Monday, July 27, 2015

Galway Races...and lots of food

July 27, 2015
Galway has been the place to be lately. There have been so many people here for vacations and for the arts festival that ended yesterday. But this week it's going to be even crazier (I'll explain later).

So this week was great! On Tuesday we had Zone Interview Training in Limerick. It's basically a zone conference where we receive instruction from the zone leaders and the mission president and the assistants to the president. Plus we get to have an interview with the mission president as well. President Donaldson is a great man and I love talking to him and getting counsel from him. A big part of the zone interview training was focusing on getting investigators to recognize the Holy Ghost. The Spirit is essential for conversion because it testifies of truth and allows people to truly receive answers from God by manifestations of the Spirit. In John 14: 26-27 and John 15: 26-27, there are some wonderful descriptions of what the Holy Ghost feels like and how it testifies of truth. So I really enjoyed meeting with the rest of the zone in Limerick. Oh and it is customary for all new missionaries to give testimonies at the first meeting as a zone so I and 3 other new missionaries all bore our testimony. Also, I was asked to be the pianist for the whole meeting, so I was happy to have the chance to use my piano skills again.

I went on a few exchanges this week with other missionaries from district. After Zone Interview training, Elder Christensen stayed in Limerick and I went back to Galway with Elder Bailey. Elder Bailey is such a cool guy and he's from Arizona! He lives in Mesa about 15 minutes from home, so I thought that was awesome. And he goes home in about 3 weeks, so I was able to ask him a lot about his experiences as a missionary. I had a great time with him and I also went on an exchange with his companion, Elder Buckley, on Friday and Saturday. Elder Buckley is from Las Vegas and has been out about 15 months so I was able to learn a lot from him as well.

On Friday night, the all 4 of us missionaries in Galway had dinner at the Senior couple's flat. The Reimers are a nice couple and always willing to help us. We ate a lot of food there when we there for dinner; probably the most food I had eaten since the MTC. They tried to get us to eat up all the food they made, which I was fine with because it was delicious. We had pot roast and corn bread and peanut butter cookies for dessert. And then we also ate a lot on Saturday because we went to the branch BBQ. I loved it! We went to this park in a nearby town called Oranmore and it was so fun! Most of the branch was there along with a few others. We ate hot dogs, hamburgers, sausages, chicken, salad, cookies, and cake. I was full two days in a row with eating at the Reimers and having the branch BBQ. We also threw around an American football that somebody brought and kicked a football (I'm really used to calling soccer football now) around. There was also this fun game that is a hard to describe, but you basically throw this small ball somewhere and then you try to throw these heavier colored balls as close as you can to it. So the whole activity was really fun. All our branch members our great!

This week was pretty tough again with missionary work. A lot of our appointments fell through again and it was just difficult to meet with our investigators. I did teach one great lesson with Elder Bailey on Wednesday though. There is this great Irish man who loves meeting with the missionaries and says he gets a great feeling when he does. So hopefully we can continue to progress with him. However, we do keep finding more people on the streets who are willing to meet up in the future so I'm optimistic that in the next few weeks we will start having more lessons. 

This week in Galway is going to be crazy busy. Starting today are the Galway races. The Galway races are some of the biggest horse races in all of Europe. There will be close to 50 races happening throughout the week starting today and going all the way through Sunday. It's a huge event and one of our neighbors said there will be tens of thousands of people coming through to see them. The biggest race is on Wednesday for the Galway plate, which is a huge achievement. Probably equivalent to winning the Kentucky Derby or Belmont Stakes back in the US. Some members of the branch advised us to not be in the city centre at all during night time from Wednesday to Saturday because there will be so many drunk people and it could get violent around there. So it will be real interesting to see all the people coming through Galway. It's such an exciting time to be in this city.

I am so happy to be here and even though it is tough, I know I am here for a reason and will be able to accomplish great things!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Biking Uphill in the Rain!

July 20, 2015
Missionary work is quite difficult, but Elder Christensen is really helping me. The new senior couple came in on Tuesday who will be in Galway with us. They are the Reimers from California. They are pretty nice and said they will be able to feed us at least once a week so we're pretty excited for that. As I explained last week, we had to give our car to them, so now we are on bikes... which makes everything a lot more difficult. For the first few days on bikes, my legs and butt were so sore all the time from cycling everywhere. Elder Christensen is really fast, so I am getting a workout keeping up with him. It also doesn't help that there are lots hills that are challenging to pedal up. And our flat just happens to be at the top of this giant hill... So everyday we have to pedal up the giant hill at least a few times. My legs are going to be so strong by the time I am out of Galway.

