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.