Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Week 79.5: Homecoming

Since I've gotten some requests for my homecoming talk, I figured I may as well put it on here for everyone to enjoy!

SO HERE IT IS! My homecoming talk:

I learned a lot on my mission. I learned how to drive on the left side of the road, how to fix a puncture on a bike tire, how to get anyone’s number, how to speak in about 5 different british accents (see me later for that one), how to open a coconut, etc.
Today I’m going to talk about the more spiritual things I learned. I’ve summed it up into 3 main points. 1-I learned how to love the scriptures. 2- I learned how to love other people. 3- I learned how to love God.
With each of these things it is not as though the love didn’t exist before my mission, but I know that my love grew to a whole new level with each of these things.
In my first area as a brand new baby missionary I had decided one day to just take a few minutes of my time to sit and read the Book of Mormon. As I was sitting there, I suddenly just became absorbed in the stories. I felt them come alive in my heart, and the spirit reconfirmed to me that everything inside was true.
This newfound love and excitement for the scriptures opened my eyes to how they could influence other people’s lives. Later on in my mission, I had moved to a new area and was given a new missionary as a companion. My responsibility was to help her learn the ropes of missionary work. Things were rough at the start. We were similar in some ways, both wanting to serve the Lord, but she had moments where she really struggled with homesickness. One day we were speaking to people in the middle of city center, and I could tell she wasn’t feeling the greatest. I remembered a scripture I had read that morning, and I turned to her and said “Hey, do you want to take a 5 minute break with me to read a scripture?”
In the middle of the street I pulled out my quad and read with her Doctrine and Covenants 123:17- it reads “Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.”
Immediately after we read that scripture we both felt uplifted by the spirit and ready to speak to anyone. The scripture came alive in our hearts.
The scriptures are essential to our spiritual survival. Later on in my mission my companion and I met a less active family. We had seen their names on a map, but we knew nothing about them. We showed up to the doorstep and spoke to the father for a few minutes, and he invited us back to teach him. He explained to us that his wife would not like to learn, and that she would not appreciate a visit, but he would. Later that week we found out from the ward mission leader that the Edwards family had specifically asked that no one from the church ever contact them, and that when we had gone by it was the first contact they had in about a year. As we returned again for our set appointment,  Brother Edwards (the father) was at the door with his 11 year old daughter.
He told us how his daughter had accidentally told the mother that we were coming by, and that the mom was furious. I was a bit worried at this point that we’d be told never to return, but then he burst into a smile and said to us “She just called me a few hours ago, and she told me that she thinks the whole family should go back to church together.” That Sunday Brother Edwards and his daughter showed up to church. For 7 weeks after that Brother Edwards came by himself, and finally the next week the whole family came to church, and they have come every week since.
So what had opened and prepared this family to return to activity in the church? The second time we went to visit with them Brother Edwards told us that even though his family was not attending or having anything to do in the church, he would take any spare moment he could to read the scriptures on breaks at work.
The scriptures have real power, and I have seen how they influence and guide our lives for the better. I love the scriptures!
A few months ago in my journal I wrote “Every minute of your mission builds someone. You are always building someone else or building up yourself.” May I add, and oftentimes we are building both. As a missionary your whole life is dedicated towards helping others. We look to serve anyone in any way we possibly can. We pray for them constantly, we plan for them, we study for them, sometimes I would even have dreams about the people we were working with! The thing I love most about England is the people.
One of my all time favorite scriptures is found in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon. It says “But behold I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you;”
At one point in the middle of my mission, I was serving with a really great companion in a wonderful area. Things should have been going great, we had befriended the ward members and there were many people to talk to on the streets. However, we hit a rough patch. The people we were teaching were not progressing. One would constantly miss appointments, one would meet with us but never go to church, one spoke almost no English and school took priority over prayer, and one would call us constantly to complain about his drug-using house mate.
Don’t get me wrong, we definitely loved these people. We put our whole souls into helping these people come unto Christ, but sometimes people are not willing to accept commitments. My companion and I spoke about it and realized we felt a bit like the Saviour, Jesus Christ. He literally gave us everything, He offers healing, peace, hope, love- and yet, people still rejected Him. People still reject Him today.
My companion and I talked about how what we wanted was someone to teach who could be our friend. Someone who would be prepared and willing to listen. Missionaries are still human, and we still need friends! We knew that with God, nothing is impossible. That night we both prayed that Heavenly Father would lead us to someone who could be our friend.
The very next day we met Jessica. She is 23 years old, she has a car (which is incredible for people in Britain), she was Welsh, and she was golden. As soon as my companion and I had finished talking with her on the street, we knew God had answered our prayers. We met with her to teach her for the first time two weeks later. From the end of May through June, Jessica became one of our best friends. She absorbed the gospel like a sponge, and on June 27, 2015 she was baptized.
 Not everyone was like Jessica and willing to speak. Quite often as we tried to stop people on the street they would respond with “Can’t you tell I’m busy? Do you mind? How dare you walk with me! You liars! You don’t know anything. Mormons? Oh no NOT Mormons.”
When this happened, I wouldn’t walk away hurt, but I would remind myself that they didn’t truly know what they were rejecting. I know that each one of them is a child of God. At one point I even wrote down the names of all the people we met, just in case we would run into them again I could remember them. I gained more of an understanding of Doctrine and Covenants 18:10 which says “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;”. We are so blessed to know that God loves us, no matter what.
Heavenly Father:
The third thing I learned a lot about was my relationship with our Heavenly Father. I know my perspective on prayer has changed, and I am so grateful that He is always listening. One of my favorite things about teaching people about the gospel was hearing them pray for the first time. We taught people from all over the world, and many came from a non-religious backround. Some people have no idea that there is a loving Father above.
One time while I was in Wales we met with a lad named Jeremy for the first time. Jeremy was from China, and he had heard about God before, but he didn’t really know much about Him. We taught him about the restoration, and at the end we invited him to pray. He was hesitant, but he agreed. In the middle of the university library we all bowed our heads, closed our eyes and waited for Jeremy to pray. We waited, and waited, and finally I just opened my eyes a bit to see if he was going to pray. My companion and I made eye contact and we mouthed to each other “I think he’s praying!” We forgot to mention the pray “out loud” part.
We continued to teach Jeremy, and he would come to church, but he claimed that all he felt was “normal.” He liked what he was learning, but he still didn’t understand how God could be there. This went on for a few weeks, and finally we decided to just sit down with him and discuss the Godhead with him. We were talking about God for a while, and we shared some scriptures. Finally, I just felt impressed to tell him “Think of God like your father here on earth, but perfect!”
Instantly his face changed, he looked to me, then to my companion, and he went back and forth a couple of times. “You made me feel it!” He exclaimed as he pointed at me. “I can feel it!” We all began to tear up. The spirit was so strong around that little table in the library because that was the moment where Jeremy realized that he has a Heavenly Father who loves him.
In Matt. 3:17 it says “And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
God feels this way about each of us whenever we take the smallest movement towards Him. When we keep a commandment, when we serve others, when we reach out to others, when we stand up for what is right, when we speak to Him, when we take the sacrament worthily. As I have grown closer to Him through my personal prayers and experiences I know that He is there. I know that He loves me. I know that He loves all of His children. I know that He answers our prayers specifically and perfectly.
Words cannot sufficiently describe the experiences and growth I’ve experienced on my mission. I hope that the Spirit can testify to you that what I have said is true. I loved my mission. I love this gospel, and I know that it is the Gospel of Jesus Christ with my whole heart.

