Actually, funny observation, each one said something to the effect of "how's the work going?" Except it was with really sympathetic eyes and tones that seemed to say "it sucks to be a missionary in England, doesn't it." Haha, silly Americans :) Just as there is no "dead" area, there is also no "dead" mission. And I can say without a doubt that the missionaries I have met serving in England are the most amazing and caring people I've ever come into contact with.
Let's face it, they breed apostles and prophets here. I'll brag about the English mission all day if you want. I'll brag about the English people as well. President Hinckley said the same of the English people as he lived with them and taught in their homes. If you're looking for hundreds of baptisms a month, you're looking in the wrong place, but if you're looking for the strongest recent converts and members in the world, then there's nowhere else comparable. There is nothing you could say or do that would dishearten an English missionary, because they've heard it all before, and they've continued to do what they do :)
Anyways, after that rant, let me tell you about some of the crazy things that happened this week:
We met a family who we are now teaching, the mother of whom is from Fiji, and the father from Polynesia. They are amazing :) And I have a really good feeling about them. The father serves in the Royal Air Force, and the family is very religious, but has wondered over the years who is "really an anointed servant of God." They've been prepared, and I love them.
On a completely unrelated note, I've had a number of things thrown at me throughout my mission, but what happened yesterday was a very strange one to add to the list :) I got pelted with a grape. That's right, just a grape. In my manly defense, it was traveling at about 30 miles an hour after being thrown from a car window. But yeah, I just don't have the power of evasion that Samuel had. Also, what is with people throwing things at Mormons?! I mean, we're on Broadway for goodness sake. Shouldn't we be, like, getting people asking for our autographs? :)
In stark contrast to our lack of paparazzi and fans, we did have an abundance of service opportunities this week. Funny thing about setting goals in missionary work: the Lord always provides a way for those goals to be accomplished. So, when Elder Wright and I decided to do an act of service every day this transfer, we were blessed with people in need of service. Laying cement slabs, fixing tires, repairing washing machines, moving people, etc. In fact, we've received four referrals this week because of service we were able to render for the ward.
And speaking of referrals, the Oxford 2nd ward has resoundingly taught me how a ward and it's missionaries should interact. I love this ward, with all my heart, and because of the hard work and time that I've been able to spend among it's members, our area has flourished and been built up from nothing. Through a love for the members and a desire to work, we are able to gain their trust and fellowship. Those are key to missionary work. If you want your ward to have baptisms, reach out to the missionaries. Get to know them. Give them opportunities to earn your trust. Trust me, it's what we're trying to do :) It's much easier to build that bridge if both sides are working on it. And when you do, you get things like this happening:
Brother Sutton, a member of our ward, and my best friend, just became a postman. After our last meeting with his family (during which we shared the coolest spiritual thought ever, which you need to remind me to tell you about), he drove us home and told us that he has been talking to the people on his post route. Each time they mention religion, he makes a note of the street and the specific approach we should use, and we go and knock the street. That is what I call member missionary work. It's also how we found Lai and her family :)
I've come to realize through simple things like this, that missionary work is accomplished through nothing other than miracles. Miracles are the medium of missionary work. There is just no possible way of coordinating a whole bunch of 18 and 19 year old kids in the way a mission is organized, and accomplishing the things we do. It's simply a miracle we get up at 6:30 every morning, and are home at 9. It's simply a miracle that we face increasing persecution all over the world and still smile at each person on the street. It's simply a miracle that in many of the countries we serve in, we are the fastest and often most effective humanitarian relief available. Everything that happens in missionary work, from the prayers that we see answered every day to the people we meet and the places we meet them, is simply a miracle.
I wish I could tell you more, but I don't have time :) Let me leave you instead with an answer I was looking for as I studied patience and endurance last week. It's one of my favourite lines spoken by an Apostle, ever:
Anyone who does any kind of missionary work will have occasion to ask, Why is this so hard? Why doesn’t it go better? Why can’t our success be more rapid? Why aren’t there more people joining the Church? It is the truth. We believe in angels. We trust in miracles. Why don’t people just flock to the font? Why isn’t the only risk in missionary work that of pneumonia from being soaking wet all day and all night in the baptismal font?
You will have occasion to ask those questions. I have thought about this a great deal. I offer this as my personal feeling. I am convinced that missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy. We are The Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, and He is our Great Eternal Head. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him? It seems to me that missionaries and mission leaders have to spend at least a few moments in Gethsemane. Missionaries and mission leaders have to take at least a step or two toward the summit of Calvary. --- Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
I share the same view as Elder Holland. Missionary work is hard, and requires something deep from our soul in order for us to learn, grow, and help others do the same.
Hope everyone is doing well. I love you all, and we are really feeling the blessings you are pouring out on the missionaries out here.