The stereotype holds true: it rains... a lot! Almost everyday you can count on rain at some point during the day. On Saturday we were riding our bikes in the rain basically all day, so we were completely drenched by the time we got back to the flat at night. Although, there were two days this week I think where it was sunny pretty much all day long, so that was a blessing. It can also get very very windy. While studying in the morning a few days ago, I looked out the window and the rain was literally coming down sideways! I'll tell you that one of the most physically demanding tasks in the world is riding a bike uphill into the wind and pouring rain. 

This week was also pretty difficult because we had a lot of appointments set up with investigators and they literally all fell through except for one last night! So it was frustrating, but we did visit a few recent converts and less actives. We visited this really nice Nigerian woman and her two sons. We intended to visit her to just get to know her more and leave a message, but she insisted on us eating food while we there so it was pretty nice that we got fed dinner as well. We also visited another single Nigerian man and he was generous as well and gave us a snack. There are some really wonderful members put here! We had two dinner appointments this week as well with very nice families. All the food was great! There wasn't a whole lot that was different, but they do love potatoes as you might have guessed. One family had made boiled potatoes, potato croquettes, AND mashed potatoes. And there were other vegetables and meat and apple sauce and other normal stuff. Oh and there is this really great drink called squash which is like really concentrated fruit juice that you put in your cup and add water to. I love it! However, I don't think I have to worry about gaining any weight in Galway with all the bike riding.

So in Galway, proselyting is pretty difficult because when it's raining it seems like there aren't a lot of happy people and nobody outside wants to talk because they are just trying to get out of the rain. So when it rains we tend to do more door-knocking and when it's not raining we like to walk around parks or the city centre and talk to people there who are outside enjoying the lack of rain. We met a lot of nice people this week who were willing to let us come teach them. Hopefully it will work out and we can actually teach them. You wouldn't believe how many tourists and non-Irish people there are here. I really wish I knew Spanish or Italian because we have talked to so many people from Spain and Italy who don't speak English very well. I've met people from all across Europe! And it's always nice to see a few Americans because they always recognize us and want to talk. There are especially a lot of visitors right now because there's this big Galway International Arts Festival which attracts a lot of people. 

Sunday (yesterday) was a great day because it was sunny just about all day. It was interesting riding our bikes to church in our suits, but I'm sure I'll get used to it. Right before we left the flat, one of the branch members asked if could be the pianist and told me which hymns to play. Oh and it was really interesting because the opening prayer was given in Irish! I hadn't really heard it much until then. It sounds pretty weird. Elder Christensen and I taught the gospel principles class too; we switch off every week with the other companionship in our flat. We had our real first lesson with investigators on Sunday night as well. Earlier in the week we saw two girls sitting outside their door, so we stopped and talked to them. They are from the US so they recognized us and they even had a high school friend who went on mission. They are finishing up college, but are just in Ireland for the summer to take a break. They agreed to let us come by Sunday night to teach them so we did and it went pretty well! 

Missionary work is real humbling, but I am so grateful to be out here. I am learning that I need to trust the Lord because he has a plan for all of us and gives us the experiences we need to learn and grow. In Jacob 4 we were studying and it talks about how mighty Heavenly Father is and how we need to take counsel from his hand and not just think we know everything for ourselves. As is says in Alma 26, we cannot boast of our own strength, but only in the strength that comes through Christ

Galway, Ireland

View from the missionaries' flat

Monday, July 13, 2015

Photos from Ireland

Missionaries' house in Galway

Inside our flat (nice to have the keyboard) 


Galway Cathedral

Church meetinghouse in Galway, Ireland
Elder Oxspring in Galway

First Area: Galway, Ireland

July 13, 2015  Wow!! it's been such a crazy week and a half! From Tuesday to Friday I stayed the night in four different countries in a row. But I guess I better start back from my last week in the MTC. On Thursday in the MTC we took a train to Piccadilly square in Manchester to go street contacting. It was pretty fun, but I learned that I need to get better at talking to strangers. We had fast and testimony meeting the last Sunday in the MTC, which was really great! I shared my testimony and it was wonderful hearing from so many missionaries with such strong testimonies. I felt the Spirit so strongly in the MTC and I was grateful for my time there. The Tuesday night before we left, we got to attend the temple again. Such a great spiritual experience!