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

1. Going with my family to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir concert the day after getting home
2. On the flight home with Sister Thomson, Sister Lamb and Elder Ashcraft!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Week 78: A Marvelous Work

Hey world!

Wow. What a week it has been. It has definitely been one of the most incredible weeks of my mission. So many good things happened.  It was definitely one of those weeks where everything seems to go wrong at first, but it all works out in the end.

First of all, things were crazy. Ciaran, Ciara and Luke's baptisms were planned for Saturday, and we still had quite a bit to teach them before they actually got dunked. We phoned up the dad on Tuesday to make sure it was still OK to come teach them that day, but no dice. Turns out they had some event planned for that day for over six months so they had to cancel, but that we could come over every other day before the baptism. So we did!

Every time we went over the kids were so excited for their baptism. Luke was especially excited, and he would always tell us the countdown to when it was going to happen. "3DAYS LEFT TILL WE GET BAPTISED!!!" Yup. That a great thing to shout as an 8 year old :)

As we taught them about tithing and fasting, Ciara was a little worried about paying her tithing. She said she wasn't sure if she'd always be able to pay it through her whole life. We tried to address her concerns, but in the end invited her to pray about it. The next day was the day for their baptismal interviews (Friday). If you know about baptismal interviews, you know that you've gotta be willing to pay tithing in order to be baptised.

