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.
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!!
Transfer meeting was hard! I didn’t anticipate that. Just seeing people that I have served with for so long, finish out and give their departing testimony really got to me. Plus saying goodbye to Sister Kuhn/hello again to Sister Wynder encompassed a lot of emotions. I think people don’t realize the things you share as a companion in working together 24/7. You experience a lot of incredibly hard and great things together, and it forges a strong friendship. Also, I think maybe it keeps getting more real that I will be finished and done soon as well in just a few months. The hardest goodbye might just be to the actual mission and everything I’ve learned here.
So the infamous duo back together again! Can you believe it? It’s just like old times, except we are in Darlo now. We had a great stake conference this weekend, and Sister and Elder Charles came to speak. Their conversion story was really interesting. Both of them growing up had a kind of mix of religions. Her mom was Catholic, her dad Muslim. His mom was Church of England, his dad Greek Orthodox. So when they married religion wasn’t really something they talked about or entertained because it was just such confusion growing up. But within the first couple of years both of them had moments separately where they wondered about God. And then the missionaries knocked and the Spirit touched their hearts. Really interesting. They are a powerful couple.
We taught a man named Colin this week, who for looks after other people’s dogs for work. He has chronic fatigue syndrome, so it’s something that he can manage for now. The elders taught him about a year ago, but then he had a really bad relapse with his illness and they fell out of contact. He is a really interesting guy. He studied piano performance in school and used to be a teacher, but again his illness prevents him from doing that now. Needless to say with all those dogs, we had a lot of hair on us after that lesson.
We are also teaching the wife of one of the members that just moved into the ward. Her name is Deb. We met with both of them at their home last week and ate chilli and potato jackets out in their back garden. The weather was glorious! Probably one of the last sunny days we will have. The leaves are definitely starting to turn around here. I think it will be hard in just recently being married and a lot of things changing to suddenly jump into a new religion, but she wants to learn so we will teach!
Phil and Hilary are a referral that we received a while back. He is a religious education (RE) teacher (which is a required course in schools here). He and his wife traveled to the states this summer and ended up in temple square in Salt Lake at one point and had a great chat with the sisters there. He wanted a book of Mormon to read because he would like to incorporate more religions that are usually left out of RE. Sister Kuhn and I left a Book of Mormon with him months ago for him to study. He called us up right before she left to invite us over for some cake and a chat. We had a really good conversation with him. He isn’t really religious himself but he is the type that wants to understand, and especially with his job, wants to help others understand. There is so much intolerance of religion just based on not understanding. He invited us to join this peace walk with him up in Newcastle at the end of September, so we are pretty keen. I think something will happen in his life at some point where everything will suddenly just click and God will become real for him, rather than just a subject of study.
Heading to Castle Bolton today with the Dunns, so later for now!