Well, I'm sure you're all anxious to hear what happened with transfers. You would think that I would leave Aigaleo by now right? well...... I am! I've been transfered to the center of Athens in the Alexandras area. My new companion's name is Elder Hanke from Sweden. He's a really cool guy. This will be his last transfer as well! There's going to be a big drop in missionaries in about two months. I guess they're cutting back all over Europe. Elder Hanke and I will be in an appartment with two other missionaries who are working in the Akropoli area. One is Elder Grossman from germany and the other will be one of the two new kids that are coming in. I'm no longer the newest missionary! It's about time huh? His name is Elder King. It'll be really interesting/funny to see what I must have looked like when I first arrived. Elder Southwick has been transferred to the North of Athens as the zone leader there. Luckily he's not going too far.
Ok, so, I'm NEVER going to be able to top this next paragraph. I had an experience that I will never be able to forget. Get ready to be totally grossed out. Ready? Ok, so this last week, we went over to Olga's for lunch. We were way excited because Olga is the best greek cook we know. You know what she made? Heads. Lamb Heads. She brought it in and I didn't know what to do. We all had individual heads. I didn't see much meat on it, just on the jaw, so I ate that, and stopped there; but Olga wouldn't have it. She took my head and broke the jaw and had me eat the tongue. The tongue wasn't so bad, but it gets worse. After the tongue, she cracked open the skull and pulled out the brain. I had a really hard time with the brain. Olga started to get a little frustrated with us because we wern't eating, so we had to eat all of it. The brain was...disgusting? yeah, that's a good word for it. Remember that animal you disected in high school? Yeah, imagine eating it after you disected it. Gross right? It gets worse. I was able to handle the brain by engulfing it in bread and cheese. Luckily, Olga made a greek salad as well, so that helped take away the taste. After the brain, I thought I was done. Not according to Olga. She told us to eat the eyeballs next. There was no possible way that I was going to eat lamb eyeballs. The whole time I was thinking about how this experience could've been on fear factor or something. My companion had no problem with anything. He went down on those eyeballs. I couldn't even think about doing it without gaging, so when Olga's back was turned, I threw my eyeballs out the open window. Dodged that bullet. I guess Olga just doesn't get the concept of how disgusting it is for foreigners to eat that kindof stuff. Or maybe she does, and was just getting a laugh out of it? hmmm. I think I prefer the lamb heart, kidney, and lungs.
To baptisma etan poly oraia!!! In other words, Manolis is baptized and happier than ever before. I remember how two weeks ago he didn't even want to be baptized. The baptismal service took place on Saturday at 6 o'clock. Not that many people came, but Manolis didn't care, the spirit was the same. There were two speakers: a recent convert and a sister missionary, both of which delivered powerful sermons about baptism and the Holy Ghost. I sang a special musical number: "This is the Christ". It was a surprise for Manolis. haha. He didn't know that I was going to sing.
Well, all I can think about right now is the good news, so I think I'll let it out now. Manolis has progressed a lot since I last talked to you about him, insomuch that he will be baptized this saturday!!! He's never been happier in his life. He descibes himself as a "child who's just been given a present. It wasn't always that way. One day he just showed up at church and nobody knew who he was. Elder Monks started talking to him and found out that a missionary had told him about the church a long time ago, but had never met with him to teach him. So Elder Monks invited him to be taught and he accepted. At first he had concerns. After our first meeting, he must have talked to someone who convinced him we were Jehovah's Witness because when we called him to set up our second appointment, he told us "I don't want any of that Jehovah stuff!!!" We told him we weren't JW's and wanted to meet again. Then Elder Monks was moved to Kavala and Elder Southwick took his place. We taught the second lesson about the Plan of Salvation and everything. He told us afterward that the story about Adam and Eve hadn't made sense to him for 40 years up until we taught it to him. Afterwards we built up our courage and asked him to be baptized. He kindof paniced a little bit. haha. He said that he takes good from all the churches. We told him to think about it and to continue to read and pray. We taught him again. This time the lesson was about what happens after death, and we asked him to be baptized again. He paused for a moment, then said "nobody in my family would understand". A real test of faith I think. What a hard decision. We told him to continue reading and praying. The problem with Manolis is that he can't read very well, so it was hard to get him to keep commitments. He said that he'd come to church that week, but didn't show up. We called him that week and were able to set up another appointment with him. His concerns matched up perfectly with our lesson. After teaching him about The Gift of the Holy Ghost, Manolis expressed how he felt good and inspired when he would meet with us, and then the second we departed, something started to pull him away, and at times, he even contemplated not coming back. We told him why he was having those feelings, because the Holy Ghost couldn't be with him at all times, and without that defence, Satan could steer him. The Gift of the Holy Ghost became a reality to him. An actual gift from God that he wanted. We again asked him if he would be baptized. He said, "I'm about one step from saying yes." He truly commited then to read and pray, and that night, he got his answer. He called us first thing the next morning to tell us the good news. Remember that Manolis can't read as I recall our conversation. He said " You won't believe it! I prayed and read like you told me to, and a miracle happened!!! It was like a dream! I opened the Book of Mormon and I was able to read like a normal person! We need to meet as soon as possible! Tomorrow morning? 9:00? OK, I'll be there early and waiting for you!" That was his final step to baptism. When we met, we set his baptism date for the 30th of May and planned out the baptismal program. We also taught him about the commandments, including tithing and started a fast with him. That sunday, he beat everyone to church, including the missionaries who get there an hour early. Not only did he bring himself, but also his tithing (even though he's not a member) and his fast offerings. Manolis is out of work right now, so for his tithing, he brought plastic cups, plates, and utensils to stock the church. In sacrament meeting, President Sanko announced there would be a baptism without asking Manolis to stand up. Manolis stood up proudly anyway, and everyone looked back to find him smiling widely, returning their own smiles. Isn't that so cool!?! The gospel changes people, for the better. He asked President Sanko if he would do the baptism, and asked me to confirm the Holy Ghost upon him. It's a humbling feeling. He'll finally have that constant conpanionship that he's been craving. Manolis has never been happier in his entire life. So, Manolis was the highlight of the week for sure. He'll be the first person to be baptized in Athens since January, and the second in all of Greece.