Monday, June 30, 2008

Postcards from Guatemala -- 30 June 2008

ooh i didn´t mean to waste so much time reading all your lovely emails. i ADORE them!
emma, i´m so proud of you for sticking to veg, even with all those temptors.
isaac, i hope florida gets funner!
edward, i think we should have a dance party when i get back.
eleanor, now that you are three, i bet you can do things faster than anyone else in our house. you should try.
dad, i hope that the best thing happens with that bosnia contract. and thank you so much for persuading me to bring the brothers karamazov with me, it is truly awesome, and i keep finding stuff about myself in it.
i read a thing in the dream maker (the book about patricio), maybe i already told you, about how when god keeps giving us the same kind of struggle, it´s a chance for us to see that our past experiences have tempered us for this one. guatemala is a classic case! right now, the best example for you that i have is the shower. ahhh showers of internationalia. you know how this goes, guys. for the first week and a half i thought there was no hot water. no problem. i´ve done sudan. the second half of the second week, i gradually began to realize that there is hot water: this weekend, the bottom half of the shower head kept falling off mid'shower to spray a forceful jet of water sideways at the wall, way above my head. i figured out that if i turn the water on to just a trickle, the shower head stays on. and if the water isn´t at full force, like it had been all the week before, the heating element has a chance to take effect (the heating element is an aging metal coil just above the shower head; lonely planet calls this a ¨suicide shower¨ and warns you not to adjust it), and the water is REALLY HOT! it makes me laugh every time i take a shower. i never know quite what to expect!
i understood a little more spanish in church yesterday! i just have to concentrate really hard. and two students from somewhere in north carolina arrived last night to stay with rosalina. they´re studying ecotourism, and their spanish is minimal at best. at breakfast this morning, i realized that i could translate for them everything that rosa tried to say. over years of hosting volunteers and students, she has developed this funny little defensive conversation technique of throwing out facts about guatemala that may or may not be interesting, but that you can´t object to, and that don´t require a complicated response. ¨there´s lots of birds here. it´s because of the many trees. there are many trees all around.¨or ¨here in guatemala, we like tortillas. we eat tortillas much of the time! we think tortillas are delicious in guatemala.¨ and everyone can just nod wisely, and say, ¨si, si.¨ i love it.
i was interpreting morning sounds for those new students today. i hadn´t realized how much i know about the rhythms of the manchen neighborhood! there´s the ZETA GAZ van that drives around with its gas tanks (we needed that in sudan!) and a loudspeaker, honking once, and yelling, ¨¿Zeta gaaaaaz? ¿Zeta gaaaaaaz?¨ and there´s the rooster, and the mayan tortilla lady, and the motor scooter lady, and the morning MorCaf with un panito tostado.
i start teaching tomorrow!!! with parvulos first thing (i think this is pre'K), then sexto after el recreo, and then segundo right before lunch. i´m pumpedddd. it´s good because teaching will preclude those lazy days when no one much feels like finding work for me to do, and angel sends me home early. there have been a couple like that, but i would wayyy rather be at the center, working. even if it´s the kitchen, you know?
la fiesta de la pionera was fantastic on saturday! JAS is jovenes adultos solteros, aka YSA, and the stake ran it in this church plantation type thing called Las Colinas. there aren´t crops, just forest and camping fields named Nefi and Gedeon and stuff, and soccer and basketball fields, and a cultural center where we had our thing. the different wards did different pioneer things, like a dramatization of joseph smith´s family life, or a square dance typ ehting, or singing come come ye saints in spansih. and then we ate pizza, and then we danced. the dj was apparently really into reggaeton, because there was a lot of that, but every once in a while he´d do salsa or something, and everyone, EVERYONE, would actually dance. it was so cool. a long succession of dark, Latin males tried to teach me to dance, too, which was only partially successful. i screwed up complicated twirls with regularity. also, they were not TALL and dark, but excessively short and dark. such is guatemala. in my high'heeled black sandals, i am as tall as the oldest brother in the alonzo family (that´s rosa´s family), and taller than everyone else. i feel normal height everywhere here :)
love you, but my time is up!!!
embraces and such!!!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Postcards from Guatemala -- 26 June 2008

i have decided that the brothers karamazov has the best chapter titles ever, when taken as a group.
this week at the dreamer center, i have:
cleaned beans (this means sifting through a bucketful of black beans, palmful by palmful, picking out little clods of dirt.and once, a tiny seashell. while the regular kitchen boys, apparently spoiled by dona ana and dona mari who normally run the kitchen with iron fists, blast reggaeton and dance with brooms. there's a tendency in the project to do things in the most manual way possible. so, even though jackhammers exist, they would rather have us chip concrete with picks. and even though there's a photocopier in the volunteer office, we trace coloring pages with black marker. curious.)
chopped radishes (this was awesome to explain to people later on, because i didn't know the word for radish, but the second i said that it was a growing thing that was red and white, everyone knew immediately what i meant. is there nothing else red and white?)
rode in the bed of a pickup truck!!! this is actually very common, i just hadn't done it yet.
opened the monthly newsletter, "signed" it (john and mary kang... not ruth pimentel), refolded it, stuffed it with other flyers, put it in envelopes, and sealed and stacked the envelopes. this took something like 9 hours, because there were around 12,000 newsletters to send out. the entire volunteer crew at the dreamer center did it together, like an assembly line where we took turns at different stations. incredible. i want us to be on the mailing list once i leave. good thing we don't have to do the addressing; that happens in bismarck.
actually, i took a traitorous break in the middle of newsletter day, because angel came in and said, "we need two people." i thought it was for moving chairs or something, but it turned out to be for driving 10 minutes to san bartolomeo to harvest pears in a donor's orchard. what. the. heck. it was so fun. i got pretty dirty for a couple hours (i climbed a tree, and there were some sinkholes that i sort of stepped in), but then we went back to newslettering.
i did some stuff with the social work office, too. we took a street guy in to a treatment center called talitha-cumi. and i got to see the scheel center, which is part of asociacion nuestros ahijados, but it's a school that teaches elementary stuff to much older kids/adults, and it has clinics, too, but without the funding to be continually open (unlike the dreamer center's). scheel is about 10 minutes away from the dreamer center, in jocotenango/san felipe. it's a truly scary neighborhood. parts of scheel don't have windows, just for protection. the whole thing is completely gorgeous, though, with deep light wells and fountains and an unparalleled view of volcan agua.
i think there is probably not a single shop in the whole of los estados unidos called "the gethsemane shop". not so here.
last night, i tried to go to instituto with ana, and when we got there, we found some other members of the barrio waiting, but nobody showed up with a key. we called el obispito (even the BISHOP gets a diminutive!!!), but i guess he didn't want to come or something. or couldn't, i don't know. i spoke french, or tried to, with a guy waiting with us. i kept throwing in "si" and "pero" instead of the right french words. sigh. but i got a copy of the antiguo testamento manual, from 1 reyes to malaquias. muy bueno para practicar.
i found out that some of the cafe/bars in town show american movies. you can watch them if you order something. bagel barn (slogan: "relax, it's just like home!") is showing Big Fish this afternoon, and Cafe 2000 is showing The Prestige tomorrow night... tempting.
june 30 is national army day, so i don't have work. who knows what i will do with myself.
july 25 is also some huge holiday, and apparently there's stuff going on all month. i'm kind of excited.
june 25, ellie's birthday, was teacher's day, so somebody set off really LOUD firecrackers at like 5:30 am in my neighborhood. i woke up thinking someone was shooting at us. ellie, i went out onto the dreamer center's highest balcony in the morning and sang happy birthday to you! and i bought a bar of dark guatemalan chocolate to celebrate.
dad, do open keri's note and tell me what it says... patricio told me that the surest way to mail me something (like the copy of keri's cd, or actually anything) is to send it to the bismarck offices (i'm assuming there's an address online or something?), and people who are coming here from there can bring it along with them. when patricio just came to us from ND a few days ago, he brought some magazines to a guy named charlie who's been here for a couple months. i'm long-term like that, so it would probably work.
jessi is a triplet, it turns out, and her brother matt is also at harvard. awesome. talking to her makes me super excited for fall. too bad she's leaving on sunday. there are lots of young female volunteers, though. i haven't seen a male one except for charlie (who patricio brought magazines to) and a for-lifer, practically, named Luke. right now in girls, i have Susie, who is a californian high school senior, Irene, who is about to be a college senior at University of the Pacific, and her friend Katie, same situation. also another Katie, who's way older than us, and better at spanish. and Joan from minnesota showed up this morning.
i think i'm going to try and get susie (who's going to be here until late july) to sign up with me for a trip up volcan pacaya. that's the active one of the three volcanoes. i've heard there are agencies that will set you up for $7, but the cheapest i've seen is $8. apparently, you get added to a huge group of other people who want to climb it, and they put you in their truck and drive you to the base, and then you climb with the other tourists and a guide. it's "awful" for a while (maybe really steep? not sure what this means), but then it "gets better". and at the top, the lava, of course, moves very slowly, so it's safe. you can go in the morning or in the afternoon. the sunset is supposed to be amazing. and if you wear sandals, the volcanic rock will shred them. sounds beastly.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Notes from Sam -- 25 June 2008

