Saturday, March 29, 2008

Notes from Jon 3/29/2008

Sent: Saturday, March 29, 2008 10:05 AM
Subject: Muaj ib tug tub txib tshiab!

Hey, every people!
We got a new Elder this week! He came a week early because of how things lined up in the MTC. His name is Elder Cutshall and he is from Vancouver Canada. Daniel may be interested to know that's in British Columbia. He is actually a US citizen, as he was born and raised close to Oakland California. He moved to Canada only about 4 years ago, but he does indeed say "eh" every once in a while. I have yet to hear Elder Larson, our Zone leader and a native Canuck say "eh". On Elder Cutshall's first day, Tuesday, we had a dinner appointment at which an Elderly lady in the branch gave him a Hmong name. He is now Elder Tshaj Koob (Cha Kong) which means 'to proclaim glory'. He's a pretty neat guy. He reminds me of me long ago when I first entered the field. He played as starting quarterback for his high school football team, and did a tiny bit of wrestling. Surprisingly, he is not a big guy. The other Elders informed him that I used to do Jujitsu in the hopes that he will challenge me to a wrestling match. I did all right against Elder Christiansen, who is much bigger, and did a lot more wrestling is High School, so it should be a good match if he wants to tussle a little. :)

Anything could happen this transfer. Elder Wilson and Elder Jackson Vang are going home, and we only get Elder Cutshall, so there is an imbalance. Elder Larson is going to continue as Zone Leader, and Elder Christiansen is now an Assistant to the President, so he won't be coming back into the Hmong work either. It's likely that there will be a threesome, but it could be made up of anyone and anyone might end up training Elder Cutshall. Right now he is in a threesome with me and Elder Vang, but that doesn't have any influence on what next transfer will be like. If there is a threesome, they will have to combine two areas---probably Frogtown and Eastside.

Anthony is still doing great! Last week he was at his cousins' house, so he wasn't at church, but he's planning on coming this week. If he does, and comes to watch gen. conf., he will be baptized on April 6th. We're still not sure how committed his mom his to consistently come to church, so that makes me a little uneasy.

There are two other young boys in less-active families with whom we are working. They both want to be baptized and enjoy learning and love the Lord, but their respective parents don't really care that much about religion anymore and go to the Hmong Alliance Church every once in a while because it's a Hmong church. The seem to have forgotten the restoration. We are working both to build the Mother's testimony and to teach the boys. In all three of these families the father has left and gone back to Laos or Thailand, the mother is less-active and too busy providing for the family to worry about church, and their son is of the age of accountability and has tremendous faith. It's so hard when the children are solid gold, but the parent's priorities constrict their spiritual growth and obstruct their eternal progression. The parents approve and know it's good for their kids, but just don't think it's important. They need a nurturing, gospel-filled environment in which to develop before the world gets them.

The weather is pleasant and warm now, in the high 40s and low 50s, and I'm enjoying it before it gets hot and muggy. :)

Eat delicious, Live well,
-Elder Muaj Yeej

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

From Jon 3/15/2008

Sent: Saturday, March 15, 2008 9:53 AM
Subject: "The Ides of March have come." "Aye, but not gone"

Nyob zoo nej sawvdaws!

Hawaii sounds really nice; looks like you're enjoying it. (A good thing too---if you weren't enjoying it I'd call a doctor) Spring is here at last, and it's very wet. There's a whole lot of snow that needs to go somewhere, and it all wants to go there at the same time.

I'm going to indulge in a Caesar salad today in remembrance of our poor, punctured friend. Hmong people only eat papaya salad, so I haven't had a good Caesar salad in quite a while. That is to say, the only kind of salad Hmong people eat is papaya salad. Am I spelling 'salad' correctly? It looks weird.

There is a less-active member named Jim who is finally ready to come back to church. We're really excited because his example may eventually make his wife more receptive and willing to let us resolve her concerns with The Church.

