Monday, October 22, 2012

The Last Melon


Well, this is the last big email home before I get there. It's so weird! We've had loads of miracles the last week, partially due to our systematically inserting members into our map so we can find them so much easier. We've taught two families that hardly recognized us as missionaries, but they've been on the records for years. And we've got ahold of some promising new investigators (three in one lesson! Isn't that amazing?).

President says that as a mission, we struggle finding new investigators, but once we've got them, we're like 50% more likely to baptise them than any other European mission. I tell you what, that's no surprise considering the incredible missionaries I've been able to work with. I'll be able to brag about the Elder Hollands of the future (since most of the heroic ones are 18 already) and that I served alongside them. Amazing teachers--even in those horrible practice sessions where we can't keep a straight face for too long, everyone can feel the Spirit.

It's sad to think that I only saw eight people enter the waters of baptism on my mission, ones that I helped to get there. But the number 8, in Hebrew, is a symbol of rebirth, resurrection, and of course, baptism. In the temple (down in the baptistry) there are 8-pointed stars and often the font itself is octagon-shaped. These 8 will never meet altogether in this life, but I pray that they will in the next, all together in the celestial kingdom. Isn't it marvelous how the Lord works? I will always see a sacred 8-pointed star and think of Noreen (Shekinah), Steve, Linda and Holly, Lina, Carla and Bruna, and Shalen. I pray that they stay strong. If not, I know that I have done for them everything I could--been the best teacher I could, followed the Spirit as best I could, and tied them to the ward the best way I knew how. I will do my utmost to live worthy of their trust after this is over and I seek for new baptisms.

The biggest convert, of course, is me. Heavenly Father does not require the young women of the church to serve in what are priesthood obligations, but He made it clear to me that I needed to go. He could have raised up missionaries of the stones on the beach to teach those eight. But He sent me so that I could reap the blessings of service and growth that invariably come to every missionary who tries even just a little bit. I will forever be grateful for these things I've learned and witnessed.

I bear record and testify of the reality of Heavenly Father. He has answered so many of our stupid little prayers with such speed. He has granted me the peace that comes through the grace of His Son, who understands exactly what I need. This is the only true church on the face of the earth, and Jesus Christ is captain of it. He will never lead us astray or let us crash. The Book of Mormon is the other witness prophesied by Ezekiel and John and Isaiah. How marvelous that we have come to a knowledge of God's actual character and of His eternal laws! We can return to live with Him, and more importantly, we can return to be like Him. I am so grateful for this knowledge, which I had before, but to see it in action and to feel it burn in every fiber. This is real because I am changed. This is the power of God.

Thank you so much for everyone who has shown me support and has prayed for our success here in the British Isles. What a blessing to finish in the place where the first apostles came, and where the first ever sister missionaries served in 1898. If any of you are considering serving a mission, this is the best thing I have ever done. Pray. Ask God if you should go, and He will never direct you wrong. If you feel that desire grow within you, it is the Spirit helping you to do the impossible.

Seven days left! Let's plant some seeds!

Love from,
Sister Willard

Monday, October 15, 2012

It's Freezing Here


Well, we've gotten to the part of the year when the radiators are permanently on and I'm sleeping with a hot water bottle. (Request for home: there are electric kettles in every household in England, and for some reason we don't have one. We should fix that. They're super cheap, and you can have hot chocolate, oatmeal, soup, and hot chicken stock for slow cooking in two minutes' tops. I personally advocate Rooibosh tea at breakfast time, but that's just me.)

Highlights from this week:

-I got to speak at church yesterday on counsel from conference for sisters, and I used Pres. Eyring's and Elder Cook's talks about feeling the love of the Lord. I talked about the false doctrine of earning Heavenly Father's love and how many of us accept that--it's not true, but the choices we make or things we do can impact how often we feel His infinite love.

-Paul and Alison got priesthood blessings this week, which we wrote down. They were really cool. Unfortunately, for the seventh week in a row, they have not come to church when they said they would. I'm ready to drop both of them, and certainly prepared to say how needed we are in Downend and how both of them are wasting our time.

-We keep getting hit on by Muslims. Apparently in Pakistan they do arranged marriages, and in today's society, it is difficult to keep a loving marriage together, let alone one decided by two fathers. So along come two sister missionaries, and the lonely hearts club thinks (lost in translation) that whilst there isn't a ring on our fingers that we are available. One such came to church yesterday and made us a cake and talked about the Quran through all of Gospel Principles and was souped-up on cannabis. I'm so glad our Ward Mission Leader is over six foot tall and three feet wide.

-Sometimes miracles happen by way of laughing hysterically for no reason. It releases the tension and allows us to be happy and enjoy the moment. Those are tender mercies, and they've been happening a lot this week.

-We've gotten to de-wallpaper two houses, and I've learned how to plaster a wall. It's easy. The family we were working with (Marcus and Laura) are so cute. They've been "burgled" twice now (three kids tried to take his motorcycles by pulling the garage roof off and dragging the bikes away--this time they kicked the front door down and were looking for the keys to the steel shed and took her laptop and wallet as well. Both times Laura caught them in the act and stayed calm enough to call 999--Marcus was freaking out and couldn't find his shoes. I think he should pull out his airsoft handguns and threaten them the American way. They've arrested two of the kids, but they're all wanted and no one will tattle on the others.) They are so awesome. Wallpaper is such a pain--go paint!

As far as study goes, I'm finishing up the Book of Mormon and the Old Testament, and it's been really rewarding to see the patterns of Heavenly Father in His dealings with His children. He has always called a prophet and tests the man to build his faith. The prophets are recognized by the phrase "Thus saith the Lord", with absolutely no association to themselves. The prophets love the people and want Heavenly Father to turn His wrath, which He so often does an account of some good man's righteousness (ie: Joshua, King Josiah). He still operates the same way. I've found that wholesale Christianity simply rejects many of the principles taught in the Old Testament (ie: The Law, there is only one path to heaven, there must be organization and prophets, disobedience brings the Lord's wrath, etc) simply because Jesus fulfilled the law.

I testify that there is a law, and when laws are broken on earth, punishments are exacted. How much more are they exacted by the Perfect Being who sees all in man's heart? How much more does He reward His faithful servants? He cannot reward us if we are not more faithful to Him than to Facebook, Desperate Housewives, or Chelsea's football season. We cannot pretend He won't care when we show Him that He matters very little to us. What is the first commandment? Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy might, and with all thy mind. This is why we keep the commandments. Because He loves us and always will. I am so grateful for this knowledge, for understanding that God is not some shadowy figure in the clouds, but that He has parameters and form and feeling and real power to transform my life through His Son.

It's so good to be a missionary! I've got one more email to write home--I'll try to make it a good one :)

Love from,
Sister Willard

Monday, October 8, 2012

Conference Weekend


Note: Last weekend during General Conference, President Monson announced a change for all missions. The eligibility age from Young Men has been moved to 18 (for all countries) and to 19 for Young Women.

Huzzah! The last time they changed the age was 1960--this is intense! It's the last long haul before the Saviour comes. Could be that they change the years required for service. First the senior couples, then the elders and sisters. It's true though--we've had loads of 18 year olds from Europe due to military obligations, and they're all serving in leadership and are incredibly mature. It really closes the window for prospective missionaries to drop out. And hopefully the isolation of sisters will shrink--it sucks when we can't talk to each other or go on exchanges for a year and a half.

Everyone in our pool stinks. Naomi all but dropped us, so there goes the last potential baptism. I think these last few weeks will be spent trying to find new people and working with less-actives. I hope the Harvester project is big and exciting for the ward--I love it when the members report to us their missionary experiences.

We didn't get the first session very well because the satellite kept failing, and I haven't seen Sunday afternoon yet and probably won't until the Ensign comes out. More and more people out here are manning up and getting BYUTV on their Sky viewer, so more people can watch conference at home. The only problem is the whole 5-7pm, 9-11pm sessions. I look forward to the morning parties at home again. My favorite talk was Elder Oaks (I'd already heard the talk from Elder Holland, but it was so different and even more powerful because it was given at the MTC. He was shouting and cracking jokes.)

Anyways, not much to report. Rain. I have to find a ukulele case or I have to leave it here. Hopefully there's a music store it town.

Thank you for all your support! I look forward to driving again--the buses in Bristol suuuuuuuuck your life away.

Love from,
Sister Willard

Monday, October 1, 2012

Trunky Moves


So we had the most disappointing week ever. Here are some highlights:

-Downend Ward Temple Trip--the first thing we'd heard of when we got here. Get an investigator to come and we could go. I've been to the temple 3 times since I got into the field. We killed ourselves trying to get Shirley, Naomi, Joseph or the Skinners to come for weeks, and at last we were all set to go with Paul and Alison until 9pm Friday night, when they called to cancel. So, naturally, I still wanted to go because we'd made zero plans for the next day. There were so many people going, and it had never happened before to have the whole ward there. We called the ZLs (who were going) and they said we couldn't go because they already told Taunton sisters they couldn't go.

