I’m officially being Africanized. What a week it has been and I feel so incredibly blessed to be serving as a missionary! I may be in England, but I feel like I am in Africa. And oh how I love these people.
There aren’t many updates to share to be honest. With transfers and moving into a new area, I have spent a lot of time becoming familiar with the members of the ward and the people we are teaching. I am still keeping tabs with those we were teaching in Britannia and they’re doing great! But I’m excited for all those I get to meet and love here in White Chapel. I also was called as a Visitors’ Centre Training Leader so I’m really looking forward to helping the Visitors’ Centre sisters! I really didn’t think I would be able to serve closely with so many sisters, but looks like the Lord has better plans to help me grow haha.
Exciting news is that Sheila and Jafar got baptized! I love Sheila so much. She is an older lady with the spunkiest attitude. She was found outside a pub and wasn’t very solid, but I was blessed to give her a tour in the Visitors’ Centre and she was committed ever since. For all those who say they are “too old” to change, that sure isn’t true! Goodness sakes, I really love that woman.
This week was a bit odd and sometimes it amazes me that I can be living in such a big city and I haven’t died yet. Our flat is above a funky Thai restaurant, in an ally, and we have a pet fox that visits us sometimes, but the flat itself is super posh and the nicest one I’ve lived in.
So fun story- this guy called us on Sunday saying he really wanted to learn about the church. Church was about to start so we told him we’d call him back a bit later. He got quite upset later and sent a text with a few choice words, and we finally called him back. He explained to us that he talked to some president. Turns out he called President Stevens (our mission president) and President Stevens told us how this man has called every mission president in the entire UK and got a hold of several missionaries phone numbers. He knows our names and where we are serving so that’s just a bit creepy (sorry, I’m scaring you again mom. Don’t meant to!)
Anyways, enough scary stuff! Oh the Science Museum was evacuated again. Thankfully not because of bombs, no worries, just fires and chemicals and science stuff. But because it was evacuated, hundreds of kids on their school trips were outside in the cold, without coats, waiting for when they could come back in. We had them all come into the chapel and I may or may not have counted how many people came in, cough cough 348. So that was awesome! Even gave a tour to a bunch of Muslim kids and they were super interested and involved and it was really neat.
Besides the not so normal occurrences, I felt this week that there was a lot of opposition (which isn’t a bad thing!) It felt like everything was hitting at once with several people coming into the chapel to bash us and others on the tube with strong opinions. At first it was alright and the statements made and questions asked didn’t bother me too much. But by Saturday night I was at a point of, “OK, I’m tired.”
I was then writing in my journal Saturday evening about an encounter we experienced on the tube. I was feeling a bit beat down. While writing, we were also listening to a Zone Conference Call (basically 20 missionaries on the phone and our leaders share a brief message). The call was almost finished when one of the missionaries was asked to share a spiritual thought. His first words were, “I want to share a scripture in 2 Nephi 2 verse 11.” Immediately I yelled out, “Opposition in all things! I love this one.” No worries, no one else on the call heard me but my companion thought I was a bit strange.
Anyways, the scripture reads: “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.”
And it all made sense again. It’s amazing how quickly God answers your prayers in little ways. I must say, I do thrive on opposition. We have to in a way or we will always get put down. Facing it makes you stronger. It helps you understand both sides of things. Because you know how it feels to be sad, you are able to have happiness. So ask anyone, especially my companions, and they’ll let you know how much I love opposition. I guess I just needed a bit of a reminder so thanks Heavenly Father for always letting me know.
I was then about to get in bed when I was looking through my emails and received one from my grandma about the methods the adversary uses to challenge our beliefs. Through her studies of Korihor in the Book of Mormon, I became more aware of how even though these people lived hundreds of years ago, they experienced the same things we go through. I won’t go into too much detail, but Alma 30 is a good one and y’all should read it. Though I’ve read that chapter several times, it’s incredible how real it felt to me this time. I’ve had my fair share of Korihor’s (with plenty more to come I’m sure) and though I’m not as much of a beast as Alma is, I know there is a God and that Christ has come and will come again. And with that I will rejoice and hold as a testimony to continue.
And so I digress into a final story from President Packer. It’s a good one so I suggest you read it through:
“I sat on a plane next to a professed atheist who pressed his disbelief in God so urgently that I bore my testimony to him. I said, “There is a God. I know He lives!”
He protested, “You don’t know. Nobody knows that! You can’t know it.” When I would not yield, the atheist, who was an attorney, asked perhaps the ultimate question on the subject of testimony. “All right, you say you know. Tell me how you know.”
When I attempted to answer, even though I held advanced academic degrees, I was helpless to communicate.
When I used the words Spirit and witness, the atheist responded, “I don’t know what you are talking about.” The words prayer, discernment, and faith, were equally meaningless to him. “You see,” he said, “you don’t really know. If you did, you would be able to tell me how you know.”
I felt, perhaps, that I had borne my testimony to him unwisely and was at a loss as to what to do. Then came the experience! Such an idea came into my mind and I said to the atheist, “Let me ask if you know what salt tastes like.”
“Of course I do,” was his reply.
“When did you taste salt last?”
“I just had dinner on the plane.”
“You just think you know what salt tastes like,” I said.
He insisted, “I know what salt tastes like as well as I know anything.”
“If I gave you a cup of salt and a cup of sugar and let you taste them both, could you tell the salt from the sugar?”
“Now you are getting juvenile,” was his reply. “Of course I could tell the difference. I know what salt tastes like. It is an everyday experience–I know it as well as I know anything.”
“Then,” I said, “assuming that I have never tasted salt, explain to me just what it tastes like.”
“After some thought, he ventured, “Well-I-uh, it is not sweet and it is not sour.”
“You’ve told me what it isn’t, not what it is.”
After several attempts, of course, he could not do it. He could not convey, in words alone, so ordinary an experience as tasting salt. I bore testimony to him once again and said, “I know there is a God. You ridiculed that testimony and said that if I did know, I would be able to tell you exactly how I know. My friend, spiritually speaking, I have tasted salt. I am no more able to convey to you in words how this knowledge has come than you are to tell me what salt tastes like. But I say to you again, there is a God! He does live! And just because you don’t know, don’t try to tell me that I don’t know, for I do!”
From that experience forward, I have never been embarrassed or ashamed that I could not explain in words alone everything I know spiritually.”
That story taught me many valuable lessons. When people say I cannot prove to them that God is real or they attack my beliefs, I don’t have to be ashamed for being unable to express in words what I know and have experienced spiritually. My testimony is a continual process, with needed work and tuning. I cannot say that one day I woke up and knew everything was true. Each day I further myself in studies and prayers so I can form a solid testimony of faith. It takes work and it will forever need to be worked on, but I can say now that I know there is a God.
For those seeking for themselves if God is real or feeling overwhelmed by doubt, I extend to you Elder Robert D. Hales’ inspired counsel. “You may already know, deep in your soul, that God lives. You may not know all about Him yet and do not understand all His ways, but the light of belief is within you, waiting to be awakened and intensified by the Spirit of God and the Light of Christ, which you are born with. Let the evidence of God all around us touch our hearts. With softened hearts we are prepared to heed the Savior’s call to “search the scriptures” and to humbly learn from them.”
I love you my friends. Thank you for your continual love and support. I could not do this without each of you. I know this is the Lord’s work and I know He lives. Though I cannot put into words all that I know, I do know that the thoughts and feelings that the Holy Ghost brings into our minds and hearts, will give us an undeniable knowledge that He lives and that He loves us. Like President Packer, I have tasted salt and oh, it’s sweeter than sugar 😉