Monday, April 23, 2012

Week 79: Living Life With Three Companions!

Hello Everyone!
Introducing a temporary week-long extra companion: Elder Woodside, from Maine!
For this past week, Elder Horner and I had a blast as we added one of the assistants to the president to our York 1 team. Elder Woodside was on exchange with us from Monday afternoon until Friday afternoon. It was so much fun! And we cranked him when it came to our morning jog ha ha ;) (See first photo)
We started out the week like normal, except we were able to get a member out with us on Tuesday night and go on splits easy! Which was great!  I saw a couple of our investigators with a member named Sean, and they went out to find more investigators!  Also, at the very beginning of the exchange, after our first morning run with the three of us, we set a goal to run the whole wall of York, a long two mile stretch of stairs, up and down inclines, and irregular pathways.  In other words, not an easy track to run.  So, every morning exercise was set in preparation for this excursion to be attempted on Friday morning, the last day of the exchange. Tuesday and Wednesday was spent endurance running, while Thursday we went to a nearby park/hill with LOTS of stairs to run up and down. And then the day finally came. Friday morning. 6:30am. We quickly said our prayers, got dressed and drove over to the large ancient structure. To our disappointment, the gates to the actual wall were locked! And a sign outside of the wall stated that they wouldn't be opened until 8 o'clock.  But would we let this stop us? NO!  We went to the inner side of the wall, and climbed up the steep grassy knoll to a place where we could climb onto the pathway!  We triumphantly began our run, with excitement and vigor trailing behind us in the brisk English wind.  Unfortunately, however, we didn't realize that there were more gates periodically that separated the different sections of the wall. Within a matter of minutes we arrived at the iron bars of the first gate, defeated, and out of ideas. We looked at each other as though hoping one of us would have an idea.... But nothing. Just then, an older fellow on a bicycle approached the gate from the other side with a ring of keys... '' Are you locked in?'' He asks. 'Yes, and you my friend, are an answer to prayer.' we said, as we caught our breath. To our blessing the gatekeeper of the York Wall had come to our rescue at just the right time.  He took out his rusted old set of keys and proceeded to unlock the first gate. We thanked him, and asked him if he would be opening up the other sections of the wall surrounding York. His reply was yes, and then he further added ''You boys are lucky. I woke up feeling like opening the gates a bit earlier today.''  What happened over the next 40 minutes was something I'll never forget. As we ran from section to section, as soon as we arrived at the locked gate, our bike riding friend would be there, keys ready, unlocking the next bit for us to enjoy. In addition to that at every other section he would tell us a little bit of the walls History, giving us personal tour as he unlocked each gate. There must have been a dozen gates that he unlocked, the last one being the best, where as we caught our breath he gave us a detailed history of the barbican and the soldiers going out to war from that area. The run was beautiful. The wall in some areas is taller than all of the surrounding buildings, and we could see all over the city. The best was the wall's half-way point, where as we ran we saw a beautiful sunrise-lit York Minster only a few hundred feet away. Throughout that entire week, rain soaked us through. However this morning, the sky broke through the clouds to give us one of the most memorable days of my mission yet. It might not have seemed like a big deal, but we worked hard all week preparing with this final run in mind as the goal, and to have so many possible obstacles (locked gates, rain, clouds, etc) literally moved out of our path, all three of us missionaries felt the love of God in the form of one of His many tender mercies. We felt so blessed :) At the end of the excursion, we all jumped in the car, feeling tired, accomplished, sweaty, but most of all, gratitude, for the simple mercies of the Lord :)
So that's my story for this past week. Now I can look back at my time here at York and say ''I remember when I ran the wall of York for morning exercise on mission'' with fond memories in my heart :)
The exchange was celebrated at the end with Hot Pot at the York 2 flat :) This time, with Calamari! Gotta love it! (See photo)

Elder Gabriel G. Spencer

Monday, April 16, 2012

Week 78: Exchange with Selby, and York Stake Conference!

