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)."


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