The District -- Elders Pimentel, McIntosh, Davies, Adams, Phillips, and Pettersson -- Helping do a primary school's garden

Dear family,

Transfers is today. Elder Adams and I are staying together in Sale, though (the first time ever that neither I nor my companion has been moved), so we have a regular preparation day today. Elder Pettersson and Elder Davies are both leaving, however, so we have some changes in our district. I don't know either of the arriving missionaries very well, but by next week I should know them quite a bit better. We also have a new zone leader, Elder Frogley, who's from my MTC group and served near me when I was in Runcorn.

It's kind of nice to get another transfer with the same companion in the same area. Since there's relatively little new stuff to get used to, I can focus a lot on improving what I'm already doing. I'm going to focus in particular on being diligent this transfer - I'm feeling like that's something that's really crucial to my missionary success and that I can improve on significantly in the next six weeks.

Good news for the ward - one of the Altrincham elders' investigators, a young guy named Callum, has just managed to get work off on Sundays. He was ready to be baptized many weeks ago except that he had to work during church. Now that it's sorted out, though, he'll be baptized very soon! Exciting stuff. Our investigators are not quite so ready to be baptized - a lot of things are popping up to keep them from coming to church and meeting with us - but we'll persevere. There's a lot of potential in our area and there's great support from the ward, so all we have to do is learn how to use those resources and be patient. We'll get there!

We taught a really great lady in the ward this week, Sister Davidson. She joined the church almost a year and a half ago. Although she has tons of health problems and is confined to a wheelchair, she is a really positive person and she finds lots of ways to serve others. In particular, she's an AMAZING member missionary. She runs an Internet chat room focused on issues faced by disabled people, and she shares the gospel with others through that. Apparently about 6(!) people that she's talked to on the chat room have later been baptized as a result of her efforts! She finds it hard to focus on reading the scriptures for a long period of time, so instead she reads periodically throughout the day in short sessions. She also keeps the Book of Mormon by her computer so that she can flip through it and find inspiration as she talks to people in her chat room. Wow! We're working on getting her a copy of Preach My Gospel - that's about the only thing she's missing.

This week one of the families we are teaching gave us a bunch of fruit, including a papaya and a couple of mangoes. This morning for breakfast I made myself a fruit salad with papaya, orange, and mango. The mango was really nice, really tart and juicy. It reminded me of eating mangoes all the time in Egypt and Sudan, and it also made me think of Ruth eating tropical fruit in Guatemala. Her summer there sounds like a WONderful adventure. A bit like a mission in some ways . . . I hope she has a great time and learns a bunch. Ed's summer also sounds really exciting - I'm glad he's getting so much great exposure to research already. Plus research with ants sounds especially interesting (if a bit more painful than most other kinds). How was girls' camp, Mom and Emma Lucy? And how did the rest of the week of clean house - perfect obedience - yummy food - great fun go, Dad, Isaac, and Ellie? I hope you were able to spend more time worrying about the latter two. : )

Happy third birthday, Ellie! The other night I was lying in bed thinking about where I was exactly a year ago, two years ago, three years ago, etc. and I was remembering when Ellie was born and I got to come in and see her right before I left for the airport. Also, happy birthday to Mom this week!

Elder Pimentel

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Postcards from Guatemala - 23 June 2008

Dear peeps,

Can I Skype you tomorrow? I can get a headset at around 4:00 pm, for half an hour. . . . i´ve found an internet place (that is, not my spanish school) that also has headsets, so just let me know when´s good! I´m super super super excited that it´s eleanor´s birthday, and i´m plotting to bring her a present from antigua, so she can have that when i get back.

MOM: do you know how to cook wild rice? this is a matter of crucial importance, because the ND volunteers gave some to rosa,a nd she doesn´t know what to do with it.
i went to a wedding on saturday, just sneaked into the back of la merced cathedral.
patricio showed up at el proyecto today! it is the first time i have ever seen him (that´s atkinson, dad, whom you met... just everyone here calls him patricio. he´s not EXACTLY worshipped, but there are photos of him everywhere in el proyecto (which equals the dreamer center, yes, sorry about the confusion), and random people in town will talk to me about him. like my spanish teacher gave a speech about how he´s a good chico who has done a great work for antigua. and so on!

today, i loaded bags of milk, in crates. they were heavy.

next weekend,t he young single adults of barrio antigua (that´s the branch-ward, not sure which) are having a Pioneer Party in the colinas of Chimaltenango. they´re taking a bus. i´m going, too... i have to rustle up some Pioneer clothes. i understand there is to be country music involved. woww. mostly music here is translated american music (Somebody loves you, somebody needs you, somebody thinks about you every single night... only in spanish), or imported american music (abba´s chiquitita, too, if that counts as american), or salsa.

i saw some of the euro cup last week. at that point, holanda was doing ok... no idea what´s happening now, but i have this affection for the whole thing! i wish i could watch it. there is a television in my house, but it´s in one of the back rooms that i´ve never been in, and i don´t want to intrude.

isabel (the baby,r emember?) likes me sooo much. she always starts laughing and babbling when i go hang out by her stroller. everyone in mi casa thinks that´s really divertido,a nd they joke about how i´m going to teach her english.
OH, MOM, good call on the photographs!!! i´ve told mi mama all about you guys, of course, but the other night, when i offered to show her my photos, she got all excited. it was super fun. her daughter mayra came out to look, too, and we had this great conversation. then rosa went and got one of her (many) albums,a nd showed me photos, too. turns out she´s been to paris (?????), and she took photos of the beautifully wide, smoooth roads, which made me laugh. but also the torre de eiffel and such. she´s also taken to staying late over dinner with me, while we both drink MorCaf (i told youa bout that, right? cafe para mormones? like postum) and eat sugary bread, and telling me about her life. like how she married young, and studied at night for years while her kids were babies,a nd stuff like that. very cool.
my spanish teacher makes me have HARD conversations with her in spanish. like explaining finer points of LDS doctrine, and encapsulating the current political views of the american youth ... what the heck, i would even have a hard time doing this stuff in english. we spent forever talking about guantanamo, because she had it confused with some immigration prison in miami, where her daughter lives.
today she and i went out walking, and some random dudes in a pickup (that's a spanish word, guys, pickup) drove past us and yelled, ¨goodbye, stepmother!¨ to her because we looked like a madre y hija pair, but obviously not related by blood. it made us laugh super hard.

