Monday, June 8, 2015

Almost home...(the last letter from Mom)

Dear Braiden,

I cannot believe that in less than three days you will be home! I don't think I will really believe it until I see you at the airport...and maybe not even then!

I know your dad wrote a long letter, in anticipation of me not having time to I will make this short. It is 2:11 am and I am still up working away.

Just a couple of items of advice...look around everywhere and make sure that you have everything you need. Look hard...I know you. Cameras, memory cards, journals, etc etc...the important stuff. And, sleep on the plane! I know you will be tempted to talk the ear off of the person sitting next to you, but they probably want to sleep too, and it is a looonnnngggg flight! And look so handsome...that won't be hard...but choose a lovely American tie with some color, instead of some of those charity shop finds you have picked up, and do your hair good. Maddie wants you to be so handsome when she sees you. We have a picture of you and Elder Munson at the temple, on the board at church, and everytime we walk by she says how beautiful your hair looks. We want the airport pics to be fabulous. And don't cry too much. I know that's rich coming from a cry baby like cry if you want!

Now that it's over, 2 years seems to have flown by...I cannot believe it. You have made us so proud.

I love you so much. Have a safe flight!

Love, Mom

Monday, June 1, 2015

"I didn't even think that I had hair on my ears..."

Dearest Mother Dearest,

You know me far too well. Of course, if I don't copy the questions, I'm going to forget to answer half of them. So, I'll dispense with the questions first, and then I'll carry on with my usual ramblings.

1. First of all, I was interested in when you would be traveling to the mission home before your flight? Do you head up there a day or two early, or just on Wednesday, when you leave? Make sure you don’t forget anything!

I'll be going to the temple on Monday afternoon. We'll have interviews, do a session or two, and we'll be going to President and Sister Millar's for dinner, and then they'll take us to the airport on Wednesday, and I'll sit in an enclosed space for a long time, go to Texas (I've never wanted to go to Texas), and then come party it up with you guys.

2. Do you need me to make a haircut appointment for when you get home?

Not necessary. I went to a Turkish barber this morning. It was great. He took a flaming q-tip and burned all the hair off my ears. I didn't even think that I had hair on my ears. I guess I definitely don't any more. How's it look?

3. We are planning on having an open house on Saturday night, the 13th, are you good with that? Also, Tay submitted his mission papers last Wednesday night, so there is a good chance that his call will arrive by then. Do you mind if we have a “Coming and Going” party where he could open his call that night as well? I don’t want you to have to share the night, if you don’t want to.

THAT WOULD BE SO COOL. Honestly? I'd love to have that. That's so much more exciting than me coming home. Taylor must open his call then. Well, he doesn't have to, but if he wants to, that would be suuuuuuper fun.

4. Other than the usual family and friends from church, is there anyone else you would like me to invite to your Open House?

Umm... Hmm, Nick, and Kayla, Patty, any of the Young Men (and Young Women I guess) in the ward/stake that you think could benefit from it, Ben Syphus probably can't make it, but I think it'd be good for him too, Andrew from next door, and anyone else.

5. Is there anything you need right when you get home, that I could get ahead of time?

A job, a girlfriend, and lots of horchata. Ha, just kidding. I can't even think of anything... I'll be able to go get most of the stuff I need over that next week, like normal-person clothes, and the rest. So, I'm not too bothered, really.

6. For you Homecoming on Sunday, did you decide if you wanted to do a musical number or not? It doesn’t matter to me, but I should probably ask someone to play the piano if you do want to. If not, I think Sister Findlay has been wanting Kate to play a duet with her, so we can also do that.

Thinking about it, as much as I love performing, I hate a one-man show. So, if Kate and Sister Findlay want to duet, that's fine by me.

7. I know I had more questions than that, but now I cannot remember. Is there anything you think I should know or do or anything???

Honestly Mom, there's not much I need... So long as I have you guys around, I'll be happy. Or, as happy as a missionary who has to leave a country, people and work he loves can be.

Alright, updates... This week was a pretty decent one. We raised a lot of expectations, and saw a ton of benefit from it. I'll share with you one miracle that we had that was particularly poignant from that. On Wednesday, we went out with Chris from the ward to go to a few appointments. We had two that evening that we were really looking forward to. So, we show up at the first appointment, and no one answers...  We decide to go around the corner to someone who was formerly being taught by the Sister missionaries. He wasn't home, but his sister-in-law was. We taught her on her doorstep for a few minutes, as she was trying to take care of the kids, and then got her details so that the Wandsworth Elders can start teaching her. Miracle #1.

