Friday, February 29, 2008

Pass your plate

Hello, family. Here's just an update on my Arizonan life, which is shortly coming to a close (because I'm leaving Arizona, not because I'm terminally ill or any other such life-closing misfortune). I finally did find the nature in this place. All the pollution of a big city makes for some excellent sunsets from atop South Mountain, or Camelback Mountain, both of which I have had the joy to hike recently (I say mountain, but to those in the Rockies, you might know them better as "slightly exaggerated speed bumps").

We're finally getting to the good stuff here in school. I think this is the first cake I got excited about. We have here a devil's food with chocolate mousse filling and a chocolate glacage coating it. The little tiles and abstract flame-like garnishes are tempered chocolate with edible gold dust and colored cocoa butter. Chocolate and I have an interesting relationship when it comes to tempering. Sometimes it is submissive, compliant, and humbly behaved, and sometimes I wonder if I am trying to raise a teenager made of sugar, milk solids, and chocolate liquor. Well, after some early mornings in the kitchen and the purchase of a high quality thermometer, I think I've tricked it into thinking I'm boss for the time being.

And here we have the Brasilia, which I was able to share with Jay and John when they came for a law conference. (Yay for unexpected mini reunions!) This is a nice cake for those of you who like almonds, as it is full of them. Almond sponge cake with caramel buttercream, and a nougatine on top make for a very happy dessert. I still have no idea why it's called Brasilia, or if it has anything to do with the capital of Brazil, and neither does Wikipedia. Ah well.

Now we enter my plating class, which is becoming my favorite very quickly, despite (or maybe because of) the fact that it is the hardest thus far. The first plate here is a raspberry panna cotta (cream set by gelatin) with a brandy snap cookie and a sugar nut spear threaded through the hole in the cookie. (That's not easy to do with very very breakable sugar, a tiny hole, a hand tremor you inherited from your father and possibly a hint of hypoglycemia you may have inherited from your mother. It's okay, mom; I have granola bars in my backpack now, and this is the kind of school where they encourage you to eat during class anyway. Back to the dessert. . .) This was my exact copy of the master's design. The next is a mango bavarian mousse in a chocolate cage. This little guy caused me a lot of grief, trying not to break his delicate little lattice while I threw cut fruit into the cage and balanced a little star on top. Arg. Even now, I can't get his picture to stand up. P.S. If anybody knows how to rotate these pics a simple 90 degrees without editing software, please let me know. I'm feeling very foolish posting these sideways pictures here. Anyway, I kind of like the look of it in the end, so I think I'm going to keep working on the technique till I get it right. The next plates were my own creation. This is a peppermint white chocolate mousse (yummy) in a chocolate cone with a little chocolate garnish. Not that interesting. Oh well. This next one is hard to see and looked better in real life. It's a lemon panna cotta pyramid on a tuille cookie bridge with a sugar garnish that curves up and has a little sugar sun on the end. Yeah, you can't really tell from the picture. Maybe I'll do this plate again and take a better shot, because I liked the Egyptian look to it, and so did the chef. And if you'll now look to your right, next on our tour we have a little critter that makes me smile. This is a cream horn made of puff pastry, filled with diplomat cream and fruit. It reminds me of a crustacean of sorts. Chef thought it was creative. Fortunately today, it was on the good side of creative. It's a fine line we walk, and I've been known to jump over it on occassion. Hm, he's kind of hard to see, too. Sorry. And lastly, I put this one together today, along with the lobster. It's what's called a beggar's purse (did people used to give beggars apple compote instead of money? I don't know). It's an apple filling in a little pouch of flaky phyllo dough sitting on some oranges, with a set of cookie chopsticks resting on a strawberry to the side. In the box where the chef is supposed to write feedback like "sauce too thin" or "chocolate not tempered" or "too many busy lines," all I got was a "feng shui." I guess that's good? I'm really liking the creative freedom we get in this class. I always said I never wanted to work in a restaurant, but this kind of work is rather appealing to me. I think it's pretty awesome that I was born in America in the 20th century to goodly parents and have the means to take a year of my life to play with dough. Yeah, pretty awesome.

