Monday, September 28, 2015

Staying in Galway District

Limerick District before moves

September 28, 2015
Wow so it was quite an incredible week!!  I am staying in Galway 6 more weeks along with Elder Christensen. Actually, our whole flat is staying the same for one more transfer crazy enough! Which I am pretty excited about because we are thriving right now and teaching so many lessons, so I am excited to see all our hard work pay off. Unfortunately however, our district is getting changed up a bit. So they are adding another companionship of Elders in Limerick, so there will be enough missionaries to make Limerick its own district. So now we just have a tiny district in Galway only consisting of the 4 of us in our flat and the senior couple. So I am kind of sad about that because now I don't get to travel to Limerick every week and hardly ever get to see other missionaries besides all of us in Galway. But I am sure we will still have a great time and get a lot of work done in our district. One of our zone leaders, Elder Ilori is leaving and going up to be zone leader in Dundee, Scotland so we are all sad about that too because he really built up our zone so much. 

 Last week I talked a bit about the incredible plan given to us by the zone leaders to teach 50 new investigators this last week. And guess what!? We achieved it! Elder Christensen and I had an incredible week and were able to teach 9 new investigators- we were so excited! Our whole zone reached 54 new investigators which is a crazy amount- we taught a total of 101 lessons as well! So our zone is leading the whole mission now! We are so excited to keep it going. This week our goal is to teach 50 lessons to investigators with members present which is a pretty high goal, especially with all the people moving around this week as well. It is going to be tough for us in Galway because it is a little more difficult to arrange to get members out teaching with us, but we have faith and are excited to work hard! 

So overall this whole week was pretty great! On Thursday, I went on exchanges with one of our zone leaders, Elder Ensign from Bountiful, Utah. He came here to Galway and we had a pretty good day trying to find a lot more people to teach. While we were biking, one of the bikes completely broke! Oh yeah, by the way our new bikes FINALLY came in today!! It took forever for them to get here. But yeah, one of the bikes was unable to be ridden after Thursday, so we were on foot from Friday to Sunday, but it wasn't too bad! On Sunday we got up early and took a bus to district conference in Limerick. So it is basically stake conference, but it's just called district conference because all of south and western Ireland isn't big enough to be a stake, so it's a district. The mission President and his wife came and spoke at it along with an Area seventy, Elder Dryden, so there were a lot of great talks! And it was wonderful seeing all the other missionaries from Cork and Tralee and Waterford too that we don't normally see very often. After the conference there was this big munch & mingle at the church for YSA and missionaries so it was really good having food and talking with loads of great people.

There was an inspiring thought from President Donaldson at District conference that I loved!! There was a scripture in D&C 88:64 that he shared a lot of cool thoughts on. It talks about how if we ask Heavenly Father anything, we can receive an answer... but only if it is "expedient" to us. So what does that mean? Well basically, what I took from it was that we must be willing to have faith and act based on the answer we get. We must ask with "real intent" like it says in Moroni's promise, in order to receive an answer from Heavenly Father. Receiving a witness from the Holy Spirit also includes an obligation to act on the promptings that we get. If we ask Heavenly Father a question with real intent and sincerity, in order to have real intent we must be willing to accept and act on whatever the answer is. So we need to continue to pray faithfully and with real intent if we are to receive an answer from our loving Father in heaven.

I am incredibly excited to be in Galway for 6 more weeks!! There are definitely great things in store for me here!

Irish street musician
(The instrument is called a Hurdy Gurdy- with a crank and keyboard)
National University of Ireland-Galway

Monday, September 21, 2015

Elder Christensen's birthday

Happy Birthday Elder Christensen! 

September 21, 2015 
The last 5 weeks in Galway have gone by so fast with Elder Christensen! Next Sunday I will be getting my moves call to find out if I am staying in Galway or not, so next Monday I will have the news for you. Next week I could be traveling to a whole new country and getting a new companion, or everything could just stay the same.  