Seeing as we had some extra time between appointments, and no one had eaten dinner yet, and I still hadn't gone out for a birthday dinner, I took Elder Fifita and Chris out to a noodle bar that had been recommended us. As were sitting there, a large Fijian man came and sat down with us. Elder Fifita worked his Polynesian magic, and twenty minutes, later, we had taught him about the Restoration. Boom, Miracle #2.

Then, we're hurrying to our appointment, and we see a woman who skipped an appointment with us a few days ago sitting next to a building. So, we stopped to ask her if she was alright. We resolved a lot of her concerns, set a baptismal date with her and met with her a few days later again. The other appointment didn't turn out, either, but we saw such great things from it.

We had to cut a few things we wanted back, though, as Elder Fifita's headaches are getting pretty bad again... They've been going straight for the three months we've been together, often accompanied by illness, so that's been worrying... We're going to see a doctor in Reading tomorrow about it all.

Not much else to report, honestly. I'll just catch up with the rest of it all next week.

Love you!

- Elder Green

Monday, May 25, 2015

"There's way too much to do to think about getting trunky!"

Sorry, busy day today... Ward barbecue for the bank holiday took up most of preparation day so far... I'm just hoping that I'll have time to hit the shops before they all close... They close so early here... Anyway, I'm glad that everything is going well back home. I feel like you're giving me less information by the week, but that's okay, I'll be getting it all soon enough anyway.

The week's been great, actually, we're picking up a lot of new people in these last few weeks, and seeing a lot of great improvement with the people that we're working with. So, I'm quite happy. The start of the week was kind of slow, since we had lost a lot of time last week with Elder Fifita being ill, but we picked up awfully quickly. I honestly thought that with the end of the semester, all the university students would be gone, but funnily enough a lot of the uni students are sticking around for the summer, so we're finding all these uni students who don't have anything to do but meet with us! Hooray!

No, but in all seriousness, it's filling out our weeks quite nicely. We're fairly packed for this last week. People keep telling me not to get trunky, but I don't even know how to. There's way too much to do to think about getting trunky.

A few of the things from last week: Millie's doing great, I just spoke to her last night, and she seems to like her home branch president. They had Stake Conference yesterday, so she's not had a chance to meet her branch yet... It is honestly kind of sad not having her here in the ward, but I'm glad that she seems to get on no matter what ward she's in.

Sarah's doing great as well. She's been having a lot of opportunity for spiritual experiences lately. As I said before, I recognise that it's a matter of when, not if for her baptism. So, we'll keep at it with her, and I'm sure it'll continue to roll on.

We picked up one new investigator this week that was especially cool. His name is Mark. When we showed up, I was a little flustered, because he told us, "Alright, you've got five minutes out here on the doorstep." So we tried to cover everything that was important, handed him a Book of Mormon, and started to explain about it. He stopped us after a minute and said, "If you haven't noticed, I haven't put the book down. I can feel something different with this book. This isn't just a book -- it's a lot more than that." We bore testimony, and committed him for baptism, and he accepted.

What else... I was accosted by a drunk woman again. That seems so normal now... She's one
I've met before, as well, when Elder Mercer was around. Oh well, c'est la vie missionnaire.

That's really it... I honestly can't think of much else to say.

Love you!

- Elder Green

Monday, May 18, 2015

"So, as I said, not really much to report."

Thank you so much for all the gifts... Honestly, you didn't have to. I loved the cuff links -- I've been showing them off to everyone. I've already filled up one of the notebooks with all of the songs I've finished. Also, the deodorant is fantastic (still seems like such a strange thing to be so grateful for...) I have yet to make the cake, as so many people have been so good to us... The Pinney's made a huge Victoria Sponge that we're still eating, and Sister Randall made me promise her that I'll come by this week so she can bake me a cake... Honestly, this ward is fantastic.

So, I'll give you a short synopsis of the week. It only needs to be short, because... Well, nothing happened.

Elder Fifita's been ill with something for over a week now, so we were only out four days this week. Monday was spent shopping for everyone back home, and then going down to Eastleigh where we were supposed to meet the other Elders, but they weren't able to catch a train, so we just bummed around down there until it was time to come back for a dinner appointment with Millie. Tuesday was DLC. Wednesday and Thursday we had to stay in, as Elder Fifita was ill. Friday was interviews with President, and then Mandy had us over for Fish and Chips for my birthday. She was so nice -- she bought a bottle of non-alcoholic champagne for us to celebrate. Saturday was another day inside, with Elder Fifita being sick, and then Sunday after church, the Pinney's had us for a nice big roast dinner. Let me tell you -- I love Sister Pinney's cauliflower cheese and cabbage. And they bought me all sorts of British sweets. It was really kind of them.