Before we leave tonight, here's a peek at a little sugar showpiece I started. Also obnoxiously on its side. It still needs leaves and maybe some cooler wings, but it's a start, and knowing sugar, it's likely to shatter before it gets finished, so I'm posting it now.

Well, the sun is setting, and it might be cool enough to go running now (neener neener) so I think I've yammered on enough for today. Oh, by the way, I'm hunting for a good place to do an externship, so if any of you go out to eat and are totally wowed by your dessert, let me know. Much love, and bon appetite!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Notes from Sam - 28 February 2008

Dear family,

I've been transferred to Blackpool. Blackpool is a famous seaside resort and vacation city ("the British Las Vegas" as some people put it) with a long beachfront promenade lined with casinos, concessions stands, a Ferris wheel, etc. It's one of the largest cities in the mission (probably fourth after Manchester, Liverpool, and Stoke-on-Trent). On a map, it will be just north of Preston and south of the Lake District. It's actually not too far from Barrow - from the Hoad (where I went with Elder Tomita and our landlord during my first transfer), you could see Blackpool on a clear day.

I'm really enjoying it here and am excited about this next transfer. Since it's such a big place, there's a good town center to contact people in, a lot of pedestrians around to stop and talk to, good bus service and lots of opportunities to do bus contacting, and a decent-size population of immigrants, including African ones (who tend to be quite receptive to missionaries), some of which Barrow and Runcorn lacked. Blackpool has 4 missionaries and apparently a pretty big, pretty active ward. They had 3 baptisms and a bunch of investigators at church a couple of weeks ago, so the members must be especially excited about missionary work right now. In weekly planning this morning, we went over our teaching pool, and it sounds really good to me (although I haven't met all the people yet) - it looks like we'll probably have a baptism this transfer! I'm pretty stoked.

I'm serving with Elder Smith from Snowflake, Arizona, who's been out a little over a year. I think he and I have similar personalities and will get along really well. The other two elders in Blackpool are Elder Empey (not my previous companion - there are two Elders Empey) and a brand-new missionary whom he is training, Elder Carter. I think our district (which also includes two sister missionaries in Lancaster) will be a lot of fun.

Elder Russell has been made district leader in Runcorn and is training a new missionary this transfer. Kind of exciting for him! We have a bunch of great appointments set up for this week, so Elder Atkin (the greenie) will get a good start.

I have a lot more things to talk about but my time is about gone. Thanks for your prayers and support!

Elder Pimentel

P.S. My new address is
Elder Sam Pimentel
Flat 5 Claughton
Harcourt Road
Blackpool FY4 3ES

Notes from Sam - 19 February 2008

Dear Family,

I'm writing a short letter this week, since we are going to the zoo in Chester with one of our investigators on preparation day and I probably won't get to a computer.

Elder Russell is really excited about the zoo - i guess he hasn't been to the zoo since he was a tiny kid and he doesn't remember that. So anyway I'm writing this on tuesday and Katy has graciously offered to email it to you.

We have spent a lot of time with Adam, our newest investigator, over the past week. He's a really friendly person and he has been very kind to us - he took us out to dinner at T.G.I.Fridays on Thursday night and is taking us the zoo tomorrow. It turns out Adam is a cage fighter, although he's not able to train due to a leg injury. I think he could probably take Kip from Napoleon Dynamite. Adam came to church this week and really enjoyed it which is great news! Unfortunately he found out this week he has some legal issues that may take a long time to sort out and he properly won't be able to be baptized until then. So we're kind of gutted about that. But its been a privilege to teach him, and we will have a good time tomorrow.

Ice cream trucks are pretty common here - we often hear them playing their bouncy little melodies from a few blocks away. Today Elder Russell and I were in our flat planning when we heard it come down our street. Elder Russell decided he really wanted some ice cream, so we had to run outside, stop the truck, and get some for him. It looked really good - soft serve ice cream in a cone with raspberry ice sauce and a chocolate bar stuck it in - so I got some too then we went back to the flat and we ate it before finishing our planning.

