Saturday, January 26, 2008

Jon 1/26/2008

Sent: Saturday, January 26, 2008 10:02 AM
Subject: Ib lub sijhawm ntawm txoj kev zoo siab!

Nyob zoo! I loved your letters! I'm glad to hear that my package got to you okay. I got a kick out of the "Jesus Is Birthday" too [editor's note: Jon sent a hand-sewn nativity depiction, but instead of "Jesus' Birthday", it said "Jesus Is Birthday"]. That's a very Hmong mistake. They have a lot of trouble with plurals and possessives because in Hmong you use the exact same word for every tense, possessive or not. English uses 'S's for plurals and possessives, but apostrophes only for possessives. It confuses them. I got the nativity Paj Ntaub (literally: 'flower cloth') at the flea market from this lady who makes them. She has one original that she looks off of for each of the different kinds she makes, so she'll make 2 or 3 that look almost exactly the same (or more if that pattern is popular). Elder Wilson bought her last nativity Paj Ntaub of that size, and I asked her if she had any more. She said she thought she had one at home and she would bring it the next day and save it just for me. She was so tickled that Elder Wilson and I had learned her language that she gave us a discount of about 15 bucks. Very nice lady.
Are you keeping the peppers in the freezer? They go bad otherwise. If you make dipping sauce out of one, it isn't quite as spicy, and you can just get a little bit at a time. It's really good. Try it with sausage or chicken.
Kent, good on ya for finishing your Eagle! How does it feel to be a man? I heard about your beard-growing contest and I had to laugh as I thought of your beastliness and then remembered this morning watching Elder Vang shave off the 2 or 3 hairs that have been growing all week. Most Asians don't grow much facial hair.
We're very excited for Pa today! She's nervous because there will be people there, but I think once she gets there, the peaceful spirit in the room will set her at ease. It looks like I'll be performing the ordinance, which will be a first for me. While Elder Vang has not yet baptized anyone on his mission, he had the opportunity of baptizing his little sister and one of his friends before he left.
Lynn and Josh are continuing to grow, but are moving to the Eastside area on Sunday. They will still be in our branch, but we won't be able to teach them anymore.
Brian is doing well, and getting ready to move too, but thankfully he will actually be closer to our apartment. He wants us to meet with his cousin who evidently is quite a hoodlum and "hangs out with the wrong crowd". He wants us to work the magic of the gospel on her and turn her into a good person. Unfortunately, it's not that simple and it largely depends on her deciding to apply what we teach and follow the enticings of the spirit. Brian is willing to be baptized, but doesn't feel he's ready.
Gyan, Pai Ni, and Pa Xiong want to come to church but have no car and we can't find a ride for them. Everyone's car is full. They are keeping other commitments and are very receptive.
There is a less-active family we have been working with for a long time. The kids are all baptized except the youngest, Shia, who is now of age. The parents investigated a little a long time ago but stopped as soon as they found out they would have to get legally married. They knew the gospel was good, so they let their kids go for it, but they figured "If we can't get baptized, what's the point of learning more?" The kids have no ride to church because the parents don't go, and Yama, the only one with a license, works on Sunday. We are going to find out why the parents weren't willing to get married, and if it's because of the money or hassle, we can help make it quick, cheap, and easy. The kids are really strong, and will be a huge boost to the branch.
The Church is true---tell your friends!
-Elder Muaj Yeej

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Notes from Sam - 23 January 2008

Dear family,

Elder Russell is great! I'm getting the sense that he's one of President Jacobsen's most valued missionaries and that it's kind of a gift to get to serve with him. It's exciting for me. We met with Bishop Ireland briefly after church and he pointed out that I'd been smiling all the time since Elder Russell's arrival. The bishop is excited too - he told us that all he wants for us to do is to baptize, and that he has high expectations for us.

Elder Russell has a lot of ideas about how we can improve the work in our area. One thing we're planning to do is pick several families in the ward to work with and ask them to let us teach them four lessons in their home - first we teach the first three missionary lessons, and then for the fourth lesson they invite a friend or family to their home so we can teach them Lesson 1. I think it will be a great way to help members move from talking about the Church with their friends (which is happening a lot in Runcorn Ward right now) to having us teach these friends.

