Tuesday, March 31, 2009

from Jon 3/31/2009

Subject: Tsab no lig mentsis

Nyob zoo at last!

This has been a very wet week, and remains so. Wet weather, and also a baptism! Wahoo! Yes, that is why I couldn't write on Saturday. Cindy Her, Tou Choua's sister, was baptized Saturday morning by Elder Moua Ying. Yup! I got to perform the ordinance, which is always a special experience. I remembered to bring a spare "Garcia" bottom, but did not bring a spare top, figuring that since I would be standing, I would not get wet above the waist. After the ordinance, I began to make my way to the changing room when I remembered that I was supposed to pull the plug in the font. This font has a chain on the plug, but the plug only comes out part way, and is to be twisted so it stays open. You can't twist it with the chain, so I had to SCUBA down there and do it by hand. While I was changing, I tried to wring out the top in the hope that I might still be able to wear it, but it was still too wet.

Anyway, the baptism went wonderfully, and Cindy's whole family came. While we were changing, papers were passed out for everyone to write their testimonies, and we are compiling them into a binder for Cindy.

Misty and Tou Choua are still working on Mawwage. There is still red tape. Tou Choua's parents are a lot closer to baptism now, and defend the Church and her teachings when their relatives anti them. Nouchi (sounds like "NEW key"), is Tou Choua's little sister, and is loving church and primary. She said she wants to get baptized because, "Cindy is a lot nicer now that she's baptized." We have never seen this supposed not-so-nice side of Cindy, as she has always been the epitome of niceness, but if Nouchi was impressed, then I'm not going to argue. We found out that Cindy's first name is actually "Hlis" (spelled "Hlee" in English), which means "Moon". Cindy is her middle name. Nouchi's name is spelled "Hnub ci" in Hmong, and means "Bright Sun".

How does Tiara like her brother? How does she treat him?

I dunno where Denty will serve...I think it would be neat if he learned an Asian language. Maybe he'll go to California, Laotian speaking. Or maybe he'll go to France, and once he's there the president will assign him to learn Hmong, and teach the Hmong people. Maybe he'll go to Thailand!

We had an Elders quorum activity (don't remember if I told you), to which we were invited. There was lots of food there and a bunch of non-members. One of the big features was Rock Band, about which I have heard so much. Our district leader was debating whether it would be okay just to do the vocals, since that would be singing, and that isn't really "playing" a video game. ;) We mostly stayed in the back with the food and talked to the non-members.

Love you, Love you! Will write toward you later!

-Elder Moua Ying

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Notes from Sam -- 23 March 2009

Dear family,

A sister in our ward just had a serious operation, and at church yesterday they asked for volunteers to go take the sacrament to her. Elder Garcia and I volunteered, so after church we went by and gave the family the sacrament, gave the sister a blessing, and visited with them a little bit. This sister had some amazing spiritual experiences as a result of her (very recent) illness and surgery, and she was just pouring out testimony about the truth and joy of the gospel. It felt good to exercise the priesthood and hear her testimony.

This family lives right around the corner from Chris Rainbow, so after the visit we decided to try by on him before returning to our plans for the rest of the day. Chris had been avoiding us, as I probably mentioned, and we hadn't spoken to him for over two months, but when we knocked by he let us in! We talked about his concerns and challenges and read from the Book of Mormon. He told us that he felt like the Spirit had left, and he agreed that he needed to feed himself spiritually again and come back to church. Right before the end of the lesson Elder Garcia asked if we could sing a hymn. Elder Garcia and I sang "Lord, I Would Follow Thee," one of Elder Garcia's favorite hymns, and it really filled the room. When we had finished, he said, "The Spirit is back." And it really was.

As we got ready to leave, Elder Garcia asked Chris for referrals and he gave us his brother's address. We went there straight from Chris' house and met Robert Rainbow and his wife/partner Diane, as well as their two kids Dominic and Tyler. They invited us in right away and we taught Robert and Diane most of the Restoration. At first the lesson was a bit difficult and got a bit distracted (Diane was baptized in another church and was sharing a lot of her experiences with us), but when we got to the First Vision Elder Garcia invited them to close their eyes and imagine what was happening as I recited Joseph Smith's words. When I'd recited it and testified of it, Elder Garcia asked Robert how he felt. As he described what he was feeling ("weird" in a good way, "speechless"), he started to get excited - he'd felt something really, really powerful and he knew it! You could see there was a difference in him from before we'd talked about the First Vision. As he elaborated, he said he felt like getting baptized, and when we agreed that it was the right thing to do and invited him to be baptized he not only said yes but reached out and shook my hand. After that we just all sat there for a moment not saying anything but smiling and laughing because we all felt so great about it. Robert and Chris should be coming to church together next week, and hopefully all of Robert's family as well. I am WAY excited about how they will progress now - I think each brother will be a big support to the other.

In our planning session on Saturday night, Elder Garcia and I hadn't planned to go anywhere near Chris Rainbow's house. We didn't really do anything in the whole afternoon out of our own power. It was just the Spirit working through us, prompting us step by step and blessing us as we followed the promptings. It was especially meaningful to me that Elder Garcia was the first to act on some of the promptings and I was the first to act on others, and that we said a prayer of thanks after each miracle. I think that afternoon taught me a lot about what it means to be an instrument in the Lord's hands. I love being a missionary!

