Our office is back up and running. It was really scary for a few days there for the mission. I feel like everything would just fall apart if the office disappeared, ha. And without internet and email, it practically did disappear.
I have quite a few built up questions from you over these past few weeks :) Let me try and collect what I've recorded and answer them, then I'll tell you how moves week and the conferences went.
It's going to be a bit of a long one, by the way. I wanted to set aside some time and catch up as much as possible. Sorry if I bore you.
MLC [Mission Leadership Conference] - It was really great. I always love getting together with missionaries and talking about how we can further the Lord's work. This conference was very scattered, actually. The presentations were marvelous (seriously, in our mission, we get the occasional TED conference level presentations, and they are really good), but the ideas weren't as centralized as Elder Blair and I would have liked. That's OK, because the Spirit led us to what the Zone needs, and I feel pretty good about this transfer :)
We're focusing a lot on receiving revelation regularly. Sometimes I think that missionaries believe that revelation is a once-off thing, or has to be a singular, larger than life event. But, most revelation simply doesn't come that way. Most of it is missed in the small and simple things. So, as a Zone, we are figuring out how to recognize and be more grateful for those simple things.
Musical Event (V.C. and Why I Believe Fireside) - The Visitors Centre is putting on a fireside that is similar to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's Music and the Spoken Word. The cool thing is, they've decided to travel all over the mission, to each individual Stake, and bring the Spirit of the Temple to those that don't get to go as often. It's going to be quite the cool musical event, with some original music from Sister Walmsley and some awesome solos :) Should be fun. I get to sing a solo in the event and travel along, and I just finished singing a rendition of Love at Home for one of the VC's normal fireside. It's truly a blessing for me to be at the Visitor's Centre, I cannot thank the Lord enough for being able to sing and bring the Spirit at the same time as relieving stress.
Package - I loved it :) My goodness, I haven't had homemade oreos in ages! Also, it's a bit more Halloween-ie with some apple cider on hand, ha. Thank you.
Retainer - Ugh, we missed our appointment because of that emergency in the Zone, and now I have to wait for another appointment. Forgive me, I'm so bad at managing things that aren't related to missionary work...
Christmas - You know, I really don't know. Recently my usb with all of my pictures and music from the mission on it has gone dead (right when I was backing it up... :( ), which is kind of unacceptable, so maybe I'll send it to you and ask you to take care of recovering the information. Other than that, I don't think I really need anything. What I'll do is put it in my study journal and think about it over the next week or so, then get back to you :)
Weeks Gone By
Moves -Moves is quite an event, if I do say so myself. We stand at a moves board with all of the missionaries faces on little magnets, sitting on a map of the south of England. I don't really recall how long I stared at that board, but I do know that if I close my eyes, now I can see where each missionary in the mission is living ;)
Moves now happen over three days, instead of just one. Basically, we used to congregate the entire mission at Staines, then send them out again. What a logistical mess that was... So, now we do something called "pre-moves" where a few of the cars do simple switches so not everyone has to come to Staines. There are so few cars in the mission that we know the public transport of each area pretty well. For this past moves, we had to drive the Battle Van to Staines, then Bristol, then back over to Maidstone. It was like the ultimate road trip, we didn't make it back to the flat for three days.
Needless to say, it was intense. You're getting calls from missionaries every ten seconds or so wanting to know their travel plans, and you have dreams (well, nightmares, really) where you left someone in Staines or you get a call from a missionary who sitting somewhere without a companion. Ha, yeah, it was an experience :)
Everything did work out well, and no one got left anywhere.
Elder Palmer -
He finally made it back to Latvia! I'm so happy for that Elder. Now, he'll forever be an honorary member of the England London South Mission, and the Digital Zone! Ha, it only took two more trips to the embassy and a plane ticket, but he's on his way. Lets hope he picks up the language again easily.
Zone Conferences - The conferences were really great. We actually attend all three of them (one in Poole, one in Staines, and one in Crawley, another three day trip right after moves) because we run something called the Harvester Report, which is a presentation that contains all of the baptisms in the last few months over the whole mission. There was a member of the third quorum of the seventy there, Elder Adler from Germany, who gave some wonderful sermons on loving yourself and choosing to be happy. He is a very inspirational man.
Interestingly enough, we actually got to spend some pretty personal time with him. We work in conjunction with the AP's a lot, so we were with Elder Adler for some car rides and for a personal meeting with the a panel of mission leaders. It was incredible the love and care that everyone has for the missionaries and for the people of England. It taught me to love the people more, and to really put my first and foremost efforts into ministering to the members of this Zone, instead of my leftover energy.
The country down in Bristol is gorgeous :) We went there and picked up a few missionaries before going down to the Poole conference. I wish I had been able to take pictures, but it was a bit dark outside for the camera.
