Hi everyone! It's the week before my last week before it's my last week. So it's starting to feel a little more real, but only when I think about it, which I try not to do!
It's been a fun week, though. On Tuesday we had the big "Memphis side" of the mission P-day, just playing field games and all of that. It was good to see a bunch of friends from past companionships and zones. A member picked us up there and drove us home, but asked if there was anywhere in Memphis we'd want to check out on our way back to West Memphis. I'd heard about this place called the "Crystal Shrine Grotto," and we decided to check it out.
It's in the middle of this big old cemetery, and is a man made crystal cave that, as you go around, has a series of scenes depicting the life of Christ. It was pretty funky, but I liked it. (I didn't count this trip in my tally of "three trips," cause it seemed like it happened ages ago, not earlier last week.)
We got back in time for an evening appointment we had, but they canceled right as we were pulling back into town. So that was a downer. But it happens!
On Wednesday, we had our district council. I've only got one more of those, now. Sad. Afterward, we had to drive the Blytheville elders up to their car, which was parked at a member's house in Wilson, Arkansas. We stopped to try a place called Top's Barbecue on the way, and it was pretty good. Just alright, though. We finished the rest of the trip and headed back to West Memphis.
My head wasn't bobbing, but it sure got hard to keep my eyes open as we were driving. The road was just a straight shot, and there's not much for scenery to look at, so eventually my drowsiness got bad enough we pulled into a gas station for a little break, which helped. Before my mission, I couldn't really sleep in cars well if I tried, but now if I so much as sit still and do nothing for longer than 10-15 minutes I can probably crash anywhere.
On Thursday, the Sotos had signed up to take us out for lunch, and they picked Top's BBQ as the place to go hahaha. But I tried the BBQ nachos this time, and they were good, too.
Afterward, we helped a sister in the ward work on her car. Kinda. All we had to do was replace the light bulbs that illuminate the license plate above the trunk and apply some Rain-X. I didn't even know there were such a thing as light bulbs for that purpose, but after looking over the trunk for long enough, we figured out how to unscrew the back bumper off and wee able to successfully swap out the light bulbs.
That day was probably the first really hot day of the summer. Here I was thinking I'd dodge the bullet. (I probably still will, July and August get quite a bit hotter than May haha.) But when we got back to our apartment after that, it was pushing 80 degrees in there. So we put the A.C. down some more and headed back out. We were able to find a lady who had met with the missionaries years ago, and wanted to meet with us again! When we came home for the night, it was 80 degrees in our apartment. Our A.C. was out. And still is.
Friday came around and we stayed really busy. We saw some people before weekly planning, and saw more people afterward. One lady admitted she'd read some less-than-favorable stuff online about Joseph Smith, and after explaining more about the Book of Mormon, she mused, "Ohhh, that's why I kept having the thought 'Book of Mormon, Book of Mormon' come to mind while I was reading all of that." That was really cool. Attack Joseph Smith all you want, that doesn't explain away the existence of the Book of Mormon. But people go about to disprove him backwards - by attacking his character, not diving into the Book of Mormon. (But that's a fulfillment of prophecy.)
We taught a lady and her mother who was visiting from the Bronx. We had a really good visit with her, and were able to send a solid referral for her to the missionaries up there.
And we also got back in touch with a guy we'd met a month ago but never saw again. He was 18 chapters into the Book of Mormon, which... might be the most I've ever had a person read on their own between contacts. Granted, he had a month to do it, but it was so good to have someone read it and understand it fairly well!
On Saturday, what was planned as a day trip to the town of Wynne, became an afternoon drive. We rode with Ricky, a recent convert (who received the Melchizedek Priesthood the next day!) in his mustang, dropping off a Book of Mormon to a referral in Earle, AR, and then getting to sit down and visit with another referral up in Wynne. We'd planned to visit with some members up there, too, but they were all busy, and so we just made the ~50 minute drive back to West Memphis.
We then made another quick trip to the town of Marion, AR, which is a much shorter drive. We were just going to try to contact someone we found a while ago - he wasn't home. But in his neighborhood I almost hit a four wheeler...
(2 kids had been driving on the road, and we were following them. They pulled onto the grass and stopped ahead of us, I presumed to let us pass, but right before we were level with them, they darted into the road! I slammed on the brakes, got an "aggressive driving," and they drove off.)
So we went home after that and then drove to Bartlett, TN, for the adult session of stake conference, which was really good and all about the temple. We hadn't had our dinner hour yet, and so we decided to try Fat Larry's BBQ, not far from the church building. I got some brisket and it was soooooo good. I'd heard that the owner was a member, and he came in and asked us why we weren't at the conference yet (Which started in like 20 minutes) and said he'd just dropped off like 200 lbs of pulled pork sandwiches over there. Hahaha. Just our luck. (To be fair, we thought the dinner was for those attending the leadership meetings prior to the conference. Either way, there was leftover stuff we were sent home with, so that was a score.) When we went to ask for the check, the waitress waved us out, saying missionaries ate free there! Whoa! We left a good tip and hurried to the conference.
We got back home around 10pm, having been slowed down by some torrential rain as we were leaving. I'd driven in rain so hard the fastest wiper blade setting isn't fast enough many a time before, but in the dark on Memphis freeways was another experience haha.
Then the next day, we made the trip again, riding up there with our ward mission leader, Bro. Jones, this time. He keeps joking about how I'm starting to get a little fuzzy and transparent as I fade out of missionary existence haha.
When we got back, we had lunch, planned our day, and didn't even get to studies or most of our dinner hour. It felt good to be out working. We didn't reach all of our goals, but it felt good to be trying.
And then this morning, we made our third trip in a row to Bartlett, and this time went into the other building by the church - the Temple. The departing missionaries and their companions were able to go through with some of the senior couples in the mission. The temple hasn't quite been open a week, and we were the first group of missionaries to go through since it was closed for reconstruction. President and Sister Hansen were there in the celestial room waiting and both gave me a big hug. I really do love them like I love my parents. I couldn't keep my eyes dry after that. It felt like my prayers had to travel much less distance in there than they usually do anywhere else. Heaven felt close, and that in and of itself was an answer to prayer.
This is all God's work! It's as simple as that.
107 McCain Blvd Apt. D,
West Memphis, AR, 72301
Another week has come and gone in West Memphis!
We started it off with district council, and an exchange with the Blytheville elders. I stayed in West Memphis with Elder Tilby. One of our objectives for the day was to find a guy we'd met last week. He wasn't home, though. As we walked by the house next door, there were a couple people sitting on coolers on the porch drinking and smoking weed, and wouldn't you know it, one of them was the guy we were looking for!
So we pulled up a cooler and talked. It went alright, until the wasps started buzzing around, and freaked another guy out so he left, and then the other guy left and then there wasn't anybody left to teach, so........
Some highlights from the rest of the week:
- We were tracting in Marion, a nicer town just north of West Memphis, and some lady drove by us in our car afterward, slowed down, and took a picture of our license plate...?
- Later that day, we were looking for a member we had a note for. As we came up on the road, we saw an address just shy of the one we were looking for, followed by a corner house, an intersecting street, and then more houses. We crossed the street, parked, and then walked back to the corner house. Assuming it was the address we were looking for. As we neared the front door, we saw the address didn't match after all, but decided to knock anyway.
Out came a pretty friendly guy who said he grew up in the church, but hadn't been since he joined the marines like 25 years ago. We had a good talk with him and then walked back to the car. I kinda assumed he was the member we were looking for after all, and the address we had was just wrong. But then we realized his name wasn't the name we were looking for, and the address we really were looking for was right by where we parked our car. But I think we weren't supposed to notice that, cause otherwise we would've missed talking to the other guy. We were supposed to knock on the wrong door. It's just cool to see how the Lord uses us, prepares His children, and cares for His sheep, active or not.
- Later in the week, we met a guy who goes by "Big Bubba."
- Isaiah came to church! Sunday morning was a bit of a rollercoaster, but he made it and enjoyed it. And he's now preparing to be baptized on June 22nd!
- On Sunday afternoon, we wanted to find some more people to teach. As we were driving, I had the thought to go to "Belvedere St.," but passed it before I could turn. We settled for another street, but after a few doors we weren't having any luck, and I kept thinking about that other street. So we stopped and got back in the car, and backtracked to Belvedere St., where we were able to find 3 new people to teach! We were just on the wrong street.
And then yesterday wasn't our p day, today is! (Tuesday). So Elder Oseen and I were in West Memphis on exchanges. And today we're headed to Arlington, TN for our mission p day. So that'll be fun and I'll write about it next week, assuming I live to tell the tale!
Love y'all! Have a great week!
915 Vanderbilt Ave,
West Memphis, AR, 72301
Another busy week!
A few days this week have just been going from lesson to lesson, which is a lot of fun, and also very exhausting! Also, Wren was baptized last week in Benton!
On Tuesday, we taught a lady about the premortal life and it blew her mind! She was so excited about learning that. You could tell it "clicked" with her and she recognized it as truth. The best part was, she called her mom right then and there to share what she learned. "Mom! You know how everyone says that our life begins at birth?" ("Yeah...?") "That's not true!" It was hard not to laugh, and I couldn't help but think that that's how excited EVERYONE should be when they learn about our premortal life!
We tried by that family of kids we've been working with. It wasn't a good time, but they showed us the little turtle they found and named Gloria. Cute lil thing.
A dinner and 4 long lessons later, we made it to the end of the night!
Later in the week, we met a couple for a lesson at Taco Bell, taught a little bit about the Plan of Salvation to a family, and what seems like a hundred other times we were able to teach. All the lessons are kinda blending together, honestly haha. It's cool to see how receptive people are here, the trouble is they're not super active about living what we teach... coming to church... reading the scriptures... So we're trying to figure that out haha.
It's been pretty disappointing to try time and time again to get someone at church, and time and time again they say they're going to be there, and time and time again we are waiting in the foyer and during the sacrament for them to show up, and they don't.
That, combined with what is now 23 months of missionary work is getting to be pretty exhausting. I didn't get discouraged this week, just... really tired. That feeling of running on fumes, basically.
But then on Wednesday, we had a Leadership Training Meeting in Bartlett, in the stake center by the temple, and that helped so much. A lot of it was on enduring to the end, and how the finish is more important than the start. 15 straight transfers of district and/or zone leadership won't be worth much if I coast the last month! I might be tempted to take it easy or slow down to accommodate my exhaustion, but Christ can strengthen me more than a nap can... if I work harder and stronger rather than letting myself slow down.
So I'm pumped, now! Last month, here we go!
During the meeting, the district leader companions were tracting the area, and out of the blue it started pouring rain HARD. Like top 10 times I've seen it rain. Elder Bang and the other elders came walking down the hallway a short while later and couldn't have been more soaked if they'd swan dove into the Mississippi. (Perks of being a district leader haha.)
