Renton is an interesting place. It's a suburb of Seattle. We are in an area called Skyway. It is a rough neighborhood, and there are gunshots and police sirens everyday in the central part of our ward. We are right below that area, at the bottom. It is a place that definitely needs the gospel.
Another unique challenge in this area is that many of the residents have mental illnesses, so the majority of our ward members have mental illnesses. You can imagine how interesting fast and testimony meeting was. One brother rambled on for 15 minutes, talking about some old movie stars! I can't help but to be moved with compassion for them. They really have it hard. So many elderly people in our ward live in nursing homes all alone. Many of the mentally ill members live alone as well. That is a really hard trial to deal with. They have no friends or family :(
For example, "B" is a less active member from Vietnam. His family is all Buddhist, and they probably live back in Vietnam. From talking to him, it is clear that he has mental and social impairments. He lives by himself, in a shanty mobile home with a tin roof, and has only pets to keep him company. We painted his deck green. He also wanted us to paint the underside of it. He likes to take charge, but is easily persuaded. We finally persuaded him to stop painting under the deck, and just painted the top. :)
Here are the main reasons our less active members don't come to church: They are a part-member family, they have work all day, they can't get up at, they are too tired, they don't feel accepted, or they don't have a ride. I think many of these problems could be solved if the members felt like they had someone to talk to. They need friends.
We only have one progressing investigator. She is a Filipino lady named "E M". She accepted our invitation to be baptized, and we set a date for! The "M"'s are a part-member family, and they hardly ever come to church. "E" works in a nursing home everyday as a nursing assistant, but her boss gave her permission to go to sacrament meeting. She says that she always finishes her nursing duties a little late because the elderly have long morning routines, and she feels awkward walking into the building late.
We have met lots of members. One of the coolest members is "T F". He served a mission in Argentina after joining the church. His brother is opposed to the church, and sent him anti Mormon literature in the mail, telling him that it wasn't too late to stop preaching the devil's work. He has incredible faith.
We are also teaching a homeless man named "B". When he's not looking for work, he sits on the street corner to panhandle. That's how we met him. He told us he knows God is real because He answers his prayers. He is trying to quit drinking, because his alcoholism is so bad that he gets seizures if he doesn't drink. He also smokes. He is a really humble guy because he recognizes his weaknesses, and instead of wallowing in self pity he is willing to pick himself up and try harder. He told us he would be baptized after he straightens out his life. We are also taking him to the church's addiction recovery 12 step program. He told us he'd give it a try, because he hates the "woe is me" attitude of AA meetings.
It's good to hear from you all. I just got emails from Josh McDonald and Julia Barker, too! Thanks for the pictures. I just keep forgetting to bring my camera to the library and it needs new batteries. There are awesome pictures of Lake Washington, the mountains, and the distant Seattle skyline.