Another piece of great news (which I actually found out about a few weeks ago but only confirmed at zone conference). Remember the story from last summer about how Elder Phillips and I were let in while tracting by a francophone African woman and taught most of the first lesson in French? That woman just got baptized! I saw her name in the mission newsletter (where all baptisms are announced) a few weeks ago, and that was the first I knew about it. She is a way solid member, too, going out teaching with the missionaries and everything. Apparently she fell through the cracks after Elder Phillips and I taught her, and the missionaries found her not through the area book but by actually tracting her out again within the past couple of months, but even if that first lesson is only peripherally related to her progression and baptism it's really cool to be a part of it. She really was prepared by the Lord, and I know the Lord led us to her. Missionary work is so great.

On Tuesday I had probably the best bus contacting day of my mission! I was on exchange with Elder Newson in Stoke, and every bus I got on I just started talking to the people around me until I'd approached all of them, then moved to a different part of the bus and started talking to the people there. All my mission I've struggled with bus contacting, really having to push myself to open my mouth or to get up and move to the next person, sometimes not succeeding in making myself do it. I've wanted for a long time to be able to just do it, like I can with street contacting and tracting. This past Tuesday I really felt that blessing happening. It was just so easy to bus contact all of a sudden that it made me wonder what my struggles had been before. I feel like my bus contacting experience has been an illustration of the reality of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. My heart really has changed, and not through my own labors but through a measure of grace that I don't fully understand, after significant labors of my own. The gospel is wonderful because it allows us to receive miracles, but first makes us work hard enough that the miracle becomes really meaningful to us. I feel a bit inarticulate about this, but the bottom line is that I feel really great about bus contacting and just pray that I don't get prideful about it so I can keep on doing it this way.

While in Stoke I taught an amazing investigator named Judy. She's an Arabic speaker(!) and was pretty excited to hear I'd lived in Sudan. I got to use some of the three or four words of Arabic I still remember - too bad Ruth wasn't there or she could have had a good long conversation and read from the Book of Mormon in Arabic with her. : ) She is from Saudi Arabia but converted to Christianity here in England and was led by the Spirit to meet the missionaries in a pretty miraculous way. She even had a dream about the Salt Lake Temple and recognized it when the missionaries showed her a DVD that included it. She hasn't been baptized yet because she's waiting for asylum papers from the government that will allow her to stay in England, but she's essentially an active member. Also, she just got a job at an Arabic Christian radio station that broadcasts Christian messages to the whole Middle East (a Voice-of-America-type operation, it seems), and she's hoping to start reading from the Book of Mormon over the air one of these days. Pretty cool stuff!

We had zone conference in Manchester on Saturday with a very funny and very spiritual Area Seventy from Sweden. It was a spiritual boost I really needed - I'd been feeling really tired in the days just before, but now I'm excited and energetic again. We drove right through Sale to get to conference, which led me to wax a bit nostalgic ("I used to ride that bus!" *Elder Garcia rolling his eyes*). At zone conference I met Elder Stevens, who is doing great. He told me that Yvonne Matapo is going on a mission! I'm way excited for her.

Well, I'm out of time again. More great stuff next week.

I love you!

Elder Pimentel

Notes from Sam -- 16 March 2009

Dear family,

Another busy week!

I think one of the best blessings has been our progress with the Bailey family (Lisa, Christian, and Cara). They are all still great. Their baptism date has been postponed temporarily (because Lisa needs to get married still) – Christian initially wanted to get baptized by himself on the 28th but after seeking revelation about it we decided he should wait and get baptized with the rest of his family. Now he’s encouraging his mum a lot to get things sorted out so they can all be baptized, and Cara’s also agreed to be baptized with her mum! Better yet, when we went to teach them on Friday one of their stepsisters, Jessie, was visiting for the weekend. She is 12 years old. We involved her in the lesson quite a bit, gave her a copy of the Book of Mormon, and invited her to church, and she came, with all the rest of them! Christian, Cara, and Lisa are all really comfortable at church now and seem to look forward to, and although Jessie was pretty nervous about going into Young Women’s all by herself she did fine too. At church Lisa told us that Jessie had the read the chapter we’d left her from the Book of Mormon a few times, once with Lisa. She is a great new investigator, and I think her involvement will help us to teach the dad (who is out a lot and very difficult to get involved in the lessons). It’s such a blessing to teach a family.

Gisela has kind of been dropped from our teaching pool at the moment, which is too bad, since she’s always so great when we can teach her. She just doesn’t keep appointments very well and she hasn’t come to church. We took three of the young single adults up to visit her the other day, but it turned out she’d gone to work at Primark (a big clothing store in city centre) without telling us. So we brought all the YSA to Primark so we could make contact with her at least and invite her to Institute. It felt quite weird to walk through the store on a non-P-day with a bunch of young single adults in tow! Unfortunately, we couldn’t find her even after searching the store, but the YSA were very understanding about it all. The university-age members of Newcastle ward really are great – Elder Garcia always says that he would love to be a YSA in this ward.

Another exciting development: we have a new ward mission leader, Tim Hooker! Tim is a recently returned missionary and is our number one fellowshipper (he was one of the three we took to see Gisela), so we already know him really well. We’re looking forward to doing a lot with him in the next four weeks.

