Wednesday, November 26, 2008

From Jon 11/26

Subject: Nyob zoo ntxov mentsis


Since we will be at New Year on Saturday, our writing day was moved up this week.

I got a package today! Wahoo! I also got a card and two or three letters from Elder Erickson at district meeting. Thank you all lots and lots! I loved Kent's letter; very nice to hear from him. Elder Vang isn't really going to have hardly any presents this year because his parents don't really care about Christmas, and his sisters have a really tight budget at this time. I'm really glad I can share most of my Christmas stuff with him. It will mean a lot to him to have something to unwrap. I opened the "Open now" thing from Kent. Ua tsaug os! My very own Bubbley Christmas! The music rules say Christmas music has to be spiritual, so we aren't sure if that means we can only listen to Christmas music that mentions the savior, or if it just means it has to be reverent and not bouncy and Santaful. I called the President, but he was busy. Hopefully he'll call back and let us know. I'm afraid not a single Bubbley song mentions the savior, but they are all reverent and beautiful.

The other Elders are confused slightly about the tree. I assume it either goes on a wall, or perhaps on a bed. They think it may be a rug or a blanket for small children. Either way it's neat. Was it hand-made?

We are very excited about New Year! We have posters and pictures, mountains of pamphlets and cards, and we will have two different TVs playing church movies. We trained the youth of the branch in contacting people and helped them role play. They are going to help get people over to our booth and give pamphlets or pass-along cards to people who are receptive. The Hmong Alliance church just hands fliers to everybody who walks by. We are making sure that we will testify to each person and commit them to some action that will bring them closer to Christ, whether that is to actually read the pamphlet, or to check out the website, or whatever.

I bought a Hmong shirt to go with the pants and sash Mina's mom made for me, and another member's mom is letting us borrow some coin-clothes and silver. I'll send pictures next time.

Elder Lo called to practice Hmong and ask some questions. He is a native, and speaks well, but only about as well as me. He didn't use it much back home, and didn't know how to read Hmong, so he was in the MTC for 6 weeks. He is a great guy! Very nice. He gave me an update on La Crosse. They got a hold of Norm, a guy we got as a referral but could never contact. They fasted and prayed that they would be able to catch him, and it worked. He's getting baptized this week. Becky, whom I began teaching, wants to be baptized too, and will in January after she settles things with her very catholic parents.

Back over here in St. Paul, Ia and Shue turned in their papers for a marriage license, and are setting a date. Once they have a marriage date, we can set a baptismal date. We are way excited. She already knows so much about the church, that when we teach, we present a principle and ask her to explain it, then we expound. She seems to understand it spiritually too, which is very refreshing. Many Hmong people understand it with their brain, but not with their heart, and they don't apply it. Usually these are they who become less-active.

Well, the lakes are starting to freeze, but the Spirit of God, like a fire is burning! Hurrah!

Elder Moua Ying

Monday, November 24, 2008

From Jon 11/22/2008

Subject: Nws los xanaus mentsis

Nyob zoo tsev neeg!

It's beginning to look (and feel) a lot like Christmas!
We're still above zero, but only just. Snow is on the ground, and I've been digging, trying to retrieve my old Sonic Innovations headband to cover my ears. I've been getting along with some ear-grips left by Elder Jackson Vang.

Ia is doing great---still progressing toward baptism and feelin' groovy.

We're going over some teaching records of former investigators and we plan to visit some of the ones with greatest potential.

Did I tell you that there is a recent convert named Teng who is going to teach us martial arts on Saturdays? We're pretty excited.

I'm going to buy a Hmong shirt to go with the pants and sash Mina's mom is making us. Mina is a recent convert on the Eastside. Mina's mom is not a member, but she likes missionaries now. When I was in Eastside, we tried teaching Mina, but we could never go to her house because Mina's mom didn't approve of Christianity. She saw how happy it made Mina, though, and after a while let the Elders come over to teach Mina. Perhaps in time Mina's mom will have a desire to learn too.

We are enjoying a lot of Christmas candles, due to the less-than-flowery odors produced by the digestive problems of a certain Elder in our apartment (not me). They are really getting us in the Christmas spirit (a little early perhaps) and do a commendable job purging our airs of ferociously foul fumes and voraciously vile vapors.

This has been "Silly Letters with Moua Ying", tune in next week to here Moua Ying say: "Don't fake the funk on a nasty dog."