-Naomi's not coming to church because her dentures are no good and she has to wait months for the dentist (typical NHS) and she's afraid people will make fun of her lack of teeth.

-Paul and Alison flogged us at church. We saw them in the evening, and when they found out we couldn't go to the temple, they said we should have told them! They would have come!

-Joseph and another Paul flogged us back-to-back (felt like I was back on Jersey).

-Jo dropped us via a text message. The Book of Mormon is not the word of God, and she does NOT like Nephi calling her church part of the great and abominable church.

I'm ready to drop everyone and start over. Except Naomi. She has a date for the end of October. I feel akin to Mormon and Moroni, who knew in the midst of everyone eating each other that they definitely were promised a place in the kingdom of God. It's helpful to have this attitude when everyone's problems and gossiping and bickering and family problems just drag you down. Maybe it's a good thing this is my last moves, so I can brush this rubbish off much easier and their problems are no longer my problems. It's amazing what people will tell you when you wear a badge that says Jesus Christ on it.

The Church is still true, even when investigators suck your life away. Joseph Smith did not write the Book of Mormon as a joke. The Book of Mormon is the word of God, dictated by the hand of ancient prophets as proof that God loves all His children. Why so upset that God still speaks to us? What will happen when the Ten Tribes come back from the North with their records?

I'm grateful for what I've learned. We're undertaking the Harvester Project next week--for every missionary moment, you put a teaspoon of wheat into the Ward Jar, and when the jar is full, we'll grind up the wheat and make the sacrament bread--partaking of the fruit, literally, of your baptismal covenants. We're really excited. Apparently there's wheat already in!

Hope all is well at home and that your light is shining to those around you. We really can't do this work on our own--with the help of the members, everything will take off ;)

Love from,
Sister Willard

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Chuckin Down With Rain


The rain finally found us. We went three solid weeks with sun (the temperature is dropping by the second) and then on the way to church yesterday, the ocean came down on us. Whenever people ask where I'm from and then say, "It rains a lot in Seattle, doesn't it?" I just look at them and laugh. Seattle is a verified desert compared to here. Man alive.

Highlights from this week;

-A guy named Paul (Rwanda) came to church on his own--we're meeting with him this week to fill in the gaps where the elders left off (although that will probably mean re-teaching the whole thing.)

-A guy named Joseph (South Africa) was referred to us by Wells Road, and his first question to us was, "Tithing?" He went on to say that he knows he needs to pay it, according to Malachi, but his church doesn't teach that. We gave him a tithing slip and taught the principle and invited him to church. His other question was, "Faith--how does it work?" Out comes Alma 32 and personal experience--courtesy of Elder Bednar--and we were smiling from ear to ear. That was a rad day :)

-We are teaching a lot of part-member families, and I'm always intrigued as to why people just don't investigate the church when it's such an integral part of their sweethearts' lives. My favorite reason so far is one husband's, who, when he read 1 Nephi, stopped when Nephi was commanded to slay Laban. He railed on us and said it was against the ten commandments. My favorite title of the Savior is the Author and the Finisher. He wrote the law, He reserves the right to amend it in any given circumstance--however, I like to believe that you have to be prophet-status or so to have those kind of amendments made.

-Sri Lanka is apparently a fantastic place to visit. Everyone wants to speak English to you, they're much more respectful to women than in India and Pakistan, and it's the most beautiful place. I saw pictures of Pakistan in a Pakistani paper advertising to come visit, and the place is full of piles and piles of rubbish and standing water. Filth everywhere. I was shocked that those were photos catering to tourists.

-It's so great to serve in a ward with so many children--best DA messages are focused on them, and then the parents get excited about missionary work.

I hope the work is going fantastic at home. I look forward to hearing from you soon!

Love from,
Sister Willard

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Staying in Downend to the end


So we're not moving, thank all that is holy. I'm intensely grateful, since Bristol is like a celestialized version of the entire mission field. Here are some highlights from the field so far:

-I got to do my second exchange ever with Sister Pallekonda from Hydrabad, India. She is so sweet and such a good teacher--she saved one investigator from totally dropping us, which she would have done to the elders, except that they got moved. Miracles!
-I learned about the mission in Pakistan, which is part of the Singaporean mission. Only natives are allowed in. We're teaching two men from Pakistan at the moment. Both Christians, so they won't face severe penalties or anything.

-The mission in Madagascar is intense. Simon Evans, the ward clerk, got back about 8 months ago, and his average attendance on a Sunday was 40 investigators. (The most we've ever had was six, and we usually average about one or two.) The retention rate of 2000 baptisms yearly is about 85 percent, so the African Church is growing like mad. (The Danish mission baptises 30 annually, just to put it into perspective.)

-Ward Indexing party had a really good turnout. I worked with one of the older members, and he can read that handwriting like he wrote it himself. I had NO IDEA that scribble said "Henry Williams." He dictated, I just typed. It was really fun :)

-Taunton is opening a new area in place called Forest. Not Forest of Dean, that's in the Cheltenham Stake. It's like a village in the middle of a bunch of trees, and they'll have to drive to Taunton ward for the Sunday. Hopefully a branch will grow...

-This ward is so boss! Lots of the less-actives are on the fence of coming back, so we're working with them. The Ward Mission Leader is very supportive of everything we're doing, and the families keep telling us how great we are. Sheesh. I feel like we're watching a football game and winning, and everyone in the stands keeps turning around to us and thanking us. Weird.

We are having such a rad time! Still learning how to get around and what to say to all the Muslims, but we're doing great. I'm excited to be here another six weeks--we're trying to get an investigator to church every Sunday till I go home, which looks like it'll be pretty easy. :) Amazing!

Assignment for everyone who chooses to accept. We've got a bunch of people complaining about women not holding the priesthood.

So my question to each of you is: How have you come to understand this as the Lord's way? How has the priesthood blessed your life? How has it been a responsibility? What do you understand about the roles of men and women through this example?

Write back, and we'll be able to print it off as a testimony to our investigators. Are you in?? Thank you for helping us!

Keep being the great examples that home so desperately needs. I look forward to sharing all of our missionary experiences together! Nothing quite gets the Spirit in the room like missionary experiences, whether it's this side of the veil or not. You just feel useful in the hands of God.

Write to you soon!

Love from,
Sister Willard

Monday, September 10, 2012

Bristol!


At last! Sister Nelson and I have had every element combine to hedge up our way, including useless buses (Me to Nelson as she checks the schedule again: "Don't even LOOK at it! It'll just LIE to you!"), ancient computers all booked by old people who don't show up until the last minute, and the fact that our district meets at noon in town. We left super early this morning and I still haven't started emailing until an hour after the fact. It's a conspiracy, I tell you what.

Here's some of our highlights:

-Half the district is Chinese--Elders Wu, Huang, and Wan. Confusing, yes. We conference call to sing, pray, read the handbook, do a spiritual thought and tell a joke every morning. Do we get comp study? Nope, but we get to hear what sounds like a lot of geese from Kung Fu Panda on the other side. Elder Hilton is from Idaho. He's the calm reassurance :)

-Lots of investigators were left by the elders, all of whom had baptismal dates. It's a bummer to leave dates behind.

-However, on further visiting and gauging their understanding, we've hosed all those baptismal dates and have determined to reteach everyone. They do not understand basic things like the Plan of Salvation and they talk about how much they loved the elders. Be that as it may, I refuse to baptise any of them until they have a spiritual conversion of some species.

-Once again, we had a concern brought up about women not holding the priesthood and being inferior to men. The asker? A man. It's always blokes that have a problem with it--I've never had women ask me about this my entire mission.

-The people in Bristol are sooo friendly--I was a little affronted when someone asked me how I was on the street, like they knew me. Happily so, because Sister Nelson and I have been looking so lost the last week and a half. Both of us were trained whitewashing, so I feel much more in my element than I have done since Weymouth.

-The ward is HUGE! We're systematically stopping by less-actives, and for the first time ever, some of them did not recognize who we were. At all. It was like knocking on a regular door. We even got the response, "I'm happy in my own faith." What the? We have the same faith! Awkward for everyone.

-Moves happen next week. If they move either of us, I will reject that moves call altogether. I expect Sister Nelson to train after I die--she's an animal and asks things like, "Sooo--what's your problem?" when I am too scared to ;) Brings me joy.