After the meeting, I got to go on exchanges in Jonesboro with Elder Billman. He was brand new back in my Conway days, and we scooped elephant poop together. It was fun to be back around him, and we had a good time. A lot of things went wrong on our exchange, but it was fun haha.
For example, the Spanish elders had gotten a call from a lady asking for some help moving. We went with them, arriving around noon. We both had a lesson at 1:30, and were hoping to just crank everything out super fast. (Lol, when does that ever work?) We arrived and she had mostly everything packed, but... She didn't have the moving truck. And had to drive 45 minutes one way to get it. And wanted us to watch her house while she did that.
So... We organized the garage of stuff as best as we could, and then it was pretty funny, cause all four of us stopped working and sat inside around her nice kitchen table panicking, trying to figure out how we were going to make this work. Elder Billman and I, Elder Gomez-Perez, and Elder Padilla, who's straight from the jungles of Peru. Just sitting in this really nice house plotting, scheming, and trying to figure out how we were going to get out of helping this lady move hahaha. We couldn't just leave her stuff in the driveway with the garage open and doors unlocked.
What she thought we were doing: whistling as we're working, moving boxes, getting everything ready...
What we were actually doing: "crap crap crap what are we gonna do, we can't leave all this stuff, we should've said something, what've we gotten ourselves into??"
Finally, the Spanish elders were able to reschedule their appointment to stay there, and so Elder Billman and I took off to our lesson and then came back as she returned with the truck. So it all worked out! It always does.
Then we had to leave again and do service at a food pantry in the basement of another church, cause they'd signed up for a timeslot. And then we hurried back to West Memphis and arrived 20 minutes late for my own District Council. Haha, but it ended up being really good. One of my favorites I've done.
Sunday, Cinco de Mayo, was my 101st Sunday in the mission, and was also the day Elder Holland came to rededicate the Memphis, TN Temple! Hooray! I'll get to go on the 20th!
It's cool to me to think about the Memphis temple as symbolic of my mission. I started out alright, functional, and called of God. And within the last 2 years I've kinda been torn down and dismantled and reconstructed with better materials, to become a bigger, better, and improved servant of the Lord. Kinda cheesy, but hey. I'm not the first to say it. C.S. Lewis put it beautifully when he said:
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of—throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace” (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, New York: MacMillan Co., 1960, p. 160).
So there you have it. Growing pains. Chase after 'em!
107 McCain Blvd Apt. D,
West Memphis, AR, 72301
The longer I look at the word "hundredth," the less it seems like a real word. Doesn't it look made up? That's right, though... isn't it?
Whether it is a word after all or not, there's definitely something that seems imaginary about this being my 100th week!
This last Tuesday was probably one of the fastest of all the days in my mission. We had 3 [admittedly too long] lessons, plus some time for contacting, reporting, and all that. But by the time 7 o'clock rolled around and our 3rd lesson was about to begin, it felt like 3 in the afternoon. All three lessons were really good, though. We are getting somewhere! It's so awesome to see things starting to click in people's minds and hearts.
There wasn't anything too exciting through most of the week, so I'll just run through some highlights.
- On Wednesday, a new member named Ricky took us to a Chinese buffet. They're usually at least decent, right? This one was pretty good, though! In West Memphis, AR of all places!
- My fortune cookie was "any day above ground is a good day," which, seeing that the euphemism for a missionary going home is "dying," or being "killed off," I thought was pretty appropriate haha.
- We had Book of Mormon class that night, which was good. The sisters' and their new missionary got back in time for that, too. So now they're in a trio! I guess President must think that if a new missionary can make in West Memphis, they can make it anywhere!
- We helped set up a yard sale
- I gave a Book of Mormon to a Jehovah's Witness (and have only been able to do that a couple times, try as I might)
- We had a lesson with a guy who, (long story short) broke up with his girlfriend, after he... beat up her husband. ...Yeahhhh he's a character
- We made a trip to Wynne, AR, to have dinner with some members who'd invited us and the sisters over. It's like 40 miles one way, so a big mileage commitment. Well, we got there, and then they canceled saying their kids were sick, so that was sad. But it put us in the right place at the right time, because we got to visit some other members up there and saw some cool miracles with that, That we wouldn't have seen if we hadn't made the trip.
And then that gets us to my 100th Sunday! A few weeks ago, a member of the branch presidency asked me to speak in church on that day, so I prepared a talk this week, and it started getting kinda long. I was worried I wouldn't give the high councilor enough time to speak after me, so I kinda trimmed the talk here and there to shorten it.
Well, we show up Sunday morning (after a few of our investigators that committed to coming to church flaked... again...) and I get informed that the high councilors had a family emergency and wasn't going to be able to make it. So I'd be the only speaker, and they'd just finish sacrament meeting whenever I finished.
It's actually kinda cool, cause at the start of my mission that would've freaked me out hahaha. I never had anxiety about public speaking or anything, but being the only speaker, and trying to take up more than about 10 minutes would've been a challenge. But yesterday, I just thought it was funny. The meeting only ended ~<10 minutes early. And it was the least nervous I think I've ever been to give a talk. It was a cool opportunity to reflect on how I've grown on my mission.
One of the couples we are teaching came to hear me speak, too, so that was awesome. The rest of the day we were just busy contacting people, and hunting people down who didn't come to church haha. We played basketball (which is called "hoopin'" on the streets) with one of the kids in the family we've been teaching, and that was fun. It keeps me humble, anyway!
So that's the highlights of week one hundred! It's been a good hundred weeks, and I'm glad to have another handful of them left!
107 McCain Blvd Apt. D,
West Memphis, AR, 72301
The weather is slowly warming... When it's not pouring rain.
I mentioned our p-day in last week's email, but now I'll share more cause it was fun and the sunburns on my arms have faded a little. But anyway! We decided to bike over the Mississippi River into Memphis, TN last week and that was pretty fun. They have a really nice pedestrian bridge, and a place to park and everything for people who do that, but... the gate on the West Memphis side was locked. What. So another biker, coming from the Memphis side, reached the gate and said if we wanted to cross, we'd have to ride on the narrow sidewalk of the freeway bridge.
So... That's what we did! There was probably a 2 or 3 foot cement divider between the road (heavily frequented by enormous 18 wheelers) and the sidewalk haha. Going over the bridge was fun, though, trying to not get dizzy watching the Mississippi River slowly pass under you. We stopped to take a picture in the middle, and only then realized how much the bridge shook every time a truck thundered by. Yikes.
We checked out the civil rights museum, walked through Beale St., and ate at Gus's Chicken. Cause... you gotta. It was fun to be back in Memphis.
After biking back, taking a nap, and getting ready again, we had some good success finding that evening. Which introduces the title of my email, "Half-Miracles."
We found 4 new people to teach that night, which is awesome, and 3 of them actually found us! One guy called after us and we set an appointment, and another couple called to us from their parked car and asked for a bible. She'd been shot 9 times while living in Atlanta. (I got the impression it wasn't 9 different occasions, but who knows?) They all wanted to turn their life around, get back into church, and thought it was so cool that they'd seen us.
But I use the phrase "half-miracle" because... the first guy gave us a fake/old address and a nonfunctioning phone number, and the other couple didn't keep their return appointment, and we haven't been able to get back in touch with them. What's up with that?
Tuesday was good. We had our last district council of the transfer, and had a great lesson afterwards. We asked the person we were teaching what they thought God was like, because they hadn't grown up with a strong paternal figure in their life and worried that it was warping their perspective of Heavenly Father. Through some tears, they just managed to say "just... sweet." And the spirit was so strong, I almost started crying with em.
After that, we exchanged with the Blytheville elders, and had a good rest of the day, too. We saw our person on date and had one of the weirdest lessons ever. We'd say something, or ask a question, and he'd just go off on not just a tangent, but into like a whole other dimension. Like if we were teaching a class on sculpting like Michelangelo, he was off painting like Picasso, or maybe Jackson Pollock. (It's a weird analogy, I know, but it's as close as I can get to describing it.)
We went from there to our next appointment, and they weren't ready yet, so we went to pizza hut for dinner and then tried again. We reviewed a chapter of the Book of Mormon with them, and then they asked if we'd share the Joseph Smith story again, and so we did, and also shared a short video on it. He tried to hide the tears but we caught him wiping them away. We told them about the Memphis temple open house, and they happened to be off of work on the day we were planning the trip, and they were SO excited to go! (...Half miracle.)
The next morning, Brother Jones took us to Shoneys for breakfast, so that was a good start to the day haha. We exchanged back shortly afterward, and then went to visit that guy from Monday, and there discovered his address wasn't right. A big guy answered the door and said there was nobody by that name that lived there. What. The guy who answered ended up having converted to Islam while in prison haha. But we told him about the Book of Mormon and he said we could come back!
Then we tried a guy we met last week who seemed kinda interested. When we stopped by, much to our surprise, he welcomed us in, we sat down, he asked us questions about the Book of Mormon, and said he'd try to have the whole first book of Nephi finished by this weekend! So... We are pretty excited about him!
Afterward, our Branch President took us out to sharks, and then we had Book of Mormon class, reading Alma 62. (There's a lot of war and political drama that happens in that chapter.) Best comment of the night was made by one of the sisters' investigators that came: "Are you sure this isn't talking about West Memphis?"
Thursday came along, and we had another good lesson, a lot of rain, and we led the Come Follow Me, Bible study that night. I learned a lot, and the spirit helped remind me of a lot as I taught, so it became a good highlight of my week.
Then it was Friday! We'd checked with 6 different people about coming to the Memphis Temple open house! We followed up a few hours before with person number one, and they'd had something come up and couldn't make it anymore. Then person number two said they were still good! But then couple number one, and ciuple number two both fell through, and they were going to be our rides. Finally, person number two also texted and said they wouldn't be able to make it anymore, even though less than an hour ago they said they were ready. Gah. So that's why this was another half miracle.
We even rescheduled with couple number two to Saturday, but things came up again and that didn't work, either. Sad days.
We did meet a cool lady who was really open, and had even ordered a bible and Book of Mormon awhile ago, but had never received them because she was busy and lived out in the boonies. But she changed jobs, moved to the city, and we happened to knock on her door.
We got transfer news that night, too. My last one! Elder Bang and I are staying.
Easter Sunday was good! We had a lesson with that one family again. 3 of the boys and their grandma were home, anyway. They're fun to teach. Next, we went to one of the counselors in the branch presidency's house for an Easter dinner and watched their grandkids do an Easter egg hunt, which was pretty fun. We spent the rest of the night trying to follow up with people and get back in touch with them. We are really working with a lot of really promising, solid people who recognize the truthfulness and power in what we share with them! Just getting them to do things based on that knowledge is tough. #FaithWithoutWorksIs...
