Tuesday morning we went to Julia's house to do some service and we had some lunch with her as well. We always have a really fun time helping her clean and chatting with her. Then we walked back just in time for exchanges to start with our sister training leaders. Right when I arrived in the mission they changed our exchanges in that we would both always go to the STL's area and stay there with them. But now it's been changed back to the way most of the missions do it and one of us can stay and one of us will go to their area. I stayed here in Blackwood with Sister Vousden from Essex (England). I made some dinner for us and then we went and taught David and Madalaine. We ended up doing some hand sewing to help Madalaine and taught her more about faith and prayers. It was very dark when we finished so we tried to visit some less active members near to our flat. As we went to knock on the door of the last people, a light came on illuminating theeee biggest spider we'd ever seen. It was huge and very round and orange and we got out of there very quickly!! We could even see it from across the road... you shouldn't be able to see a spider that far away! Also we saw a few windows that already had nativities out. There's no Thanksgiving over here so Christmas prep is full blown after Halloween!
Wednesday morning Sister Vousden and I made the trek to the chapel for Relief Society, always a good laugh with the sisters there. We made some beautiful 3-D Christmas card shadow box thingies. We had a quick lunch at the chapel and went to visit some less active members. Most of them weren't in so we visited Gill and she showed us volume 68 (yeah.. and there's even more!) of her Osmond scrapbooks from concerts and meet and greets and her scripture set that's been signed by all the Osmonds. Then we went and taught our Methodist minister friend Gareth about the gospel of Jesus Christ. He could really see the similarities with our church and other Christian religions as we taught about faith and repentance and so on. Their house is already all decorated for Christmas and it's fab. Then we exchanged back and Sister Tartaglia and I went to coordination at the chapel. For youth, we had a big gender reveal party for one of the young women leaders; Hannah, who had just found out what her baby will be. We played lots of baby shower games and a lot of the less active youth and recent converts came out to see if she was having a boy or a girl. There was a piñata at the end with shredded paper and the gender was written on one of the slips. It's a boy!
Thursday morning we had a lovely district meeting joined by our zone leaders. We had a fun lunch together and had lots of laughs over some of the new features on photos for our iPads. We planned to see Eric after and Sister Manning came with us, but when we got there he had family and cleaners over so we couldn't go in. So we did some tracting in Newbridge and met some nice people! Then we hopped on a train to Llanhilleth to see the Davise Family. Amy had forgotten about our lesson but she still let us in (which is much better than calling before and having them cancel like the last few weeks) and we had a good chat catching up with them after so long. They're having some family struggles so we just helped Amy make their school lunches for the next day and talked about faith. It was really great to finally get back in contact with them and we had a lovely visit. Then we trained back and headed to the flat for dinner and began the long and painful process of transferring the area book into a digital format on our new app. Picture binders full of years and years of teaching records; people found, lessons taught and so forth that all has to be transferred. One day this app will be a beautiful sight, but for now we need a lot of time in the flat or at the chapel transferring it all over for future missionaries to have.
Friday we had a pretty good day planned, but God had a much better day in store for us. We did our weekly planning and had lunch in the morning. Then we headed to Newbridge to catch a bus to an area of our area we'd never been to before. We planned to visit a list of less active members we'd been given (we found out later that most of them aren't even alive anymore). As we walked through Newbridge we ran into Hannah and she commanded us to come be the first visitors in their new home. We've been asking and asking when we could help her pack and also move in but she kept saying no. Hannah is pregnant and it was just her and her husband there and it became very apparent upon arrival that they needed some extra hands. Next thing we knew we were unpacking and assembling and trying to get everything done before the kids came to their new house. They were very thankful for our help and it was exactly where we were needed Friday. Then we went to contact a referral from the elders named Becky. She's youth age and lives with her mum who is a member so the elders had never been able to go inside and decided it was best for us to teach her. Well as we walked up the hill to their home, lo and behold Becky and Jane were headed down the hill to a bonfire and firework display... we chatted for a bit before they had to go and then we felt we should stop by Marcia with our empty time. We had a lovely visit and really cheered her up and knew that too was where we were needed.
Saturday we got up bright and early and then had to run 15 minutes to the bus stop to catch a train to Cardiff. Our zone met together in the city to volunteer together for the British legion selling poppies. It was their big Poppy Appeal day and they gave us a big sector of the city to cover all day. Saturday was the big Cardiff vs. Australia rugby match so city centre was bustling and we had special poppy badges to sell with rugby balls on them. It was absolutely freeeeezing all day and we stood in the city for over 6 hours collecting. And no worries, only one drunk man threatened to blow us up. We had a lot of fun with our zone during our short lunch break. Then it was back to work, and after 6 hours in the cold we met a cool saxophone player and some of the elders starting dancing to try and sell more poppies. They looked like idiots but it was pretty entertaining for us! I really just love being in the city and I especially love Cardiff city so it was a great day! Then we travelled back and visited Lilian. We went up to visit Becky again and as we walked up another hill to get there she was coming down again! But we tried and we will just keep trying! We visited some other members and walked back to the loud bursts of the fireworks. Saturday was bonfire night where they celebrate the fact that Guy Fawkes did not blow up parliament by blowing up a bunch of fireworks and having lots of bonfires in the U.K. It was like a freezing cold version of the Fourth of July fireworks. As we walked down the hills back to our flat we could see all the beautiful fireworks over the Blackwood area and I just felt so thankful to be here right now as a missionary. I truly love the people here so much and there's no place I'd rather be.
Sunday we had a relaxed church meeting seeing as neither of us had to talk or teach Sunday school. Then we had a delicious roast dinner with brother and Sister Spragg. Roast dinners are our favourite thing ever and last night I seriously had a nightmare that I came back to America and no one knew how to make gravy. And in my dream I was just like "how am I supposed to eat a proper meal without gravy" as I started to cry... this is what over 9 months in the U.K. does to your dreams! We visited some less active members and then had call-ins and entered more teaching records into our area book app to finish off the night.
We may not have taught a lot of people this week with the two holidays but we served everyone that gave us the chance and that truly brought the Spirit. Thankful for fun exchanges, big cities, warm hats, service projects and my Italian companion for teaching me how to make authentic homemade pizza today! We heard we may even get some snow this week so exciting things are ahead!
Love you all,
1. It was so fun selling Poppies for the Poppy Appeal!
2. Poppies are sold to help the Veterans
3. We had fun with the missionaries in our zone on Poppy Appeal Day in Cardiff town centre
4. Selfie before district meeting
5. Playing games while we unpack boxes at Hannah's house