Heya everybody!
Is it just me, or does time seem to be going faster now? Oh my goodness! Its crazy!
So, this week was a great attempt at being as memorable, but I didn't meet/see anyone famous :-/ Oh well... maybe this week!
So as you probably read from my last email, I was on exchange for half of the week in the Selby area with Elder Paczensky!  It went well, and I very much enjoyed the temporary membership of a gym. Now I just gotta keep the ball rolling!!!  The diet is going well, Elder Horner and I are both sticking to it like mint jelly. All we've been eating this week (apart from tea appointments) is chicken and ham sandwiches, fruit and porridge. And its working! I'm already feeling better :)
After a great district meeting on Wednesday, Elder Horner and I got back to work in our own area, and we hit the ground running! We found the most new investigators Ive ever found in York, and we were blessed to schedule a new person for baptism as well!
One of the best parts of this past week happened on Sunday. It was stake conference here in York and hundreds of people crammed into the already large chapel. President and Sister Lindley spoke, as well as the normal people you'd expect to hear from in a stake conference. It was nice to see all of the other teams in the zone, and to meet their investigators whom we only hear about. The best part, however, came at the end :)
As I was walking over to the Scarborough missionaries to conduct a baptismal interview when one of the members of the York 1 ward approached me and said ''there's this guy here who just walked in and said he's interested in learning about our church''  I spotted him amongst the crown and quickly made my way to meet this man. To my delight, he was more than happy with what he had seen so far from the smiling, positive people that had introduced themselves, and we briefly sat down and talked about what he would like to have in his life. After a few minutes (and meeting President Lindley) we set up a return appointment at the church a few days later and I helped Hasan (from Turkey) to experience a warm fellowship from the members that were left after the meeting :) What a miracle! Almost immediately after I had finished talking with Hasan, another member approached me saying there was another person who walked in during stake conference, who's name was Johnny. Apparently, Johnny just moved to a street right next to the church, and was interested in finding a church youth program to join. So, I got his details from the member (who was smart enough to get them on his own) and gave him a call later that night, inviting him to young mens on Thursday night. We'll be seeing him then!
Talk about miracles! Blessings! Tender mercies from the Lord! I love this work!

Elder Gabriel G Spencer
PS If you could pray for my mom, who has recently suffered an injury requiring a small surgery, that would be greatly appreciated :) I love you mom! 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Week 77: Goodbye York!