Also, we got our car back! It is nice to be off the buses – we can now work in all different parts of our area without substantial travel time and we can take more members teaching (the ones without cars). But it was good to be out on the streets for a while and to come face to face with bus contacting again. I had a particularly good day of bus contacting right before we got the car back. Elder Garcia and I were on exchange with the Shrewsbury elders, and Elder Wheat and I were tracting a street in the evening when he felt prompted to go and ride buses for an hour instead, bus contacting as we went. So we did, and we were able to set up 2 great appointments, one on the bus and one by the bus stop in town as we waited for the one home. The next day on the way into town Elder Wheat cast his fears aside, went to the front of the bus, stood up, and started preaching to everyone! It was great to see. On the way home he challenged me to get up and preach, so I did! It was great – pretty scary at first, but not too bad once I got up. Missionary work can be so great sometimes.

I love you all! More stuff next week – sorry if this letter’s a bit shorter than usual.

Elder Pimentel

Sunday, March 22, 2009

From Jon 3/21/09

Subject: Huab cua zoo nkauj

Nyob zoo!

We had a nice week. Nice weather as well.

Monday was the first day we've had REALLY nice weather. The sun was a-shining and everybody and their dogs were out and about. We were in a terrific mood as we cycled 'round the 'hood. Oddly, the first five or so people we talked to were rather rude to us and wanted to argue about doctrine. This was rapid fire in the space of about twenty minutes. Later in the day, we met two delightful people with whom we had very uplifting conversations. One of these was with a skinny, old, black, homeless ninja named William. He wasn't drunk, just a little weird. He had some nunchucks, and showed us a demonstration.

The next day we were blessed very much, and were led to a man who had investigated the church in Iowa, but had recently moved. He lost his BoM in the move and really wanted God in his life. We were able to "hook him up", as it were. There was also another nice guy who called himself "Ron the Don", and gave us all "gangsta" names to give us some street cred. We were on exchanges, so I was with Elder Hadlock and Elder Nielson. Elder Hadlock's gansta name was "Shnalley", Elder Nielson's was "Prince Charles", and mine was "E" (to keep it simple).

Nothing really too interesting to report about our investigators; we still don't really know when the new baptismal date is going to be. Zoua and Mai Lee and Neng should be coming to church this week.

We had a really good lesson with Misty and Cindy about scripture study, and how great it is, and watched "The Testaments" with them in the branch President's theater room. They loved it and wanted to borrow it to show some cousins so they will start going to church again. It's a powerful film.

Well, that's about all I have time for, so farewell for now. Love ya!

-Elder Moua Ying

Saturday, March 14, 2009

from Jon 3/14/09

Subject: Huab cua pheej hloov

Nyob zoo!

Well, the work keeps a rollin', and the weather keeps oscillating.

The other day we experienced a Hmong blooper very similar to another one I think I may have told you about. During a dinner appointment, the topic of hunting and eating many different kinds of animals came up. The father began talking about the different kinds of monkeys he has hunted and eaten, and how different ones taste better than others. At one point, he said (in Hmong), "Oh, yes, I'm always happy when I hunt tasty monkey!" In Hmong, 'liab' means monkey, and 'qab' means tasty, but the phrase 'liabqab' means 'naked'. He didn't realize he had said anything unusual, and one of the Elders choked a little on his papaya salad and started shaking with semi-silent laughter, his face bright red. The rest of us started laughing too. The hosting family thought we were all laughing at the crimson-faced Elder because he couldn't handle the spicy salad. When we realized they still didn't get that the father had proudly announced that he enjoys hunting naked, we laughed even harder. Good times.

It turns out that Tou Choua and Misty still have some paperwork to do on their marriage license. They thought they only needed one more signature, but it turns out that there is a whole other set of papers they need to chew through. We postponed the baptism until they can get it sorted. This means Chor and Mee have more time to prepare, so we may be able to baptize the whole family together!

We've found a bunch of new people to teach, and many of them are still working on the concept of God---understanding who He is, why we need Him, how He can help us, etc. We have certainly experienced the benefits of teaching simply.

I love you much, keep being wonderful!
-Elder Moua Ying

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Notes from Sam -- 9 March 2009

Dear family,

Great things are going to happen this transfer in our zone! Elder Garcia and I had a great district leaders' council with Elder Rose and Elder Newson on Saturday. We talked about airplanes attacking Japanese ships in World War II and related it to our work as leaders - when all the airplanes attack one boat at once, the airplanes can protect each other and destroy the target more effectively than if they all go off after their own targets. Then we agreed upon some specific targets for the four of us to attack together this transfer - getting investigators to sacrament meeting and having lots of quality gospel conversations - and set goals. There was a great sense of unity and I felt the Spirit a lot in the meeting. In particular, Elder Garcia and I had decided, just before we went to the meeting, to use the story of Naaman in one part of the training. As we made the decision I wasn't too sure if it was the best example. But as we unfolded it in the actual meeting, I realized that it was actually the perfect example to use, and I felt the Spirit teaching us and the district leaders and preparing the district leaders to accept our commitments. I'm convinced the Spirit gave us that scripture to use as we planned in the morning, blessing us with the revelation we needed in the short time we had.

Since that district leaders' council, we've seen some great miracles in the zone. All week we'd been collecting the names of the investigators in every area of the zone who had committed to come to church and had gotten their transportation arranged, and on Saturday night Elder Garcia challenged both district leaders to pray for all those people across the zone to actually come to church the next day. The next day we had 26 people come to church! Newcastle zone hasn't had that many people at church since before I came into the field. No zone in the mission has had that many people at church since 2007. It was just a miracle! Particularly sweet to me was the way our district leaders shared in the excitement - when Elder Rose called in first to report his numbers on Sunday night, he was asking about Stoke district's church attendance and Elder Garcia had to call him back later and share the miracle. It's almost like Elder Rose and Elder Newson are our third and fourth companions now.

