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.