Monday, November 24, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

So happy to get to baptize Steven Gutierrez today!

I'm glad you'll be having a nice Thanksgiving Dinner. I'm going to be missing green bean casserole this Thursday... Unless I make it myself. It doesn't look like anyone's invited us over, but we're thinking about maybe taking our lunch and dinner at around 7:00 or something, and I'll probably make whatever I can. If you want to send me any recipes (green bean casserole, your beautiful dinner rolls, stuffing...), hopefully I'll be able to print them off by the end of the day. I probably won't be able to cook a full turkey in that amount of time, but we'll find some way to make do.

Well, it's been pretty crazy all over the place this last week... Moves weeks usually are, but this one especially, it seems. Monday we had to get the other guys off to the train station, (we missed our first train when Elder Lika wanted to go visit one last person) and then Elder Smith and I were supposed to meet up with Elder Davies around 3:00 at the chapel. So, we ran and got kebabs for lunch, and then got a call from the Senior Couple saying that he wouldn't be there until about 6:00-ish... So, we only had time to go contacting that night and see one family, but it was good.

Tuesday was interesting... We were in a tri with one Elder from each area, so we tried to divide up the appointments evenly, but we had to spend a good part of the day getting stuff together for the flat... Our flat is, well it's not the greatest. When I came in we only had three spoons, and no proper knives. So, we've been improving it slowly. We might paint the bathroom soon, as it's pretty bad.

Wednesday was getting the new guys, eating french toast, cleaning the flat and picking up a few other necessities before the new missionaries turned up. Our missionaries are so good. Elder Ocando, my companion, is from the Canary Islands (named actually for the wild dogs on the island, not the birds), and he's really humble. We're trying to use Spanish as much as we can, but we've decided not to teach Spanish Investigators. Still, we contact them, and then refer them over to Kennington. The other two guys I live with are Elder Davies from Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, and Elder Turner from Stroud up north. Both are fantastic flatmates, and I really enjoy working around them. Over in Streatham are Elder Smith, who I've been with for a little while, and Elder Wheatley who's also from up north. So, Elder Smith and I are the lone Americans in the District...

The rest of the week we spent working. Quite a few appointments fell through, as usual, but in those gaps we were able to meet quite a few really great people. Saturday was especially testimony building when it came to that. The Zone Leaders have started up what they call "Consecration Saturdays", where we spend the first three hours of the day finding, and fasting for those hours. Well, we went out convinced that it was going to be a good day for finding, despite a bit of rain, and... Nothing. Well, I can't say nothing. We had four really good conversations in the three hours, but nothing really came of any of them. It seemed to be spaced just enough that I didn't give up hope. We tried a number of different ways of doing it. For part of it, I just stood in the middle of Clapham Common, played guitar for fifteen minutes, and then tried to talk to anyone who had been around, and it really softened a man named Claude's heart. But still, not much came of it.

After that, we went to the chapel, ate our bread and salami, and did some paperwork. I prayed to ask God for forgiveness for not working my hardest, but felt a confirmation that I had done what I needed to do. After a bit of work, I felt prompted that we needed to leave, and so we packed up and left the chapel. On our way out, over to an appointment, two men stopped me and asked if I would tune his guitar. One of them had dated an LDS girl as a teenager, and so knew a bit about the church. We invited them to a party at the church that night, and they actually turned up, which was great. They enjoyed it a lot, and promised to come to church, but didn't turn up. I have their phone number, though, so I'll continue to follow-up.

Stake Cultural Evening...I am representing Africa.

We also met another woman that same day named Violette, in about the same place. As we spoke to her about Eternal Families, and the Book of Mormon, she said, "Finally, someone who thinks the way that I do!" It was great, we asked if we could come around and she set the appointment herself, and gave us her number and everything.

It all just goes to show that the Lord has greater things in mind for everything.

I'm really excited for this next few weeks. I've started to notice a lot of members that really want to get their friends and family involved with the church, and so we're going to be working with about four different individuals/families and their friends to get things going.

Anyway, sorry, this is a long one. My legs are fine. They've improved greatly. We go running now every morning, which I couldn't do three months ago, my knees were far too weak. We'll be seeing Elder Cook tomorrow, and will be at the temple later this month -- I'm not sure what day. And as for a Christmas package, I did remember a few other things that would be very appreciated: the cuff-links I told you about with ampersands (&) on them, deodorant (it's terrible here: all they have is the spray on stuff, so a few sticks of SpeedStick), and Altoids. Honestly, that's about it.

Well, love you so much!

- Elder Green

Monday, November 17, 2014

"Come Unto Me"...A Lesson Learned

Well, best news first...Elder Quentin L. Cook's coming next week, and so we'll be going North of the river to Hyde Park to see him. Fantastic, yeah?

