Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Notes from Sam -- 10 Sep 2008

Elder Durkin with members and a cake shaped like the Preston Temple
District Leaders' Council with President Bullock
Dear family,

Yvonne is still committed for baptism on Saturday. We showed her the font at church on Sunday and went over the baptismal interview questions with her later that evening. She’s very nervous, about the interview, about the baptism, and especially about the confirmation. Her bad experience at that evangelical church still bothers her. The gospel principles lesson on Sunday was about the gift of the Holy Ghost, and she asked if there was any way she could get the Holy Ghost without having people lay their hands on her head. : ( I feel bad for her. But she is definitely ready for baptism, and we’re excited for her. We have the baptismal program all sorted out now. Unfortunately, Yvonne is gone all week since her college has sent her on a school-sponsored camping trip (what timing!). She gets back on Friday morning, though, so we will do the baptismal interview on Friday evening and have the baptism on Saturday. I’m looking forward to it a lot.

Chorley 2nd Ward also has a baptism on Saturday, a young man who works in the MTC cafeteria. They’ve told me a lot about him and he sounds like a really great person. I haven’t met him yet, but I’ll be conducting his baptismal interview on Friday. I’m a bit nervous about it, but not too much. It sounds like he’s really solid and really prepared.

Blackburn Ward has had a ton of baptisms this calendar year, but unfortunately none of them (except one who moved to a different ward) are currently considered active. : ( Elder Durkin and I have struggled even to get into their homes over the past month, but this week we managed to have proper visits with a couple of the families. It was a poignant experience. I can see glimpses of how wonderful it must have been to teach these people and help them progress towards baptism, and I can see that they’re good people. But they aren’t growing in the gospel like they could be. One man we spoke with has relapsed heavily on his several addictions. The first time we got into his home he was really drunk, apparently worse than Elder Durkin had ever seen him before his baptism. It seems like he still feels warmly towards the church and wants to be involved, but these addictions just have control over his life right now. Another woman we visited kept on repeating to us “I don’t want to go to church,” and telling us that she was happy as she was and felt that God was happy with her, but we could tell that she was lying to herself. I’m hoping that I can help some of these people at least make it back to church. But it’s really up to them to make the choice. The whole experience has motivated me to think more deeply about Yvonne’s baptism and wonder if she has the support she’s going to need. The two female young single adults in the ward who are close to Yvonne’s age and one of the bishopric members have done a great job of reaching out to her, which reassures me a lot. But there’s going to be a lot of careful work to do in the weeks after her baptism to make sure the ward really adopts her. I wish I had Mom and Dad in Blackburn Ward to fellowship all our recent converts! : ) I always love hearing about all the things you do with the Blincos and how great they are doing.

I went on exchange with Elder McIntosh this week. This is our third transfer in the same district, and it looks likely that we’ll be together for next transfer as well. He’s a “sound lad,” as the locals here might say, and I really enjoy serving around him. Most of our appointments fell through, so we did a lot of street contacting, and I felt a lot of power in our work. I stopped one lady who was walking her dog, and as she was speaking to me, I suddenly felt really strongly that she had been prepared by the Lord to meet the missionaries and receive the gospel. It’s amazing how much you can learn from the Spirit in finding sometimes. The lady (her name is Christine) is on holiday next week, but we’ll hopefully be able to teach her the following week.

As a side-note, an interesting connection between me and Elder McIntosh: One time when I was in Provo with Uncle Nate and Aunt Alicia, we ate at this great sandwich shop called Gandolfo’s. Turns out Elder McIntosh used to work at the camera shop across the street from Gandolfo’s and ate there almost every day. All roads lead back to Utah in the missionary world, I guess.

It’s Ramadan, by the way. The mosque across from the chapel was packed last night – the (very large) parking lot was completely full and cars were parked all up and down the street. Eastern Promise is now closed for lunch (much to Elder Durkin’s and my chagrin). A whole new set of advertisements for a Muslim charity has also been rolled out on bus stops in Blackburn: pictures of beggars or cute Asian children with phrases like, “He’ll either be fasting or starving,” or “He’ll either be begging or thanking God,” and the tagline, “This Ramadan, you can decide.”

On our way to the chapel yesterday, Elder McIntosh and I spoke to a Muslim man who was very convinced of the truth of his religion. I actually kind of admired his boldness and understanding of the importance of knowing the truth (even though he was a little confused about what the truth was). I think he would have made a good zone leader. My favourite thing that he said was, "[If you don’t accept Islam] you are one hundred percent going to hell. And hell is not a good place." : )

The other night we ate an African meal with Yvonne’s family. It was pretty delicious. The meal consisted of a white starchy mush made of maize flour (a bit like very thick grits, maybe) a savoury stew with tomatoes, onions, and chunks of beef in it (maybe a bit like some of the Ethiopian dishes I’ve eaten in the past), and finely-chopped greens. You ate it by taking a small clump of mush, scooping up stew and greens with it, and eating it. It made me think of Ruth learning from her friends at ISH how to eat with her hands. When I first tried to do it, I burned my fingers on the mush, which was very hot. Everyone laughed and Yvonne’s mum went and got me some silverware so I wouldn’t hurt myself. But I really wanted to eat the proper African way and once the food had cooled down a little bit, I did fine. Cool!

It’s Elder Durkin's last week. It seems like every other person we meet asks us how long we have left on our missions, which can’t be easy for him, but he’s dealing with it OK. The baptism will help us to stay focused this week, I’m sure. The ward is going to miss Elder Durkin – he’s built up a lot of good relationships with the members in his seven months here. Hopefully I can maintain that with my new companion.

Thanks for all the great letters I’ve received recently. Grandma Bay sent me a nice one filling me in on JaLeen’s mission, Leo and Jamie’s wedding, etc., which I enjoyed a lot. Does anybody have JaLeen’s mailing address? Or alternatively her missionary email address? I’m glad Ed’s Eagle project is all but finished. Make sure you all get some sleep! Ruth, I enjoyed your note a lot. I pretty much laughed out loud when I read about “Chernobyl: The Musical.” It sounds like something you’d read about it in a book. Please keep me posted.

Elder Pimentel

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