Monday, October 27, 2014

October 27, 2014

Dear Family,

​I feel really bad knowing that you've been expecting my email since this morning and that we didn't really get an opportunity to take advantage of the time change over here (email wise at least, I definitely loved the extra sleep) because we waited until the afternoon to email.

As far as the work in Christchurch it has changed a lot in this short week. We've either dropped or been dropped by 3 different investigators that all had plans to be baptized. It was extremely disappointing every time I realized that they didn't want to be baptized anymore. ​Because of that our teaching pool has shrunk considerably and we still have planned to drop another "investigator" who hasn't really seemed to interested for awhile.

One of the investigators that we aren't seeing anymore was a 19 year old Uni student who recently finalized a gay divorce. He seemed so eager to be baptized and was willing to live all the aspects of the Gospel, including giving up smoking. Last Monday we had planned to teach him the 3rd lesson but he had a lot of questions which took the lesson off-track. We thought we had explained clearly that homosexual relationships weren't really allowed but he had misunderstood from the beginning. He currently has another partner and doesn't want to change that anytime soon.

On a more positive note we have 2 investigators who seem to be progressing towards baptism in the near future. One of them is named Bob whom I mentioned before. Bob has been attending sacrament meetings for over 2 YEARS but hasn't agreed to be baptized. Until a few months ago his wife wouldn't allow missionaries into their home but now we have visited them many times. The only reason missionaries were ever allowed in their home was because Monica, his wife, needed help with her computer. Since then he's been taught every week or so. Since I've been here we've done a lot of service for them including helping them move, which took all day last Saturday. We've been able to witness service soften the heart of Monica and even though she herself still doesn't want to be taught she is opening up a lot. Bob also has been very impressed and non-members that were also helping him move were impressed by our help. We are planning on asking Bob to be baptized this week. We've seen many signs that he is ready but he just needs to give up tea and commit to pay tithing.

Our other investigator is named Dan. He is in his 30's and has a wife and 2 kids. He is the only one that is investigating and is really busy so we don't get to meet with him often. When we do he asks SO many questions. It's insane how much people here talk. Every single person I've met with and taught so far will go on talking for ages about anything we bring up. Regardless of all of his questions we have had good lessons and he has been coming to church recently as well. One thing we always try to do at the end of a teach is to bear testimony of a crucial principle pertaining to each lesson. We understand that the Spirit is what changes the hearts of people and ignites a desire to come unto Christ so we never leave without bearing testimony in a way that we hope will touch their heart and help them know what we are teaching is true.

We travel mostly by bus and the Church gives us extra money each month to pay for bus passes. Usually the bus can take us very close to where we want to go but sometimes we just have to walk. The chapel is one of the only places we go that doesn't have any bus going near enough to matter, so we have to walk 40 minutes to get to church unless we get a lift. The members are very good about this so we don't walk there very often.

We haven't really been fed any exotic food. The most exotic (and best) thing that I've eaten so far is Chinese food Elder Harris and I made in a members home where he and his companion stay. I even ate it with chopsticks! I also have to confess that I haven't eaten fish and chips yet but I plan on it. We get fed by members fairly often and it's fairly normal food. In the flat we scrounge up whatever we can to eat which is mostly canned soup or rice with soy sauce and tuna. The bread over here expires so quickly and we don't have 7 people to eat it all in a day so we have to freeze it all. The most interesting thing that I regularly drink is "squash". Squash is like Kool-Aid but it is concentrated juice that you mix with water. Anytime we eat at the flat or visit anyone in their home we always drink squash. It comes in a million different flavors and is super convenient. The one we have right now is "Blackcurrant" which is a really popular flavor over here.