So things here are starting to pick up quite nicely. As I've noted, it's been a rough transfer... I've really struggled. Not because of difficulty in the work, or personal problems, but we've had difficulty within the District, and as District Leader, that's always hard. And it can be difficult when you work so hard the entire transfer, praying, and seeking counsel from the Zone Leaders, and praying again, and talking to the District---and you don't see a change. Or you do, and then it goes back to how it was.

But, this is what the Lord helped me to understand from it, and I only realized this over the weekend at Stake Conference: There's a scripture in the eleventh chapter of Matthew that I've come to love on my mission, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

The Lord says that His yoke is easy and his burden light, but being yoked in the first place means that you're working. And we'll work, and the burden will be there, and we'll struggle. We honestly will.

But, what He promises is rest unto our souls.

That's important.

When the transfer's over, and you look at the work that's been done, and you've fought and struggled and prayed and prayed and prayed and prayed, and you've done everything that the Lord asked you to... And it still doesn't work? Then you can rest assured because the Holy Ghost will testify to you that you have done what you could, and you have worked your hardest.

I love this transfer, difficult though it was, because I came so much closer to the Lord through it, and I gained so much thereby. Last week was the best week we've had all transfer. All. Transfer. We saw so much progression: We have another investigator (James) who's now committed to baptism on the 20th of December. We found him because he wanted to learn to play the piano, and so I've been teaching him that part time, and teaching him the gospel more than part time (wouldn't Sister Findlay, and Brittany, and Billie Jo be proud!). Phoebe's really excited about everything we teach her, and Maxwell is willing to come back to church, and is getting ready to baptize her. She's so great, every time we visit, she either says, "Hey, Javin, when you're Elder Green's age, you can be a missionary just like him!" or, "Wait, so can I go volunteer in the temple? Can I get my Grandmother's work done?". We find new people every day, and I'm able to use my talents to find them.

Going away party at the Santana's with the BYU Sisters.
Of course, with plenty of Guarana.

Oh, and the Lord's been blessing me on the side with inspiration for music, so I've finished another song, with yet another almost done.

So, now Elder Ocando and I get to strike up a new transfer, and figure out how to use the Spanish Members in this area... It'll be a fun adventure. Elder Smith and I are really excited to see what happens.

I love this Gospel; I love the Lord; I'm so glad to be here, even though it's hard, sometimes.

Anyway, love you!

- Elder Green

P.S. I finally made it.

I saw this... and I just had to...

I'm here. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Hot Chocolate, a Polish Guy, and the Salvation Army

Super exciting about Hen! I actually hadn't seen that yet, but I'm glad that's where he was sent. I guess having been on a mission this long gives me a different perspective, and understanding the things I've learned here gives me a little bit of a peak at what he'll end up learning there. Anyway, super stoked.

Man, so cool about Dad interviewing with Elder Andersen! I'm so jealous. It's crazy how efficient the church has to be in situations like that. It's the same with President's Interviews (which are on Wednesday this week), you get 15 minutes, and it's usually not a great thing for them to go over that... They pretty much go like this:

President: Elder Green, how's everything going?
Me: Good, President!
President: How's your family doing?
Me: Yeah, everything's fine.
President: And the District?
Me: Doing well.
President: How do you feel?
Me: Good.
President: Good, any questions?
Me: Nope, not really.
President. Cool. Will you offer the closing prayer?

There's a bit more meat in there, but honestly not much. It might be an interesting one this transfer considering all that's gone on, but that's fine. I feel really good about the effort I've personally put in, and can see a bit of the path that I'm wanting to chart from here. Rachel Playstead kind of hit on it in an email she sent me. She was mentioning a conversation she and I had forever ago about how when we were kids, we just thought, "Man... I don't really have anything to repent of... I guess I'll say sorry for being mean to my brother again." But as you grow older, you gradually become much more self-aware, and understanding of your own difficulties and problems, as well as those of the people you work with. And you're actually able to chart that course, and move forward to the next way-point.

Yes, everything has been going better. It's been a super difficult transfer, in all honesty. I've struggled a lot, I have. But, I explained to another missionary that it's given me a lot of time to spend on my knees, and I feel closer to the Lord for it. I'd fill you in on more of the details if I could, but I don't know that it would be wholly appropriate to. I promise I will when I get home. Or maybe at Christmas, which is coming up!

So, the beginning of the week was a fair respite from all of that difficulty, but I can't seem to escape it, hahaha. Elder Smith and I went on exchange on Thursday, and had a really good exchange. He's a fantastic juggler, and so we went juggling in the park to try that as a contacting method, and it helped a bit. We were having our exchange review, as...

Both our companions run inside. "We need a Polish Book of Mormon". Run downstairs. Run inside. Hang on, need Polish pamphlets. Run downstairs. Phone call, "Hey, make us some hot chocolate." Text from Bishop, "Here are the directions to the Salvation Army:..." Run inside. "Where's the hot chocolate?" Run outside. Phone call, "We're going to need to extend this exchange a bit..."