-Elder Moua Ying

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Notes from Sam -- 19 November 2008

Dear family,

Ryan is dated for baptism - January 10th. I actually haven't seen Ryan in a week or two - Elder Stevens and Elder Dumitrescu (on exchange) set the date with him yesterday. He sounds really positive, though. The last time I taught him he was having trouble deciding whether the Church or the Catholic church was the true church (he'd eliminated all the others), but apparently he's sorted that out now. He's even willing to skip a day of Yu-gi-oh tournaments (his normal Saturday occupation) for his baptism. : ) We're pretty happy about it.

We've also been teaching a great new investigator named Leslie, a lady who was referred to us by someone Elder Stevens street-contacted. Apparently in the not-too-distant past she had a lot of struggles in her life, but you'd never guess it from speaking to her - she's a very dignified, composed person. She understands the gospel really well and has committed to come to church this Sunday.

Also, it looks like we'll get to teach Yvonne's older sister Patricia on Friday. Patricia was taught some time ago (I actually taught her once with Elder Durkin at Yvonne's house) but she's been very busy recently because she just moved and had a baby. She's a great person, though, a lot like Yvonne, and I'm really excited about our upcoming lesson.

Last Thursday was zone conference. It centered on three short paragraphs called "power statements" which we have been asked to use in our finding. One of our power statements is:

Good afternoon, we're in the area today sharing a message that after centuries of being lost, all of the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ have been restored to the earth by God through his living prophet. There is a book called the Book of Mormon which is evidence of this restored gospel. You can hold this book in your hands. You can read it, ponder how the message in the book can improve your life, and pray to know that the message is true.

In all finding situations, we now recite one of these power statements (there's one for each of the first three missionary lessons) to the person we're contacting, testify, ask a question to check the contact's understanding, and then ask to come in the house (if tracting) or ask for a specific return appointment (otherwise). It's a big change for our mission to use specific, memorized phrases like that, and a lot of missionaries weren't really excited about the change. During the zone conference training where the power statements were presented, I had a few moments of doubt myself. But as I've been trying to use the power statements instead of my own made-up phrases, I've gotten more excited about them. Power statements make a lot of things easier. Bus contacting for instance. I don't have to worry anymore about what to say to people when I talk to them on a bus - I can just hit them with a power statement.

Our district was a bit unsure about power statements at first, but just yesterday we had a district meeting that really helped us all catch the vision. Elder Dumitrescu and Elder McIntosh presented some great training about humbly submitting to the direction from our leaders, and we practiced using the power statements. At the end of the day when Elder Peterson called in, he told me that he and Elder McIntosh had had amazing success that day, setting up far more appointments than they usually do in a day, and that while before district meeting he'd had zero faith in power statements he now had full faith in them and just wanted to go out and tract and street contact and do nothing else. It was really gratifying for me to see how big a difference a good district meeting can make, and it made me really grateful that the members of my district are so great, presenting such great training and inspiring one another. I feel like all six of us are now really united with the vision and direction of the mission, and that these power statements will bring us a lot of success.

Another thing President Bullock talked about in zone conference is committing people to be baptized. He mentioned that while our mission is bringing investigators to church in numbers comparable to neighboring missions, they're baptizing a lot more than we are. He urged us to start committing people to be baptized on a specific day right when we start teaching them, in the first or second lesson. It made me pretty excited to hear that, and I feel that it's the right thing for us to be doing. A lot of times I've taught a really good, spiritual first lesson and felt a bit disappointed when I ended it just by committing someone to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it. I think I really should have been committing people to be baptized in those situations more often. Hopefully Elder Stevens and I will get to start doing a lot of that.

This past weekend was stake conference. Elder Kopischke from the Area Presidency came for it. We had an investigator at the Saturday night session, so we got to go there as well as to the Sunday morning one. When we walked into the Saturday night session, we saw Yvonne sitting up on the stand with the Young Single Adult choir! Yay! We hadn't even known she was involved with it - I guess she must have joined through Institute (she's gone a few times now). Elder Kopischke and the various other speakers were great. Elder Kopischke focused on the importance of sending your kids to seminary, paying tithing, and having an "undivided heart" in the gospel. He told a great story about his son . . . which I'll have to tell you next week.

Sorry this letter's a bit short. We're going to the temple as a zone, and our session starts pretty soon.

I love you all! Have a great week!

Elder Pimentel

The yellow caution sign

My recollection was that Andrea had captioned a similar caution sign (like the one Jon has posted below) with "I'm falling, but I'm fabulous!" A perfect characterization of the picture that makes me laugh out loud whenever I think of it.

Monday, November 17, 2008

From Jon 11/15/2008

Subject: Tsis muaj leejtwg qhia

Nyob zoo again!