But anyway! Here we are! 99 weeks down. Lots of miracles seen, and... Lots of half-miracles, too. I don't remember how or when that phrase came to mind this week, and I felt bad for even thinking of it. I didn't want to short-change God, or sound like I'm complaining for only getting half of a miracle. But what I then realized was that it's okay. They are only "half miracles" because I only know half of the story. Or only half of the story has even happened, yet!
I'm sure whoever the missionaries were that tried to deliver the Bible and Book of Mormon to the lady we met this week thought it was kind of pointless, getting a referral they never got to meet. That was a half-miracle. And the other half is just happening now.
Easter commemorates the most glorious second half of a seeming "half-miracle" that ever happened. Jesus Christ performed miracles in His life... one after the other. People were healed, people were changed, and yet His was a life prophecied to heal and change the whole world! I wonder if His disciples, even if just for a moment, wondered, "was all that for nothing? He did those great things, performed miracles, walked on the sea, and... for what? Here He is on the cross, defeated."
But of course, those miracles didn't end when the stone was rolled over the tomb. They were just half of the bigger miracle. Sunday was coming with the other half.
For myself, and for all of us, I hope that we can always take comfort in the fact that Sunday is coming! The other half of our miracles will come soon enough. Maybe we won't see it, maybe it's not what we expect. But I guess all of this to say [mostly to myself] that there's no such thing as a half-miracle.
107 McCain Blvd Apt. D,
West Memphis, AR, 72301
Most of this week seems like it happened about a month and a half ago by now, but nope... that was this week!
On Monday night, we went straight into finding, and found 3 new people to teach. Not a bad start to the week!
On Tuesday, we met some more characters. We knocked on one guy's door and he got after us for walking past his no trespassing signs. But then talked with us for like an hour. So hey!
Later, we went to visit a referral from the sisters. I think they just think it's funny to send us sketchy and/or crazy people. The latest of these was in some kind of rehab place. He's been in there for like 8 years after being run over by a backhoe. It wasn't just his leg that was damaged, if you know what I mean. He was talking about getting a spaceship to escape to an island, and selling the rocks he pulled out of his pockets as diamonds to make a billion dollars. Then we met his girlfriend, who was in a slightly better mental state, but probably about a five year old mentality. She fell of a balcony a few months ago. Kinda sad. She gave us a picture she drew and walked us to our car.
Wednesday was Zone Conference, and it just so happened to be in Searcy, Arkansas! Our branch president drove our district up there, a solid hour and forty five minute drive one way. He's awesome, and sounded like he enjoyed zone conference almost as much as I did! We talled about prayer and a new planning technique that has been really good.
That night, one of the assistants called us and asked if we would trade our morning shift at the temple for a media event, for a 12pm-8pm shift helping with the tours. That ended up being such a blessing!
So Thursday, instead of going to the morning shift, we got to see one of the people we are teaching for a good, quick visit and then we headed to Memphis to help at the temple which will be dedicated come May! This week wasn't open to the public, at least that's what they said, but they didn't turn anyone away either haha. Within the first few minutes of us being there, a couple from Denmark walked in wanting to tour the temple, so everyone scrambled to accommodate haha. They said they'd gone to the Rome, Italy open house and were now roadtripping across the United States and wanted to tour another temple! So we joined them and got to see the inside. It's so beautiful! And seems a lot bigger than before the remodel, but is apparently the same size.
As their tour was ending, another tour group consisting of missionaries was just starting, so we went through again with them. Then they sent us to a room in the church building to wait for assignments, but they didn't come for a while, and there was just a table full of enough cookies for an army. So when someone did come asking for volunteers, I was quick to raise my hand. We ended up getting the best job haha. Everyone else helped with parking.
We ended up being the guys in charge of opening the temple doors for each group coming in and out. It was cool to hear people's reactions coming out. To name a few:
- "Wow! Wow wow! Wow!"
- (in response to, "how do you feel?") "I feel like I've just finished a journey."
We got back really late that night after trying to navigate Memphis's freeway system amidst crazy drivers haha. The usual.
Then the next day, still a little worn out, I got to go to Jonesboro on exchanges with our zone leaders. It's about an hour drive up there. After studies and trying to visit a few people, we drove another hour out to Pocahontas, Arkansas, where I got to do 3 consecutive baptismal interviews for 3 brothers from the Marshall Islands. The oldest was a junior in high school, and said the closing prayer in Marshalese. The youngest was in 8th grade and in his closing prayer, asked God to bless me and my family, which I thought was really special.
We then drove back to Jonesboro, and visited a less active member with about 1.2 legs. The floor of his house was bubbled, warped, and falling in in some places, poor guy.
We got back to their house (literally, a 2 story house the mission rents from a member. They share it with a set of Spanish elders who are super funny) and didn't have the imagination to think of anything else to cook besides another quesadilla, so we went to Chick-fil-a and that was great haha.
We drove back to West Memphis the next morning, weekly planned, and had our interviews with President Hansen. It's crazy thinking we are going into the last week of the transfer. And then it's the last transfer of my mission, eek!
As we were driving home, I was thinking about one of the sister's investigators, enough that I felt like I should call them to see how he's doing. When they answered, they said they were on their way right then to see him. So that was a cool confirmation to me that I've learned to recognize promptings at least some of the time! :)
On Sunday, no one came to church again, but I think we are getting closer to having people ready for this Sunday! (Even if I'm having to give one of my belts to a guy so he will come haha) We had some good lessons that night, though, and closed the week out with call-ins!
Today's been fun, too, but it's not over yet, so I'll probably wait til next week to write about it! It does involve biking over the Mississippi, though, so...
107 McCain Blvd Apt. D,
West Memphis, AR, 72301
Usually I try to say something clever right here before I jump into the rundown of the week. If I think of something as I'm writing, I'll go back and change this. Otherwise this will just have to stay.
On Tuesday, we had another district council that went pretty well. We talked about using the Book of Mormon, and then went on an exchange! I got to go to Blytheville, Arkansas, the furthest Northeast area in the mission. We didn't make it into Missourri that day, but we did get to walk around ~Osceola~. I don't wanna say it's nothing special, cause it's a cool little town. But it's just a few more run down buildings shy of being a ghost town haha. But we met some cool people, and some little kids even told us to knock on their door and that went really well, actually!
After Osceola, we walked around a town just outside of Blytheville where the elders up there live, trying to contact a few people who didn't end up home. They've got a pretty fun little duplex up there from long before whenever the air force base closed down. So it's got the colorful tile in the bathroom, and an old kitchen and everything. It'd be kinda fun and not much work to make it look like a retro movie scene. (Aka, my vibe)
The next day, we exchanged back somewhere close to where Johnny Cash grew up, so that was cool! His old house is out there, somewhere. We had a great lesson first thing back in West Memphis. It was really cool to see how this lady's situations were being talked about so closely in the first few chapters of the Book of Mormon. It was really special for all if us.
Next, some members took us to Cracker Barrel. I'd never been there before, but now I can rest a little easier knowing that there is still a place back West I can go to get my fix of southern home cooking.
Later, as we were walking around in a neighborhood, some little kids started talking with us. (Little kids are almost always a lot more friendly and teachable than adults... I think Jesus said something about that haha. Although one girl did ask if my tie was a woman's tie because it had flowers on it lol.) A neighbor down the street brought this group of kids a box of donuts and they shared with us haha.
We had our Book of Mormon class that night, and got in touch with someone we were teaching to ask if he needed a ride. He said yes, and 18 minutes later, we and our branch mission leader were in his driveway, but he didn't answer or seem to be home. Solid. We had a lot of that kinda flakiness all week. Especially with people coming to conference. We were expecting a good half dozen people to come to at least one session, but nobody came. Sad, sad days. But still happy, cuz... General Conference.
Thursday was rainy, so we weekly planned and met a guy at Wendy's the sisters had set up an appointment for us with. They had been teaching him, but felt like we might be better for him. When asked why he went to church, he explained it was "for the beautiful women and because I've got nothing else to do." Ahh. That's why the sisters sent him to us haha. So we'll see where that goes.
But then after that, we had one of the best "intro to the Book of Mormon" lessons of my mission. He was already somewhat familiar, and so we just read a few key passages and he was writing down the references to study later. I compared 3 Nephi 11 and so on, when the Savior visits the people of the Americas, to the Holy of Holies in the old testament tabernacle. The whole book is a holy place, but those chapters in particular are sacred and powerful. I felt the spirit really strongly as I explained that, never having explained it that way before. It was cool.
General Conference was great! You can watch it online if you missed It!
We also got to give another one of the sisters investigators a blessing between sessions on Saturday. This tough looking guy had tears rolling down his face and was feeling some pretty serious regret for some decisions he had made for... not the first or second time. He wanted to change. So we talked for a while, and both those words and the words of the blessing seemed to come a lot more clearly than they typically have. Speaking confidently, and yet knowing your words aren't your own is another really special feeling.
But anyway! Those are the highlights of this week! Love y'all!
107 McCain Blvd Apt. D,
West Memphis, AR, 72301
It's been a busy week! (But when isn't it a busy week, amiright?)
We spread out our last P-day a little bit because we had a few appointments during it. One of them even happened! And it was really good. Their little kids were running around all over the place distracting their parents, but it went as well as it could!
The other appointment didn't happen (we were greeted with the good ole "peek through the blinds but won't answer the door" treatment) and so we went into the next neighborhood to try a few people that had met with missionaries before. One was a grandma and some of her grandkids. They were home, and set an appointment for Sunday afternoon! More on that later!
On Tuesday, we had a district council on "How to make people more frosty, less flaky, and other missionary trix," just ways to help ensure people keep their appointments with us cause that's been a struggle here more than anywhere else I've been. But it was good.
We were able to plan a baptismal date with a guy named Gerald that night. He's awesome, and was talking about wanting to be able to lead and help others in the church. He's way cool. Buuut. This morning at 6:29, he sent one of those texts... He'd found/been told some anti, and dropped us. But dropping us is like trying to drop a spider web that you walk into. You think it's gone, but then you take a few steps and there it is again. (Weird analogy, just to say, we're not giving up on him that easy. Keep him in your prayers, and us, too, so we know how to best help him.)
Wednesday was crazy busy. One of those few dream missionary days where it's basically just going from appointment to appointment. One or two people canceled on us, but it worked out cause it saved us from having to rush so much between visits. But we had some good lessons! We taught that couple we saw on Monday, but while their kids were at school. We talked with another lady, who introduced us to her friend, who started warning her about us being a cult haha. But the lady totally backed us up, it was awesome! Another guy was telling us that there was some revival he went to where the pastor would "anoint" people, and when he did, they'd fall out of their chair, speak in tongues, or whatever. But when he went up, nothing happened and he just stared at the guy. He wasn't gonna fake it. He told us he felt something different around us, though!