i love love love love love you guys!!! emma, i hope camp was AWESOME! (mom, you too.) elmo, you´re a hilarious kid, i love your emails, viva la vida is chill... i streamed some of it off la internet before i left... maybe you should buy it. and eat lots of good american junk food for me while you´re away from our health-conscious family (om nom nom nom... yeah, that was just an excuse to use om nom nom)... i´ll let you know if we happen to get the cd here in san felipe... but my expectations are low. sam, i´m assuming you´re getting these by post... i tell EVERYONE about you, and today i saw the missionaries in town and yelled, ¨hey elders!!!¨at them because i thought it would make you happy if someone did that to you. and also i´m totally digging my teeth into the doctrine of happiness. singing hymns while i wash tables in the echoey kitchen pavilion is the best.

BESOS, ruth!

Postcards from Guatemala - 20 June 2008

so today i worked with diego, who´s in charge of donaciones. we drove his pickup truck way high up in the mountains to santo tomas las milpas altas, where there´s some kind of storage facility or packaging plant or something that wanted to donate boxes and boxes and boxes full of frozen fruit chunks: melon and mango. we made two trips, and i think they´re doing more tomorrow, just filling the truck (and stacking so high i thought the boxes would surely tumble out, even though we criss'crossed rope over the whole thing... the mountain roads are really curvy) and unloading it back at the dreamer center. my hands were so freaking cold. but then diego bought me doritos. who knew processed food could taste so good?

i talked a whole bunch more to jessi, who´s the harvard student. she´s cool. i might go out with her tonight... i still haven´t decided. depends if tonight, like the last jillion nights, is super rainy. i did decide,though, that i´m not going to lake atitlan with her and liz and eli (the funnest crowd of volunteers) tomorrow. it would require taking the very sketch chicken bus. and buying a ticket from a sketch travel agency in town... even though the ticket would only be like $14. i´ll stay home and read dostoevsky. if it´s not rainy, i´ll walk around town.

cue the thunder. haha that was good timing.

i heard ¨girls just wanna have fun¨ playing in town the other day, and it made me smile.

guate is reminding me of bosnia! how odd, you know? but i think it´s the cobbled streets, and the laundry hanging up to dry everywhere, and the old cement of the houses paired with the occasional shiny new door, and the wood smoke, and the little tiny stores selling curious junk food. the graffiti i don´t understand.

angel took my photo today to go up on the board of volunteers. it´s a whiteboard, and i was sad that i didn´t have an information card up there, so i drew one, with a little smiley face where my photo ought to go. nieto asked my name (nieto is patricio atkinson´s adopted son), and i pointed at my ¨¨card¨¨ and said, i´m ruth, don´t you recognize me? teasing him. and he went, ahhh it´s the smile. hahaha.
i met two dutch volunteers! geraldine and mijlaan. i talked to geraldine about pannekoeken, because they were making fresh tortillas in the cocina this morning, and she always has a hard time with them, because the dough is different. i got one fresh, though... it was delicious. tortillas come fresh to rosa´s door every morning, from some mayan women who walk around selling them. yummmm.



From Jon 6/21/08

Sent: Saturday, June 21, 2008

Subject: Zoo siab thiab txaus ntshai

Nyob zoo!

We've had some really awesome lessons with the Thao sisters (Molly and so forth), and they are preparing to be baptized...into OUR church! Very exciting stuff. The scary thing is that next Tuesday is transfer calls, and there is almost no chance we will both be able to stay, what with 3 new Elders coming in. I may have to get invited to do a musical number at the baptism to ensure I can be present in the event I get moved.

The Science Museum of Minnesota is running a Star Wars exhibit for only about two and a half weeks, so we caught it today. It was stellar. Very cool. They had a lot of the original props, costumes, and models from the movies, and lots of very fun things to do. The museum also had a lot of other really neat interactive exhibits. Many people thought we worked there and asked us questions. We had happened to have studied the map thoroughly as soon as we had arrived, and could answer their questions. I also happened to have had studied much about science and had worked at a science camp, so I could answer most questions about the exhibits as well. I figured there was no point in embarrassing them by telling them I didn't work there. :)

Thanks for all your letters! I love you all to bits!

-Elder Muaj Yeej

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Pimentels invade Central America

Anne and I just got back from a great trip - we went to El Salvador, where she served her mission. It was fantastic - we saw ancient ruins, volcanoes, and a bunch of people who love Anne almost as much as I do. We stayed for ten days, and had a great time.

We were disappointed that we missed Ruth during our brief visit to Guatemala. Oh well.

We have about a billion pictures, so we put them into these slideshows if you are interested to see.

Postcards from Guatemala -- 19 June 2008

found a harvard student volunteer at the dreamer center... her name is jessi setless, she´ll be a junior next year.
the little kids are amazing, i love love love them. one of them gave me her english notebook so i could see waht they´ve learned. they´ve learned fruit: guatermelon, and estroberri are my favorites.
i missed roger and anne somehow... sad.
brothers karamazov is fantastic.
it´s SO RAINY. that´s what i get for coming in guatemala´s winter.
good thing i have an umbrella.
i´m probably going to need help paying for my english lessons, i think they´re 95 a week... i´m good for the first two or three weeks, i´ll let you know. i figured out why i like this school i´ve chosen so much: it´s run almost entirely by very chatty women. :))))
angel has a baby named angel. also, he teaches seminary.
i get to read books in spanish to the kids at el proyecto. they correct me if i pronounce something wrong, and they snuggle me while i read,a nd at the end, they say otra vez! otra vez! i dont´start teaching until week after next (they have evaluaciones).
a couple of volunteers from north dakota, mother and hija, are staying at my house. they´re doing construction for a week, with a whole group of people from ND. i´ve gone out with the group for a couple of evenings... they´re all the result of norwegian bachelor farmer marriages... funny accents, but very nice.
my english school gives me a free half hour of internet every weekday, hurrah.
love youse guys!!!!