I’m trying desperately to finish the Old Testament. Psalms are so booooring. I like Jeremiah, but he's properly depressing. But I'm almost there! Also I found an article about the first French Book of Mormon featuring my great-grandfather Curtis Edwin Bolton. That was really exciting :)

The ward seems to like us, and we've got a lot of leads. The best one was a referral given to the elders NINE MONTHS AGO but they didn't do anything about it. We went round. Her name is Shirley. Her daughter Tara joined the Church in Arizona when she moved there, and she didn't fess to her mother for ages. She welcomed us in and told us she thought the Book of Mormon was the biggest sham ever, but Tara is this brilliant scientist who definitely spent much of her life not believing in God. This church has changed all that. Marvelous. We are so excited to teach her--she's already reading the Book of Mormon daily and praying to know. Golden.

Hope all is well at home. We're so excited to serve here in Downend--there are five ward missionaries, a mission leader, an assistant, and they get us dinner appointments each day and members for each lesson. It's like stepping into the Celestial Kingdom.

Love you!
Sister Willard

P.S. New Pictures are up at Mom's Flickr Site.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Moving Again!


So President called us this morning to say we're e-moving due to the problems with the Bishop. Poor Sister Nelson, jerked unceremoniously out of her area--I'm so glad we're in a trio, Sister Pitcher has been an absolute champion. Anyways, we're off to Downend in Bristol Zone. Elder Livingston said it's a really fantastic ward and flat. Two great things, I tell you what :) We're swapping with the elders there, poor guys.

Thanks so much!

Love from,
Sister Willard

Monday, August 27, 2012

Old Testament


Not too much time--we're headed to the moors today to see Haytor, whatever that is. Since I've been to the Tor proper, I assume it will be similar.

Can I tell you how great the Old Testament is? It makes so much sense in context with all the other scriptures we have ever had, puts forth the characteristics of true prophets, teaches the true nature of God, and most importantly for me, has reconciled the two conflicting views of the Savior--is He the one who turns the other cheek, or kills a thousand men for taking the spoil? I tell you what, the Israelites are so disobedient and stupid that by the time you hit Judges, I want to wipe them off the earth. But the Lord doesn't. He loves them and is so faithful to them and is so hurt that they don't trust Him as much as the things they make. He really is a God of love, as well as justice.

Things are good here, lots of less-actives coming to church in both areas. We would like to suggest that be a key indicator because it is equally important to the real growth of the church, and it would help us feel like we are actually accomplishing something. No idea how much influence you have over this, it was just a suggestion :) A few new investigators have entered the pool, and we are doing our best to cater the lessons of PMG to their needs. It's so liberating when you do that.

Keep working hard and remember to pray in specifics.

Love from,
Sister Willard

P.S. Pictures from Katie arrived today in the mail and mom is currently putting them up on the flikr site.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Middle O'Summer


Right, so before I left Winchester, Sister Barker got yet another announcement from her last roommate. "Ha!" she cried. "They're all married!" She waved the picture around to all the elders (on p-day) and then I recognized that the GUY in the picture was Braden! Hey! So we reminisced for a few days and got so pleased about the fact that Braden and Kaylee were getting married. So cute. Completely forgot to tell you ;)

Working two areas in a trio is hard work. Here are some things that have happened:

EXETER
-Went to church yesterday and were asked to give our testimonies. Everyone was having kittens about the fact that I had been with Housley and Christensen (the legends of Exeter). There were 12 recent converts or less-actives there, six of which hadn't been seen in years. What a miracle! Robin (baptised two weeks ago) blessed the sacrament. It was so sweet.

-One member here, David, is doing his PhD on how the Book of Mormon utilizes the Bible. It's unheard of in his field of study apparently. If you've got doctrinal questions, he's the guy to ask. Gospel Principles as taught by him is properly invigorating.

-We stopped a guy on the street (clearly from Africa) who only could respond, "Espanish?" I dug deep into my memory bank and cobbled together a sentence in Spanish featuring the card we were trying to give him, church on Sunday, how long we lived here, etc. He got so excited to hear some of his native tongue, he grabbed our diary and wrote his mobile down. We've gotta call Elder Simplicio :)

PAIGNTON
-Got my trunky call (asking which airport and whether my parents would pick me up, which I didn't know), complete with Mission Impossible music and Sister Kearl declaring that the message would self-destruct, wiping it from my memory forever. I really did forget about it until a week later. Forever in the mission is always relative.

-Picked up a new investigator in our flat named Mike. He had cancer and was an atheist--the doctor sorted the cancer, but missed a massive ABSCESS in his navel (the size of two flat footballs) which burst, sending poisonous cells that will slowly eat his body away. He's probably got two years left to live, and this is like the millionth horror story I've heard from the NHS (National Health Service). Anyways, he's become a believer and is reading the Book of Mormon, the Bible, the Koran, anything he can get his hands on. Really cool to speak to him.

-Barbecue on Saturday--there were loads of investigators and less-actives there, and even though we had to leave early to sort out a baptism for Bideford branch, we got to give a chapel tour and learned that the Schofields (members of less than a year) are the best missionaries in the stake. So awesome!

Nothing too crazy to report--the weather has really turned out nice for the first time this summer, and I hope it'll linger. I'm trying to convince Sisters Nelson and Pitcher that the winter won't be that bad. I do like winter by virtue of everyone's invigorated attitude--the sun inspires apathy and going to the beach. Funny how that happens.

Hope all is well with you, and that the missionary work is making a killing!

Love from,
Sister Willard

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Trio!


So I've got eight minutes to do this. Ready Goooooooo!
 
Paignton is so boss. Gorgeous beach and sailboats and a lot less intellectual than Winchester.
 
-Sister Nelson is from Idaho and Sister Pitcher is from Logan. We are getting along great, and it's weird to me that I'm the senior companion.
-We taught Bob, who has decided to stop meeting with the J-Dubs in favor of us. Still afraid to pray because he knows what the answer will be.
-Lots of problems with the RCLAs by way of domestic trouble, but their testimonies are strong and refreshing.
-I've got boils all over my right arm ever since we gardened in stake president's yard and they're not going away. Now I've got to go to the NHS....bummer.
-Spoke in church on prophets for ten minutes and am having a great time.
-Troubles with the bishop...we are only invited to the last ten minutes of ward council, he calls us "girls" instead of "sisters", and he chewed me out for expecting to ask the members for referrals. So be it. We will discuss zero missionary work, fine.
-This trio is really fun, and I'm learning a lot about handing cards out by the way. Super hilly, like San Francisco.
 
The Church is true! Off to Exeter next week to work with Portuguese investigators from Angola, huzzah! I wish Howard were here. :)
 
Love you all! Hope everything is good and that you are lifting and encouraging each other in the wards ;)
 
Love,
Sister Willard

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Transfers!


Dear Family,

So I got moved. Sister Ma'alopa eli from Samoa took my place in Winchester after seven and a half months in Jersey, and I was told I would be in a trio with Sister Pitcher and Sister Nelson in Paignton, Devon. I'm right next door to Plymouth, Teignmouth, and Penzance, and it was the most beautiful train ride I ever saw.

Unfortunately, I don't have too much time to email--what the office DIDN'T tell us was that Sister Pitcher is waiting for three weeks for her greenie to arrive from wherever she's from, and in the meantime, Paignton was actually closed and we are meant to work in Exeter only. We spent last night in Exeter flat (a legendary place) and now I'm writing from Paignton chapel, having found out I've got a talk on Sunday. We can't abandon either area, even for a few weeks--the spiritual warfare waged on the recent converts and investigators is too much without the help of the missionaries. It's interesting to see that while we have creature comforts of a first world country, spiritually it's like hacking through the jungle with a machete. We can't leave them to their own devices until we know they're ready, and at that point, the spirit will direct us to strengthen the next one who needs us. The work goes on, but we'll do everything we can to not let You Know Who gain any ground.

Love you all! Proper email on Monday, promise!

Love from,
Sister Willard

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Olympics!


So I may have gotten to see the Olympic women’s swimming for like twenty minutes--fantastic! And like four people gave us a blow-by-blow account of the opening ceremonies. I hear all of Team GB showed up in chav suits, rather than Armani (Italy) or Ralph Lauren (US). So fun!

We are excited to have the Hamilton’s back from Germany after 8 weeks of being gone (horrible) and now we can finally baptize Shalen. He is very excited to be a member of the Church, and he is surprising all of his family back in Fiji with the news. The Church there is massive :)

We are off to host some Olympics of our own in Southampton: three legged race, Chubby Bunnies, Spoon Me (inspired by the Survivor episode of the Office, although we don't have money for a coal walk) and chair football. For anyone who knows not what chair football is, introduce it to the youth--it's brilliant for uneven numbers, and all you have to do is defend your chair. You can't move it or touch it, except to sit on it--when the football hits it, you're out. Last one standing wins. Soooo fun :)

There is a pigeon trapped in the library. Poor guy. They're so agreeable, pigeons, always nodding.