Elder Russell and I have also been working on is setting up specific appointments with people we meet. Last transfer we didn't do that as often as we could have, and that made it a lot harder to plan ahead and to make sure we saw those we needed to. For the first few days after Elder Russell's arrival, we had no specific teaching appointments planned out ahead of time. I think that was pretty frustrating for him - a couple of times during planning he told me "We had a great day planned out in Ashton [his last area]." But we've set up a lot of appointments since last week. It's helping me a lot. It's really satisfying to be able to look ahead over the next few days and know who we'll be seeing and what we'll be doing.

Another good practice Elder Russell has introduced me to is having a Family Home Evening with investigators. This Monday we were teaching an investigator named Rob, so we came a little early and turned it into a Family Home Evening instead. We taught our lesson, but then we played Uno and had some treats (selected from the mountains of candy lying around our flat, leftover from Christmas and Elder Russell's recent package). It was a lot of fun. I'm hoping to do it a lot with investigators from now on - it seems like a great way to help investigators recognize that missionaries are real people and to help them enjoy being taught.

One other thing I'm really excited about for this transfer is finding investigators in unconventional ways. I've learned a lot from tracting and street contacting, but I'm really interested in other ways of meeting people who are willing to be taught. Elder Russell seems similarly inclined Elder Empey and I had been trying to get a weekly football game going on Saturday mornings that people can bring friends to - Elder Russell and I have been working on inviting more people, and just last night we talked to a bunch of kids in the street who said they would be there. Elder Russell loves fishing too, and it looks like we may go sometime with one of the young men and/or with a less-active member whom we home teach, both pretty avid fishermen - hopefully this will give us a chance to build fellowship with members, meet their friends, and get some referrals.

Along these same lines, we went with Rob this past Sunday to a weekly meeting of his model boating club. Rob lives by himself, isn't in regular contact with any nearby family members, and doesn't have work associates who he can talk to about the church, so I'd sort of assumed that he wouldn't be a great source of referrals, but he is a member of several different model clubs, one for boats, one for planes, and one for helicopters. Rob invited us to come with him after church to the boating club meeting, so we decided to go along. It turned out to be an excellent place to talk to people, and I had a great conversation with one gentleman who has done a lot of family history work and really appreciates the Church's online resources. So now instead of just investigator football, it looks like we may end up with investigator fishing and investigator model boating/aviation. : )

Elder Russell's replacement of Elder Empey was the only change in our district this transfer. So Elder Atwood organized an activity at district meeting for Elder Russell to get to know the district a little bit. Before district meeting, he asked each of us who we would choose to be if we could switch places with another person, fictional or non-fictional, for a day. Then at district meeting, Elder Atwood wrote all of our answers on the chalkboard and made Elder Russell match us to our answers. I chose Sherlock Holmes, Elder Frogley chose Ronaldinho, Elder Woolsey chose country singer Alan Jackson, Elder Atwood chose Kim Jong Il (dictator of North Korea), and Elder Ayers chose Justin Timberlake. I was really impressed by these answers, because I think they say a lot about each of our personalities - having been in this district for about three months now, I think I could have aced this activity in one try. I guess it should be a little disturbing to me that I see a correspondence between my district leader's personality and Kim Jong Il. : )

In the family history information that Grandma Pimentel sent me about the life of Thomas Green, it said that his parents (whose names I don't recall at the moment) were married in Runcorn. I'm wondering if there's any way we can find out where exactly in Runcorn they were married (e.g. which church). I'm here for another six weeks and could probably go check it out some preparation day. Any thoughts?

Thanks for all your support!

Elder Pimentel

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Elder Jon Pimentel 1/19/2008

Nyob zoo sawvdaws!

Well, the practice winter is over, and the real one has arrived. It is currently -30 degrees with the wind chill. On the bright side (literally), it's clear and sunny.

Oh! Before I forget, there is an Elder Daniel Jackson in my zone! Haib kawg (awesome). [Gary's note: Daniel Jackson is a character in Stargate SG1, a series we enjoy.]

So Kent is an a-dult now eh? Wow. Has he registered to vote? I haven't. It blows my mind to think that Kent is older than Josh (investigator), who is living with Lynn and contemplating marriage, and we are helping him quit smoking, drinking, and marijuana. Life is so much easier when you make good choices. Kent doesn't have any of those problems...right? Dag xwb! ;)

Mai Houa and Ze (legal name is now Jonny) came to church! Huzzah! Now we can set a baptismal date and finish up teaching the commandments, then---goosh!

