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.
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.