Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Notes from Sam -- 17 December 2008

These are all from Accrington. Two of the shots are from when we had snow (that was about two weeks ago now), one is a nice sunset (we've gotten to see a lot of them in the past week or two since the sun sets by 4:30 PM), and the other is me with Elder Farrant, who was assistant to the President and just went home on the 10th. A great missionary. Notice my very short haircut - Elder Stevens wanted to try cutting his own hair so we borrowed the zone leaders' clippers and I shaved my own down as well. It's grown out a little more now, thank goodness - I don't really like it when it's that short. : )

Dear family,

I’ve got a lot to tell you about!

Our main investigator here is a great man named Chris ..... He’s had an amazing life involving even more travelling and unusual experiences than mine, including working as a coal miner, living on a boat, wandering around India for ten(?) years and living in several other countries including Australia and Spain. The missionaries stopped him about a month(?) ago as he was walking somewhere right after his mum’s funeral, actually carrying the box with her ashes in it. When the missionaries told him about the Plan of Salvation, he felt like he couldn’t turn away such an obvious sign and invited them to his home to teach him. He now has a really solid testimony of the gospel and a great desire to be baptized and spends hours reading the Book of Mormon every day. His only challenge is that he needs to move out of his (female) housemate’s flat before he can be baptized and that’s going to be very difficult for him to do for a variety of reasons. We have a lot of faith in him and in the Lord to provide a miracle for him, and we’ve set a baptismal date with him of January 17th. We’re praying for him a lot.*

The Newcastle Ward is great. We didn’t meet any of the members in our first couple of days, but fortunately Saturday evening was the ward Christmas party. We had walked in and started talking to a few members when they passed around a few sheets of paper with “Favorite Farmyard Animal” at the top and a place to write five random numbers below 20 on the bottom. Elder Garcia and the members we were sitting with didn’t take the paper at our table, so I grabbed it and filled it out. It turned out this was part of a game: when someone at the front of the room read out one of your numbers, you had to stand up and make the sound of your farmyard animal, and as soon as all 5 of your numbers had been called out, you had to run into the middle of the room and make a rooster noise. Sure enough, my numbers got called out one by one and I ended up getting called into the middle to do a rooster impression. So the first things most of the members of the ward heard me say were sheep and rooster noises. : ) Kind of an unusual introduction to the ward. Fortunately the ward members have a great sense of humor and the experience broke the ice for us. The next day at church I ended up giving a talk and playing the piano in sacrament meeting and Primary, so I guess the damage wasn’t too great. : ) Since then we’ve had our ward coordination meeting, and everyone is really excited to help us. I think we’ll have great support this transfer for all our work.

Some amazing finding experiences from this week:

1. Last Friday Elder Garcia and I spent the whole day inside, with zone leaders’ council all day and planning all evening. But the Crewe elders had given us a referral for someone named Zack who lived in our area, so on Friday evening I rang him. His mum answered and when I explained who we were she told us he wasn’t home. I arranged to call back when he would be in and was about to hang up when she said, “So what can you offer me?” I was a bit surprised, but I used the Power Statement about the Restoration to briefly explain our message and I testified that it was true. When I asked her if we could come and share more about it with her, she was really open and agreed to an appointment on Sunday morning. A quality gospel conversation over the phone! Better yet, when we went round on Sunday morning (with our ward mission leader), we found not just Zack and his mum Tracy but four other people, all of whom participated in the lesson and became new investigators! We’re seeing most of them again tomorrow night and they said they’d come to church on Sunday. Yay!
2. On Monday night I was on exchange with Elder Breisch, a great missionary who’s serving in Crewe right now. We’d just taught a lesson and weren’t sure what to do, so we got in the car and said a prayer to know where to go. I felt a bit like we should stay in the area we were in and work there, so we got out of there to go tract. Right as I did, a man walked up, so I started talking to him. He agreed to meet with us and we set up an appointment. Just as I finished speaking to him another lady walked by and we spoke to her too and set up another appointment with her and her family! It’s amazing to see how the Lord guides us to people who are ready to listen when we make sure to ask for his help.
3. Right before coordination meeting last night, we stopped by Tracy and Zack’s house to make contact with them. We had about twenty minutes left before our meeting. We walked across the street and Elder Garcia talked to a man there and set up an appointment with him! We still had time, so we decided to tract the street, and we went and knocked on a door. The man inside was named Jeff and he let us in for five minutes! We taught him a quick lesson and then went off to coordination. We should be seeing him on Saturday night. Miracles!

