Elder McIntosh and our zone conference teaching skill robot.
Elder Garcia and me, sporting the worst haircut of my life (a story for another day). Don't worry, it's fixed now.
We had a good day at church yesterday. Last week at church Christian had been assigned to give a talk on resurrection in Primary and Cara had been assigned to read a scripture. All week Lisa helped them prepare for this. Then on Saturday, something came up to keep Lisa from coming to church. But since the Primary presidency had given her kids those assignments and because the kids were so excited about it, she felt obligated to get her kids to church and arranged for them to go even though she couldn’t. So Christian and Cara came again and had a great experience! I think this experience shows how important members are in helping investigators attend church. We saw Lisa’s family three times and committed them to come according to Preach My Gospel principles, but what made the difference was the way the Primary presidency had involved those kids and given them (and in effect Lisa) responsibility. Over the past couple of weeks Elder McIntosh and I have been thinking a lot about what it takes to get investigators to church, and I’m beginning to see that the more we involve members in the process (as Preach My Gospel directs) the more committed the investigators are and the more faith I have that they will actually get up on Sunday morning and come.
In that same vein, Sharon (Richard’s girlfriend) came to church too. Last week she left after sacrament meeting but this time she stayed for Gospel Principles, thanks in large part to a member in the ward who knows her and Richard and who did a great job of chatting with and fellowshipping them. To top it off, Richard’s sister Dawn, whom we have never even taught, came to church with them! Richard referred her to us a while ago and we have been trying to teach her for a bit but haven’t succeeded. She seemed to get a lot out of church, though, and now we have an appointment to teach her on Tuesday. It’s so good when nonmembers come to church and have a great experience! I think that is one of the most rewarding moments of missionary work, one of those times when a sort of veil is opened to us and we can see the people we are teaching becoming active members of the church.
Church attendance was also high across the zone! This is especially great because there are 16 people dated for baptism in the zone, and almost all of them came. By attending church, they are showing real commitment to those baptismal dates. In Crewe ward, four people (all of whom came this past Sunday) are getting baptized this coming Saturday. It’s been a while since we’ve seen that many people fully receiving the gospel all at once.
The zone has seen miracles not just in progressing investigators to baptism but in finding new ones. Something we’ve focused on in the zone over the past few transfers is the “consecrated finding hour,” a practice in which missionaries devote a whole hour of their day strictly to a finding activity such as tracting or GQing and really make that time sacred by planning carefully and prayerfully for it the night before and praying at the beginning of the hour to set it apart. Sister Johnson and Sister Coleman are serving in Congleton, which historically has been one of the most difficult areas for missionary work in the stake, and they have really caught the vision of the consecrated finding hour. This week they had some great experiences: on one day they had their finding hour right after a visit with members, and they invited the members to pray with them and then to come out and street contact with them! The husband in the member family ended up setting up two appointments for the sisters and I believe the wife set up three! Another day, they spent their finding hour out in the countryside among some farms (the kind of place where there aren’t many people and it’s usually quite difficult to find many good contact) and they were able to set up two appointments! Believing that the appointments would go through, they brought a member along for both, and not only did the appointments happen but the member ended up knowing both the people they’d contacted! Altogether, the Congleton sisters had 14(!) new investigators this week (mission standard is 2), and it sounds like most of them came from their consecrated hours of finding. Wow! One reason I love being a zone leader is that I get to hear about all these great experiences and share in the excitement. I’m really blessed to be serving with such great missionaries and hearing about the miracles they experience.
Elder McIntosh and I also found some new investigators this week. The most promising one is a man named Kirk, who lives on the very edge of our area, only a few yards from the border with Stoke ward. He is originally from Rwanda but lived in Uganda (maybe he was born there?) and had to flee from there to England. He told us the story of how he was detained by immigration authorities for a year when he first arrived. I got the sense that was a very difficult time for him. During our second lesson, he got out a battered old copy of the Bible - the printing date was 1964(?) and the flyleaf had something like “Property of Farnham Congregational Church Youth Group” written on it – and told us about how a preacher at the church in the detention center had given him that Bible. As he recounted the story I could feel his love for the Bible and his testimony of Jesus Christ. It was a wonderful moment. I think I will enjoy helping Kirk come to feel the same way about the Book of Mormon. He already understands the ideas of the Restoration very clearly and is eager to learn about it. As we left his house yesterday he placed his blue paperback copy of the Book of Mormon on top of his old Bible and gripped the two books together as if making some kind of statement about them. Remembering it now makes me think about Ezekiel 37:15-17 and how the stick of Judah and the stick of Joseph “shall become one in thine hand.” True prophecy really is fulfilled.
I forgot to mention this last week, but I got a letter from Yvonne Matapo! It sounds like she’s doing really well. She talked about how her family opposed her joining the church at first and how she wasn’t even completely sure about it at the time but that since her baptism the Holy Ghost has confirmed that it was the right choice. She has finished the Book of Mormon but she still carries it around with her everywhere and reads it on the way to work. She said she wishes she had accepted the gospel earlier and that if she had, she might “be on [her] mission already.” She is just a pretty amazing person. I’m so blessed to have gotten to teach her.
Elder McIntosh and I had some funny experiences while finding yesterday. We were talking to some people who had met and been taught by missionaries some 15-20 years before. They were telling us about how the missionaries had gone places with them, had played badminton with them, etc., and how they had taught them to make “those crisps with cheese - those tortillies!” A very English description of nachos. : ) Later on, we street contacted a man who was coming out of a pub. I started to teach him a principle, but he stopped me. Then he said, “I’m an alcoholic, I smoke like a trooper, and I only believe in one thing: Henry VIII. He created my church. No!” : )
Tomorrow we have an all-mission conference at Chorley! President Boyd K. Packer is coming to speak to us. It’s very exciting! A lot of us were hoping President Packer would come at some point since he is Sister Bullock’s father.* Tonight Elder McIntosh and I will take the train to Chorley and stay over there with the Chorley zone leaders so we can be there bright and early tomorrow for the conference.
I love you all!
*Speaking of which, remember in President Packer’s priesthood session talk in (this most recent) conference where he mentioned how some of his grandsons had come to visit him, some with their fiancées and one with his mission call to Japan? The one with his mission call to Japan was Scott Bullock, the one Elder Garcia and I went teaching with over Christmas. Pretty cool, huh? I think Peter Olson is in that same mission and should surely meet Elder Bullock.