Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Edward made this video for me to help announce my decision!

Love you all :)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

From Jon 4/26/2008

Sent: Saturday, April 26, 2008 9:58 AM
Subject: Drip, drip, drop

If April showers bring May flowers, then what to April blizzards bring? ...Jackalopes?

We've had a lot of rain lately, but today the temperature dropped back down and it's snowing. Just a flurry, but it's the principle of the thing. Things were just starting to bud too...

The Brothers Thao were finally all home and awake at the same time, and we were able to have a really good lesson with them. Unfortunately, our joint-teacher couldn't make it and had to bail on us, but it was good nonetheless. They are the [ko taub] (katorball) team I believe I mentioned before. Maybe next week we will go to watch them practice. Anyway we talked about the word of wisdom and they already had been living it with one or two small and occasional exceptions. One had a very occasional cup of coffee but had no problem giving it up. Also, at New Year's it is Hmong custom to drink a lot with your cousins and there is always VERY strong pressure to participate, even if you are only 12-13 years old. They don't like drinking and usually find somewhere else to be during these "parties". An even tougher custom is at weddings the groom must take a shot of whiskey for each paternal ancestor his father-in-law can name from memory to honor the respective ancestor. Refusal to do so is usually quite offensive, but sometimes an agreement can be made ahead of time for the groom to substitute the shots of whiskey for chunks of pig fat. All three of them committed to live the Word of Wisdom without any persuasion. As athletes training for the big national tournament, they want to be in top physical form, and the added spiritual blessings promised sealed the deal.

The balls used in [ko taub] are made of bands of bamboo woven together, though in the USA they use synthetic material. I imagined they would be pretty springy, but I discovered that they are very hard. I have seen players "head" the ball pretty hard, and I can only imagine how much that's gotta smart.

When we whitewashed into this area we found that there was a progressing investigator named Mai Vang Yang, but whenever we tried to see her, she wasn't home. This always seemed fishy to us because her friend (a member) said she doesn't work or anything and just stays home all day. After a while we dropped her because we couldn't get in touch and figured she was hiding from us. We asked her friend to find out what the deal is, and this week she told us that Mai Vang had been very sick and was frequently at the hospital, but she still wanted to learn. What a relief! We've had problems with people hiding from us rather than tell us they didn't really want to talk to us.

We are teaching Sunday School this week for the young men and young women. It's a small branch, so they are all in one class, and there will only be 5 or 6. We have been asked by the normal teacher to teach Jacob 5. Most of these kids try to be cool by pretending they don't want to be there, thus making the Olive Tree a potentially grueling lesson to trudge through. We figure the only way to make them get anything out of it is to have a big old object lesson. There will be no sitting down. We are more or less going to have the whole class act out the whole thing (with much paraphrasing). We hope that with all the props, movement, and treats, they will have some fun and learn something.

Well, cheerio!

-Elder Moua Ying

Saturday, April 19, 2008

From Jon 4/19/2008

Sent: Saturday, April 19, 2008 10:09 AM
Subject: Kuv zoo siab rau nej!

Zoo siab hnov ntawm nej os!
Things are rolling along here, with some new investigators and lots of hard work with lots of less-actives. Though we have a large area, we are still limited on how many miles we use on the car. We have a bike rack, and usually load up and drive to the general area we will be working, then deploy the bikes.

A couple days ago during the few minutes of down-time before bed, I was sketching in my planner when I heard a shout from the restroom. "Aaaaaaaaagggghhh," Malf--- er, Elder Erickson let out a terrible scream. It turns out that after he was done he stood up, turned around, and bent over to flush the toilet. As he bent over, all of the materials in his shirt pocket escaped. His daily planner was in critical condition following the accident, and he spent quite some time copying what information he could out of it into a spare planner. Keep in mind that he had to rescue his planner from the yet un-flushed toilet bowl before any data could be salvaged. The sudden spew of notebooks and pass-along cards from a shirt pocket as a result of bending over is an example of common and embarrassing phenomenon known in missionary lingo as "puking".

We had another successful covert operation this week. When contacting a member referral a while ago we had been welcomed in by her and her [pog] (grandmother), but as we were removing our shoes her brother walked over and told us that they hadn't given up shamanism and that we should "get out now". We performed a strategic withdrawal, and planned a follow-up visit. A week later we went over with the member who referred her. We stood innocently down the street and conveniently out of sight behind a bush while the member took point. The member was allowed in and discovered that the target was home. The member then asked if her two friends could come in too. Our foothold established, we moved in. The brother was home, but he couldn't kick us out because we were already in, accompanied by a friend of his sister, and what's more, we had been chatting with the grandma and discovered that Elder Erickson is the same clan as them. They can't kick out family---even adopted family. The visit was very successful, despite many distractions and interruptions. We call the event "operation bait-n-switch".

