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!