Well, the good news is that 100% of our investigators are progressing toward baptism. The bad news is we only have one investigator. I don't remember if I mentioned that Shue is already a member, and has been for many years. Shue and his (cultural) wife, Ia, are done with marriage counciling and are applying for a marriage license, after which they will become legally wed. They both are looking forward to an eternal marriage, so it's pretty safe to say that it won't take very long for Ia to get baptized.
Meanwhile, we are trying to find more people to teach. The St. Paul Hmong New Year is coming up, and we got a booth! It's going to be awesome. We got a spot right by the door where everybody will walk by multiple times. We are loading up on pamphlets, BoMs, and pass-alongs because we are going to be there all 3 days, and there will be about 30,000 Hmong people. We're going to have a DVD player playing church videos like "Finding faith in Christ" and "The Restoration". Methinks this may be the way we replenish our teaching pool.

You got the pictures of the baptism, right? Here's some random other pictures. I had to take a picture of the yellow sign, because as soon as I saw it I thought, "Multi-purpose room!!" It seemed to me more like he was jumping in the air and clicking his heels, rather than slipping and falling. Good times.

Well, keep it up all of you all!

-Elder Moua Ying

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Notes from Sam -- 12 November 2008

Dear family,

Yesterday Elder Stevens and I were invited in by a tracting callback (someone we’d tracted into who had asked us to come by another time). As soon as we came in the door I saw a big book entitled “Unlocking the Bible” and then a copy of the Book of Mormon lying on the hearth on top of some sheets of paper, one of which said “Contradictions” at the top of it. I thought, “Oh, great, another born-again Christian who’s invited us in to convince us that the Book of Mormon is false.” Sure enough, he told us that Joseph Smith was a false prophet and that by following him and preaching his gospel we were being led down into Hell. Elder Stevens actually couldn’t help giggling a bit when he said that, which didn’t go over well. He also thought it was absurd that we were elders in our church already and said there was no way we were “mature Christians” (which the Bible apparently lists as a qualification to be an elder). I was torn about whether to teach and testify of the Restoration as boldly as I could so the Spirit would witness the truth to him and force him to recant or condemn himself or whether to just disengage, avoid contention, and leave as soon as I could. I did bear a pretty simple testimony of Joseph Smith but we ended up following the second tack and getting out fairly quickly without really teaching. As we left I was second-guessing myself and wondering if we should have taken the “smite him with the Spirit” approach, and I realized that I was feeling a bit like Alma in Alma 29 and wanting to proclaim the gospel with the sound of a trump so that people would have to accept it. I also realized that that’s not the way God or the Spirit works. If we had tried to teach the Restoration and force him to feel its truth, we would have had the spirit of contention instead of the Spirit of God and we would have done harm rather than good. Makes me think of Elder Hales’ talk in Conference. Instead, we were able to part on pretty civil terms, and Elder Stevens pointed out that Lawrence (the man who let us in) actually softened noticeably towards the end of our visit as we tried hard not to contend with him. I realized that even though I’d been questioning my actions the whole time we were in his house, we really had been following the Spirit and doing the right thing. It was a strengthening revelation.

What really put the whole experience into perspective, though, was the appointment that immediately followed our visit with Lawrence. It was a lesson to a less-active member named Brother Duxbury who hasn’t been able to go to church for a long time because his health is so bad. I don’t think he had much contact with the church for a long time before Elder Stevens GQed him in Accrington a month or two ago, but he still has a strong testimony and relishes our visits. When we got there he was in bed (because of his poor health) reading his scriptures, and we could tell that he was really looking forward to our appointment. Right away when we sat down he asked if we could give him a priesthood blessing. As we were giving the blessing, I thought how ironic it was that just an hour before we’d been sitting there being told there was no way we could possibly qualify to be elders. It’s funny how shut some people’s eyes can be to the truth and to the true power of the Atonement. I’m really grateful for people like Brother Duxbury who set an example of faith and humility and who are able to feel the full power of the priesthood and the Atonement (the same thing really) in their lives.

We attended ward council on Thursday. I love the members here. They gave us some great feedback on how to get investigators fellowshipped at church. Rather than taking investigators from meeting to meeting ourselves and having people picked out in each meeting to sit by and fellowship them, they suggested we connect the investigators with a single fellowshipper or couple at the beginning of church and let the member(s) be responsible for shepherding them around. In the meantime, we run around finding key priesthood and auxiliary leaders and take them over to the investigators to introduce them. Preach My Gospel kind of suggests this but I’d never read it in quite that way. So it was really helpful to hear the ward’s perspective on it. I’m hoping this will work out well for us.

