Monday, April 30, 2012


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 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.

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

Monday, April 2, 2012

Conference Edition

Happy birthday, Dad! I totally saw Howard at conference! We had to email the progress record and I sneakily read his email and knew he'd be there. The trouble was trying not to freak out in a chapel full of investigators. Hard work.

Right, so other highlights from this week:

-The district leaders called us up Sunday morning and announced e-moves (emergency visa moves) which happen every so often. They said that we would have to pack and be ready to leave by Tuesday morning--Sister Paulsen whitewashing into Paignton and myself headed to Bracknell with Sis. Mills' greenie. We freaked out--neither of us wanted to leave, it was early, Sister Paulsen is NOT TRAINED, and I was super mad because we have a baptism on Friday. For crying out loud. After calling Sister Housley, she said, "Okay, okay--wait. Sister Johnson got the same call." And I realized it was April Fool’s. Sister Paulsen was so furious. Elder Livingston hid from her presence for ages.

-Lina came to conference. She is progressing so much--we had Bishop over to teach the law of tithing, and she accepted it. She's Chinese and therefore impossible to read. I didn't realize how defined Western body language and facial expressions are. We came to the conclusion that because her family is letting her get baptized reluctantly that it's best to introduce the gospel gradually into her home. It's like China taking over Africa and no one knows about it--you can tell her moments of defiance and the silent war she wages to keep her faith in God strong.

-Carla came to conference at a members' home.

-There has been so much sunshine here, I can't even stand it!

-We're moving flats in the last fortnight of April. I'm really excited because the flat we have now is enormous and has missionary stuff from ten years ago. Mad. It'll be brilliant to have a totally new start.

-New investigator: sister Paulsen stopped him and he said, "What are you selling?" we said we were speaking about God, and he said, "Nope, no, I'm not interested" and totally fell on the stairs up to his flat. Since he was an older man, we panicked and ran over to him. He said, "I guess that's God punishing me for not listening to you." His name is John, and we had the opportunity to speak to him about faith and prayer and where we were before this life. Amazing! He is such a sweet man and is really searching for something constant in his life.

I don't have too much time, but wasn't Conference amazing? It was so geared toward those not of our faith on what we actually believe and who we actually are--I can't wait to see the last session. They'll air it in a couple of weeks in lieu of Sunday School and Relief Society. It was crazy to see all the turnover, and to hear Larry Echohawk get called to the Seventy! Amazing. My favorite talk besides Elder Holland's was the talk on being converted to the Church and being converted to the Gospel. It's so true. The Church is just a mass of programs and activities and time-wasting if you are not living the precepts taught. I'm excited to implement more of the Gospel into my own life, and actively exercise and build faith, repent of things that are halting my progression, remember the promises I made at baptism, and pray and listen for the promptings of the Holy Ghost. President Hinckley, as a missionary here, said that he intended to make religion an everyday personal experience by asking God what He would have him do, and then by doing it. That's where the magic happens.

I've gotten a lot of shtick over the years being a member of a church with so many "rules". And it's true; like the Marines, there is a lot of discipline required to be a disciple of Christ. But when you see it as a journey to become more like the Savior (because if we achieve that we will have so much power in the next life) and remember that the Person giving the commandments loves you more that you will ever understand and has only the best future in mind for you AND has all power and all knowledge, then everything else pales in comparison. Nothing else really matters because it's just a distraction. Life is like university--if we study up, work hard, develop great relationships, follow the rules, strive to be better and learn all we can, then at graduation (death) we have all the tools we need to become professional. We are naturally designed to achieve and create and everything else God does--it's no wonder, considering we are His children. I'm so grateful to have acquired this knowledge through asking Heavenly Father. We all need this knowledge, especially in moments of confusion and hopelessness. He loves me. He loves everyone on earth. If all the good parents in the world could live forever and have billions of children, they would love each of them perfectly too, and want the children to grow up to be better than them. We're not a far cry off from being like Him--everything is stacked in our favor to do just that. I know this through the Book of Mormon and through speaking to God Himself. He is there at all times, waiting for us to approach Him in humility and faith. What a beautiful message I have the opportunity to share!

This gospel is true, and the Church is pretty good too :) Remember that President Monson is the prophet for the whole world, and not just the members. The blessings of God in the days of Moses are poured out upon us still. I've only got a few months left, but I will do everything I can to extend the blessings to everyone in my path. I hope you will too!

Love from,
Sister Willard