Transfers are next week. I think there is a good chance I'm going, so until then, please send letters to the mission office.


Elder Pimentel

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Jon 2/23/2008

Sent: Saturday, February 23, 2008 9:56 AM
Subject: Peb sib pauv mentsis

Hello all!
I got the birthday package on time, thank you!! The gator is comfy ^_^

I took pictures of Hmong dresses for mom, but I left my camera in the apartment, so I can't send them this week. They pretty much all have a million tiny pleats, and there are innumerable different styles to choose from. They can be around 60-80 dollars, but it can be cheaper if you can find a nice old lady who will taylor-make one for you. Kind of backwards, huh? Maybe if you pick me up at the end of my mission, then you could shop around for yourself and choose exactly the one you want.

I suppose if you send another package, it would be great if you could send pictures of Tiara and any of Kent's play, or the rehearsals thereof. Also, a lot of the kids here are into Yu-Gi-Oh cards and want to see my deck. The Elders Vang play it sometimes on preparation days after we finish everything else, and they want to play against me and my deck as well. So if you could send my Yugioh deck and Magic deck (the one in the Grave Danger box, Kent and Daniel should recognize my decks) that would be great.

There are some changes this transfer. It's now Elder Wilson and Elder Choua Vang in Minneapolis, Elder Richard Vang and Elder Erickson in Frogtown, and Elder Jackson Vang and Elder Pimentel in Eastside St. Paul. I still live in the same apartment, so there wasn't much moving involved. I use the other bathroom now, and the other study room. I can now teach Josh and Lynn again, as well as Brian. Also, Brandon is living in Eastside, so I can visit him. This is Elder Jackson Vang's last transfer, and there is a rule that you can't drive during the first and last month of your mission, so I'll be driving. Turns out you don't get quite as much exercise in a car area...I think I'm going to miss it. I'm also going to miss working with all the people in Frogtown, especially Mai Houa and Meng.

I have more pictures I wanted to send, but...forgot my camera. Next time.

Did you see the Lunar eclipse? Haib kawg! (Awesome) Elder Choua Vang got pictures with his fancy x10 optical zoom camera.

Wow...I'm a real adult now. I'm not even a teenager-adult. Can I really be 20? Txawv heev (very weird).

Eat a steak,
-Elder Moua Yeng

Monday, February 18, 2008

Jon 2/16/2008

Sent: Saturday, February 16, 2008 10:05 AM
Subject: Kuv laus ua luaj puas yog

Great to hear from ya!
I did get to attend the training broadcast about families. It was quite good.

Congratulations to Doug on the job, and Kent on the Eagle! I hear Kent is putting on Into the Woods! Is that through school? Will Skyline pay for it? That's one of my favorite shows, so you'd better record it or something.

I've been served some pretty interesting things and members' homes so far, including cow stomach, pig's feet, and on one occasion there was a big old bowl of chicken feet with some kind of sauce drizzled on them. Speaking of food, thanks for the valentine's card and gift! I looked in the phone book for the nearest Blimpie's restaurant, and it's in South Saint Paul...I'm not sure when I'll be able to make it out that far.

Elder R. Vang exchanged with Elder Ywj Pheej, our Zone Leader. Their area is an English speaking one, and it covers much of the Eastside Hmong area. While Elder Vang was over there, he and Elder Dalling (Elder Ywj Pheej's companion) drove over to where Josh and Lynn probably moved to and hunted them down. Hooray! Now Eastside has the address, and Josh and Lynn can have eternal life!

Mai Houa is still doing great and reading everything we give her and asking for more.

We finally found a ride for Shia and his siblings, so they can come to church and he can be baptized!

Meng is still trying to find a way to make it to church, but it's hard.

Transfer calls are this Tuesday. Txaus ntshai heev! (very scary). I want to keep working with these investigators...I love them! But, of course, if the Lord wants me to go somewhere else, it'll be for a good reason.