Who would'a thunk York would have such amazing celebrities within its ancient city walls within the same week?? Definitely an experience I will not likely forget!
Where to begin, where to begin...
Zone Meeting! Its name has officially been changed to 'Zone Specialized Training'. For those of you who don't know, Zone meeting is where all of the missionary teams in the stake (zone) meet up and are instructed by the zone leaders, have training models, etc.
If you remember last transfer's zone meeting, it included some pretty random, yet fun tools and things to use... And this one just about showed it up! Here's how it began... The night after the last zone meeting, in my personal prayers, I was thanking Heavenly Father for the success of the meeting, and how smooth and effective it was, despite it being my first one, and immediately I received a vision of what the next zone meeting's instruction needed to be on. In my mind I saw the York chapel, and all of its pews moved and switched around forming a maze...  And that's exactly what we did :) So with this vision in mind, Elder Horner and I discussed how we could adapt that idea to focus on helping the needs of the teams in the zone. We came up with this: Revelation through the Holy Ghost. We were blessed to have the assistants to the president attending, and we asked if they would help us out by playing the role of investigators out on the street. One member of the companionship was blind folded, and told that they would be the missionary sent to find as many potential investigators as possible will moving through the maze, and the other was given a piece of paper with instructions and told that they would be playing the part of God.  God was there to help the missionary, but only if the missionary asked a specific question about anything and everything! The maze and investigators proved to be both challenging and instructive, and the missionaries that asked got for directions and for what the needs of the investigators were were the most successful :) I SO wish I took a picture of the maze in the chapel, but unfortunately, pictures aren't allowed in the chapel :-/  But good memories anyway!
Thursday came, and there were two major events that happened... The first being the Queen of England came to the city, giving away maundy money to the public in celebration of her Diamond Jubilee (something like 40 or 50 years of being queen), and it was Zone Leader council at the mission office and home in Leeds. Sad to say, I didn't get to see the Queen, but I LOVED zone leader council! Its always so interesting, so revelatory... It was great :) See first picture!
After on Saturday, the city was also graced to have hosted the world famous Osmond Family*!  *Donny and Marie not included 
And wait, the Osmonds are members of the church, aren't they? And if they have a performance that ends late Saturday night that means they'd have church the next morning! And they did! I got to have a nice chat with a nice guy called Jimmy Osmond :) He asked me where I was from and I said 'Sandy, Utah!' and he said 'Really? Ha ha I know that place really well...' (I'm pretty sure I have a friend who lives in Sandy who has the part of the Osmond family in their ward)  So, before he left sacrament (5 minutes early to be exact) I managed to get his autograph in my missionary planner ha ha! See second photo :) The funny part was, it wasn't even my ward! It was York 2 sacrament service that he attended, and I just happened to be out in the corridor when he went to check if his driver had arrived :) Fun story to tell, huh?
One of the other events of this past week includes turning over a new leaf! Elder Horner and I, recognizing that we are edging closer and closer to the end of our lifetime (as missionaries, of course) decided we are improving our lifestyle, by taking our daily exercise more seriously, and eating healthier. Last week was the start of jogging in the morning, and it was jump started by the enthusiasm of our recently RM'ed ward mission leader, Brother Munzer! Yesterday morning's sleep was interrupted with a knock on the door, with Bro. Munzer ready to show us how to get the most out of our morning jog! And boy, did we ever! We ran about 3 miles that morning, including lots of hills and valleys to add to the fun :) We are also eating healthier, yesterday we bought nothing but fruits, healthy cereals, veg, breads and lean meats. So we are ready to get in shape!
Today happens to be a Tuesday, and I'm currently on exchange with Elder Paczensky, from London, England! He and his companion happen to have a gym membership and a car, which means I definitely got a great work out today! Ah, I miss working out a lot :) It was a nice feeling, I just wish I could go every morning... But nevertheless! I still was grateful to have the experience. :)
Well, my time's about up now, I hope this week is just as exciting as the last!
Elder Gabriel G. Spencer

PS To those of you who have been expecting a letter from me for the past few weeks, I apologise... Its not that I haven't written letters, its just that its so darn difficult to find a post office and some stamps to stock up on in York! But I promise I will send out all of your letters this week, so you can expect them within the next 6-8 days :) Hopefully you'll have better luck than me at replying!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Week 76: Conference Time!!!

Hello Everybody!!!
Conference once again rolled around, this being the third conference weekend on my mission! And it was amazing! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did :)
This past week was a blast! It started out with some service for a family in the ward, the Allens! We were blessed to perform some manual labor in the form of digging up their back garden and leveling out the dirt. It was fun! And it was nice to use my hands for something other than writing things down ha ha. (See first picture)
The following day we had an exchange with the other York misisonaries, and I was serving in my own area with Elder Chen, from China!  He was baptised in China about 4 years ago (through his mom) and he is now the only native chinese misisonary in the entire england leeds mission!  So, fun little snippit from the life of a missionary... We get a call about the middle of the day from the bishops wife, telling us that her husband would not be home in time to feed us for tea that night, and so she so graciously volunteered to order us pizza! Any pizza we want, any size we want! At first... We ordered just a humble, pepperoniu pizza, not wanting to take advantage of the kindness of our members... but then she said, is that really all you want? Elders... I dont want you to go hungry. Order anything! And so we did! And we ordered the most meaty pizzas on the menu, and it was delicious :) Thank goodness for amazing and generous members! See second picture. 
After the exchange, we got back to our regular conpanionships and got back into the swing of life, and were blessed to have had the opportunity to schedule 3 new people for baptism! As well as send the car to the shop to have it checked (called an MOT).
And then conference happened! And behold, it was very good :) And now we're off for a zone preparation day at on the English coastline. Hopefully it will be sunny!

Elder Gabriel G. Spencer