Thursday, August 6, 2009

Notes from Sam -- 3 August 2009

[Editor's Note: This may be the last letter we receive from Elder Sam Pimentel, as he is slated to return home next week.]

Dear family,

Andy got baptized on Saturday! Everything went really well. Kevin Ashton, a great recent convert who was baptized in April and who comes out teaching with us all the time, baptized Andy (the first time he’s ever baptized anyone). The bishop, the ward mission leader, and the entire elders’ quorum presidency attended and were very supportive, and President and Sister Bullock were also able to come. There were only a couple of hiccups (someone failed to bring a change of underwear and poor Brother Ashton struggled with the baptismal prayer a few times) but it was a very spiritual meeting. Brother Ball, who gave the talk on baptism, spoke in some depth about the people of Alma and the baptisms at the waters of Mormon, which (unbeknownst to him) was perfect for Andy since he’d just studied that chapter in the Book of Mormon and really enjoyed it.

I think Elder Eichelberger and I enjoyed the baptismal service more than anyone else. During the talks especially, we just couldn’t stop smiling. I think one of the reasons I was so happy is because I knew that Andy, who loves the Bible and all discussions of spiritual things, must have been soaking up everything that happened in the service. But also I think now I really understand the baptismal covenant and how amazing it is in a way I didn’t even just a year ago. I’ve been reflecting on baptism this week and I’ve realized that serving a mission is probably the best education about the nature and importance of the baptismal covenant that I could ever have. I’m really grateful for the chance I’ve had to serve here and learn so much about this covenant. I think I will always feel differently about my own baptismal promises because of my service here.

The best moment of the baptism for me, I think was during the interval when Andy and Kevin were changing. Kieron Mayall, our ward mission leader, had chosen to show the Church DVD A Search for Truth, which portrays Wilford Woodruff’s efforts to find the true church and his eventual conversion. Something I really noticed in the DVD as we watched it at the baptism is the passion that Wilford Woodruff demonstrates in his search for a true church – you can tell he is hungry to hear God’s true word and receive his covenants and blessings. Eventually, the DVD cuts to show two missionaries trudging through the snow. They see Wilford Woodruff’s relative’s house, look knowingly at one another, and then go and knock the door, proclaiming the news of the Restoration. Seeing those missionaries, I felt very excited for Wilford Woodruff, knowing that they had exactly what he was looking for and were being guided to bring it right to him. I also identified a lot with the missionaries – I know exactly what it feels like to see a house up ahead and look knowingly at your companion, both of you knowing that you are supposed to knock that door. As I thought about these things, I realized that the gospel still hasn’t sounded in every ear, and that there are people (like Andy) in the world today who are hungering and thirsting for the truth every bit as much as Wilford Woodruff was. And this time I’m one of the people who’s been sent out to bring the gospel to them! It was amazing to really feel how important my calling is, and how real the fruits of our work are. I think this experience was in part an answer to prayer – we have been praying as a zone this week to be pure in heart (i.e. doing the right things for the right reasons). The Lord is so merciful to us.

Andy’s confirmation on Sunday also went very well. Just before the confirmation, Elder Eichelberger and I participated in the blessing of Vimbai Chatunguma’s 1-and-a-half-year-old son Miguel. I think I’ve mentioned Vimbai before – she joined the Church as a Primary child in Zimbabwe and was very active for a while but lost contact with the Church for four years when she moved to England. Shortly after she moved to Oldham Elder Rose street contacted her, and then I street contacted her again and got her phone number, after which we were able to visit her and help her come to church. Since she first came she’s been fairly active. Vimbai’s new home teacher blessed Miguel, and we also participated. As I was up at the front of the chapel, I realized that I’d street contacted both Vimbai and Andy at the end of May, and that if I hadn’t spoken to them neither the baby blessing nor the confirmation would be happening! I already knew that it was important to speak to everyone because you never know who you might let pass by, but it was kind of startling to see such an immediate and direct impact from my choice to talk to a couple of people. I’m so grateful for the mission leaders who taught me the importance of speaking with everyone and gave me the tools to do it, and I’m also thankful that I chose to listen, apply those things, and stretch myself. Wow.

Elder Eichelberger and I had some cool experiences yesterday. Some time ago we’d received a referral in the mail for a man named Marlon, who had been taught by missionaries in Jamaica. We’d contacted him but he’d been unable to talk. Yesterday we rang him back to schedule an appointment, and he asked us if we had some time later that evening. When we told him that we were free at 6 PM, he said that he was having a barbecue with some of his friends and invited us to come by and we could talk about the gospel! When we arrived at Marlon’s house there must have been a dozen cars parked outside, and when he invited us in his house was packed with people, most of them from Jamaica or of Jamaican descent, from all different parts of Manchester. They were very friendly and we had a couple of good gospel conversations. The food was also very, very good – barbecued fish in tin foil, various salad, juicy barbecued chicken, and Jamaican dumplings (reminded me of hush puppies). My favorite kind of finding activity! : ) Hopefully we’ll be seeing Marlon this week and another one of his friends the week after.

After the barbecue we went to teach a man named Heritier who was contacted by missionaries in Belgium. It sounds like there are some pretty great missionaries over there in Bruxelles – Heritier was telling us that he’s never really listened to missionaries before but that as he’d been helping his uncle move, these missionaries had stopped him and had engaged him in a very spiritual conversation that had interested him greatly and had really made him think. He still remembered a couple of the questions the missionaries had asked him. We had a powerful first lesson with him and he committed to be baptized when he knows the Book of Mormon is true and to come to church on Sunday. Those missionaries will never know it, but their spiritually-guided finding bore serious fruit here. I’m grateful for their dedication. It also makes me wonder about the different people I’ve contacted and referred to different missions.

I’ve had some of the best bus contacting of my mission this week on exchanges with Elder Winward and Elder Hall. I guess felt like I had it down before, but the Lord’s helped me get to a new level. When I started my exchange with Elder Hall, I had an especially cool experience. Right after lunch we hopped on a bus and went to help a member with some yard work. We wore our service clothes rather than our suits. Usually before on my mission when I’ve been wearing casual clothes I haven’t really street or bus contacted – it feels quite weird to do those things without having a shirt and tie on. But I decided that to truly follow Preach my Gospel and “talk with everyone,” I should be speaking to people even in jeans and a T-shirt. So I pushed through my misgivings and did it, and the Lord blessed me a lot! I’d had five quality gospel conversations, including one very spiritual one where I was able to set up an appointment, by the time we returned to the flat to change. I felt like a real missionary! It’s funny for me to think now how before my mission I wanted to be sent somewhere where I would just teach all the time instead of doing finding. I’m so glad the Lord sent me here instead. Finding can be so amazing.

This is the Lord’s work. It really is. I was reading my patriarchal blessing this morning and realizing that every one of the things the Lord promised me about my mission has been fulfilled. I know I was sent here for a purpose, and it feels wonderful to look back and see how the Lord has used me to bless others’ lives. All these things just contribute to my testimony that Joseph Smith was a prophet, that the Book of Mormon is ture, and that the true and full gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the Earth by our loving Father in Heaven.

Well, I love you all. I’m really grateful for the support you’ve given me here – it has made my mission a lot happier and easier. I will see you soon!

Elder Pimentel

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