Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A move to Wigan and a new companion: Sister Maughan

What a week it has been!

Burt is doing so well. We gave him a study journal as a baptism gift and he has been studying and using it diligently. Helen is also studying so well! I'm so pleased! After the talks about welfare last General Conference I determined not to just help others, but to help others help themselves. That's what I see happening with Burt and Helen. They are finding answers to their questions through the Spirit and through the scriptures. Burt had been struggling a little bit with receiving the Aaronic Priesthood. He felt that he was not ready. We had a powerful lesson with him about it and the last thing he told me was that he made a decision. He'll be ordained this Sunday! He gave me the sweetest goodbye note. I laughed; I cried; It moved me.

Sam's goodbye was really tough! He bought me the most beautiful little locket to say thank you. In his Sam voice he said, "I thought you could put a picture of your mum or your dad in it...or Jesus!" It was really cute. He also insisted that I take the violin with me! It's not really allowed, so President Preston is keeping it at the Mission Home and said I can use it anytime I need to. President and Sister Preston are wonderful! If I had more time I would go on and on. Sam is one of my best friends! It was hard explaining the no-contact until after my mission policies to him, but I think he took it well. Bless his heart.

I had some shocking news this week. Leslie Wilson, the sweet elderly gentleman that was baptised in Lancaster, passed away. He had a heart attack. Sister Lau rang to tell me. I never, ever thought that someone I taught would die. In many ways I am so happy for him, though. He was always talking about how much he missed his wife, Dora, and now they are together! And He had the Gospel in his life! I don't think it could be more perfect for him.

Normally missionaries do not go to funerals, but because of our close association with Brother Wilson, President gave Sister Lau, Shen and I permission. The funeral was Monday (two days ago) and it was a great experience. It was a joy to be back in Lancaster! How I love that place. It made it that more acute that in two days I would be leaving another place I love so much. Anyway, his closest family are his two cousins, who never really got to know the church. Considering the circumstances, they decided to have it at the Lancaster Crematorium and it was led by a Church of England minister. He had never met Brother Wilson and just did prayers and readings. It was quite impersonal. He was charismatic but brought home to me again the power of the priesthood and how grateful I am to have the priesthood in my life. I also feel so grateful to be a part of this church where people are so giving and caring. Where no one is payed and everyone contributes! This really is the true church of Jesus Christ! There is no doubt in my mind.

Even though the funeral was a bit odd, I had a very significant moment. There was a congregational hymn, "Abide with me." As we sang, the Spirit enveloped me and I got this vision of Brother Wilson throwing his fist into the air triumphantly. With a smile, I thought silently to myself "Hurrah for Israel." We beat 'em! We found Brother Wilson just in time and he did it! He was passing the sacrament as a worthy priesthood holder on the Sunday just the day before he died. Now he is with his dear wife, who has been baptised in the temple. Not too long from now, the Lancaster Ward will do their temple work and they will be sealed together. What a miracle! They have no children and few friends. There would have been no one to do the work for them in the future! We really needed to find him that day. The Lord truly needed us to knock on his door! And we did! This battle is rigorous, and there are many times it feels that Satan is winning, but in that moment I felt a victory! We really won that one. Hurrah!

It's been really hard saying goodbye to Sister Lovell! She has been a blessing to me. Just thinking of how much I love her brings tears to my eyes! I am very emotional today. The sister coming to Withington is Sister Allison from Nottingham, England. Sister Allison came out the transfer after me and we had an instant connection. She is an incredible woman! We've done exchanges together that have changed my life. Sister Lovell and Sister Allison are going to work miracles in Manchester! I am so excited for them! The only thing is that I feel kind of like the little brother that didn't get invited to the party! I feel so connected to the people there and it breaks my heart to have to leave, but I know they will take very good care of the area; and I am so excited to be in Wigan!

I've always wanted to serve with Sister Maughan and I think this will be a wonderful transfer. I felt there was a change on the horizon and I am excited to get to work! Sister Maughan is from Cache Valley, Utah. She came out two transfers before me. She has a very pure heart and is gorgeous (I'm seeing a theme in my companions...). This is her fourth transfer in Wigan and we both feel that it will be a one-transfer-wonder (another theme? Sister Anderson is the only companion I've had for over one transfer!).

