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!