Anthony is a sober child of great understanding and learning. A few days ago we taught him the plan of salvation, and yesterday he recited it back in order, without missing a step (he had to think really hard to remember "prison" but he got it). He is counting down the days to his baptism like it was the last day of school even though he only has a projected date set. We can't set a firm date until he comes to church this Sunday. He remembers a lot about primary even though he hasn't been since he was 5 or 6. Not just the snacks or the songs, but he remembers gospel principles and stories from the BoM. We're praying hard that his mom will be committed to take him to church reliably.

We have a meeting house tour today. We didn't know until last night, so we didn't get to invite any of our investigators. These tours have been very effective in getting people to start coming to church, so it would've been good to know about it ahead of time so we could get some people to church.

I love you all, keep up the good work!
-Elder Muaj Yeej

From Jon 3/8/2008

Sent: Saturday, March 08, 2008 10:03 AM
Subject: Tsis tshua no ntxiv!

Fondest greetings to you all! It looks like we've got Jack Frost on the ropes, and the towel is starting to look a little friendly. Naturally, as soon as I'm transferred to a car area we get consistent 20 degree weather.

I loved the blog entries and letters. Tiara is getting huge! Some of those pictures reminded me a lot of our own baby pictures. She is indeed a Pimentel. Those desserts looked really good! How much would dizzying delectabilities like those cost? Elder Richard Vang got really hungry when he saw them. He too is considering a career in the salivatory---er, culinary arts.

The seafood pic I sent last time was from the store next door to our apartment, and was a tub of fresh baby octopus. I do not intend to try it soon, but if later on Elder Choua Vang and I are companions he will probably make a dish of it and I'll taste it.

The Frogtown Elders set a firm baptismal date with Mai Houa! Huzzah! I don't remember exactly when it is, but it's April twenty-something. There is a rule that missionaries cannot return to past areas to attend former investigators' baptisms, but since the church is in Eastside, and we need to give Frogtown a ride, we'll be there anyway. She hasn't chosen who she wants to perform the baptism yet. Her husband can't because he is not fully worthy to use the priesthood. Maybe I'll get transferred back to Frogtown in time for the baptism (which is next transfer).

Kou set a baptismal date too, but he hasn't been to church in a long time. He's finally ready to be the pioneer in his family and stop waiting for his Dad to make the first move. We read 2 Ne 2 with him and he realized his fate was in his own hands and he needed to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great mediator of all men (verse 27). If he comes to church every week he will take the plunge on March 23rd. I fear he may accidentally sleep in this week though as it is stake conference and it starts earlier. I don't think he has an alarm clock, and am considering buying him one.

I have to go, but I wanted to leave you with this request: Each of you get a copy of the Book of Mormon, write your testimony of Christ and the BoM within, and give it to an acquaintance. Ask them to read the title page and the introduction, and find a good chapter that will help them as the Spirit directs you. It's not as scary as you think, and often they will appreciate that you care, even if they aren't interested at first.

Gnaw some bamboo,

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Notes from Sam - 20 March 2008

Dear family,

Our zone's (maybe the whole mission's?) focus this transfer is on bringing members with us to teaching appointments with investigators. Elder Smith and I have been working hard on doing that, and this past week some really good things happened. Last night we were teaching a very deep-thinking, intelligent man named Chris who's been coming to church for a while now and has a strong testimony of prayer from his past life experiences. We brought a couple of members with us, including Daniel, a member of the elder's quorum presidency who joined the church a few years ago when he was about twenty and is now preparing for a mission. The lesson was great - Daniel and Chris struck up a great rapport and (in part due to that) the Spirit was very strong. I think it was a good experience for everyone who participated and helped us and the members get excited about missionary work here. Daniel and the other member who came are both coming to teach Chris again next week.

Ian's doing great. His baptismal date is now the 29th, due to a conflict with a ward event. I'm pretty excited.

