It is no surprise that we have WAY more sisters than we did a year ago. We have grown, and grown quickly. We recently had a day long training with our sisters. Most of them hadn't even met so it was a lovely occasion for them to become acquainted with each other and receive instruction from the Sister Training Leaders.
We had a big storm here in England this week. It rained and blew all night. I woke in the wee hours of the morning to the sound of the wind. I looked out the windows into the darkness and could make out the outline of the trees bending to the force of the wind. In the moment I didn't know how much more blowing we had ahead of us but I knew that we were safe and the storm would eventually pass and I crawled back into bed.
When I got up at 6:30 I walked into the kitchen and this was the view out the window to the east. Dawn had come and with it a stunning sunrise in the East.
Sometimes missionaries just feel like they are caught in a storm, with winds blowing and rain falling and darkness all around. But, if they will just hold on...
It has been a year since we left our sweet family standing at the curb in front of the Suburban while we dragged our luggage (8 pieces, thank you) to the airline international check-in. What in the world was ahead of us? I was filled with emotions- some identifiable and some not- as we lifted off the ground in Salt Lake City, headed for London England.
I was sad. Sad that I was leaving behind a missionary who had only gotten home four days before we left. I could only imagine what I wouldn't be a part of as he settled back into University studies and playing lacrosse for BYU. That was hard. I felt like a really bad Mom and didn't really know what I could do to make it right. I could only rely on the Lord to love him and lead him while we were away. Sad that the other children and their amazing spouses wouldn't be coming for Sunday dinner for three years. Sad that little Jack would be six when we returned and we would miss out on those years in-between. Sad that we would miss the birth of his little brother or sister we had only just learned about a few days before. Sad that our little pup Scout would feel abandoned and would soon forget me.
I was nervous, oh so nervous. What if the members of the church didn't like me? What if the missionaries thought I was weird? Would I ever be able to give talks in church and feel anything close to calm? What if they didn't like the way I cooked? What in the world was I GOING to cook for so many people? What if they ALL hated me????? What was I going to do with my hair?
I was happy. Happy to be able to serve the Lord. Happy to be able to serve the Lord with David. Happy to be able to serve the Lord with David for 3 years, 24 hours a day 7 days a week. We had never had anything close to this much time together. In the busy world of caring for and providing for a family we were lucky to have 5 waking hours together a day, was this ever going to be different!!! David has always been my best friend and I was really excited to have this adventure with him. Happy that we were both healthy. I was happy to finally meet the missionaries behind the faces on the pages I had been looking at for months. Happy to get to know them and watch them grow. Happy to go to a country that I had always loved without really knowing why. Happy to be able to share with others the gospel of Jesus Christ.
These, and many other feelings, flew across the ocean with me. Taking up space in my thoughts as I tried to envision my life for the next three years.
And here we are. I could never have so perfectly arranged a year like the one our Heavenly Father has given us.
The moments of sadness were quickly replaced by the non-stop schedule that allowed for no pity parties. We had missionaries who needed us and we had work to do. Just taking care of their health was a full time job. We had trainings to prepare and hugs and encouragement to give out. As for those lonely Sunday dinners...our table has been surrounded with missionaries and friends almost every Sunday. And the family back home? They have been blessed. They are more independent than they would have been had we been there, and they have been so good to us. They call, take care of issues with home and cabin, represent us when needed and love the dog. Zach had a great year at school, fell in love and played lacrosse that we were able to watch some of, thanks to dear friends. (We love you Jennifer and Rick!) And that new baby? Our sweet Jenn and Andrew made sure that we were part of that birth and saw our darling Tess seven minutes after she arrived, safe and sound.
I also quickly discovered that there is no time to be nervous. Again, too much work to do. The days of worrying about speaking in church all week ended. There was simply not enough time to devote hours to preparing talks. I learned quickly to rely on the Spirit. Pray, study, ponder, jot down some notes and pray some more. I still get nervous but I am not fearful. We have been overwhelmed by love. Our missionaries are so patient with us and have loved us and trusted us. Our senior couples are amazing and work so hard. The members of the church have opened their arms and enveloped us with kindness. We could not have been treated better. I have learned that missionaries aren't that picky about food. They just want plenty of it. They are so used to eating their own cooking that anything I make is a treat and they let me know it. It is easy to cook for people who appreciate what you place before them. (Learning my way around the grocery store was a challenge, but lots of wonderful women helped me navigate that tricky path and I have discovered a treasure chest of new foods!) The hair? There is nothing as constant as change. On humid days, and in England most days are, I keep everyone guessing. What I start out with in the mornings quickly does what it wants to do when I step outside the door, and you know what? It just doesn't matter.
The happy part? Almost everything we do brings joy. We love being together, we are better friends and we do a pretty good job of reading each others' minds. Our missionaries are inspiring. They come to us with all kinds of life stories, some have made significant sacrifices to be here, some are so very homesick, some are timid, some are bold, some are over-confident, what ever they come with they allow the Lord to mold them into the missionary they are to become. We have shared many tender moments; births, deaths, sin and repentance...through it all they, we, have come to know our elder brother Jesus Christ. They have testimonies of the Savior and his atonement and they want others to come to know Him and trust Him as they have, and embrace the plan of happiness that He brought to us.
It has been a wonderful year and I find myself feeling sad that we have one third of our mission behind us. How quickly the year has passed. I will make the next 24 months count...every moment, every day.
The Book of Mormon Musical has opened here in London. (For anyone who has not heard, it is not a family go-to-the-theatre experience. In true South Park fashion, it is crude and mocking.)
Instead of letting the South Park creators tell the world about us, the church launched a positive advertising campaign explaining who we are and what we believe. The ads featured members of the church throughout the United Kingdom living their every day lives.
The theatre in the West End- who would have thought The Book of Mormon would have such billing????
The big ads in the tube stations.
In the passage ways.
President Jordan is always a missionary.
Charing Cross Station had almost a complete buyout of space-
We ran into a celebrity (of sorts) the man in the middle is the same man you see in the billboard above his head. He was just passing through the station.
The gentlemen you see on either side of him are Steve Allen and Greg Droubay from the Missionary Department, we were so fortunate to have them here with us for a few days. They shared their wisdom on missionary work with us and the bonus was that they were a lot of fun.
On the ceiling...
...and on the floor.
You can also see Mormons on 200 buses throughout town.
Our hope is that as people walk through the tube stations or see passing busses they will want to know more about The Book of Mormon and who we really are....and for those who see the musical..."The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people's lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ."