Saturday, October 25, 2008

Notes from Sam -- 22 October 2008

Dear family,

Great things have happened this week! Ryan's baptism was a success. We weren't actually that deeply involved in it - the ward, especially the Morgans (the family that referred and fellowshipped Ryan) took the lead in making it happen. There were a few organizational hiccups (when we showed the Special Witnesses of Christ DVD in the interval, it somehow got stuck on the version for the deaf, where most of the screen is taken up by someone giving all the words in sign language while making kind of goofy faces) but Ryan seemed really happy. His mum came, too, and the bishop did a great job of really including her as he welcomed Ryan into the ward. I think she got a really positive impression of the Church community here.

Jason and Emma are also doing really well. They came to the ward social on Saturday night. It was an auction night to raise money for youth conference (along the lines of the Alameda Ward dessert auction). Auction nights seem pretty common as ward socials over here - Elder Stevens tells me it's quite a British thing. Anyway, we got the starting time of the activity wrong and showed up with Jason and Emma about an hour late, with the auction in full swing. It had the potential to be a really awkward situation and a negative experience for Jason and Emma, but they weren't fazed by it at all and just jumped in and had a great time. A couple of members chatted with them and got to know them a bit better, and their 1-year-old daughter Ruby became an instant celebrity with the 9(?)- and 11(?)-year-old Parkes girls. Jason and Emma actually bid on and won several of the items in the auction, including some Church videos and a night out with our ward mission leader's family! Elder Stevens noticed that when they bid on something all the members got quiet all of a sudden and stopped bidding so that they could win it. : ) Kind of sweet. They had a great time, anyway, and they also came to church the next day and had a great experience there as well.

We went over and taught them last night, and Jason told us that he's now definitely received an answer about the truth of the gospel! He'd told us before that whenever he prayed and asked if Joseph Smith was a propet, he felt an immediate answer, "Yes," but wasn't sure if that was just him wanting it to be true. Last night, though, he said that when he prayed about it again he felt first, "Yes," and then more strongly, "Of course he is!", a confirmation of his initial feeling. He got kind of excited as he was telling us about this experience and trying to demonstrate just how wonderful it was to receive that answer and just how happy it made him feel. It's amazing to remeber that only five or six weeks ago Jason was just another contact, another name on our Potential Investigators list. Now he's telling us how the Spirit feels like. Missionary work is pretty miraculous sometimes.

Two more miracles:

On Sunday Elder Stevens and I taught the young men, something we do about once month. The lesson was on personal revelation (taken from p. 89 of Preach My Gospel), and towards the end of it I was sharing some personal experiences. One thing that I've recognized since I came out on my mission is that during high school I received promptings to talk to certain people about the gospel but never fully acted on them. As you might imagine, I regret not acting on those impressions a lot. I probably missed out on some great experiences of helping others to come unto Christ. During the lesson on Sunday, I felt like I should share this with the young men. At first I didn't want to (it's kind of a depressing experience) but I ended up sharing it after all. After the lesson was over, Brother Parkes, the young men's advisor, asked Elder Stevens and me for a copy of the Book of Mormon and a Restoration pamphlet. He told us that during the lesson he'd thought of someone he knew and felt that he should share the gospel with him, but dismissed the thought. Then I'd shared my experience about not acting on revelation I'd received, and he'd decided that he better go and talk to this person after all. Yes! I think there's probably nothing better as a missionary than seeing someone, member or non-member, both receive and act on revelation. That's what individual salvation and the success of the Church here both depend on. What a blessing to get to be a part of that process for Brother Parkes!

The other miracle has to do with a new key indicator for our mission that we just started reporting last week. If you don't know what a key indicator is, you can go read Chapter 8 of Preach My Gospel! : ) Our new key indicator keeps track of "quality gospel conversations" that we have with non-members in finding situations and the number of appointments we set up through these conversations. Setting goals to have a lot of quality gospel conversations has helped to motivate me and Elder Stevens to spend more time talking with people and inviting them to be taught. On Monday our evening appointments fell through and we'd spent a dark, cold, rainy evening tracting. By about 8:10, we'd had a couple of good conversations and set up an appointment, and we were wondering if we should keep on tracting or go back home and spend the rest of the evening calling potential investigators (since English people can get unfriendly when you knock on their doors after dark, night-time tracting sometimes isn't effective in winter). We really wanted to get closer to our goal for quality gospel conversations, so we decided to tract another street. And we got in a door! We got to teach this great young couple named Ryan and Ellie (this makes the third Ryan in our teaching pool) who had just moved in a few days ago. Ryan in particular was really well-prepared to hear us and grasped the concept of the Spirit and a personal spiritual witness really well despite having no religious background at all. Now they're new investigators! President Bullock must have been inspired to bring out the new key indicator. I doubt we would have found Ryan and Ellie otherwise.