I had a pretty bad Hmong blooper. Our district leader (Elder Muaj Tsim) was calling us at the end of the day, and he asked how I was. I get tired of answering the same way all the time so I like to shake it up. This time I decided to say "Kuv zoo nyob" instead of "Kuv nyob zoo". It turns out that when you say it flipped around like that it doesn't mean what it would literally mean, and actually means something VERY embarrassing. I'll spare the details.

Aim high, and remember: Thunderhead believes in you.

-Elder Muaj Yeej (Moua Yeng)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Mini-Reunion

It looks like we are set for a mini-reunion the weekend of Grandma's birthday this year. Each of Grandma's children have cleared calendars in order to come. In like manner, Colleen and her siblings recently gathered to celebrate her mother's birthday. Since many of you know Colleen's family members, we are posting a picture taken at that gathering. Can you put names with the faces? To you - Ron, Gary, Nancy and David - I'll see you in May at our own mini-reunion! Yours, Uncle Jay

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Notes from Sam - 13 February 2008

View from Runcorn Hill across the Mersey River toward Liverpool with the ICI Chemical Plant in the foreground; the Liverpool cathedral is supposed to be visible in this picture but I can't find it

Dear family,

Elder Russell and I started teaching a really golden investigator this week, a guy named Adam who's in his mid-twenties. We knocked on his door last week while tracting and he was really friendly and set up a return appointment with us for later in the week. We've taught him three times now, and every time he's been really involved and really eager to learn. He hasn't had much experience with any religion, but he tells us that he feels that there's an emptiness in his life that he wants to fill and that the gospel could be the thing to fill it. He's been reading from the Book of Mormon and is planning to come to church this week! At the end of our second visit he said a really humble and beautiful prayer. We're really excited and think he could get baptized pretty soon!!! We're having dinner with him tomorrow night and hopefully playing basketball with him sometime next week.

Last week we had tea with the Johnsons, an older couple in the ward. The Johnsons are one of those big "pillar of the Church" families - Brother Johnson is the stake patriarch, his daughter-in-law is our Relief Society president, and her son and son-in-law are Young Men's president and executive secretary (to name a few). It turns out that they were baptized by Elder Monte J. Brough (of the Seventy, emeritus now maybe?) when he was a missionary in England, and have since stayed in contact with him. They told us stories about their visits to his ranch in Wyoming and his visits to England, things like "So one day Monte called and told us he had three other general authorities with him [in England] and that they were stopping by later that day and could Norma make her trifle?" : )

Last night I went on exchange in Moreton with Elder Ayers. They had a great day set up with five appointments on Tuesday plus one this morning. Unfortunately, all three of the appointments that were with investigators got canceled, and all three of the investigators who canceled asked that the missionaries not come back. That's a pretty heavy blow to their area. : ( It made me grateful for the investigators we have in Runcorn, even if they don't always progress the way we'd like them to. Even with the cancelations, Elder Ayers and I got to make several visits and do some teaching, including a really great lesson with a member. We taught about listening from Preach My Gospel. Both the member and the fellowshipper we brought with us (it was a single sister, so we couldn't visit her by ourselves) had experience in counseling, and they contributed a lot to the discussion. We were talking about how to control a lesson when the person you're teaching rambles on and on about unrelated issues, and they told us about the technique of "reflecting", where you restate what the other person has told you and ask, "Is that what you're saying?" to help them figure out what they really think. By the end of the lesson I was making a much greater effort to listen effectively than I had been at the beginning.

For service this week we've been helping Rob, one of our investigators, to build a shed in his backyard. He had the materials already, so we just had to clear out the weeds from the back corner of his garden and nail the panels together, using some extra wood to support it where it had rotted away. It was a lot of fun! I actually haven't seen the finished product yet, since Elder Russell and Elder Atwood finished it with Rob while I was on exchange yesterday. We took a lot of fun pictures - I'll send you some when I get my hands on them.

