This has been such a great week!
So on Tuesday we met with P F and St. I'm not sure if I've mentioned P F before? He's an interesting fellow. He's addicted to video games, but he's fine with it. "It's better to be addicted to something that only costs about forty a year and doesn't hurt anybody than to be addicted to alcohol, which costs about forty grand a year and definitely hurts others!" Well... can't exactly say he's wrong... He's been a member for a few years, but what really holds him back is tithing. He says he takes a while to decide on things,and he always uses the fact that it took him five years to decide to join the church to prove his point. That's fine. But the problem is that no one will ever gain a testimony of tithing until they follow it: by paying tithing. So we've decided to have a special fast with him. We've met with him in the past and discussed the significance of fasting, and on Tuesday we decided that next Monday, the 21st, we would go over to his house in the evening, have dinner, and then say a prayer to start the fast. I don't want you to fast with us, but if you could pray for us that'd be great.
Tuesday we decided to watch Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration with St. J McD also hadn't seen it, so added bonus! The movie does a great job at explaining some of our core doctrine as well as outlining a bit of church history. Plus it's a great church film! He enjoyed it, but we didn't have enough time to truly discuss it. We had to absolutely book it back to our flat.
On Wednesday we had All-Ireland with Elder Kearon of the Seventy. It was really good! He was so fiery! He said "Attack the day from morning until evening!" I really liked it. Plus his Welsh accent was quite entertaining. That night we also had English class, which went well. "We had two more than last week!" - Elder Stoker. Which is wonderful, because last week we had none! But that's Elder Stoker for you. You could fill half a glass, and he'll discuss how full the glass is and make it seem like it's overflowing.
On Thursday our appointment with J B was cancelled. Because of the rain, we decided to do our Weekly Planning then, instead of Saturday like we'd planned. That was a fantastic decision because we didn't have any time to do anything like that!! Funny how the spirit works sometimes, isn't it?
Later that day we went with Co, a Romanian member of the Branch council, to visit a lady he works with, A, to do some service for her. We were taking care of weeds and moss on her driveway. She invited us in afterwards. We talked with her and she told us a bit about her life. It's quite sad, really. She has no family, never married or anything. And most of her siblings are dead, and the ones that are left don't talk to her. Apparently there was a big family feud after her mother died and it was all over the will. It was so sad to hear! It made me so happy to belong to a family that would never do that! I love you guys so much! :)
That night we met with M. I can't really talk about M. Every time I even think about him I start getting angry. Suffice it to say that after an hour of him insulting our most cherished beliefs about our Father in Heaven, he concluded the evening by reminding us that "I'm not entirely sure if there is or isn't a God", so we can certainly come back. I'm not sure if I want to. But we do have an appointment booked for tomorrow.
We met with St again right after M. There wasn't a member with us. Which, I must say, is the first time that that has happened with St! I am so proud of this Branch! We've had 12 lessons total with St, and each and every one has had a different member present!! That is unheard of!! Tonight is the first time we'll be meeting with St with a repeat member.
Anyways, we started talking with him and he got into a lot of "end of the world" conspiracy theories he's gotten from his research. He was asking us what the Church is doing in preparation of such things. We spoke of food storage and fast offerings and all that, but he wasn't buying it. But we tried to also tell him that it doesn't really matter because we have a Prophet, and that we're promised that, no matter how bad the Last Days get, as long as we follow the Prophet we'll be okay. He wasn't buying that either. Elder Stoker finally just told him straight out that he needs to start praying and reading the scriptures or he'll never know anything that will actually help him. Then he got on his knees and asked him to pray right now. And we did. We all got on our knees and we asked St to tell his Heavenly Father about everything he's feeling about the church, about the world, about everything. He never spoke a word. It took just a moment for me to catch on, and I began to silently pray as well. Elder Stoker did the same. For a minute or so, the only sound in the church building was that of the ticking clock. It was perhaps one of the most profound spiritual experiences of my mission! Finally, St finished his prayer and got up. We finished ours and got up with him. St was facing Elder Stoker, so I didn't see, but Elder Stoker swears that St's eyes were red. I'm not entirely sure how accurate that is, because like I said, the way he describes things, you'd think the glass was overflowing. But never mind. Elder Stoker asked him how he felt. And he said he didn't feel anything different.
That just killed me. I don't even remember what else happened, I was too in shock that he had denied such an experience. But oh well.
