Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Notes from Sam -- 27 July 2009

1. With Cecilia and son
2. Me with Joseph and TJ, our former star investigators (TJ is in red). They moved away a week or two ago, unfortunately, but their great older siblings are doing their best to keep them connected with the church.
3. Bolton District activity. It turns out towels make good headdresses as well as hockey sticks. L to R: Sister Sessions, Elder Driscoll, Elder Sutherland (in back), Elder Eichelberger, Elder Larson, Elder Green, and me. Sister Kocaj is not pictured.

4. Elder Parry styling one of my birthday party hats.
5. Me and my birthday kebab.

Dear family,

For the past couple of weeks, Elder Eichelberger and I have been teaching a lady named Cecilia Gbemudu. She is about 70 years old and has come here from Nigeria (quite recently, I would guess) to stay with her son, who I believe is an English citizen, and his family. It sounds like she stays here for a few months, then goes back to Nigeria for a few months, and on and on like that. Elder Eichelberger and I love visiting her. We met her while we were tracting and as we were telling her briefly about the Restoration, she kept on saying things like “Praise the Lord!”, “Amen!”, and “Keep it up!” She always calls us “my sons” as well. : )

She is a very strong Christian and a very spiritual lady, and although she sometimes has trouble understanding our American accents (she says we speak “raw English” as opposed to her African English) she really appreciates our teaching. When we shared the First Vision and asked her how she felt (to help her identify the Spirit) she told us she felt “the power of God” in the room. About a week ago when we taught her we challenged her to be baptized on September 12, but she had a couple of concerns: she thought the pastor who had baptized her in Nigeria might have had priesthood authority, and she wasn’t sure her son would let her attend our church (he usually goes to a different one). We committed her to pray about whether she should be baptized again. When we started the next lesson this past Friday it sounded like she was still unsure, so we started teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As we started teaching about baptism, she asked us if we’d seen in vision that she would be baptized again. We said that we had prayed and asked God about it and we had felt that she could be baptized on September 12. When she heard that, she said something like, “Alright, I will baptize,” and explained that if God had revealed it to us both, then it must be right because in the mouth of two or three witnesses is every word established. Wow! What faith! She is going back to Nigeria on August 10, it turns out, so the missionaries over there will have to finish teaching her and do the actual baptism. During the lesson we also met her son, who is really nice and was more than happy to let his mum attend church with us, and Cecilia had her son take a picture of her with us so she can show it to the missionaries in Nigeria (attached - the fourth person is our fellowshipper, a great recent convert named Junior). She came to church yesterday as well and really enjoyed it. I’m excited to teach her some more before she goes back.

Andy Winterbottom is doing really well. He came to sacrament meeting yesterday and really enjoyed it. I don’t think he understood it 100% - the two talks were on patriarchal blessings and the power of regular temple attendance – but I guess the real reason we want investigators to attend sacrament meeting is to feel the Spirit and I’m sure he did. His baptism is set for 7 PM on Saturday, and the ward is getting it all sorted out. I’m excited!

Interviews with the President was this week. Elder Eichelberger and I gave a training on how to do a weekly planning session. Preach My Gospel has a set of steps to follow (p. 147-150) for the planning session, and we focused on the importance of reading through and carrying out those steps one line at a time as you plan, thus making sure you carry out all the necessary steps in the right order and don’t miss anything. The weekly planning session can be really a drag if you don’t do it right, and it’s very easy to lose focus and/or spend too long planning, so I felt it was an important and a difficult training. It went really well though – we started out with an example of a really bad planning session (complete with a very messy study desk covered with papers, bags of crisps, etc.), then had the missionaries role-play planning the right way, and then read through a couple of more difficult or confusing planning steps with the missionaries and helped them understand how to plan correctly. I learned a lot from it myself – there’s a few planning steps that have always confused me, and I gained a good idea of what they meant. Better yet, I realized that if something in Preach My Gospel confuses me, I can study and ponder and seek revelation about it and the Lord will help me understand and apply it. We finished the training by testifying a lot of Preach My Gospel and how much it helps us. It’s surprising to realize that when I started my mission I didn’t like Preach My Gospel much and never studied much from it. I’m glad I’ve learned to appreciate it so much.

