Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Notes from Sam - 28 November 2007

Hi there,

Elder Anderson is still sick, although we've been able to do a little more work this week. It looks like we're going to be moving to a different flat in Runcorn soon, so our landlord came by this morning and showed us a couple of other houses. I'll try to keep you updated on any change of address.

I went to an outlying town while on exchange with Elder Tomita earlier in the week. We tried to visit a couple of people but were unable to go inside and teach them. So we went back to the bus stop and talked about where else we could go and what we could do. After talking a little bit, we prayed that we would know where to go and that we would find the people who had been prepared for us (or something to that effect). At the very moment when we said, "Amen," a very friendly African woman walked into the bus stop and immediately struck up a conversation with us. We chatted for quite a while and ended up setting up an appointment to visit her and hopefully teach her about the Restoration. Experiences like this are a good reminder to me of how important it is to seek the guidance of the Spirit in missionary work. I think it's something I can be doing more actively.

We had interviews with President Jacobsen on Friday. It was really good for me to have a chance to talk to him. Before interviews I'd gone through the mission rules, identified the ones I was having trouble keeping, and thought about how I could keep them better. I asked President Jacobsen a lot of questions about the rules and why they are the way they are, and he gave me a lot of helpful answers. The president really cares about us missionaries and wants to help us be better and more successful, so if you're honestly trying to be better and more successful, I think meeting with the mission president is always a strengthening experience.

Dad, I was interested in your comments about the principle of obedience in one of the letters you sent me. I gave a short training presentation about obedience in district meeting a couple of weeks ago and dealt with some of the same issues (probably because I've heard you talk about them before). I talked about war crimes and prison camp guards who were "following orders" and drew a distinction between obeying commandments of men (which can be imperfect and even evil) and obeying commandments of God. The commandment to be obedient, as described in Church manuals and Preach My Gospel, could probably be restated more precisely as the commandment to be obedient to God. But since God calls prophets and mission presidents, their instructions are his commandments too (see D&C 1:38). I've thought a lot about this, needless to say, and I'd like to talk about it more when I have a little more time.

Transfers are next week. I think I'm staying in Runcorn, but we'll see. We had our last district meeting of the six-week transfer period yesterday - two of the missionaries in our district are going home, so it was the last one for both of them. It was a really good district meeting, too - the training presentations were well-prepared and invited the Spirit. By the end of the meeting, I felt really unified with the rest of the district.

At interviews with the President we get to pick up our mail from the mission office. I picked up three Christmas packages (or rather two Christmas packages and one Sinterklaas package), which made me very happy! Elder Tomita got a very large Christmas package, but I think he was the only other one - one of the other missionaries in the district told me something like, "Your parents love you more than our parents love us." : ) I also picked up a letter from "the other President Jacobsen," my erstwhile stake president. It was a really nice note that he'd sent to all the missionaries from the Menlo Park Stake.

[Ed.'s note: the Mission President Jacobsen is the brother of the Stake President Jacobsen who processed Sam's mission application when he was at Stanford.]

In his letter, (Stake) President Jacobsen talked about how missionaries from California going to other parts of the world figuratively weave a thread from their home into the place where they serve, building a web of understanding across the world, and suggested that the missionary program may hence contain the seeds of world peace. An insightful idea, I thought. He also commented on General Conference, specifically on Elder Bednar's talk, and likened it to missionary service. I was really touched to receive the letter - I didn't interact a whole lot with stake leaders or members of other wards during my time at Stanford, and my connection to the Menlo Park Stake had felt a little tenuous. But being listed as one of "their" missionaries makes me feel like they know about and value me anyway.

Elder Anderson has a gigantic map of the United States which is hanging on the wall of the flat. I think he put it there to tease one of his past companions who was not American. Anyway, anyone who has stayed in our flat since (and is American) has signed the map and drawn an arrow pointing to his hometown. I'm going to have to sign the map at some point, but I'm having a little identity crisis about where to sign it. I've narrowed it down to Palo Alto or Jacksonville, and I think Palo Alto will probably win, since I've never actually been to Jacksonville. But I'm still wavering. : )

Thanks for your great letters! I love hearing about life in Jacksonville.

Elder Pimentel

P.S. (Mission) President Jacobsen told me that Elder Anderson is the grandson of Washington journalist Jack Anderson, and that you, Mom and Dad, would know who that is. Do you? I'm interested.

[Ed.'s note: the photo is of Sam with Gavin, an investigator from Barrow]

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