On an unrelated note, we tracted into a Hmong movie star/singer who has a spy movie coming out in July and is somewhat curious about our message. I might buy the film and send it home.

Love ya!
-Elder Moua Ying

Friday, April 18, 2008

The End is Near in Provo!

Recent events in Provo give me cause to post again. Lands' End flew Ribeka and me out to Dodgeville to house hunt last month. We had picked out six houses that looked good from the pictures and the specifications we were able to access online. After meeting with our Realtor, and visiting the six houses, only one stood out. By standing out, I mean it didn't scare us to death. Many of the houses in Dodgeville are well over 100 years old. The basements remind me of medieval dungeons, and the attics look like batman could have lived, and died there. At the end of our search we felt really good about the one house, and proceeded to meet with my future boss, who happens to also be our new Branch President. He was going to take us for a quick office tour up at Lands' End. When we stopped by his house, he mentioned that he had put his house on the market last year as FSBO. They were interested in moving. We expressed interest, he showed us around, and he has just accepted our offer to buy. Odd course of events that we are moving to a town, and we will be buying my Branch President's/Boss's house! It is going to be an excellent place to start. We feel lucky to buy at a time when the market is the way it is, and with a house that has been cared for and protected by a great family. Everything happens for a reason.

Other events... I took the GMAT exam, it went well enough that the number of B-Schools that I expected would accept me grew. In efforts to stay modest, you'll have to contact Gary or Lori to get the number score I got, but I was surprised. :) I plan to begin B-School (somewhere) in Fall of 2012.

I am halfway through finals now, and should be studying right now for Developmental Economics, but I just read a 40 page research paper on "The Demographic Transition: Three Centuries of Fundamental Change" and it bored me to tears.

Tiara is saying words, and is doing O.K. with potty training. She lets us know sometimes, when she remembers. She will be upgrading to a toddler bed when we make the move. We don't know if that will be too much change all at once, but she'll get used to it eventually.

Ribeka is doing an excellent job of getting us ready to go. She is collecting furniture at bargain basement prices from garage sales so that we can have furniture in our house. That's an advantage of having a company pay for your move. You can accumulate furniture you know you'll need, and then you never have to pick it up to move it! I figure that since being in the EQ presidency, I've helped enough families move in and out of Wymount that I don't have to feel guilty watching a moving company move our stuff :).

Pics are coming!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Let them eat cake

Well, I was going to post once I had finished my schooling, secured a marvelous job, and could announce to the world my ambitious plans for the future, but unfortunately, I'm still in career-limbo (any prayers that I could solicit which would boost me out of limbo. . .) and mom wants to see some pics, so here they are.

Finishing up my plating class, here's one of my more successful pieces. It's a apple tart tatin (warm spiced and baked apples inverted in a puff pastry shell) with some sugar and tuille garnishes, and some saucing inspired from my living room rug. Left we have a pear poached in pineapple, stuffed with cream cheese, figs, almonds, and honey. Holy smokes did that thing taste good. I never knew that pears and cream cheese made such a lovely lovely pair. I highly recommend this little number for any dinner party. (The pears are usually poached in wine, but chef let me alter the recipe.)

And here we have one of my more disasterous pieces (that's what school is for, right?). Not proud of it. The vision was much better, but I ran out of time, and my caramel mousse didn't set up, so instead of a nice piped braid, we have a blob sliding down it's chocolate ramp. And there wasn't much time for saucing the plate either, so it looks pretty bare and pathetic. Yikes. This plate earned me the nickname "Stonehenge" for the block. Well deserved, I'm afraid.

I decided to do a more traditional design for my next plate, and put some sauteed and spiced peaches and pineapples in a little phyllo cup, throw on some diplomat cream, fresh fruit, and some pulled sugar, and call it good. Sometimes the less I think about something, the better it turns out. Funny how that works. My last plate sort of speaks for itself. It's a flamingo. In a bavarian. Why not?

Entering my advanced cakes class, we have the abominable croquembouche ("croak 'n boosh"). Did you know that Antoine Careme actually intended this thing to be eaten? At somebody's wedding?? The translation is "crunch in the mouth," and not without reason. Not that tasty, and frankly, I just think it looks weird. It would probably make friends with St. Honore.

Continuing on, we have a nice marzipan covered cake poured in fondant, with marzipan roses.