The forecast for this week is a lot of finding. This week we are supposed to spend at least 4 hours each day finding people to teach. Finding is definitely the most stressful part of missionary work for me, at this point at least. I don't know what it's like other places but in Christchurch there are a lot of old people that aren't interested in changing their lives. It's surprised me how many older people are atheist in Europe. The majority of the atheists I've talked to have white hair. One man we met was a little old fellow with a high pitched voice who answered the door not knowing who missionaries were. As soon as he realized he took a few steps forward and spouted off about what he believed and that there is no God. While he walked forward his door closed behind him. When he turned around to go inside he realized he had locked himself out of his house! I was on an extremely temporary exchange with another missionary who is being trained and my companion continued to try and talk to him in anyway possible. No matter what he said the old man kept yelling "Go away!" in a very shrill manner as he retreated around his house to try and get in through his back door. So far that's been the funniest finding experience I've had so far.

Before I go I wanted to answer your question about the District. We're in a small district, the only other missionaries are Sisters. Sister Stuart from Salt Lake and Sister Dunlop from Australia. We're already a close little district and work well in the Christchurch area. There are funny little things about the UK I haven't really talked about either but I'm already using a bunch of South England phrases. Feety pajamas are really popular over here, and I have to confess I bought one. It's a cute little dragon with wings and a tail. My trainer has one and it's sort of a tradition in Christchurch to buy a onesie pajama. I love the humor over her and all the different words and phrases.

The days are passing by quicker now as I'm getting more adjusted to being a missionary. I love so many of the people I've met so far in just a month! Heavenly Father has blessed me with amazing people to surround me all my life and my mission is no exception. That has been the biggest blessing I've seen as I've been serving, getting to know and love so many of God's children. I'm definitely excited for the future.

I hope and have great confidence that everything is going well at home. I wish I hadn't worried you so much by spending so much time talking about how sad I was feeling a few weeks ago. It's hard, but it's also worth it. I'm really beginning to love being a missionary! A passage in Jacob chapter 5 inspired me as I was reading this morning. I don't remember the exact verses (11-13 I think) but it talks about the servants of the Lord laboring to save some of the trees in His vineyard. At one point He says "It grieveth me that I should lose this tree" and I realized how much He cares about all of us. It's a blessing to be called as His servant and be entrusted with the tasks of helping everyone come unto Him.

Again I apologize that it's a little late, but I hope you see this before P-day is over.

Elder Draney

Monday, October 20, 2014

October 20, 2014

Dear Family,

Christchurch is definitely an interesting area to work in and it would be a lot harder if my companion, Elder Poulino, hadn't paved the way for me in a sense. We have a sizable teaching pool made up of Less Active members as well as investigators. Since I've been here we haven't been able to begin teaching any new investigators but we've been so busy with those we already meet with that our finding time has been less than it usually would be.

This week was very busy because of various meetings we had during the week like Zone Conference, District Leader Conference, and going on my first exchange as well. I went on exchange with one of my zone leaders, Elder Harris who is also from Twin! It was really cool to talk about some of the things about Twin that are unique to Twin Falls. After being in England for a few weeks and then spending a lot of time with Elder Harris I realized that Twin definitely has its own little sense of humor. It was a very productive exchange as well because we were able to teach a few lessons and spend a good amount of time finding. We went finding near Bournemouth University and were able to talk to many different people. At one point we had a little mini-lesson where we taught a group of 3 friends about how the Gospel could strengthen them and help them through hard times. In the end they were all interested in learning more and wanted to meet again. Kind of frustrating that the one time I was part of finding good potential investigators I was in a different area for the day and wouldn't have the chance to teach them.

Zone Conference was brilliant. Elder Adler from the seventy and his wife came and spoke as well as President and Sister Millar. I don't know if I've told you yet but President Millar is very short! My companion is about 5'6" and he is still taller than President Millar! Regardless it was a very spiritually uplifting meeting. It was also very cool to see some of my friends from the MTC! We only spent 2 weeks together but I already fell like they are my brothers.

The weird part about adjusting to the different systems of measurement here is that England uses bits and pieces of everything. All road signs for the most part are standard, so the speed limit is in MPH. The funniest ones are ones warning about bumps in the road. They call them "humps" and they use yards to measure how long they will continue, not even meters! All of them say "Humps for ___ yds".

