Monday, August 31, 2015

New investigators, a new bike and Faith

August 31, 2015

Elder Christensen and Elder Oxspring at Salthill beach
(Sent from Sister Holbrook who we met while walking)
 Wow another week has already come and passed! I can't believe that September is already beginning tomorrow; I never knew the weeks could go by so fast. This last week was wonderful!

Elder Reimers (senior couple) was ill on Tuesday, so he let us borrow the car for the day. And Tuesday was district meeting, so I got to drive down to Limerick and Elder Christensen drove back. Our new district seems like it will be pretty fun. There is a new Elder in Limerick who just got out of the MTC, Elder Wall from England. So it's weird that I am not even the youngest missionary in my district anymore. And Elder Dewsbery seems to be a great district leader as well. It was nice to have the car for the rest of Tuesday because it poured hard the whole afternoon. Plus my bike's chain fell off and one of the gears shattered so we were able to take our bikes in the car to get them fixed. Oh and good news! We have been in contact with the mission home, and we are going to be getting new bikes this week!! Elder Christensen couldn't stand his bike anymore (the bike I had last transfer) so he has been working hard to get new bikes. We took all 4 of our bikes into the shop and it was estimated that it would cost almost €1000 to get them all completely repaired, so we talked a lot with the mission home last week and we are going to trade our old bikes in this week and get new ones. The manager of the bike shop knows us pretty well because we have been there so many times, so he gave us a good deal.

We had quite a few lessons with investigators this week, so I was happy that we got to do plenty of teaching. I have found that the hardest part about working with investigators here in Galway is getting them to come to church. It is amazing how many people here don't have cars! There are so many people who just walk, bike, or bus everywhere. And on Sunday the buses do not start going until much later, so that makes it difficult. And all the members usually live way out of Galway city or have cars that are full and cannot bring investigators with them. So that has probably been the biggest struggle for us. 

I went on exchanges with Elder Dewsbery on Friday and we found so many new people who were willing to meet up sometime so that we can teach them. We found 7 people who gave us their numbers so we can call and schedule a time to meet up-  if you want to know how diverse Galway is, these are the nationalities of the 7 people: 2 Irish, 1 Chinese, 1 Czech, 1 Nigerian, 1 Brazilian, and 1 Polish. So it was great finding so many good people. 

On Saturday we were out walking at Salthill (beach) just talking to people and we ran into a former missionary that was just visiting here with his family. His name is Elder Holbrook and we talked with him for a good while. He was actually trained here in Galway too, and I had seen his name on some of the teaching records so it was cool to meet him. There are so many members on vacation that we meet here in Galway.

So I was given a few assignments at church on Sunday. Since the other Elder Christensen is gone now, I am going to be the new Young men's President. It isn't too difficult of a task because there aren't very many young men; it should be a good experience for me. Oh and I was also given the assignment of being primary pianist because I guess they want to do a small primary program in December with the few kids that they have, so I will be in primary playing the music so the kids can practice. And this is all in addition to being the ward pianist half the time and teaching gospel principles when we have investigators there. I don't know what they would do in this branch without missionaries.

I have been studying a lot about faith recently and how essential it is to gaining a strong testimony. Faith is the first principle of the gospel and it is the foundation upon we must build. No proof, evidence, or miracle can start a testimony. In the Book of Mormon, if you look at all the prophecies given by Samuel the Lamanite concerning Christ's birth, you can see that so many people gained a belief solely because the signs predicted by Samuel came true (3 Nephi 1: 15-18). However, all these people later became wicked, hardened their hearts, and forgot the signs that had been given to them (3 Nephi 2:1-3). In the New Testament we see that Simon (Peter) was blessed and called as an apostle not because he had faith of Jesus Christ by seeing Him in the flesh, but because he received confirmation from Heavenly Father (Matt. 15: 13-17). We need to have faith and pray and receive a witness from Heavenly Father in order to gain a testimony of truth. It is the only way! From Doctrine and Covenants we learn that the Lord does not reveal signs to those who ask. We must first have faith, and then we will receive signs and witnesses as confirmation that we are following the right path. Signs do not come by the will of man, but only by the will of God (D&C 63: 9-12). There is a reason why the golden plates are not on the Earth today or concrete proof of the truthfulness of the gospel are available for the world to see. It would be too easy if there was, and people would join the church based on logic and evidence, not by faith and testimony. However, all those who do act in faith will receive their own personal manifestations of truth.

The work in Galway is wonderful and I am so excited for this upcoming week. I am traveling to Dublin this Wednesday for an All-Ireland conference for all the missionaries currently in Ireland. It's going to be sweet! I cannot wait for all the amazing opportunities this week. I love missionary work!
Rockin Joe's- an American diner in Galway

Monday, August 24, 2015

Great start to another six weeks in Galway!