We got to teach a bunch of university students from Preston yesterday! A whole theology class came down for a tour of the temple (guided by us and the zone leaders), and then they came into the Chorley chapel and we taught the Restoration and answered their questions. Kind of a cool experience.

Thanks for the update on the election. It’s kind of an amazing miracle, I think, that the amendment got as many votes as it did in California. I never would have thought that it would pass. The whole situation with the Church’s involvement does sound really confusing and difficult, though. Elder Stevens heard from his parents that protesters were picketing the LA temple, and that TV advertisement with the missionaries does sound pretty horrible. It’s making me really glad that I’m on a mission in England and not in the middle of my junior year at Stanford, trying to explain the Church’s stand to all my gay friends and acquaintances there. Being a missionary protects you from so much of the storm and confusion of the world – it’s kind of nice.

Everybody’s talking about the election (the presidential bit, at least), over here. Two days after the election, Elder Stevens (an Englishman) and Elder Goerts (a German) went on exchange and tracted a village out near Burnley, and all anybody wanted to talk about with them was the American election! Someone even told Elder Stevens that he/she thought Elder Stevens looked like a “pale Obama.” : ) A compliment, I guess. Elder Stevens wasn’t sure quite how to take it.

Speaking of the perils of being an American in England, we had a crazy experience on a bus the other day. Elder Stevens was sitting two seats in front of me and was chatting with the man in the seat directly in front of me. There was also a man sitting behind me. Our mobile phone rang and I answered it. While I was taking the phone call, the man sitting behind me (who had been drinking) heard my accent, realized I was American, and (when I ended the phone call) confronted me quite belligerently about my presence in England, making reference to American military policy in the Middle East. I did my best to pacify things and end the conversation. Then the man in front of me who’d been talking to Elder Stevens and of course had heard my entire conversation with the inebriated gentlemen turned around and said, in an effort to be supportive, “I love your national anthem.” Of course the guy behind me wasn’t happy about this, and broke in: “What about the British national anthem?” The man in front of me responded that he thought it was rubbish, which started a little shouting match with me stuck right between them. : ) Fortunately, things blew over OK and the bus driver didn’t have to get involved. Good times.

My time is running out. I love you all! Keep me posted!

Elder Pimentel

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Jon 11/8/2008

Subject: Cov dej uas muaj peev xwm kho mob

Nyob zoo!

Things are chilly here again, just like old times. Last year my hands were the coldest part. Hand warmers will help this year, but it might also be good to have better-insulated, more breathable gloves. A problem I ran into with my current gloves is that because they don't breathe, they get really sweaty when I'm biking really hard. Once wet, they insulate about as well as a plastic bag (slight exaggeration added for emphasis). On top of that, when I put them on the next morning...their STILL wet! Eeeew! So I think some breathable, 100 gram insulated gloves will help me keep all of my fingers.

We volunteer once a week at Regions Hospital, and I really enjoy it. I get a fancy extend-a-tag ID badge that magnetically opens the bike cage, and I know three different pass codes. It makes me feel important. We mostly go around to all the floors and deliver free T-shirts to all the patients who will be discharged that day, and we deliver flowers, balloons, and stuffed animals to people. Perks include a $4.50 meal voucher each time for the cafeteria, a free T-shirt of my own, and a free flu shot. I got the flu shot while I was in Employee Health getting a mantoux test, which they require because it's important to know if I have TB. I still don't. I already had one of these done when I got my mission physical, but it has to be within a year, so I needed a new one.

See, Shue (her brother), Ia (Shue's wife), and Pa (See and Shue's sister), all live together with their parents in the same house. The Pa I baptized in January was Pa Her. This is Pa Vang. The Zone Leaders interviewed Pa yesterday, and she is getting baptized today! Yay! I love working with these two sisters. See has always been way excited about the gospel, so when we started working with her last year, Pa didn't seem all that interested next to See's enthusiasm, so we didn't really give Pa a chance. Well, she's interested, and excited to goosh. 'Goosh' is a quick, easy, onomatopoetic verb my MTC district made up to replace the arduous tongue-twister "Ua kev cai raus dej", or "to do the law of immersing in water". It's even harder to say "baptize her", than it is to say "be baptized", so a succinct verb was needed. You can rest in a most assured state that I'monna capture images of this bwessed event.

Lawfyew, Lawfyew!
-Elder Moua Ying

Subject: One mo'

Hello again!

Elder Vang needed to send some pictures home, so we hopped (rode our bikes for 15 minutes) over to another library. Our library limits you to one hour per day, and we used ours already.