This week was pretty great!! On Tuesday it was Elder Christensen's birthday so of course we had to celebrate that! At District Meeting in Limerick we had root beer floats afterward that some of the other missionaries in our district organised to surprise Elder Christensen. He loves root beer floats and root beer is pretty rare and expensive over here so it was a great treat! At our flat we decorated it with streamers and balloons and everything and at night we baked a cake and celebrated with sparklers (Elder C got a cake mix and sparklers in his birthday package) so it was a lot of fun! 

We taught quite a few lessons this week and got a couple new investigators, and so we were pretty pleased with all the work we got done. Our Limerick zone has been on fire lately!! And the zone leaders are implementing this plan to increase the work even more! We started with a fast on Sunday to unify the zone and give us extra strength. Every week for the next 8 weeks we are focusing on a different area to help build up Limerick zone even more. So this week we will be focusing on getting 50 new investigators as a zone and then a high amount of lessons taught and then a high amount of investigators at church and so on. It will all culminate in the last 4 weeks of the next transfer where the zone leaders have promised us that if we are diligent in working as hard as we can, every companionship will be able to help at least one person reach baptism. We are all so excited to put it all into action. Elder Christensen and I  are so motivated to get loads of new investigators this week. I really hope I get to stay in Galway for this next transfer to see how it all works out because I am so excited for it! 

Oh and we went by a lot of less-active members' homes this week to try and get more Young men at church and at YM activities. And it worked out great! These two less active Nigerian boys came to play basketball with us and they brought a nonmember friend too! So we had a lot of fun with more Young men there this week. While we were playing a few games with the basketballs, a few others boys saw us and joined in too. At the end we invited them all back for the next week and told them to invite their friends so I hope we can just keep getting more young men out every week. It would be so fun if we could have a huge group!

So on Sunday it absolutely poured in the morning! We got soaked riding our bikes to church. When we got there we went into a room and had to ring out our socks (a lot of water came out), and dry out our trousers and shoes a bit. I need to buy a cover for my trousers and shoes for the rainy sundays. Because it was so rainy, we were not able to get many investigators or less-actives out. It is so tough for those people that have to bike or walk to church when it is pouring. 

Next week, we have district conference (stake conference) in Limerick, I will have to travel there on Sunday morning. We are not sure yet if we are heading there Saturday night for the adult session, but it will be fun being there with so many members from different areas in Ireland. And I am so excited for General conference the following weekend!

In Priesthood on Sunday, we talked quite a bit about pride, and I have been studying pride and humility on my own as well. Humility is such an important attribute that we need to develop in order to counter pride of the natural man. Humility is necessary for baptism because one must recognise that he or she is unable to return to Heavenly Father without the help of Jesus Christ and His infinite atonement. Every week when we partake of the sacrament we should remember that we cannot walk through life relying on ourselves, but instead rely Heavenly Father and Christ. The only way we will be able to stand comfortably before God one day is if we strip ourselves our our pride and humble ourselves by putting trust in Heavenly Father (Alma 5: 28-29).

The work in Galway is continuing forward

-Elder Oxspring
Matteo, an Italian investigator

The Fantastic Four
This picture and message were sent from Sister Barton from Idaho who was visiting Galway with her daughter:
We had such a great experience being in that tiny branch on the other side of the world. You need to know that these young elders are completely engaged in the work. Each of them is excited and energetic and loving the opportunity to share the gospel and build up the members. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Work Will Press On

September 14, 2015

Preaching the Word in Ireland
This week wasn't too exciting, but there were a few fun things that happened. We had quite the adventure last P-day! We had received a referral from the mission home because apparently someone in a little town called Cong sent in a request on that they wanted a Bible. So the 4 of us missionaries borrowed the senior couple's car and drove an hour north to Cong, a little village in the middle of nowhere. We had to drive on these crazy narrow Irish country roads to get there so it was pretty fun! We didn't have an address or anything just the name of a person, so it was pretty fun exploring and trying to figure it out. Because Cong is so small, it wasn't too hard to figure out where the person lived (the first two people we asked knew where the house was). We went to the home and the lady that lived there wasn't sure what we were talking about, but she said it was probably her daughter that was using her the computer who sent in the request. And her daughter lives in Dublin, so it didn't really accomplish a whole lot because the lady that was there wasn't that interested, but it was well worth the trip to Cong... because we found a huge castle!!!There is this massive, old castle right by the village called Ashford Castle, which has been turned into a high-end hotel, so it was sooooo cool!! And there was loads of beautiful scenery around Cong as well. I will send some pictures because it was such an awesome place to be!