We had to get up at 4:45am the next day. We left at 6:00am from the MTC on a bus to head up to the mission field in Edinburgh.There were 23 of us total that went to Scotland/Ireland. Some of the workers at the mission home said it was the most new missionaries they had seen in a long time! It was really fun driving up for a few hours through northern England and Scotland. I was exactly how you would imagine it: lots of hill, sheep, goats, rivers, cloudy weather, and lots of GREEN. No surprises there! We got to the mission home, dropped off our bags, and went with the mission President, his wife, and all the senior companions to Pratt's Hill. Pratt's Hill (or Arthur's seat as the locals call it) is where Orson Pratt prayed as he began as one of the first missionaries in Scotland. It was an amazing view of Edinburgh! We sang hymns, prayed, and had a little devotional at the top of the hill. We ate lunch and then went to the chapel next door for some instructions, interviews with the mission President, and of course getting assigned our companions! My companion is Elder Christensen and I found out I was going to Galway, Ireland. He is from Wyoming, and is a real nice guy. He is the district leader for Galway and has already been there for 3 months so he has done a great job of helping me and showing me what to do. I'm really grateful for him!

Everyone who was assigned to go to Ireland stayed the night in the mission home, so I stayed there with about 10 or so other Elders. Since we had a few hours til it was time to go to sleep, I helped one of the APs take the Elders going to Scotland to the train station and then I went out with Elder Christensen around Edinburgh for some street contacting. Staying the night in Edinburgh was crazy! Most of us were packed into this pretty small room, so it was interesting, but it was all fine! The next morning our bus didn't leave til about 1:30 so me and Elder Christensen went out knocking on doors in a little neighborhood called Oxgangs Farm. We found a few nice people who were willing to let missionaries come back again to teach them so it was a good experience. We left on the bus from Edinburgh at like 1:30 and traveled to the west coast of Scotland through Glasgow and a few other cities. We left on a ferry from a port called Cairnryan I think? The ferry was so cool!! It was like a mini cruise ship! We stayed in this lounge most of the time and it was fun getting to know the other missionaries going to Ireland. The ferry ride was a few hours and when we landed in Northern Ireland it was pretty late. We took a quick bus to Belfast and had to walk like 25 minutes through the pouring rain from the bus station to a flat that some of the Elders there were staying in. It was a really nice flat that overlooked Belfast. There were a quite a few Elders cramped in there again and we got to sleep really late so I didn't get a whole lot of sleep.The next day, Friday, we took a bus from Belfast to Dublin and Elder Christensen's car was there so we drove that all the way across Ireland to Galway. It took quite a while though because we got a little lost in Dublin and started going the wrong way, so we took a more scenic route to Galway. It was beautiful driving through the green Irish countryside!

So Galway is a pretty interesting place- it is really Irish! All the signs are written in Irish Gaelic first and then English so it is quite interesting. Irish is really weird! I think Galway in Irish is like Gaillimh or something like that. But everyone still knows English so it's fine. However, it's kind of a University town and there are a lot of tourists so we've talked to a lot of people from a lot of different countries. I think it's rained every day so far, but it isn't too cold so I think it feels pretty good. The branch here is really tiny! On church on Sunday there were just over 20 people I think. For church we meet in the top of this building in a business park. Oh and the Branch President called me the night we got in and asked me to give a talk on Sunday, so that was fun! I mainly introduced myself and told why I'wanted to go on a mission and everything. I also blessed the sacrament and played the piano for priesthood. When there's such a small branch, the missionaries have a lot of responsibilities! My companion is actually the Young Men's President even though there are only 1 or 2 YM that regularly attend. I love all the members though; they are great people! Oh and as I said earlier, we have a car to use right now too! I already got to drive a little bit! It was a little interesting driving on the left side and going around all the roundabouts they have, but it was fun! The problem is that a senior couple is coming into our area tomorrow, so we have to give them our car. So then we have to ride bikes.  
 Our flat where we're staying is pretty nice. A little dirty right now, but we'll clean it up. Oh and it's a 4-man flat so. I'm staying with two other missionaries, Elder Salinas from Mexico and Elder Williams from Idaho who was actually in the MTC with me so this is his first area too! The flat even has a keyboard, so I can practice the piano and has weights for me to workout a little bit. Our flat is just a little house in this neighborhood, so it's not really an apartment. Here is the address for my flat that you can send mail too:

12B Hy-Brasil Court
Love, Elder Oxspring

Pratt's Hill (Arthur's seat) and a view of Edinburgh
Scotland/Ireland Mission home

West coast of Scotland

The lounge in the ferry from Scotland to Ireland 

Cathedral in Edinburgh

Arrival in Edinburgh at the Mission home

Elder Oxspring looks so happy and love that
mission tie he's sporting! 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

MTC Barbecue

Cake the missionaries were served
July 4, 2015 They sure do treat the missionaries well at the England MTC!  They prepared a wonderful barbecue to celebrate the 4th of July.  (We are grateful that the English don't hold any grudges against the US on our Independence Day!)  It looks like they also enjoyed some unusually sunny weather.
The England MTC has such a beautiful setting!

