Monday, January 30, 2012


So we woke up to big fluffy flakes outside this morning, and people keep leaving the library door open. They need to repent. It's delightful to have p-day with us once more, AND to have MONEY to buy a BUS PASS! Huzzah! No more walking all over creation and wearing out shoes that need to last another nine months.

Updates on Winchester:

-No new investigators this week, but we've had some really cool conversations and teaching experiences on the street, and we found a potential named Shawn who is willing to listen. The ward is still going strong with their fast for us, so we're trying to capitalize as much as we can.

-Our recent converts are solid. Chris got his patriarchal blessing yesterday (finally) at the stake center in Southampton. No word from him yet, but I've no doubt it blew his mind. He's got a few friends that have been intrigued about Mormonism ever since he joined, so we're encouraging him to arrange an appointment.

-We taught 8 RCLAs this week. Ewan is ill, so it's looking bad to see him next week, but he and Jack Marston got on famously. Ewan is 23, well talented (art, graffiti, models, canvas) and really funny, but he's just antisocial. (I can relate). I think next week for church we will go and pick him up so he'll feel more comfortable.

-There were 4 less-actives to church yesterday! It's awesome! After so much time spent in Weymouth with no reaction from anyone, I'm pleased to see that people do come back in the end, if they're prepared. It's like joining the church again, I guess.

-We taught formers Carla and Bruna this week:
Since they were Winchester's only investigators for about two months, the sisters taught them as best they could, brought in members, and made it all the way to tithing (the last lesson before baptism) when they didn't want to live the word of wisdom. Apparently Portuguese food calls for a lot of alcohol traditionally (look out, Howard) and they weren't willing to give it up. So their baptism for Christmas Eve was postponed. They stopped coming to church and stopped progressing altogether. After fasting and prayer, Sisters Kernek and Sebald dropped them. Bruna is continuing to come to youth, but she doesn't speak to the missionaries really.

Sister Sebald decided to drop by. After many attempts, Carla opened the door and did not look pleased to see us. Whatever spirit had been in their home during the transforming teaching weeks had fled, and the place felt cold and dark. Sister Sebald told me to stay on the couch and speak to Bruna while she went into the kitchen and asked Carla what her problem was. Then it all came out: all the financial problems, the fact that she'd lost her job (the job she got while meeting with the sisters) after she stopped coming to church; they were having to sell the car and move and she wasn't buying enough food for herself; all the anger as to why God would let this happen. Carla really softened under Sister Sebald's influence, and she was much calmer and Bruna was really happy by the end of our visit.

We set another appointment for the weekend, but there was no answer. It's tough. She hasn't got a job, but her 13 year old daughter has two Blackberries and a Macbook, Hollister clothes, and their car they need to sell is brand-new. It's just a mismanagement of money, that's all. What I really know is that they are not ready to hear the law of tithing. We left them in their letterbox, but I think there's nothing more that we can do--maybe future missionaries, maybe Bruna's Young Women, maybe a new member friend, but now is not the time (at least, not for us) to bring them into the church. Poor Sister Sebald. They were her miracle.

I'm so grateful for the Church and how it truly prepares us for life. If we abide by its principles, we can avoid massive consumer debt because the things of this world don't matter much; we spend more time with our families and spouses because we want to be with them forever (and therefore spend less time at work); we avoid getting cancer due to alcohol or smoking; our relationships are enriched and we're much less likely to end up in prison because we understand that everyone is a child of God...the list goes on. Sometimes tragedy strikes. Oscar Wilde says that in life there are only two tragedies--when we don't get what we want, and when we do. He's right. I'm grateful for prophets and apostles who aren't afraid to tell us NO because they can see much farther than we can the consequences. The needless consequences of decisions that would bind us hand and foot. None of us needs to live in debt or be morbidly obese or even be obsessed with World of Warcraft. These are silly diversions that enslave us, literally. I'd rather test my strength on tragedies given me by God Himself to help me learn and grow, rather than waste my time and energy on trials that came because of my own wrong decisions. I know that God will never give us anything we can't handle, but I have full faith in my own stupidity that I can.

It's interesting to be a missionary and try to explain that this Church will help anyone overcome anything. They don't believe a platitude like that because they've not experienced it. That's where commitments like, "Will you come to church with us on Sunday?" come in. They have their agency, but we do our best to testify and teach correct doctrine so they will make those changes. That's about all we do in the grand scheme of missionary work. It's tough when they don't choose to accept a commitment, but we can't force them. We merely invite. The only baptism ever recorded during Jesus' ministry was His own. I think that has grand implications for us. Even if no one in Winchester looks on like they said they would, at least I am. That helps me.