Josh and Lynn have almost flushed all the nicotine out of their blood and have become less irritable (this week they were a little touchy) we bumped into them at the flea market and they were cheerful and not annoyed to see us. We had been worried because we had had trouble getting in touch with them and worried that they had been smoking again and that maybe they were sick of us. What a relief. Now they just need to either decide to get married, or live separately. It's interesting to see that there are a lot of people who are scared to make a commitment or take a big step, and they think they can just wait and let it play out, or wait until it isn't so hard of a decision. I was reading in 2 Nephi 2: 27 and it hit me that there really is NO middle of the road. You either choose liberty and eternal life by following Christ and keeping ALL the commandments, or you choose captivity and death by not doing so. One or the other. If you choose to wait to make the decision to keep a commandment, you have chosen not to obey. I hadn't really thought about it, but understanding this could really help some of our investigators make a leap of faith.

We got a scare when Pa's mom said they couldn't come to church this week because her brother had a lot of videos he needs them to sell on Sunday. We negotiated for Josh and Lynn to give Pa a ride to church, and we committed Pa's mom (I think her name is Pao) to bring the family at least for the sacrament. Looks like we won't have to push back the baptism again. Shyew! It's still locked in for the 26th.

Love you all! Niaj kom mus txog thaum kawg nawj!
-Elder Muaj Yeej

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Notes from Sam - 16 January 2008

Dear family,

Transfers were today. Elder Empey got transferred up to the city of Blackburn. Some of you may know of it from the Beatles song "A Day in the Life": "I read the news today, oh boy/ Ten thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire . . . " It's a bigger place than Runcorn, and is also heavily Muslim. Elder Empey's been in Runcorn since he left the MTC, so I think he was glad to get to go to a new place, but he was still pretty sad to leave. He's really gotten to love people here. We spent time yesterday visiting members and investigators so he could say goodbye to them. One of these was Danny, our Hungarian investigator. I actually said goodbye to him too, since he's leaving tomorrow to move to Ipswich (near London). Danny's a funny guy - he asked where we lived in the States so he could come visit us when he is a millionaire someday, and invited us to visit him too ( something like, "In Central Europe, there is a very nice little country. It is called Hungary . . . "). Hopefully he'll get baptized down in Ipswich before he has to go home to Hungary.

Usually on transfer day you go to a chapel in Manchester to meet your new companion, but this time I didn't have to go there - Elder Turner, who's in a neighboring area in Wales and also got a new companion today, came up to Runcorn and hung out with me while we waited for the transfer bus to come by and drop off our new companions. Elder Turner was in my district in Barrow, and I had a great time chatting with him. I'd been feeling a bit apprehensive about getting along with a new companion and being a happy missionary this transfer, but Elder Turner built me up a lot and helped me feel really positive about where I am and what I'm doing. Having seen a little more of the missionary world, I realize now how lucky (I mean, blessed) I am to have been surrounded by such a great district in Barrow.

My new companion is Elder Russell, who's coming up on his one year mark. He's from Ogden, Utah. He's also 6'4"; we need to borrow an Allen wrench from our ward mission leader tonight so he can remove the baseboard of his bed or he won't be able to fit into the bed. Everybody I've talked to who knows him seems to love him, and I think we're going to have a fun transfer together. He told me he's set a resolution this year not to eat any chocolate. Unfortunately he's come to our flat, which is full of leftover Christmas chocolate, and to top it off he just received a package from home that contains a big Ziploc bag full of homemade turtles (chunks of chocolate-covered caramel with almonds or pecans or something - mmmboy). But he's remaining firm in his resolution, so I may just have to eat them all for him. : )

A couple of times when I've walked through Liverpool recently I've noticed advertisements for Blood Brothers, the show we saw in London in the spring of 2005(?). The Moreton elders even had a less-active member invite them to go see it (it would've been against mission rules to go, unfortunately)! Blood Brothers is by Willy Russell, the same playwright who did Educating Rita - I'm pretty sure he's from Liverpool and that his plays are set in or near it (in places like Runcorn, perhaps). I've thought about Blood Brothers a number of times since coming out. It's probably one of the most evocative portrayals of Britain that I received before my mission. I think I'm going to have to read more of Willy Russell's work when I get home. I owe Ms. Marinus for introducing me to his writing in high school.

