Friday, December 28, 2007

Notes from Sam - 28 December 2007

By frozen canal. Homemade nativity scene, with floating angel and star, sent from Jax.

Hi there!

Merry Christmas! Mine was great. We spent Christmas Eve with a member family whose father served his mission in Fresno, California and is something of an Americophile(?) – they served us Mexican food and sent us home with a box each of Kraft macaroni and cheese : ). Another member family invited us over for breakfast on Christmas morning (American-style pancakes with maple syrup), and we spent dinner (the midday meal in Britain) and the afternoon with our ward mission leader’s family. Christmas dinner in England is kind of like Thanksgiving dinner in the States – we had a huge spread with turkey, mashed potatoes, roast potatoes, four kinds of vegetables, Yorkshire pudding, applesauce, cranberry sauce, and stuffing, all covered with gravy. : ) Then we went over to the bishop’s house for tea, which was (fortunately for us) buffet-style, so we only had to eat as much as we wanted to take. The bishop has a family with about five little kids, but his parents and unmarried sister are also in the ward, and while we were at the bishop’s house, they came over with some other relatives and a very elderly and much-beloved sister in the ward named Sister Ashley. The grandparents had brought huge piles of presents for their grandkids, and it was a lot of fun for me to watch the kids open them up – kind of a substitute for watching my siblings open their presents, which was probably the Christmas experience I missed the most. Elder Empey and I also got to participate in Sister Ashley’s annual Christmas quiz, which is a series of general knowledge/trivia questions that she comes up with and reads out. It’s apparently a big tradition for Sister Ashley to come and do this at the bishop’s house. Unfortunately our team got smoked by a question about British geography and came third of four.

Thank you everyone for your wonderful packages! My gifts were so abundant that I don’t have time to go through and talk about how much I enjoy them individually. I got all of them by Christmas except for the one from Gary and Ty’s family, which I collected yesterday. The members of the ward here also showered me with gifts – I must have collected about a half-dozen wrapped gifts in the week leading up to Christmas, and Elder Empey and I are now richly supplied with socks, ties, and several kilos of candy each. : )

The ward had its annual Nativity play on Sunday night. Elder Empey and I were two of the three kings. It was nice to participate in a Nativity, although I’m sure it wasn’t as good as our Christmas Eve one. : )

One of our investigators lives all by himself, has very little, and has been unable to get in contact with his family despite his efforts. The members who live across the street from him and introduced him to us have been really kind to him, bringing him food, etc. He came to the ward Nativity, and while I was standing with him and talking afterwards, a member handed me a plastic bag with a gift-wrapped present for me in it. It made me feel really guilty to be receiving another present right in front of our investigator, who probably wouldn’t be having much for Christmas. On Christmas morning, I ended up wrapping up my Nativity set and scented candle and giving them to him. It was a little painful to give them away since I’ve enjoyed them so much in the past few weeks, but it was a good thing for me to do. I remembered giving away the playdough Nativity set we made in Romania, and I felt like I was carrying on that tradition here.

We had a special zone conference yesterday – because it’s Christmas, President Jacobsen had us all travel up to Chorley and go through a temple session in the morning before meeting in the afternoon. I realized that I hadn’t been through the temple since my last day in the MTC, and I was surprised at how much my perspective has changed and how much more I got out of the session than I had before. It’s kind of exciting to look back like that and see how much I’ve learned since the MTC.

At zone conference yesterday, I picked up three letters, all from people I do not know! One was from the Primary of the Menlo Park Stake (my stake at Stanford), and contained several pictures of Christmas trees and earnest handwritten notes (along the lines of "Dear Elder, I hope you have a merry Christmas. Love, Amanda"); another one was a Christmas card from someone named Kurt Johnson who is also apparently from the Menlo Park Stake. The last one was a Christmas card from the Vorwaller family in Jacksonville, who said they were enjoying having you in their ward – they introduced themselves as "Carmen Jones’ parents." A big thank you to those who got my address out to these people! Getting mail is always a pleasure, even when I haven’t met the people who are sending it. : )

Elder Pimentel

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