Final shot with Elder Adams before leaving Manchester
District Leaders' Council with (L-R) Elders Soren, Powrie, Empey, and Durkin (current companion) all enjoying donner kebab
Happy Birthday Isaac! I hope you have a great year at Hendricks Avenue Elementary School.
I got my first letter in the new flat! Yay! That's always a happy day for me. Thanks, Mom and Dad, for your diligence in writing to me.
I'm getting to know Accrington (it seems to be spelled Accy, not Acky) and Blackburn a little better, as well as the ward and our teaching pool. We've got a pretty good group of people to teach, including a great family from Zimbabwe called the Matapos. The whole family (there's about five kids who live in England, I think, four of them still at home) has been taught in the past but we're focusing on the 16-year-old son Peter and the 20-year-old daughter Yvonne. Their younger siblings (ages 10? and 8, I think) are pretty wild and tear around the house a lot when we're teaching. Peter likes to joke around with us a lot and make fun of our American accents - Yvonne's a lot quieter and more serious. They both really like church, though, and Peter says that when he goes he "gets The Feeling." Kind of a cool way to describe the Spirit.
There's another great young man named Ryan who is actually dated for baptism this coming week, but he's been on holiday and I haven't met him yet. We're teaching him this week, though, and I'm really looking forward to it.
The young men in the ward (our key fellowshippers for Ryan and Peter) are great. There's only about three of them who are there every week, Adam and Cameron Morgan (ages 17? and 15?) and Lorenzo Willis (age 13), but they're really solid. Elder Durkin and I taught the young men's lesson on Sunday and spoke about the goals set by the Area Presidency to have each member read Chapter 5 of Preach My Gospel, give away a copy of the Book of Mormon, and bring someone into the waters of baptism this year. We compared achieving goals like this to scoring goals in a football game. The young men were involved, and I think we helped them be more committed to achieving the Area President's goals. Not that they're doing too shabbily as it is - one of them has given away three copies of the Book of Mormon already this year.
The young men and the young men's president all come out to play football with us and our investigators on Saturday mornings. This past Saturday was my first time - it was good fun, although I got sore enough that it was painful to stand up or sit down for the next day. I think I'll get a lot better at football during my time in Blackburn. Our members and investigators have kitted me out pretty well - one of our investigator families has lent me a nice pair of boots (i.e. cleats) and a member who is a die-hard Arsenal fan gave me one of his spare Arsenal jerseys (he has 15) when he found out I didn't have a football jersey to wear. Nice one. I think I'm now obliged to support Arsenal.
There's a heavily Asian part of Accrington that we ride the bus through frequently. Every time I see all the signs in Arabic script and the shops selling clothes from India and Pakistan ("Fatimah's Fabrics"), I think you all and how much you'd appreciate it all. I'll try and get some pictures for next week. Along the main street in this area is a place called Eastern Promise that makes some of the best and least expensive donner kebabs I've ever tasted. The people who work there know the missionaries so well that we don't even have to tell them our address when we order food over the phone ("Pickup Street, right? On the corner?"). They sometimes give us free food in our order as well. Another reason I'll enjoy serving in Accrington. : )
I've been called as a district leader, so I'm responsible for the weekly district meeting. I conducted my first one this week. It went really well, mostly because the other missionaries were really involved and contributed a lot. It can be really fun to teach when the people you're teaching are really great and want to listen and learn.
Elder Durkin is doing a good job of staying focused. He's a personable guy and has really good relationships with a lot of the ward members, especially the youth, which is really helpful. It turns out his dad is also a lawyer (he practices family law with a firm in Arizona), and his sister is studying law at UMich! She's just spent the summer clerking for a judge in the Phoenix area, but Elder Durkin doesn't know whether it's a federal judge or not.
The other day I was riding with the zone leaders through Chorley in their car, and we saw a bunch of missionaries from the MTC wandering around (they get one or two afternoons free every week, during which they can walk into town), and we waved to some of them and said hi. One of them had a long-sleeved white shirt on and had rolled up the sleeves to just below the elbow, something we're asked not to do in the Missionary Handbook. As we rolled by him, Elder Soren leaned out the window and yelled, "Roll down those sleeves!" As we passed by, we looked through the back window and saw him doing it right away. : )
We have a new rule in the mission that we can only use email to communicate with our family. That means not only that we can't email or get email from friends directly, but I'm not allowed to have you forward me email from friends and I'm not allowed to have you forward things to friends for me. I think some missionaries are feeling quite sad about this, but I didn't really give out my email address to friends so it shouldn't be a problem for me. All it means is that I can't send out a newsletter to my big mailing list any more, and that hence I'll have more time to write these letters!
I checked with the zone leaders and they said it's fine for you to print out emails that come to my Gmail account and hard-copy mail them to me (as you've been doing). And it's fine for you to forward my letters to the family (and, I would think, to post them on the Pimentel family blog) - President Bullock defines family to include grandparents, aunts, uncles, and first cousins. So no worries there either.
It's good to hear that everyone's home, happy, healthy and looking forward to school. Keep me posted!