The rest of the week wasn't the most eventful. We taught a few lessons, and got a couple new investigators. It wasn't the best week, but it wasn't the worst. On Friday I went on exchanges with Elder Williams and we taught a couple of his investigators so that was fun! We actually ended up going to eat out at a restaurant with one of the investigators after we taught him a lesson- he was such a nice guy. We ended up going to this really nice Indian restaurant and it was so good! The unfortunate part about Friday was that it rained literally all day long. From when I got up in the morning until I went to sleep, it rained pretty heavily nonstop. So at least we taught a few lessons and ate at a restaurant so we could stay inside part of the day. We did have to knock some doors for a little while, and it was pretty rough because it was so wet, but that's what it's like in Ireland.

Saturday was a beautiful day though! The morning was pretty fun because we went to this little celebration at the community garden we do service at. It was time to harvest all the vegetables and fruits growing there, so the gardeners invited us to their little garden party to thank us for our service. We helped pick some of the vegetables and then they fed us pizza and other snacks and allowed us to take home 2 big bags of vegetables, fruits, and homemade jams. So it was pretty cool! 

Sunday was another rainy day and unfortunately none of our investigators were able to make it to church again. There were several that were planning to come, but it didn't end up working out. We even planned to walk with a few of them to church too. So hopefully next week it will go a little better. But there are still several people that are solid who we are meeting with this week, so there is still plenty of success despite no investigators at church.

There is a cool thought that I really liked from District Meeting this last week.
There are some people that believe that Christianity is a religion based on sacrifice and that any kind of beliefs or religion based on sacrifice is unethical. It is an interesting point to think about. And if you ponder about the law of Moses or Old Testament stories like Abraham and Isaac, it seems like there is a great deal of sacrifice. However, it is not so much about sacrifice as it is about love. Jesus Christ was foreordained to be a Savior for the world and he offered himself so that we could be perfected and sanctified purely out of love (John 15: 12-14). Abraham had such great love for God, that he was willing to obey any commandment, and he knew everything would be made right in the end because of his faith in Heavenly Father. Abraham's faith was made perfect through his works (James 2: 21-23). We also must make sacrifices. We must give up some things to align our will with God's and become perfected through our faith. But we must not forget that all our sacrifices are made out of love for our Heavenly Father who has given us so much. This gospel is such a wonderful gift! I am so grateful to be serving the Lord and bringing this glad message to so many of His children.

-Elder Oxspring

Ashford Castle near Cong, Ireland, built in 1228
History of Ashford Castle

Ashford Castle is now a 5 star hotel (certainly not a place the missionaries will see the inside of!)

Elder Oxspring and Williams being "kebabtized"...
the eating of a massive plate of meat in a wrap called a kebab.
(This is a custom for all new missionaries in the Scotland/Ireland mission)

Monday, September 7, 2015

All- Ireland: Mission Conference... and Hurling Finals

Decorating our flat to support Galway! 
September 7, 2015  
Well it's been quite another exciting week in Galway! It just so happens that the Galway Hurling team played in the All-Ireland finals yesterday, so all week long there's been so much hype about it. Hurling is an Irish sport played with wooden sticks and a hard ball. It's hard to explain and I don't know all the rules, but it's pretty much a mix between lacrosse and rugby it seems like. It's really cool though and a huge deal here in Ireland. So you can imagine that it has been madness since Galway was in the All-Ireland finals (pretty much the Super Bowl) for the first time in over 25 years as the underdog against Kilkenny. Almost every car had Galway flags attached and so many houses were decorated with flags and Galway colors (Maroon and white). There were banners all over the city and flags in every shop showing their support. So of course we bought a few flags to decorate our flat as well. So throughout the whole week, it was pretty crazy. I'll talk about the result of the game later...