Friday comes along, and we had zone meeting. It was nice and inspiring (as always)and I gave my departing testimony. Just before the meeting, we got a stressful text from our ward mission leader about things not working out OK for the baptismal service to proceed, and we learned that there was no baptismal clothing to be found in the chapel we were expecting to find some. GREAT. Just what we wanted, more challenges! We made a few phone calls, but in the end just had to go into the meeting and wait it out. After the meeting, we checked our phone and we had a text message saying that the problem concerning the baptismal service was sorted. Phew! But we still needed baptismal clothes.

After zone meeting we travelled with out district leader to the Joseph household and each child had their interview one by one. Ciaran came back first and exclaimed "I passed!" Ciara was up next and she came back with a smile on her face and she told us she passed as well. Her prayers must have been answered about tithing :) and Luke came back last, and of course he passed!

Everyone was solid to get baptised! That meant that sister Nielsen and I had to go into full on baptism planning and preparing mode. Aka, beast mode. Luckily a member had sorted loads of things out for us already, so we didn't need to worry about food or who was going to speak or inviting people. We just needed to print baptismal programs, fill the font, and find clothes. Sounds simple, but little did we know what Saturday would bring.

So here is the rundown of Saturday:
9:30- we get a call from the member who was supposed to take the whole Joseph family to their own baptism, and their car has stopped working. We are instructed to now find a lift for 7 people.
10- call president Leppard to sort out confusion the bishopric had on when the kids were getting the Holy Ghost.
10.15 frantically call a member to ask them to type baptismal program (the computer at the church just so happened to stop working the day before.)
10.16- bike to members house, spend an hour figuring out how the format worked and finally we have it all together!
11:25- take memory stick to church and the printer also decides to freak out and won't print anything. Joy. Found one member to take 3 people from the family.
12:30- go eat Thai food with a member :) we love Thai food.
1:30- bike back to church and get one copy of the program to print, so we photocopied it 25 times to make programs
2- we realise no one cleaned the font-we cleaned it for a bit And began to fill it up. We also get a call from a member saying their car is fixed! Everyone can be there!
2:05- member arrives to set up food for the baptism, so we helped her out
2:20- we go through the baptismal clothing again and find that there are loads of adult sized ones, and one for a micro-sized child.
2:40 we practiced our musical item
2:50 people start arriving for the baptism, and two of the three kids get there.

I'm tired of writing like that, but you get the point. It was crazy. The font wasn't filling up fast enough, and the baptism was supposed to start at 3. Luke and Gareth (the dad) got stuck in traffic and didn't get there till 3:30, but everyone that came was patient and waited nicely. The baptismal clothes fit Ciaran and Ciara, but Luke's was too small, so he had to wear a massive jumpsuit. Basically it looked like he was wearing a robe. But he was smiling all the way through it!

Forty minutes late, the service finally started. It was lovely, and the Spirit was there. All 3 of the kids got baptised, and they loved it. They were so happy! So many members came and loved seeing everything. Miracles.

Another miracle is that all three of the kids were able to come the next day to church to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Honestly they were three of the best confirmations I've ever heard! The Spirit was wonderful, and the kids were beaming. We love them so much! In both Ciaran and Luke's it was talked about how they will serve missions, and in Ciara's it talked about how she will touch people's hearts through music and singing. It was amazing.

After their confirmation, I got to give a talk in sacrament meeting. It was nice, and about Christmas! Here is a quote I used for it:
"We all have complaints about Christmas- the hustle and bustle, theadded expense (a special burden for those who don't even have a job),the commercialisation. Besides, many Christian traditions have theirroots in pagan customs, and Jesus wasn't  in December anyway.
So who needs Christmas? We do! All of us! Because Christmas can bringus closer to the Savior, and He is the only source of lasting joy."

I'm pretty sure by now you might be bored or confused after reading this scattered email, but just know that I loved the week. I love being a missionary, I love seeing people change their lives, and I love the Lord. I have learned so much about my Heavenly Father  and my saviour Jesus Christ over the past 18 months. It is impossible to put my feelings about everything in one email, but do know that I have loved every moment. I know that this is the church of Jesus Christ, and I know that He lives. This work is definitely marvelous, and I am so blessed to be here.