This is the children's cake I did, with a mother goose theme. I spent so much time modeling those little figures out of marzipan and building a pastillage rocking chair, I kind of forgot about decorating the rest of the cake. So I'd do this one differently given the chance.

Here is a baby cake: chiffon cake masked in buttercream, and covered in fondant (the nasty stuff you peel off of wedding cake (which actually isn't quite so nasty when it's homemade)). The baby carriage is made of pastillage. The strings on the side are royal icing, and the flowers are gum paste. I flavored the cake pina colada, so it was actually enjoyable to eat. This particular cake requires you to make six different recipes and is super labor intensive, so of course, this is the very cake I've been requested to make for my friend's niece's birthday. Go figure. It's business, right?

And here's my wedding cake. What do we have here? Fondant, pastillage, gum paste, the regular stuff. I'm not hot on the little archway topper, but we had to put some kind of topper on there, and I thought it would be easier than the tacky gazebo my chef showed us. Chef liked it, so now it sits in the wedding topper hall of fame to be shown to next semester's students. Overall, I was pleased with the turnout here. Oh, tidbit: you have to buff the fondant with your hand to make it smooth, and I was such a perfectionist about it, my chef gave me the nickname "buffy" for the block.

The block that I'm in now is candy and showpieces. Here are some of the truffles and pate de fruit (glorified gumdrops) that I made to go in this little chocolate box. I could really get in to this stuff. I put peppers in my lemon truffles, so my nickname for this block is "spice girl." Whatever.

Here's my chocolate showpiece. Sort of a tribute to Picasso. I enjoyed making it even if my chefs don't understand cubism. The back reads "Art is the lie that enables us to see truth." Oh, I've finally made friends with chocolate, and we temper together quite fine now.

This is my gingerbread house. I still can't believe we had to throw these things together in two days. The base is nougatine, the trees are made of white chocolate, the house is covered in modeling chocolate, the river is pulled sugar, little red and the wolf are marzipan, the fence is royal icing, and the roof is spun sugar. Some of the others were pretty cool. We had a haunted house, buddah's temple, a beach house, and a motel. Kind of makes this fairy tale scene look sort of trite.

And that, my friends, is the full culinary update. So what does Liz do when she's not shaping little red capes out of marzipan and piping out lace points all night? Well. . .

Notes from Sam - 10 April 2008

Dear family,

It's the beginning of a new transfer period! An exciting time. Elder Smith has been sent to Wigan, and I'm staying here in Blackpool with my new companion Elder Webb. I've known Elder Webb for my entire mission (he served near and went on exchange with me when I was in Barrow), and he is a great person and a really motivated missionary. I was stoked when I found out we would be serving together. He's from Oak City, Utah, a town of about 600 people (James E. Faust's hometown, I believe), and has been out on his mission about nine months, six weeks longer than I have. He's also been called as district leader, which is good news for me because I get to go on a lot of exchanges. I am very excited about my next five weeks with Elder Webb and the great work and good times that will certainly accompany them.

Elder Empey also left Blackpool this transfer, and so we have another new elder in the district, Elder Prows from Bountiful. I believe he's a Woods Cross High graduate, so I'll have to see if he knows "Fight, you wildcats . . " : )

I'm feeling really happy about this transfer - although I got along really well with Elder Smith and enjoyed working with him, I've been getting a bit complacent over the past few weeks. Because so much has been going on in our area and we have so many good investigators, I've been falling into a very comfortable routine and lost some of my sense of urgency and excitement. Also, since Elder Smith has spent so much time in Blackpool (six months by the time he left), he knew the area and the people really well and it was easy for me to rely on his knowledge in planning our lessons and activities. Working with Elder Webb is going to push me to be more involved in our work and to change it to make it better. We've already recognized that we need to help the members trust us more, so we will spend a lot of time and effort visiting and teaching them.

Ian is really sick right now so we haven't been able to teach him lately. He's also had a relapse with coffee, so his baptism has been postponed again. He'll get there eventually, though.

