In his e-mail, Christian said he could Skype around 10 a.m. our time so we came home from church about 9:55, set up the computer, and there he was! I don’t know if there was supposed to be a time limit, but we Skyped with Christian for over 2 ½ hours! He looked and sounded great.
Busier than he’s ever been in his life, he spends a lot of time on the phone with his missionaries and driving around to the villages in his district. In his district, he is the only missionary from America. The other sisters and elders are from Italy, Brazil, South Africa, Malaysia, and England.
He said that Kent is absolutely beautiful and he loves England. His flat is on the old Roman road that became the pilgrimage road to Canterbury Cathedral. (Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, anyone?) He loves all the ancient churches, old Roman burial grounds, and historical sights.
He said studying is one of his favorite parts of being a missionary. After reading the Book of Mormon four times during the first six months of his mission, he studied parts of the Old Testament, finished the Pearl of Great Price, and is now studying the Doctrine and Covenants.
He reported that the London mission will be changing dramatically in the next few months. There will be 45 people going home before July and 80 new missionaries coming in. That will make Christian one of the elders who has been there the longest. “It’s mental!”
We told him how we went to the temple as a family the day before, and he mentioned how he really misses the temple. The London temple is out of their mission boundaries, but he is hoping he'll have at least one chance to go before the end of his mission.
A few of our conversational highlights included when Michael asked if street-contacting in the town square was how they found people to teach. Christian said Sittingbourne is so small that there isn’t really a town square. He said one time when they were in town where the shops are that some guy literally came walking out of the woods with a dog on a rope. The man and the dog looked like they’d been living in the woods for quite some time -- and that it had been rough living.
Christian’s area is very rural. There are lots of woods, dry stone fences, hedgerows, old buildings, and fluffy sheep. He told Sean that he would appreciate the fact that there are a lot of graffiti artists around, which is not that unusual. But the fact that they graffiti sheep is a bit odd.
We asked him how people responded when he knocked on their doors. One man burst out laughing when he opened the door and saw two elders. “I just saw your play in London!” he said. But the most common answer when people were asked how they felt about religion in general was, “Not bovvered, Mate.”
Which led to us being entertained with his renditions of various accents – Scottish, Irish, Cockney (wow, that’s a whole different language -- and nothing like the way Dick VanDyke spoke in Mary Poppins), Jamaican, and Essex where they commonly end sentences with “I’n’it?” One time someone on the street in Southend offered him a snack. “Would you like some popcorn i’n’it?”
We got to speak with his companion for a few minutes. What a great guy! Elder Mongelli was full of happiness and had a very infectious smile. I don’t think he understood us very well, but he laughed and smiled a lot. Soon after he arrived in Sittingbourne, Elder Mongelli's parents sent him a huge box of food – pasta, an entire wheel of Parmesan, bottles of his mother’s sun-dried tomatoes, a jar of peanut butter and M&M’s “for Elder Purdy,” and a ton of other stuff. He said his family was afraid there was no food in England. He and Christian probably set some kind of record for making pasta every day for six weeks until they couldn’t stand it anymore. Even Elder Mongelli groaned when he told us "Six weeks!"
We also spoke with some of the members of the ward who have grown especially close to Christian. It was so fun to talk to them and hear their stories and insights. It seems that Christian is known as a pretty serious guy who rarely smiles. Hard to believe, i’n’it?