Sometime our vision is clouded, and as Paul described, in this mortal life we “see through the glass darkly.” This means that we do not always see things as they are. We often see our world through our perspective, not God’s and not through an eternal perspective. As I have been sorting through memories, journal entries, and photos of my mission in preparation for my homecoming address on Sunday it has caused me to reflect on my experiences the past eighteen months and what I want to take from all of that into the future with me. You see, you can’t really just take the good, you have to take the bad as well because in the end all of that has shaped you. Here is a video I put together that depicts a lot of my mission. Enjoy!
Well, I think I have a few more blog posts in me before I retire “The Life I Leeds.” This is one of the first posts that I am actually physically posting since 18 months ago here in my hometown of Holladay, Utah. How strange. In looking at the stats of my page I came across the information of what countries it has been viewed from and how frequently. I was shocked to see that it has been viewed in 49 different countries (including Suriname, and Bahrain) since I’ve been gone! Of course most of my hits were in the US and England, but nonetheless. I hope people have drawn some inspiration from this space, regardless of what religion you profess, if any, or whatever lens you view the world from. I hope maybe it has helped you reconsider really just what your purpose in life is and what the meaning of life is. In terms of religion, I hope you don’t feel like all religion is just “doctrine in cold storage.” President Hinckley’s father once said, “Religion can have very little significance when removed from life. In other words, a man’s religion isn’t worth much and it will never save him, if it does not carry over into the details of his daily life.” Although I have been living a very unusual life for the past year and a half, a life some might think impractical and a bit outside of reality, which it is. BUT the experiences I had on my mission helped me take the doctrine I profess to believe, out of cold storage, and into the details of my life. That changed my life, in that it changed the way I will live my life from this point on. That’s not something I could’ve bought with gold or silver, that came straight from experiences and people I came across, and it is priceless to me.
So are you wondering what exactly I did with my last week in England?? Well it was an absolute blast even with being sick, exhausted, anxious, emotional, excited, etc. It was a wild ride, but made so much fun with Sister Prawitt by my side. We tried to live it up, and I am so grateful for that final time in Leeds. I felt like there were some loose ends there that needed wrapping up. In Leeds 1 we spent some time with Maria, Holly, the Parrs, Jane (and her parents from China), Susan, Clio, the Boycotts, and others. Not only that, but I got to meet many new wonderful people that Sister Prawitt worked with in Leeds 4 area, and that was great. In a twist of cruel irony, during my TEN hour flight from London to Dallas, my TV monitor for my seat was inoperable the whole time! What is that?!? But with the zen patience I developed as the Lord’s missionary for 18 months, I proceeded to harass the stewardesses and glare jealously at the girl next to me who was enjoying Maze Runner. And then I decided it was a perfect time to take a small moment to reflect on the last week in England and the end of an era. So I took out my journal and put pen to paper. Just a small excerpt:
“Well I am on the plane now headed for the homeland for the first time in a year and a half!! Sister Prawitt and I had a great week (when we weren’t breathing into paper bags due to anxiety attacks.) I was thinking about my departure all week, trying how best to get closure and express my gratitude to the Pilkingtons and all others that helped me through…I’ve been feeling nervous all day, but I guess that’s normal.”
There is this brief moment as you return home to your old life where you have this irrational fear that you won’t fit into the niche that you used to occupy anymore. You know that everyone else has moved on and changed, and that you have changed, and it is a scary moment to get thrown head first into all of that. I almost melodramatically felt like Esther when she is about to enter the king’s chambers and says well, “If I perish, I perish.” I remember feeling that way going into the mission. How weird to feel the same returning. All I can say is it is great to be home! Although you have only gotten bits and pieces since I have been gone, believe me when I say, it is a miracle I made it the whole way! Enjoy some last moments through some photos!
So Sister Prawitt and I are in Leeds! We are staying with the Whipples, one of the senior office couples. That is our home base, and then we have the flexibility to go around the different areas of the mission to work with the other sisters in their areas. We don’t actually have an area. We are kind of area-less. But we have a car, and we are split between the Leeds 1 and Leeds 4 areas if we aren’t visiting sisters. Those are the two areas we spent the most time in in our missions.
We had a fireside last night based all around the truce that the Germans and English called at Christmas during WWI in the trenches. They weren’t really fighting each other, they were fighting on behalf of two differing political ideologies. They called a truce and went out in the field between the trenches and played a match of football. The missionaries of the Leeds stake were asked to sing a medley of some of the marching songs the British and Irish sang to keep up their spirits during the war.
Tipperary is in Ireland. And so one of the songs we sang was:
It’s a long way to Tipperary,
It’s a long way to go.
Farewell Leicester Square!
It’s a long long way to Tipperary,
But my heart’s right there.
I haven’t been away at war, but I have been absent from friends, and family, and loved ones. Things that I loved to do, passions, hobbies, and the people of my life. I was willing to do this for the Lord. I have been in a very real spiritual war. That has become apparent to me on my mission. My heart has been here, but like this marching song, my heart’s been right at home with those I love as well. I will see you all in a week! Love you. Peace.
