The Bournemouth Zone
Elder McCook "in the zone"
About being a missionary:
The work has always been tough for me, especially in the second half of my mission (who would have thought, the adversary is always out there to discourage us, and he'll especially work on the more experienced ones.) I've just really had to get help from higher sources including mission leaders and personal revelation. Despite how hard it is, and how we think that we're inadequate or the people don't care, those are the times when we learn and grow the most. This reminds me of D&C 122, that all these things (trials basically) shall be for our good. So, I know that the work that we missionaries do is not done in vain.
If one can just learn how to lose himself in the work, they'll be happiest. And the time will fly by. And they can look back pleased on what they've done. Sometimes we mow the lawn and once we're finished we look back and the grass has regrown, and this is what gets us down. Basically the Lord wants us to push the lawn mower with Him as long as it takes, and the promise is that we'll have joy and the missionary will be changed and sanctified, and his sacrifice will be an acceptable offering to the Lord. So I'm still working on that one!
Just one note, at the end of Ch. 9 of PMG it says "no effort is wasted." That is true. Think of Abinadi. He left his testimony before King Noah and his priests, and was burned at the stake! He may have thought he was a failure, but he was faithful and diligent and taught with power and Alma was convinced (by the Spirit probably) and through his instrumentality the church was re-established in that land. We are called to reap, and I wish I could see more of that, but I also know that my efforts are not wasted.
I'm thankful for this time to serve and for the things I've learned through experience. You can't know the truthfulness of the gospel by sitting on your backside (rear end in UK) but by going through life and applying the principles. It may seem obvious, but a testimony is solidified through experience. I think this is why missionary service makes or breaks an individual. Not to sound harsh, but it's true.
I know of the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ as restored in our day. What we as missionaries seek to do is help to strengthen the faith of individuals, not to take away or change it. We have a Heavenly Father who loves us more than we can imagine and has given us the gospel and the church and family and friends to help us return home successfully to Him. Our duty is to stay within that knowledge and walk in the light for the rest of our lives.
I had the opportunity to speak in sacrament meeting yesterday, and because of an article in the Ensign (Bednar) about the enabling power of the Atonement, I chose that topic, but basically sort of collected thoughts and presented them as the Spirit directed. That was the first time I did so, giving a talk without a script or anything. The main scripture for the idea is in the well-known Mosiah 3:19 "For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things..."
We are well acquainted with the redeeming power of the atonement, how it ransoms us from the physical and spiritual death brought into the world by Adam. We often forget that once we're on the strait and narrow path leading to eternal life, we need His grace continually to maintain good works. I have struggled to understand this concept. I, among many others I'm guessing sometimes forget that the process of "becoming a saint" is also through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and not simply the "putteth off the natural man" part. We need to do both, and both are available through God's power. To continue in the becometh a saint part, we need to always believe in God and His everlasting gospel, to continue to repent if need be, to renew the covenants made in the waters of baptism and in the temple, and be guided by the Spirit in the paths of righteousness. Essentially, we need to remember Christ. All that the children of Israel had to do was to look at the serpent, and they would be healed. Don't over focus on the poisonous serpents, look to the Master.
What I've learned is that Heavenly Father requires much of us, because He knows what is best for us. A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation. Of course we need to keep the commandments and the covenants made with God, and it should be done out of love.
Elder McCook offering service by stringing guitar strings
(looks pretty natural to see him like this!)
About world events:
I heard through the grapevine about the recent stuff going on everywhere, and yes, it's all signs of the times, isn't it. I first thought the explosion was linked to the bombs, but it turns out it was just a maintenance problem. I heard there was one guy who nearly missed getting injured from the Boston bomb and then went home to Texas and nearly got injured from the explosion there. Crazy!
If we are well rooted in the gospel, then there's no need to fear. One of the key attributes of Christ is love, and perfect love for God and others dispels the fear. It reminds me of a Mormon message where Russell M. Nelson describes going down to his death in an airplane and seeing others freak out, but he was calm because he was prepared to meet his maker. If we're temporally and most importantly spiritually prepared and walking in the light and sticking to the undeviating course leading to eternal life with faith and hope at the center, we'll have no need to fear, as Christ is our rock and foundation.
The work in Bournemouth:
So not too much news from the Bournemouth front, but we see little miracles happen day by day, and hope that more will happen (because we need them bad!)
We visited a less-active in spirit kind of guy, a return missionary with a family, served on a bishopric, but has some issues with people in the ward. We happened to be with a third missionary from a different area (too long to explain) and he along with us, but most especially him, rebuked this guy by the power of the Spirit, and he's going to reconsider how he feels and try to develop charity toward church leaders that are less than perfect. Kind of reminds me of Holland's talk. So to answer your question, the most effective thing in this area (it changes with each area) is to contact people on the streets. There's not too many people to where it's crazy, but with tracting, it's not quite as effective and rapid if that makes sense. St Contacting is a bit more fun as well, and with tracting, we've got a preconceived view of being Jehovah's Witnesses. (There's loads of them in this country) In my previous, more country areas where people mostly drive around, knocking is a bit more effective. In more city areas, it's the opposite. Anyway, it's good fun.
This area (I don't know if I mentioned before) is like little London, in the way it feels, it's international-ness. I've met more various kinds of people in the space of a month than I've ever had on my mission so far. They're from everywhere, but mostly spanish speakers.
There's not much in the way of nature, we're in a city type area, but the beach is really cool (Bournemouth is known for the beach) and there's gardens nearby that are also pretty cool.
Helping an investigator put together a bookcase.
What? Pink tools!?!
What? Pink tools!?!
Elder Chacon from Spain
We had one cool miracle worth mentioning. We received a referral, Gary, from mormon.org, called him up and sat with him an hour later. Gary is really seeking truth, and has many eastern religious philosophies, but wants to find the truth. He's taking everything in. We gave him loads of things to read (he's a big reader), but encouraged him to focus on the Book of Mormon because that's how he'll come to know of Christ's divinity easier than any other source. We did some service for him later in the week putting a book case together, and giving them (him and his partner) priesthood blessings as they're not well for various reasons. They keep giving us food, which I don't mind! They're solid. I see him and possibly her, if her arthritis isn't too bad, getting baptized in the near future. They're a bit older, like 50ish. I'll keep yall posted on their progress.