Through visits to and conversations with members and investigators, I've heard inklings about the US elections. Is it true that Mitt Romney lost the Republican primaries in both Iowa and New Hampshire? Keep me posted on what's going on election-wise - I'm pretty curious.


Monday, January 14, 2008

St. Honore

Okay, I'm way overdue for a culinary report. Let's not let these missionaries take over this blog entirely (though I do love hearing from them). Things are starting to get exciting here in Scottsdale. I just finished a block in viennoiserie, which includes everything flaky you might want to eat at breakfast. It was good to learn, but definitely not something I want to spend my life doing, as it is insanely labor-intensive. Warm croissants were the only reward for that class I'm afraid.
In November I put my skills to the test and built a real live wedding cake for a real live wedding. I have to say, that's a project with a lot of pressure connected to it. What if the formula is slightly off? What if the icing melts? What if somebody bumps it? What if it collapses, or what if the bride detests it? Well, thanks to a lot of experimenting, a lot of practicing, and a lot of prayer, none of those things happened to me, and the adventure was a success. Hallelujah. I did a white chiffon cake with almond syrup and raspberry filling, masked in an Italian buttercream icing. The bride even liked it enough to pay me for it. Yay!
Over Christmas break, my mother was good enough to loan me her kitchen (and ingredients) for four days to prep for a New Years party, which also turned out successful. Making 13+ different items was a considerable amount of work, but I really enjoyed planning it and watching everyone taste things they perhaps hadn't before. Inspired by my employment with Chatham's Fine Chocolates, I tried my hand at a variety of truffles: lemon habanero, ginger honey, and orange. The chili truffles were probably the most popular. The mousse filled swans (he he, I just got a visual of a swan trying to consume a mousse) were a fun conversation piece, but people had a hard time biting off the heads of poor innocent swans.
In the current class I'm in (custards, fillings and creams), things are starting to get exciting. We've done some very traditional (and very ugly, in my opinion) items, and some very modern items as well. Last week we put together a dessert called St. Honore, named after the patron saint of pastry chefs (there's a patron saint for everybody, isn't there? Isn't that great?) Personally, I think it looks like the chef's 7 year old got into the kitchen and started gluing things together haphazardly, not knowing when to stop. It's really quite a shame that this is the best thing we could come up with to honor our protecting angel (then again, if he's supposed to be protecting me, he's not doing a very good job. I've earned my fair share of burns). I don't care if it's supposed to look like a crown. It's convoluted and ugly. And it takes a long time to make. And it doesn't even taste that good. Hmph.
Today we finished some bavarian deco cakes, which I thought were very classy and simple, and we learned how to temper chocolate. I was successful, but I think I just got lucky, to be honest. That's something I'll have to keep working on. We also started working with sugar garnishes, making little cages and spirals. I've dabbled in sugar before, but it was nice to get a firm foundation and learn some rules.
Well, there's a brief recap of the past few months here in my world. Hope everyone is doing well!

Um, this computer doesn't seem partial to the idea of letting me upload photos, so. . . those may come at a later date.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Elder Jon Pimentel 1/12/2008

Sent: Saturday, January 12, 2008 11:02 AM
Subject: Peb sib pauv mentsis

Nyob zoo!

I got the package! Thanky kahndly. :) Hopefully the Eastside Elders will be able to give me a ride to the post office today so they can figure out the postage and I can just pay it there.

'Tis a new transfer, and we've had a bit of a shuffle. Elder Jackson Vang was transfered from Minneapolis to Eastside St. Paul with Elder Choua Vang, Elder Richard Vang was transfered from Eastside to Frogtown, and Elder Wilson was transfered from Frogtown to Minneapolis. Elder Wilson is now the district leader, and Elder Richard Vang is my new companion. I now live in an apartment full of Vangs. What fun.

Brian Lee (a new investigator) came to church last Sunday and will come again this Sunday. We want to get the rest of his family interested.

Mai Houa and Ze got legally married yesterday, so now Mai Houa can get baptized...after she comes to church. Ze is still being lazy.