Thursday wasn't as crazy. We went to a nearby town to try to find new people but basically didn't have much success. So that was a bummer. But then we had a bunch of lessons on Friday, after weekly planning. We set another baptismal date with a kid named Isaiah, whose my age. He went to a military camp in Japan for like 18 months, and was invited to attend the "Mormon church" up there. He said the first time he heard the word "Mormon," he felt like he should learn more. So he went to church up in Japan for like a month and a half before graduating and coming home. He's way cool.
We had another lesson with another couple we are working with that was kinda tough. He feels like his church is an exception to the apostasy... But he was interested in the Book of Mormon, so that's what we are talking about next time. We got home late and hadn't had dinner yet, and decided to make fried chicken but didn't think that through cause we didn't start eating til after 10. Oh well.
On Saturday, we did some service for a member. We picked a patch of turnips, which was pretty fun. And then we watched him fix his riding lawnmower cause we weren't much help other than handing him certain tools. (And even then, I wasn't always handy haha)
After that, our original plan was to drive out to some distant towns in our area cause we had a lot of leftover miles for the month, but changed plans cause the branch had been assigned to help clean the Memphis temple before the open house! But as we were getting ready to be picked up to go, we got a text saying that it had been canceled. :( So that's super sad.
And then Sunday! No one we invited came to church, sadly. But we still had a good day. We ended up teaching that grandmother and her grandkids we met on Monday. There was her, her husband who walked in and out of the lesson, and 4 kids ages 10, 11, 12, and 13. They were sharp, and were excited to read the Book of Mormon as a family! I'd never really taught a family like that, but it was fun! You have to come up with more creative and fun analogies to get through to them haha.
But they were a good example of why the Savior tells us to become as little children. They believe, they question, they accept, and they love! I think a lot of that came down to the fact that they had an awesome grandma that taught them to be like that. She basically helped teach the lesson with us.
Moral of the story: there's good people out there, bad people out there, and you can listen to either side. But the only one you should believe is God. He'll tell you what's skraight.
Well... until next time. This has been Elder Dahl, in West Memphis: teaching people and helping with the turnip harvest.
https://youtu.be/fHA7Nq3ioww "whistling window"
Hey, it's Elder Dahl! I'm alive!
West Memphis is crazy, y'all. We've been mistaken as cops almost as many times as we've been mistaken as Jehovah's Witnesses here. (Which is to say, a lot.)
The people are really pretty nice. A good handful are also drunk/high, though. And only one guy told us to get our white [butts] out of his neighborhood as he drove by!
But on the real, West Memphis is great. We've found a lot of cool people this week! The Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ resonates with a lot more people here than anywhere else I've served. It's awesome. The trouble is keeping people interested enough to be home when they say they'll be home to learn more...
The parable of the sower has been played out in full this week. There's plenty of shallow dirt, hot sun, and thorns out there. But also a lot of really good seeds.
I don't have a ton of stories from this week to tell. Mostly just people I wish you could meet.
Like the most redneck guy I've ever met in my 20 months in the south. He was drinking a can of beer with a can cooler thing around it, wearing a Budweiser shirt and a stained flannel over it. In the flannel breast pocket, he had a pack of cigarettes and a bunch of Burger King coupons. He talked exactly like you'd imagine, and gave us both cokes out of a old cooler in the back of his van. His zombie apocalypse survival van. (No, seriously.) There's a human skull (probably fake?) wearing a bandana and shades in the dashboard. Solid.
We're also teaching these two couples, one of them is "in the ministry" for the Apostolic Pentecostal church, which I learned more about this week. And the other hasn't been to church in a while, but feel like it's about time to get back into it.
We met another lady who's met with the missionaries before, and kinda struggled with the whole idea of Joseph Smith for a while. But after explaining what the Book of Mormon was, and that the Savior visited the Americas, it all clicked. Apparently no one had explained that to her, or at least not in a way that she clicked with. That was cool.
The last Elders had also been working with a guy who has a master's in psychology and helps people with special needs. He's awesome, and he wants to be baptized! But his type of on-call work makes coming to church pretty hard. So we'll have to figure that one out. He's way way cool.
For other portraits of people we met, there was a group of 3 or 4 black grandpa's (So aging probably mid 40s-50) playing a game with a bunch of quarters on the street. I asked em what they were doing, and they explained that whoever gets their quarter closest to the sidewalk crack in the driveway gets everyone else's quarters. They were pretty good! We tried talking to em, but they used the excuse that it was their off day and they were drunk. It was 11:48AM haha. I asked em about that, too, and they said they usually wait til 1, "but if you had my grandkids, you'd be drinkin', too!"
Or, also of note was the car full of younger guys in the driveway of a house we were trying to visit someone in. They said so and so wasn't there, but that we could knock anyway. Well, someone was home, but no one answered. So we wrote a card, and when we gave it to one of the kids in the car, he fumbled for it with a zip lock bag loaded with marijuana in his other hand. "If the police show up, you're dead," he mumbled as we walked away haha. That's not our job. And it's not the cops they'll have to worry about. It's Santa and the Lord's book of life. I wonder if it'll reference this email as recorded evidence of their sin?
As far as other adventures go... We had our first district council of the transfer that went well. I got to go on exchanges with Elder Barney, who was in the MTC with me way back when. The next day, we found 5 solid new people in one day. Elder Bang was a pro. I gave a baptismal interview to a guy who is now the newest member of the Blytheville branch. We got a bible referral for a lady who lives in the next town over... while we were .1 miles from her house to begin with. That was trippy. She wasn't home, though.
But anyway! It's been another roller coaster week full of ups and downs and crazy people, but that's how it goes. Life is good in the delta!
How's life going? -
I wanna hear about it -
107 McCain Blvd Apt. D,
West Memphis, AR, 72301
Hahahahaha you guys this week was nuts.
Monday through Thursday was in Benton, AR. Friday was in North Little Rock, AR. And Saturday and Sunday have been in West Memphis, AR. Crazy weeks are fun, though. Here's the highlights!
On Monday night, we had dinner at the Simmons and I (kinda uncomfortably, for the goat) held a goat.
Tuesday was transfer day, so we drove up to the mission office, said a bunch of hi's and hopefully-not-bye's before picking up my Benton replacement, Elder Miller, and two new Spanish Elders who are coming to the zone. There were some hurdles to jump, though, because the Spanish elders apartment wouldn't be open until tomorrow. So we put them up in the Bryant sisters apartment before it got re-occupied friday night. But before that, we just dropped them off in the heart of south little rock to blitz while we got ready for a baptism at the church. Those poor guys were troopers. They didn't have much other than cards to give out, and didn't even know what time church started, let alone where the building was haha.
The three of us got ready for Madison's baptism! It took a solid 2 or 3 hours of filling the font, setting up chairs and moving the piano, downloading videos to play after the baptism, printing programs, and so on. And it all worked out great! I thought it all went pretty smoothly, and Madison was just beaming the whole time, and the ward just adores her and her kids. Ahh. She's so awesome.
We had dinner with the Richards, which was fun. It made me realize how long I've been in Benton. In the time I've been here, they've had a daughter leave on a mission, and 2 of their sons get married. They're a great family.
Before heading home, we stopped at Baskin Robbins and made a deal with Jayla, our dollar scoop ice cream scooper. If she came to church this Sunday, we/they would make her cookies. If she didn't, she would have to give them free ice cream one day. She said we had a deal! (And she came yesterday, yay!)
Being in a trio for those couple of days was interesting, but pretty fun haha. On Wednesday, we picked up the new Spanish Elders and met the office elders in an apartment complex in Little Rock, where they got all the signatures they needed to get the keys turned over to them, so they've got a brand new apartment. The outside is kinda sketch, but it's not too bad on the inside!
Then we drove back to Benton and stacked firewood for one of the people we were teaching. That was a lot easier with 3 people than it would've been with 2, cause we had a good line going. We changed back into white shirts and ties in a gas station (which is always fun) and then went to the library to type up reports for our meeting with the Stake President and President Hansen that had gotten bumped up to this evening, instead of tomorrow evening. So I was kinda sad that I was going to miss that meeting, but I lucked out and got to go to one more. (Unfortunately, it was at the cost of like 15 missionsries from the MTC not being able to get here cause their flight was gonna go thru Denver and Denver was getting hazed by a snow storm. So they had to go back to the MTC and try again the next day.)
But it was a good meeting! Between my time in Hope and Benton, I've spent just a few weeks short of a year in the Little Rock Stake. As we were leaving, Pres. Hansen told me, "I'm excited for you to be in West Memphis! You'll do great there! Don't get shot!" Hahaha. Thanks, President. (What the?!!? )
Thursday morning was supposed to be the day we had the meeting with the new missionaries, but because of the delay, it ended up being the day they actually got to Arkansas, and our meeting was postponed to Friday. So I got a bonus day on top of my bonus days in Benton. It was a good one!
We had a lesson with Madison about the Gift of the Holy Ghost. She had overheard some members talking about the Dallas temple, and had planned a trip to go to Dallas to see some family next week, and wondered what she had to do to see the temple. We made a plan for her to get a temple recommend after church on Sunday, and she did! Yay!
After that, we tried to visit a few people, including a referral the STLs gave us. She wasn't home, but another guy was and we got to talk with him for a while. He's a chainsaw artist so that's pretty cool.
Then, that night, we had a lesson with Wren and his girlfriend. He's the older guy that lives in the apartment next to his mechanic shop. It was a really cool, spiritual lesson. When we got there, and got started, the TV, which had been muted, broke into static and was loud. The lady's phone kept ringing with some obnoxious rap song as the tone. But they turned the TV off, silenced the phone, and were astounded at how calm and still their chihuahua was. (Which, if it's anything like any other chihuahua, its silence was pretty impressive.) "Somebody doesn't like you being here," the lady observed. But now that it was quiet, we were in good shape.
She'd been trying to find an answer to a prayer pretty urgently, and felt like her prayers just weren't being heard. We taught her how to pray, and Wren suggested that we give her a blessing. None of the 3 of us had thought to do that, but I think it was important that the spirit prompted him to suggest that. So we did, and she said she felt peace. We had her say the closing prayer and were very impressed with her faith and how badly she wanted an answer. It was cool.
The couple extra days in Benton kinda made me feel a lot of things! At times, like I just wanted to get out of the way, and other times like I never wanted to leave. It was like watching the start of a movie and knowing it's gonna be good, and wanting to see how the rest of the movie/transfer pans out. But Friday came, and it was time to move on, train a new missionary, and work West Memphis!