Needless to say, I'm excited to see what greater miracles are in store for us in the coming weeks. The missionaries in our zone are just really great, and now that we have such great unity with our district leaders we will all be able to work together and accomplish even more: get each of those 26 people back to church next week, help each one of them feel the Spirit and progress and be baptized, and all the time find more people who will humble themselves and keep commitments.

Elder Garcia and I had some great experiences with our finding this week. We had a lot of meetings and an exchange outside our area, so we had only a little time to work in our area. But through the week as we walked from place to place, sometimes not having the time to stop everyone we met, I felt more than once a specific prompting to stop a specific person I saw walking down the street, and as I acted on those promptings I found that most of those people were willing to set up appointments with us or at least lesson. I can't express how amazing those experiences felt, and how much faith they give me that I can have success. A similar experience came on Sunday afternoon: we'd finished our big afternoon meal and were going outside to work for the rest of the day, and as we prayed to leave the flat we specifically asked to get in at least one door that day, something I felt really good about as we prayed for it. Within ninety minutes, we knocked on a door and were invited in almost immediately! Later that night, Elder Garcia and I had been tracting a rather tough street and had five minutes left before we had to go home. We decided to walk down the street and trust the Spirit to lead each of us to one more door to knock before ending the week of work. After a minute I pointed to a door that I felt good about knocking and Elder Garcia gave a big smile - he'd felt good about that same door! We knocked it and were promptly rejected. But as we walked back out onto the street I saw a man walking very quickly down the other side of the street. I went over and talked to him and set up an appointment with him! When we got home and totaled up our key indicators, I realized that with that final appointment we'd just reached the mission standard for appointments set up in a week. When the Lord, through the mission president, gives us a standard to achieve, he also provides the way to do it! The gift of the Holy Ghost is real. It's incredible to see that so clearly every week I spend out here.

Neither Gisela nor Lisa's family came to church this week. : ( But the Baileys at least are still doing well, still very committed to be baptized. Lisa has a very difficult family situation on her hands but she is working hard to get things sorted out so she can get married. Christian is still way excited about baptism - apparently he "moaned" at Lisa all day when they weren't able to come and wanted to take a taxi down all by himself.

Elder Garcia and I decided some time ago that we were using words like "dang", "flip", "shoot", etc. too much. After President Bullock's powerful training about our communications and the potential they have to drive away the Spirit, we noticed that those words didn't add much to what we said and detracted from the Spirit. So we decided to pick a code word to say when we hear the other one using one of those words. Our word is "Pahoran." It's amazing how well this has worked - I think I've only had to call Elder Garcia out once or maybe twice in the past month or so. It's been a bit tougher for me, but I'm getting there too.

I forgot to mention last week that we had a special street display last Saturday (February 28th) in Newcastle town centre. We had a couple of tables with pamphlets and a chalkboard on which Elder Garcia (who is an accomplished artist) had drawn a really well-done picture of a woman's face and the words "The Truth about Life's Great Questions has been Restored" (just like the Church's new Truth Restored pass-along cards). We got the Newcastle sisters and the Stoke elders to come and help us with the display, plus one of our ward missionaries - a couple of people manned the tables, and the rest of us went out and stopped people. I'd had a lot of doubts about the display, but Elder Garcia had felt really good about it, and it turned out to be an amazing success! We saw a lot of people looking at the chalkboard thoughtfully as they passed by. I was talking to people, and some guys in a nearby flower stall motioned me over to talk to them. At first I thought they were going to tell us off for setting up our display so close to their turf, but the man in the stall said he'd noticed the display, had been wondering what it was about, and wanted me to tell him about it! He'd never come into contact with missionaries before, either. I left with a real testimony of revelation (the one Elder Garcia received about the display at least) and of the street display. Hopefully we'll do it again this transfer.

I love you all! Happy Osam Mart yesterday, by the way.

Elder Pimentel

Notes from Sam -- 4 March 2009

Dear family,

Sorry for the short letter last week! The library computers went down. : ( I’ve got lots to report now!

Lisa and Christian Bailey came to church again, and so did Christian’s sister Cara! They are great. It turns out that one of the Primary kids is in Christian’s class at school. Apparently after attending church and making this connection, Christian brought his copy of the Book of Mormon to school so he could discuss it with Josh. : ) Last night we taught Lisa with the couple who has kind of adopted them (gives them a lift to church, etc.) and she was telling us that she doesn’t think she ever would have come to church in the first place if not for Christian’s desire to. But now she is committed as well. It’s great how families support each other in learning the gospel. Elder Garcia was telling me how he’d once thought teaching families must be a lot more difficult than individuals, because you have to resolve a lot more concerns (a different one for each person), but it doesn’t work that way at all – family members help each other and resolve each other’s concerns! No wonder Preach My Gospel tells us to strive to find and teach families.

The lesson with Lisa last night was on chastity, which is the big topic for her (since she and Alan aren’t married yet). But it went a lot better than we’d hoped. Lisa has a testimony of chastity already – her parents had a great marriage and she wants her kids to have the same kind of happy family life – so she just has to actually get married, and she was willing to commit to do it. She should have a marriage date by the end of the week. Lisa and Christian’s baptismal date is still March 28. It’s kind of amazing how fast people’s lives can change when they are willing to keep commitments.

