I had a couple of great experiences this past week. One of them was with James ----. He'd been taught by missionaries before our arrival in Newcastle, and we'd seen him about three times before last week - all of those lessons had been quite frustrating because he shared a lot about his life and we were unable to focus the lessons on the important doctrines. Last Monday, however, we went in and boldly stated our purpose to help him be baptized. By clearly explaining our goal, we found out that he did have a desire to be baptized and that he was just waiting until his cancer treatment finished on Friday to make a firm commitment. Medical reports hadn't yet indicated that the cancer was gone, apparently, but James told us he felt that it was. We came back on Friday (after James' hospital visit) with a good member and had a great lesson. James told us that sure enough, the cancer was completely gone. He also told us about what seemed to be a spiritual experience he'd had during our last lesson. The Spirit was strongly present and I felt a lot of love for James. Later that night he came to a ward social and had a good experience; lots of members met him and have been talking to us about him since. Unfortunately he got sick and didn't make it to church and he hasn't accepted a baptismal date yet, but he seems very committed to investigating the church, and we're excited to see what happens with him.
Another spiritual moment for me this week had to do with serving the missionaries in my zone. Every Monday night Elder Garcia and I ring the assistants to the President and report on how our zone's doing. On Monday I was speaking with Elder Frogley (one of the assistants) and he asked me what our zone goal for the week was. We hadn't really identified a specific goal for the week, but Elder Frogley and I talked about it and we decided we needed to focus on getting more investigators to sacrament meeting this week. Then Elder Frogley asked me what we were going to do to achieve the goal, and he helped me make some plans. After the phone call, I thought a lot about what needed to happen to help the missionaries achieve that goal (mostly specific follow-up from the leaders), and I spent some of my study the next morning preparing a training to share with the district leaders to help them understand and transmit our focus. That night I had a conference call with the district leaders and shared the training with them. We do a conference call every week and I've shared short things with the district leaders before, but Elder Garcia was away this time and so this was my first time planning and presenting the whole call by myself. I was quite nervous about it right beforehand but the call ended up going really well. Both the district leaders were receptive to the plans I suggested and they shared great insights about the importance of getting people to church. By the end of the phone call, I felt really united with them and confident about making great things happen this week. While I'd initially felt embarrassed when Elder Frogley asked me about a goal I'd never set, I ended up doing a lot more and feeling a lot better as a leader because of his suggestions. I think service in the Church must often work like this - it's one thing to go through the motions of your calling and feel like you're doing a good job, but your service is so much more rewarding and meaningful when you take more active responsibility for your work (as Elder Frogley helped me do) and focus on really making things better. I hope I can continue to take that kind of responsibility in all the things the Lord entrusts me with, so I can receive the blessings he wants me to have.
We've had tons and tons of snow! On Monday it snowed almost non-stop from late morning until after we got in at night. It was great! So much better than the warmer-weather precipatory alternative. It was a little hairy to drive in the freshly-fallen snow (it's the first time I've ever driven in a snowstorm), but luckily I happened to be on exchange with Elder Rosenberg, a very calm, very patient Finnish missionary. He knew all about driving in snow!
I'm short on time today. But I still love you all just as much.