Friday was pretty long. All the trainers were there when I got there, and then the new missionaries arrived a little while later. We all introduced ourselves, and then the meeting started. Before lunch, they made the assignments. I'll be training Elder Bang! He's the oldest of 6 kids, and is from St. George, UT! President told him he'd probably be my last companion, affirming my joke, that I was "going out with a bang!"
After the meeting was over (at 4:30!) It took another hour and a half to get everyone's stuff loaded for the trek east to Memphis. I rode in the tiny middle seat between the driver and passenger in the pickup truck, which made for a fun ride across the state. But Elder Webb and I got to joke around, so that's always fun.
After stopping at a Taco Bell in Forrest City, (which is in our area in West Memphis) we drove another 45 minutes to West Memphis, got our stuff out of the truck and trailer, and hauled it upstairs to our apartment. It's pretty nice! We both have our own bathroom, and 2 closets, anyway. We had to throw away 90% of everything left over in the fridge and freezer, though. But we got all settled in by a little after 9, and then went to bed.
And then began day 1 in West Memphis. We had daily planning, our studies, and after the unfortunate (and late) realization that there wasn't a square of toilet paper leftover from the last elders, we decided to make a Wal-Mart trip for some essentials before starting the day.
We got out to the car, and the remote unlock didn't work. Weird. We manually unlocked it, hopped in, and... The battery was dead. We had a neighbor out washing her car, and asked if she'd be able to give us a jump. She kindly did, and once the electronics were up and running again, I saw something else. We had a tire pressure alert, with a psi reading of 4. Crap. Walked around to the rear passenger tire, and sure enough... We had a super flat tire. So we put on the spare (and had to ask our neighbor for another jump) and drove up the street to Goodyear tire, which was fortunately only about a mile down the road. We parked and they said it'd be 3-4 hours before they get to us.
We called our branch mission leader, Bro. Jones, and he happened to be free, so he picked us up and drove us around West Memphis, helped us get our bearings, and even paid for some groceries for us.
That night, the Young Women were doing a spaghetti fundraiser dinner for girls camp or something, and someone had bought us tickets, so Bro. Jones drove us over to the church (which is bigger than the Hope Building!) for that. We got to meet a bunch of the members there, and learned that the majority of the branch is related to 1 of 2 big families down here.
Before dropping us off back home, Bro. Jones reminded us to wear green ties to church tomorrow for St. Patrick's day, cause "them women'll pinch the crap outta you," and so we made note of that haha.
Church was good! Lots of friendly people, and warm introductions. And no pinches!
Got home, had studies, and decided to walk to try to meet some of the people in our area book close by. We found 3 new people to teach in that short time, and didn't get shot! (So far, so good, President!) It definitely wasn't the best side of town though haha.
We had mainly been talking to people who were just out and about, soaking up the springtime, but I had the thought to knock on the door we were walking by. We hadn't knocked on any doors yet, but figured I'd follow the prompting. A lady came out and we talked about her family for a while. She eventually shared that ever since a loved one had passed away 15 years ago, she's been looking for a sign from her telling her what heaven is like. I told her the little voice telling us to knock on her door might have been her! (A thought that never would've occurred to me until she told us that.) She accepted a Plan of Salvation pamphlet and said we could come back next week! So that was cool!
So there you have it... some of the highlights of this big, long, fun, crazy week. It's after 2, now, and we still haven't gotten a call about our car being done yet... pray for us haha.
I'm thankful for the miracles I've been able to see this week! They just keep on coming.
107 McCain Blvd Apt. D
West Memphis, AR, 72301
Well, it's Monday again! My time in Benton hasn't yet reached its end, but transfers came, and I'll be leaving! I get a couple days grace period here, though, before I leave on Thursday to pick up a brand new missionary to whitewash West Memphis, Arkansas with me! So that'll be fun! I'm excited hahaha. Staying in Arkansas, but dying on the Memphis side.
It's been a good last week, though!
On Monday, we got to visit the recent convert who's in the screamo band. Man, he's so awesome. The member we took with us happened to have bought an old sleeper recording studio, where apparently Rolling Stones and maybe the Beach Boys had recorded a few things between tour stops. It had fallen into disuse years ago, but he got pretty excited about checking it out, and started talking about fixing it up. I hope he gets it up and running again!
On Tuesday, we reviewed the baptismal interview questions with Madison, and she was all good, but... wasn't too sure about Joseph Smith, yet. Which made us panic a little bit cause her baptism was scheduled for a week out. So we explained the Book of Mormon more and sent her a link to the awesome, hour-long "Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration" movie and crossed our fingers.
We went to Tacos 4 Life for lunch cause President had confirmed that I will be a training district leader somewhere else this coming transfer, and I wanted to get another fix before I left. Then we spent most of the rest of the day trying to hunt down members who lived out in the middle of nowhere. We had about as much luck as usual with that. (Not very much).
After dinner that night, we went to Baskin Robbins for $1 Scoop Tuesday's (and to talk with the scooper, who we've been trying to teach for a while.) She was there, but someone else was scooping ice cream until 8. She clocked out while we were talking with the lady we came to see, and on her way out the door, stopped to read my nametag. She got really excited, and in a thick Filipino accent, read it outloud. "Yeah!" I said. "Do you know that church?" She went on to explain that she had actually joined the church in the early 90s with the rest of her family. She had moved to the states 5 months ago, and that very morning had prayed to meet someone from the church, because she didn't know where to find it here.
We were just there for ice cream and a chat. She "happened" to have picked up a shift outside of her usual weekend hours, and we "happened" to come in before she left and it "just so happened" that.... Yeah there's no such thing as it just so happened.
In less exciting news, I stayed in Benton on an exchange and we went to try to find a referral the sisters had given us before they left. We knocked on the door and a guy answered and used the f word more times in a minute than I've heard since high school haha. He told us the guy we were looking for wasn't interested, and, "Do I need to get an effing broom?" It made us laugh afterward, but he didn't seem like a very cheerful, happy guy. His loss.
After planning some of Madison's baptismal program, we went home to weekly plan. But then we decided to mix life up a little bit, cause the last few weekly plannings we have done have taken forever and have been kinda painful. So we went over to the temporarily closed Bryant sisters apartment, brought chairs out onto their 2nd story balcony, and planned up there. It was almost 60 degrees, and super foggy, which almost made it feel warmer, actually. It was sad planning for Benton for my last time, but it was made a little more fun by doing it outside.
We also visited our guy who works/lives in the mechanic shop, and he had two buddies join him for the lesson, so that was cool! And when we went by again on Sunday, he introduced us to another friend! He's a new investigator factory. And same with that lady we've had back at church the last few weeks. She's gotten 3 new people into the church building this week like it's nothing, while we struggle to get 1 haha. That's a good example of the power of member missionary work! She is so awesome. During the potluck on Sunday, she said, "I like it here. I think I'm gonna keep coming!" and that filled my heart.
(We were gonna reach our goal of 4 people at church, but we didn't remind one of the members in charge of picking someone up about Daylight Savings, and so we only got 3 haha. Elder Ramage is from Arizona, and they are smart enough to not do Daylight Savings Time there. But he hates it a lot haha. I guess it's kinda like the old testament law of circumcision. When you grow up under it, it's painful but it's not too bad. But trying to win over a convert...?)
On Saturday, Bro. Bailey took us out for BBQ in Little Rock before we went to one of the sisters in our zone's baptism. Madison came to watch, and even though it was all in Spanish, the Spirit was strong, and she really enjoyed it. (Shoutout to the hermanas for translating some of it!) Afterward, she had her baptismal interview and it went well! She's excited, we're excited... it's gonna be awesome. She is so amazing.
After all of that, there was also a wedding reception at the church for a couple who met on their missions like a year ago haha. They're great. We made a few visits that night inviting people to church to hear us speak, but a lot of people weren't home.
Elder Ramage and I spoke in church, and Sister Hansen, the mission president's wife happened to be there haha. But we did good, I thought. She and a few of the members seemed to think so, too. I've been trying to develop the gift of preaching. :)
Madison was there, too, and her kids even enjoyed primary... everything's coming together for her baptism on Tuesday! And because I'm training, I'll get to stick around for it. Otherwise, I'd be getting on a van with all of my stuff at 6:30 that morning, just less than 12 hours before her baptism. Phew! I'm definitely very blessed that I'll be able to make it!
Then, come Thursday, I'll get to get on that van with all my stuff, and a brand new missionary, and we'll go raise some righteousness up in West Memphis!
Love y'all! Pray for my greenie, Madison, and the good folks of West Memphis!
P.S. sorry for comparing daylight savings time to circumcision
905 Kierre Dr., North Little Rock, AR 72116
Hello! I'm a bundle o stress about transfers next week, but this week was probably one of my favorite weeks in Benton! It's been great. Had a lot more pizza than usual this week for whatever reason haha.
On Monday, our desperation to find a good, cheap, barber other than Great Clips reached its peak. On Google maps, we found a little barber shop in downtown Bryant that appeared to be in someone's house. There were no hours posted, and so we called the number. It went something like this:
"Uh, hello, is this Here's barber shop?"
"Uh... the missionaries?"
"...The Mormons? You're with the Mormons?"
"Oh. Yeah, this is Herb. I had a good friend back in the military who was a member of your church. He was a great guy. And I actually had some missionaries come see me about 5 or 6 times a ways back. Y'all should come see me!"
So. That was interesting. We decided that we could postpone our haircuts until Friday, when his shop was open again.
That evening, we kinda ran out of things to do, so made it a point to drop off a Come, Follow Me Manual to someone we had been meaning to drop off for a while. It just so happened that she needed a blessing before a surgery the next morning, and she'd been worried about not being able to get one when we called to see if then would be a good time. So that was cool. We felt like slackers for not getting the book to her sooner, until we realized that God's timing was better.
We had district council the next day, which was good. It's still kinda funny being in a "district" with just another set of sisters. We ended up joining the little rock district for their district lunch at good ole Chik-Fil-A cause we were going on exchanges with one of the sets of elders. Which happened to mean I got to do an exchange with Elder Bingham, my "son," (or, the missionary I trained almost 18 months ago!)
So that was fun to catch up with him and laugh about some of the Collierville days. Good times. We rode the public bus to a few stops and talked with some interesting people on there. While tracting, a guy let us in and his little kid kept yelling in my ear about how cool his sonic the hedgehog game was, but I just took it so I could distract the kid while Elder Bingham went for the teaching. The guy got distracted as the mailman delivered a box. He explained that it was his new phone, and in passing mentioned that he ordered it cause he'd put his last phone in the microwave.
"Wait..." I asked. "The microwave? Why'd you put your phone in the microwave?"