A member referred some of her friends to us. They are a youngish couple fresh from Thailand. They have no Christian background but are very open to it. They want to be baptized, but want to come to church one or two times first. When we invited them to be baptized, we just assumed they understood that this kind of thing takes a bit of time and preparation, so their response took us aback a bit. We agreed with them that coming to church a few times and learning more from us first would be a good idea. They couldn't come last Sunday because they had to watch somebody's kids at the last minute, but they'll come tomorrow. Oh, their names are Gyan and Pai Ni. They are going to school right now. Not college, they never had any real education in Thailand so they started with the ABCs here. Evidently Pai Ni told her teacher that she was going to go to church, and about us. Her teacher called us and asked us with what church we were affiliated. She wasn't happy, was quite rude, and told us that she was going to tell Pai Ni not to go because we "aren't even Christian!" Elder Wilson was nice and VERY patient, and explained how we are Christian, but she seemed to insist that she knew more of our beliefs than we did, and that because our beliefs are different from hers, we must not be Christian and therefor somehow had the right to tell her school student how to believe. Very frustrating. After the call, we were very....upset. We couldn't believe the nerve of that precious child of God. It doesn't look like the teacher ended up having any real impact on Gyan and Pai Ni though, so all appears to be well.

We are currently helping Josh and Lynn quite smoking. Quite exciting. If they can keep this kicked and promise to keep the rest of the word of wisdom, then the only thing holding them back is that they need to either get married, or Lynn needs to move out and maybe live with her mom and siblings.

Is Kent's belch-day next week? Have a good 'un.

Have a good week, do good work, love ya, love ya!

Elder Muaj Yeej

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Notes from Sam - 10 January 2008

Elder Pimentel in Downham (before it got really cold, but not before it got really wet)Also, Elder Pimentel's room with companion Elder Empey in the foreground

Dear family,

I'm at Liverpool Library again . . .

On Monday we had an exchange with the zone leaders. This time Elder Empey went to Wrexham and I stayed here in Runcorn with Elder Pinegar. Josh Evans (the recently returned missionary from the Sierra Leone Mission in our ward) also happened to have a day off on Monday, so he offered to go out with us in the afternoon and drive us around. Unfortunately, we didn't have any really solid appointments set up by Monday morning, and I was worried that we'd have a long, fruitless day of finding. Lately, instead of tracting, we've been visiting former investigators when we have no appointments; I've gone through our area book (which contains information on former investigators going back several years) over the past few weeks and written down a list of people we can try visiting. So after trying on a few of our current investigators (none of whom were available to be taught), Josh Evans, Elder Pinegar and I started visiting these past investigators. Because we had a car, we were able to visit a huge number of addresses, and to my happy surprise, it ended up being really effective. Three different people let us inside and we were able to teach together, and a couple of other people said we could come back and visit them another time. Then later in the day we were able to teach three more lessons, one to an investigator and two to less-active members. It felt really good to teach (that really is the best part of missionary work, I'm convinced), and I was able to learn from Elder Pinegar's and Josh Evan's teaching styles. The whole day was a good reminder to me that there are people in England who are willing to be taught, and that good things happen when we are obedient, exercise faith, and work hard. Especially when we have great members like those in Runcorn to support us.

Last week we had a great preparation day activity. Our entire district took the bus up to a place called West Kirby, which is on the beach where the River Dee runs into the Irish Sea. There are a couple of islands not too far from shore that you can walk out to at low tide, and we were lucky enough to arrive when the tide was out and there was a clear pathway out there on the sand. The islands were pretty small, but they'd been carved out by constant wind over the years so that they had really striking cliff faces and rock formations. We had a lot of fun climbing around on them and taking photos (I'll see if I can send some to you), and we found a beach area with some of the best skipping rocks I've ever encountered - probably a result of the wind erosion. Then we noticed that the tide had come in quite a bit since we'd come out there, panicked a little bit, and rushed back to the mainland. : )