We also saw Gisela again this week. I don’t think I’ve ever taught a second lesson to a more excited investigator! She’d been reading the Book of Mormon and had felt every time she read it that it was true. She had us go over her reading (3 Nephi 11) with her and help her understand everything that was in the verses. When we got to the part about Christ conferring authority to baptize, she asked us why baptism is so important. We flipped to verse 38 in the same chapter, which explains pretty clearly that you cannot inherit the kingdom of God without being baptized. As Gisela understood that, she asked us if she could be baptized and when. When our fellowshipper explained that we had to teach her several lessons before she would be ready, she said, “Well, start teaching me now, then!” That’s how everyone should feel about baptism, but it’s still kind of a wonderful surprise to find someone who actually does. She’s been difficult to contact and we have yet to see her again, but hopefully we can teach her again this week and get her a baptismal date.

I didn’t have time to mention it last week, but this week is transfers! As you can probably tell from the above, Elder Garcia and I will be staying together. We were both pretty surprised – it’s not too common for companions to stay together more than two transfers – but also excited. I still have a lot I can learn from Elder Garcia, and we make a good team. Not only are we staying, both our district leaders are also staying, so the “leadership team” for the zone is the same as last transfer. That is really great because it means we can build really directly on what happened last transfer. We’ve already identified specific things we want to work on and will be planning everything out in district leaders’ council on Saturday.

Other changes from transfers: our zone is losing some experienced missionaries and getting some younger ones instead (so I’m now the “oldest” missionary in the zone – yikes!). We’re excited about that – young missionaries tend to have a lot of fire. We’re also getting a companionship of three sisters in the zone to replace one of our sets of elders, which means 7 of the 19 missionaries in our two districts are sisters. Sisters tend to be really great missionaries, and we’re excited to see what happens.

As a side-note, preparation day is moving from Wednesday to Monday starting next week, although in transfer week preparation day will still always be a Wednesday. So you’ll be getting my emails on Mondays most weeks now.

Dad, Elder Garcia was really interested in your trip to Nepal and the pictures you sent. He taught and baptized a man in his last area named Sarasati Barchai. He’s a political refugee from Bhutan, where he apparently headed a heavily-persecuted opposition party, and he lived in Nepal for a while before coming to England and finding the gospel. Maybe your recent converts know of him.

Last night Elder Garcia dreamed that Elder Ballard and Elder Maxwell came teaching with us for a whole day. Elder Ballard and I really clicked and taught with unity. Elder Garcia mentioned to Elder Maxwell that he had thought Elder Maxwell was dead, and Elder Maxwell explained that it the Church had just told people that and that he’d actually just been released for medical reasons. A true missionary dream . . .

One more great experience from this week to finish off. From Monday to Tuesday we went on exchange with a companionship in our zone that has been struggling a lot. The missionary I went with has been having a really hard time, having doubts about his testimony and feeling like he’s wasting his time. In particular, he’s been feeling really overwhelmed by an assignment he’s been given this next transfer to be the senior companion to a fairly young missionary. It was good to talk to him as we worked and give him some words and ideas of encouragement. The next morning, this elder had a really spiritual experience as he read Ether 12 during his personal study, and as he told me about it in companion study the Spirit helped him open up and share the depth of his concerns. I felt a lot of love for him, and was able to point out to him that he did have a testimony and testify that he would be able to succeed this transfer. We agreed on a couple of things he would do in the next couple of weeks to meet his challenges. It was a great experience, and it brought me really close to this good elder. As we closed our companion study, he pulled out his address book, and said, “Elder Pimentel, I want to keep in touch with you.” : ) Sometimes I think the greatest blessings of my mission have come not from teaching and serving investigators but from teaching and serving other missionaries.

The Church is true!

Elder Pimentel

Notes from Sam -- 25 February 2009

Dear family,

Lisa and Christian came to church on Sunday! Lisa found it a bit weird because she was raised Catholic - I think she was expecting church to be a bit like a Catholic Mass - but she enjoyed it, and Christian seemed to have a great time. His Primary lesson was all about priesthood authority and the laying on of hands, which was a great follow-up on the Restoration. On Sunday evening, we brought Brother Grounsell from the bishopric over and taught them the Plan of Salvation. We talked a lot about baptism and why it's so important. Lisa had explained to us before that when one of her children was born and she'd brought him to church to get him baptized, the priest had told Lisa her child was a sin (since he was born out of wedlock) and had refused to baptize him. On Sunday she opened up a bit and told us that although the experience had destroyed her belief in Catholicism and that she will never set foot in a Catholic church again, she still feels some guilt from it. She explained that what she looks forward to most about baptism is knowing that she will be completely free of that guilt. It was wonderful to be able to testify to her that baptism will indeed free of her those feelings. Preach My Gospel (p. 1) talks about how people out in the world want and need the peace that comes from being forgiven of their sins. When I go street contacting, I get the sense that many people don't really care about being forgiven of their sins, but this lesson with Lisa showed me the truth of that Preach My Gospel promise - even people who don't seem outwardly to be seeking forgiveness may inwardly be carrying a burden of guilt. It makes missionary work seem a lot more important.

