that evening. So it'll be between 6-7pm here, and that's 8 hours difference...? I think you can actually dial a home phone from Skype at no charge, but maybe that's Google chat. I'm not sure. 

This weekend we had the stake president and Elder Craig T. Wright and his lovely wife over for some council training. After visiting our recent convert Catia and a few less-actives, he drilled into our heads the idea of real growth and how we, as a council, could achieve it. The next day at church he talked to the youth and how much they mattered, and then talked about how the ward could become Zion by simply being obedient to the Gospel of Jesus Christ: Faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. Those are the first steps to becoming like Zion. He was such a powerful speaker, and young to boot. His wife Joann told us that they got to host Elder Bednar when he came, which meant they took him all around London and he was just drooling out the window over all the people there. Apparently his favorite English word is "nutter," as per the following statement:

"Whenever you open up the floor for questions, NEVER call on the person whose hand is raised first. That's the nutter. He has been stewing and wondering that question for a decade and now he finally gets his chance to ask an Apostle. That is not a question raised by the spirit. Don't call on him." -Elder Bednar

We laughed so hard. Elder Bednar is such a powerful teacher...we were just the warm-up act that day, three hours with us, 4 hours with the bishops and stake presidents, and two hours with the YSA. He taught us how to better teach as missionaries, to focus on each individual at a time and not to wow everyone with all your knowledge, because that really interferes with the influence of the Spirit. If you couple the personal approach with an attitude of invitation to act, you're teaching just as the Savior did and the Spirit can testify of truth.

There's a big difference between faith to do and faith to succeed. You can have faith that you can be a missionary, for example. You can have faith that you can be a Primary teacher and you can handle other people's kids for two hours each Sunday. You can have faith that you won't panic and run away when it's your turn to give a talk in Sacrament meeting. However, that faith is different and less than the faith to succeed. Nephi knew nothing about building boats, but he exercised faith that the Lord would not only help him build a boat, but that it would carry them across the sea to the promised land without sinking. You can have faith that you will touch the hearts of the children in your class each Sunday and build their faith in Jesus Christ. You can have faith that your mission will be successful. That's the big difference. When you have faith to succeed, you will take better care of those in your stewardship and listen more closely to the Spirit, as well as maintain an attitude of hopefulness and dependence on Heavenly Father.

In studying faith, I was reading Jacob 5 and the allegory of the olive tree. It discusses an old, decaying tree. I likened it to the old, apathetic, tired ward of St. Helier. The master of the vineyard worked on the tree, pruning here and digging there. After a while, the tree began to put forth a few branches, but it wasn't strong enough to give much fruit. The master decided that drastic action needed to be taken. He went to the wild trees and took their branches to graft onto the tame tree. I likened these wild ones to those who are new to the church, whether recent converts or reactivated members. He also took some of the young and tender branches (rising generation) and grafted them elsewhere in the vineyard. After a long time, the wild and tame trees put forth lots of good fruit and the master was satisfied.

It's not enough to work on the ward alone, however vital that is, but the real fruit from our wards and stakes comes from those new members. They have a new outlook, a kind of excitement that the old members need to see. The Lord may graft the missionaries, kids gone to university, etc. onto a wild tree, a ward that is nothing like the ward we knew at home. But when we grow despite those differences, that's when the reward comes. When we all grow like we will be successful, the Lord will give us success. I'm grateful for the opportunity to be here on Jersey, as much as it feels like I've been grafted into a nethermost part of the vineyard. I will do my utmost to be a strength to this ward and bring forth much fruit.

Christmas Conference this week! I'll be taking those cards, and ours will be the best skit ever! Happy Christmas, everyone!

Love from,
Sister Willard

Monday, December 5, 2011

Trip to London

In answer to everyone's questions: I can see France when it's not pouring buckets, but I can't see London. Although that doesn't stop me seeing underpants. Tip for all guys out there: Wear a belt. We don't want to see the superheroes that gird your loins.

Updates on Jersey: We got to fly to England to the Sisters Conference, and there was a parcel from Amazon sitting in the box. I refused to open it till Christmas (December the twenty-fifth. Correct!), but I did get another bit of post from the Stake President in Hyde Park, who sent me a blue pashmina. Now I've got two whole pashminas from London! The Sisters conference featured topics like stress management and determining depression, real conversion, and flirting with elders. Me and Christensen did some training about the Law of Chastity and resolving concerns (my favorite) using concerns from past investigators. The leaders stressed that we are NOT HERE TO FIND HUSBANDS. I don't know who they were talking to, but I really zoned out and felt vaguely insulted. If you want to get married, stay home! How does becoming a nun for 18 months ensure you a ring any more than staying home and dating boys? It makes no sense to me whatsoever. I got to see Sister Housley again, Sister Sebald, and Mills, but Sister Binnie is in hospital with gallstones and has been for weeks. Her poor greenie doesn't have any idea what to do, and neither do the NHS (No Help or Sympathy). I've never been so glad to live in America.

Things I've learned this week:
-In order to sell or buy any kind of property (home, yard, flat, etc.) you need an attorney and you have to go through court proceedings.
-All of the court proceedings are in Jersey French, which very few understand anymore (except the attorneys. It feels like the Dark Ages.)
-Lawyers of any sort are hissed at by the general populace for cheating everyone out of money and being corrupt.
-Jersey is not on most maps.
-Jersey is not recognized on Facebook. Neither is Guernsey.
-Occasionally people will say something to remind me that their minds are the size of this island.
-There have been two marriages out of this mission. I think it's super dodgy to get married to a former district leader...what were you DOING out in the field?
-When you teach any kind of unproved, dodgy doctrine, it's important to throw your tie over your shoulder.

This week was really difficult, not just because we were gone in England for nearly three days, but because EVERYONE HAS FLOGGED US. For crying out loud. Everyone is so polite and so English they don't say they're not interested because it'll hurt our little American feelings or something, but it begins to feel like a bad breakup when they keep not showing. You struggle as a missionary because you might know flat-out that they'll flog your appointment, but you HAVE to give them the benefit of the doubt. So you get on your bike and cycle across town and wait and wait and then cycle back to where you were going to knock in the first place. It's hard work, especially now it's December. Stuff is open on Sunday and recent converts are really busy this time of the year and since the ocean has been raining down on us, finding has been really slow going. I bought a pink Jack in a Pack (the pink ones were cheaper than the black ones, go figure. Christensen will never lose me again) so I'll be lovely and dry no matter what happens. We're doing our best to find a baptismal date for Christmastime, but the window is closing fast. I'm confident there's someone the Lord has prepared for us to teach who'll accept the Gospel, it's just a matter of finding them.

Our miracle of the week was Cindy, who loved the Restoration. She's really nervous and afraid of new things, but she loves us. I hope we can help her progress in the gospel and help her accept to be baptized. It was such a good teach. It always is with me and Christensen, just like it was with Sister Housley--just very comfortable, the Spirit is really strong...maybe Satan knows this and is doing his best to stop us teaching altogether? Hence all the flogs? That would make sense.

In happier news, Christmas is upon us! We're going to party with Tricia and a bazillion other members in the afternoon, and then tea will be spent with the Mackenzie’s, who are essentially an American family. The daughter Alex just got married, and she is in Utah at the moment directing “Saviour of the World.” Jersey-bred and everything! I'm excited for Christmas crackers and old games and such. It'll be a really good day. Remember the reason we've got Christmas and what matters most. It's moves this week, so I might email again on Wednesday, so look out for me!

Love from,
Sister Willard