I love you all! Hope you are enjoying your holiday. : )

Elder Pimentel


I got my travel itinerary for August 13:

Flight 1: Manchester to Atlanta
Delta Air Lines DL065
Departs: 10:50 AM
Arrives: 3:00 PM

Flight 2: Atlanta to Jacksonville International
Delta Air Lines DL1675
Departs: 7:10 PM
Arrives: 8:27 PM

I have a 100-pound checked baggage allowance and 40 pounds in my carry-on. I’m not sure how much my stuff weighs but I may need to mail some separately. I’m assuming I should just mail it to Brookwood Rd. Let me know if that will work.

A couple more questions: I have quite a few photos (in hard copy) that you’ve sent me for Christmas, my birthday, etc, and a significant collection of artwork by Isaac and Eleanor. Would you have a use for those things if I brought them back? I might bring them anyway depending on how much space I have. Also, is there anything you’d like me to bring you from England? I have one more preparation day to get it.

P.P.S. In one of the internet chat printouts you sent me, Ed and Dad were discussing scientific theory stated in poetic form, and Dad mentioned the theory of relativity written as a limerick. I couldn’t resist:

A brilliant researcher, wild-haired
Questioned Newton himself – yes, he dared!
He so postulated:
“E and m are related
And the constant’s the speed of light squared."

: )

Notes from Sam -- 20 July 2009

Dear family,

I am feeling very happy! Andrew Winterbottom, whom we had completely lost contact with the week before last, is back with a vengeance. He’d just gotten stressed out with different things in his life and had gone to visit his sister for a few days. When we taught him again on Tuesday we found out he was still drinking one cup of coffee each morning (cut down from 20 a day). We went over the Word of Wisdom and committed him to live it. He agreed and said he would throw away all his coffee that day. Then a few minutes he later he remarked that in fact he wouldn’t throw his coffee away, because in the morning Satan could just remind him that the coffee was still right there in the rubbish bin and he could get it out and drink some. He told us that instead he would pour all his coffee down the sink. When he came to church yesterday he told me that it had been very hard, but he had not had any coffee since our lesson, and that it was getting easier. Wow! He loved church, and really joined in the discussions in Gospel Principles and Priesthood Meeting. It also turns out that he and a certain part-member family that attended yesterday happen to be very good friends! I’m really excited for Andy and for his baptism on the 1st.

I’d also been worried about Aviline and Latrecha recently. But we had a very good lesson with them yesterday to which we brought our outstanding ward mission leader. We taught about baptism and sat down and made a baptismal calendar with them, starting that day and showing all the lessons, sacrament meetings, and other important events between then and their baptism (which is now scheduled for August 8). The baptismal calendar is a new emphasis in our mission, brought out about three transfers ago. It makes a big difference - seeing Aviline and Latrecha commit to do everything on that baptismal calendar really built my confidence that they can and will make their date, and I think it helped them see what it really is that we expect from them. I’m looking forward to using the calendar in our subsequent visits – to set a quit-drinking-tea date, etc.

A few comments on all the correspondence I’ve been receiving: I received a very nice birthday package from Grandma! I’m especially enjoying the pralines. : ) I’m glad that Kent and Jon have at least a week or two together. Where is Kent going on his mission by the way? Maybe you told me and I just forgot. I’m glad Mom and Dad enjoyed Trinidad. Beaches and tropical scenery aside, it sounds like you got a taste of some English things – right-hand steering wheels, Indian food, etc.