Later . . .

the norwegian married farmers and co. and i went to a place called frida´s last night. it´s decorated with prints and murals of frida kahlo´s work. some of the girls were looking around bemusedly, saying, ¨why do they all have unibrows?¨ sigh. i played pool (free!) there, though, which was fun fun fun.
i worked in the kitchen today (a very fast answer to a prayer that i get to use my time meaningfully for the next week and a half, instead of sitting in the librarÿ ¨preparing english lessons¨¨), and i had to peel two laundry baskets full of cucumbers (the word for cucumber, i now know, is pepino), and wash all the chairs and all the tables, and sweep and mop the whole pavilion. then i made licuados (like a smoothie) out of frozen melon balls and agua pura, in a huge vat. and i got to eat little bits of frozen mango, and the head kitchen guy brought in some pineapples and sliced them up an dgave me a full round... it was SO GOOD.
i´m glad i didn´t bring maple syrup as a gift for rosalina, because she has maple syrup. and also because the other volunteers just brought her some as a gift. jelly bellys were the way to go here, obviously.
i´m happy because even though i kind of got suckered into the english teacher job (nobody really wants it, and i was an obvious choice because i´m going to be here longer than anyone else who´s a native speaker), another american volunteer is coming soon, who actually IS a teacher, and angel says that she and i ought to be able to switch off, so that i´ll get to go help build the new malnutrition center, and maybe work in some of the other offices, like the temporary malnutrition center, and the clinic, and the social work department, and otras cosas. if i go work with the food supplier guy, i would get to drive hours with him in the back of his pickup to pick bananas that a farm is donating.
we drown in bananas. there are bananas everywhere.
there are also very good nachos everywhere. you should come.
my house is very close to a playground, and manchen has one of the most popular basketball courts in the city. so there are always these kids running around. the funny thing is that the playground, like all good antigueno park spaces, has an elaborate stone fountain in the middle of it. not kidding.
my spanish school is, like all the spanish schools in town, an imitation of christian spanish academy. it has a little wooden deck-patio space with individual tables and whiteboards set up in it, around a little tiny fountain. i always start my classes out there, but it always starts to rain REALLY REALLY hard during my lessons, and so my teacher (julieta) and i have to move inside. which makes me laugh. christian spanish academy has umbrellas over its tables.
i´m super busy now, with working at el proyecto from 8 to 12 or 12:30, and taking spanish from 2 to 6. it´s nice. soy muy ocupada. but i´m thinking after one or two weeks i´ll stop taking these spanish classes, and go back to teaching myself. or maybe i´ll scope out different schools. the kind of instruction i´ve got right now is fine, but i don´t want to keep doing it for months. if only ludwine were spanish speaking instead of francophone. and worked here.
gerard manley hopkins is the Manliest of victorian poets. hahaha. the collection that mom kindly said i could take with me has not just poetry, but a selection of his letters. which i think is awesome. i am a letter writer, myself, you know. there´s one to his mom, and one to one of his friends that he´s angry at (written when he was 18, like me!), and a lot of them are about what he thinks about his writing. very cool.
i´m going to sleep so well tonight. my left hand (that is, the hand that was holding el pepino, and not the vegetable peeler) is stained green, even though i washed it an awful lot of times.
today, serving up noodle soup and mugs of hot milk for breakfast to the little kids, i got big hugs from my library crew, and i made friends with two very little ones named yesica and melvin. there´s also a bryan. it seems really strange that so many of the names are so american: they´re probably not orphans, because the family is an important part of how nuestros ahijados takes care of its kids... hm.
the morning meeting of the heads of all the offices, and all the volunteers like me (who aren´t on short-term construction teams, like the north dakota folk) is so weird! it´s always a prayer, an introduction of any new voluntarias, and then someone has always been assigned, beforehand, to tell a joke. all of it is always in spanish, but i can tell that they´re jokes. and you applaud the joke if you like it. right now, i´m hoping that no one picks me to tell the next day´s joke. today, they assigned a woman named kathrin to do it, but she backed out right away, because she doesn´t speak spanish either.
rosa lent me a copy of the conference ensign in spanish... slow going, but oh so good.
miss ruth (that´s what they call me), la nueva profesora de ingles.

Notes from Sam -- 18 June 2008

Dear family,

I feel like we've hit a plateau with a lot of our investigators. They've progressed a certain amount, and something's going to have to change a bit to get them to progress more. It'll be a good challenge for Elder Adams and me - we'll have to make sure we plan well and pray with faith so we can know what to do to help them out.

Our lessons to members, on the other hand, are really starting to take off. We're teaching a lot of different members and we're starting to see some of the members progress a lot. The main idea of our lessons is to help the members build their testimonies through study and then to help them do missionary work. Last night in particular we taught a great lesson to a member couple named the Hamptons who have been keeping our commitments to study from Preach My Gospel and keep a study journal. We started by playing a song called "Child of Light" from my EFY CD and asking them to think about its message, and then we discussed missionary work and the challenges we face in doing it. The song really invited the Spirit into the lesson, and as we talked about missionary work with the Hamptons they made all these insightful comments about what they needed to do to improve as missionaries and about people they might be able to invite to come unto Christ. By the end of the lesson we were all quite excited about missionary. What was really remarkable about the lesson was how little Elder Adams and I actually did - played the song, asked a few questions, made some pretty unstructured comments about missionary work, and read some things from Preach My Gospel. What made it so great was that the Spirit was there, the Hamptons had prepared themselves to feel the Spirit by studying hard, and as a result the Hamptons were receiving all sorts of personal revelation about their missionary work while we sat in their living room. It was wonderful! I think watching someone else receive personal revelation must be the best experience a teacher can have.

I went on exchange with Elder McIntosh this week. We had a good time, and even though all our appointments fell through we set up a lot more and got contact details from a lot of different people. I learned a lot from Elder McIntosh as we planned the lessons, even if we didn't get to teach them - the idea about playing a song or doing something else to bring in the Spirit at the beginning of a lesson (which we used when we taught the Hamptons) was something he shared with me. We gave each other some good feedback and ideas about things to work on at the end of the exchange.

Our district meeting this week was about being happy. We talked about the doctrine of happiness (what determines whether or not we are happy, how happiness affects others, etc.) and then Elder Davies had us do some role-plays where we acted out various activities first in a sad way and then in a happy way. The role-plays got a bit silly in the end but they were fun. The meeting made me think about how Dad appreciated Man's Search for Meaning so much on his mission - a lot of the ideas we discussed seemed quite similar to Viktor Frankl's message. My assignment for district meeting was to pick some happy hymns to sing - I chose "There is Sunshine In My Soul Today" and "We Are All Enlisted."

Bus contacting has been up and down a bit this week, but it's becoming more natural. We've been struggling a bit with our goal to get contact information from someone on a bus every day, but during the day when Elder McIntosh and I were on exchange, we were blessed with contact details from 4(!) different people on the bus. So it is possible, we just have to keep working at it.

Next Wednesday is transfers again. It's come up again really quickly - it's a bit tough to believe that I've already served with Elder Adams about as long as my trainer served with me. Fortunately it seems almost certain that we'll be together for another transfer, so I'll have time to fix all the bad habits I've taught Elder Adams over the past six weeks. : ) I'm sufficiently certain I'll be staying that you can just go on sending letters to my address here until further notice.

We were supposed to get a group photo of our district on Tuesday (our last district meeting) but Elder Davies and Elder McIntosh had to run off, so the plan now is to do them on Sunday. So hopefully I'll have one for next Wednesday. I don't think there will be too many changes for our district in transfers.

I'll try and send some photos in a minute.

I hope you're all studying Preach My Gospel as well as your scriptures, and using a study journal. : ) If not you can invite your missionaries to come over and teach you about it.