So, you may ask yourself -- what does a missionary do when his companion is ill? It's second only to being ill yourself in bad things on your mission. See, while he's there in the other room sleeping, and between telling him that he needs to go back to sleep and rest, you sit around and try to be productive. Calling people who said they'd meet up with up you sometime, trying to organise your paperwork, reading your scriptures (and trying not to fall asleep doing so)... I even cranked out a song that I'll see if I can send you. But it gets really old, really fast... I started talking to myself, just so that I had someone to talk to, and thought about trying to teach the construction workers out back, and then realised there weren't any there...

It all paid off in the end, because he's a lot better now, but man oh man, I pray that I never have to do that again,

At least on Saturday we had our iPads to play around with, but even then, I need to be in the same room as him where he can see my screen... So, we sat there for about an hour or so trying to plug in all of the ward list into our contacts, since England's got privacy laws where they can't put anyone's personal information onto the Gospel Tools app, unless they personally authorise it (which very few people do)...

So, as I said, not really much to report.

Our iPads are really cool. We can't use half of the apps the church has for us, because of the privacy laws here, but I've been brushing up on my Spanish, and my accounting notes are all in one place now, complete with charts and everything to show me how each area is doing. Also, the new pamphlets app is really handy. You should download it to your iPad, and Tay can take it out with the missionaries. It works really well, and has all sorts of resources that I've been dreaming of for ages.

Plus, I can now email you from the flat (as soon as one of our neighbours lets us use their wifi).

Anyway, I'm more than down to have Walker speak with me. That's going to be absolutely sweet. I would kind of like to do a musical item... I'm just not sure what yet. I thought about doing Jerusalem -- the one written by William Blake, as that's our mission song, but it's not quite the feel that I want... Maybe a piece from Lamb of God... I don't know, perhaps I'll write one that's appropriate for sacrament meeting by then?

Anyway, I love you guys,

- Elder Green

Monday, May 11, 2015

30 days left...but first, a Baptism!

My favourite back alley in Winchester...
can you see the photo-bomber in the background giving me a "thumbs up?"


I'm kind of with you, I was a bit envious of Elder Fifita calling home yesterday as well. (Braiden and I got to Skype on English Mother's Day in March.)  I felt like such a mom myself, because I was trying to make sure that he was able to call home. Because his family doesn't have internet at their home, and it's a 12-hour delay, we had to go through any channel we could to get him a call home... Which he finally did, this morning.

Dad said you did great on your talk (no surprise). You always do fantastically. I spoke on Sunday as well, and talked about you and Dad. Mine was on daily prayer, but I related it back to the way that the relationship I had built with you and Dad during High School made it so natural to call you about every other day at Uni, and how we should have that kind of relationship with Heavenly Father. I think that I've noticed that that's the way my relationship with Heavenly Father feels, too -- just as if He's another parent of mine. Praying to Him almost becomes just ringing one of you two up. It's become so absolutely enjoyable.

I had thought to send home a bunch of chocolate for a Mother's Day gift, but I know that you'd just have told me that it's not worth it. So, instead I've got a much better idea that I'll start on this week. Four weeks should be just enough time to finish it.

Well, the week was pretty packed with getting everything set up for the baptism. Had a few lessons left to teach her, and an interview with Bishop, and the baptismal interview, and all the paperwork... You know, the usual. In addition, we had so many other things coming up during the week... Moves day on Wednesday, Elder Fifita was ill again all of Thursday. I had two talks to prepare, as well as a musical item (I did sing Glorious), and breaking some really good ground with some of our other investigators... A lot packed in to one week.

Elder Fifita and I with Millie at her baptism.
So much good came from it, though. One of our investigators is doing really fantastically now, and she came to church on Sunday as well. Millie got baptised (Yes I have pictures) and confirmed, and is doing really well still. She got so many invites for dinner Sunday that she had to turn them down, and push back our DA with her. Elder Fifta having to take the day off was really good for me, because it gave me the opportunity to catch up on my Book of Mormon reading, mend some of my trousers, and I even had time left over to bake a pie for Millie's baptism (which wasn't as good as I would have liked it to be...I think I'm losing my touch with cooking).

I can't think of much else to talk about things are just rolling on, as they do. I've been grateful for the help that I've been getting lately to fit everything that I feel is expected of me into every day. There's a lot, for sure, but Heavenly Father knows I can do it all, even if I sometimes feel like I'm just running around without control of the week.