I'm enjoying my mission! Elder Russell and I are having a good time here in Runcorn. I've noticed that Elder Russell is really good at getting things done in a simple way without worrying needlessly; in particular, he's good at inviting members to help us. I've always been a little frightened of asking members for help, worrying that I'll impose on or offend them. Since Elder Russell's gotten here, though we've been using our members a lot more, asking for lifts to our appointments and asking less-active families for tea appointments. And instead of offending members or hurting our work, it's helped us work more effectively and build trust with members. In general, I've recognized that I can relax in doing missionary work and enjoy talking to and working with the people I serve - not only does it make missionary work more pleasant, it actually makes me a more genuine, outwardly-focused, and effective missionary.

Thanks for your letters! I especially loved getting a letter from Ruth this week. Have a great week!

Elder Pimentel

Monday, February 11, 2008

Jon Feb 9, 2008

Sent: Saturday, February 09, 2008 10:03 AM
Subject: Nyias muaj nyias num...hais txog nej thiab!

Greetings, one and everyone!
Things are going great here! We've had some lovely weather to thaw us out, including one or two days above freezing. This Sunday doesn't look friendly though. Looks like ol' Jack Frost was just busy reloading...

Hmong people aren't accustomed to schedules and clocks. They tend to lack a sense of urgency. This can make many things very difficult, especially missionary work. They don't plan activities ahead of time, they just do things. We usually don't bother setting appointments because when we say "4:00", they say "okay" because they won't be at work...they only mean that they may be home during that time if they aren't anywhere else, and don't plan on making any effort to be there. Also, sacrament meeting is supposed to start at 1:00 PM. In LDS standard time, this means you leave early enough that you can be there at 12:45. In Hmong standard time, this means that the meeting starts at 1:09 to 1:12, and most people show up at 1:25-1:30. Many people have the attitude of "I'll definitely go to church if nothing comes up." The concept of locking away a period of time for an activity ahead of time is foreign. Our mission president has asked me to help the Elders Vang have a sense of urgency in the work, and I have to keep bugging Eastside to look for Josh and Lynn. We don't have their address or phone number, but we know the neighborhood they are in and what Josh's car looks like. Eastside has just been waiting for an address to fall into their laps. After someone moves, it's urgent to find them as soon as possible, especially if they are progressing as well as they are. They have enough info to hunt them down, but they don't feel the importance of finding them quickly.

We had an awesome lesson with Mai Houa yesterday. Jubei Lee and his wife, Pa Houa, joint taught with us. Perfect couple to bring. We chose to divide and conquer. Elder Vang and Jubei laid down some suppressive cover fire by teaching Ze, who now goes by 'Johnny', because he likes to take control of the conversation and do all the talking, and tends to pull the topic way off course. With him distracted, Pa Houa snuck behind and had a fantastic lesson with Mai Houa. Pa Houa and Mai Houa are the same age (very early 20s, if that), both came from Laos recently and at about the same time, and are pretty much best friends now. Pa Houa is a recent convert of just less than a year, and her testimony helped tremendously. She did an incredible job helping Mai Houa overcome her embarrassment about praying and sharing how much the gospel has blessed her. Neither can speak English, so I had to really dig to find the right words (most of the time I can just look to Elder Vang to supply the word or phrase I'm looking for). I understood far more than I usually do, and I know it is only by the power of God. We are working on getting a firm baptismal date with her, but she is pretty stoked about the scriptures and baptism.

I'll shoot some pictures at the flea market for you guys.
Love you all!!!
-Elder Muaj Yeej

Monday, February 4, 2008

Notes from Sam - 30 January 2008

Elder Russell on the phone in the Runcorn apartment.

Dear family,

Elder Russell and I have been trying to find new investigators lately. It's not always fun work, but it can be really rewarding. The other day we picked a street to tract. In the first fifty-three doors we knocked on, we got let in three times, including twice in the same day! A few days later, knowing we'd be trying to find new investigators that day, I spent part of my morning study time reading the "Finding People" chapter from Preach My Gospel, including the section on "Addressing the Importance of Family," which explained how the happiness we feel in our families comes from our relationship to God. Later that day, during the 30-minute walk to our tracting focus area, I stopped a man who was walking the other way and asked him about what brought him happiness in life. He told me it was his kids. I was then able to explain to him how his love for his kids comes from his relationship to God, and he ended up giving me his phone number and telling me we could come and visit his family. In total on that walk, Elder Russell and I got contact details for four different people. Exciting stuff!