Elder Pimentel

Postcards from Guatemala -- 16 June 2008

i went to el proyecto (nuestros ahijados) today, it´s muy cerca la casa... maybe 10 minutes walking. angel gave me a tour, and i helped a bunch of workers replace all the furniture that had been moved to out-of-the-way corners for the conference last weekend. heavy stuff. then angel took me into la oficina for volunteers, and told me that they want me to be the ENGLISH TEACHER. ayyy. there was no school today, because of setting up again after the conference, but all the niños will be back tomorrow. i get this week to work in la biblioteca and to prepare whatever i need to, and then i start teaching all grades next week. this is prepa, primaria, segundo, all the way up to sexto. after sexto, they go to a school outside el proyecto. that´s a huge age range. it´s a lot a lot of kids. angel assures me that the english teacher doesn´t have to speak spanish, the last one didn´t speak any, but MAN.
el proyecto is seriously gorgeous. try to look at the webcams on the website, you might see me, but you will definitely see the prettiness of the gardens and the buildings.
i´m thinking i will definitely take spanish classes, probably for the whole time i´m here. today, i´ll go scouting after lunch. probigua is really close to my house, so i´m going to ask them if i can take afternoon classes (remember it looked like half days were only mornings? well, mornings i HAVE to be at work.), or something.
rosa is my host mama, she is a grandma and so twinkly and nice. we live with her adult daughters eva and ana, and assorted other children and their spouses: juan, alonzo, maida, baby isabelita (¡solo dos meses!), y maybe otras. i´m not really sure. there are at least three dogs, one named candy. no one spekas any english, except that rosa can work out a few numbers, sometimes. YES i´m going to learn spanish so fast.
i live in a room of my own, that opens onto the courtyard of the house. i think i can see the tip of volcan agua from my doorway. it is a little square room with golden walls. it has one electrical outlet hidden behind the bed, i had to look hard for it.
rosa says her rolled Rs and her double Ls like ZH, so she calls me Zhoot. so cute.
isabelita is my favorite!!
church is pretty well established, maybe 120 people, in a building that is tipico antigua, bright colors of paint, street wall, inner courtyard. it has gorgeous high dark wood ceilings. i understood almost nothing that was said, but i sang the hymns and was happy anyway. eva is pretty close to my age, i think. i´m going to go to activities miercoles y domingo with her.
i´ve eaten papaya and avocado and sweet pineapple and frijoles and some tomato sauce fresca with yerba buena in it (SOO good), and little tiny hot tortillas, and i drank MorCafe, which is like postum, cafe para mormones :)
rosa will feed me every meal every day of the week, angel asked her about sundays and she said fine.
there seems to be some kind of rule about not eating alone. there´s always someone at the table when i eat, even though i´ve only been at one whole-family meal, on sunday afternoon.
i loved hearing dad´s voice when he called on sunday.
i figured out that if i read 40 pages of novel every day, the brothers karamzov, east of eden, and labyrinth will last me my whole time here. but i don´t think i´ll even have time... especially if i´m preparing english lessons. ohmygosh that´s so scary. seriously. what am i going to do? point stuff out in the classroom and be like, "this is a desk"?
anywayyy i love you guys times one million. if you want to send this to other people (grandmas, etc) you can, but feel free to save me from embarrassment by editing out the mistakes this strange spanish keyboard included against my will.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Job duties include. . .

One hundred eleven. That is how many degrees of heat there are outside. One hundred and eleven of them. Every day. Just thought I'd throw that out there.

Well, I've reached the conclusion of my last official class at SCI, which has been my cake decorating externship at Let Them Eat Cake. I have to say, it's nice to have a job where you make people out of edible playdough all day long and get paid for it. It's very creative work, and is pushing whatever exists of my highly underdeveloped artistic skills. My first week, they threw an interesting project at me. Let's just say, I did not come up with this idea. This was for a fireman's retirement party. I tried to submerge these figures as modestly as possible, but my co-workers continually insisted that their proportions had to be . . .er, more conspicuous. Um, anyway, I really enjoyed making the labradors. Moving on. . .

Here is just a sampling of the kinds of cakes we do. I only started taking pics of my cakes at work, so you won't get to see the octopus cake, zebra cake, darth vador, or any of the wedding cakes I've worked on. We do some interesting stuff here.

Oh, I forgot to send pics of my sugar showpiece. It's kind of hard to see because there are other showpieces behind it, but hopefully you can make it out. The papers at the bottom are staff paper for Melodia Sentimental, a portuguese opera piece. If you look hard, some of the lyrics are around the edges: Acorda, vem ver a lua (Awaken, come see the moon). Aww, how sweet. Too bad it's WAY too hot to be dancing in the moonlight here. Even my little sugar people are all bent and droopy now because of the heat. Even the trumpet unraveled itself. Kind of amusing.

And here's a shot of my very mature, very adult, very boring parents. Just for kicks.

I miss you all! I hope everyone is happy and significantly cooler than me. Cheers,


Saturday, June 14, 2008

Jon 6/14/2008

June 14, 2008

Subject: Zoo siab kawg nkaus li!

Nyob zoo txhua leej txhua tus!

Today we got to go to the 2nd branch summer picnic (I'm in 4th branch now), and it was really great to see a lot of faces I haven't seen in a long time. Many other people from 4th branch came too. They played football, volleyball, kickball, and some of the Young Women started chucking water balloons at those playing football. A grand time was had by all.

In a bit, Elder Erickson and I are going to go play some ko taub with John, Shoua, and Houa. I discovered today that I have a tan line on my neck exactly where a white shirt collar has been for the past 10 months or so. It looks kind of funny. :)

Last Friday we fasted, and on Saturday we tracted all morning and afternoon. The reason Saturday is normally our preparation day is because Hmong people are all visiting relatives, shopping, fishing, or otherwise not at home on Saturday. Nevertheless, we went forward with faith because our leaders promised that if we participated in the fast/tractathon we would be blessed with more people to teach.

Well, we didn't find any new investigators that day. We found maybe two people that said it would be okay if we came back another day. We did talk to some really neat Mika people who were very receptive, so we referred the Mika Elders.

The plot thickens: We had been promised that we would be blessed with people to teach, not necessarily that those people would be found that day. This week we have fifteen new investigators so far. All of which we acquired on Wednesday. We also have some people who will be counted as new investigators as soon as we have a full sit-down lesson with them and get a specific return appointment. The Lord keeps His promises and those of His inspired servants. Miracles are real.

Speaking of miracles, The Thao sisters are coming to church tomorrow! OUR church! Shoua and Houa are planning on coming too, so this will be a very exciting Sunday.

Love you all!
-Elder Moua Ying

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Notes from Sam - 11 June 2008

Dear Family,

We've had a busy week. We had an exchange with the assistants to the President from Wednesday evening to Thursday evening (they usually go on exchange with all the new missionaries). Elder Crapo and Elder Somerville have both been assistants for a long time, and it looks like they will both be staying in that calling until they go home in order to help the new mission president (who is arriving in less than three weeks) get settled in. The assistants used to work in our area and live in the flat that we now inhabit, so this exchange was a bit like coming home for them. Elder Somerville, who's from "down south" (near Devon, I think), went with Elder Adams and taught a couple of lessons, and I went with Elder Crapo, who is from Idaho Falls. Elder Crapo's older brother was in my ward at Stanford and his father (I believe) is a senator - he's one of the missionaries who was interviewed by the BBC in that one article about the Church in England that Dad sent me several months ago. Elder Crapo and I taught a really difficult lesson together. The group of people we ended up teaching included an active Portuguese sister from the ward, one of her friends who is a less-active member, and a second friend who is visiting from Portugal and knows nothing about the Church - three people at completely different levels. To top it off, both the active sister and the nonmember friend spoke almost no English, so the less-active member (who spoke English OK) had to translate for us. We did pretty well given the circumstances, I think - we taught some good things from the Book of Mormon, and I learned some words in Portuguese. : )

