Monday, June 29, 2009

They're off!

President Jay Pimentel, Sister Colleen Pimentel, and Mike Pimentel are on their way to Germany! I saw them off this morning. They are in great spirits and excited to serve! Harrah for Israel!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Germany Berlin Mission - Updates

To monitor developments in the Germany Berlin Mission, you can view

Set Apart for Germany Berlin Mission

Here are those present at the setting apart today in President Uchtdorf's office. JoAnn Reed, Lee Reed, Elder Rasband, Barbara Pimentel, Michael Pimentel, Megan Pimentel, Jay Pimentel, Colleen Pimentel & President Uchtdorf.

Set Apart for Germany Berlin Mission

Monday, June 22, 2009

Notes from Sam -- 22 June 2009

Dear family,

Happy (belated) Father’s Day, Dad! I was thinking the other day about how great you are. Thank you for going on a mission and setting the example for me to.

Great things are still happening in Oldham! I told you a couple of weeks ago about a less-active member named Vimbai whom we rather miraculously met while street contacting and how we were able to teach her and her husband George. Vimbai and their six-month-old son Miguel came to church this week (where they were very warmly welcomed) and later that evening Bishop Walsh went with us to teach the family. We helped George answer his questions about the Book of Mormon and dated him for baptism on August 1st! I am very excited for them. Vimbai, with her strong testimony, will be able to help George progress quickly, and it will be wonderful to see a great young family become united in the Church.

Our other 5 investigators with baptismal dates are still going strong too. I mentioned Bethel Egbuna last week. He is a very humble and exceedingly intelligent 29-year-old man from Nigeria who has come here to do some postgraduate studies. He’s been here about a year, but his wife is back in Nigeria with their eight-month-old baby, whom he has never seen. : ( Anyway, he came to a cottage meeting (like a small member fireside) at our ward mission leader’s house with a number of recent converts and reactivated members and also came to church this week. He will be a great member!

Elder Rose and I had an amazing teaching experience this week. We met a man named Juckson who is from the Congo some time ago, and about a week and a half ago we taught him about the Restoration. He was very skeptical because he believes the Bible is the only word of God and he struggles to accept another prophet or consider that he might need to be baptized again. It was a rather frustrating lesson. As we planned for our next lesson, we really wanted to avoid “bashing” with Juckson, so we decided to read from the Book of Mormon with him instead of explaining things using our words and we selected 2 Nephi 29 as our text. 2 Nephi 29 is the chapter where the Lord tells how many people will say “we need no more Bible” at the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and goes on to explain how the Book of Mormon is a second witness of God. As we read from that chapter with him, I appreciated the message and power of that chapter in a way I never had before, and I realized how wonderful it is to have the Book of Mormon as a second witness of Christ. As we testified about the truth of what we’d read, I was able to feel love for Juckson and a real desire to help him understand instead of the frustration I’d felt before. He also understood very clearly, and his concern about more words than the Bible seemed to evaporate completely. By the end of the lesson, I think we all felt very differently about the Book of Mormon and one another. That book is truly a powerful tool! Experiences like this show me and help me feel that the Book of Mormon really is the word of God. I’m grateful to have come on a mission and have received such meaningful witnesses.

I went on exchange with Elder Adams this week! It was the first time we’d worked together since last summer in Manchester South, and I really enjoyed it. I feel very blessed to have gotten to train the missionaries I did - not only are they really good, really committed missionaries, they are people I really enjoy spending time with. Elder Adams is still amazing and reminded me of some of the principles he taught me last year, especially of the importance of relying on the Spirit while finding. We spent our evening together tracting, and we saw some miracles. We were on our way to a certain place to tract, but I didn’t feel good about it so we pulled over and said a prayer. After the prayer I thought of a referral to try by, so we went there. The referral didn’t answer the door, but while we were there outside her house we looked behind us and saw a street across a field that we both felt really good about. So we went there and had 4 very meaningful conversations in a very short number of minutes and doors. In one of these conversations a man told us he wasn’t really interested. Then Elder Adams asked him something like, “If you could ask a question to God, what would you ask?” and right away he said, very seriously, “Is there life after death?” It’s amazing how the Spirit can help us ask exactly the right questions. The exchange with Elder Adams was also really meaningful because I felt I was able to truly serve him once again. He is at a kind of turning point in his mission and he told me he came on the exchange really seeking to learn and find some answers. As we discussed the challenges of missionary work I felt that the Lord gave me the right things to say and we were both edified together. Since our exchange Elder Adams has seemed happier and he and his companion have been tearing the roof off their area with their finding. What a privilege it is to serve around great missionaries like him! Another great blessing I’ve received on my mission.

Some less than ideal news: Elder Rose and I got in a car accident. : ( Don’t worry, nobody was hurt. We were coming around a downhill curve in rainy weather near a place where someone had been killed in a car accident a few days earlier. There were a lot of flowers out at the place where he’d died and I think people were slowing down to look at them. Anyway, a chain of cars in front of us slammed on their brakes. Elder Rose did too, but we couldn’t stop fast enough and rear-ended the car in front of us (which had also run into the car ahead of it). The front of the car is bent up quite a bit and the radiator has a leak, so we’re on buses for a while until it gets fixed (which will hopefully be soon!).

