With Elder Empey at the Zoo
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!