I actually noticed that Brownsea Island is very close to where we are on the first or second day I was here. It's really cool that it's so close but I don't think I will ever have a chance to go. Ironically Scouting isn't a part of the young mens program over here or anywhere in Europe. There might be some wards or branches involved but the ward I am currently in isn't involved with scouting. But they did ask me to speak this Sunday... (yesterday) at first I was very annoyed but I quickly realized we're so busy there isn't any time to stress out about speaking to a room full of church members when we are usually spending our time approaching potentially hostile strangers about the gospel. The Ward Mission Leader is a real character and is passionate about missionary work. We always call him "Captain" because he always has new ideas and always tries to get the ward missionaries to do their part.

This week is already markedly better than last week. I've never been one to be very homesick or have a hard time adjusting to situations but my mission has really tested me so far. I've come to find that what makes me the most happy is interacting with new people and beginning to form a relationship with them. The ward is fantastic and the members feed us often. It's not all at once but there have been several points where I have felt so happy and content with being on a mission. It's definitely the most challenging thing I've done so far, but after just 3 weeks I wouldn't trade the experiences I've had for anything. I'm also very blessed with a good companion and trainer. Elder Poulino knows how to work hard but also to have fun while doing it, we spend a lot of time laughing and having fun with whatever it is we're doing and that has helped me a lot.

My first area has definitely been a blessing. I've told you before that I love meeting new people and the Elders that I have met are some of the greatest men I have ever met. I know that I knew all of my companions in the pre earth existance but especially Elder Schulties. I feel like he was a very good friend of mine before this life very similar to the way I feel about all of my friends back home. His companion went home a week into the MTC and he joined our companionship as a tri for the rest of the MTC. I hope I get to be is companion in the future.

The money I spent was on a coat that more suits the cold but not freezing weather we have on and off in Christchurch. I plan on buying more things I need and will probably buy boots as winter sets in. It really isn't that different here at all. They even have Mountain Dew AND Dr. Pepper but I try to avoid it because sugar and caffeine don't do any favors to our constantly exhausted state. I feel like once I have my roots I will enjoy it a lot more. I will hopefully get to email later like I did last week, but regardless I still love you all very much. Please send pictures as well.

Elder Draney

Friday, October 17, 2014

October 16, 2014

We got a letter from Jacob's mission president with a couple of pictures:

Monday, October 13, 2014

Near the sea... first P-Day

Elder Draney's first area: Christchurch.
Take note of Southampton above to locate him relative to London in the map below.

​Dear Family,

I was actually able to read the emails last week but I had to print them off and read them on the way to the mission home.
The area I was assigned to be trained in is the Christchurch area in the Poole Zone! Right after I got to the mission home I met up with Eric Harris, President Harris's son, also from Twin Falls! I also met the Elder who I was supposed to travel with but who didn't get his visa in time. My trainer is Elder Poulino from Holland! We get along very well and he has been an awesome trainer so far.
Elder Paulino from Holland. Elder Draney's trainer.
(This picture came from Elder Paulino's blog, so we don't actually have a picture of
Elder Draney and Elder Paulino together yet (though the mission office says one is coming)). 
Our flat is supposedly one of the biggest in the mission but it is absolutely tiny! The washing machine is so small that it fits under the counter in the kitchen. The kitchen itself is barely big enough for one person to turn around in. The living room is the only sizable room and it is about as big as the living room at home minus the dining room area.
Dad was right about the mission field being different rather than easier. There are definitely parts that are easier about being in the mission field but it has also been the hardest part for me so far. On Saturday I was feeling particularly homesick and even told my trainer that I wanted to go home. We called our Zone Leader and I talked with him for awhile and I felt much better. I think the thing that makes me sad the quickest is thinking about all that is in front of me. Two years seems like an eternity sometimes. But my Zone Leader has given me the advice of focusing on what is happening now and not really thinking that far in the future. It's still really hard to do that. Being right at the begining is hard no matter what way you slice it though.
The Christchurch area is already proving to be a fantastic area for me to start out in. The ward is a big ward by England's standards and has many wonderful people in it. The ward mission leader is a very funny guy and has come up with a lot of ideas to get the members involved in missionary work. Many of the families are eager to feed the missionaries on a regular basis so we will be fed pretty regularly.
All of the people we have met with to teach so far are less active members or investigators that have been taught a lot already. One of the investigators has been taught and has been attending church for more than two years but still hasn't been baptised because he is affraid that if he prays to ask if the church is true he will self-indoctrinate and convince himself that it is true rather than recieve a witness. One of the less active members is a man in his 60's that has been less active for a few years. He talks more than anyone I have ever met before. It's almost impossible to describe but at least 3 times already he has left us a voicemail that lasts over 10 minutes and goes off on all sorts of tangents. The best part is that everytime he leaves a message he starts by saying "Oh hi, it's Peter" in the most unenthusiastic manner. I haven't had the opportunity yet to teach any lessons where the person being taught doesn't talk 90% of the time. Many of the people that live in Christchurch are older or retired and always talk about their lives for a very long time.
Thank you all so much for your prayers and support. I know already that there have been times where I have relied on those blessings because my strength wasn't enough and that there are still more to come. I love you all very much and hope everything is going well.
Elder Jacob Draney