Losing the car this week has made me much humbler. Recently I had been seeking to become more humble, so in some ways the accident was a blessing to me. Shortly after the accident I woke up one morning feeling rotten about riding buses all day and not using the (carless) fellowshippers we used to, and I thought about Elder Oaks' conference talk about selfless service and the dangers of feelings of entitlement. I realized I had started to feel entitled to having a car. I'm happy to feel that I've been able to cast off that feeling this weekend. It’s also satisfying to be able to bus contact much more diligently and consistently than I used to early in my mission. It’s still a challenge sometimes but now I feel I have more faith, and I’m able to push myself more to do it..

Recently I’ve developed a particular love for hymn #217, “Come, Let us Anew.” There’s a great version of it on the Mormon Tabernacle Choir CD Peace Like a River, which I received for Christmas. I feel like the lyrics are very relevant to my mission right now.

I love you all! I hope everyone is enjoying his or her respective summer activity/ies.

Elder Pimentel

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Notes from Sam -- 15 June 2009

Dear family,

Wow! Elder Rose and I set baptismal dates with four of our investigators this week. It was truly a miracle. Let me tell you about these people. The first and probably most miraculous one was a great man named Ivan James who is originally from the Caribbean. He is a very quiet, professional kind of person – Elder Rose says, “He has class.” His wife Pearlie is an active member, and he has been attending church with her almost every week for a while now. They have two teenage foster children to whom they are great parents. The missionaries have been teaching Ivan for several months now and although he had read from the Book of Mormon and prayed he had not received an answer to his prayer. The missionaries set a date with him by which he would try to obtain an answer about the truth of the Church, and the lesson this week (my first lesson with him) was the first since the deadline. Before the lesson we spoke for a while about the James’ children and how they have to exercise a lot of patience with them when they do things wrong. When we followed up on Ivan’s search for an answer, he admitted that he hadn’t been reading or praying as he should have. Guided by the Spirit, Elder Rose showed Ivan how Heavenly Father must feel the same way towards him as he feels towards his sons when they don’t do what they should. It was a great spiritual moment, and I sensed that it helped Ivan feel even more humble than he was before. As we began teaching about baptism, Ivan asked us where we perform baptisms and if we baptize only at certain times of the year. We explained that we had a couple of baptismal services coming up, one on July 11th and one on August 1st, and Elder Rose boldly invited Ivan to be baptized on the 1st! Ivan very calmly accepted. Wow! We continued teaching and promised Ivan tons of blessings for being baptized. Something Elder Durkin told me when we were serving together is that you always want your investigators to tell you they want to be baptized rather than you bringing it up and challenging them – when they do that, you know they’re really committed. I really feel that Ivan asked about baptism because he already had felt and decided that he wanted to be baptized, and I can tell that he is committed to it. It’s so exciting to watch him making that commitment, especially because he will make such a strong member.

Later that day we set another August 1st baptismal date with an investigator named Andy Winterbottom. When we first taught him after street contacting him, he talked a lot about the Bible and we didn’t have great hope for his baptismal potential. But then on the second lesson he’d read from the Book of Mormon and really enjoyed it (he read Mosiah 1-4 and described it as “The Song of Benjamin”). We read from 2 Nephi 2 and he was enlightened by the Spirit as he realized that God knew Adam and Eve would partake of the fruit and built his plan around it. He got really excited about it and kept on telling us that the Book of Mormon had “opened his eyes.” He came to stake conference on Sunday, riding the bus himself, and when we taught him he was very willing to be baptized and even explained to us how his previous Church of England baptism was not really valid. We explained that he needed to be worthy to be baptized and read from 1 Corinthians 3 about how our bodies are temples. When we asked him what things he thought he needed to stop taking into his body he said “Coffee” right away and made plans with us that he would gradually replace drinking coffee with drinking orange juice. Another committed investigator! I really like Andy and am really excited to see him get baptized. He’s in Germany all week on holiday but said he will ring us as soon as he gets back.

We also set dates with a new investigator named Bethel Egbuna who got on the church website and requested to go through our training program and become a missionary (!) and an investigator named Aviline Mouga who is from Cameroon (French-speaking) and has 4 children aged 8, 6, 4, and 2. Through a miracle, the ward was able to provide a lift for Aviline and her whole family to come to church!

Thank you as always for your consistency in letter writing! I also enjoy the various updates from extended family, etc. (although your letters are usually the highlight). I will definitely take Ruth up on her offer of a guided tour of Israel. : ) I just got the letter with the note from Peter Olson in it. I haven’t read through it fully yet, but I noticed it mentions Darin Brinley. I’d forgotten he went to Tokyo. Between those two and Scott Bullock, who left for the MTC on Saturday to go eventually to Tokyo, I now know three people in that mission. Kind of cool.

I have to go now but I love you all. I feel like I’m living the dream right now!

