Monday, April 27, 2015

April 27, 2015 - 7 months?

Dear Family (You are all my family in one way or another)

I'm getting really tired of my mission going by so fast. I distinctly remember hearing from other missionaries, especially my trainer, when I first got to the field that the time would fly by and I never believed them, but now I know better. Though I expected a lot of happy times when investigators get baptized or similar things I never thought serving a mission could be so fun and rewarding most of the time! There are surely times when the heat of the Refiner's Fire is very real but it always leads to further strength, light, and appreciation for all the blessings of life. In the service of the Lord there is no time wasted, unless you choose to waste it. As we diligently seek to reflect His will we will experience greater joy in our lives and the times when we don't feel as happy as we would like are crucial times of refinement that allow us to become vessels of greater light and become like the Savior. It's my advice to other missionaries serving and future missionaries not to waste a minute of your missions, it's too valuable to skip out on or to do half-heartedly.

Sometimes it is really hard to know what to right about because things that are regular as a missionary may be really interesting to others! There weren't any crazy contacting stories or weird things that happened in lessons but it was still a good week. We stopped by Chris, who I mentioned in letters a few weeks ago, on Wednesday and were able to teach her the Plan of Salvation and it was a very very good lesson. She is Catholic but is very open to learning and is really spiritually prepared. She has a very strong relationship with Heavenly Father and is open to the promptings of the Spirit which allows her to feel the truthfulness of what we teach. She immediately recognized us as servants of the Lord and told us that she knows God sent us to her to bring further light into her life! The lesson pretty much made our week and helped us to see God's love for all of us and the people we are serving.

She also has the biggest dog I have ever seen! It is like having a small bear in the room during lessons! I'm pretty sure his tail is bigger than Oscar!

This Wednesday the entire mission is having a conference and training on iPads coming to the mission. It will be really nice to be able to show people videos wherever we are but I don't think it will change missionary work very much. Hard work is still required. It will be nice to see all of the missionaries in the mission and see past companions and other friends. We won't be getting iPads for another few weeks but we will have the chance to council on ways that we can use them to the best effect without them being a distraction.

This week is the last week of the transfer so one of us will probably be moving to a new area. I can't say for certain whether I want to stay or move to a new area but I know that the Lord will guide President Millar in the decision and where I end up. It has been good to get to know a lot of the members and others in Hamble River and hopefully I'll get to know them a bit more.

I know I have promised pictures but I was equally as lazy in taking them this week. Next week there will be pictures from the conference and hopefully some of the other things you have asked for but most of the time I don't know what to take pictures of. Maybe suggestions or requests could help?

I love you all so much and love hearing about home and what is happening in your lives!

Elder Draney

Monday, April 20, 2015

April 20, 2015

Dear Family,

This past week has flown by! The most interesting change this week was the weather for sure. The weather has been really nice and from what we understand about Southampton it's never this nice in April. We've had sunny days all this week and it's supposed to stay like that for a while so it will be nice to have some warmth! It's so cliché but English people love talking about the weather, because it is so unpredictable. No matter who it is once you start talking about the weather they start getting excited and talk about how the nice it is right now and how it probably won't last! It has been easy to start conversations this week because we ask people what the weather is usually like in Southampton this time of year and they explain it and then almost always ask us where we are from and what we are doing in England, which easily leads us to introduce missionary work and the gospel.

 We are starting to consistently teach more lessons and it is nice to be able have more investigators that we can help grow closer to Christ. All of the people we are teaching have a religious background with varying degrees of loyalty to their own congregation or reception of the things we are teaching. For the most part they are all making progress in their own way and we are able to do our part in "calling them to repentance".

  I never thought about it much before my mission but I know now the importance of investigators understanding that the Church is the Lord's Kingdom and is the only church with the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the authority to perform the ordinances of it. Many people tell us "You have your beliefs, and I have my beliefs" and my response when the situation is right is to say "But it is important to have God's beliefs/truth and the only way you are going to find out is if you ask Him". It isn't always appropriate to say that because it can easily offend or start an argument but it is needed because we need to let it cut and sting a little bit to motivate people to seek after truth or to make improvements in their lives. Elder Senkans and I have been trying to be more bold with people because that is a quality that all effective missionaries in the scriptures have. They never sidestepped or diminished the truth because it would offend people, "the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center." it is going to offend them anyway so it is important to make them aware of their guilt and lovingly guide them to the Savior who is the only one who can lift their burdens from them.

