Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Notes from Sam -- 27 August 2008

Elder Durkin with his planner, which got completely soaked on the way back from the Matapos’ house Wednesday. He’s written 17 on it (it’s his 17th transfer period) in Japanese script. Elder Durkin is really interested in Japan and speaks some Japanese.
Elder Durkin’s dried-out planner next to my not-soaked-in-the-first place one.

Dear family,

Last Wednesday we had a really exciting lesson with Yvonne Matapo. She’d been reading the Book of Mormon very diligently and praying to know if it was true, and at the beginning of our lesson on Wednesday she told us that she felt like she’d come to a decision about the Book of Mormon, but wasn’t ready to tell us yet. During the lesson she carefully noted the locations of all the scripture we referred to in the Book of Mormon, and towards the end she started asking us questions about how we perform baptism in our church. Then she told us she wanted to be baptized! It’s interesting to compare her progress with that of her younger brother, who hasn’t been reading or praying as diligently. Moroni’s promise really does work – when people really study the Book of Mormon with sincerity and real intent to know if it is true, they find out. That Wednesday evening, Elder Durkin had accidentally left his bus pass back at our flat, so we had to walk all the way home from the Matapos’ house in Blackburn, a one-hour trip, in the middle of a heavy rainstorm. I’d forgotten my coat, and a car splashed us en route, so when we got home we were pretty badly soaked. But it was all worth it for that great lesson with Yvonne!

Since then we’ve taught Yvonne twice and have set a baptismal date of September 13. Last time we taught the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When we explained confirmation, Yvonne had a serious concern – she didn’t want anyone to put their hands on her head to give her the gift of the Holy Ghost. When we probed a little bit, we found out that she’d had a bad experience with the laying on of hands at an evangelical Christian church she’d attended earlier. The preacher at this church used to invite people to come to the front of the chapel to be healed, and one time Yvonne went up there. When the preacher put his hand on her head, he pushed her really hard so that she fell down on the ground! Then the preacher announced that he’d just cast out an evil spirit (supposedly why Yvonne had fallen) and made some “prophecies.” When we explained the way confirmation is performed in our church (reverently, with the convert seated on a chair and everyone in the congregation having their eyes closed and arms folded - no pushing people down onto the ground), Yvonne was quite willing to be confirmed. “I think I should have started coming to your church a long time ago,” she said.

I finally met Ryan! He’s a really good kid, and he’s already almost perfectly integrated into the ward’s youth program. We pushed his baptism date back to September 13 to give us a little more time to teach and him a little more time to adjust to all the commandments.

I’m on exchange with my zone leader, Elder Powrie, in Chorley. Kind of a déjà vu trip to come back and work in the town where I went through the MTC. The ward in Chorley is amazing – 200 active members, far more than any of the wards I’ve served in and probably most of the units in Europe – and is full of temple workers who moved to Chorley to save commuting time, so the Chorley elders get to spend a lot of time teaching members, and they have plenty of members to take investigators under their wings. Last night we had tea at a member home with one of Elder Powrie’s investigators and taught the investigator with the members afterwards. Great stuff. Elder Powrie’s also great. He’s from Pretoria in South Africa, and speaks both Afrikaans and English. He’s kind of a quirky guy – he loves computers and Star Trek and is really good at solving Rubik’s cubes – and I’ve had a lot of fun working with him for the day. He cares a lot about our zone and making sure he knows all about individuals and not just the numbers that we report to him. He also loves good words (this morning he pointed out the words “catechize” and “arrears” while studying Jesus the Christ) and has a little electronic dictionary he carries around with him. He specially asked me to bring my electronic dictionary (which, unlike his, includes etymologies among other great features) on exchange so he could see and admire it. : ) The dictionary has come in really handy, by the way, and has been much appreciated by most of my companions as well.

The other day in the bus station, a woman came running up to us saying, "Elders, elders!" It turned out she was a member of the church who had been baptized in Yorkshire (Leeds Mission) last February. When she moved to Blackburn about a year ago, however, she didn’t know how to find the church and had had no contact with church members there until she’d seen us. Her name is Zita, she’s originally from Togo in Africa, and she has a four-year-old son named Mike who is pretty cheeky. We told them where church was and when it started and got her phone number so we can keep track of her. The experience is a testimony to me that our mission leaders knew what they were doing when they took the car out of this area – if we’d still had a car, we never would have been in the bus station to meet this woman and tell her where the church is.

Last week we knocked on the door of a man who teaches at an Islamic school in Accrington, and he invited us in. His name was Ayoob (sp?), which he explained is the Arabic version of the name Job. We didn’t get a chance to teach him much because he talked for almost the whole time about his own beliefs (a problem we run into sometimes), but I learned a lot of interesting things about Islam. He explained their belief in prophets and dispensations, and it was exciting to see how similar it is to ours. In particular, he explained that Muslims believe that in order to be saved, you have to believe in all the prophets throughout all time. You can’t just pick and choose which prophets to believe in – if you do that, you don’t really believe in any of them at all. It reminded me of the verse in the New Testament where Jesus condemns the Jews who oppose him and tells them that they must not really believe in Moses, “For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me” (John 5:46). Of course, Ayoob used this principle as an argument that we wouldn’t be saved because we don’t believe in Mohammed, since he believes Mohammed was one of the prophets. One of the other real differences that I noticed between our beliefs and Islamic beliefs is that Muslims care a lot more about the exact textual preservation of their scriptures. Ayoob (who has memorized the entire Koran in Arabic) explained that you can’t really read or appreciate the Koran unless you read it in Arabic – otherwise things may be lost or distorted – and he described the beauty and poetry of the Koran’s language as being mystically great. I realized that we don’t focus
on the nature of the actual text of the Bible or Book of Mormon as much as we emphasize the personal revelation we can receive by studying them, revelation that’s available no matter what language you read the Book of Mormon in. Since Muslims don’t really believe in modern prophets or personal revelation in the way we do, the text of the Koran is all they’ve got to depend on. I’m grateful to know that each of us can receive revelation for ourselves about the truth. Otherwise I don’t think anybody could ever really be certain of anything.

The other day we saw an Indian wedding going on. At least I think it was a wedding. We were walking down the street in an area we visit quite often, and outside one of the houses there was a long queue of women in brightly-colored saris. In the house’s yard there were several big pavilions set up with tables laid out for eating set up underneath them. It reminded me a bit of the funeral that we had in our yard in Sudan. : )

Elder Durkin knows a few people who served (maybe one of them is still serving?) in the Jacksonville mission: Elder Luker (sp?), Sister Hiapo, and Elder Johnson. All from Gilbert, Arizona, I believe. Do you or your missionaries know any of them?

Today we have a zone activity. Actually, it’s a multi-zone activity: we’re playing Preston Zone in football here in Chorley. I think we should be able to beat them no problem. : )

Hope everyone has a great school year!

Elder Pimentel

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