At the end of one of the meetings that we attended with Elder Adler, he gave an analysis of the mission and how he felt that the work in the south of England was going. It was interesting, because he had interviewed missionaries all over the mission and gained the same general feeling: that ELSM [England London South Mission] is very sound doctrinally and in personal testimony, but that our mission just needs to work harder. "There is just too much excuse, and not enough work" he said, in a very funny German/Polish accent. There's a line in Preach My Gospel that says "the key to missionary work is work." Then, the other day, I got an email from a friend I trust a lot that said: "the more you work, the easier it gets...despite being exhausted, you absolutely love what you do." I feel like I've always asked God to give me desire so that I'll want to work hard, when what I need to be doing is working hard to gain that desire. What an interesting series of events leading to that lesson learned.
Chris had to push back his date again. He's really apprehensive about taking a step of faith without having received a big spiritual witness that what he's becoming a part of is true. I can understand that, we're trying to help him put getting that witness at the forefront of his mind, so that reading and praying about the Book of Mormon become a priority to him, and not something that he spends leftover efforts on.
Marius, after taking a two week break from meeting with us, decided to come to church and continue learning about the church. He asked a little while ago to give him some time to sort out some family problems and get his priorities straight. His big priority is his daughter. Marius is a wonderful father, and really cares for his daughter, and I think that as he understands that those things are also God's priorities as well, he will desire to also do those things that God asks him to do. I think a lot of investigators think that keeping the commandments will just add to their long list of things to do, but what really happens when you keep the commandments is your to do list becomes simpler and filled with things that actually accomplish what you desire.
Maureen is in the middle of moving house, so we haven't really seen or heard from her in a while. Hopefully we get to meet with her soon.
Roger is still going strong, but also still hasn't been to church. We're working hard on getting him there, but he's quite the busy man for his age. He is very inquisitive, but sometimes I feel that being inquisitive with two young missionaries and being inquisitive when praying to God are two very separate traits. We're praying that he is able to improve the second one and start to ask the person that will give him the answer that really counts.
We found a new investigator named Marcin this last week, and have already met with him a few times. He is from Poland, and is having a hard time within his family. He is very humble because of his circumstances and willing to accept Jesus Christ's teachings. We pray for him and his family a lot. It would be a miracle for him if came to church with his wife.
Ugh, I wish that we had all of the time and energy in the world to solely work with these people and help them to turn their lives around. I guess that's why we work with God, because He can do the bits that we just cant :)
General Thoughts from Study -I've really come to love missionaries as I serve in this role of the mission. I find that if my purpose behind what I do is because I love the missionaries I'm doing it for, then I am humble and able to accomplish all of what God wants me to do. If not, then my responsibilities become a burden instead of a labor of love.
Elder Blair and I have been talking a lot lately about how to be an effective leader. It's something I've questioned and pondered ever since I arrived in East Grinstead. In Handbook 2 we read that the purpose of every leadership role in the church is the same, to be "a faithful disciple in order to help others become faithful disciples." Basically, effective leadership is based on being an example. As we discussed this, Elder Blair asked me an interesting question. First he asked how much I cared about our Zone. Then, he asked if that matched how much the missionaries think I care about them. It's hard to make those to scales match up; how do you do it? How do you let others know how much you care? With investigators, it's easy, because I already know the best thing I can do for them is teach them the Gospel. It's the consistent route that always leads to an outpouring of love. But with other missionaries, I feel like the routes are all so different, ha :)
Anyways, it was a discussion with many facets and study sessions, one of which led to the question I wanted to ask you: what are righteous desires in leadership? In other words, how do we make the desire behind our leadership not prideful ("I want the credit for these successes"). Is it prideful to want to see the fruits of your labor? We pray for and pour love into the missionaries we serve, but does it really affect their lives? It was funny, because Elder Blair said something that reminded us of some of our investigators: "I want to see success (a noticeable change in the missionaries) so I can know my efforts are accomplishing something." Asking for that seems so similar to asking for a sign to "prove" that God is there. If we saw it, it would give us temporary relief, but not a long lasting belief. There's a line in Preach My Gospel that says "no effort is wasted" and I've come to know this past week that that is a statement, just like any other promise from God, that we have to have faith in. We have to have faith that our efforts are changing the lives of those around us, even if we don't get to see them. Seeing the fruits of your labor is a privilege, not a right.
So yeah, there you go, an insight from the depths of Elder Blair and I's personal and companionship studies :) A part of our goals as a Zone right now is to take a part of our evening and just sit and ponder, and it's been doing wonders for getting more out of our scripture study.
Well, that's probably enough. I hope that makes up for the last few weeks. I feel like I just wrote an essay, ha. The last part was getting a little introspective for my taste ;)
I love you, I know that God lives and still speaks with us. He's always got a good answer to my questions. I also know that there is endless knowledge and insight in the scriptures He picked out for us now.
Love you tons,