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.
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.
Now that it is October we are focusing on ramping up our efforts to reach people now, as things always slow down around the holidays that are coming up. As missionaries we really are like farmers who plant our seed and wait patiently for the harvest. People don’t change over night. I don’t change over night, so why would I expect others to? So we try to talk to everyone, and “Stoptober” is a great way to help people quit some of their addictions. Basically this month, the world is our oyster, and we want to help other people around us feel that way too…despite the gloomy and bitter weather that has settled in.
After a meeting in Leeds this week, Sister Kuhn and I stopped in Leeds and saw Lee and Alice and the family. Sister Kuhn and I worked with this family near the end of the time I was in Leeds. Kera, their oldest girl got baptised back in June, and Lee and Alice were baptised just about a week ago as they finally both were able to quit smoking! As soon as we walked in, Lee just couldn’t stop telling us about all the blessings they have seen since the church has entered their lives. The kids were running around like crazy, as usual, but he continued patiently to fill us in on how much happier they are. This was a great moment.
We also tried to stop by and see Susan Maggs, but nobody was in and I was pretty gutted because I never had time to really say goodbye. We didn’t leave a note or anything, but the miracle was that she called me and Sister Wynder the VERY next day. Not sure how she got our number or why she chose to call us then, as we hadn’t left a note or anything, but we were elated. One of the first things she said to us was that she was up to Alma 48 in the Book of Mormon. She filled us in on a few things that had happened: her ex-husband passed away, her youngest daughter is now in a wheelchair as she has a degenerative disease, but she too was really positive despite these things.
I feel such love for these people that I have been able to serve. How does that happen? How do we as missionaries come from all over the world, from different cultures and backgrounds and come to love complete strangers so dearly? Because we are serving in the place of the Saviour, and thus we experience the love that He would have for them in our place. As Elder Holland said, “You are not called to serve in a place, you are called to serve in the place of the Savior.” This is a pretty incredible phenomenon.
We were headed to the library today and the weather was just pretty miserable. We were sort of rushing to get out of the cold. There is this lady that stands outside one of the shops near the library that sells magazines every once and a while. We said hello to her, and she shot a friendly smile back. Turns out the computers at that library weren’t working so we came straight out. We saw the lady again, so we popped into the shop and bought her a hot chocolate. She seemed to be from a foreign country when we talked to her, and she must have a fairly hard life in earning a living. Hopefully it made a bit of a small difference to have something to warm her hands.
So many of you know that we had transfers here this week. Are you wondering what’s happening with me? I’ll give you a hint…there is a clue in my subject line, but just to hold you in a bit of suspense, I want to tell you what British people do in the summer:
Trim the hedges—I can’t tell you how many people we have seen carefully shaping their hedges after a long winter.
Make Elder flower cordial—Elder flowers are in bloom EVERYWHERE. They smell SO good so people gather them and make them into a sweet syrup then mix into some soda water. It’s delicious!
They complain about the hot weather and then complain about the rain when it comes. If you ever want to get a British person talking, just bring up the weather! I find myself complaining right along with them! I think I have been here to long.
Okay enough for the suspense…President Pilkington called me on Saturday and said, “Well Sister Zurcher, all good things come to end. I need you to go up to Darlington with Sister Peck.” So up to the north I go to Geordie land. I’ve heard that the accent is a bit different than the Yorkshire accent so that should be fun. And they told me that I would be speaking English here. Forget it. So I am experiencing an intense cocktail of emotions the past couple of days and the goodbyes are getting much too drawn out for my liking. Sister Peck was trained by Sister Wynder, so she is a good egg. She is also a Sister Training Leader and there are two new Sister Training Leaders in the ranks. One is Sister Stahle who is coming here to Leeds with Sister Kuhn. Sister Peck is from Idaho somewhere, but I don’t know much about here other than that. I’ve had brief interactions with her at meetings and leadership council. She’s great!
