Monday and Tuesday were pretty routine days - usually the slower days of the week. We did laundry, grocery shopping, and prep for our Institute lesson. This week the lesson is on covenants. One aspect of our mission, that we both have really enjoyed, is the opportunity to study and prepare our lessons. We have gained valuable insight to gospel principles we thought we understood before but now have a more complete understanding of.
Another aspect we love is the relationships we have developed with the YSA. It is fun to watch the romances develop. Between Lichfield and Birmingham Stake there will be 8 temple weddings/engagements this spring and summer - WONDERFUL - and it looks like another romance is blooming! We don't go to Lichfield any more, but the kids keep us informed and we love it.
Usually the things they share with us are happy events, but tonight we heard of a sad one. One young man seemed distant and quiet. When I asked him if he was alright, he confided that he had learned earlier that a family member was arrested and facing jail time for an internet problem. We didn't go into details, but he was obviously upset and wanted a blessing. Devon gave him a beautiful blessing. It won't solve the problem, but I hope it will bring him some peace knowing how much Heavenly Father loves him.
Thursday, July 21 - HAPPY BIRTHDAY LINDSAY (one year old!)
A few months ago we felt inspired regarding a new plan for fellow shipping. We have spent a lot of time since then orienting and training the YSA reps and developing an effective approach to fellow shipping and coordinating missionary efforts with the ward full-time missionaries. The new approach seems to be helping, although it continues to be a "work in progress". Most of the reps have caught the vision and are doing great, but some from the smaller wards struggle. It is a problem I'm not sure how to fix.
Lately our concerns have turned to the activity portion of the YSA program. One person, the counselor over activities, seems to be carrying the load all alone - no functioning activities committee. Currently the reps are divided into either a missionary committee or the activity committee. The thought came to me, loud and clear, that the reps ARE the missionary committee and that other YSA outside of the reps should be called to function on the activity committee. Seems pretty basic - don't know why it hasn't occurred to me sooner. We proposed our idea to the Stake Presidency and the YSA Presidency. Everyone, especially the YSA Presidency, are excited about this change and anxious to implement it. We are hoping to get a new committee called as soon as possible and to help with planning activities.
Friday, July 22
Seems like we were on the run all day! We did flat checks at Stourbridge and Redditch - both nice flats and pretty clean. We were especially impressed with the Redditch flat - they had actually scrubbed out the oven! For that reason alone I think they may get the prize for the cleanest missionary flat from our stake. We still have one more flat to check next week - then I'll make my final decision.
In between the two flat checks we found a nice carvery (restaurant) for lunch. Actually, very nice and very reasonable. It was in Redditch. Wish it was closer - I would go there again in a heart beat.
Saturday, July 23
We were up early to go to a YSA service project. It was a flop as numbers go - only a few showed up. But it was a success as a service project. Birmingham is divided into areas called wards. We went to a mainly Muslim area called Sparkbrook and spent the morning picking up litter from the streets. A very nice young woman from the local volunteer council met us and was so thrilled that we would come to their community and provide the service. While we were on the street picking up litter, we were contacted by a very nice group from the Jehovah's Witness faith. When we explained who we were and what we were doing the man said, "Bless you! You are doing God's work." After the project we came back to Harborne and had a pancake brunch and enjoyed visiting with each other. Everyone that participated enjoyed the project. I'm pretty sure we will do it again - hopefully with more people.
Sharoon, Sister Tufts, ,Elder Tufts, John, Lauren, Terry, and Ryan
Tonight was another YSA baptism. This young man's name is Madhi and he is from Iran. He is about 21 years old. He's been on his own since he was 14 and is seeking asylum here. His father is in prison at home and he would be imprisoned, or worse, if he got sent back to Iran. Most likely his legal appeals will be granted. To return home as a Christian would just complicate things even more for him. Anyway, he is an amazing young man and has taken to the gospel of Jesus Christ like you wouldn't believe. It has been such a sweet blessing to get to know him and watch him learn and love the gospel. Now he is teaching his friend, Hadi, about the church!
Tristin, Madhi, Sister Clark, and Sister Baker
Sunday, July 24
We were able to attend our Harborne Ward today. What used to seem like a strange ward, now seems like home - so many good people. It is Pioneer Day. Seems strange to us that no one here knows about Pioneer Day. I didn't expect it to be anything like the event in Utah, but did think they would mention it - nope. Didn't even sing "Come, Come Ye Saints". We are teaching the lesson tomorrow at FHE and are going to do it on the pioneers. Devon is battling a cold, so we took it easy today. We did enjoy Skype with some of our family.