This is my last email as a missionary, but as the scriptures say "there is a time and a season for everything." I'll see some of you soon. Thank you all for being amazing friends and family members, it wouldn't be the same without you :)

Much love,
Sister Slack

 teaching Ciaran, Ciara and Luke

zone meeting, sometimes you go crazy :)


posterity in the mission (minus sister grant). Two of my daughters,
my granddaughter and great-granddaughter :)

I ❤️ sister Nielsen

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Week 77: Follow your heart!

Hey world! Another week has come and gone. This week was incredible for sure. It was one of those weeks where everything seems to go wrong at first, but in the end everything works out for the better.

Tuesday started out stressful. We had a few important lessons scheduled where we needed members to come with us. Of course, it also happened to be the day where no one would answer their phone. I think I literally called about 20 members before someone answered, and they said they were working. I was a little frustrated, but we decided to keep trying. We had a lesson to teach Rhys (turns out that's how you spell his name, it's not Reese hah) where he had read some dodgy stuff online, and we needed someone to come. We also had a lesson to teach to the Joseph family, where we also needed a member. Finally, we were able to get a Member called Melissa to come with us to Rhys last minute. We could not have brought a more perfect person to resolve his concerns. He was worried about being judged for different things, and Melissa had experiences to share for all of his concerns. The Spirit was so strong in the lesson!

Later that day we were about to make the journey to the Joseph family alone, when a member (Sister Booth) texted us back and said she could meet us there. Sister Booth was great at helping us teach the kids. She is a teacher and was able to help the kids focus on what was important. Kieran (he's 12) was unsure about getting baptised. He told us "I don't know.. My heart says yes but my mind says no." His enthusiastic little brother, Luke (he's 8), then shouted "FOLLOW YOUR HEART!! No matter what you do always follow your heart." What a good younger brother! Kieran thought for a second, and then said "yeah. I want to get baptised. I'm going to tell my mom." So he got up from the table and found his mom in the other room to tell her his decision. It was awesome. The Lord always knows who we need and when we need them, sometimes we just need to take a step back and trust things will work out.

I had Pizza Express for the first time this week. It was pretty tasty. One of the wonderful members took us there, and it was not bad. Not the best gluten free pizza I've ever had... I mean, they didn't have pineapple to put on my pizza, but I enjoyed it all the same. One of my favourite signs they had said "no matter what happens, there will
always be pizza."

Sunday was another one of those days. We started the day frantically trying to get people to church. The next few hours would pretty much be us stressing out over how people would get there, and if they were actually coming. Here is how the day went: 7 am- receive late text from a member saying he hasn't heard back from Rhys if he is coming, so he isn't picking him up. 8 am-Rhys texts us that he still wants to come, so we frantically call the member. The member doesn't pick up for the next hour (Rhys lives about half an hour away from the church) 9am- we walk to the library to walk to church with a guy named Christian. 9:15-Christian didn't show up and won't answer calls, so we walk to church without him. 9:20- we are still freaking out about what to do about Rhys. 9:30-the member texts us that he is going to get Rhys and that they will be about an hour late for church (much better than not coming at all! He was a hero) 9:45-A guy named Ghyrmay biked to church and found it all by himself!  9:50- part of the Joseph family arrived to church. 10am- church started.

Then we had a wonderful sacrament meeting, and finally at 11 am Rhys was there. Eye then proceeded to have the best gospel principles class in the history of the WORLD. It was all about faith in Jesus Christ, and it addressed all of Rhys' concerns perfectly. The Spirit was so strong. After church we asked him what he thought about it and he said "it was very uplifting." Wow, that's pretty amazing considering he previously didn't believe in God!

I know God is there and makes things happen just the way they are supposed to. In the end, we had 5 investigators show up to church. That was pretty awesome! We had 4 less actives come as well, and two of them bore their testimonies. People. The gospel is the best thing in the world. I hope you know that, and if you don't, that's ok. Because it's always the for us to find out.

I love being a missionary! I hope you all enjoy this Christmas season.

Much love,
Sister Slack

Ps not many pics because the computer is broken, and I didn't really
use my iPad.
Meeting Elder Holland