Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Step by Step, Day by Day

Family, friends, and everyone else:

So the subject of this email is pretty much how I've been trying to handle this last week. People told me my mission was going to be hard, but I never anticipated something like this. I am doing much better now. I think I was just in such shock last week that it was hard to imagine 16 more months without being home with family. But I know now that this is where the Lord wants me to be and that through Him I will not only do missionary work but that I will become a missionary. I really do miss mom a lot and I think it is going to be hard when I come home and she's not there but I know the Lord will give me the strength I need to overcome this trial. I'm grateful for the opportunity to be sharing with people the same message that is giving me strength and comfort as I face this trial now. I love you all so much and I appreciate all the support and comfort you have given me through this hard time.

Also, this subject has led me to think more about the classic television show Step by Step with its catchy theme song and 90's view of a Brady Bunch type family. But, question: Why didn't they just let the cousin (who's name I cannot remember for the life of me) live in the house rather than living in his van in the driveway? It doesn't seem very nice nor necessary to treat him like that. Just some food for thought (which is a phrase everyone around me has been saying so I thought I would try to use it in my email).

The work here is obviously a lot different than it is in Utah. Instead of tracting for referrals, we actually tract non-members which just seems crazy after being in Utah. There are some nice people who actually listen to what we have to say and then politely turn us down. And then there are others who aren't so nice and may use some extravagant wording before closing the door at a rather swift pace. But I'm not letting it get me down. We are teaching a good group of people and a couple of them have a baptismal date which is exciting. The branch is still really struggling though so we are going to have to have to work with a lot of less-active members. But one of my investigators told me that this town is the worst part of England so really my mission can only get better from here.

It's funny that so many people gave me advice about England like the food, the phrases and the accents but no one thought to warn me about places like Poundland and Poundworld. I've recently discovered my ignorance to the fact that these are not stores for dogs but rather comparable to dollar stores in the US. I feel foolish that I have lived in this lie for so long. So for all those who are planning to come to England in the future, consider yourself warned on the reality of pound stores.

The Royal Wedding is this week. We are not allowed to watch it though and we are not allowed to knock on doors that day either, street contacting only. Which seems weird because the drinking laws here are "relaxed" that day so people can drink in the streets. I'm thinking though that it might be best to do some service that day because I don't think anyone, especially here, will be in the right state of mind to accept Jesus Christ into their lives. I did hear about the royal wedding donut though that Dunkin Donuts has. Sounds classy.

Oh, something else I need to tell you. I know you have all been worrying about the fact that I am no longer in a trio (3 missionaries together) but don't worry because we are getting another sister here tomorrow. It's transfers week (hence why I am emailing on Tuesday, Pdays are on Tuesdays when its transfers) and we found out last night that they are going to put three sisters here to try and help the area out a little more. I think it will be nice to have 3 people again because that way there is more insight and I can learn more about how missionary work is done here. We are also getting a car which I guess is okay but I like walking so hopefully we wont use the car too much. we really only got it because a lot of less actives live farther away so it will be easier to visit them if we have a car. But yeah, that's pretty much it.

Well, I love you all SOOOOOOOOOO much and I miss you SOOOOOOOO much. I hope all is going well. And I know I was going to try and write written letters every other week but it is so expensive now with the international postage so I'll probably do quick emails to each of you as much as I can. Also, when if you do send me a package and they ask what is inside (if they do, I don't know) you have to say it is either "Used Clothes", a "Gift", or "Missionary Supplies" in order to keep it from getting a lot of duties taxed on. Oh and no meats, because you can't send it and I don't think I would want it. Well, I love and miss you tons! Keep showering and stay clean.

Sista Smith

Sunday, April 17, 2011

I Love My Mom

Friends and Family,

I love my mom very much and I am so grateful for the support and comfort that I have received from my family and friends during this difficult time. At the end of this email I am going to put my thoughts to be shared at her funeral so I'm not going to say much now about it but I know that my mom would never want me to give up on anything. I would love to come home now and spend this time with family but I know it would be extremely hard to come back to my mission if I left it now. I know my mom is with me now, encouraging me to continue in this work. I know the next 16 months will be hard, but I know my mom will always be by my side (yelling at the people who slam their doors in my face and singing "We are the Champions" when we schedule someone for baptism), something she wouldn't have been able to do if she was still alive. I just ask for your prayers and continued words of encouragement. I love you all so much and I know I wouldn't have the strength to stay if it weren't for all of you.