Elder Pimentel

Notes from Sam -- 8 June 2009

(L to R) Elder Johnson, Elder McIntosh, me, and Elder Wheat, all on transfer day. : ( I miss Newcastle zone sometimes!
Stoke district activity last transfer. We played American football, and it turns out that Elder Baumgartl (second from right) is really good, although he'd never played before.
Me and my posterity (i.e. the missionaries I trained and everyone they trained and follow-up trained) at all-mission conference. L to R: Elder Sherrard, Elder Stevens, me, Elder Adams, Elder Taylor, Elder Chambers, Elder Hall. A good bunch of missionaries. : )

Dear family,

Joseph O------- is still doing well. We had a great lesson with him and his family the other day. We brought Joseph Walsh who is in the priests’ quorum (so he’s the same age as Joseph Osibanjo) and is really great. The lesson had kind of a tense beginning. The appointment was on Saturday morning, and Joseph O------- had just gotten in big trouble with his dad the night before. Just before we started the lesson Joseph’s dad, who is named Tunde, chastised him in front of us and most of Joseph’s siblings, detailing exactly the things he had done wrong, and informed that he didn’t want Joseph to be baptized on July 11th because he wasn’t keeping the commandment to obey and honor his parents. Yikes! We said a prayer, sang a hymn with them and went ahead and taught (as we’d planned) the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The lesson ended up being very relevant and powerful because of the awkward situation at the beginning. Joseph Walsh did an excellent job teaching about the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and by the end of the lesson everyone seemed to be feeling OK about Joseph being baptized. Tunde told us at the end of the lesson that he was impressed. Right now Tunde has some concerns about priesthood authority, and is still attending his church (the Celestial Church of God, I think it’s called) rather than ours, but he’s starting to trust us, and one of these days maybe we can set a baptismal date with him.

Yesterday we were over for dinner at the home of Leland Mayall, one of the stalwart members of the Oldham ward, and I discovered that he served a mission in Jacksonville 20 years ago! He absolutely loved his mission and told us many stories about it. He served in the Jacksonville 3rd ward, he said, and attended the chapel on Dunn Street, which was the stake center. Apparently one of his mission Christmases was a white Christmas, the first one that part of the South had had in years. He also told us that they had pickup trucks(!) as their mission vehicles, and that in one of his areas they lived in a trailer way out in the woods. : ) Sounds a little different from my mission experience.

When I asked Elder Rose if he knew Tyler Clites [Ruth's friend at Harvard], he smiled and leaned back in his seat a little bit, said that he did know Tyler Clites, and told me that he hadn’t heard that name in ages. Kind of a crazy coincidence that Ruth knows him. It turns out that Elder Rose and his twin brother Kevin recruited Tyler to the Goffstown wrestling team. It appears, though, that Elder Rose isn’t related to the Roses who work with Grandma Bay at the temple, at least as far as Elder Rose knows.

This weekend was the stake conference broadcast for the UK and Ireland, with President Uchtdorf, Elder Anderson, and our area president Robert C. Oaks, as well as Sister Dibb and Sister Lant from the general Auxiliary presidencies and some Area Seventies. The broadcast was live from Hyde Park chapel in London (much to the chagrin of Elder Sutherland in our zone, who is from the Hyde Park stake and could’ve been there were he not serving here right now). There were some very good talks. I noticed a lot of it seemed to review what had already been said in the past two General Conferences, and more than one speaker even referred specifically to certain General Conference talks. It makes sense – if General Conference contains what’s most important for us to hear, of course our leaders will tell us the same thing again in our local meetings. The General Authorities seemed much more down-to-earth and spontaneous in this meeting, though, and Elder Anderson and President Uchtdorf seemed to make a lot more jokes than in their Conference talks. President Uchtdorf noted that President Oaks has a “manly voice.” : ) President Oaks spoke quite a bit about missionary work in his talk, saying that missionary work is up 23% in Europe since 2007, challenging the members to ask to go out teaching with the missionaries (yes!) and sharing some amazing finding experiences from missionaries in Europe.

We had an amazing experience the other day. While street contacting a week or two ago I spoke to an African woman named Vimbai. She was willing to hear more about the gospel, and mentioned that she’d actually spoken to Elder Rose on the street a few weeks before! We got her phone number and rang her a few days later to set up an appointment. Over the phone she told us she was actually a member! She had been baptized in Zimbabwe in 1997 but hadn’t been to church since she came to England several years ago. Yesterday we went and taught her and her non-member husband George. We shared the message of the Restoration, and George really identified with Joseph Smith’s question about which church was right. As we wrapped up the lesson after sharing the First Vision, we invited Vimbai to tell us how she had come to know it was true. She said something like, “Well, when I was baptized I was only ten years old, and when you’re a kid you mostly just follow your parents. But later on as I remained involved in the church there was a time when I just knew and felt for myself that it was true. All of the principles, the Word of Wisdom and everything, I know they are true.” She bore powerful testimony and even explained to George how the Spirit can answer his prayers through feelings. I think sometimes we underestimate the testimonies of people who haven’t been to church in a while. I’m grateful that Vimbai’s family met the missionaries and that she had such a good upbringing in the Church. That is now going to have a huge impact on the progression of her husband and the lives of their children.