Love, Sister Zurcher
Alright all you people out there! Things are getting real. I have 13 days left in my time here in England, so time to kick it up a notch. Transfer calls were last night…and the answer phone from the zone leaders read, “Sister Wiborny is training in Bishop! (yea!) Sister Dragoti is going to Sheffield!…and Sister Zurcher is going to Leeds!…for a special assignment!” Now that sounds much more exciting than it is. Basically me and Sister Prawitt are here for 12 days into the next transfer…and frankly President doesn’t know what to do with us. We will sort of just be doing some things in the office, and going to work with some of the sisters in the Leeds area I think? So basically as Sister Lam said today in chatting with her online…we are temporary female AP’s? Ha. I did mention that I had a Costco card, and that I could do runs for the Christmas party food supplies, which President found interesting. So maybe I will just be a Costco-runner my last few days.
Wednesday we will go down to Leeds for the transfer meeting, and Sister Prawitt and I will give our departing testimonies with the rest of the missionaries that are ACTUALLY leaving on Thursday. President also graciously invited us to the departing mission home dinner that they do at their home, again for the missionaries that are ACTUALLY leaving. Man, it’s like I am an old person, that all the family secretly wishes would just die already.
So despite all that, we had an enjoyable week. We got involved with the local Food Bank this transfer and had a really nice time serving the people of England. One particularly poignant experience we had this week is as follows. What happens is, people that are in need receive a food stamp, which they can bring to any food bank and receive food. They also offer a hot beverage and people to talk to, if people want to. This youngish couple came in this week and started telling us their story while they were waiting for their food to be packed up. They are both having a really difficult time finding jobs where they can get enough money to stay afloat. As a result of that pressure, combined with possibly losing their house, they are both struggling with depression. They have a six year old little girl as well, and as this man was describing how he had to sit their daughter down and explain that they might be homeless right before Christmas, he broke down and just started sobbing. I will never forget the look in his eyes, a combination of sorrow, grief, and desperation. All three of us just felt so strongly in that moment how much God loves this man, even if he is not aware of it right now. I hope he comes into the path of missionaries again at some point. It made me think of the Samarian women that is talking to Christ at the well, and he explains that He is the living water, that those that partake of his gospel will never thirst [and I would add go hungry] again.
Also, we had a chance to get to know one of the Chinese students that is staying with one of the families in the ward for a couple years, doing school here. Her name is Ellen and she is sixteen. The family invited us over for tea and so we had a great time. At the end, we did a simple lesson on what the holy spirit is and what it does. Sam, the mom of the family called us later to tell us that as they gathered for family prayer later that evening, Ellen offered to say the prayer for the very first time.
We also got to know our ward mission leader’s wife a little better this week. She isn’t a member, but she is just so great. She loves the church as an organization and thinks it does a lot of good, but just can’t get herself to even have a desire to believe in God. Yet we had a good conversation…and we got to do some cooking with her as well. Of particular interest was the bread pudding that we got to whip up. I think sometimes, those with a very questioning minds sometimes find it hard to make the connection that God is there. I found that I had trouble with this when I was younger and growing up. Yet the things of God can’t be logically thought out. Conversion comes through feeling something…and that is a difficult concept to accept, especially in this day and age. Yet we know that God has told us in Isaiah that “my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.” Some things we just can’t fully comprehend as mortals. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t think things out in our mind, and question, but confirmation and truth from God doesn’t come in a standard way that we are used to. It doesn’t come through searching the internet, or through history books, or other media. It comes through simply praying to God and receiving answers directly from Him. This is why I came on a mission. Because I prayed to know what I should do next in my life, as my education came to a close, and I felt that I should come. As simple as that. That decision to follow that simple prompting has changed my life, and I am grateful to Heavenly Father for everything.
Happy December everyone!
Love, Sister Zurcher
This week was all over the place! We went up to South Shields to join with the other nine sisters of the North to have a little pow-wow. Behold the light of the sisters of just HALF of our mission! They are powerful, spiritual, emissaries of the Lord in this area of England…that goes for the rest of the sisters in the whole mission. They are incredible. This was sort of my last official week as a Sister Training Leader. So mixed emotions there. We went on exchange with the sisters down in Harrogate and I spent most of my time with Sister Sorensen, who is in her first six weeks. It was a weird feeling being with someone who is just starting their mission as one who is almost ending theirs. I tried to give her some wise counsel and advice on some of the things she is facing in these early days. I remember well being in her place just thinking I would never make it! She is great, she will do great things. Plus, she promised to teach me how to fly fish when we are both home. I love making friends around the world…even if she is from my neck of the woods. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…the friendships I have formed here on my mission are some of the greatest strength I have formed. They have given me the power to overcome things that I wouldn’t have without them. It was fun to spend some time in Harrogate. The ward there is overrun with Americans because of the base that is in the area. That means that we were treated to some A&W root beer and pre-thanksgiving dinner before we left. One of the Americans there is named Bill Pierce…funny enough, his wife is named Cheryl as well. His daughter, Lauren, was on Melissa’s drill team! What a small world! He treats the missionaries in the area (especially the sisters) like pure gold. Good man!
Well the time is dwindling like the bottom of a candle. My time will soon be out and I will be reunited with you all. What a bittersweet experience! I’ve never felt such a strange cocktail of emotions as I have being on a mission. It’s like my heart has grown double its size to encompass all the experiences and relationships I have formed. Maybe it hasn’t grown though…maybe it has just changed? I have to say I can feel that it has softened a lot. President Pilkington speaks much of this “condition of the heart” and his messages have seemed to infiltrate my core. He is a wise man. Hope you all have a great Thanksgiving! Sadly I think we will just be having the average British meal on Thursday. Save me some leftovers!!
Love, Sister Zurcher