I will share with you one story that I thought was fairly poignant: I've started re-reading the Book of Mormon again, trying to finish it before I go to the temple, and the way I'm doing it this time, is that every time I start reading, I put a sticky note in with a question that I want answered, and then I go through and underline everything that I feel has relevance to my question. Doing so has really helped me to be more attentive to the Spirit. So, as we were walking through town this week on our way to an appointment (one that was not solid in the slightest with a guy who had cancelled on the doorstep last time) we decided to take a shortcut past the Cathedral. As we walked past, I saw a younger student sitting on a bench just thinking. So, I walked past him, felt the Spirit say to go back, and turned around. I asked Elder Fifita for a penny, walked up to the kid, offered him the penny for his thoughts, and then sat down to talk with him. Nothing really came of it, other than a fairly good conversation. In the end, he wasn't really that interested. But, I walked away and felt the Spirit confirm that I had done His will.

In her testimony the other day, one of the girls in the ward said something along the lines of, "I've never regretted keeping a commandment." The story made me remember that, and I know the Spirit always blesses us for trying to follow Him, even when we don't see what comes of it.

Well, Love you!

- Elder Green

Monday, April 27, 2015

"This week has been amazing..."

Standing by the 'naked man on a horse' sculpture that watches over High Street.

So, as I'm allowed to look up things regarding university, I did a quick look over everything there -- You're fantastic. Everyone of my professors has at least a 4/5 rating (except for one of them, who had a 3/5) so, that's phenomenal. AND with the refresher course before school begins! I'm happy, I'm really happy. I know it'll be a lot of work, but I'm also more desirous to do work now... Hahaha. The piano course will be great -- I wasn't quite sure what it was, but when I looked it up really quickly, it's exactly what I was wanting to do. It'll fill one of the four private instruction courses I need. I had been planning on taking two for piano, anyway, but this'll give me time to decide whether I want to do the other two in cello (like I had initially thought) or guitar, or voice, or... What. Also, the ratings of Professor Hancock are really good. I just need to make sure that I practice. Hooray for music! And Hooray for Men's Chorus!!!

This week has been amazing, all around. I mean, there's nothing that I can think of that didn't go well for us. I'm sure there were things that weren't so great, but honestly the good outweighed them so much that I can't remember anything off. For an update on Millie, she's doing wonderfully, like usual. We're starting to sort out the logistics for her baptism. She's been in Devon this week visiting grandparents, but we Skyped her on Saturday and had a lesson, and she was just as excited as ever. She'll be going with us and a few of the YSA to the temple this Saturday where we're going to watch Meet the Mormons. So, that's exciting.

More news about Millie (kind of), we were walking down the road the other day speaking to as many people as we could, and we ran up to stop a girl ahead of us. She's a Theology major with a really strong faith (which is actually fairly rare, considering the other Theology majors we've met). After talking to her for a few minutes, she was like, "Oh yeah, I know a girl who's Mormon -- her name is Millie." And so, because Millie shared the Book of Mormon with her, she's going to start meeting with us.

That same day, we talked to a few guys working on their car outside their house. It was fairly awkward at first, until another guy living at the house leaned out and said, "Are you guys Mormons? I've got a buddy on a mission right now." And with that bit of validation, we were able to grab an appointment for the next day, and leave that appointment with six new investigators, three of which soft-committed to baptism. Solid, yeah? We may be making Mexican food for them later tonight, but we've not heard back from them yet.

On Tuesday/Wednesday I was down in Southampton on exchange, which was really great. Elder Douglas picked the best day for it, because we ended up with two DA's, one at a carvery (a restaurant where the main course served is a roast, and you get unlimited veg) and another at an African family's house. It was really cool, too, because while we were there, it seemed like a lot of the people we met ended up having lived in Mitcham (and actually, our new investigator, who I mentioned earlier, was from Mitcham too) so I was able to connect with a few people on that point. Funny how the Lord does that, huh?

I'm almost tempted to stop telling you about all the miracles we've had, because there have been so many. A last one I'll share is this: so, we went to stop by an investigator up in Winnall on Friday, hoping that she'd be in, but as she wasn't, we sat down and spoke to her daughter and her daughter's boyfriend for a little while. Again, he knew one of the members of our ward, and had seen the Book of Mormon musical, so we gave him a Book of Mormon. After that, we decided to head back out and try by a few people. As we were walking down the road, a woman shouted from across the street and asked if we had a Book of Mormon that she could have. I had unfortunately just given out my last one, so we started talking to her and her friend. Turns out, she's a less-active member, and she's the daughter of one of my favourite families in the ward. After talking to her for a while, she talked about how, though she wasn't currently living the Gospel in her life, that she wanted her children to be given that foundation. So, with that, we've set up to go around and teach her kids on a weekly basis. Her friend said that she might come along as well.