Elder Daysen Christensen, Elder Oxspring, Elder Wyatt Christensen
Milan's new trainer is on the left
August 24, 2015
Wow it's been quite the crazy week with all the moves and changes happening in the mission. After we got the call a week ago that the companionships in our flat would be changing, it got pretty hectic. Monday and Tuesday was pretty much all packing for the two Elders in our flat leaving, as well as meeting with a bunch of members and investigators to say goodbye. It was so sad watching Elder Christensen say goodbye to so many great people. I am not looking forward to leaving Galway when I do. That's the tough part about missions: building so many great relationships with people, just to say goodbye a couple months later. But I am not going to focus on that right now because I love the people so much.

It was so cool experiencing what it is like to be apart of all the transfers happening throughout the mission. So on Tuesday evening, Elder Christensen and Elder Salinas left our flat and took a bus to Dublin and stayed the night there. Me and Elder Williams just stayed the night together in our flat. Then on Wednesday morning, I and Elder Williams were driven to Limerick by the senior couple. Elder Williams met his new companion there because he was coming up from Cork. However, I had to travel to Dublin to pick up my new companion and take him back to Galway. So I drove with one of my zone leaders, Elder Ilori, to Dublin. And guess what... Elder Ilori let me drive there, so it was a lot of fun driving a few hours through some pretty hard rain to Dublin from Limerick. A lot of missionaries going through transfers met at a chapel in Dublin, and it was a lot of fun being there for most of the day. I met my new companion at the chapel right when I got there, but we stayed there with the rest of the missionaries til the evening time because our bus to Galway didn't leave until then. But it was a good time talking with other missionaries there and there was a gym in the chapel so we shot around some basketballs too so it was great. My old companion who I already said goodbye to was actually there too so I got to spend more time with him there. Then we went to the bus station, and there were soooooo many missionaries traveling through the Dublin bus station. There must have been at least 30 missionaries there. But it was fun to meet so many missionaries and find out where they were all going. The craziest move that I saw was a missionary coming from the Shetland islands way north of Scotland near Norway, coming all the way down to Tralee, Ireland. He left Monday, and wasn't going to get to Tralee til Thursday. He had some insane travel plans. But anyway, we left from Dublin and took a reallllly long bus ride back to Galway. It had a lot of stops so we didn't get back to Galway until really late. But it was good because I had a lot of time to get to know my new companion Elder Daysen Christensen.

So the new Elder Christensen is a lot of fun! He is from Canada (has lived all over Canada, but his family is currently in Toronto), and was just serving in Dundalk, Ireland. He only has 6 months left, so he is really experienced and can probably teach me a lot. He is full of energy and always so happy and excited. I think we are going to work really well together, so I am really looking forward to the next six weeks! He is really enthusiastic about Galway and after being around the city for the first few days, he says he thinks it is one of the nicest areas in the whole mission. 

Because of all the craziness happening with all the moves, we didn't get to teach a whole lot of lessons, but we still did have a few. And we talked to and found a lot of good people as well. We have a lot of lessons set up for this next week, so I am really excited! The other new missionary in my flat, companions with Elder Williams, is Elder Dewsbery. He is our new district leader and also lots of fun, so I think it will be a great time in our flat.

In the Book of Mormon, I am reading in Helaman and from my studies I am learning so many great things! I have learned how necessary trials our in our lives because often when things are going so well in our lives, we forget Heavenly Father and how he has blessed us. Helaman 6:17 is a great scripture about how people were blessed with prosperity, but then forgot God and began to be so prideful and focused on wordly things. We must rely on the Lord, if we are to be the most prosperous.

I love missionary work and I am so excited for all the opportunities that I have.
(Note- in the mission the first trainer is called your "Father", if you have a second trainer they're called your "Mom"- so Milan had Father Christensen and Mother Christensen as trainers!)
District before transfers

Sunset in Galway

Monday, August 17, 2015

New companion in Galway

 August 17, 2015
Wow, this has been such a wonderful week! We received our calls late last night about what is happening with the upcoming transfer. It was likely that nothing would change for me or the other Elders in our flat, but boy were we wrong. The whole mission is getting shaken up right now! So... sadly Elder Christensen is leaving Galway. It wasn't likely to happen because he is supposed to train me for six more weeks, but I guess it wasn't meant to be. So Elder Christensen is leaving to go to Sligo, Ireland. I have heard great things about my new companion though! Guess what his name is... Elder Christensen. Not even joking! I am going from having Elder Wyatt Christensen as a companion to having Elder Daysen Christensen as a companion. He is coming from Dundalk in the Dublin Zone and he has been out on his mission for quite a while. Apparently he is really energetic and happy, so I am excited!  Apparently every companionship in the Limerick district where I am at has been changed.. Oh and apparently they are creating a new zone up in Scotland too! So many changes!!! 

