It sounds like you all had a good week and that you survived Halloween. And I am happy to report that I did as well! Phew! It was kinda boring because we had to be inside our flat by 6:00, so we just sat around for three hours before going to bed. I just used the opportunity to study some things I haven’t had the time for and it was REALLY nice. I never have enough time to study anything it seems like.
On Wednesday we did some volunteer work for the Poppy Appeal. Basically we sat at a table with poppy products on it and took donations from people who wanted to buy poppies for Remembrance Day. On November 11th they remember al those who have fought in the wars, pretty much like our Memorial Day, and everyone wears their poppys. They actually wear them for several weeks beforehand, but really they are just preparing for the eleventh. That was pretty good, but pretty bad at the same time. The good part was that I didn’t have to walk anywhere at all, but the bad part was that it made me really tired to just sit there, and also because we couldn’t talk to anyone about the gospel unless they asked us, which is really hard to do when that is your purpose 24/7.
That night we had a ward social for bonfire night. On the 5th of November here they celebrate Guy Fawkes Night. Basically, one time this guy tried to blow up Parliament, but he didn’t make it, so they celebrate. I guess when they caught the guy he was sentenced and they ended up burning him to death, so now they celebrate with a bonfire with a figure of a dummy on it. And I thought American’s Halloween was dodgy. 😟 They also celebrate with a LOT of fireworks, which I loved. You know, the closest thing to the annual Thanksgiving explosion. Wednesday wasn’t even the fifth of November though, it was just the date for the ward social, but we still set off a whole bunch of fireworks anyways, because it was really fun. Saturday was the real bonfire night, and there were a TON of fireworks going off until about 2:00 in the morning. Sometimes it was really cool, but when I was laying in my bed in the dark it sounded like there was a war going on outside. Walking around the streets after dark was an interesting experience this week, because the people get ready for bonfire night by setting off fireworks randomly every night for the week leading up
to Guy Fawkes Night, so all the sudden fireworks would just start popping off and it seemed like shells were exploding all around us, and sounded like machine gun fire on a battlefield. Sometimes it was kinda startling and eerie, but once I got used to it, it was a neat experience. I’m not all too sure how many thousands of dollars of fireworks the city of Swansea set off Saturday night, but it must have been a lot.
Something that has stuck with me a lot this week has been working with the refugees, which we did on Thursday night for the first time. A wonderful member fed us dinner, and then took us to a local downtown church which serves as a refugee centre several nights of the week. Here the people play games with one another and volunteers, are fed a curry dinner–donated twice a week by a local restaurant–and taught an English class afterwards. Volunteers come in to just talk with them and play games with them, to help hem practice their English for job interviews. We also sit in the classes with them, to help them understand things that are difficult, or to practice the new English right there. While we were there we sat down with the refugees who were playing games and chatting, and talked to them for a little while. Then they brought out the curry dinner and it was amazing how quickly everyone shot up to get in line for food. Most of these people are very slight, and I’ve no doubt they really understand what a blessing food is. We washed their dishes–which just kept coming and coming–in a small kitchen with tiny sinks and cold water. But it was amazing how happy everyone was, including the volunteers that were there. Everyone who brought their dishes in to us was just smiling and beaming, and they were so grateful, and thanked us many times over.
There was one man whose name was Sam. He was a refugee, I think from Syria, and he was a good leader for the refugees there. He washed the dishes with us, and spoke to us while we were working. He was so happy all of the time, and so thankful we were there. I honestly don’t know if I’ve had much of a better time than in that cold little kitchen, because of the atmosphere that we were in. These people just loved us immediately, simply because we were there. They basically had nothing at all, and viewed us as some kind of saviour to them. Their eyes, and their countenances and smiles were so full of love and hope, simply because we were there helping them; and we weren’t doing anything except washing dishes! Because we came to help them, they loved us immediately, and I couldn’t help loving them just as much. The majority were men, but there were quite a few women, children, and babies, and they were just darling! Most of them came from Sudan; most hadn’t been here for more than a year. They had crossed over from France into southern England on small boats. One man came over hanging on to the side of a ship. One woman there had a baby that was around a year old, and I couldn’t help thinking that she was probably pretty heavily pregnant when she came over.
In the attic of the church was an enormous mound of clothing and bedding that people had donated, and we began sorting it into more organised piles, and did that for a couple of hours, while the people were having an English lesson down below. One of the mothers helped us in the attic while her baby was sleeping in a stroller, and while we worked we heard her story concerning all she went through to get over here. Everyone is so grateful to be here. Swansea isn’t a particularly nice place when we’re discussing the world standard, but it is loads better than what they’ve been used to before, so they are very happy for the time being. They just want a better place to live. When I speak to them, they ask me where I am from, and when I tell them I am from America, their eyes pop and they exclaim, and get very excited, and ask to hear what it is like to live in America. It just makes me so grateful for my home and the security of our country, even if it’s a little bit uncertain right now. We have a lot more than we think we have. We seem to be using too much of our energy quarrelling amongst ourselves, and not paying attention to what is happening outside of our American bubble. We as a nation are wasting too much effort on ourselves, and not looking beyond. What a blessing it is for us to have our homes in such a relatively free and safe country. As we were driving home that night I couldn’t help thinking that I actually had a bed to go home to, and a roof over my head, and food in the fridge, and thinking that most of those people probably didn’t have that. I thought about how I had money to go to college, and to come over here for a year and a half, and not want for anything. I was even grateful for the meat on my bones! How grateful I am for the goodness of the blessings of Heavenly Father upon us all.