Thank you so much for all your support and love and prayers. They're needed here--there is someone searching for us, and we're trying to find them. Pray that we'll find them.

Love from,
Sister Willard

Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy Birthday

Well, my birthday involved Sister Sebald making me a cake (a battered Mars bar) and buying me a secret stash of mittens and German cookies that taste like graham crackers with chocolate frosting :) And then we went to see Noreen, a less-active lady, who threw together a birthday party for me, and THEN we had a third party at the Hamiltons where I pulled a birthday cracker and got an emergency sewing kit that he ended up using to fix Sis. Sebald's boot. Happy days for all! Here's who we've been teaching:

No new investigators yet, but we've been working with Noreen and her 22 year old friend Justine, also less-active. She and I were friends in a previous life, and I guess she just didn't mesh with the previous sisters. It's so cool to see that the Lord puts you where you need to be exactly when you need to be there. I'm grateful for the opportunity to teach these sisters--we've also got Aleks and Karolina, mum and daughter baptized in June and September. They're so solid. And Chris! That was delightful in every way. He's schooling us on the priesthood and he's well excited to become an elder, probably at Ward Conference.

The ward is fantastic. It's very friendly and family oriented, and it's really nice to be in a streamlined chapel again, It was weird not to teach Gospel Principles, but I think I would like to get that up and running again so our less-actives have a place to go (Gospel Doctrine often degenerates into weird topics that are fun for longtime members but not conducive to building testimonies of new members). Our recent converts even have callings! It's awesome!

Since I'd been singing really loud in Jersey (trying to be a human metronome so we don't take ten minutes to sing a sacrament hymn) everyone asked me to sing in the choir afterwards, and then I got asked to see Prelude music next week AND asked to speak on reverence as well as introduce myself...crazy! But I'm excited to serve here and help the members feel like they are contributing to missionary work.

Speaking of which, the 40 day fast is going just swimmingly. Since Sister Sebald and I have gotten together (starting Thursday) we've taught seven lessons already. (The average a week here is three.) It's always really cool to find people who are friends with the Hamiltons or the youth or someone else already a long time member...that helps them stay in the church for real, because they have a point of reference. I'm grateful for people brave enough to say they are members to their friends.

It's so fun to hear from home! Snow at last! Everyone here is saying the snow is belated and the weather has been fantastic since I arrived, so I'm hoping it'll stay that way...shame about Howard's call, but I'm so pleased he won't have to be in the MTC for 3 months. I was struggling after two weeks (you get trunky to leave, especially after our knocking and tracting experiences). Brazilian Portuguese is the stuff on all the Church DVDs, like the Restoration. If you'd like, stick the sound and the subtitles on to get a feel for how things are pronounced. That was really fun for me and Sister Christensen to do. I know a few words and phrases now, and that helps with speaking to natives on the street.

Anyways, I have so much more to do! Hopefully we will find some new investigators this week and I'll be able to report back.

Love from,
Sister Willard

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Moving to Winchester!

This week was moves week, and as Sister Christensen had been in Jersey for 6 months, we both knew it was time for her to go. We got the phone call, however, NOT on Sunday night as anticipated, but on Tuesday NIGHT, 6pm. (Flight plans for the following morning.) Elder Farnsworth told her she was headed to Winchester to be replaced by Sister Kernek. Initially it was really exciting, but I was legitimately miffed that I would be back-up-trained AGAIN, by the third of five sisters in Housley's group. But I tried to swallow my pride. I know that Sister Kernek is exactly what this ward needs.

Twenty minutes later, Elder Turner called from the office and said, "Okay, Sister Willard, your flight leaves at 2:50 tomorrow afternoon--" when both of us were like, "Pardon?" Pretty soon moves calls had degenerated into us shouting into the phone, "Which one of us is moving?!" They grabbed a nearby assistant, and as it turned out, I was the one headed to Winchester.

So after a crazy night packing, no one to pick me up at the airport and half the mission panicking that I was lost and all of them thinking I'd fainted in the airport or something and bad reception on the train home resulting in Bishop calling President and telling him that me and Sister Sebald were lost (again), we got home quarter past ten, hungry and exhausted and very, very broke (£42 to get home from East Grinstead). Sheesh. So much for grocery shopping tomorrow.

Happily I'm now with Sister Sebald from Frankfurt, Germany (unless you're talking to anyone English, in which case she's from Switzerland. Too many people have made Hitler comments to her.) She is the cutest little redhead and has been here in Winchester for three months. Her English is fantastic and perfect for the very posh town of Winchester--this place is legitimately posh, there are dozens of churches (although Jehovah's Witnesses are a non-entity, which is such a relief), and we teach investigators one by one. So far my only news comes from a teach this morning. Chris is a recent convert from September, and he is going to get his patriarchal blessing on Sunday. It's so exciting to teach him. It feels like I'm teaching Steve again :) The ward here is fantastic at fellowshipping, the youth are well cool, and apparently we get fed every night. I'm really excited to be here. Although the work is difficult in the way of getting new investigators, it means we take good care of the ones we've got and it gives us ample opportunity to build relationships with the members and less-actives.