I forgot to mention this in my last letter, but I gave a talk last Sunday. It was about “asking in faith” from Elder Bednar’s conference talk last year, and it went really well. I spoke about how missionaries can recognize if someone they are teaching has or is developing faith by whether or not they are keeping commitments. Investigators who do the things we ask them to receive answers to their prayers, feel the Spirit, and ultimately get baptized and receive a very evident change of heart and countenance. Those who don’t get commitments rarely get much out of our teaching. Their lives do not change and eventually they drop out of the teaching pool. Preach My Gospel describes this principle, and the more I’ve taught people as a missionary the more I’ve recognized its truth. One thing I learned from preparing the talk and pondering it afterwards is that faith is really the same for those of us who have already been baptized. The Lord leaves a lot of commitments with us, and our faith is determined by whether we keep those commitments and whether we are willing to act and work for the blessings we desire. If we aren’t willing to do what the Lord requires of us to get blessings, we likely won’t receive answers to our prayers either.

I went on a couple of great exchanges this week, in Bolton with Elder Liam Driscoll and in Rochdale with Elder Rowley. Elder Eichelberger and I stayed over in Bolton with Elder Driscoll and Elder Sutherland after preparation day, with both sets of us working in their area for the evening (after which Elder Eichelberger and I slept over at their flat and returned in the morning). Elder Eichelberger and Elder Sutherland took the car and covered the teaching appointments, and Elder Driscoll and I walked into town centre and went finding for the whole evening. It was kind of rainy and town centres are usually pretty dead in the evening, so I wasn’t sure how much success we’d have, but the Lord blessed us immensely. Elder Driscoll is a gregarious Englishman and an amazing finder, and as we spoke to everyone we met we ended up having seventeen quality gospel conversations and setting up six teaching appointments! We were both stunned. In the past that area has sometimes had trouble with finding, so it was especially strengthening to receive so much success. The Lord will bless us if we are ready to receive those blessings from him.

Elder Rowley, who is from Provo, is also a fantastic missionary, and I enjoyed my exchange with him. Something we’ve been talking about a lot in our mission recently is being a sacred missionary rather than just an honorable missionary, which essentially means serving out of love and respect for the Lord rather than duty, and Elder Rowley has really captured the vision of it. On the exchange we said our personal evening prayers in separate rooms. I finished my prayer first and as I came back to the bedroom (where Elder Rowley was praying) I felt the Spirit a lot. I could tell that Elder Rowley considered that moment very holy. I think one of the biggest blessings of my mission so far has been working with other missionaries and learning from their great examples.

On the way to Rochdale for our exchange, Elder Eichelberger and I had a funny experience. We were coming from a small town called Shaw, and we had planned to take a windy B-road through the countryside to get to Rochdale. As we drove out through the outskirts of Shaw on this road, we started seeing big yellow signs on the road that said “Road Closed.” It was bizarre because normally you see those signs right in front of major construction (excavations, traffic cones, etc.) but the road was very obviously clear up ahead and the cars in front of us were just passing the signs and driving on. So we decided to follow them. Pretty soon the signs disappeared, and we continued on through the countryside all the way out to the outskirts of Rochdale. As we drove into the first little neighborhood, the cars in front of us came to a stop and we saw another Road Closed sign, this time with a policeman by it setting out traffic cones to block off the road. We realized the road actually was closed. When I looked at the map to plot an alternate route, I realized there was no way to cut around; to get into Rochdale, we would have to drive right back on the same road all the way to Shaw! We realized why the “Road Closed” signs were located so far in advance of the closure, and recognized that we should have heeded the signs and taken an alternate road when we had the chance instead of just following the cars ahead. Just like so many times in life when we disregard the directions to try and do it the easy way – only to realize we should have trusted the road signs. At least Elder Eichelberger and I both have a good story to use in a talk now when we become high councilors or something later in life. : ) “When I was on my mission . . . “

Zone conference was this week. Kind of bittersweet for me. It was very strange to get up and bear my testimony, as I’ve seen departing missionaries do every conference up until now. The conference itself was amazing, though, and the assistants gave us a great training about having urgency in our work. Elder Garcia said when he thinks of urgency, he thinks about an ambulance with the word “URGENCY” written on it in big letters speeding down the street with sirens blaring – a great image. They committed us to date people for baptism on our third visit with them, to walk faster, and to speak with people who seem busy (because the gospel is more important than whatever they may be doing at the time). This morning on the way to the library to write this email, I walked by a parked car containing a man who was listening to loud music, using a laptop, and eating a big bowl of noodles all at once. I thought, “He looks busy,” and knew I had to go back and talk to him. So I did and was able to set up an appointment! There are so many miracles in missionary work!