This morning the four of us Blackpool elders went to a college (kind of like the British equivalent to a high school - 16-18-year-old kids) and did presentations to two different religious studies classes. Teaching the Restoration in a classroom is very different from teaching it to a small group in a home, and we were all a bit intimidated about it I think, but it went really well. We played Telephone (known as "Chinese Whispers" here, in that culturally-sensitive European style) to illustrate the corruption of Christ's teachings during the Apostasy and showed the Restoration DVD to teach about Joseph Smith. I'm not sure the kids understood everything, but I think most of them took something significant from it. If nothing else, I think they got to know us a little bit and recognize that missionaries are human. The religious studies teacher was really nice to us and thanked us a lot for coming. He also told his students to pay attention because they would be discussing this later on in preparation for their exams. It was exciting to be sharing the gospel in a school and having students taking notes on what we were saying. A bunch of people took pamphlets and pass-along cards from us at the end.

Yesterday morning we went to the temple with our district, which was nice. I'm lucky to be in a mission with a temple and to be so close to it - Blackpool's about a 40-minute drive.

I think I sent you some pictures awhile ago of me in my big knee-length overcoat. It's keeping me nice and warm in windy Blackpool. The other night Elder Smith and I were waiting for a bus and started talking to a young man who was walking past the bus stop. He had to rush off somewhere, but I wanted to leave him a pass-along card, so I reached into my coat to get one. All of a sudden the man jumped back from me with his hands up in a defensive gesture. I guess it looked like I was about to pull a weapon out of my coat! Elder Smith has been teasing me about it since: "This is our bus - otherwise you could go pull a knife on those people too." : )

Happy birthday Ruth!

Elder Pimentel

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Notes from Sam - 12 March 2008

Dear family,

Ian is dated for baptism! The original date was March 22nd, but it looks like we may need to push it back to the 29th because there's a ward social on the evening of the 22nd. He's doing really well. Up until now he's had a tough time reading the scriptures because he's partially blind, but yesterday we gave him a giant A4-size Book of Mormon, which he says he should be able to read fine. We're pretty excited about having him dig into the scriptures.

We had an all-mission conference yesterday in lieu of zone conferences. I enjoyed seeing the missionaries from my old districts in Runcorn and Barrow and catching up with them, as well as people from my MTC group (including one missionary I hadn't seen for almost six months). It must have been kind of stressful for President and Sister Jacobsen and the assistants to the President to coordinate it all, though. Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve had planned to come and speak to us, but he got sick last week and had to cancel the trip. Instead, President Kenneth Johnson, our Area President, came and spoke. It was a great meeting, very lively. President Johnson invited a lot of questions and participation from us, and he kept putting the assistants to the President (who were seated on the stand) on the spot, calling them up to the pulpit and asking them to quote from Preach My Gospel, answer difficult questions, etc. President Johnson spoke mainly about the Spirit and the importance of both seeking revelation for ourselves and helping investigators to receive it. He also underlined the importance of helping our investigators really understand and appreciate the sacrament instead of just asking them to come to church, and he suggested a way of using the scriptures to leave stronger commitments. The evening after mission conference, Elder Smith and I tried out the suggested commitment pattern in a lesson with one of our investigators, using the words of the scriptures to form the commitment, and it worked really well! I think we were both surprised at how powerful the commitment was.

I really enjoy serving in a ward with two sets of elders in it. We see the Blackpool North elders quite a bit: at district meeting, at church, twice a week when we do service with them, and usually on preparation day. On Monday night we had to get up really early to get to mission conference, so we slept over at their flat; then after mission conference on Tuesday, we had dinner with them before heading off to our appointment. It was good fun.

Elder Carter, Elder Empey, and I spoke in sacrament meeting this past week. Originally it was going to be just Elder Carter and Elder Empey, but they volunteered me when they got their assignments. : ) We spoke about faith, obedience, and repentance respectively. Mine went OK - I talked about how it's important that we not only get but retain a remission of our sins. I'm not sure how well my talk flowed and whether people understood it fully or not, but at least I learned a lot from preparing it.