Elder Crapo also showed me a new way of bus contacting. Up until Thursday, the way I bus contacted was to try and sit next to someone when I got on a bus, strike up a conversation with him or her, and bring in the gospel. I've struggled with that a lot over the past few weeks, though, because it's easy for me to feel awkward about it. Many times I've gotten on a bus and not talked to anybody the whole time I'm on it, which felt really bad because we've recently been committed by our leaders to bus contact. Elder Crapo's way is quite different, though - when we got on a bus on Thursday and showed the driver our bus passes, he told the driver that we were Christian missionaries and that we would be sharing our message with the people on the bus and asked if that would be alright with him. The bus driver didn't really care, so we walked on to the bus and just walked down the aisle, asking each person (all of whom had heard Elder Crapo talk to the bus driver) if we could talk to them for a minute about the gospel. Most of the people said no, but Elder Crapo and I found the ones who were willing to listen right away. I found the whole thing much simpler and less awkward than my old method. Although it's quite scary to declare our purpose so boldly to the bus driver, that's the only decision we have to make, and then we're committed - everybody on the bus has heard what we're doing and knows what's coming. The other way requires me to constantly make difficult decisions right, which is a lot harder. Anyway, Elder Adams and I have put Elder Crapo's method into practice and are enjoying it a lot. I'd been feeling really terrible about not bus contacting enough before, and I when I started this new, really bold, method, it helped me feel so good about myself! Now Elder Adams and I have a goal to get contact information from someone that we meet on a bus at least once a day. A goal that will stretch us, but will be great if we can achieve it!

On Thursday we had our last interviews with President Jacobsen. I'm going to miss him. In my interview, he said that I seemed a lot more relaxed than when I first came out. It was an insightful comment - I think maybe that's the biggest change that I've undergone since I began my mission. President Jacobsen gave us each a booklet of poetry that he's written as a parting gift. As I was reading through it later, I found a poem that mentioned Francis M. Gibbons [Annette's uncle, who was secretary to the first presidency for about 30 years, ed.] and there was an explanatory note about how President Jacobsen had done so much church service alongside and under Uncle Frank and respected him so much! I didn't know there was any connection there. Too bad President Jacobsen's leaving now so I can't ask him about Uncle Frank!

Thank you as always for your diligent correspondence! I really liked the pictures from Ruth's graduation and I put them across the bottom of our bulletin board, right in front of where I sit to study every morning. When I got that letter I was on exchange with Elder Davies - he looked at the picture of all of you together and said, "That looks like a fun family." He was right! Then there were four letters for me in the mailbox on Tuesday morning. Elder Adams was sorting through them and commented that I had a lot of mail and that some of it was kind of "weird." When I saw the ladybug-man that Ruth had put on one of the envelopes, I laughed out loud, and I still can't help smiling whenever I look at it. I haven't had a chance to read all those letters yet - I'm trying to savor them individually.

I've got a lot more to say and some photos, but my time's about gone. I'll do my best to get on the Internet again later today, but no promises.

Elder Pimentel

P.S. Mom, you sound like a great Gospel Principles teacher. I'm interested in the First Presidency statements on evolution that you found because I've been feeling quite confused about the Church's stance on evolution. I'd always thought that there was no specific doctrine on the truth or falsity of evolution, simply the basic truths that God created the Earth and us in his image, but since coming out here I've encountered some statements by Bruce R. McConkie that seem to suggest that evolution in almost any sense is false doctrine. So I'm curious to hear about what you found and about how the discussion in Gospel Principles went. : )


Before the assistants left on Thursday night, Elder Crapo sat down with me and reviewed our exchange (i.e. shared what we learned from the other missionary, ask for suggestions on how to improve, etc.). Usually when I’ve been on exchange with mission leaders they’ve told me that I’m doing a great job or asked me what I think I need to do to improve, but Elder Crapo identified some very specific things for me to think about and work on. I wouldn’t have recognized those things as areas where I needed improvement, but since our exchange my eyes have really been opened and I can see what’s holding me back from becoming a better missionary. I’m lucky to have good mission leaders who can help me improve.

On Thursday morning, just before we went for our interviews with the President, Elder Adams and I got to GQ in Piccadilly. Most English towns have a “town centre” or “high street” area, essentially an open square or set of pedestrian-only streets lined with shops, and when missionaries have spare time during the day, they often go to these places and GQ (stands for “golden question”), or stop people as they walk by to strike up conversations and invite them to learn about the gospel. Manchester Piccadilly is Manchester’s town centre, and it is huge and packed with people, far bigger and busier than any other town centre in the mission, I would guess. It’s also reputed to be one of the best places to GQ – with such a volume and variety of people, there’s a lot of potential to find good people to teach there. Up until a short while ago, most of the missionaries serving in the two Greater Manchester stakes would take turns travelling into Piccadilly (which is at the center of all the different wards – each ward is shaped a bit like a slice of pie, with all the slices meeting in the middle) and GQing, each area taking a different day of the week. As a result, GQing Piccadilly has become kind of a big mission tradition. So it was pretty exciting to get to go there on Thursday with Elder Adams, for the first time ever. Piccadilly really is huge, and for the first time since coming to my area I got a sense for how massive Manchester really is. It was a thrill to know I was right at the center of such a big city, preaching the gospel to all these people and bringing the Church out of obscurity.

Love you all!

Elder Pimentel

Here are some photos:
1. Sale town centre, where we usually GQ. I took this last Wednesday, which was a particularly beautiful day, but we've actually had nice weather like this for most of the week.
2. Gregg's. A nice bakery (there's a branch in almost every town centre in England) which has nice pasties and meat pies. Elder Adams and I are big fans.
3. (L to R) Elder Adams, me, Elder Crapo, and Elder Somerville.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Jon 6/5/2008

June 05, 2008
Subject: Cov dej uas kho mob

Salutations of the cheeriest sort!

John Thao has been baptized by water, and awaits this Sunday, when he will be baptized by fire and the spirit. Wahoo! It was a very spiritual experience. I felt like my liver was glowing and it was going to pop. When he came up out of the water, I had to stop myself from applauding and whooping. John was really psyched. He punched the air, then splashed all the little kids that ran up and crowded around the font. His family didn't make it, but we had a big, less active family come to church for the first time in 3 years, and they stayed for the baptism. Our whole zone is pretty stoked, as this is the only baptism so far this transfer. Once his brothers start coming to church, they will be ready for baptism too.

Last transfer, one of the investigators I found and taught back in Eastside St. Paul got baptized, and this transfer, the first person I ever invited to be baptized back in Frogtown finally got parental permission. I can't explain how good that feels.

Shoua, a 13-year-old girl from Thailand, wants to join our church, but her mom wants her to go to a different church. Both she and her mom have been investigating our church for quite some time, but her mom does not understand authority or the restoration. She wants to go to the same church as a bunch of her relatives even though it is mostly conducted in English. She has a couple relatives in our branch, but I guess that's not good enough. We hope Shoua can eventually get permission to join our church. In the meantime we periodically go over to help her with homework. She hardly speaks any English at all, so homework is tough. She also never learned the basics because she didn't really get much schooling in Thailand. ('Shoua' is the Americanized spelling of two different names. 'Suav' is a boy's name, and 'Sua' is a girl's name.)

We had a terrific lesson with Molly, Mai Yer, Bee, and Jamie. We did an object lesson on the atonement, since they didn't understand it at all before. I think they really started to get it. We did the same thing I did for gospel principles class in St. Paul: Made someone hold a stack of books that kept getting taller as we named more little sins until it became to heavy to bear, then someone representing Christ came and took away the books. We then asked the person representing Christ to imagine a stack twice as tall. Then 10 times. 250. 10 billion. It really helped them appreciate the gravity and magnitude of the atonement, and get an idea for how much love Jesus has for each of them.