I know nothing about the area (I've literally been here for two hours) except that it is between Manchester and Liverpool and there is no University. It's my first area without students! I don't know what I'll do with myself! The ward here is supposed to be incredible. I hear so many good things about it. Also interesting: they have several French-speaking investigators! So I'm excited to dive in and get to work.

I love you! Go team family! Pray for me and my adjustment to Wigan!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Another Baptism and blessings of sacrifice

President and Sister Preston are wonderful! We've already met them twice (perks of living in their home ward) and they are just great. Sister Lovell and I both trust them completely and feel confident that the Lord is inspiring them to lead us. They are very English and therefore will have so much insight into working with the people here. I feel blessed to have two amazing mission presidents to learn from. Zone Conference is on Tuesday, so we'll have even more to say next week.

This week was a really amazing one for us. Paul McNulty was baptised in the Manchester South Ward! I've never had a baptism go more smoothly. I attribute it to our new Ward Mission Leader, Daniel Chester, who is doing wonderful work. We had the biggest turn-out I've ever seen (51) and the programme ran flawlessly. The speakers were concise, the music was beautiful and the Spirit was strong. I played the violin! It is one that our investigator, Billie, made. I played Come Follow Me unaccompanied because none of the ward's pianists could make it. I was definitely blessed considering I've hardly touched it in the last year!

Brother Knipe, the Stake Patriarch, spoke about the covenant of baptism and what it will mean for Paul. Brother Robinson, our previous Ward Mission Leader who is now on the Bishopric, spoke about the gifts and power of the Holy Ghost. Paul was sitting on the front row next to Elder Feith (my district leader, who baptised him) soaking it all in. The room was absolutely filled with love as the ward came together to welcome Paul. We showed a video clip from the Restoration DVD to the guests while Paul was being changed. He took a bit longer than we expected and so we also opened it up for testimonies. It made me appreciate the Manchester South Ward so much! Each testimony was heartfelt and powerful. When Paul came back in, he bore his own testimony and thanked everyone very graciously. Bishop finished us off by welcoming him into the ward and reminding him that now he has been baptised his sights should be set on the temple.

I have come to love this ward like my family! I feel so sad to be leaving (that is if I picked up on President Bullock's hints correctly)! Mum, you always used to tell me that coming home is horrible because you don't feel you belong, but since you are no longer a missionary you don't belong in your mission country either. You don't belong anywhere! I see now what you were saying. As soon as I am no longer assigned to these wards (Manchester South and YSA as well) I will no longer belong. Because I love the saints in Manchester so much I am tempted to come back and actually live here, but that wouldn't be right either. The Lord just wants me here as a missionary and then I have to move on.

One of the sisters in the YSA ward, Helen Smith, served her mission here. She was the trainer and companion to several of my first companions and each one spoke so highly of her. She's a legend in the mission. Anyway, now she works at the MTC. She taught Relief Society yesterday and the whole lesson was focused on the Doctrine of Christ (faith, repentance, baptism, holy ghost, endure to the end.) We mostly read 2 Nephi 31 and picked it apart one verse at a time (which I find is also a very effective way to teach it to investigators.)

She told us an analogy that she uses at the MTC which I really love. She said that she always takes her class up from the MTC to the Temple on an evening when the gates are locked. They think they are just getting a break and going for a nice walk. Imagine their disappointment when they can't walk right up to it because the gate is shut! Then Sister Smith turns it around and teaches that as missionaries our whole role is to stand inside the gate and invite others in. We invite them to be baptised (the gate) and then continue on to the temple (and Celestial Kingdom). Why would we ever hold back from inviting others in? I was just thinking yesterday about how there will never be another time in my life that I am set apart, chosen and privileged, to be a special inviter (no, that's not American or English...just Sister Davis) at the gate. I only get one chance to be the official representative standing there! Sure, there will be many opportunities to help others along the path for the rest of my life, but while I am here, now, with this mantle, I must make the most of it!

Missionary work in both wards is moving forward. We have only served in the YSA ward for four weeks and our investigator pool there is finally starting to pick up. The Bishopric as been discussing putting together a ward mission plan, which I think we will have some involvement in. We just met with Bishop Scott of the Manchester South Ward to put into action an idea Sister Lovell and I have been batting around about a missionary month. Together with the ward council, we came up with an action plan, with tangible goals and initiatives to get the members of the ward united in missionary work. It won't be put into practice until I've left, but I will take the idea to my next area and see how it is received! While we were having this meeting with the ward council, I felt the Spirit so strongly. In addition, I felt the mantle that we as missionaries bear!

