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.