Anyway, Lisa and Christian accepted a baptismal date of March 28! They seem pretty committed to that. During the lesson, even before we presented the date, Lisa said something like, "If I get baptized - no, when I get baptized, I'll say that," and in our last lesson Christian reminded us about the date, asking which day of the week it was, whether he would be confirmed on the same day, etc. We think Lisa may struggle with one of the commandments that we haven't taught yet, though, so we and they are both going to have to exercise some serious faith to make that baptism happen. In the meantime, though, I think they will be very willing to attend church, and Christian's younger sister Cara seems to be getting interested too. She didn't accept a commitment to be baptized when we first dated Lisa and Christian, but in the next lesson when Christian suggested that she could be baptized too she said, "Maybe." We've only taught the father, Alan, once, but we're hoping to help him move forward too. He seems like a really agreeable person and was quite open when we taught him, although he doesn't really believe in God yet. Great family, though! We don't often get to teach families like this one.

We had another truly amazing teaching experience last Thursday with a Portuguese family. The mother, Maria, has a good friend in Stoke-on-Trent ward, and she started asking him a lot of questions in the church and expressed interest in being taught and baptized. We set up an appointment and invited a really wonderful member named Brother Wiles (he's the ward seminary teacher and one of the most spiritual people I've met on my mission) to come teaching with us. Then, about fifteen minutes before the appointment, Maria's son rang us and said she wouldn't be able to see us. : ( Elder Garcia felt like we should go to the house anyway, though, and at least drop off a Portuguese pamphlet for Maria to read, so we had Brother Wiles drive us up there. We spoke to Maria's son at the door, but he was too busy to meet with us and Maria wasn't available. As we were about to leave, Maria's daughter came down the stairs and started talking with us. When she found out we'd made a special trip to the house, she invited us in to teach her so the journey wouldn't be wasted. Yes! We taught a great lesson on the Restoration. The daughter, who is probably in her mid-twenties and is named Gisela, told us that she has never been baptized in any church in part because she can't decide which church is right. She felt the Spirit when we described the First Vision, and even more when Brother Wiles introduced the Book of Mormon and read out of 3 Nephi 11 with her. When we read from the Book of Mormon, the uninterested son, who had been in the corner of the room playing Grand Theft Auto, actually stopped playing for a while and listened! Wow! The gospel is amazing! Gisela committed to be baptized when she knows the Book of Mormon is true and all but asked if we could mark 3 Nephi 11 for her so she can read it before we come back. We're scheduled to go back tomorrow and teach her again - I'm looking forward to it.

Looks like there may be some problems with the library computers, so I'll send this as it is. Hopefully I@ll be able to send some more later on!

Elder Pimentel

Notes from Sam -- 18 February 2009

Dear family,

We've found some great new investigators this week! We have taught a couple of people from Poland (there are many Polish immigrants in England), both of whom struggled a bit with English. So we both ended up learning some important words in Polish, many of which reminded me of Bosnian (Bog, prorok, etc.). One of the Polish investigators actually lives in Stoke ward and will be taught by their elders. The other one is a very cheerful lady named Alicja. She had us mixed up with the Amish at first (a cause of some amusement for us in the first lesson) but we put her straight. When we explained that Thomas S. Monson is a living prophet, she was quite surprised and asked to see some proof - so we showed her the Book of Mormon! She is very excited to read it and is planning to read it all in a week. !

Two other great new investigators are Lisa and her son Christian. I stopped Lisa in a town center about a week and a half ago and found out that she'd been taught by missionaries before when she lived in Crewe! It also turns out that her partner's uncle is a bishop somewhere in Wales. We haven't met her partner yet, although he's apparently interested in meeting us, but we have met her two kids, Christian and Kara. Christian, who is nine, is really interested in religion and knows a lot about the Bible (I think he's done a lot of religious education classes at school). He's really, really clever (i.e. smart in the American sense), although he gets kind of silly in lessons sometimes. He reminds me a little bit of Ed when he was that age. : ) Lisa is great because when Christian starts acting a bit too wild, she tells him to be serious and listen to us. Also, when Christian doesn't quite understand something, Lisa tries to explain it to him, which helps her understand the gospel as well. So we can focus on Christian and let Lisa learn by teaching him! Last night we had a great lesson about prophets and the Book of Mormon. We asked Christian who he thought he could ask to find out if a prophet was from God or not. At first he thought he could consult with a priest, but we reminded him that a priest wouldn't necessarily know and asked him who would know. Eventually he said something like, "Well I can't ask God . . . no wait! I can pray and ask God!" It was exciting to see the light switch on in him as he figured it out for himself. He's really eager to come to church on Sunday and eventually get baptized. We're excited for him too!

I love my mission! Just this morning Elder Garcia and I were reading from the white handbook (as we do most mornings). We went through the section on entertainment, which focuses on our need to avoid all forms of worldly entertainment. As I was reading about it, I realized I have no desire to take a break from missionary work to indulge in worldly entertainment. It just doesn't appeal to me at all, because I know I'll feel so much better and be so much happier as I spend my time finding and planning and teaching and studying. I don't think I felt quite this way at the beginning of my mission, but now I really have a testimony that missionary work does make me happy. I'm so grateful to have that testimony and to have the opportunity to be doing missionary work all the time!

I had a great day on exchange in Stoke this week where I felt that way the whole time. Elder Hernandez (a great young missionary from Idaho) and I taught some good lessons and did some well-planned finding, and almost the whole time I felt that the Spirit was helping me say and do exactly the right things. We worked with so much power! We taught the first lesson to a few men from Africa and as Elder Hernandez described the First Vision in Joseph Smith's words and testified of it, the Spirit was so strong I couldn't see how anyone could not believe it. I'm so lucky to be in a place and at a time in which such great experiences are available daily.

