Hi family ,
John Ennis (our long-time teenage investigator) got baptized last Saturday. It was great, maybe even better than the one the week before. Elder Anderson baptized John (wearing my baptismal pants - he couldn't find his at the last minute, but fortunately mine fit), and Elder Tomita and Bishop Ireland were witnesses. The Young Men's president gave a fantastic talk about the Holy Ghost. Also the four of us missionaries sang "Called to Serve" as a special musical number. About two rows of the chapel were filled by John's (non-LDS) family members, which was really exciting for us. The sister missionaries in Warrington (which is where we had the baptisms, since Runcorn chapel has burned down) also attended with one of their investigators.
On Sunday John got confirmed and ordained a priest, and I got to stand in the circle both times. I forgot to mention last week that I participated in ordaining Josh Burgoyne (the 12-year-old who was baptized last Saturday) a deacon after church last Sunday. This week he passed the sacrament for the first time and was called to be the deacons' quorum president. It's wonderful to see guys this young getting baptized, because they'll be able to serve missions later on and become pillars of the church wherever they end up.
Elder Anderson is still sick and has to stay inside for a few more days, but we've been able to do a little more recently. Last week we had a great visit with a less-active family whom we've been assigned to home teach (a widespread practice in the EMM, suggested, I believe, by a General Authority a few years ago). They are going through a rough time right now because the mother has been diagnosed with a debilitating illness. It was good to see Elder Anderson in action - he's very good at relating to other people by talking to them about their lives and their interests and then doing things like asking for referrals in a non-threatening way. I can see why everybody in the ward seems to love him. I think the less-active family was strengthened by our visit. Before we left, the mother told us that earlier in the day she'd been feeling abandoned by the ward and resenting the people in it, but then right afterwards she got our phone call setting up the home teaching appointment. Plus two different members of the bishopric contacted her later in the day. Events like this show you that God is really guiding the church - when we fulfill the duties of our callings, He helps us to bless others in ways we never could have through our own knowledge.
Another exciting thing this week - one of the people we were teaching in Barrow, a really on-the-ball young guy, moved away to Warrington while we were there. We really didn't want him to fall through the cracks, so we sent a referral to the Mission Office with his phone number (we didn't even know the address of his new house). When we talked to the Warrington sisters on Saturday (at the baptism), they told us that they received the referral, that he's being taught by the senior couple in Warrington, and that he's even been to church a couple of times! I had been worried about him, so it was good to find out he's doing so well.
I've been studying by topic sometimes rather than just reading straight through the Book of Mormon lately, and it's helped me enjoy and benefit from my study a lot more. I've started a list of interesting topics to study sometime in the back of my planner, and when I read, I look up cross-references on anything that interests me or try to find similar scriptures that I remember reading previously. Last week while reading straight though Alma, I found a scripture that talked about "the chains of hell"; I stopped to cross-reference it, and ultimately spent all my Book of Mormon study time that day and all of it the next day finding related scriptures that described exactly what the chains of hell are and directly answered my questions about them. It's a very active way to study the scriptures and get meaningful answers out of them.
Much as I enjoy reading the scriptures, I get hungry for other reading material out here, just for while I'm eating breakfast or taking a tea break or something. I didn't read for pleasure that much at Stanford because I was so busy with other things, but looking back, I did spent an awful lot of time reading this summer, and the habit has accompanied me to the mission field. Anyway, I dug a bunch of old New Era issues out of one of our closets and have been devouring them. The Church magazines are really well done - the New Era does a remarkable job of keeping pace with the times, with a section called "Instant Messages" and some recent articles about the dangers of texting too much. Also, as I read through a stack of them in quick succession, I see a much clearer vision behind them: strong and consistent emphasis on preparing for a mission and getting a personal testimony through a witness of the Spirit. Good stuff.
I'm in Chester today - there's a DVLA office here and I'm hoping to apply for my provisional driving license (excuse me - "licence"). I'm coming back from an exchange with one of our zone leaders, Elder Verman from southern England. The zone leaders' area is Wrexham, in western Wales (our stake encompasses a huge section of Northern Wales - about half the units in the stake are in Wales, although we have no Welsh-language units as far as I know). Wrexham and Runcorn are the two highest-baptizing units in the zone, I think mostly because the wards in both areas are so friendly and active. We're tied at 11 baptisms each for the year, and several members of the Runcorn ward have been encouraging us to baptize more so we can "beat Wrexham." All in a friendly spirit, though. : )
Last night in Wrexham we had a tea appointment with a member of the stake presidency, which was a good thing, because he told Elder Verman about a meeting the zone leaders were supposed to be having with the stake president that evening that Elder Verman had not known about! So he quickly canceled our plans for the evening and we drove out to the meetinghouse where the meeting was taking place. There wasn't time to go to Runcorn and get the other zone leader, so Elder Verman had to take me instead. The meeting went well, though. The stake presidency is concerned about missionary work and wants to help us out, which is great! One of the real benefits of serving in an area where the Church is so strong.
I'm enjoying the Messiah recordings I got from Dad! And I am looking forward to putting on the Christmas music. The British don't celebrate Thanksgiving, of course (Christmas decorations are already up in most of the shops), but I'm still waiting until Thursday before I play it.