 It is really cool to hear the things that are changing at home! I smiled when I read that Caitlin still calls the room upstairs my room! I realized that I will probably stay downstairs once I get back so Josh shouldn't get too comfortable ruling the man cave. ;) In a lot of ways it won't be the same when I go home but that is something I've always known, as long as Caitlin doesn't grow up too much everything will be okay! I can't believe so many people are going home from their missions! I remember when they all left! It scares me to think that my mission could go by that fast.

  I'll quickly answer questions as well because I know I've been really bad at it in the past.

 School over here is the year round track like some of the schools do in the US. The biggest break is in the summer for about 6 weeks and there are 2 week breaks in the fall and spring with 2-3 weeks at Christmas. All of the older people really don't like school holidays and are pretty open about how they can't wait for them to go back to school! About middle school age is when they move up to "Secondary School" and then they go to college. College and University are different things and it is mandatory to go to college before going to university. College starts as early as 16 and lasts for 2-3 years and is a lot like High School but is a little more specialized on future careers. University is then just what it is like college in the US but once you start a major you have to stick with it for the whole 4 years and can only take 1 break year. I'm pretty sure that's right but it might not be, I still don't understand it completely.

 I didn't mention it before but we watched conference delayed but were able to watch the majority of the sessions. The morning sessions at 10 AM in Twin are live at 5 PM in the evening. So when you watched conference in pajamas and probably right after the boys woke up we had finished dinner and had already spent most of the day watching the other sessions of conference. We won't get the Ensign for a bit, we usually get them way late because we have to wait until a Zone Conference/Training for mail from the mission office. We will have a mission wide conference on the 29th of April for training on iPads so we might get the conference Ensign then!

 Clark's are actually an English brand of shoes and they are pretty popular over here. There are lot's of Clark's stores and their prices are the best for shoes that will actually live up to missionary needs. They are usually £50-70 so not too much off of $100 but they are still decently priced. I actually converted Elder Senkans when he needed a new pair of shoes and we walked by a Clark's store!

 The new mission president will be Ronald K. Gubler, it was announced in January but we haven't found out much since then.

 Time is short again so I will I have to leave it at that for this week. Good things are happening and I am feeling happier more of the time. I am so grateful for your prayers and know that they raise me up when I need them most!

 Love you all!
Elder Draney

Monday, April 13, 2015

April 13, 2015

Dear Family,

This week we taught many new people and spend a lot of time talking to everyone we possibly could and we saw a lot of miracles and blessings that came from our hard work! The week flew by and it's exciting to have another busy week ahead!

I noticed and you pointed out as well that I haven't talked to much about the area or the ward so I apologize for that! I still don't know the ward as well as I did in Christchurch and I think part of that comes from it not knowing Christchurch so well but also because I only had 3 weeks to learn from someone that had been in the ward for awhile. We've definitely learned the geography because we had to find a lot of the places ourselves and we've gotten to know some of the ward members really well.

We work with Stuart a lot and it always makes our day when he comes with us on a lesson or we teach him. The Norths are the family that drove us to the temple and we have dinner with them every Monday and we like them a lot as well. One of our favourite people is a widow named Pat Saunders, who we call "Auntie Pat". She is from the Lake District, which is up north close to Scotland and North Ireland, and has one of the coolest accents I've ever heard! We help her with service whenever we can and she always feeds us. Whenever we talk to her on the phone she tells us what she's going to make for dinner and when either of us says "That sounds really good, thank you!" she always replies "Well you aren't having any, you can watch me while I eat it but I don't know where you thought you were getting any!". It's hilarious every time and always makes our day. Northerners are really sarcastic so it is always fun to talk to her and she always makes us smile when we see her! Our Ward Mission Leader is really good as well and we enjoy working with him a lot, he has a passion for missionary work and does a lot to move it forward.

