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.