To top off this week of blessings, I passed my driving test! I didn't think I had (I thought maybe I'd hit the curb on my turn in the road) so when we pulled up in front of the test centre and the instructor said something like, "I'm pleased to say that you've passed" I was over the moon. So no more driving lessons or test dates to worry about. And I shouldn't need much money in my SFCU account if you want to transfer more out, Mom.

We had interviews with the mission president on Thursday. We have a new music policy that I don't think I've mentioned which specifies the music we can and can't listen to, mainly eliminating music with a pop, country-western, etc. sound (so Handel is still OK - thanks again Dad!), and President Bullock expounded it to us a bit. It's a bit of a change for all of us (EFY music has more or less been eliminated), but a good change, and I've felt closer to the Spirit as I've tried to catch President Bullock's vision. The assistants to the President also went through our area books while we each got interviewed, and Elder Stevens and I won a Snickers bar each for having a well-kept area book. Temporal blessings. : )

I think I mentioned our (then upcoming) district hike in my last email. We didn't end up going the whole distance that we had planned to, but we had a great time and got to see some beautiful countryside. It's interesting how differently you view the world around you when you are walking through it just for the sake of walking through it rather than to get somewhere or do something. It makes me want to do a lot more hiking. : ) I have some pictures that I can hopefully send today, as well as a few videos. Elder McIntosh in particular got some priceless videos of us chasing some sheep and trying to catch them. Coming soon. : ) I'll try to burn them on CD at some point and mail them to you.

Tomorrow is zone conference! We are leaving bright and early so can be there by 9 AM. President Robert C. Oaks (our area president) will be there, so it's a particularly exciting event. After zone conference there's a meeting for all the ward mission leaders in the stake that we've also been asked to attend, so our entire zone is just going to be sleeping over in Chorley tomorrow night. It should be good fun.

Happy (belated) birthday to Ed! I've been thinking about him. I sent him a letter last Wednesday which will hopefully get there soon if it hasn't already. I'm pleasantly shocked that the package arrived already. The post office employee tried to get me to shell out another 7 or 8 pounds to send it airmail, warning me that surface mail may not arrive for six weeks. I'm glad I went for surface mail anyway!

Speaking of packages, I got the Sinterklaas one! Dank je wel! I'm looking forward to opening it on December 5th.

I've been really enjoying your letters, especially Ruth's reports of college life and the pictures she sent with the last batch. It makes me pretty happy that I get to be on her photo wall. I didn't notice Peter Olson in the General Conference choir - I wish I'd thought to look for him more closely.

When I read about Isaac's teacher showing Mom his journal entry ("Mai sisdr klimt a valkano"), I was pretty impressed by Isaac's imagination as well as his writing skills. Then I realized that Ruth actually HAS climbed a volcano! I guess when you grow up in our family you don't really need any imagination to make life exciting.

Elder Stevens just asked me, "How do you spell 'meteorologically'?" What a cool companion. : ) He uses a lot of great words in normal conversation and writing: "propitiate," "acrimony," etc. Between our companionship and Elder Powrie the electronic-dictionary-fiend in Chorley 1st Ward, we have a pretty logophilic district.

Elder Pimentel

P.S. Next week is transfers. I think I'm probably staying in Accrington, but you never know . . . so the safe course is to send them to the mission office for this week. There will be a district leaders' council where I can pick up post a week on Saturday, so I should get the letters pretty quick even with them going to the office.

"The Osmonds: Live from Chorley." : ) Elder Powrie thinks this photo looks like an Osmonds CD cover. It's actually from our zone temple trip. Elder Peterson is in the foreground, Elder McIntosh is at the left, and Elder Empey (my old companion from Runcorn) is in the center. Elder Peterson's facing more or less towards the temple, and the Chorley stake center is in the background.