This week on preparation day, I was in Moreton on exchange with Elder Ayers. We went into Liverpool and wandered around a little bit. It was a beautiful day, great for wandering. It made me feel really lucky to be serving in an exotic place like England where are there are really interesting and historically rich cities like Liverpool to go explore. We ended up going through part of Chinatown (one of the bigger ones in England, apparently) and visiting the giant Anglican cathedral. Someone had told me it was the biggest cathedral in Europe (I had been skeptical) - it turns out it's the second biggest Anglican cathedral in Europe, which is still pretty good. : ) It's very recent, though, not finished until 1978. When we went inside, there was a big ceremony going on for the opening of an Anne Frank exhibition which was being housed inside the cathedral. We listened to a bit of the service, including a really beautiful vocal number called "Lean on Me" (an old spiritual, maybe?) by a group of girls in school uniforms. It was an interesting experience to visit the house of worship of another faith as a missionary. I think a cathedral does some of the same things a temple does for us - provide a symbol of faith to the surrounding community, offer a place of sanctuary and teaching to church members in the area, etc. There was a good feeling in the cathedral, and it made me see how people from the Church of England might feel the Spirit to some extent in their worship and hence think they have the true gospel. So we have to find a way to help them recognize that there is a greater truth.

My exchange with Elder Ayers was supposed to end on Wednesday afternoon, but it ended up extending until Thursday morning. Elder Ayers and Elder Atwood had no appointments for that evening, so we went tracting for two and a half hours in the cold and dark and rain (the good weather we'd had that morning in Liverpool was gone). At first I was kind of dreading this, especially because tracting at night usually isn't very effective, but there wasn't anything better for us to do, so we went out and did it. By the end I felt really good that we had. It built my confidence to know that I'd gone out and done something so uncomfortable and inconvenient in order to do my best with my time and help others come unto Christ. And although it wasn't the most effective tracting session ever, we did make some positive contacts.

We were supposed to have interviews with the President last Friday, but he wasn't there - he was in the hospital having kidney stones removed! Fortunately, he's OK now. Sister Jacobsen did a training session with us in the President's place, and she also brought us cinnamon rolls that she'd baked. They reminded me of the ones Mom makes. : )

I got myself some disposable cameras this week. I think they will work really well for me and help me get photos in a reliable way. I also bought a jumper (British for "sweater") that I can wear under my suit coat to keep me warm as it gets colder.

The Stanford ward sent me a big Christmas card! It made me happy. They want a photo of me and a missionary scripture to post on their bulletin board. Mom and Dad, you have better access to mission photos of me than I do (now that I've lost that flash drive) - can you please pick a decent photo of me and send it as an attachment to [them]? Also, please tell her that the scripture I've picked is Mosiah 29:20. I'd prepare a message for you to forward, but I'm almost out of Internet time. Thanks!


[Ed. note: Mosiah 29:20 reads, "But behold, he did deliver them because they did humble themselves before him; and because they cried mightily unto him he did deliver them out of bondage; and thus doth the Lord work with his power in all cases among the children of men, extending the arm of mercy towards them that put their trust in him."]

Notes from Sam - 2 January 2008

Elder Pimentel with Elders di Iulio, Kimmerle, Turner, Tomita & Hvistendahl

Dear family,

Happy 2008! The fireworks woke me up at midnight.

We've started teaching a new investigator named Danny (sp?) - when we arrived at the field for our weekly investigator football activity last week, he was the only one there! We canceled football but walked partway back home with him and had a good chat during which we scheduled a teaching appointment. Danny is from Hungary and is working as an au pair in the home of a member family. He's actually been attending church for several weeks (in a different ward) and reading from the Book of Mormon and the Gospel Principles manual, so he already knows a lot, and he feels good about what he's seen so far. We just have to help him understand that this isn't just another good church with good people and principles in it, but the one true church with priesthood authority and the fulness of the gospel.

Last week we were walking down the street when I spotted a cell phone lying on the ground. It looked very new (and, as Elder Empey noted, was much nicer than our mission cell phone). Elder Empey looked on the phone and saw missed calls from someone called "Mum," so he called back and told her that we'd picked up the phone. When she met up with us to get it back, Elder Empey left her a Restoration pamphlet and got her contact details so we can go and teach her sometime.

We had to be in our flat or at a member's home after 4:30 PM on New Year's Eve.