We spent one evening in a Forever Aloe Vera sales pitch meeting thing, invited by our investigator, when we learned that the company was started by members in Scottsdale AZ. I determined that I couldn't get into that business because I'm not oozing with assertive communication.

Ewan taught youth Sunday school yesterday to thirty youth and did a fantastic job. We could not be more proud of him and his budding abilities. It's amazing to see the next generation be way better than what we were. I'm hopeful that whatever I try to accomplish as a parent in a steadily worsening world will be guided by the scriptures and the Spirit. I'm grateful for prophets like Lehi and Jacob that had family problems and that they have recorded counsel for parents today to learn from. The human family is not too much different than it's ever been, and the same practices of family prayer, spending time together, and talking face to face about struggles and solutions are tried and true throughout the centuries.

I'm grateful for the apostles and prophets of today, who are not only in charge of the church, but who prophesy to the whole world of nonmembers as well. Their counsel hasn't changed, but new circumstances are being addressed today, which is something I'm very grateful for. They are not a think tank waiting for the next election, and they will not reserve the hard words for fear of hurting our feelings (Pres Uchtdorf's two word sermon: "Stop it.") We are a very different religion in that way, amidst all the nice words and "forward thinking" and "new generation" we can still hold fast to the Ten Commandments and strive to love one another and build the kingdom of God in such meaningful ways without being Puritan.

I'm grateful to be a member of the raddest Church on earth. It's the only real one.

Thank you for everything you do to build it at home! Love you all!

Love from,
Sister Willard

Monday, July 23, 2012

Isle of Wight


We are going there today! I don't know if we officially have permission, but Elder Livingston is excited about it, so I guess so. The only island I won't have been to in the UK is Isle of Man (and Gibraltar, but I think I'll try to go there before I die). We get to go hang out with Elder Botta and Elder Mannucci ("Oh my day-zeh!") and go to a place called Osborne House. No idea what it's about, but we will figure it out :)

We finally got to do service this week! And the sun has finally arrived! I'm grateful for July weather, better late than never. Also Shalen is getting baptised on Saturday! Woo hoo! We've got a camping group of youth passing through for church on Sunday--20 kids, 10 adults. And who is teaching youth? Ewan! Woot! He's opened his art exhibit in the art cafe and is super talented.

We've been talking lately about judging others and how that is counter productive to learning, developing charity. understanding the many ways in which the Lord operates, and making friends and forwarding missionary work. I'm grateful that Heavenly Father's prerogative is final judgment, and ours is merely temporary judgment, to keep us safe. I know that understanding each other and not measuring according to arbitrary standards that, most of the time, WE don't even measure up against, is exactly what is tearing precious human relationships apart. If we could look into the secret chambers of another's life, we would find there enough suffering and sorrow to disarm all hostility. I'm not perfect by any stretch at this, but I know and feel on a regular basis peace that comes from leaving judgment to the Lord and loving someone for who they are--not feeling sorry for their circumstances and victimizing them, but respecting them as people and seeking to learn edifying truths from them.

I'm grateful for all you are doing to forward the work of the Lord and setting an example of quiet, consistent religion that is neither overwhelming or timid. I'm reminded of the time when Jesus is going through the cornfield with His apostles and they take a few ears of corn to eat. Hiding amongst the stalks are the Pharisees, who leap out and go, "Ha HA! We've got you!" and Jesus, in His ever-patient way, explains that it is neither theft, nor breaking the sabbath, and that they've finished fasting. I'm grateful for your humility in sharing the gospel and inviting them to partake in what matters most.

It's so good to be a missionary and to see how much I've grown from what I was. I hope I will always be as thankful for serving here throughout my life as I feel right now.

Love you all! Thank you for writing :)

Love from,
Sister Willard

Monday, July 16, 2012

Come to Church


Right, so highlights from this week:

-A dumping week. Jonathan ran into our RC Carla in Sainsburys and declared that we (the sisters) had sacked him, Carla was furious at his I'm-a-hard-one-to-crack self-righteous attitude--she ranted about the encounter for some time. I'm grateful PMG talks about No Effort is Wasted, and I am confident that our break-up with Jonathan was as plain as plain could be, not contentious or judging, just straight up. No guilt here :)

-Lots of service this week: we did my very first Helping Hands project in the rain (I'm convinced the rain would wash away the city if it weren't for the good people living here--it's been pouring since April) digging up a weed called Ragwort that is poisonous to the horses. I'm a pro now. We cleared out a field and felt pretty good about ourselves until Richard reminded us in his calm, happy way, "There is always ragworting to do."

-Miracles! I've gotten my very first Provo MTC referral--a guy in Eastleigh wants a Book of Mormon. Stay tuned.

-We brought a guy who tracked us down in the library and asked us where the chapel was (who are you?) His name is Ryan, 19, and he'd been taught by the missionaries up north where he's from. He's got a few problems, not the least of which is no mobile, but he is eager to learn. We took him to his very first sacrament meeting, and watched Finding Faith in Christ, and extended a baptismal date for September 22. He's very aware of the stuff he needs to give up, but he wants to be baptised and the influence of the Spirit was just heroic. Amazing!

-Our ward missionary Sue Collis has published a book. I believe it's called Listening to Young People of Domestic Violence or something to that effect. It's part of her dissertation. She works for the County Council and removes children from unsafe homes, usually where mental illness is involved, and she held interviews with adolescents talking about growing up amidst domestic violence. The book is academically-instructive--"if the child says the following, it may mean such and such is happening in the home." We are so proud of her :) She is the sweetest, most joyful person (I expected her job to be more along the lines of being a preschool teacher or elementary school choir director.) I hope I can get a copy!

Alma 30 is one of my favorite stories in the Book of Mormon. It is interesting that Korihor is actually the only person in the Book of Mormon called "Anti-Christ". I studied about that, and how that is related to the Anti-Nephi-Lehis, and I learned that the word Anti does not mean opposite. Example: There are two celestial bodies in the night sky that both look like red stars. They're the same size, color, and appear in the same hemisphere of the sky. One is Mars, the nearest planet to us. The other is called Antiares (Ares is the Greek god of war, Mars is the Roman god of war), a star, and not a planet at all. But they look exactly the same. If sailors in Columbus' day got the two mixed up, they would not end up where they wanted to go. Anti means so similar, but not. Like the Anti-Nephi-Lehis, who were so like Nephi and Lehi in righteousness, but they weren't the same people.

Sister Barker said that when a boy comes on a mission and for 24 months studies the power of God, His permission and how He operates, that boy will become a man and learn so much more after his mission than he would have done if he never went. The Spirit of the Lord and a dependence upon that Spirit is so vital to learning anything of value. Without it, everything is suspicious and everything is questioned for the very virtue of questioning it, and they are like those people spoken of by Nephi "Ever learning, and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth." What a meaningless existence when everything you have ever learned is a sham and relative and changing. I am so grateful that I know Truth (with a capital T) so that I can navigate. Truths that I am a daughter of God, I have a mission here on earth, families can live together forever, there is only one road to heaven (it is strait and narrow) and that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, did come to earth and die for us so that we can progress eternally and return to live with Father again. How much meaning, how much peace comes from that knowledge! That is real happiness--knowing that the course one is pursuing is in accordance with the will of God, and feeling the sweet assurance that He is there to bless us with the deepest desires of our hearts.

Remember who you are, who God is, and try your utmost to bring your life into accordance with His will, and the rest is magic. I love you all, and I pray for you each day. Let's see if this rain will go away sometime before the Summer Olympics, eh? ;)

Love from,
Sister Willard

Monday, July 9, 2012

American Football


That's right, that's what we are going to play today! On the beach! In Portsmouth! Hopefully it won't rain. It's been so dreary for ages. I think the Lord doesn't like the Hat Fair due to all the drinking. Somebody should look up the Hat Fair and its historicity, because no one here seems to know. If they don't tell each other Winchester was once the capitol of England, I think they'd forget.

Highlights from this week!

-Our bowl washes continue. [Baths] After a YM electrician apprentice patched up the melted fuse inside the shower box, we felt confident enough to shower the next morning. Sister Barker had barely gotten in when I turned on the desk lamp and blew the power. Tripping the breakers was nothing new, but this time, the on/off switch (a little plastic thing with the constitution of a plastic spoon) totally broke. After an electrician came and got us a new heavy-duty steel switch, all is well. Unfortunately, we are too scared to use the shower. I've had one and a half showers since we moved in April...