So just to tell you about the baptism, it was so so good. The morning of the baptism we had a lot of things to do, so we were running about in the city center. Sarah Boycott was kind enough to feed us that night right before the baptism. She lives right near the chapel, so we jumped at the chance. She makes such good food! Anyway we were trying to relax a bit before the baptism after such a hectic morning, but that didn’t last long. I think we got about 50 calls after we had eaten, and we just wanted to turn the phone off. We had spent the few days before that calling everyone on the ward list to invite them personally, and give some people some assignments because we wanted to get everybody we could there for the occasion. It helped that President Pilkington and Elder Dryden were gracious enough to speak at the baptism. Anyway, finally we get a call from our ward mission leader asking us if we had started filling up the font yet. He usually does it, but we told him we could do it. We thought it only took an hour to fill up, but it actually takes two. By the time he called us we only had an hour to fill it. Keep in mind that we weren’t the only ones having baptisms that night, but somehow we ended up arranging EVERYTHING. So stressful. So we call the Elders and they rush over, and then we rush over. Turns out we have a key to the chapel but not to the closet where the controls to the font are. So when we get there the Elders are filling up any buckets they can find to begin filling the font up. At this point it is now about T-minus 50 minutes to the baptism. I clean out one of the big rubbish bins and start filling that up. Despite the stress and anxiety we were all feeling, it was kind of a bonding experience. We all kept running to the font and dumping the water in. Finally we figure out that in fact the key that we have in our bag actually works for the closet, so we get the actual font pump running. Phew!
So Kera, and her mum Alice arrive on the scene. Kera is really nervous, but Bishop Parr baptized her and he did a good job helping her feel at ease. The zone leaders had a man get baptized as well…an Indian man named Ranjit, who is the sweetest person I have ever met. It was a great program and we got about 60 people there which is pretty good for a baptism. So many missionaries from the surrounding area came and brought investigators and less-actives as well. It was great to feel that support. So basically I am devastated not to be able and see Kera’s parents both progress towards baptism. Lee, her father has cut down from 50-60 cigarettes a day to about 1-2. He has NEVER been able to smoke that few before. Alice has stopped smoking for about a week now. We are hoping they will be able to get baptized together by the end of the month. We walked with Lee and two of the kids to church on Sunday morning. Of course it was pouring rain as soon as we stepped out the door, but they were there at Beckett park to meet us and we all made the trek in the rain.
I am once again heartbroken to part with another companion, another dear friend. I feel like Sister Wynder is my twin sister and that Sister Kuhn is my little sister. Doubtless Leeds will always hold a special place in my heart, as well as these sisters that I am working beside. Love you all!
Love love Sister Zurcher
God will always make a way where there is no way. That has been Sister Kuhn’s and I motto this transfer. Our MEGA baptism is coming up on Thursday. Collectively among the Leeds missionaries (three companionships) we have four people scheduled. Weeks ago we set a goal of two baptisms this weeks and were thinking of two Chinese students that might be able to make it, but now it is Alice and her daughter Kera, who we hadn’t even met yet! Amazing! Elder Dryden and President Pilkington are both speaking so the whole thing should be epic. We set a goal of five baptisms in total, but if no one spontaneously jumps in (ha) then I think at least we will plant a seed for a fifth baptism in the near future. That’s what most of missionary work is anyway…planting seeds and having someone in the future harvest the fruit later. But even when you are lucky enough to see just that sprout come out of the ground it is the most beautiful thing ever!
Quick story of the week. We were teaching Kera, who is a nine-year old girl, about tithing in preparation for her interview. I was asking her how she would feel if someone gave her ten pounds, and she said good. Then I asked her if she would be willing to give one pound back? She said yes. Then I explained that God has given us everything we have in our lives. He has blessed us incredibly, and all He asks is for us to give 10 percent of what we earn to benefit His children on the Earth. Then I asked her if she got ten pounds if she would give one of them to God. She shook her head and said no…I would give all of it to Him. That is the humility of a little child. I love this family. They are so special.