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 café. 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.