To add to the miracle, during the lesson we also found out that they’d just barely moved to Oldham about two weeks ago. So when Elder Rose had spoken to her the first time, she’d only been here for a day or two! Vimbai told us that in Kent (down south) where they’d moved from, there wasn’t a church anywhere close to them. Their new house, however is a 15-20 minute walk from the church! These people have been prepared!

We had zone conference this week, and Sister Bullock gave a great talk where she spoke about making cinnamon rolls and how in order to make really, really good cinnamon rolls instead of mediocre ones, she has to keep herself from getting distracted by other responsibilities during the roll-making process (not letting the dough rise too much while she completes some other task, not rushing the rising process so she can get to an appointment, etc.). She compared that to our missions and how we can sometimes get distracted by things and thus lose the full reward we had in mind when we committed to this time as missionaries. It reminded me of President Uchtdorf’s priesthood session talk (“We Are Doing a Great Work and Cannot Come Down”), which had hit me pretty hard, and made me think a lot about how I’m using the time I have left on my mission. I realized that while I love my mission, having had amazing experiences that have deeply influenced me, and have expressed these feelings to many different people, I haven’t thought much about what specific things I have done on my mission that have brought me this joy and satisfaction. So I spent some time pondering and identified four different principles or types of experience that have brought me the most happiness here.

The first one is facing a task that’s really difficult and unpleasant, tackling it head-on, and overcoming it. For example, at this point in my mission I feel fully able to GQ in a town centre or to contact people on a bus. Early in my mission, I didn’t feel comfortable doing these things, but as I just did them they got easier. It brings me immense satisfaction to know that I’m able to do these things now.

The second thing that has brought me real happiness here is exercising faith and obtaining blessings by that faith. When I’ve asked for special blessings in a certain hour of finding time, for instance, or set a challenging goal that I know the Lord wants me to achieve, and then worked hard and received some kind of miracle, I feel an amazing increase in faith and testimony. That’s a wonderful thing.

Another thing is the friendships I form with people by serving with or alongside them. During my time here I think I’ve built some of the most meaningful friendships of my life.

Finally, I love watching people change as the Spirit influences them. Even in the course of one lesson or one quality gospel conversation, you can watch people’s hearts and attitudes change.

I’m grateful for these gifts I’ve received from the Lord here. I intend to continue pursuing those things during the rest of my time here.

Elder Pimentel

P.S. Just something quick I wanted to add. I mentioned how one of the things I have really loved about my mission is watching people change. Above all, when people progress and are baptized, you can see an amazing change come over them. And as recent converts stay active and keep their covenants, they progress amazingly quickly too. At zone conference this week I spoke to the missionaries serving in Blackburn and Blackpool, and I found out that Yvonne M----- and Chris H--- are both really, really active. Yvonne is attending the YSA ward they recently set up in Chorley stake and is presumably still preparing to serve a mission, and Chris is now serving as the second counsellor in the Young Men’s Presidency in Blackpool Ward. It’s truly amazing to think about how these people didn’t even really believe Joseph Smith was a prophet when I met them, and now they are fully participating members of God’s kingdom on earth. I love missionary work!

Elder Pimentel

Notes from Sam -- 1 June 2009

ear family,

We have had BEAUTIFUL weather the past three days, absolutely clear blue skies and bright sun. I have felt hot even in my short-sleeve shirt and slacks. Everyone here is getting sunburned, and Elder Rose and I have nice tan lines where our shirt collars sit on our necks – the infamous “collar tan.” : )

Elder Rose and I had an amazing week, probably one of the most miraculous in my mission so far!

For the first half of the week we were very busy doing things other than finding. I mentioned in my last letter that we moved flats – that took up a lot of our time. In addition, we had to drive to the mission home and pick up a brand-new sister missionary who has just arrived in England and will be serving in our zone. Sister Schmidt was supposed to arrive at the beginning of the transfer but had visa problems that delayed her arrival for a week. Sister Schmidt was excited to be here and also very, very tired – she fell asleep in the car on the way back to her area. The whole trip brought back a lot of memories about when I was a new missionary and how overwhelming and exciting and exhausting it was to plunge into mission life.

Largely as a result of all this, Elder Rose and I woke up on Friday morning having had only 10 quality gospel conversations all week. As I’ve probably mentioned a few dozen times, we have a mission standard of 70 quality gospel conversations per companionship per week, so if you have 10 on Friday you are way, way behind. To top it off, we’d just had a district leaders’ council the previous Saturday in which we had taught about how important it is to lead from the front and had committed our district leaders very firmly to get those 70 quality gospel conversations every week no matter what. So we really had to do it! We decided to step it up and work really, really hard, skipping or cutting down on our lunch and dinner hours as seemed wise, and in particular we prayed really fervently before and usually after we went finding, consecrating our time to the Lord and asking to be led to prepared souls. Especially towards the very end of the week, I also started praying a lot while finding, asking as I walked towards someone on the street that the Spirit would prepare him or her and raise questions in their mind about the gospel.