There are lots of other members that feed us and help us out a lot but there isn't room for it all but it is a fun ward to be in and a great place to serve!

We have a handful of lessons lined up this week with new people and others that investigated in the past so prayers that we will be able to teach them would really help us! We are excited about the changes that we are seeing in the work in Hamble River and have set the goal and fasted to be able to baptize in the next 4 weeks and are confident that we can!

I realized yesterday that it has been 11 months since I opened my mission call! It's hard to believe that it has been that long! I can see why time seems to go so much quicker on a mission now that I've been on my mission for a little bit. The first reason is because time does go quicker, there is just no other way. The second reason is because everything that happened before is lumped into the Pre-Mission part of your brain and it's hard to distinguish when it actually happened. The third reason is because no matter how experienced you are or the things you've done there is still work that needs to be done now. Whatever it is we've accomplished there is still much to be done in the future and for that reason we shouldn't look back on that we have done already.

The repentance/apology comes at the end of the letter like it usually does. I haven't really taken any pictures and don't have any to send this week. I promise to take more this week and think about it more often so I take more pictures. I've also been asked by a few people to send a reminder that the blog hasn't been updated in a while.

I love you all. Thank you for writing me and sending so much encouragement! I'm grateful to have people interested in what goes on over here and I love hearing about your lives as well!

Thank you!
Elder Draney

April 6, 2015 - Easter Monday

​Dear Family,

I meant to write about some of the Easter traditions over here last week but I forgot so I will fill you in today.

The biggest Easter tradition in England is to eat big chocolate eggs! The majority of eggs are a little bit bigger than a fist and just about any candy or chocolate company makes their own chocolate eggs. Most of them come in a box with a mug with the brand name on it and a bag of whatever candy the egg is made out of.​ Like this:

All my mission I have wondered why all the mugs in the flats have different types of candy on them and I figured it out as soon as I saw one of these in a store. Members in the ward gave us a few eggs and mugs so we got to take part in the tradition. Decorating hard-boiled eggs isn't something many people do and they mostly just focus on chocolate and candy, the chocolate over here is so much better that I don't really blame them! It's sad for me to say but I don't think I will be able to enjoy a Hershey's bar in the same way anymore.

Easter was a good time to talk about the gospel and share it with people on the street and everywhere we went. The usual reply we got when we asked people "What does Easter mean to you?" was "Chocolate" so a lot of people have forgotten about or never learned about Christ's atonement and how it is significant to them in their lives. It was wonderful to talk about the Atonement and teach people about it but it was sad to see so many people who refused to belief or couldn't possibly see how it could be relevant to them. Whether or not people believe the reality is that He does live and that the Atonement has more significance in their lives and everyone's life than they can even understand.

This Easter has been unique because I've never been on a mission in England during Easter before (obviously) but more importantly because I understand the necessity and infinite grace that is extended to all of the Atonement. It sounds cliche to say Easter is to remember that Jesus died for us but is so much more than that. I've learned to rely on the Atonement more than I ever have before and my understanding of it continues to grow. While some choose to reject it, it is there and is the enabling grace that we all need to continue in this life and have any hope of returning to the Father in the next life. Whatever trust you have in the Atonement I challenge you to increase it. You will grow closer to the Savior and you will feel His love more in your life.

General Conference on a mission is a really special experience. I've never paid attention during Conference like I have on my mission because I didn't appreciate as much the significance of having a prophet to lead, guide, and speak to us as President Monson does so well. My testimony that he is indeed a prophet and receives revelation and direction from the Lord for us has been firmly established on my mission. Though things happened during conference that aren't really worth mentioning I know that he is the only one on the Earth authorized by the Lord to lead and preside over His church in this day and you know it as well. All of the talks were uplifting and a lot can be learned from them, I know they have helped me already and will continue to.

Time is short because we spent P-day a little differently today but I love you all and pray that you will all receive the help and strength that you need to be happy in your lives now. Whatever may be happening the grace of Jesus Christ can lighten your burdens and give you hope for the future.

Elder Draney