Unfortunately my mission is going by really quickly. Last preparation day I bought a new bottle of 180 multivitamins. Later that night, I realized I had exactly 180 days left in my mission - one day per multivitamin. : ( Now Elder Garcia teases me all the time about how little time I have left. My mission is going by way too quickly! I think that's a good thing, though. President Bullock always says that for missionaries who wish they were at home, a mission grinds agonizingly along a day at a time, while for missionaries who go out and have the "full mission experience," it flies by.

I also went on exchange for a couple of days this week with Elder Empey, my old companion from Runcorn (Elder Garcia and I have hardly seen each other all week!). We've both changed quite a bit for the better since we served together. As we reviewed the exchange we put to rest the remaining barriers since that time and there was a real spirit of reconciliation. It was a great moment.

A while ago, Mom, Isaac and Ellie asked if Hill Street is on a hill. It actually is! While the street itself is pretty level, the cross street is at quite an incline and we have to head uphill to get to the main road.

Mom and Dad, thanks for your swift action on the mix-up with my membership record number! I just rang the mission office and told them about what the bishop said to you. It sounds like the office just wants to me wait to sort out the technical problem with the barcoded recommend until I actually get home. In the meantime, though, I should be able to attend the temple - I can just show them the recommend, explain the problem, and invite them to ring President Bullock if they feel they need to. I'm not allowed to attend the temple while serving in Newcastle, anyway (since it's too far from Chorley), so it sounds like I won't have an issue. But thanks for sorting it out as you did! At least now I can rest easy in the knowledge that I am a member of the Church after all. : ) I think Elder Garcia will be disappointed, though - he was hoping to rebaptize me so we could get our zone another February baptism. : )

I love you all! I continue to enjoy your letters (including Ruth's! Yay!).

Elder Pimentel

Notes from Sam -- 11 February 2009

Dear family,

Yesterday was a pretty eventful day! We had good things and bad things happen. The bad news has to do with our car. While down in Telford (about an hour's drive away) in the early afternoon, we went over a curb and damaged one of our wheels. The car ended up being towed to Shrewsbury (a rather remote corner of the zone) where it will stay in the garage for a few days. : ( It was kind of comical that all this should happen so far from our own area - we ended up taking two trains and a bus to get home. It was actually good to be back on the bus, though, and Elder Garcia and I did some bus contacting. I think it will be a good few days as we work on the buses in our area.

The good news was that after we got back to Newcastle, we taught a good first lesson to a man named David, who is from the Gambia. I spoke to him on the street on Monday and set up the appointment. We had a great member along, a young-single-adult ward missionary named Tim Hooker. David has a strong testimony of the Bible but he was quite open to what we were saying. We taught the first few principles, and I described Joseph Smith's dilemma and how we went into the woods and asked the Lord which church he should join. Right then someone banged on the front door! David went and answered it and it was two rather irreverent friends of his. They came in and we briefly reviewed the first principles of the lesson, after which I started reciting Joseph Smith's description of the First Vision. In the middle of that, the friends got up and excused themselves from the room. A minute later, David had to leave the room for something! It's amazing how often this happens - right when we reach the First Vision, people have to leave, dogs start barking, the phone rings (sometimes it's even the hostile pastor from the investigator's church calling), things cooking in the kitchen start burning, etc. There is opposition in all things, after all. As interruptions mounted in this lesson, Elder Garcia said to Tim and me, "This means he's going to get baptized!" Sure enough, when David returned and we were able to finish the lesson in relative peace, Elder Garcia challenged David to be baptized and he accepted a baptismal date of March 7! We're pretty excited. I will teach him again tonight with one of the assistants to the President (they're on exchange with us today).

I'm really grateful we had the chance to teach David, and I see it as a sign of good things to come. A week or two ago I was speaking to Elder Newson (one of our district leaders) on the phone, and, commenting on how many great things had been going on, suggested that we would face a lot of opposition soon. I feel like we had some of that opposition last week - investigators dropping us or skipping appointments, people not coming to church, and the car accident to top it off - but teaching David reminded me that finding does work, and that there are people out there who are willing to be taught and to commit to be baptized.

Zone conference was this week. Elder Garcia and I did a training on chapter 4 of Preach My Gospel, which went really well. It helped me really get a grasp of what is in that chapter. We challenged the missionaries to do the activity from page 96, writing down experiences they've had where they've felt the Spirit in the different ways described. I've done this activity in part once or twice before, and it is a great way to remember times you were guided by the Spirit and strengthen your testimony. I highly recommend it.

The highlight of zone conference for me, though, was a training President Bullock gave about the Dead Sea Scrolls and Nag Hammadi codices and how they provide evidence of the truth of the Book of Mormon. He introduced the presentation by talking about how our most important knowledge of the gospel is our personal spiritual witness but that knowledge found through secular research and other sources can be an important and strengthening part of our testimonies. He quoted 1 Nephi 13:39 and talked about how the other books brought forth in the last days would be for the "convincing" of the truth. As he talked about this I had some important insights about the relationship between truth revealed to us by prophets and the Spirit and truth found in other ways. It's important to seek both kinds of truth but we have carefully avoid the temptation to let our trust in the latter type of truth become more important than our trust in the former (see 2 Nephi 9:28-29). I realized that this very problem was a big part of the Great Apostasy - scholars and monks changing the ordinances and scriptures of the Church because of what they probably perceived as logical inconsistencies. That type of thinking is so prevalent in today's world. I'm grateful for the scriptures and latter-day prophets that teach us so clearly about the primacy of revealed truth.