I am writing on Thursday because they have move our preperation day this week to accomidate a mission-wide event on Saturday. There is to be an all-mission tractathon on Saturday preceded by a fast on Friday.

On Monday we got a referral for a family that has met missionaries before and wanted to learn. The Mika Elders taught them about the restoration, but the mother's English is only so-so, and the father doesn't understand at all. We talked with them at the doorstep, but couldn't go in because the father wasn't home. As we were leaving, we checked our planners to see what we had planned next, and it was a family of former investigators. We looked at the address, then double checked---it was the same family! Neat.

I love you all, and wish you well!

-Elder Moua Ying

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Notes from Sam -- 4 June 2008

Elder Pimentel downing a donner kebab.

Elder Empey downing a donner kebab.

Dear family,

Another good week in Manchester. The weather's been really warm, and although we've had some rain and damp this week it's beautiful today.

We're starting to teach a lot more members. Now that Elder Adams and I have our bearings and know who in the ward we need to visit (the other elders take care of the members in their respective areas) we've been setting up a lot of appointments and teaching a lot of lessons. I've really enjoyed getting to know some of the great people in our ward and hearing about how they joined the church and are doing missionary work of their own. One sister told us about how her family joined the Church because a TV repairman who came to their house once refused her mother's offer of a drink of tea or coffee. The TV repairman had to go on his way after that and nothing came directly from that conversation, but later on, when the missionaries came around, her mother was really interested to hear what they had to say. Another sister in the ward is confined to a wheelchair, and since she joined the church a couple of years ago she's had many opportunities to talk about the gospel with acquaintances from a Internet chat room focused on the needs of disabled people. Apparently 6(!) people have since joined the Church through her efforts.

One of the investigator families we are teaching right now is going through really rough financial struggles. All the trials seem to have hit in the week and a half after we first taught them, which I'm sure is not a coincidence. When we went by to teach them this week, the father sat down with us and explained the whole problem and how they're not sure how to sort out their finances so they will be able to pay for all the things they need. I really felt for him - it's an awful situation for a dad to be in. The whole experience also made me really grateful for the skills and attitudes I've learned about handling money from my parents. As I heard this investigator talking about the problem I knew exactly what Mom and Dad would do in that situation and also that they would never have gotten into it in the first place. It's kind of heartening to recognize that I know how to deal with problems like this in my own life. Unfortunately, we're not really in a position to counsel this family (the missionary handbook is clear about that), but it's really a compliment that they have chosen to confide in us. We're going to mention the issue in ward coordination and see if the ward can do anything.

A bunch of new ward missionaries have been called in the ward over the past two weeks as well as an assistant ward mission leader. They're all young people who are fairly recent converts and are really excited about missionary work. The assistant ward mission leader in particular is on fire. His name is Brother Tapa and he's an immigrant from Nepal. Sister missionaries in London GQed him a couple of years ago and he joined the church there before moving up here a few months back. He works at an Indian-Nepalese restaurant in Altrincham, and he's referred most of his co-workers to the Altrincham elders, who are teaching a couple of them. Brother Tapa and a group of his friends from work came to play football with us last P-day (but I forgot to get pictures! Next time . . . ) He also taught the Gospel Principles lesson on the Gift of the Holy Ghost last Sunday and did an amazing job. I was particularly impressed with a question he asked the class about why we give the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands instead of, for example, just standing across the room from each other and saying the prayer. It helped me see a lot of significance in the specific way we perform that ordinance.

I went on exchange with Elder Empey on Friday. Elder Mitch Empey whom I served around in Blackpool, not the Elder Empey from Runcorn. He's our zone leader now. I stayed in Sale with him while Elder Adams went to Stretford. Elder Adams was pretty sad to go because during the week we'd set up a bunch of appointments on Friday and completely packed the day. The day ended up being about as good as we planned it: we taught several lessons to members and a great first lesson to a French woman named Nadira whom we'd met tracting. Brother Higson, our high priest group leader came with us to that one, taught the principle of the Restoration, and gave a great answer to one of Nadira's questions about why most religions seem to have such similar basic doctrines. I had a great time working with Elder Empey, because he's a fun person to be around especially because he's really good at bus contacting, something I've struggled with recently. I learned a lot on the exchange.

Friday was also a great day because Elder Empey and I got donner kebabs. I don't think I've mentioned those before - they are the fast food of choice among EMM missionaries. Kebabs are a lot like the shoarma rolls we got a few times during our stay in Cairo: long strips of meat are sliced off of a big vertical chunk of meat that turns on a spit, and you eat them in bread with salad and sauce on it. I think they come originally from Turkey, but here in Britain they usually serve them on Indian naan bread, which is really nice. It's a big British thing: everywhere you go you can find takeaway shops selling pizza, curry, and donner kebabs. Anyway, there's a lot of mission lore and mission tradition built up around kebabs. There was a really excellent kebab shop (Adam's Pizza House) about two blocks from our flat in Blackpool, and whenever Elder Smith and I had a rough day, or a tea appointment canceled on us or something, we'd go and get kebabs. : ) Adam, the owner, had gotten to know the missionaries and would give us extra meat and ask about how Elder Colton (who'd been transferred away sometime back) was doing down in Stoke-on-Trent. I'm still trying to find a good kebab shop in Manchester - the one Elder Empey and I tried on Friday was OK but not that great - because Elder Adams really wants to try a kebab.

I've got to run - we've got a zone activity this afternoon and Elder Adams and I have to get up there pretty soon. Plus I need a haircut really badly. Hopefully I can get back to a computer later this afternoon and send some photos of the zone activity. In the meantime, here's some pictures of me and Elder Empey eating kebabs.

I hope you're all surviving summer in Jacksonville. Ruth, enjoy your stay in Guatemala! Ed, have a great time at FSU!

Elder Pimentel

Notes from Sam -- 28 May 2008

Elder Pimentel's big space-commander desk in Manchester

Bulletin Board showing Elder Pimentel's and Elder Adams's area

Dear family,

Mark and Angela and their six kids (the ones I wrote about last week) are still amazing. We stopped by their house on Saturday to say hi, and although they had company and were pretty busy, Mark stepped outside and told us, “You know, I’m beginning to think that the things you told us are true!” Apparently they’d encountered a family crisis of some kind this week and prayed for help with it, and it had been resolved. Yay! Then on Sunday they came to church! It was an answer to our prayers. We’d told a lot of people they were coming, and I feel like they got a pretty good welcome from the ward. Unfortunately, they felt really embarrassed because their three-year-old was out-of-control, and they ended up leaving at the intermediate hymn because of it. : ( We saw that they were leaving and stepped out of the chapel to talk to them before they did, and they told us that they’d really enjoyed what they did hear, but their kids were just too crazy for them to stay that day. On Tuesday we went to teach them and brought Peter Robinson, a great ward member who was recently released from being ward mission leader. Unfortunately, everyone in the family was gone except for Mark, and he was in the front yard, locked out of the house. But Brother Robinson and Mark had a great conversation and built a lot of trust, I think. Brother Robinson assured Mark that they didn’t need to worry about their kids disrupting church (he has four tiny grandchildren who wander about the chapel making mischief), and Mark explained that he understood that and that he and Angela had made some plans about how to deal with it in the future. Even though we didn’t get to teach the Williams, it was great to get them connected to Brother Robinson, and he’s coming with us next time we teach. Mark said he didn’t think they could come to church this week, but it sounds like they’re planning on coming after that. So we’re pretty excited.

