Congratulations to Ruth for making her decision! I think she will have a great time at Harvard.
We had a great lesson with Mitch and Natalie on Sunday night. Our Gospel Principles lesson on Sunday described baptisms for the dead briefly, which set us up perfectly to discuss Mitch's concern about how baptism by priesthood authority can be necessary for salvation. We realized that part of Mitch's concern is that he didn't really understand part of the Plan of Salvation - for instance, he's always referred to the Spirit World as "the waiting room" and on Sunday we discovered that he imagined it to be pretty much like an airport lobby, with everyone just sitting around waiting in boredom for the resurrection. : ) Now that we understand his concern a little better, I think we can teach in a more relevant way. The best part of the lesson, though, was the way Natalie (who's read a great deal from the Gospel Principles manual and the scriptures) helped us explain principles to Mitch. We're teaching them again tonight, so we'll see how it goes.
I forgot to mention it in my letter last week, but I took a driving lesson! The instructor (who has some contact with the church and was referred to us by our ward mission leader) took us out to an area with very little traffic and had me practice parking and shifting gears. I was a little shaky, especially because the instructor told me that I would need to start using a different kind of steering where I can keep both hands on the wheel at all times (as opposed to the hand-over-hand style I learned in America) and I didn't really understand how to use it. But I had another two-hour lesson this Monday, and I did much better. The instructor took us out to the Promenade, one of Blackpool's main drags, and had me go all the way down it almost to the edge of our area and all the way back up again into the North elders' area. It was a bit intimidating to be driving in traffic on such a major street, but by the end I was feeling pretty comfortable shifting gears. Hopefully I'll be able to get my license before too long! The instructor said she thought I would need 15-20 hours of lessons before I could pass my practical test, so that's only about six more weeks of lessons at this rate. Kind of exciting.
We had zone conference on Thursday, and the mission president announced a big change in our policy about meals with members: from now on we can only eat in members' houses when they have a nonmember there who is a progressing investigator or likely to become one. We're adopting this following the great success of a similar rule in mission(s) in the Eastern United States (the Jacksonville mission, perhaps?). This will necessarily lead to us being fed by the members less often and I'm not sure how all the missionaries are taking it, but I'm pretty happy about it - I think it will get us more chances to teach people in members' homes, and I don't mind providing my own food. Our whole district and zone seem to be on board too, which is great. The members haven't been taking it so well, however. When the new policy was announced in the Blackpool Relief Society (where a calendar is passed around for people to sign up to feed us), many feathers were ruffled. The sister who passed the calendar around handed it back to us blank but assured us in a kindly voice that she would complain about our mission president's cruelty to the stake Relief Society President. : ) The North elders went to a (previously-scheduled) tea appointment shortly after the announcement, and when the mother of the family prayed over the food she asked that the mission president's heart would be softened. : ) Kind of absurd. President Jacobsen saw all of this coming, of course, and in zone conference he said that when members complained about the policy, he would be happy to send them a hanky. Fortunately there are also families in the ward who are on board with the new policy, and we should be able to have tea with one family and their nonmember friend next week. Mom and Dad, I'm curious how your mission's policy went down in the Jacksonville 2nd Ward. Were members annoyed? Have the missionaries seen success from it?
There was a ward temple trip last week to do baptisms for the dead, and all three of our recent converts from February went! Yay! All three of them (two from our area and one from the North) have pretty solid testimonies and are integrating well into the ward. Jacob, one of our recent converts has been going through a rough time lately, so he called the Waltons, a family in the ward that he is really close to, to invite them over and ask for their advice. After their visit, Sister Walton gave us a call and asked us to go and give him a blessing. We stopped by this morning to give him the blessing, and as we left Sister Walton was there in her car to pick Jacob up so he could help her deliver Family History leaflets around the city, after which Jacob was going to eat lunch with the Waltons and then go and work on his genealogy at Brother Rowley's house. It lifts my heart to see members pitching and fellowshipping new converts without even involving us. It sounds like Mom and Dad are doing a great job of that in Jacksonville.
Today Elder Webb talked to a man on the bus who asked him if he was alone in England. He said no, his companion was in the back of the bus. Initially, the man misunderstood and thought my name was "Companion," but Elder Webb set him straight: "His name is Elder Pimentel." "Heck," said the man, "his parents sound like hippies." : )