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. : )
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.