Elder Lika and Elder Westra met a Polish guy down in the park who we had talked to a bit earlier, and had been juggling for. Turns out he was homeless, but due to the lack of communication and the language barrier... It went pretty haywire. And so our exchange turned into a two day exchange, where Elder Smith and I tried handling two areas at the same time. By the end of it, they kind of realized that we don't have any of the resources to handle a situation like this... But it was confusing for us. Elder Smith and I ended up going back to my flat that night, since they had taken our key, and I knew where there was a key hidden for our flat... But, we made the best of it, and felt the Spirit really powerfully working through us throughout it all.

I hope he's alright. He's since disappeared.

Anyway, the area's coming along. Phoebe and Maxwell are doing well, we'll be seeing them soon. We have a new woman we're teaching named Daniela from Romania. She's fantastic. I wasn't there for the actual first teach, but Elder Westra explained it this way: "You know when you practice teaching with other missionaries, and they give you all the right answers, and you're frustrated with them because you're like, 'No one ever does this in real life! Give me a real life situation!' Yeah, it was kind of like that. But in real life." So, she's hopefully getting baptized on the 13th of December.

That's life in a nutshell right now! Transfers are next week, and it's a toss-up what might happen. I feel like it could go either way at this point. I know I've only been here a transfer, but a lot has happened in six weeks. Who knows. Either way, President said we'll arrange for me to take my driving test right after transfers.

Love you!

-Elder Green

Monday, November 3, 2014

"Consecration Week"

The Halloween sunset, from the roof of our flat.

It's funny that you guys had a quiet Halloween, because we did as well. Halloween's weird here in England... They just haven't quite gotten the hang of it. They try to go trick or treating, but not even half of people really do it... So, it's mostly parties, and the pubs filled up with people drinking in costumes. It's interesting, for sure.

We spent a lot of time contacting earlier in the day, and then towards the evening we tried to set up some appointments, but they didn't come through... Which is a shame, but oh well. We ended up going to one of the only Chipotle's in all of England for dinner, and it filled my soul with such joy to taste a burrito that's actually a burrito. Oh, the simple things in life.

The rest of the week was spent contacting. President Millar dubbed last week, "Consecration Week", as I mentioned before, which meant that we were to contact for four hours every day. It was really a good experience. I know that even with the fact that the appointments we set up with those people didn't come through, we experienced a lot of good. And plus, we were able to show the Lord that we were willing to do what He asked of us.

P-days... I probably should've talked about this first. We went up to South Bank again, and walked around. We made it all the way to Tower Bridge, and it was fantastic. The architecture around Central London is really beautiful, and the artwork everywhere is so fantastic.

As a quick update on the great miracles with investigators this week, I don't know that I've told you about Karri yet. So, we're not actually teaching her, but Elder Jackman and I found her in Clapham Common. She's French, and isn't completely fluent in English, so Sister Catogni and Sister Brinco, who are both French, are teaching her. She has showed me so much faith. She came two Sundays ago, and really enjoyed it ... Following in that week, she met with the sisters a ton of times, went to two English classes at the church, went to Institute on Wednesday, and went to the temple on Friday, and when I saw her yesterday, she couldn't stop talking about how wonderful the temple was. It was really amazing, honestly. She told us at English Class that when she comes to the church, it just feels good in her soul.

Also, we're still working with Phoebe and Maxwell. Phoebe's so wonderful. She's shown so much faith, and desire to come to church, even with her husband's concerns as a less-active member. She came to church by herself with her two kids, yesterday, and started writing down scriptures that they mentioned in the lesson that she wanted to read for herself. She was super excited to have a Gospel Principles book that she could read through for herself (which reminded me a lot of Terena, when she was investigating). Honestly, we've been so blessed to work with such brilliant people.

Oh, and another cool thing that happened this week...we were walking out of Oval tube station, on our way to a Dinner Appointment, and just as I walk out of the turnstiles, two or three young people standing around saw my guitar and said, "Hey! Play us something!" Elder Lika had run off ahead, and so I yelled for him to come back. When I turned around, one of the girls saw my badge and got really excited. Turns out, they were all Catholic, and were on a missionary conference tour. She was so excited that we were also missionaries for Christ, and ran up to give me a hug, so I stood there awkwardly, because that's what missionaries do when people try to hug them... Anyway, I played them a song, and as I did what was once three people turned into like, fifteen. Then one of the guys borrowed my guitar, and played us a song. I caught on to the lyrics quickly, and sang along. We said goodbye and were on our way. I thought it was great how they didn't even draw lines, they recognized that we were Christian, and so were they, and we were able to share that together.

Well, no Typography Museum today... Turns out it's closed for maintenance, and I'm not sure when it reopens... But, we'll be meeting up with the Zone for sport.

A Red Fox...we see them everywhere!

Love you guys!

- Elder Green