I have more photos (some of our district hike, one that Elder Stevens took from our temple trip a couple weeks back, and a really nice one that Elder Stevens took while we were tracting the other night) but the silly Accrington Library computers won't read my card reader. So those will have to come a different week.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

From Jon 10/16/2008

Subject: Kuv tsis tau tuag lawm

Nyob zoo xyoo tshiab!

Hmong New Year was fun, and I got a bunch of pictures, but I didn't bring my camera this time, so you'll have to wait. This one was outside, so it was a little different. We got to talk to a lot of people, and we ran into some old investigators I hadn't seen in many months, and some less-active members too. We borrowed some Hmong clothes from Xai, a very nice less-active lady. I wanted to buy them from her, but I didn't have the heart to ask because I knew they mean a lot to her.

We moseyed over to the Ka Taub tournament, and noticed that the teams currently playing were the champions from the last tournament, and Shoua, Houa, and John! It was great to see them again. Each Ka Taub team has eight players, but only three play at a time. Somehow John's team was able to get the best 'killer' in the nation to play for them in this tournament. The 'killer' is the position that usually spikes with that fancy back flip bicycle kick.

Lori is doing really well. She asked us to come over and bless her house. She is really starting to develop a testimony, and we are planning on inviting her tomorrow to be baptized. She has a lot of fear, so it may take a little while to work past that, but she'll make it.

Mission tour is when a general authority tours the mission, speaking to all the missionaries. We had Elder Arnold of the second quorum of the seventy. He was pretty intense. He eats, sleeps, and breathes missionary work.

The Sawles are going to the temple today to get sealed! They are way stoked. Richard and Krissee are really looking forward to it, but they'll have to wait until next year.

Lana, Rick Stach's "significant other", is actually progressing a lot faster than he is. She understands very well and applies everything to herself. She's pretty sharp, and does a good job of "connecting the dots", so to speak. Many investigators have trouble with that. She would be able to be baptized soon, but she isn't officially and legally divorced from her ex-husband yet---she has been trying for at least four years. She will have to wait six months after that before she and rick can get hitched. She and Rick are living together with Lana's son from her last marriage, and the son they have together, so it would be tricky to split them up and have them live separately.

Sounds like y'all got fancy phones! Neat. Richard, Krissee, and Jeff all got cell phones recently, which is a big relief. Communication with them was pretty rough when none of them had a phone of any sort.

Well, off I must go! Live, explore the universe and eat pie.

-Elder Moua Ying

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Notes from Sam -- 15 October 2008

Dear family,

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks. I figured out a while back that in the period from October 3rd to October 17th, we have had or have scheduled four exchanges, three zone-wide activites, a district activity, my driving test, interviews with the President, General Conference, and a baptism. Whew!

Ryan’s baptism is tonight at 7:30 PM! We’re pretty excited. It was originally going to be on Friday but we moved it to tonight so his mum could attend. We only met her last Wednesday when we taught Ryan about tithing. She’s a really nice lady. I don’t think she has any interest in the church herself (yet), but she’s very supportive of Ryan. A lot of other people should also be coming to the baptism, including Ryan Mulcahy and an Iranian Christian named Makwam (sp?) whom Elder Stevens and Elder Key taught last night for the first time (I’m on exchange in Chorley). Ryan passed his baptismal interview on Sunday night, and I’m feeling really confident that he’s ready.

It’s great to see someone so young with such a great future coming into the church. When we were looking over Ryan’s baptismal recommend, I noticed that he’s younger than Ed. On a similar note, I was pretty surprised when I learned that Elder Stevens is only 18, born about a month after Ruth. He got special permission to come out on his mission early so he wouldn’t have to delay university by another year. Makes me feel pretty old.

Yvonne is still going strong. On the Sunday before conference, our Gospel Principles teacher invited her to teach two of the principles in the lesson for the week after Conference, which was about fasting. Yvonne readily accepted, and this last Sunday she did it. It was amazing! I think she probably taught better than our regular teacher or any of us could have. I don’t mean to knock Brother Hall, who is great, but Yvonne just has a great testimony and a natural talent for teaching. It was exciting to see her building our faith. There’s a calling in the pipeline for her, I believe, and I really hope that she will have a good experience with it.

At General Conference last week, we had Ryan Mulcahy, Jason, and Emma, none of whom had been to church before. This week, Ryan and Emma (Jason was sick) came to church! The ward knew them a bit already thanks to General Conference and gave them a good welcome. It made me pretty happy. Emma brought her and Jason’s 22(?)-month-old daughter Ruby, who is a real character. Our ward doesn’t have a nursery leader or class right now, but fortunately a wonderful Relief Society sister took Ruby into the nursery room during Gospel Principles and kept her occupied so that Emma could pay attention. Yay for great members!