-We got to speak to [the new] President Millar and his wife about the electricity--they were driving home from proselyting with the sisters in Orpington. I have never proselyted with President Shamo, and Millar is still all jet-lagged! Amazing! He sounds like the sweetest “grampa” you could ever imagine, and super organized and full of zest. His wife strikes me as the calm reassurance, but super excited to be back in England. I can't wait to meet them properly! While the torch is coming through Winchester, we will be in Staines for conference :( Bummer.

-Our dear friends Noreen, Carla, Bruna, and Lynda all came to the temple for the day. Delightful! We even saw Sister Paulsen there! She brought me photos on CDs, so I will be able to send them home:) It must be really fun to work at the visitor’s center--apparently we are the only temple outside the US to have a temple visitor’s center, so that's exciting. We got to watch The Testaments on the big-screen.

-Shalen came to church! And our two super dodgy investigators didn't turn up, which was a huge blessing. You can't tell people don't come to church, no matter how much they're flirting with your companion--you just pray. I assume they were all hung over from the Hat Fair.

-New faces in the Zone; Elder Shaw (CA) from my MTC group has replaced Christensen's (VA) trainer (UT) in Portsmouth; Chichester's whitewash got Elder Weirman (TX) and Elder Van der Put (Holland) who is delightful in so many ways. Elders Botta and Manucci are still rocking Isle of Wight (we call it "Isle of Wight-eh"), and Elder Simplicio got a new greenie from the Philippines called Elder Chungas who bore a really powerful testimony and prays in Tagalog. Zone pday! My third ever!

-Church yesterday--we went to Christchurch, the building up the road, and experienced the Church of England. It was interesting how the vicar did not come out and say "You can't do this--these are the consequences." I'm so grateful to be part of a church where apostles and prophets are not scared to say "Thus saith the Lord" like they did in olden times. There is authority and power--when it comes to the salvation of our souls, it is not in accordance with the scriptures to ignore what laws must be obeyed, or who administers the ordinances. Isaiah says, "Ye have broken mine everlasting covenant and changed mine ordinances" with such sadness and regret in his voice--I would think the salvation of souls was more precise than chemical engineering or rocket science, It is so wrong to think that all roads lead to heaven, it doesn't matter. I'm so grateful for a church that is not scared to say what is commanded and promise the blessings.

-We had a party on Thursday morning with the ladies at the chapel, and Kristina brought her friend Clara from Kenya to see the church, and Sister Barker taught her and I arranged for us to come round for tea on Tuesday. She is a babe and I can't wait!

Thank you so much for writing and sending me that sweets parcel! I'm still not finished :) American sweets are so boss. I've determined that cake here is super boring and the reason is because they don't put any salt in. It's amazing what a little salt can do--"ye are the salt of the earth" has many meanings to me now. I'm grateful that the Lord hasn't destroyed many parts of the world yet, and I think it's because of the righteousness of a few. Maybe that's why the Brethren haven't gathered us to America, but ask us to hold down the forts in our home countries--to save the countries, like in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah, when there were not even ten righteous people in the city. This is all my opinion and probably wresting the scriptures to my destruction, but I'm so grateful to be a part of the one true church. I feel so edified and uplifted and prepared for the week after church is over. What a blessing! I hope more people will understand this as the sides become ever more polarised.

Till next week--
Love from, Sister Willard

Monday, July 2, 2012

Independence Day


Remember that film? My favorite part is when what's-her-face and the small boy are shouting for their dog--"Boomer!" and this golden retriever leaps (in slow motion) into camera view, with New York all exploding behind him, to be saved at the last second.

Anyways, on our to-be zone pday, our leaders (who are really bad at planning, bless their cotton socks) determined that since it's raining all over the zone, we'll put it off til next week. Highlights from this week are:

-I got sick on Friday and slept most of Saturday. Bummer. Sister Barker is going to make me drink more water.

-We got to go on a walk with Ben, all of us fasting for his wife. I feel a lot of peace with what will happen, although I don't have any ideas yet.

-This week is going to be a breakup week. We're dropping most of our investigators (Jeffrey, John, Jonathan, Mark, etc.) but hopefully that will give us more time to see Shalen. Pray that his wife won't get in the way of his baptism.

-Me and Sister Barker keep running into neighbors--one of them was American and was super excited to see us. Hopefully if we focus on finding more this week, we’ll turn our investigator pool into an ocean.

-One less-active lady came to church and bore her testimony and is determined to carry on doing this, despite horrible family opposition. Kudos to her. It makes me wonder what I would do in that situation. We had one sister in the mission whose family is all less-active, and she constantly was like, "I hope I don't go less-active!" For me and Sister Barker, we have such strong support and we assume it's a no-brainer for everyone else, but I guess not. We are so proud of this member ;)

The week has been a really good one, not normal. President Shamo is back in the states and we cannot communicate with him while still in the mission field. I wonder when we'll meet President Millar--he's probably suffering in a state of shock somewhere out in Essex, so we are trying not to disturb him. :) Based on his resume, I'm assuming his mode of leadership is going to be very different from President Shamo's, considering the military and surgical background. Call it a stereotype, but those two things call for order and exactness and no-nonsense. President Shamo stuck a few last rules on us, not the least of which was discarding all board games from the flat. It's a bummer. We never even play them. I think we'll donate ours to the church.

It's interesting to hear the testimonies of those who are less-active. It's hard to maintain real conviction of all the elements of the gospel without living the important ones of come to church and keep the commandments. I compare them to those who carry on coming even though they don't know it's true.

Hence, I present to you the parable of the father with two sons:

Dad: "Sons, I want you to go clean the garage."
Son 1: "I don't WANNA go clean the garage!" (Stomps away.)
Son 2: "Of course, my father. I am so grateful for all you do for me and I LOVE cleaning and so I will clean the garage to the best of my ability because...(excessive praise)."

TWO DAYS LATER....

Dad: "Son! I thought you said you didn't want to clean the garage!"
Son 1: "I know. I'm sorry. It's not my favorite thing in the world, but I don't think you would ask me to do this if it wasn't necessary. I didn't realize how satisfying it was."
Dad: "Where's your brother?"
Son 1: "Asleep, I guess."

I like this story. I've been able to work with a lot of "Son 1"s on my mission, and I've determined who I'm more like. It gives me hope for being a better person. This is the difference between the truly converted, and those who "draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." I like the term "heart" in this context: heart denotes center, core; it illustrates real feeling or enthusiasm, inspiration (his heart wasn't in it) and can make all the difference between good work and mediocre work. It also makes me think of truth, deep thoughts, and character. Something that cannot be faked. We are all trying to sort our hearts out to be more like the Savior, who was honest and true and never deviated from that which He knew to be right. That's the only real difference between Him and us (besides Him being the Son of God and stuff) is that we all know what's right and wrong--He just did the right thing and never drifted. I hope I can be like that someday.

Anyways, thank you so much for all you've done to support me. I know the Church, espoused by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is His divine institution. It is meant for our happiness and betterment, and I know that through first-hand experience, not abstract concepts. I'm so grateful to be part of a church that little children can understand. I hope your week is successful, and I hope all is well at home!

Love from,
Sister Willard

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Moves


Right, I have like two minutes to say everything I want to: We are not moving! Sister Barker and I spend most of our evenings and planning sessions laughing hysterically at ourselves and stuff that happened that day. Our big highlight from this week was Shalen declaring that when the Hamilton’s got back from Bavaria that he was going to be baptised. That's the fifth person to tell us or ask us how to go about doing that. Sixth is Ben, who we're fasting for this Sunday. I know I'm not supposed to ask for special fasts, but seeing as it's Fast Sunday, would you be so kind as to include Ben and his family in your prayers? We get the feeling that all doors are not closed to his wife learning about the gospel, and Ben being baptised before she passes away. Please pray that we as missionaries will know how to proceed and that he will find the opportunity to speak about the gospel with her and that she will have her heart softened to hear it. Whew! What a crazy work! I apologize for my train of thought, but I hope everyone is well at home and you are all in my prayers ;)

Love from,
Sister Willard

Monday, June 18, 2012

Temple Trip Tomorrow


Hey everybody. Things are good. The work is good here in Winchester. Glad to hear that school is up for everyone, and you can have a nice long summer--school carries on for another six weeks here. We are going to the temple tomorrow for president's last conference, so that will be exciting. We got to go to the temple with our investigator Ben on Friday and that was really cool. Sister Barker is fantastic and helping me out a lot.