Those prayers were answered! We had some amazing experiences in talking to
people where they actually shared with us spiritual experiences that had prepared them to speak to us. I’ve had that happen before on my mission, but never so many times all in one week. One such experience: I felt prompted to speak to a certain lady, crossed to her side of the street, and started teaching her about families; she told me that it was strange that I should mention family because she hadn’t seen her family in five years but had just met up with them again within the past week. She also told me that she had been wanting for her 8- and 9-year-old children to attend a church, but wanted them to be able to choose their own church, and that she herself had been feeling like she ought to be baptized. By the end of the conversation, she agreed that I’d been guided to speak to her and she told me that I had really cheered up her day. The Spirit was definitely manifest there! We scheduled an appointment with her for tomorrow which will be covered by the sister missionaries in her area. Another lady I stopped said something like, “You know, it’s funny you should talk to me today . . .” and explained that just a day or two before she’d been feeling a desire to pray, something she hadn’t done in a long time. Elder Rose and I also spoke to a gentleman who, after some conversation, told us that just two days before, he had decided that he needed to stop drinking and had prayed very fervently that God would help him stop. He told us that he believed we were the answer to his prayer. I testify that God really does answer prayers.
Elder Rose and I had to keep on working hard and exercising faith until about ten minutes to nine on Sunday night, but we achieved our goal of 70 quality gospel conversations! The day of miracles hath not ceased. The whole just built my testimony that we can do great things when the Lord calls us to.

Another miracle happened with two of our investigators, Joseph and TJ Osibanjo. They are 15(?) and 13 respectively, and they are part of an amazing Nigerian family of five or six children. Their 20-year-old brother Junior was the first one to meet the missionaries, and he was baptized in the Stretford ward, in a different part of Manchester where Junior attends university, several months ago. After that their 22-year-old sister Eniola was baptized in Liverpool where she was attending university. Now we are teaching the father, Tunde, and the two younger brothers, who live here in Oldham! TJ and Joseph are both really smart and enjoy church a lot, and I really enjoy teaching their family, especially because Eniola is now home from university for the summer. She sits in on all the lessons and also holds family scripture study with her brothers in the morning. Anyway, last week some ward leaders invited Joseph and TJ to attend the ward’s young men campout this weekend, and they ended up going and having an amazing experience! From what we hear, they both became best friends with all of the young men in the ward. One of the young men on the campout gave even a talk on Sunday and mentioned how grateful he is for leaders who organize campouts so they can “meet new friends like Joe and TJ.” Joseph also had quite a spiritual experience during a campfire testimony meeting they had on the campout. We taught their family right after they got home from the campout and we set a baptismal date for Joseph! He is getting baptized on July 11. We are excited, and so is the ward!

I love being a missionary. I’m grateful to have been called here at this time to serve. Sometimes I like to think about the missionaries finding Thomas Green in Manchester so many years ago. It’s exciting for me to realize that even though that happened so long ago, missionary work really hasn’t changed much: I’m sharing the same gospel and the same Spirit that missionaries shared with him so many years ago, and the same fruits are available from my work as from theirs. This is the Lord’s work! I’m so happy to be a part of it.

Elder Pimentel

Notes from Sam -- 27 May 2009

Dear family,

Monday was a bank holiday (again!) so I couldn't email you. Sorry I forgot to tell you! : ( I believe the next bank holiday isn't until August, though, so I should be back to the every Monday routine for a while.

It's been a crazy week! We had both zone leaders' council and district leaders' council and we moved flats. The flat we originally lived in was close the middle of the city, but our new one (which until this transfer was inhabited by a senior couple) is out towards the hills in an area called Springhead where tons of the members live. Although it will take us longer to get down to where most of our investigators live, it will be easier for us to get to know the members and to take them teaching with us. My new address is

12 Lauren Close
Springhead, Oldham

I really love our area. In many ways it’s a very typical Manchester area – shaped somewhat like a slice of pie, with the thin pointy end in the inner city coming right up to Manchester city centre and the outer edge covering the higher-end suburbs out near the countryside and bordering (in one part at least) on the beautiful Peak District. It means we have a great variety of different kinds of areas to work in with different kinds of people in them. Add to this our very nice new flat and our car, and as Elder Rose pointed out this morning, we are kind of spoiled.

The Oldham Ward is great too. I feel very united with the ward leaders. Our ward mission leader, Kieran, just returned from his own mission in South Africa where he was the assistant to the President. He is very organized. The other day, we met with him and some of the ward missionaries and he gave the ward missionaries special binders he’d made with different sections outlying their various responsibilities and how to do them (how to organize a cottage meeting, how to write a letter to a member inviting them to fellowship a certain investigator, etc.). The bishop is also very involved, and in fact taught our Gospel Principles class on Sunday. It was probably the biggest Gospel Principles class I have ever seen on my mission – there are tons of recent converts and a good number of investigators who come to church too.