I love you all!

Elder Pimentel

Notes from Sam -- 13 July 2009

Dear family,

Aviline and her family are doing well! Their house had to be rewired by the council and they are having to redecorate it, so we went over and helped them strip some of the old wallpaper. Joseph and TJ's brother Junior came with us (because we couldn't go into the house without a fellowshipper), and after a few minutes of work he asked if we wanted some more people and rang up and invited his family and one of their friends to come down and help us out! So we ended up with quite a big work crew and we were able to complete a lot of good work. Latrecha and her little sister Stacey also went to the Stake Sports Day on Saturday morning and enjoyed it a lot.

Joseph and TJ are also doing really well, and the ward is really helping them out. It sounds like they may be moving away from Oldham soon to live with other relatives for a while, but we're hoping to keep the missionaries visiting them even if they do move.

We found a new investigator this week named Shepherd. He just arrived from Zimbabwe and he is looking for a church to join. Perfect! We taught him the Restoration and asked him how he felt after we shared the First Vision. He said his heart was beating very quickly but that he also felt relieved, and that he felt good. I love hearing people describe the Spirit, especially as they recognize it for the first time.

We're in Bolton today on exchange. We just came from a district activity where we played something called "towel hockey," where you tie a knot in the end of a towel and use it to whack a soccer ball around. It turned out to be a lot of fun - the kind of game that people of very different skill levels can all play and enjoy. It was pretty difficult to get the knot out of my towel by the end of it though.

I had a nice birthday. Thank you for all the cards and the package! I also received a nice card from the Bullocks. On my birthday itself, I went to Ashton on exchange with Elder Parry. We worked really hard and I had the best day of finding that I've had in a very long time. We had a very cool experience in the course of our work as well. As we walked down a certain road, I remembered a really promising potential investigator named Mark we'd stopped there on our last exchange two weeks before. Elder Parry told me nothing had happened with him, though - they hadn't been able to make his appointment and hadn't been able to contact him to reschedule. Later that night, as we walked back along the same road, I saw Mark coming towards us the other way! We stopped him again and he remembered us and set up another appointment. I felt really blessed. On the way home we got a donner kebab to split (Elder Parry had never had one before) and once we'd gotten back to the flat and planned for the following day I opened up the birthday package. Elder Parry took a video of me opening it up but I think it's too big to email to you. Thank you, though! I blew up the balloons (still need to get a picture of them) and Elder Eichelberger and I have been enjoying the Kool-Aid.

I had a good experience the other day reading 3 Nephi 27 with an investigator. We read verses 19 and 20 out loud very slowly, thinking about what all the different words meant. As I read the last part of verse 20, I thought about what it would actually feel like to stand spotless before God. It made me feel willing to do anything I have to in order to return and be with God again. It was an amazing feeling. I'm so grateful for how Jesus Christ's Atonement gives us the chance to actually experience that someday.

I love you all!

