Happy birthday to Isaac a week from tomorrow! Moving up from "not much more" to "barely alive" already. I figured out some time ago that Isaac's birthday is also the exact halfway-point of my mission. So I'll be home for his sixth.
I like Accrington a lot. There's a lot more topography here than in Manchester - green, rolling English countryside poking up around the horizon wherever you look. Blackburn and Accrington (the two main population centers in our area) are in adjacent valleys, so whenever you travel from one to the other you go up a hill and get a nice view of the other city spreading out in front of you. I still haven't spent a lot of time in Blackburn, but Accrington at least has very Industrial-Revolution-looking architecture, with rows of gray terraced houses and one or two old brick smokestacks (remains of the now-defunct mills, I'm guessing) sticking up above the town. It's a very distinctly English place, more so than Manchester. The Accrington-Blackburn accent is also really interesting. They actually pronounce their Rs, a bit like we do in the states, and their vowels are all a bit schwa-like (the word "go" is somewhere between "guh" and "goo"). They also say "likkle" instead of "little," or even "hospickle" instead of "hospital." Maybe I'll be talking like that too by the end of my mission. : )
I think I mentioned last week that our district includes Chorley. Chorley has two wards, each with a set of missionaries. Elder McIntosh from Utah (from my old district in Manchester South) and Elder Johnson from Colorado are in Chorley 2nd, and our zone leaders Elder Soren (Idaho) and Elder Powrie (South Africa) are in Chorley 1st. It should be a good district. I'll try and get you pictures soon (next week, hopefully).
We taught a good lesson to the Parkes, a member family, on Monday. In chapter 5 of Preach My Gospel, there's a section called "The Book of Mormon Answers Questions of the Soul." It explains how the Book of Mormon contains answers to a lot of the deep questions people have about life and includes a list of example questions and scriptures or chapters that answer them. We wrote down the questions on slips of paper, passed them out to the Parkes, and did role-plays where we (pretending to be the Parkes' friends, neighbors, etc.) asked them the questions and they had to answer us in their own words. Then we gave each of the Parkes a scripture from the Book of Mormon that answered their question, had them study the scriptures for a minute, and did the role-plays over again. It was eye-opening to see how clearly the Book of Mormon can answer important questions, and it's inspired me to use the Book of Mormon more to answer questions from investigators. That's really why the Book of Mormon was brought forth - to answer people's deep questions - and using it that way can help them feel the Spirit and know that it's true. That's how I'd want to introduce the Book of Mormon to a friend after my mission, I think.
Serving with a missionary who's going home in five weeks has helped me see just how short my mission is. When I was a brand-new missionary and I messed up in something I always used to tell myself that I had two years left to get good at doing that. Now I only have one year left to get good at all those things! It's also satisfying, though, to think about how much I've improved and changed since I was new.
The other day in Blackburn I saw an advertisement titled "Low-cost car insurance that's right for you + Halal car insurance that's right for your faith." It was for the Salaam insurance agency which offers "Shariah-compliant" car insurance packages. Pretty cool. It's heartening to see evidence that living in obedience to one's religion still matters to people. Even if they're not of our religion.
I (finally) got hold of a July Friend this week and read Mom's story! I liked it.
The other day I was talking to a Canadian missionary who studied third-world development at college before his mission about all the places I've lived. He said, "I want your life!" and asked if he could come live with you guys for a while. : )