As part of our finding efforts, we've done a lot of tracting. I think I've gotten a little rusty with door approaches over the last transfer, so it's good for me to get some practice. Tracting gives you a quick look at many different people's attitudes towards religion, which can be kind of interesting. The other day a man told us that he was a Catholic. A little later in the conversation, he also told us that he didn't believe in God. : )

I've also noticed that a lot of people seem to think that religious truth is relative - that what's true to them might not be true for someone else. It's a big problem because it suggests that you can believe whatever you want and be right, and that there's no need to look for God's true church because they're all equally true to the people in them. If Joseph Smith had taken that kind of attitude, he never would have sought or received the First Vision. I think it's really important to recognize that while everyone has a right to hold his or her own beliefs and practice his or her own religion, that doesn't mean that those beliefs and religions are correct.

Elder Russell and I are having a good time together, partly because we try to get on each other's nerves. When we were tracting the other day and an elderly woman answered the door, Elder Russell said, "My friend here has a beautiful voice, and he'd like to sing you a song." So I had to sing "I Am a Child of God." He's tried to do it to me a couple more times, but so far I've been able to get out of singing.

I need to get working on my driving license. The next step is to take the theory test (not too hard). Elder Russell has passed the theory test and taken a bunch of driving lessons, but he still needs a few more before he takes the practical. On Monday he had a driving lesson with a less-active member who is a driving instructor, and I rode in the backseat. It was pretty harsh - Elder Russell would drive for a bit, then the driving instructor would have him stop and tell him that he would've failed the practical test four times in the past few minutes. Then he'd have Elder Russell examine his mistakes, and he'd drive for a few more minutes before getting told how many times he'd failed again. It appears that the British driving test is going to be a little tougher than the one I took in Utah a few years ago.

We heard about Gordon B. Hinckley's passing on Monday morning, from our ward mission leader's family and then from our district leader. I've been thinking about Mom's story about being worried when David O. McKay passed away, because she didn't think anyone else could be prophet - although Gordon B. Hinckley hasn't been prophet for all of my life, he's been there speaking in conference as long as I can remember, and I feel a little bit the same way. I'm going to miss his talks in April. But the Church will still be true!

On Sunday, a member here gave a talk in sacrament meeting based on Henry B. Eyring's conference talk, "O Remember, Remember," where he talks about writing a journal of blessings received for his kids to have and read. In connection with the theme of remembering, this member mentioned that he and his wife would be celebrating their anniversary this week. It struck me that besides writing down the blessings you've received (which I suppose our family does, in the form of our Thankful Book), you can remember through family traditions, including holiday-related ones. I was happy to find such a sound doctrinal basis for the importance of good family traditions, which seems pretty intuitive to me.

Mom, I got your letter before leaving the house this morning and read the extended family news written on the back. Thanks for including it! I'm really excited for JaLeen and also for Leo. Grandma Bay had let me know about Uncle Phil's wife - I actually got to meet their family over Thanksgiving when I was visiting Nathan and Alicia. Also, I'd forgotten that Jon and Heather had any kids! When was Asher born? : ) You probably told me back when it happened and I've just forgotten.

Elder Pimentel

[Ed. note: Cousin JaLeen is planning a mission, and cousin Leo is engaged to be married in the SLC temple. Aunt Joyce (Uncle Phil's wife) passed away after a long bout with cancer. Phil and Joyce lived in Oregon, and Sam met them when Annette's brother Nathan -- an anesthesiologist in Salem -- flew him up from Stanford to spend Thanksgiving 2006 in with them. Cousin Jon is a dad as of a couple of months; apparently, Sam's negligent parents failed to keep him adequately advised of these events. :( ]

Jon 2/2/2008

Sent: Saturday, February 02, 2008 10:07 AM
Subject: Happy groundhog day!