General Conference was amazing! We went down to the Chorley stake center/temple/MTC complex (since there was no broadcast to Blackpool chapel), where we were able to watch all the Saturday sessions (including priesthood) and the Sunday morning session. The Sunday afternoon session was broadcast from 9 to 11 PM, so we had to go home to bed instead of watching it. I was pretty disappointed to miss both Elder Holland and Elder Bednar (two speakers I was particularly looking forward to hearing), especially since I hear Elder Bednar spoke on missionary work. But I'll get to read those talks eventually. Some of my favorite parts:
- Both of Elder Eyring's talks, especially the Saturday morning one about sustaining our leaders. I was fascinated by his explanation of the apostasy - even after teaching it to countless people here, I hadn't quite understood that it was the unrighteousness of the members at the time that caused the removal of priesthood authority.
- Elder Oaks' explanation of "two channels" through which God speaks to us. That's also very relevant to the message of the Restoration; many people I've taught, especially born-again Christians, seem to believe in only the one personal channel to God and fail to see the need for an organized church.
- President Monson's story about wiggling his ears at the boy in the sacrament meeting audience. I've never seen a general authority wiggle his ears at all, let alone the prophet himself from the podium during the priesthood session of conference. : )
Plus many more . . .

One evening a week or two ago Elder Smith and I were planning for the following day. We had some free time in the afternoon, so we prayed to know which area we should go to and settled on a certain neighborhood. We found a less-active member who lived in the same general area and decided to visit her first. When we got to her house the next day, she wasn't in, so we started tracting her street. Outside one of the houses, as we approached the door to knock on it, a lady got out of a Dog Warden van to knock on the same door as us. We chatted with her and found out she'd been taught by missionaries awhile ago! The people at the house weren't in, but we gave the lady a Restoration pamphlet. I would describe the story better, but I'm out of time!

Good luck to Ruth with her decision!


Saturday, April 12, 2008

A bit late, perhaps.

Anne and I just passed our 5 month anniversary, so I figured maybe it's time to post our wedding video. Thanks again to everyone who came, and was a part of our special day.

From Jon 4/12

Sent: Saturday, April 12, 2008 10:04 AM
Subject: Change of scenery


Things are going well here in Minneapolis. We have some very promising investigators and a very large area that covers half the state and part of Canada.

We've had some fun weather this week, including some blusterous winds of 30+ MPH. That, in combination with rain, sleet, and snow has caused us to hold our umbrellas like shields in front of us with one hand supporting the frame so it wouldn't collapse and charge through the virtually horizontal precipitation. What fun :)

On the 30th, our mission is going to a Twins game. I'll bet I'll get to see Elder Veit. When does he go home? I've lost track of how long he's been out.

Chue, a member of the branch here, is planning on going on a mission and we are helping him prepare. Not too long ago, he was less-active and had stopped going to church for a long time. The missionaries were getting frustrated trying to get him to come back. They were out of ideas, and when he asked them if there was a particular chapter he should read, they said "Oh, just open up somewhere and we'll discuss whatever it is with you the next time we come." He let the pages drop open, and they opened to a page in Alma where a dime had somehow gotten in there. He collects dimes, and they seem to be good luck for him, so he saw it as a sign. The chapter talked about facing God with a knowledge of your guilt and wanting to be buried, hidden, or removed from existence to escape guilt. He wanted to be able to stand uprightly before the Lord, and knew he needed to keep the commandments and come to church. Now he's rock-solid and wants to share. He has helped fellowship and joint-teach three brothers named Shoua, Houa, and John, These 3 are a ko tau (aka Katorball, aka foot volleyball) team, and are preparing to be baptized. We had a wonderful lesson with Shoua and John yesterday--- very spiritual.

We talked to a lady at a bus stop yesterday, and when we told her what church we represented, she said she just saw something on the news about us. I thought 'Oh, wonderful! Something about humanitarian aid no doubt.' She said "Yeah, there was a big bust in Texas! Something about underage marriage." Since we believe in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law, I figured this was probably another one of those wacko apostate groups that tell the media they are "Mormons". Oh brother.

Good luck with all your endeavors and thanks for your prayers!

-Elder Moua Ying

Friday, April 11, 2008

Bret may go to China, but David goes to North Dakota

Had a fun trip up to Grand Forks, ND, the 50th state I've visited in my life -- I've now blacked out my bingo card. I was speaking at a conference up there. The invitation came from Greg Gordon, on the faculty there now, with whom I worked in Hawaii. I stayed at Greg's house, and we went to the world curling championships, currently underway in Grand Forks. This town of 50,000 has a state-of-the-art 12,000-seat hockey arena (Wayne Gretzky once described it as the finest hockey facility he had ever seen); all 12,000 seats are upholstered in leather. No question what the hot ticket is in this town. Unfortunately the UND "Fighting Sioux" lost in the NCAA "Frozen Four" semifinals yesterday, dashing their dreams of an 8th NCAA title.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Bret goes to China

I just returned from my triumphant Far Eastern tour. The state of Georgia opened an economic development in Beijing, and the governor's office invited the UGA Jazz Ensemble along to perform at a grand opening event. We were there for a little under a week.