This week was great!! It was beautiful weather almost all week long with lots of sun! On Thursday we saw everyone out on the beach at Salthill because it was so sunny. The water was probably still very cold, but everyone was out there having a good time!

Tuesday was one of the best days that I have had! We went up to Limerick for district meeting, and it was sad because Elder Bailey (from Mesa, AZ) is going home, but we all had a great time together! When we went back to Galway, we were to have 3 lessons with investigators and have a dinner appointment with the Christy family who are absolutely incredible people. So it was just a wonderful day keeping busy with appointments and good food and everything else.

The rest of the week we were able to have a few very good lessons with investigators and found a lot of new people too. Oh and were able to have another dinner with members on Friday evening. The O'tooles who live more in the countryside out of Galway invited all of us missionaries in Galway, including the senior couple, out for a BBQ. They are also incredible and had amazing food for us! There were ribs, chicken, burgers, potato salad, and all kinds of good stuff, so we all ate so much. There are so many great members in our branch that are so kind to us!

At church on Sunday, it was PACKED!! There were a ton of visitors from Idaho, Utah, Washington, Tennessee, and Germany. I think they said there were 70 people total! We had to bring in extra chairs to fit everybody, and we almost ran out of cups on the sacrament trays. It was great to see to many people there! I and Elder Christensen were also asked to teach the Gospel Doctrine class, so that was pretty interesting as well. I had never even been to that Sunday school class before and I had to help teach it. But it was good and a few members came up to us afterward and said we did a good job. 

There are so many new changes, but I trust that they are inspired moves and that I will be able to learn and grow more from a new companion. I know that Heavenly Father is watching over me and wants what is best. Like one of my favorite scriptures in Proverbs 3: 5, I just need to trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding. I am sad that Elder Christensen is leaving; he is such a great missionary and has helped me so much. I am so excited for a new companion and new opportunities that I will have in Galway. 

Elder Taylor Bailey (returning to Mesa)

Galway City Centre- Eyre Square
Salthill Beach on a sunny day

Green and Beautiful Ireland  

Monday, August 10, 2015

Time is moving fast

Galway library-written in English and Irish
August 10, 2015

Wow I can't believe how quickly time is going by!   I am almost done with my first transfer here in the mission field. Sunday night I will find out if I am getting moved to a different area or getting a new companion or if anything else changes. There's probably a 90% chance that nothing will change that will affect me because they typically have new missionaries trained in the same area with the same companion for 2 transfers (12 weeks), but who knows! Anything could happen, especially because there is a huge group of missionaries coming in next Wednesday- around 25 I think which is even bigger than my group. Sending letters this week is probably fine because there aren’t likely to be any changes for me. 

It is a little more calm here for now because all the big events are over with. However, school and universities start at the end of August so there will be lots of international students coming to get settled in the next couple weeks. There are two major universities in Galway: National Univeristy of Ireland- Galway (NUIG) and Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT). Apparently when the universities start, missionaries can find a lot of students to teach, so hopefully that will be good for us.

On Tuesday we went to Limerick again for district meeting, and it was supposed to be a really good rest of the day because we had two lessons set up, but they didn't work out. For both lessons we brought members to help us teach and for both appointments, the people were but said they were actually two busy or couldn't meet at the moment. So it was a little disappointing, but we ended just having good discussions with the two members we had brought to the lessons. One of the members was this man from South Africa and he is such a cool guy! He was a convert in his late teenage years in South Africa, he had really cool experiences. He is very intelligent and has even written and published a book. So it was really great getting to know him. He has such a strong testimony!

However, we did have a few really good lessons with investigators this week, and unfortunately we weren't able to get any of them at church, but we have some really great things set up for this next week so I am really excited for this upcoming week. The other companionship in Galway, Elder Salinas and Elder Williams had one investigator at church this week for the first time and she really loved it! She was actually someone that Elder Salinas and I found while talking to people on the street when we were on exchanges, so it was cool to see how she is progressing now.

There weren't a lot of people at church this week because a few families were gone on vacation, but it was still really good. I was the pianist for sacrament meeting, plus I passed the sacrament! I guess from now on, I will be the pianist for church every other week- switching with the other person who normally played before I came into the area.

This week it rained quite a bit! There were still a couple sunny days, but there was still quite a bit of rain. It's pretty difficult when I see it pouring outside and I know that I have to step outside and ride or walk around for the next few areas. On Saturday we were out knocking doors for a few hours while it was pouring on us the whole time. It started to get really cold, and we were both completely drenched by the time we got back to the flat. I have never been so cold or wet in August before. Almost every door we knocked on, the people would say something like "You should be home sitting by the fire" or "Mind yourselves" or "Find some shelter". However, we did find a few very nice people that invited us to come back another time, so it was all worth it!