I don't really have much to say as far as the rest of the week has gone. The members here have been really supportive and I'm probably the most popular person in the mission right now. I guess while I was waiting for my visa in Provo everybody was wondering why it was taking so long for my visa to get processed. Their conclusion (at least what most of the elders thought) was that I had a tough criminal background and thus had a harder time getting through the background check. They think of me as the "hardcore sister".

There's also a place here called "Fatso's Filling Station". I thought it was both mean and funny.

Well, that's pretty much everything for right now. I love you all and miss you tons!

Sister Smith

Thoughts for my Mother's Service

I love my mother more than any words in any language could ever describe. There is no place I would rather be right now than with all of you, remembering the amazing woman that she is. But I know my mom very well. The one thing she always taught me was to never give up. I would have to be on my death bed in order to get out of any sports practice or dance class. She always told me I had committed to it and I had to be there. In her last email to me she said, "I love you so much and I miss you, but I am so proud of you for doing Heavenly Father's work." When I talked to her on the phone about a week and a half ago to tell her I was finally going to England she was more excited than I was. I have committed to serving the Lord here and I know my mom wants me to stay here. And while I am not there with you all physically, I am there in spirit just as she is.

Perhaps one of my mom's greatest qualities is the one the embarrassed us the most as kids, and that is how friendly she was. No matter where we went, my mom always ended up becoming best friends with everyone around her. During races she always made friends with all the other triathletes, encouraging them to finish the race. Or yelling at us on the soccer field to play our best. She truly was a "Chatty Kathy". She always loved to tell stories as well. No matter how much snow we got it would never compare to the Blizzard of '78 where the roads were shut down and they made snow angels on Route 9. As many times as we heard that story, it was always a fun one to hear.

My mom also loved to serve others. She cared about all those around her and always tried to lighten another's burden. She would put my hair half-up, half-down every day in elementary school and always made sure my peanut butter t jelly ratio was always perfect. Although that seems like a small thing it means a lot to me now. She really did have the pure love of Christ in her. I hope to have the same charity she has some day.

My mom always said her favorite part of any race was biking up the steepest, longest hill. She said it is what made her stronger and gave her the boost she needed to end the race. I know these past couple of years my mom has struggled to bike the hardest hill of her life. But I know now that she is no longer having to endure that pain and hardship and that she has finally reached the top. In Alma 40:12 it reads (I don't have time to type it so please insert it for me Jen). I find peace in knowing that my mom is happier and more relieved than she has ever been at this time. 

I love my mom with all my heart and I will never forget the strength and courage she has been such an example of. I hope to be as good a mom to my kids as she was to all of us.

Cheerio Utah! Goodday England!

Hello Family and Friends!

So as many of you know I have left the promised land and hopped over the Atlantic to the Motherland. I got a call at 4:00 on Wednesday telling me that I would need to be at the MTC travel office at 8:00 a.m. the next morning to go to England. We still had lessons for that night so we didn't get back to the apartment until 9:30. So I quickly packed and then the next morning we met with our district for a quick goodbye breakfast which was fun. And then I hopped on a plan to Atlanta and then I had an overnight flight to Manchester. That is the quick version of what happened. I didn't really sleep at all on the plane so by the time I went to bed Friday night I had been up for about 36 hours.  So since then I have been a little tired but I'm starting to get used to it all.

So I know that this all happened very quick and there really wasn't a lot of time for you all to do the math that I am either 5 or 7 hours ahead of you but I thought at least one of you would have figured it out and would have emailed me on time this week.  I forgive you all but I am expecting at least 2 emails/letters from all of you this week to make up for your lack of emails this week.

So being here is England is going really well! The missionary work here is a lot different than it is in Utah which is to be expected but I had adjusted to being a missionary there and now I have to readjust to being a missionary here which is harder than I thought it would be but I know with time I'll become more accustomed to it all (sorry for the run-on sentence).  Right now I am serving in Redcar which is right next to the North Sea. Our flat is only a five minute walk to the beach which is nice, even though we can't go swimming it's still nice to look at. The area isn't as "posh" as other areas of England are. They call it shavvy (and that's two v's) which kinda means ghetto but its not like there are gangs and violence. It's more of the attitude and trends here. Some people are nice and some people aren't, which is also to be expected wherever you go. The branch here is super small. There are only about 90 members and only half of them are active. We were suppose to "white wash" the area but it didn't really work out because I didn't come right away. But now that I'm here were going to start on first building the existing branch up so that it is able to support new members that come in and then find new people to help the branch grow. It is going to take a lot of work but I think we can do it. The branch president is only 23 but he's really motivated to try and help stabilize the branch. I think this is one of the harder areas to serve in in the mission so I think I will be able to learn a lot right away and then be able to use it all when I serve in other areas.