"I thought it was a piece of pizza!" He shrugged.
Little Rock. It's a heck of a place!
After we exchanged back the next day, we had a great Facebook video lesson, where we taught the second half of the Plan of Salvation and the Word of Wisdom (no smoking, drinking, illegal drugs, coffee, tea) to a lady. Later in the week, we taught her the rest of the commandments, like tithing, etc., and it was just amazing to see how willing she was to live the commandments. She really saw them as ways to show her love for God and her desire to follow Him.
We did some service at a Habitat for Humanity thrift store place, and then had a Bible study at President Jones's. A while back, we had asked a returning member if she had any friends she would like to have come to church with her. She said yes, and has had a good friend of hers come to church now for over a month, and to these bible studies for a while, too. She's been loving everything, and is such a strong believer in Christ. She bought a tablet so she could have the gospel library app, and even though another missionary had to physically hold her finger and help her tap on things (she's pretty old, and hasn't ever used a touch screen anything before) it was really really amazing to see how overwhelmed she was by the wealth of the treasure trove of doctrine and teaching there are available at her fingertips. She got pretty emotional and I realized I have kinda taken the resources available to me for granted!
On Thursday, I had my 12th MLC. (If I'm counting right!) We have 1 a month, except we had a bonus one in February. So I've been in zone leadership for longer than I haven't! It's been amazing. But President made some hints about people being released as zone leaders to go train and be district leaders [who function under ZLs) and so when I hugged him after the meeting, I just jokingly said, "It's been a good last MLC!" And he just laughed and said, "So you picked up on my hint!" So we'll see what happens this next transfer haha. I'll miss... well... I'll miss parts of being a zone leader haha.
On Friday, we did some service unloading a big truckload of hay and stacking it under a little shed thing, so that was fun and itchy. Then we went to Herb's barber shop and didn't get out of there until 3 hours later haha. It was an experience.
Herb is kind of an older guy. He served in the Vietnam War, and has lived in this area since before there was even just a pizza hut. Back when the population was around 600. So, that to say... he had some stories. But not as many stories as the almost 90 year old guy who had come in for a shave right before us. After he was done, he just sat back down in the waiting chairs, and talked our ears off. He didn't take a breath haha. The end of one story would remind him of another, and in the middle of another story, he'd have to fill you in on the life stories and backgrounds of each of the people involved, and how he knew their parents, and what they're doing nowadays.
It wasn't til another guy walked in that Herb actually started on Elder Ramage's hair. And he'd stop quite a bit to talk with the other guy, and to go check on something, or open the door for someone... It was kinda funny.
Then it was my turn... And the same thing happened haha. And this time I noticed how shaky his hands were. I was a little nervous, but Herb was a pro haha. (And only 10$!)
We weekly planned the rest of the afternoon, and treated ourselves to David's Burgers for dinner that evening. They had a deal with the radio station that if you mentioned them, they'd give you a free chicken sandwich. So hey! We couldn't pass that up. (Even though we don't listen to the radio station...)
Saturday was BUSY! After that other facebook lesson, our elders quorum president took us to Corky's BBQ up in Little Rock for lunch. They'd had one in Collierville and I'd forgotten how good it was. Man. A half slab of good ribs and some baked beans can do a lot for my morale. :)
We had a lesson after that with a guy we've been working with for a while. He had a friend over who joined us for a reading of Enos from the Book of Mormon. He, his friend, and his friend on behalf of his wife all committed to come to church the next day, but it didn't happen. :(
We stopped by a less active members house to use the bathroom, and ended up getting treated to a slice of dairy queen ice cream cake, and got to give a Book of Mormon to his mom, so that was cool!
Then we went to Carolina's for dinner, she's the lady who joined the church as a kid, but after we did service for her, she brought it up and we discovered that she was a member. Last week was her first time back, and this week was her first time having the sacrament again. The ward has been great about fellowshipping her. We watched Elder Soares' general conference talk, "One in Christ," and I felt like it was given for her. I felt the spirit really strongly watching it. This is Christ's church! It's full of imperfect people, but the least we can do is love one another.
Then we stopped by Salvador's and had a good visit with him. He's still in the Day's Inn, and is going through a lot. But man, I love that guy. He's so awesome. But the night wasn't over yet! We pulled into the Zaxby's parking lot and used their WiFi for a zone leadership zoom call, and just talked about how we can help the zone get to the next level. Then we filled up on gas and went home.
Church was good. The lady planning on being baptized this next week or so came! We're still trying to figure out details with that, including whether or not I will still be here for the baptism. So that's a little stressful. But it will happen! I'm grateful to have been an instrument in the Lord's hands in helping her.
After church, we visited a guy in a nursing home who was a little loco. He likes his western books, and seemed to think that's what the Book of Mormon was. I mean kinda, when you think about it. A western that took place, was written, and that really happened, about 2000 years ago.
We also visited Tabitha again. I'd seen on Facebook that she'd mentioned that she was quitting smoking. That was her main hold up about joining the church a few months ago, was she didn't want to. But kinda out of the blue, she decided she wanted to quit. So we stopped by and just said we wanted to support her in any way that we could. She seemed a lot happier than I've seen her in a while. She's awesome.
Any time I had to get out of the car, (especially Saturday and Sunday) it seemed like I was about an inch and a half from falling asleep. And my body didn't want to do much of anything. But as soon as I opened the car door and my feet hit the ground, the Spirit must've taken over and carried me like a marionette puppet haha. I've been relying on that happening more and more, recently. I'm a tired kiddo. But there is work which remains unfinished!
Looking forward to this last week in Benton. Gotta make the most of it!
905 Kierre Dr.,
North Little Rock, AR 72116
Hello! Here's your weekly highlights from Elder Dahl's time in Arkansas!
We started the week off with a day exchange with the assistants. Elder Turner and I had a good day despite the freezing rain. Had a really powerful lesson with a guy that they'd dropped a while ago. You could see gears turning in his head and that's always cool. We said a kneeling prayer with him on his tile floor, and this guy really wants to know what's true, and what God wants him to do!
Later, we gave a blessing to a guy in a big Baptist Health Hospital. It was raining when we went in, and pouring when we came out. That made running to the car fun. But really, trying to get to the car without getting as wet is like thinking that if you fan yourself as you jump into a pool, you'll come up dry.
Everything else pretty much fell through that day. During our planning session that morning, I'd gotten to pick out a street to do some knocking on if nothing else worked out. Well. Nothing else worked out, so here we were with an open hour and a half, a street picked out, and a lot of rain. We tried thinking of something else we might be able to do, but ultimately decided that we felt good about the street that morning, so we'd stick with the plan. So we did, and almost as soon as we pulled up onto the street, it stopped raining. Whoa.
And we actually got to have several really good conversations with people there. Nobody told us to go away, or that they weren't interested. Anytime we were on someone's porch, the rain would pick back up. But any time we needed to cross the street or walk to the next house, it slowed down again. So I mean... that's a miracle.
On Wednesday, we had our zone conference, which was pretty good. We had calzones with some members that recently got home from their missions. They showed us a video of babies swimming and having the time of their life and we were all dying. Idk what was so funny about it, but it was one of those "what the heck is my life right now? I'm in an apartment in Arkansas watching a video of babies swimming"
Come Thursday, we had a video lesson over Facebook that went really well! And we'd planned to go on exchanges with Elder Bingham and Elder Hughes that day, but then we got a call from the Pinnacle Mountain Elders saying that one of the people that they're teaching asked if he could move his baptism up a week... to Saturday.
Our goal as a zone was to help 2 people be baptized in the month of February, and it was looking like [up until that phone call] we'd only get one. But we had felt really good about 2, so in the back of our minds, we'd kinda been wondering where we went wrong. But! I was already packed for an exchange, and after some shuffling around, I was in that guy's living room giving him a baptismal interview and making sure he was ready to go! He's super cool! He actually grew up Jewish, and back in high school, some missionaries had given a spiel about the Book of Mormon in his homeroom class and had copies if anybody wanted one. He ended up with a copy, and now like forty years later, he's a member of the church!
We started off the next morning playing chair soccer in the downtown little rock building with the assistants, and then exchanged back. We had to take our mini van, Daphne, into Firestone to get an oil change, and that was fun. We had to wait for a while, mainly cause our vehicle coordinator in the mission office had to run some errands and wasn't able to get them the payment number they needed until like an hour after they were done haha. The TV they had on in the lobby played a unique sequence of Ancient Aliens, some old western, and a wacky game show. So that was distracting, and didn't at all make me miss TV. (Except for maybe the Ancient Aliens stuff... cause like... I've met people who really believe that stuff. And at least the TV show makes it sound cool.)
We had interviews with President Hansen that afternoon, and weekly planned after that.
The weekend was kinda rough. We keep on trying to visit people who have said they're interested, but it just seems like they're never home. The lady we helped take stuff to the scrap yard and clean her truck out ended up living a little letter addressed to us on her door. Missionaries will know what kinda letter. :) (She dropped us, but I think she'll come around!)
One of the less-promising people was home, though, and he was cool. Unfortunately, his drunk friend wasn't as cool, but had a surprising ability to recall and interpret bible scriptures. So yeah, bible-bashing with a drunk guy rapping about "living water" was an adventure. (I'm really wishing I'd asked him to rap it again so I could get it on video. I hope we see him again!)
The lady we raked leaves for that ended up being a member had us over again Saturday night! And then came to church for the first time in like 30 or 40 years. She seemed to really like it and everyone was so nice to her! Another one of the sisters' investigators came, too. He's been struggling with some health stuff lately, so it was really good he could come.
After church, we had kinda the same problem as Saturday. Trying lots of people, almost none of them being home. :/ We ended up going to that Bible study again. Everyone, including the pastor, was like 20 minutes late haha. But it was good. The Book of Mormon would just clarify so many of their questions and vague definitions. I love that book!
And that about catches us up to now! We tried a new mexican restaurant for lunch this morning. We walked in in-between two big construction crews... so I guess that's how you know if it's gonna be good out here. (It was!)
So there you have it! Every week is an adventure. There's ups and downs and miracles and exhaustion and everything in-between! But life is good!
1916 Brandon Rd., apt. A2
Bryant, AR 72022
I don't have a whole lot to write home about this week. And I wrote out this whole email once already and for some reason it disappeared. So I'm kinda ticked about that haha. So... here goes round two!
I got to go on exchanges with Elder Billings, who was one of my zone leaders when I was in Hope. He's awesome! We started the exchange off by praying about where to go knock some doors. After picking a spot, we headed over, and found a cool person behind the second door we knocked on. She reluctantly walked outside and said she'd give us 5 minutes to hear our "spiel." By the end of the 5 minutes, she was excited about reading the Book of Mormon, and double checked with us a few times to make sure we would come back!