Elder Pimentel

Monday, July 6, 2009

From Jon 7/6

Subject: Txhua leej txhua tus mus saib

Nyob zoo!
July 4th was very exciting. All any Hmong person has been talking about since June is the big fourth of July tournament in St. Paul. We were there all day, talking to masses of Hmong people. They had everything. Soccer, volleyball, flag football, ka tau, top-throwing, and more. There were also plenty of booths selling Hmong clothes, Hmong food, Hmong music, Hmong movies, and even movies that were dubbed in Hmong, but were actually Chinese, Thai, Korean, or sometimes Japanese. Elder Vang pointed out two Thai movies and a Chinese one that he said were dubbed very well and would serve as good language study after I go home. He also said they are very good movies that I would like anyway. We had a lot of really good conversations with people about the gospel. We found a lot of really interested people, and got a lot of peoples information. There was one girl that had done some evangelizing in many countries around the world, and she was very interested in learning more about the restoration and thought it was very important. At first she thought it was great, but didn't get the full significance of it. She said "Well, it sounds like all of this is really just about Jesus Christ." I agreed, and she asked if there was any reason a person couldn't just go to another Church that teaches Jesus. Then she paused and said, "Wait, I guess this church would have all the correct details, so that would help, but couldn't you still be saved in any church?" I explained about authority and it all came together for her. Now she could see what the big deal is. She really liked the idea of modern prophets, and the idea of being sure what is true and what the scriptures really mean. That's one of the most rewarding things about being a missionary---sharing the perfect, pure truth that has all the answers with someone who recognizes what it is and hungers after it.

Carmen brought Yer and one of the other Elders' investigators, Leanne, to church. Carmen went up to sit on the stand in preparation to bear her testimony, and asked the other two to sit up there with her. Once they were up there, Carmen encouraged them to bear their testimonies. They were taken aback, and quite overwhelmed, but they did it. Yer's was great. You couldn't even tell she was nervous. She knows now that God is real and that He loves her and answers prayers. She said that she still hasn't gotten an answer to know the Book of Mormon is true, but I know she knows. She just doesn't know she knows. Her parents still tsis kam (are unwilling), though. Leanne's mom won't let her be baptized yet, but she really wants to. She does know that she knows it's true, and it was really good for Yer to hear the testimony of another investigator about her age and in a similar boat.

I got a bike box today. One-on-one bikes charges a dollar a minute for them to pack up the bike. They use fed-ex to ship. I didn't look at the rates, but sometimes UPS is cheaper. I'm just going to disassemble and pack it myself (shouldn't take long, I have the tools, and I was the one who put it together), and ship it via UPS.

I guess this is pretty much my last letter! Eep! A lot of the members are inviting the four of us over for dinners this week because all but one of us are leaving. I guess I see you soon! Love ya!
-Elder Moua Ying

From Jon 6/27

Subject: Los nag mas thiaj zoo siab

Nyob zoo!
We've been swimming through the air over here because of all the water in it. I've started drinking a ton of water in the morning to avoid dehydration and heat exhaustion, because I can't carry enough of it with me during the day to replace all the sweat. Now that I know to load up ahead of time, I should be all right. It's raining (hallelujah), so it is pleasant today.
I finished my Trunky Letter. It was a good opportunity to reflect on all I have learned and become on my mission. I kept a copy of it so I can read it in the future. I got my travel papers. I don't know if they send you a copy too, but it's a Delta flight. I found the number DL5739...I assume that's the flight number. It is a non-stop flight; the paper says we take off at 9:00 am and arrive at 10:52 am. I'm not sure if those are both MN time, or if the last one is UT time. I'm supposed to arrive in terminal 2 at the SLC airport. Elder Vang and Elder Nielson (one of my old companions in LaCrosse) will be on the same flight, but Elder Vang has a 40 minute layover in SLC before getting on a flight to CA. As of now, he has nobody to pick him up at the airport, and nowhere to go when he gets there. His parents don't speak English and don't use e-mail, so they don't know when he's coming in. Everyone in his family moved, and he doesn't know the new addresses. Most of his sisters have changed e-mail addresses. His friends will all be at work and can't pick him up. He may very well be homeless upon his return. Hopefully he can get permission to call his mom's cell and work something out. We joked about him just staying in Salt Lake and starting a Hmong restaurant.

We had a great lesson with Yer. She seemed less troubled, and more at peace. She has been reading in the BoM and is done with 1 Nifais (1 Nephi). I think her testimony is growing more than she realizes. She has always been too scared to pray in front of us, but when we asked her if she would like to say the opening prayer, she said we could do it, but she would do the closing. She said it without the usual nervous, uncomfortable, cop-out feeling that accompanied that response in the past. It seemed like she was really going to do it this time. When the time came, she did it without any squirming or coaxing. It was a great prayer, and a big step for her.

