03.06.16 | Oban, Scotland | 18:44
Happy Mother’s Day (if you’re a mother and you live in the United Kingdom)! For some reason, they don’t celebrate it when we do in the United States. That’s ok- as long as they’re taking a day to honor their mum! I decided that I wanted to try to attend church while I’m here. I’d been working so much in preparation for this getaway back home that I hadn’t the time to attend my local congregation for the past few weeks.
I checked on the internet a few days ago for the church location. Since addresses look very different than they do in America, I thought I’d never find it. I sent an email to someone from my home congregation but never heard back from him. Oh well- I’ll have to figure it out by myself. I jotted down the walking directions from the train station that was closest to the church building. My problem: When I checked ScotRail, I noticed there weren’t any trains going in that direction since it is a Sunday schedule. No worries, I’ll take a taxi. After all, it was only about 6 miles or so.
The cab driver took a look at the address and scratched his head. He said he knew the village, at least. I told him he could drop me off at the Connell Ferry train station, and I could make my way from there. Six miles or so later, he dropped me at the station, and the building was only about a 10-minute walk from there. When I got to the place Google Maps told me to go to, there was just a house. I wondered if I had the right directions, and then I noticed a sign in the window. I was in the right place.
Oban is a tiny branch of the church. I was greeted by Elder and Sister Young, who is currently serving a full-time mission and is from Salt Lake City, Utah (of course, they are). They welcomed me into their home. Soon another brother introduced himself as well. Brother Falk asked me where I was from. I told him I grew up in Southeastern Arizona but now lived in rural Utah. He asked me which town in Arizona. I told him,” Thatcher.” He looked puzzled and asked me how big Thatcher was. I told him that it was around 4000 people, at least when I grew up there. He said he had a mission companion from there.
I asked, “Is it Jr. Hoopes?” He started laughing and confirmed that it was. I get a big grin on my face! He asks how I knew Jr. I shared one of my childhood memories was when Jr. Hoopes got a mission call to Scotland. I was jealous, and I wanted to go to Scotland so bad (this was when I was about 14 years old)! Another great memory of mine was two years later when Jr. got back from Scotland and spoke in church, telling us all about his experience. Let me tell you- my love of Scotland started many, many years before I ever traveled here!
It was time to start the meeting, and there was a total of about 12 or 13 people. I guess this is an average/good turnout for this congregation. A few weeks ago, they told me that most of the members weren’t able to attend, so only one person showed up that day. Toward the start, they asked me to stand up and introduce myself. I told them my name, including my surname, and that this is one of my ancestors’ areas. They all were very kind and seemed to be grateful that I’d come to church.
I sit down, and a little girl named Maria taps me on the shoulder. I turn around, and she asks me- “You’re a ‘[my surname]’?” I nod. She then points to a girl who is sitting across the room and whispers, “She’s a ‘[my surname],’ too!”. After the meeting, I approached the girl, and sure enough. She is a ‘[my surname]’! She is from Falkirk, which is between Glasgow and Edinburgh. I’m not sure if there’s a connection or not. My surname is common in Scotland, like ‘Smith’ or ‘Johnson’ in the U.S.- there are a million or so of them. Still, it was very cool to meet Natalia, who could a descendant of my ancestors, but then again, I guess we all are kin if you go back far enough.
Sister Young had cooked some potatoes for an after-meeting dinner and prepared an excellent meal for everyone. This something that they do as a congregational family once each month. I guess this is possible when you don’t have hundreds of mouths to feed. It was great to sit back and chat with these great brothers and sisters!
I also met two more full-time missionaries there. These were the younger version… 18 or 19 years old (even though one of them looked to be about 13). Elder Crockett is from Roy, Utah and Elder Atkinson is from Malad, Idaho. Both of them looked like they were happy and healthy and glad to be serving. I asked them if they would let me take them out to dinner tomorrow night. They said they were free, so I’m excited to meet them for some good eating. The good Lord knows I can always find delicious food!
I spoke with my parents tonight, and my mom has asked me to get the missionaries’ home phone numbers so she could call their mothers’ and report that their boys are doing well. I guess it’s a mother thing, but I’ll see if I can collect their digits tomorrow night.