I don’t have much time to talk about our zone, but I love it. Our two district leaders are Elder Drago (serving in Stoke) and Elder Davies (serving in Wrekin), both amazing missionaries. We had district leaders’ council with them on Saturday (see the picture) and focused on the importance of having quality gospel conversations and committing people for baptism. They were both really humble and ready to catch the vision, and already their districts are doing great things. I want to tell you more about them but I’m about out of time.

Zone leaders’ council was last Friday. It was great, a lot like district leaders’ council but with the difference that President Bullock involved us directly in making decisions for the mission. I felt President Bullock’s love and trust for us in a much bigger way than I have in the past, and I felt really united with the other zone leaders. The system of church government really is inspired.

You can call me on that number for Christmas, no problem. Probably aim to talk to me around 3 PM English time (10 AM Florida time?). I’ll send you one more email hopefully with some more information, but if not that should work fine.

Elder Pimentel

Hey! I got some more computer time.

I wanted to tell you more about our amazing zone, starting with our two rockstar district leaders. Elder Drago is kind of a legend in the mission. This is is fifth transfer (making seven months) in Stoke-on-Trent, which is the area right next to ours (and more or less in the same city - Stoke and Newcastle are a bit like Dallas and Fort Worth). He is from Frankfurt, Germany, but he is half-Italian and speaks Italian as well as German and English. He turns 28 this month and has spent a couple of years in the German army and mostly completed a degree in film. He has only been out as long as Elder Adams but has been completely on fire since then and has been baptizing non-stop. I bet he's already taught more lessons than I have. To top it off, he's a really big guy. So even though he is really humble and friendly, it's pretty intimidating to be his leader. I'm looking forward to going on exchange with him so I can learn how he runs his area.

Elder T. Davies, our other district leader (not to be confused with Elder J. Davies, my old district leader in Manchester South), is from Mesa, Arizona. He's serving in Wrekin with a German missionary named Elder Ritter. He's a really happy person with a great sense of humor, and I love speaking to him on the phone at night. At the end of our district leaders' council on Saturday, right after we'd talked all about dating people for baptism, he asked me and Elder Garcia to do a role-play of dating an investigator for baptism. Elder Garcia (who played the missionary) did a great job. That evening Elder Davies told us that right after district leaders' council, he and Elder Ritter had gone to an appointment with one of their best investigators and dated him and his wife for baptism just as Elder Garcia had demonstrated! The investigators told him that they'd been wanting to be baptized and had just been waiting for the missionaries to give them a date. I love missionary work!

There are a lot more really great missionaries in the zone, and I'll try to tell you some more about them as the transfer progresses. A lot of them I still don't know very well myself.

Elder Garcia and I are looking for a new flat, so my address may change in the coming weeks. But for now go ahead and send post to 2 Hill Street. We actually live a few doors down from a great member family who have invited us over for Christmas dinner! We have another invite for New Year's Eve, and we're definitely going to have somewhere to go on Christmas Eve (President Bullock is going to make arrangements to get all the missionaries in the mission fed on Christmas day and Christmas Eve). Also, the whole zone leader council (including Elder Garcia and me) have been invited to a Christmas dinner at the mission home on the 23rd with the Bullocks and their various children who will be visiting for Christmas. So it doesn't look like I'll need to order a kebab next week. : )

Elder Garcia is a great missionary. I've been most impressed by how much faith he has. I can see that to be a really great missionary and a really great leader, I need to strengthen my faith a lot. Fortunately, I'm going to have plenty of chances to do that this transfer.

I love you all! Merry Christmas!

Elder Pimentel

*Grandma Bay, you mentioned you’d be happy to put the names of our investigators on the temple prayer roll. Chris ... has a special need for prayers right now – I’d appreciate it if you could put his name down.

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