On Saturday we had a zone blitz on Rossendale Valley. Rossendale Valley Ward is just southeast of Blackburn Ward – it’s up in the steeper hills and valleys and comprises several smaller towns (each town a bit like Accrington). It’s a great ward and there are hard-working sister missionaries there right now, but the area is having very little success. Hence the blitz, in which all the missionaries in our zone travelled to the one area and worked there all day. It was good fun. We tracted and street contacted in areas the sisters had picked out, each of us working with a couple of different missionaries from around the zone during the course of the day, and then we all came back to the chapel and ate kebabs. Good fun. I had some interesting experiences, some spiritual and some more amusing. An old lady made a vulgar hand gesture at Elder Gorts (with two dots over the “o” – he’s from Frankfurt) and I. We were both quite surprised! : ) Towards the end of the day, Elder Peterson and I stopped a man who didn’t really believe in God but was willing to talk. I testified a little bit about the plan of salvation and invited him to learn more – he thought about it and said he thought he wasn’t really interested, that he was “fairly happy” as he was. Elder Peterson responded, “You said you’re fairly happy – we can promise you even greater happiness!” Then he testified about it, and I really felt the Spirit. The man ended up giving us his contact details. So hopefully the sisters will get to teach him – yay!

On Monday Elder Stevens and I taught an English class! Preach My Gospel has a lot of suggestions for how to find new investigators (other than tracting and street contacting) and we were recently given a checklist of these ideas by our leaders and challenged to try them all by October 18th. One of the biggest tasks on there is “Teach English as a second language” – which, before we received the checklist, I’d always thought of as an activity strictly for those serving in foreign-language missions – and we (like most missionaries in the mission) have worried a good bit about how to make it happen. About two weeks ago, though, Elder Stevens bus contacted a Polish man named Gregory who told him that he could easily find us about a dozen other Polish people interested in free, basic, English classes. And he said we could just coordinate the class through him! On Monday, Gregory told us we should have about seven people coming to our class that evening at the chapel. Six of them ended up cancelling, but one woman did come, and (thanks to an investigator who came down to the chapel at the last minute to be the fellowshipper so that we could teach) the class went ahead! Elder Stevens and I were both very, very nervous about it, which is a bit unusual considering that we teach complete strangers every day, but he pointed out that we usually teach a different subject. It ended up being quite successful, though. The lady who came really has a desire to learn, and we ended up spending most of the lesson role-playing visits to the bank and to the doctor. She specifically asked us to teach about visiting the doctor because she has a doctor’s appointment on Friday that she’s quite worried about. She struggles with depression and wanted to know specifically the words and the phrases that she could use to talk about it, which made some of the role-plays pretty awkward, but it was great to know that we really were helping her learn. We have another class set up for this Saturday, hopefully with a few more students.

Last week we had a zone temple trip. It was great. It had been too long since I’d been to the temple. This week we have a district activity, a hike in our area. Elder Stevens is quite a serious hiker (he and his cousin did a three-day hike once from Sussex to Kent) and has mapped it all out. The weather looks OK as well (knock on wood), and I’m kind of excited about it.

I forgot to mention it last week, but I failed my driving test. : ( It’s a lot harder than the American test and I think most people actually fail the first time around, so it’s not quite the badge of shame you might think. I’m feeling a lot more confident now and I have another test booked for October 21st, so if all goes well I should still have my license by the end of the transfer. Wish me luck!

Today I’m just finishing my exchange with Elder Powrie, my zone leader. He’s a bit of a computer guru, and he actually just got back this past weekend from the mission office in Manchester, where President Bullock has had him writing a massive Excel database which will read in the Key Indicators from all the missionaries in the mission and compute various statistics from them. He’s been in and out of the office for about two weeks working on it and is really glad to have it done – the work in his area went a bit patchy with him going to Manchester all the time, and he had to miss out on the zone blitz in order to get it done – but he described the program to me (some of the things it has to do, data it has to generate, etc.) and it sounded like a fun problem to tackle. It’s been about a year since I thought about programming at all, so I went through a bit of déjà vu as he was telling me about it. I’ll enjoy getting back into programming when I get home.

