It has been kind of a long week. We made some pretty ambitious goals and had exact plans to accomplish them, but I guess it just wasn’t our week, because everything seemed to go in the opposite direction we’d planned. Wednesday morning we both woke up feeling really depressed and very unmotivated, so we spent a grey morning up until 9:00, and then just cried during companionship study for the whole hour. We were both REALLY tired and weren’t feeling too great, and when we prayed before we left our flat Sister Swapp prayed VERY fervently that we would be able to make it up all the hills and still be alive when we reached the top. The day got progressively and very slowly better from there, but it was overcast all day, which didn’t help much. But we did end up teaching quite a few lessons. This one investigator decided she wanted to take us on a hike up this big hill in Swansea, so we followed her up the hill, and that’s when faith in that prayer to make it up the hills REALLY kicked in. We were both dead tired, and our feet hurt, and our legs hurt, but we kept going, and she just brisked right up that hill, and we just brisked right along after her. It turned out to be a blessing because somehow it got our blood pumping and gave us more energy than we thought we had. This lady was so funny and energetic that we couldn’t help smiling and laughing when we were with her, even though she was taking us on a hike in skirts and Sunday shoes. She even spent ten minutes scouring around alongside the trail for rocks to place as stepping stones across this big, gross puddle to that we wouldn’t get our shoes muddy, and Sister Swapp and I just giggled the whole time.
It really is a good thing that normally, we feel the same way at the same time, so we can suffer and endure things together, and that helps a lot.
But honestly, this lady did more for us than we did for her. We think we’re here to teach other people a thing or two about the Gospel, but there are times when God sends someone else to teach us something for a change.
The ward has been preparing since I got here to go to the London temple for a stake temple day, and it just happened last Saturday. Can I just take a minute to say, I am very impressed with the members here, and their dedication to the temple. They don’t get to go often because petrol is too expensive for most of them, and many don’t have vehicles to get there. On a stake temple day they hire a coach to take them on the trip there and back, and most of the time the ward budget pays for it, but they’re running a bit dry, so they asked the members a month in advance to contribute their ten pounds toward the payment of the coach so that they could travel to the temple.
They left at 6:30 Saturday morning, and didn’t get back until about 10:00 at night. They are so dedicated to it though, which is exactly right, because the temple is the most important thing we can be working for. Several recent converts went through the temple for the first time, and a new couple who have been married for a few years were sealed. The husband was a member when they married, and his wife was baptised shortly before their first baby was born a year ago. So they’ve been waiting and working for the year toward the temple, and they finally made it two days ago to the temple for the first time, and they were sealed together, and had their son sealed to them. It was amazing and humbling to see the whole ward celebrating together for them, and you could just see the gratitude in their countenances for the ordinances of the temple. They are essential for our exaltation, and I’m so grateful to be part of a family that has set such a wonderful example for me in this area of the gospel, especially as I’m seeing my siblings and cousins making the step.
I didn’t realise when I came out on my mission how much I was going to miss the temple. I didn’t register that it would be so hard to go without attending for a full 18 months. So many times when I’m worried and stressed out, or sad or depressed, I instantly think of going to the temple to feel closer to our Heavenly Father, and feel the unspeakable peace that comes from the temple. I’ve felt it lift my burdens and lighten my load so many times, and instinctively turn to it when I need help. But it isn’t an immediate option at the moment, and I never anticipated going through withdrawals. Certainly one of the very first things I will do after coming back home will be to attend the temple again. I wish everyone in the world could feel the empowering peace of the temple covenants. That is what we are anticipating for every person that we baptise, and every person we teach, or even come in contact with. It is the most important place on earth.
It’s also been amazing to watch them prepare for General Conference. Over here they don’t get it on their TVs, so they all come to the church buildings and spend all day there watching Conference. They make a part out of it and have a meal and a bunch of food in between sessions. They also don’t receive the Sunday afternoon session broadcast, so we’ll have to wait until the addresses come out on our iPads to listen to them. It’s amazing how blessed we are at home with the things that we need. When I see these saints who don’t have as much access to temples and the words of the Prophets as we do, I’m very impressed and very humbled by their commitment to the things of the Lord. Sometimes we don’t realise what we have until we don’t have it anymore.
In terms of work, we had two investigators at church this week. One of them we walked to church with, and he was a soldier for over twenty years, and apparently the “Wadsworth strut” still stands in Britain, because he told me I walked like a soldier and then imitated my gait with his arms swinging and everything, and I thought, ‘I don’t really look like that, do I?’ I sure hoped not.