After Sisters Fekete, Jonutz, and now Christensen have been on Jersey for 9, 7.5 and 7.5 months, once again it came as a huge surprise to find out I was the one going. But the longer I'm here in Winchester, the more I'm convinced that this is where my talents and abilities are needed most. And it's so fun to be with someone from my MTC group NOT from America, so I'm excited for the things I'll learn.

The biggest trouble I think I'll have is being humble enough not to bash--I'm not used to bashing anyway, but according to Sister Sebald, these people tend to provoke you. I will do my best to hold back and not eviscerate them with doctrine. Nephi says in 2 Nephi 33 that he delights in proving unto his brethren the reality of Jesus Christ. That makes me feel much better. Sometimes you really do pray for patience until the other side when everyone will find out the truth for themselves.

Please pray that we will find new investigators. The members here are doing a forty-day fast, where each member fasts for one day (you sign up for your day) for missionary work to progress. Sister Sebald says it's working. I love it! Miracles already! Even if there isn't a baptism to be had when I arrive, it's so good to see the members involved in our work. It'll be a tall order to replace Sister Kernek--no doubt she will be legendary here, just like Elder Farnsworth.

Thank you so much for all your support and prayers! Winchester is the promised land, land of solid members. I suppose that's why you do all this finding anyway--to find the good ones who will build the kingdom. Sometimes the kingdom is built with tiny, tiny bricks and it doesn't look like you've done any good at all--but the Lord doesn't care. He cares that you do what you are capable of. If you sit on a pile of mortar and complain about having to work at all, Heavenly Father will be very displeased. You can only do what you can do, and the Lord makes it count. I'm grateful to be His missionary. I've only got nine months left--there's so much work to do!

Love from
Sister Willard

Monday, January 9, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

It's hard to make New Years Resolutions as a missionary because you'd better be doing all you're doing already. I've got ten minutes to tell you what's been happening:

-We stopped a guy on the street who understood little English. His name is Carlos. We told him that we had friends who spoke Portuguese, and we would call Carlos when we were with them. Fifteen minutes later, we're getting ready to teach Catia in Bro. Tiago's flat when the phone rings. I can't understand anything Carlos says on the phone, so I hand it over to Tiago. He disappears outside. Catia and us chat. Tiago comes back inside and announces that Carlos is coming to church. We rejoiced. The next day, Tiago brought him--he was all smiles and thrilled to see us again, sat with Tiago and Americo in a little Madeira gang. Tiago taught the Restoration for Gospel Principles, and we committed him to read and pray. He told us that he was going to ask his boss to change his day off from Monday to Sunday so he could come to church every week. It was a MIRACLE like the ones you read in the Ensign. Amazing.

-Tricia came to church, and Sister Christensen was assigned to speak (last time she came, I spoke). She can only stay the hour, but that's her new resolution, to come to church with us every week.

-Our ward missionary and 4th companion Debbie has been called as the Sunbeam instructor. Celeste is the only Sunbeam, and she's a spitfire. Debbie feels slightly overwhelmed, but we're grateful for the technology the church has.

-Really amazing week, five new investigators and hardly any flogs! It's the grace of God. We can finally teach more and find less. We found Carlos in ten minutes worth of finding--that's all we could squeeze in!

-Cindy is doing well, sort of. Her life is slightly out of control, but she has discovered a kindred spirit in Debbie, who has volunteered to come and clean up her house. Cindy was sobbing about her angelic volunteering, which was good, because one of her naked rats crawled across my lap and my knee-jerk reaction looked a lot like Mum's and the rat went flying and Christensen sank into silent giggles. They crawl across my feet as I'm trying to teach, and only by the grace of God can I maintain composure and my train of thought. We were walking home from that teach along the lighted cobbled street, excited about dinner and enthused about the fresh air (Cindy's flat is pungent). My tights were soaked from kneeling on Cindy's carpet--either she'd spilled tea and didn't tell us, or it was rat urine. I'm pretty sure it was the latter. The glamorous life of a missionary, even in a first-world country. Go figure.