We were challenged by our Zone Leaders to contact 300 people this week, and to do so by contacting 43 per day, not by getting 60 one day, and 20 the next. This helps keep us in "missionary mode" all the time, rather than having off-days where we don't push ourselves as much because we got plenty the day before. We accepted the challenge, but were concerned because some days we just don't have much proselyting time, e.g. P-days, Sundays, weekly planning days, days with district meetings, etc. On Tuesday we had District Meeting, exchanges, and had to spend time writing trunky letters. I was a little discouraged because with the remainder of our time we were to tract only a short time before our appointment in a far-away area when there is seldom anyone walking around. To make a long story medium length, we worked hard and had faith that if we were where we were supposed to be, doing what we were supposed to be doing, the Lord would provide and help us reach our goal. We ended up contacting 53 people, and getting 3 or 4 people's information. Yesterday we had a similar experience. It was weekly planning day, which means we usually don't get out proselyting until mid-to-late afternoon. We contacted 77 people. When the Lord sees your faith and willingness, he puts people in your path. We got a few appointments and half a dozen other people's information.

So I heard that Michael Jackson died of a heart attack the other day. Is that true? We don't follow the news.

Well, that's about all for now! Love ya!
-Elder Moua Ying

From Jon 6/20

Subject: Lom zem heev

Nyob zoo!
We had the big branch picnic today! It was very fun. All of the activities were a great success, as was the food. We made a water-balloon launcher out of two exercise elastics tied to two ends if a dishcloth. Worked surprisingly well. We folded the dishcloth in such a way as to create a nice handle. It was a bit of a shame more people didn't show up, though. The real purpose of the activity was to have something fun that the branch can invite non-members to, and the missionaries can talk to those people at the activity. Very few non-members actually showed up. Yer was there though. Yay! She has made a lot of friends and feels like she belongs.

Not a lot of updates with investigators. We met with Karen and her boyfriend, Kerry (we don't know how it's spelled), and it went very well. Kerry is a less-active Lutheran, and told us that before his family started going to the Lutheran church they went to the Mormon church, but then they moved. He didn't put together that our church was the same one until we told him. He was never baptized. Turns out he also lives on our block. Fancy that.

The tornado didn't hit us by the way. We got some rain though.
Sorry, that's all the time I have! Cheerio!
-Elder Moua Ying

Notes from Sam -- 6 July 2009

Dear family,

I think I taught more lessons this week than ever before in my mission! Definitely more member-present lessons to investigators. It feels great to be teaching all the time. Unfortunately a lot of our investigators who are dated for baptism hit serious opposition this week. Joseph Osibanjo has canceled his date for now – it seems like he is getting a lot of opposition from his friends. Luckily he still wants to meet with us and come to church, so we’ll have good opportunities to resolve his concerns. Andy Winterbottom didn’t come to church and we haven’t been able to contact him, so we’re also worried about him. Bethel Egbuna is going through a hard time too, but he came to church and is keeping commitments. It’s not really a surprise that all these things are happening, though. Since the worth of souls is so great and the conversion process is so wonderful and positive, it must be difficult and there must be opposition. We’ll be praying a lot for these people this week and seeking to strengthen them so they can succeed.

We found some new investigators this week and also picked up an investigator whom we haven’t taught for a month, so our teaching pool is staying fresh. One of the new investigators is a Nigerian man named Peter Okolie who has lived in Cyprus for some time and just moved to Manchester about a month and a half ago. He met some missionaries on a bus in another area and set up an appointment for us to come see him. When we taught him yesterday he told us how he’d felt “peace” from the missionaries and their message, and so he’d agreed to meet with us. Wow! I’m looking forward to teaching him some more.

I got some birthday letters and a birthday package the other day. Don’t worry, I haven’t opened them yet. Thank you in advance though! It makes me feel old to be turning 21. Also, happy anniversary to Mom and Dad!

