It's been an eventful couple of weeks. I realized yesterday that our teaching pool has changed almost completely since we got to this area. All of the people we taught regularly in our first week or two in Newcastle have dropped us. Unfortunately this includes Chris Rainbow, who skipped his appointment and does not answer our phone calls. We're pretty sad about this, but we've really done all we can. Chris knows exactly what he needs to do to repent and be baptized, and it's entirely up to him now to change what he needs to.
Luckily, though, all these people who dropped us have been replaced with new ones! In the past two days in particular, we have been blessed with five new investigators! On Monday we taught (or tried to teach) a lesson to a Chinese family who speak almost no English. Despite the language barrier they seemed really open to our visits. They are a great family with two of the cutest kids ever (one must be about a year old and the other one about three). At our return appointment on Thursday we'll hopefully have a Chinese-speaker with us.
The people we taught yesterday are also really great. One of them is an Eritrean lady named Wabit(sp?). Elder Garcia stopped her on the street at about 4:40 PM yesterday. She told him that she'd been going through a really hard time and felt like Satan was trying to overcome her, but that she'd felt much more peace as Elder Garcia started speaking to her about Christ. She asked for him to pray for her, and he arranged for us to come and visit her at 5 PM. We had a fellowshipper coming with us at 6 PM, so we just jumped in the car and picked him up an hour early so we could teach her. We had to cut the lesson a bit short, but she said she felt peace from our message. Wabit has 4 kids (ages 10,9,7, and 3 I think), and hopefully we're going to get to teach them too!
The other person we taught yesterday, a 15-year-old named Marcus, was even more prepared. Elder Garcia stopped him on Sunday and he told Elder Garcia that while he believed in God, he was really confused about how to worship him because there were so many churches in the world. He also said he didn't think you could find the right church just by visiting them all and learning about their beliefs, because you'd just get even more confused that way. So he was quite interested in the message of the Restoration. We brought Aidan Meir, the bishop's 19-year-old son, to teach him with us and we had a perfect lesson. When we taught about apostasy and asked Marcus what he would do if he found himself in the midst of the apostasy, he said, "I guess I'd just pray to God and ask him to lead me." When we finished the lesson and asked him if he had any questions, he said, "No, I just want to go and read this book," touching his copy of the Book of Mormon. Aidan was the best fellowshipper ever, getting to know Marcus, inviting him to the youth sports day, and testifying with power. We're way excited about helping Marcus find the truth!
The rest of the zone is having amazing success, too. Last week we did the baptismal interviews for a family the Wrekin elders have been teaching, a couple with two little kids. I got to interview the husband, and he is one of the most solid people I have ever seen preparing for baptism. He explained without batting an eyebrow that in order to keep the Sabbath day holy he'd felt he couldn't employ anyone to work on Sunday and had made changes to his business that had caused him to lose 24,000 pounds a year. No doubt about his real intent! He and his family are so excited to be sealed in the temple. Tonight I'm interviewing another young couple in the Stoke area who I'm told are even more golden than Wrekin's investigators. Missionary work is so amazing!
Last week Elder Garcia and I went down to the hinterlands of the zone to go on exchange with Elders Woolsey and Wheat in Shrewsbury and Newtown (they live in Shrewsbury Ward but also cover the Newtown Branch). Shrewsbury is a really cool place, a real medieval town and apparently a significant destination. Elder Garcia and I decided that both of us would stay in the area (in part because it's so far from Newcastle), so Elder Garcia stayed right in Shrewsbury with Elder Woolsey and I went to Newtown with Elder Wheat. Newtown is the southernmost part of the mission - it is a tiny branch (about 8-10 active members) centered in a tiny town way out in rural Wales. Ironically, it is geographically one of the largest units in the mission! Quite a unique place. Elder Webb served in Shrewsbury for six months and covered Newtown as well for part of that time, and he'd told me a lot of stories about the area when we served together in Blackpool. It was exciting to get to see some of the places and meet some of the people he'd talked about! Newtown is a beautiful place and the weather there on Friday was wonderful. I especially enjoyed meeting President Briggs, Newtown's rockstar branch president. I get the sense he and his family are the only thing holding the branch together. Before we left his home, he pointed at a hill we could see from his window and said that he felt someday there would be a temple there. He's a man of faith.
Next week is transfers. It's quite likely Elder Garcia and I will stay, which I'm really happy about. This transfer has gone by too fast for me. Just in case, though, you can send post to the mission office this week.
I wish I could put my Uncle Jim memories in this message but I'm out of time again. : ( I'm worried that I'm pushing the limits of my missionary dispensation, I'll try and put it in a regular snail mail letter and send it to you today.