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!