As I sat in zone conference, I saw how these insights related to and helped answer personal concerns that had been bothering me in previous days and that I'd prayed for help in dealing with. I felt that President's introduction to his training was a tender mercy of the Lord meant particularly for me. I'm grateful for the gift of the Holy Ghost and its power to teach us the things we specifically need in the time when we need them.

We've had a couple more days of heavy snow this week. The other day Elder Garcia and I were tracting in a veritable blizzard. We ended up with little snowdrifts on our heads. : ) I actually really love the snow. It's better than rain, and it makes everything look really picturesque. Makes me even happier to be serving in a place like England.

This transfer President and Sister Bullock are coming to visit all the flats in the mission and conducting interviews with us there instead of in a Church building during an interviews/training meeting. They are coming to see us tomorrow, so we have to make sure we clean our flat especially well!

I love you all! Thank you for your wonderful letters and for your prayers.

Elder Pimentel

Monday, March 9, 2009

From Jon 3/7

Subject: Wb ob leeg nyob twj ywm

Nyob zoo 'os!

We are experiencing an object lesson in opposition. No, no, we and our investigators are fine---I speak of the weather. It keeps bouncing between paralyzingly cold, to ears-uncovered warm. If it stayed warm all the time, I think we would not appreciate it. It's nice having some gulps of thawed air every once and again. It's also nice to get a lot of the snow off the roads and sidewalks. Of course, you have to deal with the rebound when it gets cold again and all the puddles freeze.

This transfer, me and Elder Cutshall are staying together in Minneapolis, but the two Hmong districts are merging together again, and Frogtown and Eastside are merging again. There is a threesome in St. Paul. 'Tis Elder Hadlock, Elder Nielson, and Elder Vaaj (Elder George Vang, the one who isn't Elder Richard Vang). Elder Erickson is in Brooklyn Park with Elder Hill. Elder Erickson has covered that area his entire mission, save three transfers. Now he's back. Elder Richard Vang is still in Eau Claire, and there is now a full Hmong team in La Crosse. It is Elder Lo and Elder Fawson.
Now that the district is unified again, we have access to the whole state! Bwahaha! Last transfer we wanted to go to a restaurant in South Minneapolis, but it was just inside Eastside St. Paul's area, which means it was outside of our district, and outside our zone, so we had to call the assistants for permission to hop our border a half mile. Now we could go to Frogtown on P-day if we really wanted. In fact, if there weren't mile restrictions for P-day activities, we could probably go to Duluth.

We continue to see many little miracles sprinkled about our days. The other day we went with a member to go see a potential investigator whom we had met earlier in the week. We knew what her car looked like, and what street she lived on, but couldn't remember which house it was, and had forgotten to write it down. We drove slowly down the street, hoping that one of the houses would look familiar, or that we would see her car. We went up and down, but her car was not there. As we passed a certain block, all of us seemed to be looking at the same house. It didn't look familiar at all, but the member kind of slowed down, and for some reason the house seemed to speak out a little. In some way it seemed to be more inviting or promising. We kept going for about a block, and came to a dead end. One of us mentioned that there was a house back there that seemed promising, and we could give that a shot. We went back and, of course, it was that house. Her car was not there, but we all felt good about that house, so we knocked, and sure enough, her mother was there and she said her daughter was still at work. We found the house! We had met this girl on the street and only gotten her number. She didn't even point to which house was her's. What's more, this member wasn't there when we met her, and yet he noticed that house and slowed down without us saying a word. Huzzah for the Holy Ghost, our internal Liahona!

Misty and Cindy are getting ready for their big day on the 14th. We will finish up teaching the rest of the commandments on Monday, review the interview questions, and get them interviewed by the Zone Leaders on Wednesday. Hopefully Chor and Mee will feel the spirit at the baptism, and make the decision to be baptized soon rather than "eventually". We think the reason Chor wants to wait might be because he is having trouble with one or more of the commandments, probably the Word of Wisdom.

I was able to buy a nifty pocket dictionary recently. The Heinbach dictionary has been such a lifesaver, and so helpful, that missionaries call it "Tus phooj ywg xim liab", or "The Red Friend". The pocket dictionary I just bought was written by a Hmong man, and it goes English to Hmong as well, while the other dictionary only goes Hmong to English. Heinbach does a better job at explaining how to use the words, but there are some words, or alternate meanings of words, that one dictionary has that the other is missing. It is helpful using them together. This smaller dictionary also has a red cover, so we call it "The Little Red Friend".

That's all for now. Thanks, and talk to you later!
-Elder Moua Ying

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Round 2!

Yup! Another little Potter is on the way!! Due date is September 12, so that puts me at about 12 weeks along. And man am I counting down the days until this first trimester and all its joyous symptoms are behind me! Mia is excited to be a big sister, however, she really has no idea what that will entail. She likes to give kisses to the baby in mommy's tummy and likes to talk about the baby in HER tummy. So I frequently have to remind her that when she's bigger she can have a baby in her tummy. So then the other day Mia asked me... "Mommy, am I bigger?" And not realizing what she was referencing I said, "Yeah.. you get bigger every day." To which she replied, "Mia baby in tummy now!" So now I have to tell her that when she's bigger like mommy... THEN she can have a baby in her tummy. But yesterday Mia asked about her 18 and 20 year old aunties having babies since they're big like mommy, so then I had to go into being married first. I thought I still had a couple more years before these conversations!!