Not much to report. Hope everyone is well :)

Love from,
Sister Willard

Monday, May 28, 2012

A Mixed Bag


This week was a bit sad--we learned on Wednesday that Jacob hadn't passed his interview due to lack of commitment, and has really fallen off the wagon into the puddle of STUPID dug for him by his oh-so-attractive recent nonmember girlfriend--more smoking and partying than ever. Ignoring that mess, on to the good news:

-Kumar has read and prayed about the book of Mormon. Huzzah!

-A guy named Adam in his twenties has begun to come back to church on his own. We were chatting about the Seattle Sounders, who apparently beat the oldest footballing nation in the world (Scotland) three years in a row? Did anyone else know this?

-We have got the raddest youth in the entire church ;)

-Ewan has been called as Young Men secretary--cheers.

-We have two ward missionaries in the pipeline, don't tell anyone!

-Ben is doing fantastic and is going to meet Bishop this week, in preparation for our trip to the temple on the 15th.

-Aleks and Karolina (recent converts) are going to the states in July, namely LA and Salt Lake City, and we promised them they wouldn't have to stay in any hotels. Help?

So I'm writing on a semi-broken keyboard and it's taken ages. This is all for now, but I can't wait to hear from you soon!

love from,
Sister Willard

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Highlights


Right, so they've got a sorta-definitely-maybe unofficial mission conference on Friday, which is a headache and a half because Sister Paulsen's heroic planning skills are stuck in limbo. We would LOVE to schedule things on Friday (a whole day of finding is not what I call effective) if it's not happening, because there's little more bothersome than the mission calling to say "Conference Friday!", you cancel everything, then they call to say, "Actually, it's conference Thursday," you move stuff around with your very understanding investigators and regret that awesome DA you were looking forward to, and then they say, "Sorry! We will actually have the conference on Friday after all." Dad, should you fulfill all your dreams and become a mission president, please never do this. A house of God is a house of order, whether there's rain, snow, or tidal wave.

Anyways, highlights from this week:
-The Pedersens came to church! Sister Paulsen was beside herself. The three kids who were jumping all over the place when we first stopped by were SO reverent during sacrament meeting, and after Primary they all came up to us and announced that they learned how to pray. Miracles upon miracles.

-Baptism on Sunday, if Jacob lays off the fags. We had to tell him, "No smoking, or no baptism." He seems to respond to abruptness very well. Pray for him.

-We are singing in the stake Cantata, which is Lynn Lund's music about the Restoration. We're excited to invite our investigators to attend, and the fact that Sister Hamilton loaned us her keyboard makes mornings and nights very musical. I'm singing alto, but because I'm so loud, they've had me switch back and forth between alto and soprano to boost morale or something.

-Speaking of which, Sister Paulsen and I sang “Abide With Me” in sacrament meeting, and it was really fun. She has broken her voice box and had to have surgery, so it will be some years before her voice is back to normal. Apparently it's like when you come back from a football game and your voice is shot from shouting, except it's been like this for months. Her voice is a lot lower than the average girl's voice, and her singing range is more along the line of tenor, rather than alto (we're running out of low hymns to sing). I will be so sad when we get moved, because it's been good for me to sing parts with her and develop my range.

I've learned a lot this week about gratitude. We were speaking to a man this week, and my ears were practically falling off out of depression--you know when you have a friend who just lays on thick their many trials without any ray of sunshine or hope or acknowledgment that God is there? And it seems that they just splash and swim in the sludge of their despair until you're covered in it too and can't wait for a bath? Yeesh. It's been interesting to see the things that offend me as I serve out here--new things. Before, maybe I was affronted by poor moral choices or word of wisdom problems, but now I have complete faith in the Atonement to overcome and cleanse those things. Now the things that offend me more are gossip (particularly amongst members, who should know better), ingratitude, and wasting time. Now I'm not the greatest time-utiliser in the world, and I don't claim to be. But as I've immersed myself in the things that matter most for so long, I am offended when people say that they just don't have time for prayer or reading the scriptures or waking up on time to come to church. It makes me wonder whether these things most offend the Saviour, and I'm just barely learning it through being His representative. Perhaps he is teaching me to spend the time as He did, and lift those who really need His help, and not waste time with straining gnats.

God bless each of you, and I know that He is never far away :)

Love from,
Sister Willard

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The dead pidgeon



Yep, I totally ate (or in Londondery terms: et) a dead pigeon. Apparently you can buy them from the butchers. My stomach the next morning declared war on my intestines, and both I and Sister Paulsen made good friends with the toilet the next few days.

Happenings from the last week:

-Moves successfully sees us in Winchester where we belong. Apparently President wanted to move Sister Paulsen and keep me, but over the weekend (while the Stake President and his sassy wife rubbed shoulders with President Shamo) we've managed to stay through the moves. It's brilliant because we've got so much on at the moment, it would just be stupid to move us now.

-We went to St, Peters mass on Friday with our new friend Jonathan, and he sat the head-nun down and explained the history of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith to her ("You know, the ancestors of the Red Indians?") It was amazing. We could have done no better. It was interesting to see that his heart was prepared and he is elect. Jonathan has about a year left before he is properly a member of the Catholic church, unless (as he put it) "you steal me away." He is searching for the truth, and I know that if he continues to read and pray that he will receive his answers.

-Carla and Bruna were baptised! Huzzah! 67 turned out to see it, and 83 were at church the next day. I'm so glad we didn't have the baptism in the morning, else no one would be there. Jonathan came and had some fantastic talks with members who had been Catholic before they joined. It was such a good experience. We never have to speak to our investigators because all the members have mugged them.

-Chris brought his friend Don from Christchurch. We'd planned to teach about the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and then we ended up giving the Restoration and my favorite apostasy chart throughout a history of the world--Chris was so pleased. Apparently Don had told him that he wanted to hear a history of the church, and that's exactly what we taught, even when we didn’t' plan it. Miracles! I love it when the Spirit works backstage and we don't realize till later.

-FHE on Monday found us and Justine at Carla and Bruna's house--we had proper belly laughs and talked about families. It was so fun to teach family home evening, and infinitely better that the first time was such a success.

-Our shower has been fixed! Success! After nearly an entire moves, we no longer have to do the bowl-wash.

It's been such a good week, made even better by the fact that we don't have to move. We've got two new greenies coming to the Zone, and our district is getting Elder Gong (son of the seventy) from Washington D.C. He's got a thick Southeastern accent :) I feel like this moves will be nothing short of heroic, what with Jacob's baptism coming up and formers coming out of the woodwork. Lots of miracles to be had. And we get to be in WInchester for June. Nice, nice. We are pleased to announce that in the last three weeks, we've gotten 20 lessons, then 25, and this week we have planned 36 lessons. I hope we don't get flogged.

I don't have anything earth-shattering to say, but remember that the Lord loves you, exercise daily, tell jokes, and do what you don't want to do as if you really wanted to. That is my little advice to you all. The book is blue, the Church is true. Isn't that exciting?

Love from,
Sister Willard

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Teaching in the Spring


Mum's Note: We Skyped with Katie on Sunday morning for an hour. She is quickly becoming the oldest sister in the mission. We got to meet her companion from Denmark, Sister Paulson, and the two of them work famously together. Katie said that her tentative date of return is Halloween. The Diamond Jubilee will be June 5 and the London Olympics begin on July 27. Great things are happening!

From Winchester:
Right, so I'm so tired, the puddles of drool on my pillow by morning are getting to be three inches in diameter. (I found out that improvement has to be measured quantitatively, though it rarely is, so I guess I'm making progress.)

News!

-We've been teaching Jacob's mum Tina who is now reading the Book of Mormon and is convinced she's known us for years and years. I suppose we all knew each other at one point...

-A guy named Jeffrey called us up in the middle of our DA and asked if he could come to church. We taught Plan of Salvation in Gospel Principles, and it was so powerful. He would have stayed for all three hours, except after a massive discussion with one of the members, he felt silly sneaking into priesthood late. It looks like he may solicit our interior know-how (I have none, so it's all on the greenie) to fix up his Badger Farm house. It's moments like this that make us semi-regret our choice to move OUT of Badger Farm, but never mind. He's a smart cookie.

-Taught a staunch, though recently converted, Catholic yesterday. He is convinced that he will convert us, saying that all the other churches have pieces missing and that the Catholic faith is the WHOLE truth (sound familiar?) We had a great experience though, tea at the Hamiltons' and joy all around. We're coming with him to mass on Friday and he's coming to the baptism on Saturday. We figured it's a fair trade, and helpful that Brother Hamilton was Catholic once. :)

-Baptism this week. Pray lots that things will go successfully--we're picking up Jacob from Bournemouth to come and committing everyone to bring a friend. We're sitting on a lot of "potential referrals"--these mean that when we come round for tea, people invariably talk about how they have mentioned the church to a friend at work/school/soccer, etc. Our goal is to find out this friend's name (for some reason, no one ever mentions a name), pray for them, and continually discuss their progress with the member until the member officially invites us to teach them. Those make for really natural teaching opportunities, and it builds the members' confidence exponentially in sharing the gospel themselves.