Up until now, I've mostly cooked separately from my companions, but so far Elder Smith and I have mostly been cooking together when we don't have a tea appointment with a member family. In any British supermarket you can get a variety of curry sauces in bottles (like pasta sauce), to which you then add stir-fried vegetables and/or meat and serve over rice to make a really nice meal. A very common British dish, it turns out. Maybe before the end of mission I can figure out how to make some of these sauces from scratch.

Today we're going to Preston for a zone activity (well, a half-zone activity - Preston zone is so large geographically that the zone leaders are organizing two separate activities, one for each half) - I think the plan is to play table tennis and volleyball. Should be fun.

Thanks, as always, for your letters! I ended up receiving five on Tuesday (three at mission conference, two through the post), which made me very happy. I've developed some photos, too, which I'm planning to send home soon.

Elder Pimentel

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Notes from Sam - 5 March 2008

Dear family,

Blackpool is doing great, and so am I! Elder Smith and I are teaching a man named Ian who is about ready to be baptized. He’s from Liverpool originally, and he has a great Scouse accent that reminds me of Runcorn. He rang the elders up here in Blackpool and invited them to come teach him, and since then he’s progressed really well. In particular, he’s completely given up drinking alcohol, and the blessings he’s received because of it have become a big part of his testimony. He thinks deeply about the gospel and prays a lot, and he says all of his prayers have been answered. We taught him the Ten Commandments last week, and we hardly had to do anything – we just read through the passage in Exodus and every time we reached a new commandment, he’d apply it to himself and explain how he was living it or how he could change to live it better. In elders’ quorum on Sunday he volunteered to say the closing prayer. I feel really privileged to be teaching him.

Besides Ian, we have quite a large teaching pool, including a great couple with two little kids who come from a born-again Christian background, a university student from Italian-speaking Switzerland (I sang the “Gobbo il padre . . .” song for her and she appreciated it), and a brand-new investigator we taught for the first time on Monday night, a woman named Doreen who runs a hotel. She’d ordered a Church video from a TV commercial or something, so we had her address and stopped by, and we ended up getting inside to teach. Elder Smith and I both felt the Spirit working strongly through us in that lesson – we taught the Restoration in a very unusual order along with some principles from the Plan of Salvation, but it flowed very smoothly and (I think) helped Doreen understand the principles really well. It’s a wonderful experience to be in a lesson and not know exactly where it’s going but feel calm anyway because you know the Spirit is there and that it will guide you.

A couple of things I forgot to mention in my last email. I passed my driving theory test! So now I just need to get some lessons with an instructor and pass the practical test. This is the expensive part of driving in England. : ( But I’m excited about it anyway. If all goes well, I think I should be able to get my license within a few months. Elder Russell also passed his driving test, which was big news! The practical test is very difficult and I’ve heard that most people fail the first time. Elder Russell was not expecting to pass and I don’t think our driving instructor was expecting him to either, but he did. Yay!

Also, we did end up going to Chester Zoo with Adam, and we had a good time there. There was a great group of chimpanzees who were chasing each other around, and the rhino walked up to the edge of the enclosure so we could touch its horn. Another highlight was a bat cave where the bats flew freely around you while you walked through, sometimes so close that you could feel the wind from their wings. Adam and Elder Russell were a little creeped out by having the bats so close to them, but I quite enjoyed it. I was actually a little disappointed when a zoo employee told us that the bats’ senses were so good that there was essentially no chance that one would collide with you.

Speaking of zoos, we missionaries get to volunteer at the Blackpool Zoo for our weekly community service! So far I’ve only been once, but it seems like a great service activity. We get to work outside, cleaning up animal pens, raking leaves, etc. (much more fun than sorting old clothes and toys in the attic of some charity shop, I’d say), we get to see all the animals for free, and we even get an employee discount on hot chocolate from the zoo cafĂ©. Pretty cool! The other Blackpool elders do service with us and we have lunch at their flat afterwards. It’s fun to have another set of elders so close – I think we’re going to meet up with them this afternoon and play Frisbee.