I also got to practice my Spanish with one of her neighbors, which impressed Elder Billings, but wouldn't have impressed anyone who passed Spanish II in high school. A few doors later, we walk up and get ready to knock and then mariachi music starts playing loudly from inside. Elder Billings just turned to look at me and said "You're up, Elder Dahl," and then we laughed hard enough we had to pray that nobody actually opened the door haha. Idk, it was funny. You had to be there.
Back in Benton the next day, we tried our neighbors we helped move in a while ago. They were super drunk, but only told us after welcoming us in. So we teased them a little bit in the way you can only really tease drunk people before leaving to try back at a better time. (Oh, you've been drunk every time we've stopped by? Maybe that's God giving you a sign you should stop!)
We also got to visit with a lady who works at Baskin Robbins about her grandmother's high school experience with New Orleans voodoo, so that was interesting!
On Thursday, we had our district council. The Hermanas walked in with another guy in a white shirt, tie, and nametag, and so we were kinda confused. Turns out he'd had a pretty bad bike wreck while serving in the Portland Oregon mission and is home for a transfer or so. So it was good having more than just 2 other missionaries in our district council!
Later that day, we also did some service. Cleaned out some flowerbeds, and then played tug-of-war with some rosebush trimmings in a tarp against the covered bed of a truck. We eventually won!
Friday had just what Elder Dahl needed. Elder McKay of the Seventy came and did a zone conference with all of the missionaries on the Arkansas side, and it was really really good. I learned a lot. Elder McKay is brilliant and I want to be as sharp and passionate and quick-on-my feet as he is. We had a MLC meeting with him afterwards, and I learned a lot there, too! We got some good counsel as to how we can help our mission keep improving in the next couple months!
Saturday was also good! I woke up to an email from BYU saying I got in! And then before we started personal study, we were able to have a lesson with someone in a member's home and set a baptismal date goal with her! It was awesome. And right before we invited her, she quietly exclaimed that she could feel "those chills," which was the phrase she used to explain what the Spirit feels like. Man. There's no better feeling than knowing you've been able to help someone feel of God's love in a way that is that powerful.
We had a pot luck after church yesterday, and then went to visit that lady that fed us lunch last week. We'd sent the hermanas over, since she's from El Salvador, and they'd learned that she was a member, actually! She just hadn't been since she was a teenager. So we had a really special visit with her. It was cool to hear her say that something has felt missing in all the time she's been away from the church. She's planning to come back for the first time in a decade or two (or 3) this Sunday.
So there you have it! I did have a cool little spiritual thought at the end of the first draft of this email, but I don't remember exactly how I expressed it. But it was great, take my word for it. Something along these lines:
The Book of Mormon isn't just true - it convinces us of the divinity of the Savior
The Church isn't just true - it is organized and operated by the Savior
I don't do the Lord's work - He does. I just get lucky enough to be used by Him sometimes. :)
1916 Brandon Rd, apt. A2
Bryant, AR 72022
Hello! The temperatures this week went from mid 70s down to low 30s and rainy. So that's been fun! You get a little bit of everything out here, whether you like it or not.
"A little bit of everything" is kind of a good way to explain Arkansas... and this week haha
We met with a guy a few times this week with some pretty interesting beliefs, some of which line up with ours... others of which are just plain crazy. But it's been cool to see how when we teach him simple truths, he sits back, thinks about it, starts smiling, and says it's cool, or that he never thought of that before haha. He's still a little crazy, but he said he was gonna do a deep study of the Book of Mormon, so that's awesome! After our 2nd visit, he let us borrow one of his favorite religious texts... [because I asked, cause I was really curious.] It's called "The Emerald Tablets of Toth-the-Atlantean," and kinda seems like a high school fantasy fan fic of the Book of Mormon... written by ancient atlanteans on emerald tablets. A few differences being that the book's translator is apparently a 36,000 year old immortal college professor, hiding out in Colorado, running a church that charges $36 for this book haha.
On Wednesday, we had our district council. Now, with the Bryant sisters gone, it was just us and the Spanish sisters. So we had to have a member there with us haha. But it was good. Tiny districts are interesting.
We had our SME with the Stake President that night, and none of the other missionary leaders in the zone could make it, so it was just us, Pres. Dixon, one of the counselors, and Pres. Hansen. They're awesome people, and I learn a lot from them!
The next day, we went to another district's district council, and then went to Chik-Fil-A for lunch. Elder Draper gave one of the workers there a card... and then we spent half an hour being lectured by her about how she doesn't believe Jesus came to the Americas because it doesn't say it happened in the Bible. (But ok... The people who wrote the Bible didn't know the Americas existed, and even if they did, how were the writers of the Book of Mormon supposed to let the apostles of Jerusalem know they'd seen Jesus? Send a pigeon? Use Facebook live? Row a boat? Hence the need for another book!)
We met a really cool lady later though, who showed us a picture on her Instagram she'd taken of an angel flying near the moon... #legit But she was really open, though!
We had 2 big appointments that evening! 1 was in a McDonald's with a guy we met a month or so ago, who we were finally able to get back in touch with. He's really looking for solid truth, and is sick of the contention between different denominations of Christianity. He asked some pretty pointed, honest questions, and then just gave us his list of questions and said we could study them, help him find an answer, and get back another time.
The second was with that shy-er couple we've been working with for a while. We read Alma 42 with them, and the thing she got from it was, "wow, I've been kinda glancing over Jesus when I pray. I need to give more consideration when I close my prayers, now that saying, 'in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen' makes more sense." Which... isn't what I would expect someone to get out of Alma 42, but it was cool to see how willing she was to change even in just that small way, now that she understood a little more. After that lesson, her husband showed us the inside of one of his big gun safes... wow. I didn't know you could fit that many guns in one safe. A lot of them are rare, collectors, or historic ones that are pretty sweet. I guess he placed in a Texas State Marksmanship championship. It's always fun listening to people talk about what they are really excited about. When they know they oughtta be quiet and let you go, but just can't hold themselves back. I love that! (And don't mind at all!)
On Friday, we just weekly planned all day long, with a short break to visit a few people who weren't home. We tried our neighbors we helped move in on our way home, and they were home, and let us in, and we'll see them again on Wednesday! For dinner a member took us to a place called "All Aboard," where they deliver your food by way of a model train set that carries your tray of food overhead. So that was fun, but with a fun idea they like, it didn't seem like they had much pressure to make the food very good haha.
Saturday came around, and you know what? We raked leaves. And then had a session of stake conference that evening that was kinda rough. I was given a microphone to pass to people during a discussion, and the 1st person I gave it to brought up a kinda random concern and derailed the whole rest of the conversation. :) But there was pie and ice cream after, so yeehaw!
Then the Sunday session of stake conference happened, and that lady we gave the church tour to last week? came with her 3 little kids! She's a trooper. 2 hours in the pew of a new church for the first time with 3 kids under the age of 6 isn't for the faint-hearted. I was kinda hoping the distraction of her kids, or maybe an intervention by the Spirit, would keep her from tuning in too closely to some of the cringey stuff brought up over the pulpit haha. But we had a good lesson with her this morning! (In only a semi-related note, In that session, I learned that the people killed in the Mountain Meadow Massacre were from Arkansas! #yikes)
We left stake conference and went to visit a lady we had raked leaves for! She'd actually invited us over for lunch Sunday afternoon. She's from El Salvador, and had some Spanish rice/sausage shrimp gumbo combination and pupusas. We had a really good visit with her and her son. Turns out, she used to attend the church in New Jersey as a kid when she and her family first moved to the states. She said she'd enjoy visiting the church, though, and said we could send the Spanish sisters over! Really sweet lady. She remembered some of the elders, and that they liked to eat. Not much has changed. :)
After this morning's lesson, we had our zone p day, and went to downtown Little Rock again and ate at good ole Gus's Chicken. Man. So good. Then we headed down to Central High School, famous for the "Little Rock Nine," and being the first desegregated school in Arkansas. Man, thats the nice way to put it. Not many people were fans of that idea back in the day.
I also finished reading "Saints," this week and that was really good. Between that and LRCHS, it's amazing how much evil people have been able to get away with in the name of misunderstanding and prejudice. Tarring and feathering, or spitting in people's faces just can't ever be okay. It's astounding how mean people can be. But I'm thankful to live in a time where, despite all that, there really is so much love.
I love my Savior, I love this gospel. I love being a missionary, and serving in Arkansas! I love my family, and I love you!
1916 Brandon Rd., apt. A2
Bryant, AR 72022
You know those movie scenes where it cuts faster and faster between a cycle of video clips? Like alarm clock - shower on - cereal hitting the bowl - tie being tied - sitting in traffic - coming home - lights off - alarm clock - shower - cereal - tie - traffic - ....
That was this week haha. But it was good!
On Monday, we spent the evening meeting some of the sisters' investigators with them, cause they're leaving the area and we're taking over. Mwahaha. Nah, we'll miss the sisters! We scheduled a couple appointments and our week filled up quick!
A week or 2 ago, we posted to some Facebook groups for the area that we were volunteering to take leaves, chop wood, etc., and apparently like half the county has seen these posts, because members keep mentioning to us that their friends joke with them about asking if we can rub their feet or something haha. So far, we haven't had to rub any feet. Score! But we did stay crazy busy this week trying to stay on top of all the service requests coming in.
We spent a few hours on 3 different days raking like an acre of deep leaves and funneling them through a gate into a ditch in their back yard. That was rough. We went out to Sardis and cut back some brush, and a bunch of vines, about half of which were covered in thorns. I walked away unscathed, though, feeling like Samuel the Lamanite.
During one of those days, we had a church tour in the morning with an awesome lady with an awesome story that the sisters found a couple days before they left. She's just so cool and so excited about the church! We had another member there and it felt like something we could've recorded and sent to church headquarters. It was great! She wasn't able to come on Sunday, though, cause her oldest kid was sick, so pray for em please!
But after the tour, we had lunch and then spent like 3 or 4 hours with leaves, and then went to a Bible Study a member was hosting, and that we were supposed to take charge of. My arms were so sore from raking and awkwardly holding the leafblowers for so long that it kinda hurt to even lift my arms to put sunglasses off and on. To our guilty relief, nobody came to the Bible study, so we went home for our companionship study and dinner, only to see as we pulled into our apartments a U-haul, and people moving stuff in in the cold and dark. We got inside, and our consciences wouldn't let us rest, so we put the shoes back on and went to help them move in. They were really appreciative, and one of the guys even said he was looking for a church! So hey!
When we got back in, I was amazed I had enough energy left to make dinner. Doing dishes was another story, but suffice it to say I slept well that night. And every night this week. I'm gonna have to sleep an extra 3 days when I get home just to catch up on this week alone haha.