It looks like Oldham will be a good place for me to use my French, too. There are a lot of Congolese people here who speak French better than English. I used a little the other day in a lesson with a recent convert who speaks relatively little English and managed to come up with a good Preach-My-Gospel-style question to ask and even understand her answer. Better yet, when we were street contacting over the weekend I had an entire QGC and set up an appointment all in French with a Congolese lady named Christiane. It was pretty exciting! I hope we can get someone who speaks French better than me to come to the teaching appointment, though.

Let me tell you a bit about our district leaders (since I will probably be telling you a lot about them over the next few weeks).

Elder R. Larson (different from the Elder Larson I served around in Newcastle) is our district leader in Bolton on the west side of the zone. He grew up in Orlando, Florida but his family has now moved to Provo. He was trained by Elder Rose. He is supposed to be training a brand-new missionary named Elder Green, but Elder Green has had visa problems so for the moment he is with Elder Brown instead. Elder Black is serving in Bolton District too, so it’s a very colourful place this transfer. : ) President Bullock promised us that he didn’t take that into account while planning transfers, though.

Elder Hastings, who was trained by Elder Garcia, is serving as the district leader in Littleborough at the northernmost part of our zone. He is from rural Idaho and is a very hard worker. I’ve heard a good bit about him and am excited to serve around him.

Elder Taylor from central Utah is the district leader in the Ashton 2nd Ward. Elder Taylor is a great storyteller and has an infectious laugh. He is also training a new missionary, Elder Parry from Provo, Utah. Elder Taylor and Elder Parry are great bus contacters, and I’m looking forward to going on exchange with them.

Let me also tell you about Elder Rose. He is from Goffstown, New Hampshire. He and his twin brother, who was in the MTC with him and is now serving in Scotland, are the youngest of 9 kids. He is very talented at wrestling and at singing. He is one of the humblest missionaries I know and is very exactly obedient. I’m really excited to be serving with him!

I’ll have to tell you about all our great investigators next week, because I’m out of time. I love you all, though!

Elder Pimentel

Notes from Sam -- 20 May 2009

Dear family,

I've been transferred! Oldham, in northeast Manchester, is my new home. I am so excited about this! My new companion is Elder Rose, who was one of our amazing district leaders in Newcastle zone a couple of transfers ago, and he and I are the zone leaders of the Ashton zone, which covers all of North Manchester. Elder Adams, who is training a new missionary, and Elder Webb are both serving in this zone, and I'm really looking forward to serving around them both again. Ashton zone is completely on fire right now as well - this past week the zone had 32 investigators at sacrament meeting, which is more than any zone has had in one week since 2006. Elder Rose tells me that we have some great investigators, including a lot of really promising African people. I'm going to have a good time here!

I would give you my address, but we are moving in about two weeks to a much nicer flat. : ) Until then just send the letters to the mission office, if you would.

It was really, really hard to leave Newcastle, much harder than I'd expected. On Tuesday night we had tea with a great member family, the Smiths, who have been really involved in helping our investigators. We've developed a lot of love and trust with them and it was hard to think I wouldn't be able to work with them anymore. I'm going to miss our ward mission leader Tim Hooker a lot, too. It's going to be tough to miss out on teaching Ashley as well. He was really sad when he found out I was leaving: "Well that's spoilt it! I'm not converting after all!" Fortunately he was joking *fingers crossed*. He said he would ring up the Church and complain. Sharon was also disappointed that I was leaving because she'd wanted me and Elder McIntosh both to stand in the circle when she got confirmed. It's good that she's planning ahead for that! She and Richard seem pretty serious about getting married soon, and they committed to meet with the bishop when we taught them yesterday. I'm expecting to hear great things about them both in the coming transfers.

Even more than the investigators, though, I'm going to miss my missionaries! Elder Bills and Elder Newson and I have gotten really close over the past transfer especially. They’re both staying as district leaders, which will be great for Newcastle zone but unfortunately also means that I won’t see them for another six weeks (Ashton and Newcastle attend different zone conferences). There are also a lot of other great missionaries in Newcastle that I will miss, and some of them I may not see again before I go home! : ( Kind of a depressing thought. Fortunately Elder McIntosh and I will see each other again at zone leader council.

A few final experiences from Newcastle:
I don’t think I ever wrote to you about our lesson with Ashley on Saturday night (although I mentioned it in the phone call). He’d been reading from the Book of Mormon and really feeding spiritually. He’d also shared with us some of the things he’d learned from his relatives. In particular, he’d once asked his grandma “How do you know that God exists?” or something similar, and she’d said, “Ask and ye shall receive.” ! That’s a pretty great answer. Partially in response to that, we watched the Restoration DVD with Ashley on Saturday night. Afterwards he told us that he really felt a lot like Joseph Smith and identified with his situation. We taught him about baptism and invited him to be baptized on June 20th, and after some hesitation, he agreed to “have a go.” Although he had to work on Sunday, he has promised to get the following Sunday off so he can come. Yes!

