(L to R) Elder Johnson, Elder McIntosh, me, and Elder Wheat, all on transfer day. : ( I miss Newcastle zone sometimes!
Stoke district activity last transfer. We played American football, and it turns out that Elder Baumgartl (second from right) is really good, although he'd never played before.
Me and my posterity (i.e. the missionaries I trained and everyone they trained and follow-up trained) at all-mission conference. L to R: Elder Sherrard, Elder Stevens, me, Elder Adams, Elder Taylor, Elder Chambers, Elder Hall. A good bunch of missionaries. : )
Joseph O------- is still doing well. We had a great lesson with him and his family the other day. We brought Joseph Walsh who is in the priests’ quorum (so he’s the same age as Joseph Osibanjo) and is really great. The lesson had kind of a tense beginning. The appointment was on Saturday morning, and Joseph O------- had just gotten in big trouble with his dad the night before. Just before we started the lesson Joseph’s dad, who is named Tunde, chastised him in front of us and most of Joseph’s siblings, detailing exactly the things he had done wrong, and informed that he didn’t want Joseph to be baptized on July 11th because he wasn’t keeping the commandment to obey and honor his parents. Yikes! We said a prayer, sang a hymn with them and went ahead and taught (as we’d planned) the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The lesson ended up being very relevant and powerful because of the awkward situation at the beginning. Joseph Walsh did an excellent job teaching about the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and by the end of the lesson everyone seemed to be feeling OK about Joseph being baptized. Tunde told us at the end of the lesson that he was impressed. Right now Tunde has some concerns about priesthood authority, and is still attending his church (the Celestial Church of God, I think it’s called) rather than ours, but he’s starting to trust us, and one of these days maybe we can set a baptismal date with him.
Yesterday we were over for dinner at the home of Leland Mayall, one of the stalwart members of the Oldham ward, and I discovered that he served a mission in Jacksonville 20 years ago! He absolutely loved his mission and told us many stories about it. He served in the Jacksonville 3rd ward, he said, and attended the chapel on Dunn Street, which was the stake center. Apparently one of his mission Christmases was a white Christmas, the first one that part of the South had had in years. He also told us that they had pickup trucks(!) as their mission vehicles, and that in one of his areas they lived in a trailer way out in the woods. : ) Sounds a little different from my mission experience.
When I asked Elder Rose if he knew Tyler Clites [Ruth's friend at Harvard], he smiled and leaned back in his seat a little bit, said that he did know Tyler Clites, and told me that he hadn’t heard that name in ages. Kind of a crazy coincidence that Ruth knows him. It turns out that Elder Rose and his twin brother Kevin recruited Tyler to the Goffstown wrestling team. It appears, though, that Elder Rose isn’t related to the Roses who work with Grandma Bay at the temple, at least as far as Elder Rose knows.
This weekend was the stake conference broadcast for the UK and Ireland, with President Uchtdorf, Elder Anderson, and our area president Robert C. Oaks, as well as Sister Dibb and Sister Lant from the general Auxiliary presidencies and some Area Seventies. The broadcast was live from Hyde Park chapel in London (much to the chagrin of Elder Sutherland in our zone, who is from the Hyde Park stake and could’ve been there were he not serving here right now). There were some very good talks. I noticed a lot of it seemed to review what had already been said in the past two General Conferences, and more than one speaker even referred specifically to certain General Conference talks. It makes sense – if General Conference contains what’s most important for us to hear, of course our leaders will tell us the same thing again in our local meetings. The General Authorities seemed much more down-to-earth and spontaneous in this meeting, though, and Elder Anderson and President Uchtdorf seemed to make a lot more jokes than in their Conference talks. President Uchtdorf noted that President Oaks has a “manly voice.” : ) President Oaks spoke quite a bit about missionary work in his talk, saying that missionary work is up 23% in Europe since 2007, challenging the members to ask to go out teaching with the missionaries (yes!) and sharing some amazing finding experiences from missionaries in Europe.