The baptism went swimmingly! Someone forgot to close (turn off) the faucet, and the fail-safe drain was clogged, so the water had risen all the way up the stairs to about a quarter inch below the ground by the time we caught it. Hmong people aren't known for height, and we were worried they would have to tread water. The water only came up to their sternums though, and they were able to stand firmly on the font floor. As they entered the font, that 1/4 inch margin quickly inverted. Elder Vang's advanced volume successfully displaced an equal amount of water. Fortunately, most of it cascaded under the door and down the step into the two dressing rooms, which are each equipped with a tile floor and a trusty drain. Unfortunately, only MOST of the water chose that route, the remainder electing instead to sneak under the doors on OUR side to hear the testimonies. :)
The young women were already at the church for volleyball, so they all came to the baptism right afterward, which was really great for helping Pa feel welcome into the branch.

On a clearly related note, I was just now renewing my appreciation for how visual the Hmong language is. Earlier I said something about closing the faucet. I like that. In Hmong you open and close faucets, you light and kill houselights and electronics, you hit pianos and guitars to use them, and touch electronics. Yesterday we were helping a member with her VCR, and Elder Vang said, "Elder Muaj Yeej, you better try---I don't know how to touch this." It made me grin. Since "smoke" is not a verb, you say, "drink tobacco", or more literally, "drink imitation opium" Some things, however, are a little too visual, such as bathroom terms. Very accurate terms, but not very euphemistic. It always makes me realize how little sense English makes. A lot of times in English we say the opposite of what we mean. When we smoke salmon, we apply smoke to it, but when we smoke a cigarette, it applies smoke to us. Cigarettes smoke people to death. Also, an illness can't MAKE you do anything. At least in Hmong, to make someone do something implies that it was your will. Illnesses have no will. That's silly. In Hmong we say, "My illness did toward me to cause coughing". Takes longer, but hey...
-Elder Moua Ying

Monday, November 10, 2008

Notes from Sam -- 5 November 2008

Dear family,

Last week it was freezing cold but we’ve had a nice respite this week. Not much rain either. I am wearing my coat most days though.

Jason and Emma are better every week. Jason wasn’t feeling well on Sunday morning and was thinking of skipping church this week, but Elder Stevens gave him a ring and (as Jason puts it) talked him into going. Once he got there he was glad he had come. They gave us a lift and we were all a little late, so I was feeling a bit stressed, but once I walked into the chapel for priesthood meeting and sat down I just felt great to be in church and forgot all about being stressed. I guess I probably feel that way every week but just don’t recognize it all the time. Yesterday we taught a recent convert who hasn’t been to church for a while about keeping the Sabbath day holy and she mentioned that when she goes to church she always feels “right.” That’s a good way to describe it. I’ve come to feel that it’s a witness that the restored authority of God really is present in the Church. Anyway, Jason and Emma enjoyed church as usual and they actually stayed around for about a half-hour afterwards just chatting with a couple of members. That’s very good to see. They’re working on learning the doctrine and quitting tea and cigarettes right now.

A lot of our appointments have fallen through in the past couple of days, but that’s just given us more opportunities to go finding! We’ve had some great experiences. On Monday I got on a bus and successively invited two men sitting at the front to speak with me, but neither one was interested. The man sitting behind them seemed to be paying attention, so I went to talk to him. He turned out to be a bit drunk, but I chatted with him a bit anyway and he said we were welcome to come around and share more with him. I got his phone number and address. As I walked to the front of the bus to get off, the second man I’d talked to (one of the ones who wasn’t interested) handed me a piece of paper with his name and phone number written on it! Wow! I’m not sure what prompted him to do that, but we’re excited to follow up with him and find out.

We had a really good district meeting yesterday. In district leaders’ council on Saturday, we agreed that our zone focus should be on having a greater sense of urgency about our work. As I thought and sought revelation about the topic this week, I realized that having a sense of urgency has to do with gratitude. If we’re really grateful for everything and every opportunity that the Lord gives us (including opportunities to do sometimes unpleasant things like bus contacting, cleaning the flat, etc.), then we’ll put real effort into using and learning from those opportunities as we go. That’s really what a sense of urgency is, a concern for not wasting the opportunities that we have. I think this is quite relevant to life outside of missionary work too – it makes me think of all those articles in the Ensign about how to make the best of your life even when you’re experiencing trials. Anyway, I focused on that concept in district meeting. I ended up getting pretty excited about gratitude and urgency during the meeting and I think the district caught the vision too. I think we’ll receive a lot of blessings this transfer as we try and live it. I’ve noticed already that I’m more grateful for the opportunity to bus contact and more willing to do it. After all, who else gets to bus contact? I think most missionaries don’t even get the chance the way I do. And there’s really nothing quite like getting on a bus full of people who are just sitting there passively and preaching the gospel to them with energy!