We had a great experience the other day. One of the sisters in our zone has been struggling a lot with some health problems and asked us for a blessing. Elder McIntosh and I went with her district leader and his companion to meet up with them and give the blessing. Elder Newson anointed and Elder McIntosh sealed the anointing. As Elder McIntosh pronounced the blessing I felt that it was not coming from him but from the Spirit and ultimately the Lord. It was a really beautiful and uplifting experience. We are so blessed to have the priesthood on earth again today.

Well, my time is running short. I love you all and hope Ruth gets off to Israel safely on Saturday.

Elder Pimentel

Notes from Sam -- 11 May 2009

Dear family,

We taught Sharon the law of chastity this week, and she struggled a lot to accept it. Because she'd been looking forward to her baptismal date so much, it upset her to realize that she'd have to live this commandment. This concern was a challenge and a surprise for us - I realized as we taught just how different Sharon's background is from mine and how blessed I am to have been taught the law of chastity from an early age. Despite the setback, though, she still really wants to be baptized. On Sunday morning she didn't arrive for sacrament meeting and I was really worried that she'd decided to stop investigating, but at the end of the meeting when I looked at the back row she and Richard were there! They'd just arrived late. Not only did they attend sacrament meeting but they stayed for gospel principles, something they haven't done for the past couple of weeks. The lesson was on baptism, and Sister Kala, one of the senior sister missionaries serving in the ward, shared some great experiences about her conversion and baptism. She had married a less-active member, received a witness of the truth of the gospel during a visit to Temple Square, and come to church and asked the missionaries to teach her shortly after the birth of their first son. I was so grateful that Sharon, who is coming to the gospel from a similar kind of situation, decided to stay and be a part of that lesson.

This week I went on exchange with Elder Wheat, a great English missionary who is serving in Shrewsbury. I went on exchange in Wales with him back in January, as you might remember. We had a good time together in our area and worked really hard at finding new investigators. Right at the end of the exchange we had about twenty minutes before we had to eat tea and head back to Shrewsbury, so we prayed on the street that we would be guided to the right place to find someone who had been prepared. We felt guided to knock the doors on that street, and met a good man named Richard who we set up an appointment with! It was great to see a miracle like that.

This week in our conversations with our district leaders we've tried to focus more on the spiritual needs of our missionaries and helping them progress and less on numbers. In our conference call on Friday we talked about getting investigators to church, and I felt that we should focus on thinking about and praying for the individual people who would be coming. I had the district leaders each write down a list of the names of all the investigators who'd been solidly committed to come to church across the zone (29 of them). We talked about how each of these people has a soul and an eternal life ahead of them, and how attending sacrament meeting or not this week is an important step for each one of them. We agreed to challenge every companionship in the zone to pray by name for each of the 29 people on the list on Saturday to help them attend church. I felt the Spirit a lot during the conference call and it was a great experience to pray for each of those people. Many of them didn't end up coming and our sacrament attendance was actually very low this week, but I still felt quite good about what we as missionaries had done and very grateful for the experience of praying for those souls.

We have a pretty new investigator who I'm quite excited about. His name is Ashley (it's a male name in England). We found him last week when we were tracting and his housemate Nikki invited us into their house. We started teaching them a really good lesson, but partway through a third housemate, very friendly and talkative but not spiritually-minded at all, came into the lesson and dominated it. It was a bit frustrating for us, especially because when we set up the return appointment we only got the contact number for this third least-promising housemate. But when we came back for the appointment yesterday, only Ashley was in! We had a really good lesson with him, good mostly because his thoughts and feelings were all really relevant (concerns about how the Bible has been changed and mistranslated, thoughts about how God speaks to us not directly but through spiritual messengers, etc.). As we left, he thanked us and remarked that both times we'd come we'd left him in a really good mood. The Spirit is working on him! We're excited to go back and teach him again on Tuesday.

Dad, you mentioned that Phil Ngo [Ruth's boyfriend] attended Waterford High School. My Stanford friend and future housemate Cliff Crosland (on his mission in Paris right now) also attended Waterford. There's a good chance they know each other.

I'm way excited to talk to you all next Sunday!

Elder Pimentel

Monday, June 15, 2009

From Jon 6/13

Subject: Cov dej uas kho kev mob

Nyob zoo!
Wahoo! Chor, Mee, and Nouchi were baptized today! This completes the family, and now they can look forward to being sealed together. I got to perform the ordinance, and Elder Hill will confirm them tomorrow. Mee is expecting a baby very soon, and it was hard for her to properly squat so I could help her backward into the water. Third time was the charm though. I did Nouchi's prayer in English, and the other two I did in Hmong. They are all very happy. Molly was very excited to see everyone in funny white clothes, and thought it was hilarious.

After the baptism, we stopped by the 2nd branch's summer picnic. It was great to see all the members from over there again and take pictures. I hadn't seen some of them for quite some time, and some had new hairstyles. I didn't even recognize some people.

No news with Yer. She has still been meeting with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, which causes her to bring up a lot of questions she never would have come up with on her own. She's still pretty sure our church is true, just a few small doubts.