-The ward is spectacular. We've got a lot of activities coming up, and we had lots of less-actives come to church on Sunday. It's so cool to see so much happening, and the members can feel the excitement. We are proud to report that as of last week, we were able to reach twenty lessons in a week, which is the mission goal for every area. I don't know if Winchester has ever seen 20 lessons before, but I can feel the Lord's guiding hand in assisting us.  It's so cool to feel His love and His go-ahead to do incredible things.

I'm so grateful to be out here. I feel more tired than I ever have on the mission, probably because I'm so old. But there's this real satisfaction in the progress I've made as a person and as a servant of the Lord. I suppose there's a point before or during the mission when you decide whether it's all a massive sacrifice of your time and friends, or whether it's the Lord's time to do as He directs because He has led you here. I've really grown in my knowledge that if someone needs something, Heavenly Father will send someone halfway around the world just to reach that one person. That's the way Jesus Christ did it--one by one. I don't know if I've made a huge impact on the areas I've served in or if I'm remembered by the people I've taught, but I do feel satisfied that the work of building His kingdom has happened, inch by inch, under my stewardship. And I do know that because He is so interested in my growth as His daughter, He sent me 5,000 miles to England to receive the best possible tutelage.

Oops, it looks like we're getting a referral. I have to go! Love you all, and the Lord loves you even more!

Love from,
Sister Willard

Monday, April 30, 2012

Baptisms


Right, so Carla and Bruna are getting baptised and confirmed on the 12 and 13th of May. They've been investigating the church for six months, went to Portugal, talked it over, and then came and announced it to everyone at church. Man, I am so excited for them! And for Sister Paulsen--she and her mum were the exact same when they joined the church twelve years ago. People are just asking us if they can be baptised--first Lina, then Jacob (whose only question for us yesterday was "what does the tree of life represent"?) and now Carla and Bruna. The Young Women are beside themselves, and I know that Carla would make waves in Primary with all the children who love her.

The problem with Mother’s Day is that there's going to be a massive party on the 13th, and I don't think we'll be able to call that Sunday. So we've gotten permission to call the previous week, if we can--it looks like the only time I'll be able to call will be before church...at 7am your time. It'll be 8:30 here if you get home from church, and that really won't fly with the member policy. I'll be able to check this email once more before the week is over to find out what you think.

Other good news:

-There are spectacular kebabs in this town. Do we have kebab shops at home?

-Our dinner calendar went around yesterday and of the first 14 days, 12 are booked for tea at different members' homes. And bishop is not satisfied with that. Elder Kerr at conference demanded that we be treated like princesses (we were blushing profusely) and it looks like Winchester Ward are "doers of the word, and not hearers only".

-Chocolate no bake cookies and Book of Mormons wrapped in gold paper (fantastic choice, Sister Paulsen) made us some brilliant friends in our old and new neighborhoods. We are trying to think outside the box and, as Sister Paulsen always says, build bridges. There's not much you can't buy with cookies, and goodwill is worth having cocoa all over your skirt by far.

-Chocolate mousse: one banana, two tablespoons cocoa, 1-2 tbs peanut butter (crunchy or smooth), dash vanilla. Blend in a food processor until fluffy. No sugar, gluten, or lactose apparently.

Things are really good, despite it being the rainiest, coldest April in years. What I can't understand is the English usage of the word DROUGHT. It's all over the papers right now--"Hosepipe Ban" "Drought in the Southwest, Experts Say" and I'm just like, then why are the buses hydroplaning in the roads? Why am I soaking wet trying to go to church? Why is everything still green? When the grass turns brown and water doesn't come out of the taps or the sky anymore, then we can talk about a drought. Calm yourselves.

Hope everything is well at home and that you all are enjoying family history and learning the missionary lessons so you can share them with your friends in the natural, normal way talked about in Conference. It makes so much sense! Read Preach My Gospel and try to explain in five minutes the Restoration. Explain it to a kid in primary. Then move up to a less-active visiting teachee or home teachee. Then upgrade to a nonmember friend or family member. It's so easy the more you practice it. This manual is meant for the members as much as it was written for the missionaries. I know that as you work with it and learn the sequence of principles taught, the gospel will become so clear to you, the pieces will fit together beautifully, and you will feel a confidence in sharing that simplicity with those you care about. Catch the vision, and the Lord will dump fruit into your lap.

Thank you for all you do, in your callings and day to day lives to support the teachings of Jesus Christ. That is the great symbol of our membership--everyone will better understand who Jesus Christ is because they know who you are. What greater sealing testament can there be on a person's life?

Love from,
Sister Willard

Monday, April 23, 2012

Sick of Moving


Hear ye, hear ye! I have served in the England London South Mission for exactly ONE YEAR yesterday! Gasp! The week was celebrated without too much missionary work, let's be honest--

Monday: Pday! Sleeping for three hours. Amazing!

Tuesday: Teaching, teaching, went to eat at a member's and felt super sick. Felt like strep, actually. Went home early. Sister Paulsen, who secretly is a shaman in Denmark, made me drink all sorts of things.

Wednesday: Sick--gargling vinegar. Found out we had specialized training on Saturday, which threw our plans to move out the window and moved them to Thursday.

Thursday: Moved flats. Out of Badger Farm and west of Winchester into a little place called Hycliffe. Sister Paulsen is a beast and has the gift of structuring. So as long as I didn't cough on anything and was obedient to my assignments, everything went well. 13 hours of moving and we were both dead. Kudos to the Hamilton’s and the rest of the elders quorum who showed up to move the heavy bits.

Friday: Recovery. Feeling lots better.

Saturday: Specialized training, weekly planning, and the adult session of Stake Conference (we had some returning less-actives attending, so we could totally go!)

Sunday: Conference. Suveer, our investigator from India, totally came! Amazing. We had TWO seventies there, Elders Herbertson and Kerr, both from Scotland. They were brilliant and funny and so in tune--so much energy!

The theme was about how we as members of the church focus on how much we SUCK and how we need to stop guilting ourselves into feeling that way. Elder Herbertson told a story of how, as a bishop, he asked everyone to close their eyes, and then to raise their hands if they thought they were going to heaven and live with God again. He started to cry, so hurt, at how few hands went up--particularly among the women who were closer to the angels than he was. It was powerful. He emphasized to us that if we "keep the commandments and endure to the end, we shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God." It's that simple.

I want you all to know that this plan that Heavenly Father has authored for us is a plan of SUCCESS. There is no need to constantly stab yourselves spiritually: "I didn't give enough to charity this Christmas" "I lost my temper with my children" "My home is a mess, the Spirit can't be here" "I didn't do that well enough" "I forgot so and so's birthday" "I don't pray for four hours at a time, I'm a terrible person" and on and on. It's shocking how well You-Know-Who gets into the hearts of those who desperately want to do good and be good. But we need not listen to him. We have the Father of our spirits on our side, the one who controls all the elements and inspires us to be better out of love and not duty--He wants us to get through this life with flying colors, and with His help, we WILL. I know that the life I'm pursuing right now is not perfect. But that is not what the Lord asked me to be here. He asks me to keep His commandments and endure (or enjoy) to the end. It's so simple because God wrote this plan. Only when we complicate it with our extra commandments and standards and comparisons to others does it become unachievable. So help me, I've been out here long enough and taught the Plan of Salvation enough times to know that I am going to do everything I can to get to heaven and live with God again. I'm doing it right now. He knows it. I feel His Spirit guiding me to do it, and with that influence, I am changing to become more like Him.

For all of you who feel like you can never measure up to Bishop or Sister so and so, stop it. The only person we are asked to be like is the Saviour Jesus Christ. And NONE OF US is going to be exactly like Him in this life. But when I see someone stand up to let an elderly woman take his seat on the bus, or when I see little sisters sharing, or when a mum stays up late to comfort a sick baby, or when I see young men working hard to make their parents proud, I want to tell them that they're doing it! They are making steps to become like Jesus Christ. It does not really matter how many steps we make in this life--just that we are making them, moving forward, and trusting with optimism and confidence that one day we will recognize Jesus because we will be like Him. With the ordinances of the Gospel and with the Spirit's guiding influence, we will make it someday. I promise you that.

