I hope all is well back home. I didn't get to send an email last week but I'll update everyone on what's going on here.
Josh Jurado is progressing very well. He received the Aaronic Priesthood 2 Sundays ago. He didn't get to participate in the Sacrament this past week because he was sick but he's excited to this next week. He is going to the Oakland temple tomorrow night with the ward to do baptisms for the dead for the first time. He has a friend named Kenneth that has moved in and Josh is helping him stop smoking and trying to get him to come to church as well. He's doing great.
We are working with a lot of other people and the foremost is Brandon Owen. He has been dating a Hmong girl that goes to the Asian Branch here in Stockton for about 6 months. He was taught before by missionaries and went to church a few times but started working every Sunday in the sheriff's department (he is going to school to be a correctional officer). We stopped by one Saturday night and he told us his work schedule just changed so he will be coming back to church. He has come to church the past 2 weeks and is preparing to be baptized on January 18th! He is very solid. He grew up in a Christian church and wants to gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon and the Restoration so badly. I have never seen an investigator understand the scriptures as well as he has and have such a desire to learn.
We were working with a girl named Tara and she had a baptismal date for January 11th but we haven't seen her in about 2 weeks. Her phone got disconnected and we haven't been in contact for about 2 weeks. We think she's avoiding us so we probably won't be seeing her any more.
We met a really cool guy named Brandon this past week. The sisters in Lodi found him but passed him to us since he's Young Single Adult age. He's had a rough life but is humble and ready for the gospel. We taught him about the Restoration a few days ago and invited him to be baptized on January 25th. His response was "What time? I have a birthday party for my nephew that I need to go to as well". Ha ha, he is great and will be an awesome investigator.
We are also teaching a friend of a returned missionary named Carole. She is baptist and just graduated from a Bible college and moved back to Lodi. She has the belief that all you need to do to be saved is audibly pronounce "I accept Jesus Christ as my Savior". We are working a lot with her to show her what the scriptures say and we hope she will accept what the Bible says. She really wants to find out more about the Mormon faith since her friend is such a great person but has trouble accepting anything that hasn't been put in her head by her church since she was born. We invited her to read the first chapter of 1 Nephi and she thought we wanted her to read the whole book of 1 Nephi so she got through the first 10 chapters in 2 days, which was really impressive. Her friend is leaving today to go back to BYU so it will be interesting to see how the rest of the teaching process goes. She committed to come to church this Sunday and keep meeting with us.
We are also teaching 2 girls in Lodi that I taught when I was in the Spanish branch about a year ago. Their names are Rosa and Esperanza. They are really cool but they were hard to find last year and so we couldn't teach them. They are really interested now though and we met with them once on Sunday and had to reschedule our appointment with them yesterday for Friday. We are excited to keep teaching them.
We were teaching a guy named Paulo who is from Samoa. He came to church 2 weeks ago and liked it but works from 6:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. and sleeps between so it's hard to teach him. He never answers his phone either. Last Sunday when we went in the morning to invite him to church we woke up his brother and he angrily yelled at us to get off his property. Hopefully we can keep teaching Paulo but we haven't talked to him since last Friday.
The last investigator we have is interesting. His name is Nati and he's friends with a recent convert in the Lodi branch. They grew up together but took two separate paths. Nati is involved with bad people and loves to drink and party. He is a typical teenager. His family is really worried about him and have been praying that something changes. About a month ago his cousin died from living the same lifestyle he's in and they're worried about him. Nati said he would be willing to listen to us and hopefully we can help him make some big changes in his life. His parents were crying when we left with gratitude that we were able to come and they are hoping we are the answers to their prayers.
I forgot to mention that 2 Sundays ago Elder Gilray and I sang in church. We sang "O Come, O Come Emmanuel". We barely practiced but it went well. We showed up early to church to practice with an accompanist and I guess we sounded good because a lady came up to us and asked us if we would sing in a stake fireside that night. We sang in Sacrament meeting and then sang later that night in front of the stake for a Christmas fireside. It went well, especially for not having practiced much. Elder Gilray and I were both talking about how we enjoy singing but never did it before our missions. Now as missionaries we have sung a lot of special musical numbers. I thought about all the times between General Conference, Sacrament Meetings, Baptisms, Firesides, Confererences, etc and I have sung a lot. I never thought of it as a talent before my mission but I guess the Lord needed to draw upon something I enjoy as a missionary.
Things are going very well here. Elder Gilray and I are having a blast. He is definitely one of my favorite companions and we enjoy every second of every day. This transfer is flying by and we're doing a lot of good work as well.
I hope all is well back home.
Les Quiero Mucho,