Fu is also struggling a little. He believes the Bible and the Book of Mormon are true, but he had a dream where his deceased parents' spirits came to eat a New Year's feast at his house, but they couldn't come in because he had Christian scriptures in the house. He removed the books and placed them outside, and his parents' spirits came inside and ate. He feels great concern for the welfare of his parents and the only way he knows how to help them is to keep the old traditions and burn incence and spirit money for them so they will have money in the spirit world to buy food and clothing and build a house. We spent a lot of time explaining to him about how he can best help them by giving them the opportunity to receive the blessings of the gospel by be baptized for them in the temple. We gently reminded him about the Plan of Salvation, and how our spirits are taken care of after we pass, and we cannot feel cold or hunger. We also reminded him about the resurrection and how once again, all pain, hunger, etc. will not affect our perfect bodies. He's going to search, ponder, and pray about it more.

[Editor's note: I posed Jay's question to Jon about members present when their friends are receiving the lessons. Is it better for a close friend to not be present, so the investigator feels more at ease speaking freely?] As far as teaching members' friends with the members in the room, I suppose it may depend on the sort of relationship the members have with their friends. In general, we are taught to teach in members' home with the member there, even if the investigator is a friend or relative. The key is to keep the atmosphere and discussion warm, comfortable, and open. Very honest and sincere. The only way I have seen one of these lessons be uncomfortable and awkward was when the member was a little too overbearing and seemed like he was trying to "straighten out" his friend and make him see that his beliefs were wrong. There wasn't much love, and there wasn't much spirit. When there is love and it is a sincere invitation to greater happiness, I haven't seen it be awkward to have the member participate in the lesson with his or her friend. Just don't make it too Gestapo-style.

Love you, Love you, Hurrah for Israel!
-Elder Moua Ying

Monday, June 8, 2009

From Jon 6/6

Subject: Los nag es thiaj zoo siab

Nyob zoo!
Things are dandy as candy, and we've got a spot of rain to cool us down (at last).

I received what is known as "The Trunky Letter" this week. It is the letter they send to all missionaries who are on the final lap, asking them to write a big letter to the Mission President about what they've learned and how they've changed on their missions. *sigh*

Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve spoke this morning to the missionaries serving in the Twin Cities. It was stupendous. At the beginning, he had us all get up by rows and come shake his hand. He asked each of us where we were from, and had a remark---often quite funny---about each of our home towns. One elder said he was from a town in Idaho (I forget the name) which lies on the border of Utah. Elder Perry said, "Oh, that's the worst place in the world!" "You just stop there for gas, and they'll always try to sell you a lotto ticket!"
Most of the time when I tell people where I'm from, I just say "Salt Lake" because nobody's heard of East Millcrik. I figured Elder Perry would have heard of it, so I told him "East Millcreek". He raised his eyebrows in delight and said, "Oh, good!" It's good to know I come from a good town, as opposed to an Apostolically-dubbed "worst place in the world". ;) It's an exciting time to be alive, and an exciting time to be a full-time missionary. Great things are in store for the future. Elder Perry said that he was more successful as a member missionary in the marines after his mission than he was as a full-time missionary in the field, and encouraged us to continue to develop missionary skills even after our missions. He also made fun of the Navy because they wore bell-bottoms during WWII, and that's why he changed his mind and joined the Marines.

Elder Hill and I are doing great. Elder Hill served with me and Elder Vang in a threesome for a transfer last winter. He is the one who baptized Bao, Peter, and Lillian. He is the one who gets money from the government each month because he suffered some hearing damage while serving in the marines in Iraq firing artillery. He said those Howitzers are so loud, they'll make your heart skip a beat. He said the shock waves from all the explosions made his Game boy Advance SP go haywire and start turning on and off on its own. He has a lot of interesting stories. He is a good man. We get along great. :)

Still no change with Yer or Fu, but we made a breakthrough with Misty. We were teaching Tou Choua's parents the law of chastity, and explained that this is why Misty can't be baptized. They then told us that the reason they had not gotten the license papers done is not because they are flaky or lazy, but because Tou Choua doesn't want them done yet! He couldn't just tell us that, because any time we were with him, Misty was there too. He loves Misty, but doesn't feel ready to be married. It turns out Misty's parents kind of forced him to marry Misty culturally, and he would have rather waited. Chor and Mee are going to discuss with Tou Choua and Misty the possibility of Misty moving in with Cindy in Brooklyn Park for now, but we suspect Misty will not like the idea of being separated from Tou Choua.

Nouchi, Chor, and Mee are on track for baptism on the 13th. Brooklyn Park has a baptism on the 19th. It's a girl name Leanne, who has turned her life completely around.

We have a new investigator named Karen. Her Hmong name is "Kab Npaub", which mikafies into "Ka Bao" which is a fun, onomatapoetically explosive name in my opinion. She is pretty solid, and we may pick up her boyfriend, her mom, and her neighbor too.

Well, that's about all I've got for now. Hurrah for Israel!

-Elder Moua Ying