The complete photo album is here, but I picked out a few good ones for you below. You're welcome.

Things like this start to happen when you've been on an airplane for 14 hours.

The new Olympic Stadium (aka the Bird's Nest), shot from a moving bus.

The governor's office put us up in the Beijing Ritz-Carlton, which was REALLY nice. This is probably why, despite Aunt Nancy's best efforts, I had to pay some Georgia state taxes this year.

At the Great Wall.

I bought an embarrassing number of flutes in China. Leslie was very patient with me when I got home.

At Tsinghua University, China's top university. This pond is famous in China because there's a poem about it that Chinese schoolchildren have to memorize.

At Tsinghua with a couple of students who are members of the concert band, a campus club. No music courses are offered there. Also no world wide web access. My name tag reads, "Brent Pimentel."

Georgia governor Sonny Perdue gave a speech at the University. "There's a phrase in Latin, 'Semper fi.' It means 'seize the day.'" I kid you not, that's how he started his speech. Later, he incorrectly identified the round Tsinghua University seal as the seal of the state of Georgia. Hey, I voted for the other guy.

Beijing subway. The map makes it all look very tidy and orderly. My dazed expression tells you otherwise.

Scorpions on a stick, anyone? How about seahorses? When something looks like that, it's nature's way of telling you you're not supposed to eat it.

In the Forbidden City, once the imperial residence.

Tiananmen Square. As you can see, I have purchased a couple more flutes (they're a different kind).

I jammed a little with the piano player in the hotel lounge.

Coconut. On the sign to the right (your right) of my head, you can just make out the five Olympic mascots, a sort of Power-Rangers-meets-the-Care-Bears thing.

It was a great trip!

Bret and the Brube

Legendary jazz pianist and composer Dave Brubeck and his quartet came to UGA in February, and I got to play some music with them.

In rehearsal with Dave Brubeck and others.

The UGA Jazz Ensemble played behind Dave on a few tunes. I'm front and center in the saxophone section.

Having a laugh with Dave's alto player, Bobby Militello, as a member of the "Dave Brubeck Octet."

I got to present Mr. Brubeck with a gift.

What's in the blue bag? I still have no idea. Probably a UGA coffee mug or something.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Update from Jacksonville

Greetings from Jacksonville!

We are wrapping up spring break in on Florida’s “first coast.” Ruth and Emma Lucy took an all-night train to Raleigh-Durham, NC, late last week, to spend their spring break with some good friends (who used to live in Holland with us). They had a great time. This put Ruth far away from us during the exciting time when she got the bulk of her college acceptances. She was lucky enough to get in everywhere she applied, so now we’re negotiating financial aid packages, and she’s trying to trim her list. BYU won’t give final scholarship decisions until the “end of April,” but Ruth will need to commit to one her schools by May 1. Fortunately, a couple of the high-powered schools have come through with very generous financial aid packages, so she does have options. When our girls came home yesterday, we took the whole family to lunch at Barbara Jean’s a restaurant with an outdoor deck on the intercoastal waterway, and ate crab-cakes, coconut shrimp, and grilled cheese (Isaac’s choice) to celebrate Ruth’s exciting news. Isaac was captivated by the boats that kept speeding by.

Our family has enjoyed going running as a family in recent months, and have now done several 5Ks together (although Ruth cajoled her dad into running a 15K [9.3 miles] with him too). Annette and I have taken turns pushing the little ones in our jogging stroller, but at the last 5K, Isaac, inspired by the whole atmosphere, got out of the stroller and ran the final two miles himself, finishing well ahead of his mother with the stroller. He was very proud of himself. David shaved a couple of minutes off his time and finish first in his (old man) age division. He was very proud of himself. Great fun.

David got an article finished and circulated for publication. He’s received an offer from Cleveland State Law Review. He’d hoped for better placement (a more prestigious journal), but he can’t complain too much; this is still his first year in his academic career. He’s headed to North Dakota next week to speak on “Child Protection in Sudan” and to Dublin, Ireland two weeks later to speak on a panel (including gov’t officials of Palestine, Lebanon, and Rwanda) on bringing justice to societies torn by war and civil conflict. This latter one was a late invitation, prompted by the withdrawal from the panel of the Chief Justice of Iraq. Most of spring break has been dedicated to preparing those presentations.

Edward’s lacrosse season has come to an end, and we now have to figure out how to fill the void left in his life. He’ll be pretty fully occupied preparing for his AP exams, though, as well as trying to establish some momentum on his Eagle Project (restoring a local, very small, and very old cemetery).