Friday wasn't our best day either. We had five appointments set up. One of which was a dinner appointment that St was coming to! The first one we had cancelled during our studies. Ch and G. It's been tough getting back with them! We had a bit more Weekly Planning to finish, so it wasn't too bad. We had lunch, then went out to one neighborhood to knock doors. On the way, our second appointment cancelled, and then we bumped into our third appointment! Y. She didn't cancel, she just asked about a large-print copy of the Book of Mormon. There was one at the church, so we went back to get it, then back out to the neighborhood. While we were chatting with one old man who was in the middle of decorating a tree in his front yard, we got a phone call. I took it. Y cancelled. One of her daughters was sick, I think. It was hard to tell. We dropped by anyways to drop off the Book of Mormon, which she was fine with. Then we made our way over to the G'ls. We watched the new Christmas video the church came out with. The reception wasn't the best. None of them are really interested. Except the oldest daughter. When we asked them all if they wanted to come to church, everyone else said no, but she said maybe. Both Elder Stoker and I agree: if her family hadn't been there, she would've said yes. You could tell.
The dinner appointment wasn't too bad. St enjoyed it. The member was a single woman who was born in Germany, grew up in France, and now lives in Ireland. Really nice lady! She made this fish pie. It was basically potatoes on top of chopped up pieces of fish and mussels. It wasn't bad! Really, the only problem with the evening was St. The only problem with St is that, because of all his "research", he's a bit arrogant. And opinionated. He's not the worst person I've seen with such problems, don't get me wrong. He's great! But sometimes, without realizing it, he'll say something, and it could be offensive to others'. He made a few comments in dinner, but the member seemed fine.
Saturday was a mixture. Primarily, it was our best day of the week. And the reason behind that was A. I told you A is the Js' Au Paire? Well Saturday was her first official lesson (though she's sat in on two lessons before now). And it was really powerful. Her family is in Brazil, and she's got a strong Catholic background. She knows the scriptures really well, and just has a gift for understanding them. As an example, during the lesson, we had her read James 1:5. Without even telling her about Joseph Smith's actions in relation to that verse, she said "Huh. I think I need to pray and ask God which church is His." "Oh my days that's flippin' mental!" That's how Elder Stoker described it. Afterwards, of course haha It was a fantastic lesson! She said the prayer in Portugese, but she translated it later, and one of the things she said in her prayer was that she hopes that the Missionaries (us) will find more people that will be willing to listen.
Oh, and on a funny note, she kept having trouble pronouncing the word "baptize". She kept saying "Bapti-zed". Ha!
She also came to church as well! So did St and T and H. It was a great Sacrament meeting too! And after church we had TWO meal appointments! One with the Bl's, which St came along for, and one with the B's. President B is the Branch President. But he's been in the Philippines visiting family and doing business for the past month. He got back earlier this week. It was at the B's we got our call.
I'm staying in Bray with Elder Stoker!!! I am so excited! This branch is awesome, and Elder Stoker is fantastic!!!! This is going to be a great transfer! This coming one is actually going to be a 7 week transfer to make up for the 5 week transfer we're in right now. Apparently, very few people will be moving across the whole mission. Which I thought was nice.
But yeah, that was our week!!
It's looking like Christmas, although it is more merry in Dublin than in Bray. They call the round ornaments "baubles." There are a few giant ones strung across Main Street! I'll take a picture. I was laughing so hard when you sent the picture of the tree!!! Oh it was glorious!!! Typical Bates Family Christmas! Yes I did get to listen to the video, and so did Elder Stoker. Thanks! Send more! I enjoyed the one of Brielle and Rosalyn sitting on Santa's lap.
Yep, we are using the chocolate adent calendars you sent! We are Halfway through, do you realize that!?
Our Christmas boxes will be delivered the day before Christmas Eve! A little scary, I think. Remember last year??? That's a funny story. Did you get my letter?
I got a similar prompting, Mom, last night, only it was for me to listen better to people. Remember that talk from Conference about how the Spirit really does give personalized messages? Love it!
When I remember to put on thermals yeah, I'm warm enough. Sometimes I forget ha! I wore my Christmas tie for the first time yesterday!
You don't know how much your emails mean to me! I love you so much! While Elder Stoker finished emailing, I finished watching Meet the Mormons, and I almost started crying at the end with the Missionary Mom. I miss you and I love you beyond words.
For a spiritual thought, I want to tell you about what we taught Ch, the member we had dinner with, with St. We watched the Christmas video, and then we shared our favorite stories of the Savior. Mine is in 3 Nephi 11:14. Really, it's the first line of that verse. I read it, and I picture the Savior saying it with longing, and eagerness. "Please, come forth unto me and behold these hands!" I would encourage each of you to think about your personal favorite story of Christ.
Elder Stoker picked the story of Jesus healing the man sick with Palsy. But he told it from the perspective of Jesus, which I'd never thought of before! So Jesus had been out preaching for probably all day. And tons of people wanted to hear Him. He finally came home, probably looking forward to some rest. And what happens? His home is completely filled with people, so much so that no one can come in!! And if that's not enough, some guys that want in decide to take apart some of His roof to let in their friend!!! Kinda puts a new perspective on it, huh? Yet through it all, our great Exemplar shows nothing but kindness and mercy. Beautiful.
Anyways, love you all! One week until Christmas!! Whee!!