I have a new companion and basketball is a great missionary tool!

Hello!

It has been a jam-packed week this week! There have been a lot of exciting changes and fun experiences. Transfers were on Tuesday and I got a new companion in Decatur. His name is Elder Wilson and he was originally born in West Africa, but left when he was very young and moved to Detroit, Michigan. He is a really cool guy and has a lot of crazy stories to tell about his childhood. I am so lucky to have him as my companion. I was also made a District Leader and am very excited for that.

We also figured out, as you can probably see by looking at the pictures, that Elder Wilson and I are by far the largest companionship in the mission! Combining our weight, we are close to 500 pounds! This is pretty funny because at the end of last year our mission was striving for 500 baptisms and the mission motto was “strive for five.” So Elder Wilson and I joke about how we are “striving for five” in a different way. In actuality, we have committed ourselves to trying to lose weight this transfer! So we will see how that goes.

One really cool experience that we had this last week was an opportunity to go down to Birmingham to attend a baptism of a young man that I knew while I served in the Altadena branch. It was great to see this young man enter the waters of baptism after being involved with and investigating the church for so long. The craziest part of the night happened after the baptism though. Before we started making our way back to Decatur, we had to stop in Ensley, a suburb of Birmingham, to drop off a phone for some other missionaries. Ensley, Alabama is notorious among missionaries and people living in the greater Birmingham area as being one of the roughest parts of town. While serving in the Altadena branch in Birmingham, I had a few opportunities to go and do some work in Ensley, but I didn’t have too much exposure to it. To make a long story short, we had to meet the other missionaries at a basketball court and when we arrived some guys who lived in the area were playing some street ball. The plan was to just drop the phone off and leave right away. But once we arrived, the other guys that were playing with the missionaries threw down a challenge suggesting that we might be scared to play them because they would destroy us at basketball. So my competitive nature stepped in and I jumped right into the game with these guys. They weren’t very good and they were all yelling at each other because the missionaries were running circles around them. While playing, we gathered a little bit of a crowd that began rooting for the missionaries and when the guys we were playing had enough, we stopped and had the opportunity to speak with the people who were gathered around. Basketball is a wonderful missionary tool! And today I was told that one of the guys that we were playing against now has a baptismal date! So the lesson I learned this week is if you want to bring people closer to Christ beat them at basketball! I love and miss everybody back home and hope you have a terrific week!

Love,

Elder Neser

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