I really, really like serving with Elder Eichelberger. He’s one of the most humble missionaries I’ve ever met, and I can tell he just adapts the way he works to whatever missionary he’s serving with. Teaching with him is great. It’s also nice for once, after serving with people like Elders Anderson, Russell, Adams, Stevens, and Rose, to have a companion whose name, like mine, is very difficult for English people to say. : ) Yesterday at church Elder Eichelberger was introduced as “Elder Eichenburger,” and later in the day Bishop asked me how to spell it so he could pronounce it right. I’m not alone! : )

By the way, I’ve made a point of not telling anyone in Oldham Ward when I am going home. Everyone in Blackburn Ward seemed to know Elder Durkin was about to go home and they were always asking him about it, which must have made it really tough for him. I will have no such problems. Yesterday our ward mission leader was asking us how long we’ve each been out. When we wouldn’t tell him he guessed that I’d been out about 15 months and triumphantly interpreted my silence as a confirmation of his guess. Mwahaha. : )

Zone leaders' council was this week. The council has turned over almost entirely since I joined it – three new zone leaders were called this transfer, including Elder Newson, who I served around for three transfers when I was in Newcastle and he was in Stoke. I was telling Elder Eichelberger the other day about how intimidating it had been to go to zone leaders’ council the first time. Now I know everyone a lot better and I love being with such a great group of missionaries for a day.

As usual, we received amazing training, especially from President Bullock and the assistants (still Elders Garcia and Ayers). One of the things I learned is about how to set a better zone focus. At the beginning of every transfer we plan together what we will focus on and improve in as a zone (for example finding new investigators, planning, etc.). Then throughout the transfer we’ll emphasize that and set weekly focuses related to the bigger goal. What I’ve been doing to set the focus, especially recently, is reviewing the past transfer’s key indicators, identifying which areas we’re struggling in, and focusing on those. Elder Eichelberger and I did that before zone leaders’ council and decided to focus on finding new investigators. But at the meeting, President explained to us the dangers of focusing on too many things, on things that are too specific and granular, or of just focusing on whatever seems to be going wrong at the moment. He counseled us to make our zone focuses simple, to let them build upon what we are already doing well, and to make them united with the mission focus. So after zone leaders’ council we decided to throw out what we’d prepared before and to discuss and create a focus in our district leaders’ council meeting the next day. We have three amazing district leaders, Elder Larson, Elder Hastings, and Elder Rowley, and during our meeting with them we had them write down on paper the things they felt were the strengths and weaknesses of the zone. Then we had them read out their answers and wrote them up on the board in columns. When we sat back and looked at the board together, the needed focus was suddenly very clear. Almost everything on the strengths side was very external – teaching skills, quality gospel conversations, dating people for baptism, etc. – and the weaknesses were all more spiritual, internal things – purity of heart, focus on the most important things, spirituality, etc. We realized we needed to focus back on doing the right things for the right reasons and remembering why we are serving missions. It had never occurred to me and Elder Eichelberger in our previous planning that we should focus on just being pure in heart, but as we looked at that board it was so clear. What an amazing way for the Lord to reveal his will to us. I felt the Spirit so much during the rest of the meeting as we discussed how to focus on the Atonement and help our missionaries feel its power more. At the end of the meeting we all knelt in prayer and asked for the Lord to confirm our plans. As we prayed together I felt so close to our district leaders. It is going to be an amazing transfer as we work together with all of them, especially with our new focus. Incidentally, I feel it’s also the perfect thing for me to be focusing on at this time of my mission – remembering why I’m here will help me use these last weeks properly.

I love being a missionary! Yay!

Elder Pimentel

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Notes from Sam -- 1 July 2009

Dear family,

Happy birthday Mom!

Hey, sorry I forgot to tell you it was transfers this week. I realized a couple of days ago that you were probably expecting an email on Monday. My apologies. Anyway, I have lots of news! Elder Rose has been transferred to Newcastle (my old area!) to serve with Elder Shull, and my new companion in Oldham is Elder Eichelberger, who has just come from Chester Zone where he was the zone leader for six months. He is from Temecula, California, which is 45 minutes north of San Diego.