We had an amazing experience the other day. While street contacting a week or two ago I spoke to an African woman named Vimbai. She was willing to hear more about the gospel, and mentioned that she’d actually spoken to Elder Rose on the street a few weeks before! We got her phone number and rang her a few days later to set up an appointment. Over the phone she told us she was actually a member! She had been baptized in Zimbabwe in 1997 but hadn’t been to church since she came to England several years ago. Yesterday we went and taught her and her non-member husband George. We shared the message of the Restoration, and George really identified with Joseph Smith’s question about which church was right. As we wrapped up the lesson after sharing the First Vision, we invited Vimbai to tell us how she had come to know it was true. She said something like, “Well, when I was baptized I was only ten years old, and when you’re a kid you mostly just follow your parents. But later on as I remained involved in the church there was a time when I just knew and felt for myself that it was true. All of the principles, the Word of Wisdom and everything, I know they are true.” She bore powerful testimony and even explained to George how the Spirit can answer his prayers through feelings. I think sometimes we underestimate the testimonies of people who haven’t been to church in a while. I’m grateful that Vimbai’s family met the missionaries and that she had such a good upbringing in the Church. That is now going to have a huge impact on the progression of her husband and the lives of their children.
To add to the miracle, during the lesson we also found out that they’d just barely moved to Oldham about two weeks ago. So when Elder Rose had spoken to her the first time, she’d only been here for a day or two! Vimbai told us that in Kent (down south) where they’d moved from, there wasn’t a church anywhere close to them. Their new house, however is a 15-20 minute walk from the church! These people have been prepared!
We had zone conference this week, and Sister Bullock gave a great talk where she spoke about making cinnamon rolls and how in order to make really, really good cinnamon rolls instead of mediocre ones, she has to keep herself from getting distracted by other responsibilities during the roll-making process (not letting the dough rise too much while she completes some other task, not rushing the rising process so she can get to an appointment, etc.). She compared that to our missions and how we can sometimes get distracted by things and thus lose the full reward we had in mind when we committed to this time as missionaries. It reminded me of President Uchtdorf’s priesthood session talk (“We Are Doing a Great Work and Cannot Come Down”), which had hit me pretty hard, and made me think a lot about how I’m using the time I have left on my mission. I realized that while I love my mission, having had amazing experiences that have deeply influenced me, and have expressed these feelings to many different people, I haven’t thought much about what specific things I have done on my mission that have brought me this joy and satisfaction. So I spent some time pondering and identified four different principles or types of experience that have brought me the most happiness here.
The first one is facing a task that’s really difficult and unpleasant, tackling it head-on, and overcoming it. For example, at this point in my mission I feel fully able to GQ in a town centre or to contact people on a bus. Early in my mission, I didn’t feel comfortable doing these things, but as I just did them they got easier. It brings me immense satisfaction to know that I’m able to do these things now.
The second thing that has brought me real happiness here is exercising faith and obtaining blessings by that faith. When I’ve asked for special blessings in a certain hour of finding time, for instance, or set a challenging goal that I know the Lord wants me to achieve, and then worked hard and received some kind of miracle, I feel an amazing increase in faith and testimony. That’s a wonderful thing.
Another thing is the friendships I form with people by serving with or alongside them. During my time here I think I’ve built some of the most meaningful friendships of my life.
Finally, I love watching people change as the Spirit influences them. Even in the course of one lesson or one quality gospel conversation, you can watch people’s hearts and attitudes change.
I’m grateful for these gifts I’ve received from the Lord here. I intend to continue pursuing those things during the rest of my time here.
P.S. Just something quick I wanted to add. I mentioned how one of the things I have really loved about my mission is watching people change. Above all, when people progress and are baptized, you can see an amazing change come over them. And as recent converts stay active and keep their covenants, they progress amazingly quickly too. At zone conference this week I spoke to the missionaries serving in Blackburn and Blackpool, and I found out that Yvonne M----- and Chris H--- are both really, really active. Yvonne is attending the YSA ward they recently set up in Chorley stake and is presumably still preparing to serve a mission, and Chris is now serving as the second counsellor in the Young Men’s Presidency in Blackpool Ward. It’s truly amazing to think about how these people didn’t even really believe Joseph Smith was a prophet when I met them, and now they are fully participating members of God’s kingdom on earth. I love missionary work!