Elder Powrie and I had an amazing experience together on exchange in Chorley last night. We’d had an early-afternoon appointment with a potential investigator named Andrew, but we buzzed his flat there was no answer. This happens a lot, and we usually leave a note in the potential’s mailbox (“Sorry we missed you – please ring us back and we’ll set up another appointment”), although they rarely if ever call us back. It ended up being really difficult to get into the block of flats, but we finally found someone who let us in the back door and we posted Andrew a note. Later in the day he actually called us back and left a voicemail with his phone number! Elder Powrie (who’s about six months older than me) said that was the first time a potential had ever rung him back. Then, later that evening, we were at an appointment with a great young man named Manuel who is 19 and working on his mission papers. As we were sitting in his living room about to start the lesson, it occurred to Elder Powrie and me at almost the same moment to ring Andrew and see if we could go teach him with Manuel instead. Sure enough, Andrew was available. So we went over and proceeded to teach one of the most amazing lessons I’ve ever experienced! Andrew told us about how he’d been struggling recently with alcohol and cigarette addictions and how he didn’t know what to do – he said he’d tried buying things to make him happy but it didn’t work. We started teaching about Jesus Christ and faith, and right away the Spirit poured into the room. Andrew told us he’d been wanting to go back to church (the Catholic church, I think) for a while, so right away Elder Powrie invited him to church on Sunday and he agreed to come. As soon as he had he remarked that he felt better. We explained that because faith is belief and works, we feel the Spirit and have our faith increase when we make and keep commitments to do good things. We knew he was feeling the Spirit at that point and so we just talked about how great it felt and taught him what he needed to do to keep it with him. He was so prepared to hear the gospel and accepted everything we taught. Manuel bore his testimony too. When the three of us walked out of the lesson, we could hardly believe how amazing it had been. We talked about just how amazing it had been all the way back to Manuel’s house and sitting in the car outside it for a while. I felt like we should say a prayer of thanks for the miracle of getting to participate in that, and as I said it I recognized that we had really been instruments in God’s hands for the evening. None of us had really made any choice to guide the lesson the way it went, but it just worked out perfectly as we followed the Spirit. Having Manuel, who was already excited for his mission before that lesson, there with us made it all so much better. Miracles do happen!

Elder Pimentel

P.S. Ruth, I love your letters. Especially the sense of contemplation in them. I got a bunch of them yesterday with one of Dad’s letters and read them during my morning exercise. Dylan’s thoughts about “growing old” actually have a lot to do with me as a missionary right now. Kind of interesting.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

From Jon 10/8

Subject: Nws rov qab tuaj

Nyob zoo tsev neeg!

Conference was awesome! I started putting stars next to the really good talks, but stopped after a while when I realized they almost all had stars. I guess it's kind of like marking every scripture in the BoM...doesn't really help. I think it would be nice to have this conference in Hmoob on a data DVD so I can put it on my Zen.

Lori is back. She watched Saturday morning conference at Krissee's house and enjoyed it. Evidently one of the talks cut her to the center. It was the one that was talking about the BoM and how someone who have the blessing of the BoM, but don't read it, and set it aside is like someone who is overseas and receives a letter from a loving father, but refuses to open it. He also said they were like a spoiled child who refuses to eat the beautiful dinner set before them. She squirmed at that point. When she got rid of her literature, she held on to her Book of Mormon, and started reading from it again. Richard wants to have a word with this priest, and says he's not scared of him. Richard's a funny guy. Evidently the priest's letter (which he had Lori sign) hurt Krissee's feelings, which made Rick's protective instincts kick in. He was joking around, talking as though he were speaking to the priest, saying, "Maybe I'll come over and hurt YOUR wife's feelings---oh, wait, you CAN'T have a wife! Have fun living ALONE with your apostasy, you jerk!" It's particularly funny because both Rick and Krissee used to be Catholic.

Thanks for the E-mail, Panny! You have been spending a lot of time around Kent. You are really starting to write like him.

Hmong New Year is coming up here in La Crosse! I might be able to borrow some Hmong clothes this time.

Oh---the reason I'm writing today is because tomorrow is mission tour, so they moved our preparation day.

Is Kent taking a Book of Mormon class? I really liked the class I took at BYU. It really helped me get more familiar with the book and get a feel for the chronology, since I used to skip around a lot.