It was a tough week though. I think we are both getting sick, very slowly, because we’ve just been exhausted all week. Just walking around has been killer because we are SO tired by mid morning each day. I’ve been waking up with a sore throat the past couple of days, but I’ve held it off so far. But this morning Sister Swapp and I both woke up with sore throats, so we’ll see what happens.
Despite us being so dead tired and soaked one night, we went to see a member who lives WAY up a huge hill in the dark, and we didn’t end up leaving until 8:45, and it’s an hour walk home, halfway uphill. So we speed walked our hearts out, and I was so dizzy I almost fell over asleep even while I was walking several times. Then when we got a text from Elder Mthethwa asking if we were in yet, we decided that we needed to go faster, and that I needed to steady out my wobbly legs and get blood pumping, so at 9:15 we started running. Sister Swapp said that is the first time she’s run on her mission, and that I’m the first companion she’s run for before. Good thing too, because it was the only thing that saved me, and we got in at 9:31. We IMMEDIATELY went to bed when we got in, and slept SO good because we were so extremely tired.
The next day we had district meeting and exchanges right afterward, which was great for us because we needed a break from our area and walking. It was supposed to take us 30 minutes in the car with the STLs from Swansea to Merthyr, but there was an accident so the road was closed, and we kept having to turn around and take a different way, and then turn around again, and take a different way. It ended up taking us three hours to get there, so I fell asleep in the back seat for a couple of them, which was SO nice.
I went on exchange with Sister Grant from New Zealand. (Just so everyone knows, New Zealanders are my favourite missionaries. I haven met one that I haven’t liked a whole lot.) Anyway, we were walking down this sidewalk late at night when it was dark, and it was cold and really quite, and we were going down a hill, so the houses were above us kind of. And all the sudden there was this vicious barking right above my head. I guess there was a huge dog in the back garden of the house here, but he couldn’t get out of the iron fence, so I was safe. But I didn’t know that, so I screamed and started booking it down the hill, and I scared Sister Grant, so she freaked out and ran after me. I’m not sure how far we ran before we realise it was behind a fence, but it was a ways. Stupid mutts. I really don’t like annoying dogs.
It’s getting quite a bit colder here, and with it comes the rain and the wind, and let me tell ya, Welsh wind is STRONG. And they tell me it’s not even bad yet. Apparently they get high speed winds of around 80mph here, so I might just blow away this winter. Maybe I’ll end up down in Africa. I’ll show up on Brent’s doorstep one morning. This old less active we were visiting on Saturday was grumbling about the wind and rain, and she blames it all on “Those stupid Brazilians cutting down all the trees.”
A few things I might have forgotten to mention, just random fact sort of things. In Welsh, the f makes a v sound. So Merthyr Tydfil is pronounced “Mer-ther Tid-vil”. The double F, ff, makes the actual F sound. The double L, ll, makes a h/k/thsounds. The best way I can think to describe it is the sound Dad makes before he spits out a loogie.
Also, people don’t have yards here, they’re called gardens. The front garden, the back garden.
Let me tell you about Sían Box. She was baptised about a year ago and she wanted to go on a mission, but she’s in a scooter because she’s disabled, so she’s “on a mission” here in the Merthyr Stake, and she follows the missionary schedule and white handbook and everything. Anyway, she comes to all our zone meetings and sometimes comes down from Llenelli (try to pronounce that) to spend p-day with us. She makes up nicknames for all the sisters, and my nickname is Jo. I just thought ya’ll would like that. Well, actually, my full nickname is Jo Marie Q, but that’s too long, so it’s normally just Jo.
Well I thought I’d share a scripture with you that relates to this week, so I chose Isaiah 40:28-31. I’m sure some of you will recognise it from Chariots of Fire, Eric Liddell’s theme scripture.
“Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.
He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
I’ve sure almost fainted a lot this week trying to keep walking, and I’m sure it was only the Lord that was upholding me and giving me strength. I know that when I pray for Him to send angels to help me, He does, because I’ve surely felt them. I know they are attending all of you as well, because I’ve asked it of Him.
I love this Gospel of Jesus Christ with all my heart, and I love my Heavenly Father with all my soul. I know it’s the only way for us to have happiness and reach our full potential. Life wouldn’t be worth living without the Gospel.
I love you all so much! Have a perfectly fabulous week and have a great time watching Conference. We are so blessed to have a living prophet.