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

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