EmmaLuz was accepted into the high-powered academic magnet high school (where Ruth and Ed are) as well as into the equally impressive magnet high school-of-the-arts (which was done by audition). In the end, she opted for the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts and their creative writing program. We’re really proud of her – it’s an excellent choice for her. “DA” as they call it is only about half-mile from our house, which is also really nice.

Isaac is producing large quantities of fascinating artwork, "suitable for framing." Much of it gets mailed to Sam. He’s also learning alphabets. We played the “alphabet game” on the drive through town out to the beach this morning, where we cooked a hot breakfast on a camp stove before playing on the beach and wading in the Atlantic. Isaac did great at figuring out what the next letter should be (starting over at A to sing the song each time) and then finding the next letter.

Eleanor has managed to graduate out of diapers. We are proud of her, and equally proud of (and grateful to) Annette, who’s gone through some rough weeks to get Ellie to this point. Eleanor is about as stubborn as a two-year-old can be. She found some scissors during what should have been her nap last Saturday, and gave herself a haircut. The professionals shrugged shoulders and said “there’s nothing to work with there – give it a couple of weeks, and maybe enough will grow back that we can salvage something.” So now, at her parents’ insistence, Eleanor wears hats, all the time. Fortunately, she’s cute in hats, because she’s not too cute without them these days. Sigh!

Sam’s doing well, as you all know from the other posts on this blog. We are very proud of him.

Annette has been incredibly busy, trying to get the yard landscaped for a garden (and creating a “shade map” to identify the sunniest parts of our very shady lot. She’s been working on a prom dress for Ruth. She’s been teaching Seminary, pinch hitting for the Bishop’s wife who was pretty strung out getting ready for her only son’s wedding, and substitute teaching in Primary. She also is spending enormous amounts of her life in that fine American tradition of driving her kids hither and yon. This is a cultural adjustment, as we had become used to European norms, where kids could walk, take public transit, or ride bikes just about anywhere. This is one of our least favorite aspects of American culture, but Annette’s been a great sport (and a great support) by biting the bullet and doing it. Still, we are trying to bicycle to church whenever we can, and our Seminary students have been good about bicycling again, after Ruth healed up from her bicycle accident last fall.

We had Kathryn (Pearson) and John over for Easter dinner. We had the missionaries too, since our Sammy couldn’t join us. We can’t feed the missionaries anymore unless we have nonmembers in our home, so this worked well. It was a fun holiday meal together, and the Elders were terribly impressed to have had Easter dinner with the mayor of Jacksonville. Apparently they bragged about it a bit to the other elders in the mission because we heard reports back on it from other sources.

When Kathryn heard of Ruth’s college acceptances, she ran out and bought Ruth a congratulatory bouquet of "Cardinal" red and white roses. Unfortunately, Ruth was in North Carolina and didn't get her flowers until a week later. Of course, Kathryn is already lobbying hard for her alma mater, but they have been warmly supportive of Ruth overall.

Annette, David and Ruth went to the temple in Orlando, along with Bro. and Sis. Blinco a couple weeks ago. Bro. Blinco was baptized in January, and we went down there with him and his recently-reactivated wife, to do baptisms for his immediate ancestors. What a wonderful experience that was.

We’re doing well, but missing family we are so far away from!


David and Annette

Friday, April 4, 2008

Notes from Sam - 2 April 2008

The Blackpool District, from our very silly (too silly for me) April Fools' Day district meeting. I'm having trouble viewing the photo, so I can't go left-to-right and tell you who's who, but I'll do my best. You know who I am. Elder Carter (the brand-new missionary in our district, who I went on exchange with yesterday) is the other elder with glasses. Elder Empey is the one crouching down with the bunny ears on, and Elder Smith (my companion and our district leader) is the fourth elder. The sister with the green glasses on is Sister Sommer from Germany, and the other sister is Sister Coffin from Idaho.

Dear family,

Congratulations to Ruth for her college acceptances! I'm way excited! And also to Dad for his law review acceptance!

[Ed. note: Ruth got admitted to a stunning array of prestigious universities. David got one very lonely -- and somewhat less impressive -- offer to publish his latest article.]