England is also very pretty and there are a lot more sheep here than I expected. And they are numbered which brought a whole new meaning to counting sheep to me. The lambs are also really cute and I have decided that when I get home I want a lamb as a welcome home present. However, it has to be a lamb that will stay a lamb and wont grow up into a sheep because the sheep aren't cute. And for those who are now thinking of a stuffed animal, the lamb has to be alive.

My trainer's name is actually Sister Lamb, no joke. She is really nice and really fun. She is also really bold and has followed people down the street trying to talk to them. Perhaps someday I'll be able to do that too. We get along really great though and she has already taught me so much. And for all of those who were worried about my well being here you'll be happy to know that my mission president was in church security and was a personal body guard for President Hinckley. So if he was given the responsibility to protect the life of a prophet I think I will be okay with him watching over me. His wife and him are both super nice and really welcoming. Apparently my delayed arrival was the talk of the mission for the past couple of weeks which is also to be expected. Just kidding.

The accents aren't hard to understand it's just the weird phrases that I'm like I know what each one of the words you just said mean but I don't know what they mean when you put them altogether like that. But I'm catching on and my trainer usually translates for me. Most people like to hear me speak because my voice is so melodic and calming and american which I'm sure is something you all already realized.I don't really have a British accent yet but you can kinda hear one when I ask questions because there is a different inflection.

No, I have not seen anyone from Harry Potter yet.  I do constantly keep my eyes out though just in case and I have more time here to find and teach them. The Hogwarts Castle and Diagon Alley are both in my mission so hopefully one day I'll be able to go there. I would attach some pictures of England but I don't really have any good ones yet so I'll hopefully send some next week.

Well, I love and miss you all very much and I hope you all have the most stellar week in the whole wide world!!

Sister Smiff (a lot of the English people and elders have had hard time pronouncing the "th" so I have had to change my name for the duration of my mission)

Please don't hit me with that baseball bat......

Bonjour family and friends!
So, I am still in Utah. I knew that I was still going to be here this past week because it takes about a week to process visas for the UK (or that's at least what I read when I was being held for interrogation at the Home Land Security office/ getting my fingerprinting done there). So this week could be THE week. And no one answered my question about the royal wedding. Thanks. I kinda hope this week is THE week because we got a call from the zone leaders on Saturday telling my two companions that they were going to General Conference, but that I wasn't and I think pretty much all the other sisters are going. I don't really mind because I have already been to General Conference but hopefully this is divine inspiration that the reason they didn't plan for me to go is because I'll already be in the Mother Land and the commute would just be too difficult. You know what I mean?
Anywho, we were tracting this week and there was this one house where the map indicated that the husband was a member of the church but the wife wasn't. So it was in the middle of the day when we went knocking on it and the first time we knocked no one came to the door. And then we knocked again and after about 15 seconds a woman (about in her late 40s) answers the door with a wooden baseball bat in her hand. I was just thinking, who did she think we were? I mean if we were going to rob the house I don't think we would have knocked on the front door and it was midday and all her neighbors were outside. She might have thought we were bookies or something (I mean it wouldn't be the first time in my life that someone has mistaken me for a bookie). But I'm not well acquainted with the bookie population here and I don't think it is very prominent so that explanation is questionable. Ergo, I am highly questioning the necessity of the baseball bat.
Oh, and I messed up the date for Brody's baptism, it is really today instead of the Saturday. So that is really exciting! We were able to do a lot of teaching this week. We are now teaching a foreign exchange student from Germany (shout out to Jathaniel). We are also teaching someone whose parents are from Russia (shout out to Anastasia). The work here is really great and I love having so many great members here to help us out! We are inviting all the members we talk with to invite either a non-member or a less active member to watch General Conference with them. There are so many great things we can learn as we watch General Conference and everyone can feel the Spirit.
Well, I almost got electrocuted last week while I was flying a kite and it got stuck on some telephone wires. But don't worry, it was snowing too so I probably wouldn't have been as hurt. Last week we also hiked to some waterfalls which was fun and today we are going to play volleyball. None of the elders know yet about my Dream Team status at the MTC so they are probably going to be really surprised with my mad skills. But probably not too surprised since I schooled all of them in Apples to Apples last week. I told them, "You gotta play to the judge." 
Well, that's about everything. I do think I pinched a nerve in my neck because I can't turn my neck left but usually it goes away in a few days. You should all be grateful that you are all ambiturners. Well, I love you all and miss you tons! Stay righteous!
Hermana Smith