Hey! Elder McIntosh and I found an Internet cafe that is open on bank holidays. So I can email you today after all!
On Friday we dated Sharon for baptism! In our last lesson with her where we'd talked about the Questions of the Soul she'd told us the question "How do I avoid sin?" was important to her. So we'd planned to teach the Plan of Salvation and focus on sin and how Christ's Atonement allows us to be free of it. When we started the lesson we asked her about that question, and she explained that in the past she'd done things that had set a bad example for her children that she now regretted, and that she wanted to put those things behind her. The Spirit really came into the lesson at that point and we ended up abandoning our plans and teaching about the gospel of Jesus Christ. As we taught about faith in Jesus Christ I realized that Sharon really has a lot of faith in Christ, and that it was her faith that was leading her to study the scriptures and come to church every week. When we invited her to be baptized, she thought about it for a minute and then said something like, "I want to be a better person, and maybe being baptized is the only way I can do that." We testified of that and she accepted a baptismal date of July 11th! Right when she agreed to it her boyfriend Richard (who is a member, now semi-active) joined in and testified of just how much Sharon has changed for the better since she started investigating the gospel. It was a great moment. After we finished the closing prayer, Sharon said, "Thanks guys, I've really felt good today." It was a wonderful moment.
We've also been richly blessed in other ways this week, in particular as we've sacrificed for our zone. On Saturday we spent most of our day driving out to one of our most remote areas, working with the missionaries there, and driving home. We put 160 miles on our car in one day! As we left in the morning Elder McIntosh and I were both doubting whether it was worth the trip (I was worried also because we hadn't hit all our goals and had only one new investigator for the week), but we prayed about it and felt a confirmation that we should go. As things worked out one of the missionaries in the outlying area was sick, so I stayed in the flat with him, and Elder McIntosh and the other missionary had a lot of things fall through and weren't able to accomplish much. As we drove home, though, we felt good about what we'd done. And the Lord blessed us so much!
The next day, Sunday, we taught a first lesson to a great lady named Deanne (sp?) who has really been prepared to receive the gospel. Her manager at work recently became a born-again Christian and Deanne has seen a major change for good in her; she's also been feeling like she and her nine-year-old son should start coming to church, and towards the end of the lesson she actually asked us, "When can we start attending your church?" After that lesson, we tracted a street in her neighborhood, and we got in a door and taught three young people. It was kind of a crazy lesson with lots of distractions, but they all became new investigators and we're going back to see them next Sunday! Then, right at the end of the evening, we decided to try by a referral. At about 8:50 PM we knocked on the door, and the couple let us in to teach! One of them was someone Elder Garcia and I had taught back in December (he had just stopped investigating at the time), and the other one became a new investigator. So altogether we had 5 new investigators in one day! Kind of amazing how much the Lord can bless you at once.
We had another great finding experience this week. During our weekly planning session Elder McIntosh and I prayed about a focus area (a place for us to go to do finding during the wekk) and we felt good about a certain neighborhood. That evening we went there and went tracting. That's when we first met Deanne, and Elder McIntosh also street contacted a man named James. He was in a really big rush but offered to give Elder McIntosh his address right away (quite unusual) and actually invited us to come visit him the next day! When we came back and met him the next day, we all sat down on the couch and he said something like "I feel like I've gone astray in my life. I've done a lot of things wrong and I want to get back on the right track. What should I do?" That took us aback a little bit. : ) We taught about the gospel of Jesus Christ, and he accepted everything! When we gave him the Book of Mormon, he committed himself to read it and also to come to church before we had a chance to invite him to do those things. Now I think I know how Aaron must have felt while teaching King Lamoni's father when the king said he would believe all his words. It was great to teach a lesson like that, and I really felt the Spirit as Elder McIntosh testified of the Atonement. James seemed to really appreciate our visit. He comes from a Catholic background and kept on calling us "Fathers" instead of elders. : )
As you can probably tell, I am very happy. Things are going really well in our area and our zone, and I love the missionaries that I am working with. I had the chance to go on exchange with a few of our missionaries this week, including Elder Farley, who is from England and is one of the few people I have met who knows of the verb form "to proselytize," and Elder Bills, one of our district leaders. They are both great. Elder Bills has an amazing story - his family has not been active in the church for most of his life, although they came back to church for a short period when he was a child, during which he got baptized. During the first few days when he graduated from high school and moved out on his own, he was sitting in his apartment in downtown San Diego thinking about his life and what he wanted to do with it, and he felt prompted to read his scriptures. He had never really read his scripures in his life before, but he started reading them and praying. He also got on the Internet, found the nearest singles ward, and went there on Sunday. He told the bishop he wanted to be on a mission within a year, and now here he is. I'm really grateful for all the amazing people I get to meet as a missionary.
I'm excited to hear that Eric Davey will be a freshman at Stanford next year. I'm looking forward to meeting him. One of the other LDS freshmen who will be returning from his mission to Stanford this fall, Logan Ensign, is also from Santa Rosa. Maybe he and Eric know each other.
I'll try and send you some photos. Looking forward to talking to you all a week on Sunday (the 17th).