If you happen to be around the distribution center or Deseret book or something and you see one of those mechanical scripture-marking pencils that has a bunch of different colors in one pencil, could you stick one in the next package please? I can't find them here.

Before I forget, did I really see Elder Lofgren in the MTC choir that performed in the priesthood session, or was that an illusion? If it was indeed the lad, where is he serving?

I love you all! So long, and thanks for all the fish!

-Elder Moua Ying

Notes from Sam -- 8 October 2008

Dear family,

General Conference was great! I think I like General Conference more and more the older I get as a missionary. This time around I noticed in particular that I really enjoyed the music for the different sessions. Best of all, though, we had several investigators attend! Jason and Emma, a young and really humble couple who live around the corner from us, came to the Sunday night session (i.e. the Sunday morning session in America), and Ryan Mulcahy came to all three of the Sunday sessions. He was originally supposed to go only to the priesthood session but decided to stay for all three. None of those investigators had ever attended a sacrament meeting before, so they all kind of jumped in the deep end. It was a great introduction to the church on a lot of levels though – it showed that the church is something much bigger than Blackburn Ward, and there were great social opportunities, especially for Ryan as he hung around the chapel between sessions (the bishop and stake president both spoke to him briefly as did members of more than one ward). It was also great because the temple was just outside and the weather was gorgeous (after a pretty rainy and dismal week), so everyone had a chance to go out and see it. We walked around it with Ryan and then sat outside it while we ate our lunch and talked about General Conference, the church, etc. He told us that he’s been thinking about being baptized. Cool! He should be coming to church this Sunday. Jason and Emma also had a really great experience. They felt like the session went really quickly (they said something like, “Is that all?” when it was over). Jason loved seeing the temple. He told us he’d actually prayed the night before Conference that they would have good weather (because he and Emma had to walk quite a ways to where their lift was picking them up). Seems like his prayer was answered!

I mentioned a French-speaking member in my last email. A couple of weeks ago Elder Stevens and I had just stepped out of our flat when an African man sitting in a car at the side of the road beckoned us over. He asked us if we were Mormon missionaries, and then told us that his niece was a member and had just moved over from France to live with them, right in Accrington! We stopped by later on and met her. Her name is Victoire and she is really nice. She also speaks absolutely no English at all. So Elder Stevens (also an IB French veteran) and I had the chance to practice our French skills a bit. She was pretty happy to meet us because she wasn’t sure when she moved to England how she was going to find the church. Elder Stevens invited her to General Conference, and she ended up going. I was a bit unsure of whether it was a good idea to invite her (since she doesn’t speak any English and they don’t seem to do headsets over here), but Elder Stevens assured me that she would have a good experience anyway. And she did! There were a couple of French-speaking members from Chorley who helped her out, and she told us afterward that even though she didn’t understand much of what was said, she really enjoyed being around so many Church members. She comes from a little French town of about 20-30 members, so it must have been exciting to see the several hundred members that must have been there!

It’s kind of amazing to have such great experiences at General Conference. I have Elder Stevens to thank for it – he’s been inviting everyone. I had a bit of a pessimistic attitude about it, knowing it would be tough to get people lifts (no investigators came to General Conference when I was in Blackpool, largely I think because of the barrier of getting lifts), but with Elder Stevens’ many invitations, I was forced to just work hard and call around the ward to get people lifts. And it worked! One family we didn’t have a phone number for (it wasn’t in the phone or in the ward list), so I had to get their number from a third party, but they ended up being one of our best lifts, and now we know them a lot better. One of our lifts to the Sunday evening session called us on Sunday about 45 minutes before it started saying he had lost his car keys and couldn’t make it. After I hung up, I went off and said a prayer that he’d be able to find his car keys. And when I called him back, he’d found them and was on his way! When we work hard, God really makes up the difference and gets us the blessings.

I saw a lot of people I knew from Blackpool at General Conference, including Chris and Jane, whom I loved teaching! They said they’d been thinking about me and that they are hoping Chris can get baptized in December (once they get things sorted out so they can get married). It was pretty wonderful to see them.

I think we have to run. The photos are me, Elder Stevens, the temple, Ryan Mulcahy, and a great guy from Blackpool named Steve Rowley who used to give me and Elders Smith and Webb lifts all over the place. More great stuff to talk about, but it'll have to wait.

Elder Pimentel

Thursday, October 2, 2008

From Jon 10/2

Subject: Cov nplooj hloov ho poob

Nyob zoo!
The subject of this email is pronounced 'gyah nblong hlong ha bong', which means, "The leaves change and then fall". It's really fun to say.