On New Year's Day no tracting was allowed, so the zone leaders organized a zone meeting instead, with a white elephant gift exchange between missionaries in the zone afterwards. It was a wise move - everything apparently shuts down completely on New Year's Day here. When we got off the train at the little Welsh town of Shotton (near the chapel where were having the meeting), it was about 9:30 AM and the town was completely silent and deserted. Elder Empey had accidentally left his white elephant gift in Runcorn, so he had to buy a new gift at the "Bargain Booze" liquor store, the only open store in the town's whole shopping district - fortunately, they stocked candy in addition to alcohol. : ) Ironically, Elder Empey's candy was one of the best gifts there, since many missionaries had brought pretty lame presents, including one companionship who wrapped up materials left in their apartment by the sister missionaries who had lived there previously (bubble bath, sugar-free sweets, a book entitled "365 Things to Make and Do" with entries including "Dairy Drinks" and "Seaside Jewelry"). I gave a chocolate bar and a bag of balloons shaped like giant bugs and ended up with a Wales mug (which isn't too tacky) and an apple. Not too bad.

Gift exchange aside, the zone meeting was really good. Elder Atwood gave a particularly insightful training presentation about how we can and should talk about the Atonement more often in our discussions. He noted that discussing the Atonement is particularly conducive to the Spirit and that people who attend other Christian churches feel the Spirit in their meetings when the Atonement is discussed, even if other doctrines they practice are not correct. So we need to make sure that we talk about the Atonement with people we meet and teach to show them that we too can help them feel that Spirit.

Last week, in sad news, I accidentally left one of my flash drives at the library after doing emails and it disappeared. : ( Fortunately, I don't think there was much if any important information on it - mostly it had photos on it, and I think I've sent you most of the photos that were any good anyway. I still have another flash drive (which I'm now being extra vigilant about hanging onto), and I should be able to keep new photos on there. But please save copies of the photos I've sent you already. Thanks!

I'm enjoying my Christmas gifts. The electronic dictionary is great - I've been able to use it really easily without even looking at the directions, and it has tons of information in it, including a whole dictionary of quotes by famous people (none by Joseph Smith or Brigham Young, though : ) ).

Thanks for your great letters! I liked hearing about the gingerbread-house-building party and seeing the photos of it. I think it's a great family tradition too. I'm glad that the mommy and the little boy who lost each other on the train platform are OK, too, and that people in Jacksonville were so concerned and ready to help them out.

Elder Pimentel

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Elder Jon Pimentel 12/29/2007

Sent: Saturday, December 29, 2007 10:01 AM
Subject: Happy New Year!

It was great to talk to you guys on Tuesday!

Today is Elder Richard Vang's birthday! He doesn't want to do much for it though. We're kind of celebrating it by going to the Hmong New Year today. That's right, another one. Every city pretty much chooses when they want to celebrate it, so St Paul had their's in November, and Minneapolis is doing their's today. I'll get pics of this one. I'll also get you the pics [Muaj Tsim] (Elder Wilson) took of the branch Christmas party.

It's been cloudy for a very long time now, but the clouds insulate us, so it's been pretty warm (around 20 to 28 degrees). Quite lovely. There is so much snow that we have been on foot for a few days.

I heard Kent won the school dance off! Good on you mate! ;) Kent, sincerely share your testimony of the gospel and the BoM with Nick and invite him to come to church. Let him know what the church means to you and how much your life has been blessed. Promise him blessings. In addition, do NOT let your Eagle slip out of reach. I think you may be busier than I have ever been (except maybe on my mission), but make time and get it done. You'll be glad the rest of your life that you can say "I am an Eagle Scout". There have been people here that I have talked to who would never have given the church a chance if they hadn't seen that most of our church's men are Eagle Scouts. Employers Universities, and girls will know you are of sound character and are a responsible potential leader. *steps out from behind the pulpit*

In other news, we found a new investigator named Ben Her, and he's Jewish (not by decent, but still). I was quite amused. Pa's half sister, Lynn and Lynn's boyfriend, Josh have started seriously investigating the church. Lynn is particularly eager to learn. They want to be baptized, but they don't really understand the commitment involved yet. They committed to come to church and to read the chapter we gave them in the BoM.

Did I tell you that Pa's aunt came and took her away for about a week? She won't be back until early next week, so we have to push back the baptism again. Hopefully it will be before the end of the transfer.

Elder Choua Vang got some animal balloons for Christmas, I think it would be a fun thing to be able to make balloon animals for the younglings. If there's room in your next package, could you send my balloon animal book and a bunch of my balloon animal balloons? I think they're in my bedstand cupboard thingy.

Oh! a couple weeks ago I got to translate for part of sacrament meeting. That was an exciting experience.

Thank you for your letters!
-Elder Muaj Yeej