I have loads more stories that I could tell this week about coming for dinner at the exact right time to teach nonmember relatives, working with the members to help with investigators' concerns, and the blessings that come when you start to know everyone in town... But, time fails me. And your attention span probably, as well. But, there has been one common thread this week: Most, if not all, of our miracles ended up happening because of member association. That's the key to good missionary work, when members have good relationships with people around them, those people want to hear about the Gospel, and then their lives can be enhanced far beyond anything they've imagined.

It's been a fantastic week, and I look forward to this next one. The whole mission's going to Crawley on Wednesday for training on using iPads for missionary work. We won't be getting them until next transfer (which means I'll have a total of four weeks to use it...) but it'll be really exciting. We'll be training with Elder Kearon and Elder Nielson of the Seventy.

Well, that's all. I don't have many pictures, because I figured I'd wait until after I got my hair cut, but I will send the one that I have.

Love you!

- Elder Green

Monday, April 20, 2015

Trains, Waiting Rooms, and Dodgy Indian Food...

Robert Frost...I have so much left to do, and not much time to do it!

Wow, heavy week... That all sounds absolutely nuts. To add to all that, it sounds like even more of my friends are getting their mission calls: Shanti just got hers for Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, and Rachel Playstead's sister Caitlin may be getting hers soon, and Patty's will be coming sooner than later, and Tay's... Good grief.

I saw the news about Banuelos yesterday evening when I nipped on to Facebook. I hope that his family's alright. It's such a blessing having the eternal perspective of the Gospel, though, isn't it?

Mom, Church travel has your picture on the wall right now with the caption, "Top Caller". It'll come when it comes.

Well, Millie is doing great. We taught her about the Word of Wisdom last week. She'll be on holiday this week at her Nan's, so I was going to see if we could Skype her for a quick lesson in the middle of the week. Things are getting set up for the baptism, though. We'll be getting all the logistics together with Bishop Taylor next time we see him. Things are getting moving with other people as well. I've been praying a lot for guidance and help so that the Lord can lead us to those people that need it, and we keep finding all sorts of miracles. Yesterday in the few hours between church and accounting, we were able to get two or three return appointments with quite a few young people. It was quite a Godsend, especially with us having lost a lot of the week before that...

We went on exchange with the Romsey Elders on Wednesday after District Meeting, so I was off with Elder Johnson for the day. Exchanges always seem to take so long, because it takes an hour to travel to Romsey with waiting for trains, even though it's really not that far away. We were able to teach their investigator, who now has a baptismal date again, and her dog just kept attacking me as we tried to teach. Goodness... Afterward, I was able to teach another one of their baptismal dates, in Spanish. I'm really losing it... It was pretty difficult just getting through the lesson. Oh well.

We finished off the exchange doing service with the other guys for the Gilmour's, and then headed home. Elder Fifita's been complaining of a headache for about two weeks now, and that he feels really cold (which is odd, as it's really been quite warm here, relatively speaking), but when we got back to the flat, he mentioned that he had woken up with a rash all over his body. Well, we called President and the Insurance company, and then let him sleep the rest of the day.

The following day, the Insurance company tried to set him up an appointment, but weren't able to get one at the Private practice for another week, so they told us about a centre down in Southampton we could go to. Trains took us about two hours, because the stop we needed is in a tiny little part of town and didn't have many trains going out to it. We finally got there, walked up the road, grabbed some chicken and chips, and then walked into the walk-in centre. There was an old lady sitting there, and a pregnant woman, and as we looked around trying to figure out where to go, we got really lost. We finally found a sign that said, "Walk-In Centre 16:30-21:30" Being as it was only around 12:30, we decided we weren't going to sit around there for six hours... So, we called the Insurance company, and they sent us to Southampton Hospital. The Zone Leaders gave us a lift, and the lady at the desk sent us to the Minor Injuries Unit. The sign said, "Wait time: 90 Minutes" 45 minutes later, the wait time shifted to two hours. And then two and a half... We sat there for nearly three hours waiting to see a nurse. Finally, the nurse looked at him and said, "Well, I don't see a rash on your hands anymore. Headaches will come from anything. And the coldness is probably viral. It's either something or it's nothing." Finally got home around 6:30, after buying some dodgy food from a little Indian market (and then throwing a good portion of it away when we realised there was mold on it.) Elder Fifita couldn't sleep that night because of the rash... Let's just say I miss the health care in the US.

I think that's pretty much it for the week. Zone Leaders will be coming up today, and this week we're making a real push to get things rolling the way we want them. Hopefully some of these people we've met will come through strong this week.

Anyway, love you,

- Elder Green