Things are starting to get a little cooler here, and the last couple days have been a might nippy. Time to break out my trusty windbreaker.

Jeff and Richard are enjoying the Aaronic priesthood now. Both are doing very well and are sharing the gospel with their friends.

The baked goods were great, by the way. I do you thanks very much (Hmong grammar)! Speaking of baked goodness, congrats to Rizzu for the promotion!

We visited a less-active Hmong family last night that was way nice. They are a family of ten, and most of them have really unique names, including Yak, Ace, Grace, Koula, and my favorite, Sevenstars, who is one of the cutest, most energetic seven-years-old girl I've met. Sevenstars, or Stars, as most of her family calls her, was on the computer as we were talking to her older sister, Koula, and her father. I was talking to Neng Nhia Tia, the father, in Hmong about coming to church this week to see conference since he won't have work, when Stars perked up suddenly and span around. Bursting with excitement, she started bubbling in rapid-fire Hmong asking her dad if she could go to church and saying how much she loved it. Koula's boyfriend, Tommy Lee, was there, and we got to have good, long, conversation with him about religion. He has a lot of potential, and I think we convinced him to experiment upon the word. He already has a BoM, so we gave him 3 Ne 11 to read and challenged him to pray about it.

Lori is having some problems. Her priest came over again and chewed her out for talking to us again and forbade her to speak to us or read our literature, and forced her to get rid of it. She is scared of him, and scared to upset him, so she put her books on the porch for us with a note. This isn't the first time it's happened, so I'm sure in a little while she'll realize how much she misses the Book of Mormon and talking to us and coming to church, and she'll call us. If not, Krissee will write her a letter expressing her love and concern for her. She'll be back.

Have I told you about Megan? She's a college student who is very interested and very curious. She asks tons of really good questions and wants to know everything about our church. It makes it a little hard though when we want to teach the very basics and how she can know it's true, and she wants to know the church's stance on every religious and political issue. It's fun though. She was way stoked to hear about modern prophets and can't wait for conference. She's going to take extensive notes.

How tall is Daniel Po-Pan? Has he surpassed my cranial altitude?

Well, I've got to be on my way, so sib ntsib dua!

-Elder Moua Ying

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Notes from Sam -- 1 October 2008

District leaders' council, September 20th. Left to right is Elder Key, Elder Kyambadde, me, and Elder Powrie. Note the beautiful weather.
(it's a bit blurry, sorry) Me and Elder Durkin with the Morgans, the big family of Blackburn Ward. A great family, too! Only 7 of the 10 kids are pictured here. Brother Morgan is on the bishopric and Sister Morgan is the Relief Society President. Our investigator Ryan Ormerod is best friends with Cameron Morgan (not pictured) and we always teach Ryan at the Morgans' home. Sister Morgan also gives us haircuts.
A donner pizza with garlic sauce I got from Eastern Promise. Oh yes.

From the Chorley 2nd elders' flat. They've got about ten more of them up, with different prophets and different messages. They call them their "Prophetic Priorities." Flirting with the sacreligious . . . but hey, they remember to update their area book. : )
A rainbow, taken a couple(?) of days ago from the window of our flat. You could see the rest of it but it didn't fit in the picture. Note the contrast in weather from the first picture. : )

Dear family,

Ryan Ormerod is dated for baptism again! It had been a few weeks since we’d seen him when we went over to teach on Sunday, and so we weren’t sure where he was. But it turns out he’s been reading his scriptures quite diligently. In our previous lesson, we’d left him a scripture reading chart with a space for each day of the week to write about what he’d read, and he told us that he not only had filled out the chart but had photocopied it so he could keep on using it for coming weeks. He also started attending seminary this past week. We hadn’t planned at all to choose a baptismal date in this lesson, but the way the lesson went it seemed pretty clear that we should do it. We chose October 17th. As we were talking about it, I was feeling pretty anxious and worried because we hadn’t thought about the date beforehand at all, but once it was clear that the 17th would be OK with everyone (including the Morgans, at whose home we taught) and we started talking about the spiritual significance of baptism, I felt the Spirit’s presence really strongly, and it was suddenly easy to feel good about the baptismal date. Ryan must be ready! It’s been exciting to think about the upcoming baptism this week, especially because Elder Stevens is new and this is the first convert baptism he will see in the field.

