Things are great here in Newcastle. We’re getting to know the ward a little better, and they are great. On Sunday we had a meeting with Bishop Meir to go through the ward list and identify the part-member families and less-actives we should visit. Before the end of the meeting the bishop told us something his counsellor, Brother Evans had told him. We’d been out teaching with Brother Evans, we'd walked out of our appointment to go to the car, and on the way one of us had run over to a couple walking down the street and talked to them. Bishop said, "It's great to have missionaries in the ward . . . who love doing missionary work." It was pretty great to hear that, especially from the bishop. Later that evening we got a referral from the bishop, a member family with children who are over the age of 8 but haven't been baptized yet. We're teaching them on Saturday. Member trust is great!
Another cool experience: on Saturday we had some finding time and no planned activities. We listened for what the Spirit was telling us to do, and Elder Garcia felt like we should go and work in a place across our area where we'd tried by on a potential investigator before. We went there and tried the potential investigator, and he let us in! We got to teach him and his two friends the Restoration. Miracles!
I mentioned a big family that we taught last week (a mum, three kids, and two friends). We taught them again this week and the dad was home as well. He seems like a really spiritual guy. Two of them came to sacrament meeting on Sunday, one of the kids (Jake) and one of the friends (Vanessa). I was a bit worried during the meeting that they'd be a bit bored, but afterwards Vanessa said it was really inspirational and she doesn't know why she doesn't go to church more often, and Jake said this church was different from the others he'd been to because it was more bright and happy. We're really excited about the whole family and hope they will all come to church next week.
Chris is doing well. He is making plans to move out. He visited the temple and the LDS bookstore in Chorley and bought a bunch of Mormon Tabernacle choir CDs and a bunch of other paraphernalia. His girlfriend, who was previously not interested in the gospel at all, watched the new Emma Smith movie (which he bought) and really liked it, and it looks like we may have a shot at teaching her now. Yay! I think we'll visit Chris on Christmas and watch some Christmas movies with him.
I have some more stuff to say but no time. I'll either write you a letter about it (we'll have time over Christmas) or tell you about it on the phone!
This week our Christmas activities have really gotten started. Last Thursday was a special Christmas zone conference where we all went to Chorley for a short conference, lunch in the temple, a temple session, and a viewing of the movie Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration in the MTC. President Bullock was in our session, and when we went into the celestial room he gave each one of us a hug. Our whole zone rode up to Chorley and back in a chartered coach (since we're so far away). It was a nice event.
Yesterday Elder Garcia and I attended Elder Drago's district meeting. The district is composed of
Crewe (Elder Rosenberg, who is Finnish, and Elder Breisch, a big, solid Utahn)
Congleton (my old companion Elder Empey and a dynamic young English missionary named Elder Perry)
Stoke (Elder Drago and his companion Elder Hernandez, a quiet and thoughtful missionary from Idaho)
Elder Garcia and me
the Newcastle senior sisters (Sister Kala, who is from Virginia, and Sister Smith from somewhere in Utah). The senior sisters are great. They're hard workers and they have a lot of patience to put up with all of us elders.
After the meeting, we had district lunch (pizza that we had delivered to the chapel) and we went down into Newcastle town centre and sang Christmas carols for a few hours. I thought it might be awkward, but it was a lot of fun. I got to conduct the carolers for most of the time. While most of us sang, two missionaries would be walking around near us talking to people - we took turns singing and GQing. A couple of members joined us for a bit, as well. It reminded me a little bit of playing Christmas songs in the freezing cold in the French Quarter on Christmas Eve. Good times.
After caroling, Elder Drago had organized a little activity where the different district members talked about their family Christmas traditions. Elder Garcia told how the wise men come and deliver presents on the night of January 5, and the other district members shared some of their traditions as well.
I'll have to write you a letter or tell you over the phone about the other traditions and the other great things I was going to write about, because I'm out of time again! I'll look forward to speaking to you tomorrow evening!