-I got Christmas parcels today! It was awesome! I'm excited about the ramen because the stuff here is lame and really expensive. The only regret I have is that the taco sauce might have to wait because the beef in the UK is gross. It's all minced and who knows what else is in it? Maybe I could make lamb tacos? Turns out the best lamb in the world is found in the following places:

Number 1: USA (the mutton is from New Zealand, or Kiwiland as they call it here)
Second best: New Zealand
Third best: United Kingdom

So go out and get some lamb chops because it's the best in the world. So is the rest of the meat. The dairy products aren't as good as they are here, though. That's a shame. Maybe it's best :)

Anyways, I have to go! I love you all, and thank you for the loot!

Love from,
Sister Willard

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Happy New Year!

News on our investigators:

Vishal--Well frustrated because he has been doing the right thing his whole life and it apparently has gotten him nowhere. I think it's a combination of middle child syndrome, timidity, as well as a stern moral compass, although he thinks that moral compass came from brainwashing religion in his childhood. He's really opened up to us, and we've been studying about the fruits of the Spirit and how vital joining the Church is NOW, rather than in spirit prison. Please pray that he will feel the spirit in his mind and in his heart--he's determined that this Gospel make sense logically (which it does) before he acts on his positive feelings.

Cindy--Agreed to be baptised on January 28th! She's really excited about it, and every time she says one of her beautiful prayers she thanks Him for this chance to change her life and she tells Him she believes. She even came to church on Sunday--two hours of sleep because she was SO EXCITED. Testimony meeting was amazing, and she thought everything was fantastic!

In other news:

-Warren Jeffs' prophecy that the world will end at the end of December 2011, to no one's surprise, was a sham. I feel relieved, I don't know about you...

-David Archuleta has manned up to go serve a mission. I wonder if he'll make the District 3?

-We've ridden our bikes once in the last two weeks (Boxing Day). I felt so alive! And then Hurricane Jemma hit. Fine.

-They've forwarded our post from the office and we should be getting it this week or next. Christmas all over again!

-Moves predictions: I think Christensen is off to whitewash Brighton with a greenie mid January. I'm still learning my way around the island, since we haven't been on bikes lately.

I've been studying a lot about joy recently, what with the grey and grouchy people we speak to all the time. Sometimes people stop and (usually they're drunk) ask us why we're so happy. Cindy says our spirits oozes out our skin so that you can see it. (I think that's because teaching her is amazing). Joy is something we share as missionaries, although it is the purpose of everyone else existing. Joy is an emotion of the soul, and it is best friends with sorrow. Sometimes sorrow tugs your heart in opposite directions so much so that you think it will break--but then it doesn't. And something beautiful happens. Your heart is now big enough to fit the massive emotion of joy. Heavenly Father has a fullness of joy, and I've no doubt His sorrow over His idiot children pulls His heart in every direction--but that is the only way He can feel joy when some of us are successful and His grand purposes come to pass.

Sometimes you expect things on your mission, whether it's good food, a crazy companion, cold showers, driving around in a expect things, and then, without realizing it, you're disappointed. I suppose the better thing to do is to expect that the Lord will help you fulfill His work, so long as you are true and faithful. His work can come to pass in any situation, so long as it is His timing. There was a time when stakes existed on Jersey. I think it will happen again, when the saints are ready for it and when His timing determines the right orchestration of events. That can be frustrating as a missionary to want all these things for your area and to work as hard as you can to make it happen--but there really are very few things we can control. We can't force people to read or pray or come to church or be baptized. We can't force members to fellowship or the Ward Council to see things our way.

With that depressing thought, there are some things we can control. We can practice our teaching skills and become so familiar with the Spirit's presence that we can create environments where he can testify, even on a busy street. We can love these people with all our hearts the way the Savior did, despite their shortcomings or philosophies or attitudes. We can pray with all the energy of heart to discover what the Lord would have us do. Even though we missionaries have very little power over people's agency, it is ennobling to know that when we live worthy to "walk with God" as Enoch did, He will exercise His power over the hearts of the people we teach. That's when the joy comes--when your feet hurt and you're starving and people have been rude, it doesn't bother you because there's this sustaining glow that comes from somewhere else.

I'm grateful to have been able to experience joy on my mission. It's been a great last two days, and I'm not naive enough to think that it will last much longer before something bad happens, but I'm grateful to know that the Lord sustains His missionaries when the work is hard. Let's face it. No Ensign article ever says, "we were knocking the last door of the fourth floor of flats and this guy came out and verbally abused us until we ran out of the building," but it's more common than the miraculous baptism. That's okay. It makes us appreciate the success more. Sorrow=joy, right? Miracles are more like a potential calling us, finding a less-active on the street who doesn't exist in the records, a member calling us to say they invited their friend to church, running into formers on the street, your district calling to say that the person you've been praying for came to church for the first time--those are incredible miracles, and they happen all the time. It's an amazing thing to serve.

Keep up all you do to serve the Lord, and He will sustain you and you will feel His joy.

Love from,
Sister Willard