I really love the missionaries in our district. Elder McIntosh and Elder Peterson are doing great things in Chorley 2nd Ward. They’ve been teaching the family of Karl Belshaw, their recent convert, and his parents are very excited about the gospel. They’ve come to church two weeks in a row now, and this past Sunday Karl’s dad had a great spiritual experience during church that helped him feel that the church is true. Exciting times for all of us in the district.

We usually have district meeting in the Chorley chapel since the Chorley 2nd elders have a key to get in, but this week someone had borrowed their key, and we ended up having district meeting in one of the classrooms at the MTC instead. It was weird to go back into the MTC – it’s been over a year now since I’ve really been inside – and think about everything that’s happened so far on my mission. I’d like to meet myself as I was when I entered the MTC and see how I’ve changed. : )

I finished off the journal that I got in Sudan (which I was still working on when I came out here) in May, and just last week I finished off the one that my friends from the Stanford Ward gave me. So now I’m writing in the one that you (Mom and Ruth, I think?) gave me before I left. On the first page I wrote the last verse of the hymn “Jerusalem,” which is not in the hymnbook but is well-known here in England and is kind of a mission anthem. The words are by William Blake, and I find them really inspiring, especially the last verse. All very relevant to missionary work, too.

We had really clear, gorgeous, warm weather for Elder Stevens’ first week and a half here. He wasn’t entirely satisfied with it – he prefers wild and windy weather with ragged clouds stretched across the sky. That’s the English for you, I guess : ). Just in the past couple of days, though, the temperature has dropped sharply and it’s been chucking it down. Yesterday we were out in the rain a bit and by the afternoon we were feeling pretty cold and damp. Fortunately, there was a great fish and chips shop called the Clayton Street Chippy (highly recommended by members and the queues we’d seen forming outside it) just around the corner, so we got some fish and chips. There was a public recreation center nearby with a big Greek-style façade on it, so we stood on the covered porch to keep dry and looked out at the rain-drenched village while we ate. The fish and chips were really wonderful, warm and crispy and filling, especially in that setting. I felt pretty lucky to have such a romantically English experience. One of the perks of serving over here, I guess.

Last week on preparation day Elder Stevens and I went and checked out this place called Oswaldtwistle Mills, which is all but across the street from our flat. It’s an upscale shopping mall housed in the remains of an old cotton mill. It’s well-known among the locals (when people ask us where we live, we can just say, “Near Ossy Mills”) and pretty highly touted, but I’d never been inside before last week. The outside of the mill looks pretty run-down, so I was surprised to see how posh it is on the inside. There’s a variety of different stores in there, all pretty upscale and aimed at the older crowd (I think we were the only customers there under the age of 45), but what everybody talks about is the sweet shop, which sells all kinds of different traditional English candy. Remember the descriptions of all the different English sweets in Boy by Roald Dahl, where he’s talking about his neighbourhood sweet shop? That’s the kind of stuff this shop has. They also have the largest pear drop in the world. It weighs somewhere in the hundreds of pounds, I think, possibly over a thousand. Besides the sweet shop, Ossy Mills also has a little museum display about the history of Oswaldtwistle (a suburb of Accrington – we live right on the edge of it but on the Accrington side), the history of the cotton mills in the area, and various other bits and bobs, e.g. about a German POW camp that was located in Oswaldtwistle during the repatriation period right after WWII and the good relationships that developed between the prisoners and the locals. Kind of cool.

My driving is coming along pretty well. I think I’ll still have to be pretty lucky or blessed to pass on Monday, but I’m glad that I’m having a go. I think having the test date to work towards is helping me focus and improve. Our driving instructor, Tony, is a great personality, a salt-of-the-earth kind of guy with a strong Lancashire accent. He finds our missionary lifestyle a bit incredible (no telly? no girlfriends? going to bed at 10:30 every night?) and often asks us about it while we’re out on the road.

Elder Stevens is great, too. He’s a good missionary and a confident teacher. Plus we have a lot in common and I enjoy talking with him. It’s not a coincidence that we got assigned to work together, I think.

I have another cool story about a French member that we found here in Accrington, but I don’t have time to write about it this week, so I’ll just let you anticipate it in my next email.

I love you all! I hope you all get to see at least a generous chunk of General Conference. It’s going to be amazing. Elder Stevens and I are looking forward to it a lot.

Elder Pimentel