I have been studying a lot about doing the things the easy way vs. doing things the right way. Missionary work is difficult, but that is the way it is supposed to be. It can still be fun, but it won't be easy. Although I guess it really isn't that difficult when you look at the early members of the church or even the original apostles of Jesus Christ who were killed and persecuted for proclaiming the gospel. As it says in Alma 37:46, I cannot be slothful because of the easiness of the way. In Doctrine and Covenants 132 it talks about how the righteous way is a narrow gate (v. 22) while the wicked way is a broad gate (v. 25). It is much easier to do the wrong thing, but will be happy for doing the righteous thing even though it is more difficult.

I am so grateful for this opportunity to do the Lord's work and and bring others unto Christ.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Galway Race Week

August 3, 2015

It was quite the busy week in Galway! Obviously the races were happening all week long, so that it made it hectic, but I did a lot of traveling as well. I went down to Limerick twice this week, which is a little over an hour by bus. I went to Limerick on Tuesday for our district meeting and then afterward we stayed for almost the rest of the day because I and Elder Christensen went on exchanges with the Zone Leaders for the day. For our zone in Limerick, our zone leaders are Elder Ilori and Elder Mulville, and I was with Elder Mulville, which was really fun! He is from California and is just great at talking to everyone on the street. We went around the city centre and street contacted people there. Then we had this lesson with a woman who is a member along with her daughter. It was a real interesting lesson because the daughter who was probably about 11 years old was really energetic and she played this game with Elder Mulville and I, and the loser had to stick their face in this mound of flour on a plate. We played twice and I and Elder Mulville each lost once, so we had our faces covered in flour before we wiped them off. But it was a great day in Limerick.

We went to Limerick again on Thursday morning because Elder Christensen had a zone leadership meeting with all the other district leaders in our zone. During their meeting, I went out street contacting with the companions of the other district leaders. One of them was in the MTC with me, so it was fun being with him again. We were just in Limerick for the morning and went back in the afternoon.

So let me tell you a little bit about everything with Race week. First off, the city centre and surrounding areas were crowded all week long! We tried to not be there too much, but when we were- there were just so many people around. We talked to a few people and they said at about 3am every morning, it looked like a bomb went off in the city centre. They said that there is just shattered glass and broken items littering the streets and sometimes people's waste all over too. They say all the pubs are just completely filled all night long and there is so much noise and violence. The two other Elders in our flat got back really late on Thursday night because they were in Limerick because Elder Salinas was translating for a baptismal interview, but anyway they got to the bus station in the city centre after 10 pm and on the way back to the flat they said there were just so many drunk people and noise and craziness going on. Apparently the city does some real heavy duty cleanup in the early hours of the morning. So all the real bad stuff I never had to see luckily. During the day time it was actually pretty cool because there were so many people around in nice suits and fancy dresses. Especially on Thursday! Thursday was what they call ladies day where all the women dress up super fancy with expensive dresses, and lots of makeup, and some with ridiculous hats like they do at the horse races in the US. Some women just do it for fun, but some take it really seriously! There is a prize for the most beautiful woman or best dressed woman or something like that on Thursday, so some women went all out for that. I think the prize was €10,000 or something like that! So it was real interesting.

On Wednesday we biked to the race track (which was pretty far) just to see what it was like. We got as close in as we could without paying which was actually a really good view. We were on the opposite side of the track from the grandstands, so we got to see a horse race happen and see all the vendors and all the people out there so it was pretty fun! There was a lot of betting on the horses and everything, so when the horses crossed the finished line there was all kinds of yelling and screaming. And we did try to talk to some people around there about missionary work and handed out some cards, so that we would still have a missionary purpose while we were there. But I'll probably never see it again so it was fun being in Galway at this time.

Our week was actually really good! We had a few lessons with investigators and so it was fun to start doing more teaching. On Saturday we helped a member move houses, and their new home is really close to our flat. We actually had quite a few people at church on Sunday too. There were probably close to 40 people not including us missionaries. There were a few visitors from the US and even one young couple from Phoenix!  I am really excited for this week because we have a lot of lessons set, so hopefully they will hold up and we will be able to teach a lot of people! 

I have been studying in Alma 26 and it is such a great chapter. All the verses are so powerful, especially verses 11 and 12 about how much power and strength we can have through Heavenly Father. I also really love it because it talks about the sons of Mosiah and how they returned from their missions of preaching to the Lamanites and how much joy and happiness they received from bringing people unto Christ. It's really great!

I am doing wonderful and I am excited for all my upcoming opportunities!

Galway Races! 

At the Race Track
Elder Christensen and Elder Oxspring