But anyway, this week we started out on fire!!! On Tuesday we taught 5 lessons, and they were all so solid. And we committed 1 person to baptism as well! Well actually it was technically 2, but the first man doesn't speak the best English and we weren't able to get a Spanish-Speaking member there with us to help teach, so we aren't really sure that he understands the commitment and everything we taught, so we aren't really counting it for now. But the second man seems so dedicated. He has been taught by the missionaries for years in the past, but hasn't been taught in about a year. He has read the Book of Mormon 4 times and knows everything about the church is true! He really wants to get baptized, but we are just working with him to overcome some Word of Wisdom problems. And there is even a member who lives right across the street from him who is willing to walk to church with him. So I am ready to help him progress towards baptism. Oh and we also gave 2 priesthood blessings to a couple of investigators that really wanted and needed them, so that was also a really great experience! It was such an incredible day.

Then on Wednesday we had the All-Ireland conference in Dublin! We woke up early and drove with the senior couple to Dublin (I even got to drive part of the way). It was such a great conference being with so many missionaries from the 3 zones in Ireland. There were many missionaries that I hadn't seen since the MTC, so it was so great to see them! And there were a ton of new missionaries that had just come out that were there, so it felt pretty good not being the youngest or least experienced there. We received some great instruction from the mission President and his Wife, the assistants to the President, all the Zone leaders and the Belfast and Dublin Stake Presidents as well. It was a really great meeting and the Spirit was so powerful with all of us missionaries gathered together. I loved it! 

The rest of the week we had a few more good lessons, but it was a pretty lousy weekend. On Saturday we had 3 appointments with investigators that fell through, and a referral that we received just ended up being a crazy drunk guy, so it was a pretty rough day. And then on Sunday, none of our investigators ended up coming to church- even the 2 that we set with baptismal dates, so we are going to have to move their dates back. And it's a shame because it was such a great testimony meeting with wonderful testimonies. As well on Sunday, I played the piano for sacrament meeting and went into Primary for the first time to be the pianist there for singing time. I only had to come in for about 20 minutes to play though so it wasn't too bad- I really enjoyed it actually. The Primary president is really hoping I don't get moved next transfer so I can keep playing. 
Then on Sunday night we went into the city centre because the All-Ireland finals were on, so we wanted to see what it was like. Everyone had Galway jerseys on or at least Galway colors, and there were people with their faces painted and everything. They even set up a big screen in the city centre for everyone to watch. It was quite the event! We got there right after the game ended, and Galway ended up losing so it was a shame. But I don't think it really matters what the outcome of the game was because the Irish react in the same way for a victory or defeat: getting drunk. But it was cool to see the whole buildup all week long for the event. The whole community really came together to support Galway.

So it was a quite a roller coaster week, but I am grateful for the success we had and also the trials that I learned from. There was a great thought from the All-Ireland conference that I love. Our mission President really emphasized the role that the Holy Ghost has in conversion. Feeling the Holy Spirit is a "foretaste of eternal life" so it is important that people recognize it. The Holy Ghost draws people closer to Heavenly Father- it sanctifies us. And receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost is such an important step in the gospel. We are baptized by water as symbolism, but also to put our sins into remission. Receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost is the baptism by fire where are sins are purged and burned away- we are completely sanctified by the companionship of the Holy Ghost and given much spiritual knowledge and power through the Holy Ghost (Alma 18: 35).

I love this work in Galway, and I hope I get to stay here for at least another transfer. This area is going to be so strong before too long.

Crazy for Galway!

 Found some wild blackberries on the way to our of course we had to eat some!

Reconnecting with some MTC friends (Elder Watson) at the All-Ireland Mission Conference