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!