Ian's baptism has been postponed to the 12th of April. It turns out we hadn't taught the Word of Wisdom clearly enough, and he didn't realize how important it was not to drink coffee. He'd seen it not as a commandment but as good advice for spiritual well-being, along the lines of not listening to bad music or watching movies with violent or suggestive content. I guess it just goes to show the importance of teaching and reviewing the commandments clearly. He was apparently pretty sad when he found out that he couldn't be baptized on Saturday (since our mission has a rule that investigators have to fully live the Word of Wisdom for two weeks before baptism) but he says it will be no problem for him to stop drinking coffee and is still committed to be baptized. In some ways this is for the best - the Saturday baptism wasn't publicized well, and the two weeks will give us more time to get the word out and bring members to teach him with us so he can get to know the ward better.

One of our investigators, Chris, came to church for all three hours this week which was great. He and his partner Jane, who was once very active in the church and is now trying to come back after a long absence, have been coming to sacrament meeting for several weeks and enjoying it, but, as they explained to us last week, they haven't felt very welcomed by the ward, feel like they don't really know anybody, and were worried about trying to stay for longer. This week, though, many members came and talked to them and they stayed for the whole meeting. When we taught them last night, they said they'd had a very good experience, and it sounds like Chris at least is planning to stay for all three hours regularly.

Last Thursday we had interviews with the President in Lancaster. Lancaster is a really interesting place - it looks and feels much older than Blackpool, with lots of narrow cobbled streets and an old castle (which is now a prison). We got to wander around the town center a bit after interviews while looking for a place to eat lunch. My interview with President Jacobsen and the associated training meeting went well. In his part of the training, President Jacobsen split us into two groups (the southern and northern parts of our zone) and had us each complete a little quiz of gospel knowledge and trivia. It was a lot of fun. I think I'm going to miss President Jacobsen when he leaves in July.* During the zone leaders' training President Jacobsen poked his head into the room and asked to speak to Sister Jacobsen for a minute. She stepped outside, and just afterwards a couple of other people came in the door on the other side - one of the Jacobsens' sons and one of their grandsons - and sat down in the back of the room. Their visit was a surprise for Sister Jacobsen. When she came back into the room, it took her a minute to notice the visitors in the back, but when she did she jumped out of her chair with happiness. It was kind of fun to be in on the surprise.

* We found out a few weeks ago who our new mission president will be but I think I forgot to tell you. His name is President Bullock (I think David is his first name). He's from the Denver area and he is President Boyd K. Packer's son-in-law. So hopefully President Packer will come visit our mission . . .

On Sunday all four of us Blackpoool elders did a presentation in joint Relief Society/Priesthood meeting on member missionary work. The entire UK area (I think) has a goal for each member to help bring someone into the church during 2008, and our stake president asked the missionaries in each ward to give a presentation about how to help make that happen. Elder Smith and I talked about developing faith and Elder Empey and Elder Carter talked about giving away copies of the Book of Mormon. We also showed a video about member missionary work called "Small and Simple Things" produced by the North Carolina Mission, which is really great - when I watched it earlier this transfer, it made me want to go home from my mission so I could be a member missionary. : ) The presentation went very well, although (as always) we had too much prepared for the time available.

I went on exchange with Elder Carter in our area yesterday after district meeting (which, due to April Fools' Day, was full of very silly antics). This was the first time I've worked in our area without Elder Smith, so it was good to do, especially since Elder Smith has a good chance of getting transferred next week. I discovered that I know the bus routes pretty well - I think I should be fine if I get a new companion next transfer. Elder Carter and I had a full day (4 lessons) which was great, and I enjoyed working with him a lot. During the exchange, he also showed me a really good technique to sew on buttons (I'd been trying to remember the way Grandma Pimentel showed me, but I must be missing a key step since the buttons have kept on falling off). Elder Carter used to practice martial arts before his mission, and he also showed me a couple of good exercise routines he uses in the morning. I recommended that he read Iron and Silk when he gets home from his mission.

For the past three(?) weeks our ward organist, Brother Thompson, has been out of town. Brother Thompson is a friendly older gentleman with an accent identical to that of the pirates in Pirates of the Caribbean. He's been in the ward longer than almost anyone else has played the organ since 1975, I believe. With him gone, the ward hasn't had anyone to play the organ, and for the first Sunday that he was gone the chorister brought along a CD player and played recorded hymn accompaniments. That Sunday I volunteered to play the piano in priesthood meeting and have since been drafted to cover sacrament meeting. One Sunday, I was also asked to come into Primary at the beginning of the third hour and play through a new song so that the Primary kids could learn it. When Elder Smith and I came back into priesthood meeting, they were two verses into the opening hymn singing a cappella, but the chorister beckoned me to the front and had me accompany them for the final verse. : ) Brother Thompson is home now, though, so I should be off the hook this Sunday.