We have a lot of other great people to teach, too. There’s a couple called Luke and Karen who have three daughters (ages 7, 5, and 3, I think?) who will be getting baptized in September once they get married to each other. Karen was a less-active member, and she and Luke sought out the missionaries last summer – since then they’ve had all the lessons and integrated completely into the ward. They know the ward members better than we do, it seems like. We went to teach them on Sunday night and they shared with us how much the gospel has blessed their lives since they started being taught. There’s a chance I’ll still be here when they get married and baptized, which would be great. Luke runs a coffee shop in Manchester, and he brings home bags of day-old muffins, pastries, and sandwiches almost every day. So whenever there’s a ward activity Luke and Karen provide a lot of the food, and when we come by to teach, we get sent home with a bag of goodies. : )

Not this past Sunday but the one before, an Iranian couple came to church, completely out of the blue. The husband was wearing shorts and a T-shirt, so it was pretty clear they hadn’t been to many church meetings before, but I saw Elder Pettersson (one of the other Manchester South missionaries) sitting next to them during sacrament meeting, so I assumed they were his investigators. They didn’t come to Gospel Principles, though, and we later found out that they hadn’t known where to go after sacrament meeting and had been wandering around the foyer! : ( Fortunately, a good brother in the ward noticed them, realized what was going on, and took them under his wing. By the time he eventually introduced them to us, he’d showed them around the chapel and given them a big stack of Church books including Our Heritage and the Book of Mormon. It turns out they are born-again Christians who had seen the local church building and felt like attending there one Sunday instead of their normal church (the promptings of the Spirit, I’m sure). We went over and taught them during the week, and they were really receptive. Currently (like most born-again Christians) they believe all Christian churches are great and don’t see why the Church is particularly different or more true than the rest of them, but they understood what we taught and were willing to pray about Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling. They were also really interested in the Book of Mormon, and we have a Persian-language copy now which we can hopefully deliver sometime this week. Another great family!

On Monday we had an all-mission conference at Chorley – with President Uchtdorf! I’ve known he was coming for several weeks but always forgot to tell you in my email. They took a picture of the entire mission with him and Sister Uchtdorf (Elder Adams ended up standing almost right behind them), which I’ll hopefully get a copy of sometime soon, then we all got to shake hands with them, and then they spoke to us. Sister Uchtdorf has a great sense of humor. She mentioned the importance of keeping our flats clean and told a story about two missionaries who had served in her ward in Germany. One was really messy and one was really neat, so they had trouble getting along, but they resolved the problem by drawing a line down the middle of the apartment and letting the messy missionary put his stuff all over one side. They were both happy and could still have the Spirit with them because they always prayed and studied on the clean side of the apartment. : ) President Uchtdorf gave a great talk about various aspects of missionary work. He was telling us about the rigorous travel schedule he was on and all the countries he’d been to in the previous several days, and I noticed that he also mentioned sleep and how wonderful it is numerous times in his address, so I think he must have been really looking forward to getting some himself. : ) One other thing he dwelt upon that really struck me was the importance of focusing on the most important things in your work. He talked about the Grand Canyon and how the Colorado River had carved it out by channelling through a very specific area – if it had spread out instead, we might have a giant wetland, but we would not have the Grand Canyon – and he explained that one of Satan’s greatest tools is distraction. He mentioned the back cover of Preach My Gospel (which has a list of key things for missionaries to remember) and urged us to use it. Distinguishing between important things and unimportant things is something that is particularly challenging for me, I think, and I’d actually been thinking about the importance of not being distracted in my work the morning of all-mission conference – I’d read over the story of Mary and Martha in the New Testament and recognized that I was “careful and troubled” about a lot of unimportant things. So I appreciated President Uchtdorf’s counsel quite a bit.

Also at all-mission conference, I got to talk to a lot of the missionaries in my past areas and find out what’s going on there. I think I failed to mention in previous emails that Elder Webb and I were both moved out of our flat in Blackpool on the last transfer day – Elder Webb went to the other side of Blackpool (where Elder Prows and Elder Carter had been living) with a new companion and two sister missionaries “whitewashed” into our old area. Anyway, I talked to the Blackpool sisters and they have dated Chris Hale (whom I’ve written about quite a bit) for baptism on June 28th! Hopefully I’ll be able to go back to Blackpool and attend the baptism – we’re allowed to with President Jacobsen’s permission, and I think it shouldn’t be too expensive or difficult to travel there and back.

Let me tell you a little bit about our district. There are three companionships in the Manchester South Ward, so we’re a whole district. Elder Davies and Elder McIntosh are in Altrincham, which is kind of a posh area and is out towards the countryside; (their area includes the mission home and mission office), Elder Pettersson and Elder Phillips are in Wythenshawe, which is a generally rougher and more built-up area, and Elder Adams and I are in Sale, which is somewhere in between. Elder Davies is from Centerville, Utah, and attended Viewmont High; he knows JaLeen, apparently. He’s a really impressive missionary, very organized and on-the-ball, and we’re lucky to have him as our district leader. Elder McIntosh is from Utah Valley and was trained by Elder Webb, so I’ve heard a lot about him already even though we haven’t served near each other. Elder Pettersson is from Sweden. He and Elder Davies went through the MTC together, six weeks after me – Elder McIntosh went through six weeks after them. Elder Phillips is from Rigby, Idaho, and is a runner. He and Elder Adams knew each other quite well before their missions and competed against each other in a state track-and-field tournament (Elder Phillips won). He’s been out about three months. Then there’s Elder Adams, who you know about already. I forgot to mention last time that Elder Adams’ older brother is serving in the Catania mission right now! Pretty cool. He thinks his brother is in Catania itself at the moment.

Thank you for the memory card! I got it at all-mission conference. It should give me all the photo storage space I’ll need. I’m hoping to send some photos today but the USB drive on this computer isn’t working : ( so I’ll need to use Elder Adams’ computer. And I like that the camera is red, by the way – it makes it distinctive. Also at all-mission conference we got our copy of the Conference Ensign (we always get church magazines many weeks late), which I’m pretty excited to read. Especially the talk by Elder Bednar, which I missed.

Elder Adams and I have been going running in the morning, which has been nice, especially when the weather’s been good. It rained pretty hard this morning, though, so we got soaked.

Thanks again for all your letters. It sounds like some pretty exciting things are going on back at home. Guatemala sounds like a great experience for Ruth, and I’ve enjoyed hearing about Ed’s Eagle project. Restoring a cemetery sounds like a great project – I think there was even a New Era article about another such project sometime in the past few years. And I’m sad to have missed out on Lucy’s great concerts. I’ve enjoyed Isaac’s pictures a lot. I especially liked the one with Dad, a sun, and a leprechaun, and the one with the animal and its skeleton. I also recently received nice notes from Uncle Ron and Aunt Sarah and from JaLeen. Uncle Ron shared with me some of the email exchanges preceding Grandma’s birthday weekend (which, if the emails are any indication, must have been dangerously silly). Happy (late) birthday, Grandma!

I love you all! Get some sleep – President Uchtdorf recommends it. : )

Elder Pimentel

P.S. Someone asked about our new mission president. I thought I’d said something about him in a previous email, but maybe not. His name is President Bullock, he’s from the Denver area in Colorado, he’s in his early 50s (I think), and he’s President Boyd K. Packer’s son-in-law. I think one or more of his kids are still living at home, so they’ll come out here with him and Sister Bullock