On Friday we helped the recent convert who was baptised a week ago paint her house, and I was really grateful to not have to wear proselyting clothes. I’m really grateful for all the years of house painting I did, because most of the others had never painted anything before, and they knew it looked bad, even if Kayleigh (the recent convert, who want to decorating school and knows how to paint really well) said it didn’t. So she just had them slop the paint on, and then she and I and the young man the elders baptised last month fixed it all up and did the finishing touches, and it looked great!
Sister Gjevik and I have been teaching this one guy for a while, and he’s been pretty okay, but lately he’s gotten really weird and we’ve both been getting strange vibes off of him. Then Kayleigh started talking to us about weird things she got from him as well, so we got really weirded out, and kinda scared, because really he was acting SUPER weird, and the Spirit was making sure both of us felt that. So we talked to the zone leaders about it and made a plan. We set up an appointment with him for Saturday afternoon when the elders were doing the poppy appeal, but instead of us going to the appointment to teach him, we took over the poppy appeal while they went to our appointment for us and told him that we had been caught up with something else, so they’d come to teach him instead. I felt kinda sneaky, and part of me felt kinda bad about it, but the spiritual part of me didn’t feel guilty at all, because I knew that was what was going to be the best, and that the elders would be able to figure him out.
So we sat there in Tesco at the poppy appeal booth for a couple of hours while the elders were gone to our appointment. Then we got a text from them saying that they had a weird lesson, it was over, and now they were walking back….and the investigator had decided to come with them, and they didn’t know how to get rid of him. So there we were sitting in Tesco while they were all heading in our direction, and it was bound to be a really awkward situation. So the elders tried to deviate from their course by saying they were going down to the beach before they took over the poppy appeal, so they split paths with the investigator and called us while they were walking along the beach. So we were talking to them when the investigator walked into Tesco and saw us. So we hung up real fast and put on a really smooth act for him. Then while we were talking to him (which was really uncomfortable by the way, because he was acting so creepy) the elders walked in the door behind him, so while the creepy man was talking to Sister Gjevik I made some discreet motions to them, and they all scrambled back out the door and waited in the parking lot until we FINALLY got rid of him. Phew. It was a close call, but all ended well, and we can thank the elders for helping us decide what to do about our strange friend.
We had the chance Saturday morning to do a bunch of finding, and found some promising people that we will try and work with this week. We even got a media referral! Which never happens. And something else amazing was that we were actually able to contact her, which also rarely happens. Our finding has improved so much and we’ve definitely been able to feel everyone’s prayers for us. Tell the kids that because they’re praying for it, we are finding the people Heavenly Father wants us to. 😊
Well I hope I haven’t bored you with too many stories this week. People here have been quizzing me about my views on the election coming up, and I just tell them that I DONT want to view it because I don’t think I could handle it. I just want someone to tell me when it’s over and lay it on me quick. Maybe I’m pretty lucky I’m in the UK for this. I just try not to think about it, which isn’t too difficult most of the time. I really don’t like when people try to discuss politics with me, because one, missionaries aren’t really supposed to share their views on it, because it reflects on the church, and two, most people here are democratically oriented in their views, so it just gets me fired up when they start talking. I really do love the United States of America though, and despite what other people have to say about her, and despite the problems she’s got at the moment, she’s still a good ole place, and she’s my home. I sure do love that promised land and despite what others there are doing, as long as we’re faithful, we’ll prosper in it.
The Gospel is the most important thing that we have. I love this Gospel with everything that I am, and I know that it is the only thing that can bring true and lasting happiness. Jesus Christ is the only way under Heaven by which we can be saved. He is the light, the life, and the hope of the world. I know He is the Saviour of the world, but right now I feel like He is my personal Saviour. He atoned for the sins of all mankind; He can here to give Himself a ransom for all, but I feel like if I were the only one ever to come to his earth, He still would have sacrificed Himself for me. That is the kind of love he Saviour has for each one of us individually. I know that He lives. I know that He loves each one of you, and I know Heavenly Father is our God, and that His hand is over all things. The world is under His control, so we need not fear. He is our God, and Jesus Christ is our Great Redeemer. How grateful I am for His loving sacrifice.
May God bless you all and keep you wherever you go. I love you.
P.S. A member took Sister Gjevik and me to Gower Peninsula for p-day. It was gorgeous!