Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Notes from Sam -- 7 January 2009

Christmas dinner for Elder Pimentel, 2008
Loyal Stanford student pans an unwelcome Christmas gift

Dear family,

We’ve faced some opposition this week. Tracy and Ian’s family (the big family of five plus two friends who sit on lessons) dropped us, telling us they don’t need a church with apostles and prophets, and we’ve also been completely unable to contact Chris Rainbow since Saturday night, which is very unusual (we could always reach him on his mobile before). I’m not depressed about it, though - that line from “God Speed the Right” describes my feelings: “Ne’er despairing/ Though defeated . . .” We were actually fasting for Tracy’s family the evening that they dropped us, and I feel like their phone call was almost an answer to our prayers. Evidently they lacked the real intent to progress and be baptized at this moment, but they’re in our area book and in the Lord’s hands now, and when they are ready they will have another chance to come unto Christ. In the meantime, our minds and planners are now freer to find those who will progress.

I’ve been thinking a lot about miracles lately. Elder Garcia talks about them all the time and he says he’s experienced them more frequently in this area than he has in any other part of his mission, almost one every day. As he’s pointed this out, I’ve noticed more and more that singular and wonderful things, even just small ones, do happen to us all the time when we are working hard. It makes me think of that scripture in Moroni 7: “. . . has the day of miracles ceased? . . . Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for it is by faith that miracles are wrought[.]” My faith has grown a lot as I’ve seen and expected miracles.

Elder Garcia is particularly focused on ensuring that we receive miracles while on exchange to build the faith of our missionaries. We went on exchange with the Telford elders yesterday, and in the morning before we started the exchange Elder Garcia told me to pray for a miracle. I was a little nervous about it but I prayed for one with Elder Peterson. Later that evening, Elder Peterson and I were headed to an appointment that was a bit iffy (we’d been ringing the potential investigator’s house phone and he wasn’t picking up) and I felt like we shouldn’t be going there. So I pulled over so we could seek some revelation about where to go and what to do. Right as we were about to say a prayer, I saw a man walking down the street pushing a stroller, and I felt like we should talk to him. Elder Peterson jumped out of the car and hailed him. It turned out the man was named Steve and that he and his partner had just had their first child (the baby in the stroller) five months ago. We set up an appointment with him to go and teach him! Yes! Then we got back in the car and prayed for guidance about what to do with the next half-hour. I felt like we should stay in that same area and Elder Peterson felt like we should street contact, so we left the car in the same spot and started walking up the street looking for people to talk to. There weren’t many people out, but after a couple of blocks I saw a door that I felt we should knock on. The man behind the door spoke to us for a while but wasn’t willing to set up an appointment despite our persistence. When he finally shut the door Elder Peterson suggested we knock on the next one, so we did. We discovered a really lovely family who had been prepared to receive us! We spoke to Debbie, the mum, and learned that she believes in God but that her husband (who wasn’t in) isn’t sure and had a lot of questions. She wants him to find faith, and she also feels bad that one of her children hasn’t been baptized yet and wants him to be. She was interested in the Restoration and offered to give us her phone number so we could ring and confirm a time when she and her husband would both be free so we could share more with them. Wow! We were a foot off the ground as we went back to the car to say a prayer of thanks, and when we went to coordination meeting right afterward we had to tell everyone there about our experience. It’s amazing what the Lord will give to you if you just ask for it and rely on the Spirit.

By the way, this experience says a lot about Elder Peterson. I think it’s significant that he and I received different parts of the total revelation necessary to find Debbie last night, and I’m really grateful for his sensitivity to the Spirit. He’s a very young missionary (in the field since August) from the same town in the Idaho Falls area as Elder Adams. They went to the same high school and knew each other. Elder Peterson reminds me a lot of Elder Adams, actually – pure, innocent, full of faith, very American. : ) President Jacobsen described Elder Adams once as “without guile” – that’s a good way of summarizing it. Maybe that’s a quality that they just cultivate particularly well in Idaho. : ) It makes me want to serve with some more Idahoans.