The zone has also changed around quite a bit. Among other changes, Elder Adams has been sent to Liverpool zone to be a district leader there. Elder Webb and Elder Empey also went home this transfer – it’s sad to see them go. : ( But everyone has to go home eventually.

I’ve been up since 4:45 today because Elder Rose and I were helping to coordinate transfers and run errands around the mission, including driving* all the way to Liverpool and back to pick up a missionary who is being transferred off of the Isle of Man! It’s been a crazy day but also very fun.

* We got a car last Saturday! Our old one is still being fixed but there was an extra one at the office that we were able to start using again. It is making our lives much easier.

Elder Rose and I had some good experiences this past week and a half. Our investigators have been doing well, although there was a lot of opposition that came up on Sunday to keep them from coming to church. One of our investigators was detained by the police(!) all day on Sunday but was ultimately deemed innocent of any supposed crime and released. It’s amazing how things like that tend to happen right when investigators are progressing a lot. Fortunately this investigator has shrugged it off and is continuing to progress well.

By the way, don’t worry that I am overwhelmed by the amount of mail you send - I really appreciate all that you send to me. It always lifts my heart when I come home and there’s a letter in the mailbox for me to read. I enjoy hearing about what’s going on in everyone’s lives.

This week I have a couple of meaningful experiences to share about the Book of Mormon. One of them came when I was following up with a missionary I’d gone on exchange with. He and his companion had changed the way they worked right after the exchange, but by the end of the following week they’d slid back into their old ways. I heard they were struggling from their district leader and rang the missionary who I’d gone on exchange with to discuss how he could improve. He told me he was struggling to find the motivation to be a good finder. As I consedered how to help him, I thought about the power of the Book of Mormon to change us and asked him if he was planning to read from the Book of Mormon in his study th next day. He said, “Yes, how did you know that?” and explained that he hadn’t been reading the Book of Mormon much in the past week. He had recognized this himself and had planned to read the Book of Mormon in his study the next day. As I saw how the Spirit had guided both of us to his problem I was able to bear testimony about how the Book of Mormon helps us find the motivation to share the gospel.

The other experience came when I was reading the Book of Mormon myself. A couple of weeks ago I was driving the car and bumped into a lamppost. It didn’t cause any serious damage but I had my driving privileges taken away because it was a preventable accident. I was finding it very difficult that I wasn’t allowed to drive anymore during personal study one morning. I finished off my study by reading the Book of Mormon. I read Helaman 11 and was about to put the book down but I saw I had a few more minutes and read on. I read Helaman 12:1-4:

1 AND thus we can behold how false, and also the unsteadiness of the hearts of the children of men; yea, we can see that the Lord in his great infinite goodness doth bless and prosper those who put their trust in him.
2 Yea, and we may see at the very time when he doth prosper his people, yea, in the increase of their fields, their flocks and their herds, and in gold, and in silver, and in all manner of precious things of every kind and art; sparing their lives, and delivering them out of the hands of their enemies; softening the hearts of their enemies that they should not declare wars against them; yea, and in fine, doing all things for the welfare and happiness of his people; yea, then is the time that they do harden their hearts, and do forget the Lord their God, and do trample under their feet the Holy One—yea, and this because of their ease, and their exceedingly great prosperity.
3 And thus we see that except the Lord doth chasten his people with many afflictions, yea, except he doth visit them with death and with terror, and with famine and with all manner of pestilence, they will not remember him.

As I read, I really felt like Mormon was speaking right to me. I recognized how when the Lord had blessed me with a car and with the opportunity to drive I’d begun to be prideful and take credit for those blessings and responsibilities. So my accident and its consequences were just the necessary steps that had to be taken to help me be humble again. It was amazing how the words came alive to me, and as I pondered them I felt my frustration and indignation disappearing. It was a witness to me of the Book of Mormon’s truth and power. I know that it is the word of God.

I love you all! Thanks for your support

Elder Pimentel