Sunday is easily my favorite day of the week. I love that no matter where we are in the world, we can find a place that feels like comfort. Because isn’t that what “home” really is? It’s that place where you feel safe, warm, and comfortable. That’s what going to church is for me, may it be in Tokyo, Dublin, Hong Kong, or Sydney.
Even on our last Sunday in Japan when we didn’t understand the language, the Spirit I felt still brought me back to that same feeling of “home.”
So how do we find a church building? Well, we go to Mormon.org/meetinghouse, put in our current address and find where we can go to partake of the sacrament, worship the Savior, and meet new friends.
Meeting new friends…. There is no way to express into words what this has meant for us on this trip. And, even more so, how much gratitude and awe I have for the Saints we’ve met in every branch and ward we’ve attended throughout our travels.
The Saints across The UK, Ireland, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia… in every single country, they have left us inspired by their kindness and their thoughtfulness. I don’t know if there has been a single Sunday where we haven’t left the building we’ve met in without saying something about wanting to be more like these amazing Saints.
We are just visitors, only there for a week or two and yet each time, these Saints have taken the time to invest in us, to get to know us, and to make sure we feel welcomed and loved. I truly don’t know how we would have been able to do what we are doing without the constant knowledge that every Sunday will bring us back to another amazing group of disciples who are truly acting out their Christian values.
It seems that every time any one of us was having an especially hard time, maybe feeling a little lonely that week, or just needing a little pick me up – without exemption, someone we met at church would become the answer to our secret prayer.
Here only a few examples, but I could truly go through Sunday by Sunday and share someone, somehow who was the exact answer one of us, or often all of us were needing.
London had been our very first stop, and everything had gone wrong from the moment we stepped off the long flight and found out that our AirBnB had been canceled. We can laugh about it now, but it was still to fresh that first Sunday. We were tired, worn out, and as parents – Taylor and I were feeling especially defeated. In we walked on our very first Sunday abroad to the White Center Ward in London, we needed nurturing, healing and hope, and we needed a big dose of it. Well, these Saints over delivered, this was quite possibly one of the most spiritual church experiences of my life. The members of this little ward were so welcoming, so loving – at the end of the meetings we watched a young man open his mission call and I felt the tears slip down my cheeks as I experienced the joy this ward family was feeling for this 18-year-old young man who had chosen to give two years of his life to serve God full time in a country he’d never been to, in a language he did not yet speak. The joy was palpable.
On that same Sunday, we also met the McQueen family! What an answer to prayers Emily, Chris, and their kiddos were! Oh my gosh. We were all feeling lonely, we were overwhelmed, and we were pretty homesick. Add to that, Taylor and I both feeling very nervous that we had just bitten off far more than we could chew.
They too were just visiting London, they’d been there about a month and this was to be their last week. I had wished it was more, but our one day together was enough to pick me back up, to help me believe I could do this crazy adventure we’d thrown ourselves into, and to feel ready for the challenge again. We hit it off and became instant friends, it felt like we’d known them for years.
In Ireland, we attended a little branch in Sligo for 3 weeks. The area this branch covered was massive; we met in a little-rented office space – the whole branch consisting of 19 people, 5 of which were us and none being children besides our own. And yet, Sunday after Sunday they welcomed us, fed us, loved us. One couple was particularly inspiring to us, they drove an hour and a half both ways to get to church each Sunday because they lived so far away they couldn’t have the missionaries over for dinner, so instead, every Sunday they fed the entire branch in the little foyer after church. The kids absolutely loved that little branch, we all did.
In Hong Kong, we first met these amazing women at the Hong Kong temple on Saturday, then they found us on Sunday. I can’t even remember the last time any of us were hugged that many times.
In Tokyo, we were not able to find an English speaking ward so we walked into a Japanese speaking meeting prepared just to listen and let the feelings be our interpreter. But someone noticed us, found someone to translate, and they sat with us through all our meetings translating the words for us. The kids had been so nervous going into that ward, but once again they left all smiles because of the incredible Saints who had loved and taken such sweet care of them.
In Melbourne, we walked into that ward with what would seem like an impossible prayer. It was one day before Halloween, and the kiddos desperately wanted to trick or treat, the problem is – Australia doesn’t really participate all that much in trick-or-treating. It’s apparently an American thing (I never knew). At the end of our meetings, we met the incredible Moore family. They invited the kids to get to trick-or-treat at their house, decorating just for them. They continued with their service to us, inviting us to dinner, babysitting the kids so that Taylor and I could go to the temple and the kids wouldn’t have to just wait in the waiting room this time, and checking in on us and answering questions as we’ve traveled through Australia. But more than all of that, they inspired us and showed us (without even trying to or really knowing it) the type of Christians that we want to be.
This is why Sunday is my favorite day of the week.
It’s funny because I thought the lesson we’d take from church abroad would be commitment. And it was but not in the way I’d thought. I was expecting that we would become more aware of how blessed we are to have church buildings only minutes from where we live and cars that get us there each Sunday, and while we are all grateful for that – I don’t know if any of us have ever missed the convenience. We have taken buses, and tubes, walked miles and ever ordered Ubers to get to church, but all of the efforts have only made Sunday’s sweeter. It gives us time to ponder, talk and share what we’ve learned, how we’re feeling. Most of all it gives us time to talk about the amazing people we meet each week.
The real lesson hasn’t been about a commitment to get to church, it’s about a commitment to live the Saviors admonition to love. Over and over as a family, we have talked about the lessons we have learned from the incredible Saints we’ve met through our journeys. They have truly been the strength to our nest and the comfort we have needed many times over.
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