There are some great benefits to serving with Elder Garcia, though, including all the Spanish holiday traditions I get to take part in. Apparently in Spain at midnight on New Year’s Eve you have to eat 12 grapes, one for each stroke of the clock. President Bullock gave permission for missionaries to stay up until midnight, so we did and we ate the grapes! Elder Garcia took a great video. Before the end of the transfer I’m going to try and burn you a CD full of all the great videos he’s shot so far. Another Spanish tradition is opening presents not on Christmas Day but on King’s Day (January 6). Elder Garcia opened a few on Christmas but waited until King’s Day for most of them – I saved a Christmas present until King’s Day so I could join in on the fun. When I got up on the 6th and went downstairs first to exercise, I noticed that Elder Garcia had left three cookies and a mug of milk for the Regus Magus (sp?). When he came downstairs a few minutes later, he saw that sure enough, the kings had come because the milk was gone and so were two and a half of the cookies. : ) I took photos from the exercise bike while he opened his presents.

As I mentioned last week, I’m quite excited about Uncle Jay’s calling. I actually know two of the missionaries who will still be serving in his mission when he arrives: Elder Victor Zickler and Elder Felix Foerster, both of whom were in my MTC group. A couple of the other German missionaries in the MTC were from the Berlin mission, and a few of the missionaries I’ve known in this mission are from there as well. I mentioned Elder Ritter last week – he’s being trained in the zone right now and I went on exchange with him a couple of weeks ago. He told me that he will definitely meet Uncle Jay at some point when he goes home (at a stake conference at some point) and that he will be able to go up to him and say, “I served with your nephew!” : ) I love how the Church is such a small world sometimes.

We got snow again this week! It arrived early Sunday(?) morning and is still here. This is my first time ever to drive in snow, but luckily it hasn’t been too deep or too icy. Today Elder Garcia and I are going down to Telford to hike up a mountain (the English word for large hill) called the Wrekin. Telford is just inside Shropshire, which reputedly a pretty scenic area, so I’m excited for the views that we’ll get of snow-covered landscapes. We’re going with the whole Wrekin district. I’ll probably be mentioning their names a lot for the rest of the transfer, so let me tell you a bit more about them:

Shrewsbury: Elder Woolsey from St. George and Elder Wheat from Bournemouth (south English coast). They like to joke around a lot, and we should have a good time when we go on exchange with them this week.

Wrekin: Elder Davies (Mesa, AZ) and Elder Ritter (near Leipzig in Germany). I think I’ve mentioned them both before – Elder Davies is a great district leader, one of the most charitable and down-to-earth people I know, and Elder Ritter is a great young missionary, very serious and very hard-working.

Telford: Elder Peterson (Ammon, ID) and Elder Parker (Las Vegas). Elder Peterson I’ve already mentioned. He’s training Elder Parker, who is a good young missionary. Like the Shrewsbury elders, he’s a bit of a joker.

Stafford: Sister Johnson (Utah – Tremonton, I think?) and Sister Huittinnen (Finland). They’re a really great companionship, both very quiet people but really hard-working and effective.

We’re excited to get to hang out with them today and have some fun. Hopefully I’ll have some nice pictures from the hike next week.

I love being a missionary! Just the other day I was street contacting near Newcastle Town Center and I stopped a girl who said she didn’t really believe in God because nobody had been able to prove that He existed. I explained to her how the Book of Mormon is an evidence that God exists and provides a way to gain a personal witness. When I’d finished, she acknowledged that what I said made sense and said, “I’m more convinced [that God does exist] now.” That was pretty meaningful to me – just by teaching and bearing testimony, I was able to help increase someone’s faith. That’s something of eternal significance. And it’s what I get to do full-time! How great is that?

Elder Pimentel

P.S. Thanks to everyone for the lovely Christmas presents! I'm enjoying the great MoTab music, my personal copy of the Conference Ensign, and the hot chocolate in particular this week.

P.P.S. The photo is of me and Elder Garcia with the Wrekin district, outside the lovely Wrekin chapel. L to R: Me, Elder Parker, Elder Woolsey, Elder Garcia, Elder Wheat, Sister Johnson, Sister Huittinnen, Elder Ritter, Elder Peterson, and Elder Davies.

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