Last preparation day I wrote a response to a letter from a friend that had a number of questions or concerns about the gospel. I’d been dreading responding a bit because I was really worried that I wouldn’t be able to answer the questions satisfactorily. These days I have a lot of confidence in my ability to answer such questions verbally by the Spirit, but writing answers is a different type of thing. Anyway, I finally got around to it, just prayed that I would be able to do OK, and started writing. I ended up answering the questions by referring to scriptures from the Book of Mormon, which worked really well and strengthened my testimony as well. One of the questions was about why an organized church is necessary to help us draw closer to God when spirituality is really about the individual. I referred to the story of the people of Alma in Mosiah 18 and 23, and as I wrote about it I saw really clearly that an organized church IS necessary to help us serve others in the best possible way, and that the Church has given me amazing opportunities to serve others and hence draw closer to God (for example, my mission) that I never could have replicated as a spiritually-inclined individual, even a very charitable and selfless one. Wow! As I was writing, I realized that Elder Stevens at the other end of the table was writing a similar letter to one of his non-member friends. When we finished up our letters and went out to work that night, the Spirit was with us so strongly! I just felt great to be out preaching the gospel and felt myself being guided by the Spirit in everything I said. It just made missionary work a joy. It makes me want to be a really good member missionary when I get home – I get the feeling that there’s possibly even more joy available to members as they work with their friends than there is to us as we work with people we meet. Elder Stevens now wants to write a letter full of testimony to one of us his non-member friends every preparation day. : )

Last week I sent a picture of our zone service project (set up by the zone leaders and the stake public affairs representative as a way of serving the community and of publicizing the missionaries and our work) at Adlington Cemetery. Adlington is a little village near Chorley. Incidentally, it’s the place where my MTC group went tracting when we were in the MTC. It was quite a trip down memory lane to see some of the places I remember from that first day of proper missionary work and think about where I’ve been and how far I’ve come since then . . . Anyway, the project went well. I painted a fence with a few other missionaries, and other people pruned some trees and cleared off the grass. Elder Powrie struck up a conversation with a lady who either worked at the cemetery or was just passing through – she turned out to be a Jehovah’s Witness, and she and Elder Powrie got into a conversation/friendly disagreement about the Bible and gospel doctrine that lasted over half an hour, maybe 45 minutes! They were standing right next to the fence we were painting, so we heard snatches of it all and winced now and then as the conversation dragged on . . . and on . . . and on. : ) Not to cast aspersions on Elder Powrie – I’ve had conversations just as fruitless and frustrating with well-meaning people who are convinced they’re right, though fortunately none of the conversations have lasted that long, I think. I’m glad we can rely on the Spirit to prove the gospel true instead of being left with just our own powers of reason.

Happy Bonfire Night (Guy Fawkes’ Day), by the way! We’re staying inside tonight to do our weekly planning, so (as Elder Stevens puts it) small children won’t set us on fire. : ) Guy Fawkes does some like a pretty benign, if pyromaniacal, family holiday, but I think President is wise to have us indoors. Fireworks have been on sale everywhere for a week or two now, and when we went and saw a recent convert yesterday she had a huge pile of discarded furniture in her yard which will go on the bonfire tonight.

Elder Stevens and I have been eating pretty well. He’s a more ambitious cook than many of my previous companions have been. We’ve done a couple of traditional English fry-ups (eggs, bacon, sausages, tomatoes, mushrooms, and fry bread with baked beans) which have been very tasty if a bit greasy, and we’ve been experimenting with different milkshake recipes (we’re lucky enough to have a blender in our flat). Also we found a very simple, very tasty recipe for brownies. Jason and Emma told us that potato pie is a traditional Guy Fawkes’ dish (must be a Northern thing – Elder Stevens has never heard of it), so we’re going to try and get some of that when we go shopping today; we’re also planning to have a go at making some toffee apples (another Bonfire Night tradition) tonight.

A couple of times in recent weeks we’ve had eggs thrown at us! Once we turned down a side street and one smashed on the fence behind us, and the other day we were on a bus and one smacked right onto my (closed, fortunately) window. I don’t think the second one was aimed at us in particular, but still, I consider it a bit of a mark of honor.