President Johnson (at the all-mission conference) and President and Sister Jacobsen have all encouraged us strongly to prepare for General Conference. President Johnson spoke about how one of the sessions will be a solemn assembly, since President Monson is being sustained, and how that is a particularly unique and powerful opportunity to seek personal revelation. I'm pretty excited. We're hoping to get a lot of our investigators to come.

Congratulations again to Ruth! I'm pretty stoked for her. Now begins the agonizing decision process . . .

Elder Pimentel

Notes from Sam - 26 March 2008

With Elder Empey at the Zoo

Dear family,

Ian's baptism is coming up this Saturday. We're hoping a lot of people will be there - Elder Smith and I need to call around the ward and invite people specifically, I think. Maybe we can ask a lot of different people to bring food or say the opening and closing prayers so they will have to come. : ) Ian has asked Elder Smith and Elder Empey to give talks, and he's asked me to baptize him! I feel really honored.

On Saturday we taught a new investigator, an African immigrant named Micah. We met with him at the home of a recently-baptized member named Jacob who is also from Africa. Micah has a strong belief in Jesus Christ and the Bible and is really sincere and teachable. When we taught him about the Book of Mormon he asked us where it talked about the Book of Mormon in the Bible. We went to Isaiah chapter 29 and read about a voice speaking from the dust, and then a couple of other scriptures in the New Testament that also referred to the Book of Mormon. Micah seemed quite satisfied by it. The explanation was also good for me - I'd never had anyone ask me that question before, and while I'd known from seminary or somewhere that Isaiah 29 talked about the Book of Mormon, teaching it to Micah really built my testimony that Isaiah and the other Bible prophets knew about the Book of Mormon. Jacob was also really excited about the scriptures we discussed and wrote down the references in his Bible. As part of the lesson, Jacob also bore his testimony about how much the gospel had blessed and changed his life, which was great for Micah to hear.

Right at a key point of the lesson, though, I think when we were about to commit Micah to read from the Book of Mormon and pray about it, he received a call on his cell phone - from the pastor of his born-again Christian church! When Micah told the pastor that he was at Jacob's house and that "two evangelists are here preaching to us," the pastor was not very happy. He immediately called Jacob (who I guess used to attend his church) - another cell phone call to interrupt our lesson - to ask him what was going on and apparently chastise him. It seems like some obstacle like this always comes up in a really good lesson - Elder Smith says the consistency of the opposition we get is a confirmation to him that the Church was true. Jacob was pretty indignant about the pastor's interference, but I was just a bit amused by the improbability of it all, and I kind of liked being called an evangelist. : ) The lesson continued on well despite the interruption, and I think we left a good commitment with Micah. Hopefully we'll get to teach him at Jacob's house again next week.

During Easter week, I set myself a little challenge to read through the entire book of Matthew. I enjoyed it a lot. I haven't studied the New Testament on my mission much so far, so it was fun and refreshing to plow through a big chunk of it like that. I especially liked Chapter 10, which seemed really relevant to me right now. I also found some Joseph Smith Translation sections in the Appendix that I hadn't realized were there before, including several verses about Jesus' childhood and young adulthood (at the end of Chapter 1, I think).

The North elders don't live in a regular flat like we do, but on the top floor of a member's home. It's a really nice living arrangement for them, because they've ended up with a large, well-furnished space (Elder Smith once called it, "the palace"). We often go over there to hang out on preparation day (I think we will today) and to have lunch with them after joint service activities. The house also has a big garden that needs a lot of work, so most Mondays we go over and help them with that, mostly shoveling and leveling dirt. This Monday, though, Elder Smith and I painted a kitchen for an older sister in the ward instead. Elder Smith did a fair amount of painting before his mission, so he gave me some good tips about how to do it well. We got the whole thing done in about 3 hours and it looked really nice. Very satisfying.

Elder Smith and I have been visiting a man named Paul who is trying to come back to church. His sister and her family live in the ward but are completely inactive. They're on our home teaching list and we've tried to visit them several times, but they don't seem too open to our visits. Their sixteen-year-old son Oliver, however, is training to become a hairdresser and is eager to get practice cutting hair, so we arranged to have him go over to his Uncle Paul's house and cut our hair. I got quite a good haircut (badly needed, too) and got to chat with Oliver a bit. He's a really friendly guy - hopefully we can teach him one of these days. While Oliver was cutting Elder Smith's hair, I played chess with Paul and managed to beat him. I think he was kind of annoyed about it - hopefully it won't damage our teaching relationship. : )

I love you all!

Elder Pimentel