"Anyway I'm sorry, but that just happens to be the way I feel about it...what do you think?"
I had fruit loops this morning (tootie fruities, actually) and I had to laugh out loud as I realized it was groundhog day. Good times. [Gary's note: one of our favorite Stargate episodes has two of our heroes stuck in a time loop, like the movie Ground Hog Day. Each loop starts with Jack eating Fruit Loops and Daniel saying what Jon quoted above.]
Pa's baptism went great, she was pretty nervous before hand, but after she started getting in the water she was fine. I did get to perform the ordinance, and everything went without a hitch. Truly a great experience. Josh and Lynn came to the baptism, and they really liked it. They want to be baptized too. Too bad they moved to Eastside, and we won't get to help them anymore. Brian also moved to Eastside, right after we set a projected baptismal date. The Eastside Elders Vang are pretty happy that we keep serving them progressing investigators. Hmong people like to move around a lot, but only a few blocks, or just across town.
Pa was confirmed on Sunday and received the Holy Ghost, but she gave us quite a scare. Sacrament meeting started, and she and her family were not present. They are usually a little late, but I started worrying when I saw that her confirmation was coming up on the program and she still wasn't there. At last the time came, and the branch president stood up and announced that there was an item of business to take care of and that Pa would now receive the Holy Ghost. He invited her to come forward, then noticed she wasn't there. Awkward. I was translating, so I had to tell the representative from the stake (through the transmitter) that it was time for her to be confirmed a member, but she wasn't there. President Singvah started announcing the next item of business when---BAM! Pa's mom burst through the chapel door. Pa hurried in about 10 seconds later and all went as planned. Elder Vang confirmed her, and there was much silent rejoicing. Whew!
I don't know if you remember Meng, but he recently had a spiritual experience after much continuous scripture study, sincere prayer, and fasting. He felt the spirit and wants that feeling back. He wants his daughter to grow up with the gospel in her life and he's ready to be baptized at last. He's coming to church tomorrow and didn't say anything about being scared of his dad. This is a huge breakthrough. He is so strong and has so much faith and really gets the gospel and how important it is. Missionaries have been working with him constantly for a year to try to help him get the courage to take a huge leap of faith that will likely result in his father disowning him. In Hmong culture, that is about the worst fate to befall someone. You can see how that would be hard. We are praying very hard for him, and are going to fast for him tomorrow.
We are attending a broadcast of the Prophet's funeral, but we are instructed to only stay for the first part. The news has gotten the word out, and many strangers we meet mention that our "head guy" has passed away. Some have assumed that this means we are now lost and leaderless. It gives us an opportunity to show them the elegent order and simplicity of the Lord's kingdom, and about the priesthood.
As the Lord told Peter, His church is built upon the rock of revelation, and while Christ may be in heaven, he still leads the church by revelation through those who hold the keys of the kingdom. Those priesthood keys which He gave to Peter are held by His chosen apostles today. The Church's leader is not dead, He lives! Who leads the camp? The God of Israel (reference to "Zion's Camp").
In other news, the worst of the winter is pretty much over, but I think next winter, and maybe for the remainder of this one, I may want a gator, or some kind of ski mask that can be easily pulled down so I can talk to people without looking scary. I am running a little low on khob noom (candy). I could also use a screen protector for my camera.

Elder Muaj Yeej

Friday, February 1, 2008

Visual Evidence

Okay, I finally got around to posting these pics. Hope you like them!

This is the wedding cake I did for my cousin Dana.

Here are a few shots of what I did at New Years. Truffles and meringues up top, and pate a choux mousse swans beneath.

The abominable gateau St. Honore

A bavarian deco cake, garnished with chocolate

Hey look, mom, no hands! A successful souffe.

Yikes, here I am getting graded by Chef Walsh.

This is a sugar snowman I made. . .and if I were more computer savy, he wouldn't be on his side.

This is a piece of "puzzle cake." As you can see, the layers are all askew. Kinda neat, eh?