Elder Stevens has a great sense of humor. As part of the programme for new missionaries in the EMM, he had to fill out a sample baptismal recommend. When I did that in Barrow, we just imagined that one of our investigators was getting baptized and filled it out that way, but Elder Stevens chose instead to fill one out for the Queen. The other day while we were walking through a rough council estate some kids were calling us names, and Elder Stevens said, “Sometimes eugenics seems like a good idea, doesn’t it?” : ) I think you all would get along with him well. He’s been very patient with everyone assuming that he’s American. So far at least. : )

Hey! I just heard this morning (from an old lady on the bus and from a member who rang us earlier) that Obama won the election. I didn’t even really know that it was going on yesterday (although at least one man mentioned it after hearing my American accent). Its funny how disconnected I am out here . . . I felt a little bad that I didn’t vote because it is kind of a historic moment, but I really don’t know much about the candidates would have been voting more for the thrill of doing it than for the good reasons of an informed citizen. Anyway I’m curious to see how things change.

Music – we’ve had a new policy change where President has to check and OK all CDs other than Mormon Tabernacle Choir and church hymns. Maybe wait to send more classical stuff until I’ve gotten what I already have checked. Please, if we have Mormon Tabernacle Christmas music, though, send that – I don’t know how soon President can check my Christmas music.

Elder Pimentel

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Notes from Sam -- 29 October 2008

Ryan Ormerod's baptism

Elders McIntosh, Peterson, and Key on a District Hike in Blackburn

Dear family,

I’m staying in Blackburn with Elder Stevens! As expected. Elder Stevens is really happy about it, which I find pretty flattering. I would have enjoyed the novelty being transferred and exploring a new area, but I think staying with Elder Stevens will be a lot better for me. I had similar feelings when Elder Adams and I stayed in Manchester for three months – when transfer calls came and I was staying, I was a bit disappointed, but over the next six weeks I was able to learn and grow really significantly as a missionary and develop a much tighter friendship with Elder Adams. So I think there’s potential for this next transfer to be really great.

Elder McIntosh and Elder Peterson are staying in Chorley 2, and they’re also happy about the way it’s worked out. Elder Powrie is staying too, so our district is exactly the same as last transfer except for Elder Key, who is going home and will be replaced by our new zone leader, Elder Dumitrescu. He is from Romania(!). I’m pretty rusty on my Romanian, but I do remember a few handy phrases from “Talk Now: Romanian”: “Ajutor!”, “Chemati salvarea,” and “Cineva mi-a furat pasaportul” (respectively, “Help!”, “Send for an ambulance,” and “Someone stole my passport”). Maybe I can make some polite small-talk with Elder Dumitrescu at district leaders’ council. : )

Jason and Emma are doing really, really well. On Friday a member invited us and them over for tea and we taught a lesson afterwards. We explained baptism and the law of chastity and how they need to be married before they can be baptized. Apparently Emma has always wanted to get married – Jason is the one who’s had the concern about it. And during the lesson, he told us that all of us a sudden he’d felt really strongly that he should get married! Jason and Emma both have such good hearts and such a strong desire to do the right thing, and Jason in particular has been really open to the Spirit the whole time we’ve taught. They came to church on Sunday and had a good experience again. I think Jason is still struggling a little bit with the idea of marriage, though. The other day we stopped by and talked to him at the door and he asked if we could pray with him that he could have strength to go forward and do what he has to. They’re such a great family. We’re praying for them.

The new quality gospel conversation key indicator is helping us a lot. I’ve had some trouble being excited about finding new investigators over the past few months, but now that I have something to measure how well I do at finding every day I’m more motivated to really push myself. It’s been great for our area, too. Elder Stevens and I have been blessed with 5 new investigators in just the past two days! I’m looking forward to following up with all these people and finding more.

President Robert C. Oaks, our Area President, came to our zone conference. He and Sister Oaks gave some great training. President Oaks has a very deep and booming voice which is really fun to listen to. He focused a lot on the importance of the Holy Ghost in his training, and compared the gift of the Holy Ghost to a brand-new Porsche. He had us imagine waking up on our sixteenth birthday with the Porsche sitting on the driveway, getting in and firing it up (he even did the sound effects for revving the engine) – and then driving it to the garage, parking it, and just going about our daily business. Of course we wouldn’t do that! We’d go out and test it out. So since we all have the Holy Ghost, a gift even greater than a new Porsche, it only makes sense for us to use it as much as possible. Since zone conference I’ve been working on relying on the Spirit more – I realized I’d gotten into the habit of relying on my own skills and experience (which is a bit easier than following the Spirit sometimes) – and it’s worked. I’ve been a lot happier about myself and missionary work in general. We really do have the Holy Ghost! And when we use it, it really is even better than having a Porsche.