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

October 1, 2014

Selected bits from Elder Draney's first real emails:

​I haven't read Dad's email yet so the reply will mostly to the questions that Mom asked and I'm replying to it because I know that Mom will be the first one to see the email. :)

My companion is one of the other Elders called from Vernal to my same mission. His name is Elder Mahrt. The first thing he said to me when I arrived was "So this is the Elder Draney your grandma talked about so much!" He worked in the Vernal Temple with Grandma a lot before leaving and listened to all the things Grandma had to say about me while he worked with her.

The MTC is a bubble I think and I won't really be able to tell how much I like it until I spend more time outside and speaking to people that live here. Most of the missionaries here are from the US so I haven't heard too many British accents but I have heard many other international accents.

Two other Elders that are staying in the same room as us are both from different countries. Elder Senkans and Elder Morelli, Elder Senkans is from Latvia and is 6 foot 3 with blonde blonde hair and a deep voice, Elder Morelli is from Italy and is 5 foot 5 or 6 with dark brown hair and a higher pitched voice. They are both very funny and have made my stay at the MTC easier.

There are things I love about the MTC but I am very eager to go out in the field. I understand what dad meant when he said that the MTC was a lot like EFY because it really is and I enjoy it but know that it will be different very soon. The days really do seem like weeks but looking back the week seems like at least 2 days ;). I love you all and I hope everyone is safe. I miss you very much but also understand the importance of the work I have ahead of me.

​"This is my District that we are taught in everyday. The tallest is Elder Senkans and he is companions with the shortest, Elder Morelli. The two sisters are Sister Mahaffey withe the brown hair and Sister Stigant with red hair. Sister Stigant is from the UK and actually lives closer to the MTC than she will in her mission in London South."

MTC companion, Elder Mahrt
I know that being out in the mission field will have challenges I haven't faced yet but the feelings I have gotten as I have prayed for comfort and guidance are that the field is where I will really lose myself and love my mission most. I have less than a week left in the MTC and I look forward to meeting President Millar and my trainer, but especially to meet those who have prepared to be taught by the Spirit and listen to what my companion and I have to share.

Being able to contact you has helped in some ways and made it harder in other ways but I know once my roots really grow (in the mission, not any specific place) that I will love being on my mission in the England, London South Mission. This is the work He has prepared f​or me, so I will work harder than I ever have before and focus all of my efforts on uplifting others to accomplish all that He needs me to do.

I pray for you often and I know our family and others are praying for me as well. I'm excited for everything the Lord has in store for me and those I will teach while I am on my mission. I love you. It won't be long before I will be wishing I had more time to serve and I know that I can always be happy my working my hardest and focusing my efforts on the people I will serve.

Elder Draney