Well, this week was incredible. It was litrally (ok, I keep writing it like that because I say it like that now...) a Christmas miracle. There's a lot to say, so I've dedicated some serious time to writing this one. If you continue, you're in for the long haul :)
Temple Trip and Christmas Dinner with President
Alright, let's start off with this one. We had the chance to travel all the way to East Grinstead to go through the temple with President Millar and his wife. (By the way, quick note, I don't think I've told you this: their names are pronounced Mil-ahwr, not Mil-ehr. Yes, every missionary is corrected on this their first day out.) Anyways, it was wonderful, really. The Temple is beautiful, and the trip was fun. We traveled through London Paddington Station and got to take the tube to Victoria, then off to Crawley (Home Sweet Home). Once again, I am the master of the tube :) I don't know what it is about public transport...must be a gift of the spirit.
We had dinner with a whole bunch of missionaries. I got to meet up with my old district, it was a very happy reunion. If eyes could hug :) The dinner was wonderful, held in the tiny little mission office. Ham and funeral potatoes (our president is from Idaho, OK? You'd recognize him immediately, mainly because I think all of his sentences start with "back on the potato farm").
It always raises your spirit and determination as a missionary to see other missionaries. Sometimes it's a little isolated in your area, and the situations seems more like "my companion and I against the world" when it should be "a royal army of God against the world." That's why I find district meeting and unity as a zone important.
The opportunity to go through the Temple was a blessing. I'm truly grateful. That, and I'll never take for granted living five minutes from one, ever again.
My first baptism :) Well, that I was on the same side of the world for, at least. Matt is a star, I probably haven't explained as much as I should about him, so, story time: Matt was found by Elder Ganta and Elder DeBry (the missionary before me in Witney). He was the only person who set a return appointment on a street of 400. Yeah, that'll happen. Literally "hunted out of the cracks in rocks." He's 23 and probably the most impressive photographer I have ever seen in my life. We helped him with an open gallery he put on. Oh my days.
He works as a tree surgeon, which is possibly the coolest and most dangerous job in the world. They adjust trees for the circumstance they are planted (like for ornate homes, or because it's attacking a power line, etc.). Basically, you have to know a ridiculous amount about nature, and you have to be a really good rope setter and climber :) (This nature knowledge drastically adds to his amazing photography skills). We've vowed to go climbing after my mission together. Party in St. George!
Anyways, Elder Ganta and I finally helped him set a date, which went through this last Saturday. Elder Ganta baptized and I was able to give the Gift of the Holy Ghost the Sunday after. Incredible. Also, unexplainable. It's like Nam, you wouldn't understand unless you were there. Ha :)
You'll get pictures soon. This guy is a star. He's really gained faith in Christ. It's the most amazing thing to see someone change like he has.
Skype Info and Christmas Plans
Right, other important stuff. So, our plans for Christmas have really solidified. We'll be spending Christmas eve on a boat with the Mathew's (I think you have pictures of them), Christmas at the Bowmans', and Boxing day at the Suttons...yay! :)
Now, the significance of these plans are this: the Bowmans' have crazy fast, super computer, fiber-optic cable of Skypeness. And they're willing to let us use it :) So, we'll go with 7pm our time, for now. I'll let you know immediately if anything changes. And by immediately, I mean, on a Monday. I have an account from my work in the digital zone, so that will work out well. I have the accounts you have given me as well, so I will be calling those around that time.
A suggestion that I have learned from past missionary's experience: come with stuff you want to talk about. Maybe write up a list. Ha, I know it sounds dumb, but sometimes these calls end up being an hour of nothingness, because neither party knows what to talk about :) So, yeah, I'll be able to answer a whole bunch of questions, quite easily. So ask stuff :) [Note from Meredith: We actually had a Family Home Evening lesson on this last Monday. We were given the same advice and have a list of questions on our fridge door that we are adding to regularly for our skype opportunity.]
Well, I don't know if you posted Jared's story, but here's the last part of the story. Jared passed away, due to a stroke during the night, a week after his baptism. I received an email from the friend that helped him into the church and the Elders that did the baptizing. And I was like, "wait, whaaaaat?" I had just got an email from him a week ago. That was a testimony builder of God's plan. It was also incredibly shocking, unexpected, and kind of sad. Not, like, despairingly sad. But sad because I had lost a friend. A friend who had decided to follow Christ, no less. I never thought I would be able to feel love for someone over the internet like I did for him. We were emailing regularly, even after I had left the area.
Obviously, these ordinances are important. Vital, even. Required, to the point that our loving Heavenly Father will spare someone's life just to give them the opportunity to accept Christ and follow Him. "God's ways are higher than our ways," and sometimes He needs a missionary on the other side, with repentance experience. Now.
It's really made me cherish the time that I have on this Earth. I try my hardest to never waste it. I hope that everyone can learn this for themselves, it improves our vision of the vastness of God's plan.
So, this family is like my favorite family ever. The father of the family is hilarious. He served in North Dakota, among the Native Americans, and is a history master. Also an army veteran. In fact, I've convinced him to take us on a hike through some of Oxford's historic sites. I still need to take a picture of their family picture, hanging in their front room. One of their children doesn't smile :) The mother served in Johannesburg. They're a very down to earth, loving, and serving family. They have us over to dinner every week.[Note from Meredith: I LOVE THIS FAMILY WITH ALL MY HEART!!!]
Check the travel blog, I'll be putting up a whole load of pictures. Even some in Crawley that I haven't shown yet. Also, I'm figuring out if I can put up movies, so look for those :) [Note from Meredith: Photos are on this website under the "Photos" tab or you can access them at his travel-blog via the button link at the bottom of the "Photos" web page. You can access the videos on my facebook page or at his travel-blog]
Thanks for Christmas
Sometimes it's really tough out here to remember Christmas, and to get into the Spirit. Getting those packages from the family helps a lot :) Just wanted to say thanks :) I love you all soooo much. Can't wait to see you!
Alright, I think that's it. Thanks for your support. Sorry to write a novel, there was just too much that happened this week.