I'm so grateful to be out here and to show the people of England that there is an alternative to a life of material wealth and stress and depression. When we live with the knowledge that we can change, that we will see our loved ones again, that there are People who love us more than we can comprehend because we have the potential to be like Them, life is like black-and-white turned 3D Technicolor. Keep pressing on and being better. I will stop beating myself up and speak to the Lord about my weaknesses instead. After all, He gave them to me so that I would come to Him in the first place :)

Love to you all! The field is white, already to harvest.

Cheers,
Sister Willard

Monday, April 16, 2012

All our Investigators are Leaving!


Right, so usually the drill is that we missionaries move around, to the chagrin of our investigators. But Jacob has gone back to Bournemouth, Lina is all baptized and headed to Taiwan to visit her mum, Carla and Bruna are in Portugal...depression. It's actually really sad. But even with all these investigators gone, we've got plenty to get on with--moving flats is no mean feat, especially when the missionaries have been there for over ten years (we'll be leaving fun treats for the neighbors...and a few Book of Mormons...)

Fun things from this week:
-The few seconds we have to go finding are brilliant. Late to an appointment, we asked directions from what turned out to be a move-in from Croydon. He talked to us about being missionaries, and we gave him a Book of Mormon and found out where he lives. Such a cute man. And we basically taught the Plan of Salvation to a lapsed Catholic who came to check the insulation (I feel like that's not allowed, but too late!)

-Jacob is amazing! He's read all of the Pearl of Great Price, and we met his mum this week. She was studying with the Jehovah's Witnesses but determined that their stance on blood transfusions is a bad idea, so gave up on it. We did our utmost to praise her son and help her realize the incredible changes he's been making to be a member of the Church. We've got a veritable army waiting for him--YSAs, bishopric, missionaries--when he gets back to school. Praying desperately that everything stays on the up and up.

-Lina is still solid, but we are going to need help from the Chinese elders. We've gotten to the point where she looks at us like we're aliens too much for comfort, so we'll see if Elders Chu and Huang can give us a hand :)

-We finally got to see the last session of conference, and I loved Elder Ballard's talk. The man gives such good stats every time he speaks. I'm bummed they can't speak about what they REALLY want to talk about because we're not there yet.

-1 baptism for Southampton and 3 baptisms for Hamble River (they totally got mugged by Chavs on Easter) so that means 5 baptisms for our little district in less than a fortnight. Whew! If their other family goes through on the 28th, it'll be like 9 or 10 total. Amazing! The Lord of the Harvest is hastening the work out here. Really fantastic kingdom-builders as well.

We've been discussing why the droves aren't joining like they did in the days of the Apostolic Mission, and I have a few factors: 1) There have been missionaries going over these areas for over 100 years, so caches of super-prepared hearts are difficult to come by, 2) the General Authorities say life is much more difficult now than it ever was for pioneers--what with all the distractions and family breakdowns and busy pace of the world, it's hard to sit and think, 3) the standards for missionaries as well as for those considering baptism have gone up several notches, and 4) We missionaries need to build our faith and learn how eternal life and salvation is NOT cheap and very hard to gain. I'm grateful to be the missionary who plants and the missionary who prunes and occasionally get to be the one holding the bucket while fruit falls from the sky. It's incredible work and the most rewarding thing I've ever done. I don't feel special out here or like my talents matter, but I do love feeling part of this well-oiled crew working for the Lord. It's such a blessing to see the fruits of so many hands.

I hope everything is well at home, and know that I'm thinking about you all! Keeping sharing the gospel in a natural, normal way and you will see miracles happen ;)

Love from,
Sister Willard

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Bank Holidays and other silly ideas


Huzzah, moves week is over and I can finally email! (Sorry, Howard!) Right, so if I can gather my thoughts, this is what's happened in the last week:

-Lora brought a friend named Jacob to watch conference. He loved it.

-We taught Lina all week.

-We met a less-active named Dracula (we went with the district leader and his companion, as well as a member). Her referred himself for a Book of Mormon and hasn't been to church for a couple of decades. With a name like Dracula, Noreen's daughter was appalled that we cute sisters were going to speak to him at all. So we gathered the army, the elders ascertained that it was okay, and they left to go back to Hamble River. We surveyed Drac's elbow-length black hair, nails filed to points, his 2.5 thousand DVDs, and his relatively gentle manner. Drugs are bad. He's been clean for a few years, but the results of poor mental condition remains. It was very uncomfortable. When we left, the elders came from their hiding place to escort us safely out of there. I love our district. The elders had a feeling to stick around and make sure we were okay and they listened in at the door to make sure he wasn't attacking us or anything. :) All is well, and we shan't visit again.

-Lina passed her interview!

-The Hamiltons fed us chicken foot soup. Chicken feet. With nails and everything. (Howard, this could be a staple in Brazil, I don't know.) You have to suck off the skin and spit out the bones like cherry pips. The soup was nice, but it was very difficult to not imagine all the hens at home.

-Jacob asked us during our chapel tour how he could go about getting baptized. That's the second person this moves who've asked us to be baptised. Amazing. His background is rough--drugs and such, family together barely--but he wants to give it all up. Teaching him is a joy. The problem is that he isn't eighteen until next month, and his family is definitely against Mormonism, so when he goes back to study in Bournemouth, the elders will teach him and he will come back to be baptised here. Amazing.

-Ewan is a superstar. I am amazed by everything he says: Things like, "I don't believe yet, but I'm working on it" and "Why does everyone say the standards are hard to live? You just do the right thing or you don't." Man, I feel THIS big next to him (holds finger and thumb a millimeter apart) because the Spirit is so strong and the truth is all there.

-Lina totally got baptized on Friday and like 40 people came! The font (which was empty at thirty till) filled at a miraculous pace. She brought bags of food for the party afterwards, programs were made, the talks were amazing, everything was done right the first time, the zone leaders came with Chinese Liahonas (Ensigns) for her, Jacob came and loved it, Lynda came (which is the first time she's been in a chapel for years and years) and everything was so wonderful. I wish I could post pictures home. I'll be able to as soon as I get a CD.

-Brother Hamilton took my ukulele off me, bought new strings and restrung it. For free. It sounds spectacular! The best part is that in the children's songbook, there are tabs for guitar. I'm totally going to learn Popcorn Popping and Once there was a Snowman.

-At church on Sunday, Sister Hutber brought two of her friends. We were planning to teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ with Finding Faith in Christ, but I had given away the last DVD to Drac and the VCR refused to work. So we all got to sit in Gospel Principles and watch the Restoration instead. The Spirit was so powerful--lots of tears and testimonies and I've never been so pleased that we brought the wrong DVD in my life. Both her friends want to learn more.

-Jacob was being closely monitored by Lora and Karolina--he'd cut back from 40+ fags a day to two, but he was struggling with the last two. When he finally did escape outside, they all gathered around for support and he tossed the last of his baccy into the drain. Since then (today is Wednesday) he hasn't smoked. Incredible, incredible kid. I hope he goes on a mission.

-Most amazing dinner party yesterday--the Hamiltons invited their neighbor, a recent convert, Jacob, and us. It was amazing! Maria asked if we could come round again, and we are so excited to do so ;) Jacob is bearing testimony to his family and his mates about the Book of Mormon, talking about how it's like a seed and you have to plant it...he's amazing. I hope his parents will see that he's changing for good.

-Moves calls: we're staying. No surprises there. Elder Farnsworth is leaving Guernsey after seven and a half months, and leaving nine families--they've quadrupled the primary, and if everyone comes to church like they said they would, it will be more investigators than members. Jacob 5 and the allegory of the olive tree comes to mind. Apparently the entire mission is on fire, crazy success happening everywhere. I'm so glad. It's true that the Lord of the harvest gives the increase...He will hasten the work in His time, and He will make sure we learn and grow exactly as we should in the meantime. I'm glad that President Shamo will go out on a high note (Christmas was bleak). Sisters Housley, Kernek, Christensen, Gregson and Jonutz have all flown home today. I'm an orphan. It's very strange. Rumor has it that 7 sisters are coming in over the next two moves, so there will be ample opportunity to train. I hope everything goes well.

Whew! I think I've got everything said that I need to. It's been the craziest week and a half ever. Miracles coming out of our ears. I hope the Lord will pour out more blessings on you all at home because of the work done here. I don't know about you, but I feel more tired when I wake up and for the entire morning than I do going to bed at night. I guess your body just starts to shut down after a while. Mad.

Elder Willard, we are praying for you to get outta there! (If it makes you feel better, a lot of my roommates and classmates didn't like the MTC in Sao Paolo much. Not sure why.) At least you get to see General Authorities all the time, that's well cool ;)

Hope the summer is amazing and that you are all enjoying life to the fullest ;) Remember to say thank you in your prayers, even for the things that aren't fun, and you'll get loads more blessings (or just recognize loads more). Love you all!

Love from,
Sister Willard