One of the greatest experiences of my time here has been going to church. I serve in the Clapham Commons Ward of the Wandsworth stake in South London. It takes about an hour and 15 minutes to get there each week, barring any major Tube issues. That being said, I have found myself running through the Victoria train station 4 times to try to catch our train (every time has had to be done in just my tights because of course I wear high heels, and even I can't run fast enough to catch a train in heels!). There are always line closures due to maintenance on the weekend so getting to church is always an adventure, and the adventure continues once we get there, but more on the craziness another time.
This is my homegirl Omega. She is 21 and got baptized in April. She comes to my class each week and is such a sweet heart. Today she said she is going to miss me, but I'm probably going to miss her more!
I attend the sweetest ward full of the most loving and openly accepting people I have ever met. Many people have to come in their jeans or pants because that is all they have, and there is no judgement, just genuine excitement to have them at church. Every week everyone greets each other with hugs, kisses on the cheek, and honest concern, it is so wonderful and refreshing to have such a pure example of fellowship and love. I think if we could emulate even a portion of these Saints attitude back at home, we would have a lot more baptisms. The people here need each other, they cling to each other. There are very few full families that attend church. Most people come to church alone or with a few of their children, so the ward truly is their family and they treat each other as such. I cannot express how amazing it is to be in such a place every Sunday.
Ky, a 9 year old in Andrea's primary class, drew this picture of us 4 BYU girls singing in Sacrament. He drew four of them to make sure that each of us got one... how sweet is that?
In the beginning of the semester, I looked at my church assignment as an adventure. I knew that I would have great experiences and great stories to tell when I got home, and every Tube closure or missed train just intensified the story. Once we got comfortable in the ward, going to church got harder. Of course I always went, but the sacrifice of adding an extra 3 hours for a commute onto a 3 hour church meeting got more taxing. I am so grateful for this experience, though, because it has made me so grateful that I get to go to church each Sunday. How grateful I am to make it to church each week and leave the hustle and bustle and stress of public transportation to be in a peaceful Sacrament meeting. How grateful I am for the Saints all over the world who don't have a church building close to their home so they travel long ways for church each week; I admire their devotion and testimonies more than I ever have before. How grateful I am to have the same Gospel available to me every week, even when I am 8 time zones away from home, and for the way it grounds me and strengthens me. I would travel even farther for this peace if necessary... even though I am glad I don't have to :)
I am so grateful that I have been able to serve in and attend the Clapham Commons Ward. My testimony of love, fellowship, sacrifice, missionary work, speaking with the spirit, and service has grown so much.
More to come! (exciting stories from my crazy Gospel Principles class are coming up next!)