I'm out of time. : ( Sorry! More great stuff next week.

Elder Pimentel

Saturday, November 1, 2008

From Jon, 1 November 2008

Subject: Kuv tau raug rov xa dua

Nyobitty zoo! (Pronounced the Mika way this time)

As you have deduced by your powerful reasoning skills, I have indeed been transferred back to a place with a Saturday preparation day. I now reside once more in my old training grounds, Frogtown! My companion is Elder Richard Vang (again). Since Elder Choua Vang just finished his mission, and the new Elder is a Lo, There is only one Elder Vang left. We all miss Elder Choua Vang; he is quite a character.

Halloween was really fun. On Wednesday I was still in La Crosse for our ward's Halloween party, then on Thursday we went to the Twin Cities 2nd branch Halloween party. On Halloween day we had weekly planning, so we didn't do very much proselyting, and we had to be inside by 6:00 pm. We all went to Little Ceasar's and each got our own large pizza (mine was the Three Meat Treat), and we had our own party sittin' around a campfire (candles), swappin' manly stories, and in the mornin' I was going to make waffles, but we don't have a waffle iron. We actually had a really good time though. Oh, I just realized that I said I was living in Frogtown, but that isn't specific enough because the Eastside team and the frogtown team live together in Frogtown. Frogtown is my area, so I'm on bike this winter too.

I did get that package, by the way. Thanks! The groovy pencil is tubular in a grand fashion. If you're thinking of Christmas, I could use some hand warmers for when it gets sub-zip. Also I deeply desire Josh Groben's Christmas album, "Noel". That man...good voice. We can only listen to Christmas music from November to the end of the year, so that's all I'm going to listen to. Also if there is a Mikey Bubbles (Michael Buble) Christmas album---that one too. Other than dunno. Oh, my favorite candies include Snickers, Take 5, Nutragious, Fastbreak, Peanut M&Ms, Junior Mints, and Butterfinger. I like pretty much all others too, but I'm getting a little burned out on Reeses cups.

Here in Frogtown "we" just had a baptism last week, and will confirm her this Sunday. She's a middle aged lady named Yee. About a year ago when I was serving here, I invited a girl named See to be baptized, and she accepted, but her parents wouldn't allow it because their son joined our church many years ago and went less-active and began to live a lazy life of sin. See eventually got permission by promising to go to church every week and to only marry a Mormon. Now See's sister, Pa, is about ready for baptism. We're shooting for maybe a week or two. By the way, that wayward son reactivated, and his wife is getting close to baptism. Hurrah for Israel!

Gotta go! Love ya!

-Elder Moua Ying

From Jon 23 October 2008

Subject: Huab cua no mentsis

Nyob zoo tsev neeg!
I appreciate the news about the sick cebu. Hang in there little guy!

La Crosse sure knows how to do October. Halloween is huge here, and most houses are decked out quite elaborately. The kids don't trick-or-treat at night though---they go in the afternoon. The weather is also in the holiday spirit with crisp air, brisk breezy nights, both wet and crunchy leaves, and occasional fog. It's windbreaker and stretchy gloves season indeed.

We mostly bike, but we share a car with the North Side Elders and we use it every so often to go see Hmong families that live out of our normal area yet are under our jurisdiction, or to visit referrals who live an hour away by car. We do not have a GPS, though that would be very handy for finding those referrals. Some of those streets are so remote that they don't have a map for that area. The Wibergs are a senior couple in our district. They have a GPS, and I showed them how to change it to an English accent. Theirs doesn't have an Australian option, unfortunately.

Richard B. is doing wonderfully, and his testimony is growing all the time.

Lori's progress had slowed for a while, but now she doing better. We had a terrific lesson with her in the Beckners' home, and watched "Search for Truth" which touched her deeply. We also watched the talk "It's true, isn't it?" by Elder Anderson (I think). She made a major breakthrough by attempting to pour out her soul unto the Father, as opposed to dutifully praying to Mary, various other saints, and Jesus. She said she felt really close to the Father when she did that, and it kind of scared her. She asked if she should try praying directly to the father more often, to which I replied, "Yes." As I explained to her how much her Heavenly Father loves her and cares about her individually, I received a witness of how very true that is, and I re-realized it very clearly.

I don't know if Daniel has reached a decision about trek, but I'm REALLY glad I went. It was an incredible spiritual experience, and really helped build my testimony.

We had a marvelous stake conference. Really, really, good. I took a bunch of notes.

Good luck to everybody with everything to which they are up!

Remember to get off that smokestack and eat your The Chekt!

-Elder Moua Ying