Friday, December 28, 2007

Notes from Sam - 20 December 2007

Sam's desk in Runcorn, with Lifesaver Advent Calendar showing only 5 days until Christmas; Christmas tree donated to missionaries by the Cohens

Hi there!

I'm feeling a little envious of the "perfect shirtsleeve weather" I hear that you're having in Jacksonville. The canal next to our house has been frozen over, at least partly, for about three days, and we've all had to layer up pretty heavily. We went to Chester on P-day last week and several other missionaries were so cold that they bought jackets or sweaters to wear. Fortunately the sky has been very clear for almost a week now, I think (part of the reason it's so cold, I'm sure), so I've stayed dry.

Not much happened in our area last week, and as I was reflecting on that on Sunday night I decided that I needed to refocus on my purpose as a missionary and seek to have a stronger desire to teach people and help them come unto Christ. It helped a lot - when we went out on Monday morning, I felt really happy about the gospel and about being a missionary. And (perhaps partly as a result) we had great experiences throughout the day! First, we met a member who we needed to talk to while street contacting people in the town center. Then, later on, we went to try some callbacks (people we met while tracting who were interested but couldn't talk then), and we got invited inside at the first door we tried! We figured out partway through our visit that the man we were teaching was related to one of our investigators and knew some members - in fact, the members he knew had been telling us about him the day before. After that lesson, we finally got to sit down and talk with another investigator whom we had been trying to catch for two weeks, and we confirmed that he wants to be baptized and agreed to meet him later in the week. In the evening, we got to teach another lesson and we got a referral from the member who came with us. Lots of blessings!

The Christmas season is in full swing! I've tried mince pies a couple of times now, I think. Last week we had the ward caroling activity at Asda, which I enjoyed a lot. It turns out that in Britain they sing some Christmas songs to different tunes! Particularly "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks at Night" (which everyone actually seems to know) and "O Little Town of Bethlehem," the British tune of which reminds of the Wilhelmus (the Dutch national anthem) but with a regular meter. Elder Empey and I just had to figure out the tunes as we sang.

There were two nights of caroling, each one to raise money for a different charitable cause. One of these was a women's shelter. The Relief Society Presidency used the caroling proceeds to buy a huge number of Christmas presents for the kids in the shelter, and we missionaries have gotten to help wrap the presents this week. It's been really fun! Even if I don't get to put the presents under the tree or watch them get opened on Christmas morning, some of that exciting feeling is there while I wrap.

The ward Christmas party was last week, too. One of the families we've been teaching came, which was a bit of a happy surprised since they'd been pretty uncertain about it earlier in the day. Their six-year-old boy had a great time - when it was time for all the little kids to go and meet Father Christmas, a lot of them were kind of nervous, but this little kid rushed up and gave him a big hug. Father Christmas was played by Brother O'Toole, who has a really thick Scouser (i.e. Liverpool) accent, which made his portrayal of Santa pretty amusing. Before Santa came out, all the little kids had to sing Christmas songs. The Relief Society president told them, "Now you'll have to sing nice and loud so Heavenly Father- I mean, Santa Claus can hear you!" : )

On Tuesday and Wednesday, I went on exchange in Runcorn with Elder Ayers (of Ontario, Canada), a brand-new missionary with only two weeks in the field and a great deal of enthusiasm and energy. It was the first time I'd ever worked with a missionary with less experience than me. We'd planned to go to our focus area and tract for an hour and a half, but we street contacted on the way over there, and Elder Ayers would start teaching all of the first lesson to everyone who would stop and listen. So we had a couple of good conversations and ended up with only fifteen minutes left to tract our area! It was an eye-opening experience for me to work with such a new missionary and to think that I must have been a lot like that when I first came out - without realizing it, I guess I've learned a lot about how to talk to people, make sure they understand what I'm saying, and try to help them feel the Spirit. But I've also lost some of the enthusiasm and excitement for missionary work that Elder Ayers has, and it was really refreshing to be around him and get "charged up" a little bit.

On Wednesday morning as I was getting ready to go outside, someone knocked on the door. When I answered, I found two Jehovah's Witnesses who told me they had a message to share with me. In response, I pinned my badge (which I'd had in my hand) onto my shirt and told them that I was here in England sharing a message too! They were pretty surprised, I think. We talked for a little bit (I asked them a lot of questions about prophets and how you can recognize if someone has authority from God) and they tried to give me some literature - I used Grandma Pimentel's strategy and told them I'd read theirs if they read some of mine, but they wouldn't. Kind of an interesting experience.

On Tuesday night I lost my mission debit card (the one they gave me here for mission funds, not my Stanford one)! I was standing on a moving bus, digging through my wallet to try and find my bus pass, and the card fell onto the floor and slid right out through crack under the bus door. : ( Fortunately, I'd withdrawn plenty of cash that afternoon and the day before so I'd have some emergency money and I can get a replacement card in about two weeks, so I should be fine.

Mom and Dad, I'm excited that you have been called as ward missionaries! I'm looking forward to trading ideas and experiences. I'm sending you a separate note with my thoughts about ward missionaries' role.

After tea appointments, I've been sharing a spiritual thought from Luke 2: verses 15-17, from "And when the angels were gone away from them into heaven . . . " to ". . . concerning this child." The shepherds are good examples to us - when they received this great knowledge about the birth of Christ and saw it for themselves, the first thing they did was share it with everyone around them. The Lord has made great things known unto us, too, and we can find great joy in sharing the good news of the restored gospel with people in our circle of influence. So don't be afraid to talk about the gospel and bear your testimony where you get the chance! It feels good.

Merry Christmas!

Elder Pimentel

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