Our other favorite investigator is still reading and praying. He comes to church faithfully every week. The members are starting to ask him when he is getting baptised because they see him so much. Nothing wrong with peer pressure ; ) At the ward council mentioned above, Bishop asked, "I think that having members follow up with one another would really build unity." to which I responded, "And peer pressure..." He quickly quipped, "Same thing." Humorous, but also true to some extent! There is a reason we are all here together. We need to remember that and utilise the power of synergy.

This transfer has been so building and rejuvenating. I feel that I will finally begin to be useful in his hands. I'm sure I'll be saying that again in a month and in six months! But it still stands true. I recognise the progress I am making.


Well, words cannot express the tide of emotions I have had this week. President and Sister Bullock gave their final round of Zone Conferences. Today they are at the mission home reading missionary e-mails as they come and doing some final packing. Tomorrow, the mantle falls upon President Preston, he and Sister Preston spend some time with the Bullocks, and then off they go.

As you know, President and Sister Bullock have meant something so dear to me and I almost feel as if I'm being separated from the family all over again! Except I can write you and I won't be able to write them.

I was blown away by the spirit I felt at Zone Conference on Wednesday especially during the opening hymn. "The Spirit of God like a fire is burning..." and it did burn through my veins. The Lord has accepted the Bullocks' sacrifice; I know it. I was blessed enough to be serving in Manchester South Ward at this time, which is their home ward, so I got to hear them speak one last time yesterday. The ward also asked them to do a Q&A during Sunday School (a little extemporaneous, but that's England for you). It was such a joy to see how much the saints in England adore and honour the Bullocks as well. I felt so lucky to be there to see it. Afterward, right before they left, I gave them a final good bye and a thank you letter that was literally bulging out of the envelope. I should have considered just binding it, it was so long!

I can't express what an impact they have had on my mission and my life. I will always love them.

I have been spending all of this time and energy thanking them because I know I will not see them for a while, and it just made me realise how much I take our family for granted. I am sorry I don't tell you more often how much I love you! It seems like it never comes up just because I know I can always write it next week. The three of you (and of course our extended family) have affected me more than anyone in the world! Heavenly Father put us into this team and I know we are all together for a reason. Just like a companionship, we can help lift and strengthen each other. We each have unique talents that make up for one anothers weaknesses. Together and united, we are unstoppable! I feel like I'm part of the best team on earth.

Well, I have exciting news! This week was wonderful for Sister Lovell and me. I was finally back on the road (literally and figuratively) after my recovery. Monday evening, a former investigator, requested a lesson and agreed to a baptismal date! He will be baptised next Saturday. The transformation we have seen in him this week has been magnificent. His testimony has blossomed and he cries in every lesson. He told us, "I've been secretly crying in my house all week. I cannot keep back the tears of joy!" He is truly humble and truly ready for this covenant. Along with progressing spiritually, the Lord has helped him to overcome some of his physical incapability. He's also improving socially. He was so excited to tell everyone at church about his baptism. He stood at the front doors greeting the ward and handing out invitations. He told us "I want to make a special effort to talk to the disabled members of the ward (we have a fair amount in wheelchairs) because sometimes they look lonely." Heavenly Father is blessing him, and I know that with the Gift of the Holy Ghost, those blessing will continue to flow. I literally care for his well-being so much, I feel like I'm watching my child learn to walk. It's a joy!

The YSA ward continues to grow in strength. Yesterday, one sister brought two friends to church and we are eating tea with her and teaching one of them tonight. We found out that I will be moved in three weeks (President always likes to spoil transfers) so we are doing a lot of work in the two wards to build member trust and make the transition to the new sister smooth. Sister Lovell is concentrating on learning the area and members so that the work will not halt. We feel a great urgency to lay the proper foundation for the YSA ward, especially. I really and truly want to leave Manchester better than I found it! [NOTE: This is one of our Davis Family Principles] I have come to love these people so dearly. I also love my companion so dearly! The way I feel about Sister Lovell is not that she has blessed my mission, but that she has truly been a blessing in my life. I consider her friendship to be a gift from the Lord.

Other than all of this love stuff, the work continues forward! We still receive opposition and we still experience disappointment, but right now the sweet is definitely overpowering the bitter. Which, in the end, is our choice, isn't it? I thank the Lord for how I have grown.

I love you! I know this work is divine!