Elder Oxspring filling his plate (wearing his patriotic tie) 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

First P-Day at the England MTC

Elder Oxspring's companions-he's in a trio
July1, 2015  Everything is going great at the MTC. I really love it here! 

Yeah so this MTC is very small, just under 50 missionaries I think. On Thursday night, we got assigned our companions and districts. I actually have two other Elders that are my companions: Elder Green and Elder Cluster. Elder Green is from Pinetop AZ. Elder Cluster is the one from Utah who plays the bagpipes. They're both pretty good guys and fun to work with, but it's just hard working in a trio. And guess what!? I was made district leader! There are 7 in my district including me and my companions: Elder Bradshaw from St. Johns, his companion is Elder McCappin from Australia (the one related to the Scarletts), Sister Tenney from Taylor AZ, and her companion Sister Hoferl from Austria (she speaks pretty good English though). My whole district is going to Scotland/Ireland except Sister Tenney who is going to Birmingham.

 I really like how small the MTC is because we all know each other! I could probably give you the name of every missionary, where they're from and a little something about their personality. There are missionaries from all over! There are missionaries from South Africa, Australia, Austria, Brazil, China, Switzerland, Scotland, England, Northern Ireland, and even a sister from Zambia sister! We went to the temple this morning (and the temple is so beautiful, by the way) and the Sister from Zambia was going through for the first time because she had no temple close to her back home. Sister Gillette is actually her companion, so she was the escort. Probably about 20 missionaries or so are going to Scotland/Ireland, but there are a few going to Birmingham, a few staying 6 weeks to learn German for the Alpine German-speaking mission, and a few staying 9 weeks learning Greek for the Greece Athens mission. All the missionaries going to Greece are from Europe already; they say Greek is so tough to learn. And there are two missionaries here that are learning English, an Elder from Brazil and Sister from China. The Elder spoke absolutely zero English when he got here, so he needed a translator and everything and it was difficult at first, and the Sister knew a little English but not much. Both are doing really well after just a week though

The food here is great! And guess what? They even have bbq sauce. One day we even had bbq pulled pork sandwiches. There are a few weird drinks that are different like ginger beer or vimto, and there's an occasional strange dish we'll have like yorkshire pudding (which is like a bread bowl type of thing), but for the most part it's pretty Americanized and it all tastes really good!

 I just got back from this store called Asda, which is like the British equivalent of Walmart.    

 I love the MTC President here. President Preston is such an intelligent and funny guy. He's really emphasized that we speak more "proper" English since we in England, which is the land of such good writers like Shakespeare and Charles Dickens. He said we should get out of the habit of using slang like "awesome" and "cool" and "guys" so that's a little difficult. But I really like hearing so many different English accents with missionaries from Scotland, England, South America, Australia, and everywhere else, it's been really interesting.

I've been playing the piano quite a bit. What Mom always says finally came true... Everyone was asked to prepare a talk on the Atonement for sacrament meeting on Sunday, and they just called random people when we got there to give talks. However, I was the pianist for sacrament meeting, so I knew I wouldn't have to give one, so I didn't have to prepare a talk! I've been the pianist for a few different meetings.

As a district leader I have had a lot more responsibilities I have had to do while here. I had to attend extra leadership meetings and preside during district meetings and discussions and make assignments and stuff. But it's been fun!

I've really enjoyed learning how to teach lessons and everything. We typically teach about 2 full lessons per day and do a lot more role-playing. I really enjoy the MTC, but the longer I'm here, the more I just want to get out in the mission field and teach real people. I like all my teachers! Two of my teachers are from England, Brother Webb and Sister Shepherd (Sister Shepherd is from Derby and has a really different English accent) and we have another teacher named Sister Alston from Canada (she has an American accent, so that's nice for a change).

Milan's district:  Elder Green, Me, Elder Cluster, Elder McCappin, Elder Bradshaw,
Sister Hoferl, Sister Tenney
Preston, England Temple
MTC room