This past week, President Jacobsen put young missionaries (as opposed to a senior couple) back into Barrow Ward, the first ones who’ve been there since I left. Then last Saturday, I actually got to go to Barrow for the morning! Elder Smith had to attend a district leaders’ council there, and I went out with the other district leaders’ companions to do some missionary work. Coming back to Barrow was an interesting experience. I enjoyed all the familiar sights and places, but having seen a little more of the mission, I realize that Barrow is a very difficult area to serve in. Especially right now, since the missionaries are whitewashing the area (mission slang for when both missionaries in a companionship are new to the area), and their teaching pool is almost nonexistent. But during my morning there, we talked to a couple of people who could become investigators, and Elder Cuckow and Elder Crouch, the Barrow elders, seem like solid people, so I think there’s potential for some good things to happen there.

The elders in Barrow moved back into the same flat we lived in with Ray Clifton as their landlord. He must be pretty happy to have missionaries back there! Mom and Dad, did you ever get hold of his address? I found it last week: ******** Road, Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria (I don’t know the postcode but that information would probably get a letter there). Incidentally, Elder Cuckow and Elder Crouch found a bunch of letters for me in the flat when they moved in. I got to pick those up on Saturday, which made me happy.

I just got back this morning from an exchange with our zone leader Elder Whiting in Preston. I really enjoy exchanges – you learn a lot from seeing someone else’s area and working with them for a day. This was a pretty good exchange too – we were so busy with lessons and other appointments that we had to skip lunch. Then when we exchanged back this morning, the zone leaders took us to do our food shopping in their car, so Elder Smith and I were able to buy tons of groceries and not have to carry them home. Yay!

I love you all! Do some good member missionary work for me.

Elder Pimentel

Saturday, March 1, 2008

From Jon 3/1/08

Sent: Saturday, March 01, 2008 10:01 AM
Subject: Greetings from the

That's the literal translation of "Sab Hnub Tuaj" (East) in Hmong, so saying Eastside is redundant and needlessly repetitive. ;)

Today is Josh's birthday, he's turning 18. He and Lynn still want to get baptized, and thus far are keeping commitments. They are praying to know if they should get married or live separately, and once that issue is settled, we can set a baptismal date.

I told you about Anthony, right? 10-year-old boy in a part-member, less-active family. His family wants to come back to church and he has tremendous faith in God. He is VERY sharp and understands everything very well. He reads on his own to learn more, and can apply it to his life. We will set a date after he comes to church this Sunday. His mom is very supportive.
Kou isn't progressing quite as well because he is waiting for his dad to convert first, but that isn't happening anytime soon. Kou wants to be baptized, he just needs to be the pioneer in his family.

Xub (like 'Sue') is a very nice less-active lady who lives on the outskirts of our area, and therefore, I had never met her before. She was thrilled to see us and had just been thinking that she really should go back to church. She only stopped because her husband didn't really approve, but now he doesn't care so much. We almost gave up trying to find her house, which was WAY out of the way. We got lost about 4 times, but at last we found it. She has been diligently reading and praying and is very excited to come back. We taught her 23-year-old son, Kong, who has never been to church in his life, and he's coming this week. He says he needs peace in his life. Xub also gave us two referrals. Good thing we didn't give up trying to find her.

There are just those 6 Elders currently assigned to Hmong areas, but there are 2 more Hmong-speaking Elders who are assigned to English areas right now. Elder Christiansen (Ywj Pheej) and Elder Larson (Tshaj Meem). Elder Ywj Pheej used to be our zone leader, so I've worked with him on a few exchanges. Elder Tshaj Meem used to be an office Elder so I got to know him as I called in updates for progressing investigators. Elder Tshaj Meem is now the Zone Leader, so I'll probably work with him on an exchange. The only Hmong Elder I haven't yet worked with is Elder Choua Vang, but I've lived in the same apartment with him for 3 transfers. In short, all 8 of the Hmong speakers in the mission know each other pretty well now.

Sand a cricket,
-Elder Muaj Yeej