When we were out visiting some of the people we were teaching, one of their neighbors had a big dumpster sitting in their driveway. We asked about it, and they said they were gonna be cleaning up their house. Which, as nicely as I can say, sounded like a great idea, and a much-needed project! We offered to help, and man, that guy took us up on it so fast haha. His wife wasn't as excited about it when we came back the next day to actually help, but they ended up getting pizza for us and the ragtag group of other helpers that came.
Man. That was an experience. There was so much garbage everywhere. As I shoveled wet leaves laced with wrappers, soggy clothes, and other trash, one lady that lived there came out and had a panic attack, cause I guess she was the hoarder behind the mess. She started pulling junk out of the leaf pile, saying it just needed a good wash... And then she started freaking out at this other lady [who, btw, happens to have been in the Bandito Biker gang in the 70s/80s, and was low-key terrifying] who was digging in the dumpster for her box of cigarettes which I think I'd accidentally put with the rest of the trash and thrown away. She didn't want anyone digging in the dumpster before she did, cause she was afraid people would take stuff. Yikes. Her 8 year old son did as much as Elder Ramage or I did cause I think he thought we were cool. Unfortunately, the 3 of us made up less than half the people that were there, but we did a lot more than half of the work hahaha. It was a glimpse into a strange, dark corner of humanity, lemme tell ya.
We got Chinese takeout for dinner that night. We washed our hands really well first, though.
On Saturday, we got a break from service and actually fit a few good lessons in! I was actually missing knocking on doors by this time in the week. It felt good to be teaching again!
On Sunday, we were expecting to have 5-6 people at church, but only 1 came. One by one, they'd texted or called to cancel because they were sick, their kids were sick, or they got called into work, etc. That was rough. But I felt better about it than usual because I knew I'd done everything I could've to get them there.
We've got a good week and month lined up. I'm excited. Things are going well, slowly but surely! While it's fun to be able to say, "see you in 4 months!" I'm definitely gonna miss the crazy experiences and incredible people and just the things I get to live as a missionary. Like, we met this guy who was a leader of a congregation of the church on a Navajo Indian reservation. Now he raises bees, and recently went on a trip to Panama, where they rode a canoe through a river to an ancient native settlement. Like what?? This guy had some cool stories. I think you just get so many opportunities to really get to know people as a missionary in ways I can't imagine having anyway else. I'm gonna miss it!
...but before I miss it, I'm gonna enjoy these next 4 months! Here we go!
Sorry, not a lotta pictures this week. Just some southern vibes
1916 Brandon Rd, apt. A2
Bryant, AR 72022
Well, it's been 4 good transfers in Benton, Arkansas. This week, I get to start... transfer number 5 in Benton! Another 6 weeks, here we go!
This week was especially exhausting. It was good, and I learned so much, but man I am tie-erd. I could probably trace that fact back to Tuesday morning, when we got up at 5AM for a spontaneous trip to Memphis. Just kidding, it was planned in advance. We had a good MLC there, while construction noises went off the whole time outside the building. But it was the people working on the Memphis Temple, so we didn't mind a bit!
We left Memphis and stopped for dinner at a place called Cook Out [which is crazy, cause for 5 dollars you get an entree, two sides, and a drink. And you can get like a chicken quesadilla or a hamburger as a side haha]. On our way home, we realized #1., why it only cost 5 dollars, and #2, that our zone goal for the day was to schedule a church tour, and we weren't going to get back to Benton until after 9 o'clock. So we called one of the people we were teaching and... first try, scheduled a church tour. The sister training leaders in our zone had to try a few more people. But maybe their tour actually happened haha. (Cause our guy canceled last minute.)
We got back to the mission office, and instead of driving our Malibu home, we were given the mission's Toyota Sienna, affectionately termed, "The Mommy Van," and by its closest friends, "Daphne." We don't really know why they figured the Benton elders could put to use a mini van better than any other companionship in the missjon, but hey! It's been sweet haha.
On Wednesday, we had our district council in the morning, and went door-knocking in the afternoon. It was really really cold! But we talked with a guy who'd seen the Book of Mormon Musical and he was cool. And then his nextdoor neighbor was a missionary-baptist-gone-Jew, so that was also exciting.
We met with President and Sister Jones and a few others and read John 1 for the Come, Follow Me, program as a Bible Study and that was fun. I got a lot out of it!
That gets us to Thursday, where we had another all-day meeting, but this one was just in the mission office in North Little Rock. It was also good. President Hansen got a call during the meeting making official some rumors we'd heard that we'll be adopting the Tupelo, Mississippi Stake into our mission. Some 20-30 more missionaries, 12 areas, and everything else that comes with that. The problem is, that happens July 1st, and I'll be home before then. I'm kinda sad I'll miss that big change in the mission! It's exciting.
Saturday was a pretty fun day. We started it out by going back to the lady whose stuff we took to the scrap yard last week. This time, we emptied out a literal truckload of trash from the bed of a nonfunctioning pickup truck in her driveway. Fortunately, we had some help from Brother Clark and his two boys, and their truck and trailer. (We had joked about putting all the trash in Daphne, but first of all, there wouldn't have been room, and 2nd, it was all so wet and moldy and falling apart that the only way to clean it out afterward would be by fire.)
I had gloves, fortunately, but Elder Ramage wasn't as lucky as we dug through this soupy mix of old clothes, toys, newspapers, cans, random dishes and scraps, and so on. It was bad. Like after getting a foot or so down into it on one side, there were cockroaches crawling around. And then when Brother Clark hopped in the actual bed of the truck with a shovel, two big-as-your-hand rats tried to jump out, but just barely didn't clear the tailgate. One went by way of shovel, and the other by Brother Clark's boot. It was super gross but also at least a little bit funny.
And hey, she came to church again on Sunday, and brought a friend, too!
After that experience, we went to a little breakfast diner in town that one of the people we have been teaching works at. After almost 20 months in the south, I figured it was about time to try biscuits and chocolate gravy. And it was good, too! I can't even explain it. Saying it's like warm chocolate pudding on a biscuit sounds kinda gross, but that's as close as I can get to describing it.
Later that day, we raked some leaves with some help from the sisters, cause we'd been warned ahead of time that this was a big yard. We were given the ok to burn the leaves, which I didn't think much about - as long as we didn't have to bag em, I'd be good. Well, from 4 to 7:30, we raked the front yard and burned all the leaves, and the sisters got about a third of the backyard raked. We used her neighbor's hose to put out our fire some time after dark. It was hard to see, then, but hopefully the big pile of ash in her front yard doesn't stand out too much. You'd think we were the only ones raking leaves in January, but it was such a nice day, there were actually people raking leaves all over town as we were driving by. That should be a telling observation about "the south" and "procrastination." But I love it hahaha.
That night was transfer news. I was nervous all day, but about thirty minutes before the email came, I had a feeling I was staying. I was glad to see that feeling was confirmed! A lot of changes are coming to our zone this transfer, though, so that'll be an adventure.
On Sunday, we were making the rounds before church, making sure everyone was good to go. We stopped by the guy who had some good questions last week, but he was asleep. His mom and another guy told us so, but we got talking and his mom ended up waking him up and inviting us in. The other guy was Muslim, and so we got to learn a little bit more about some divisions in the Muslim faith. And then for the next hour and a half - seriously, we were late to church - he asked us all kinds of questions that kinda got to the annoying point, honestly. It's like he wants to have a problem with God, and has to understand logically every aspect of God's being. There's a lot of logic to it, I thought. But God isn't a computer. He's complicated and loving, and yet so simple at the same time.
The biggest thing I learned from that is that there are absolutely limits to what God can do. He can't stop loving His children. He can't interfere with our agency. He can't go back on His word. He can't not fulfill a promise or a covenant when conditions have been met. He has laws - spiritual, physical, scientific - that he, too, must abide by. He can't create us in our most perfect form - that is something we must grow into with His help. So it was interesting!
Church was good! It felt really good to feel the spirit and be around other people who love God and understand some of His plan. Afterwards, we went to a Baptist "discipleship class" we'd been invited to that was... actually pretty decent. I think we might go again, cause it's a small group and we can answer their questions about us before other, less friendly people do. They touched on a lot of good stuff, but a few truths from the Book of Mormon would help make everything click a little better for them, I think.
After our dinner appointment Sunday night, we had to head back home to do call-ins, but in order to meet the zone daily goal for the day, we had to invite one more person to be baptized. It was like 8:00, we were in our apartment, and I was thinking, "dangit, why did we set this goal? We could've ended the week of zone daily goals yesterday!"
But we were determined to reach it, and so we started calling people from our area book that had been taught months and years ago. A lot of the numbers didn't work anymore. One guy hung up on us. And then the miracle came! For like 45 minutes, I talked with this lady over the phone and it was so powerful. It was definitely one of those times when I took a deep breath afterward and just marveled. I don't know where the words I said came from. (Well... I do! Not from me, that's for sure!) The Spirit was really strong as I shared Alma 7:11-13, and explained that the Savior didn't just suffer for her sins, but also individually felt what it's like for her to go through fibromyalgia. Not just "fibromyalgia," but her experience with it. By the end of the call, she was saying she was excited to read the Book of Mormon, and that she hadn't thought about being rebaptized before. It was so cool.
We did some of our call-ins that night, and in one of them, I learned that one of the people we met on Halifax Street a few weeks ago had met with the missionaries that day at the church, and said he had found a lot of answers that day, and that he'd be willing to be baptized if he felt that the Book of Mormon was true! So... that's awesome!
Our zone saw a lot of other miracles this week through our daily goal challenges. It was really hard and made us work our tails off, but the Lord helps us reach our goals, when our goals are His goals.
I'm happy to be staying another transfer in Benton! And I'm happy to be representing the Lord and His church to the people of Arkansas. This is a special place.
(I've been sending out film prints to people who write me so... if you want some junk film photos from AR, say hi!)
1916 Brandon Rd., apt. A2
Bryant, AR 72022
Hello, friends and family! Yet another week has come and gone in the Benton Zone. As much easier as it would be for me to just leave it at that... there's some fun stuff from this week.
On Tuesday, we went to another district council, and then I stayed in Little Rock on exchanges with Elder Albertson. We raked some leaves and then tried to find some people interested in learning more! Mostly... people weren't home. At the end of the night, though, we were tracting in the dark and a hispanic lady lets us right in! Apparently she had met with missionaries in the past, but had moved and lost contact with them. She spoke about as much English as I spoke Spanish, but it was actually really cool cause we were able to teach her a good part of the Restoration. She had her Spanish Bible, and I knew the references to scriptures at least, so we led her through a little scripture chain explaining the need for a restoration! She seemed to get it and said she'd love to have the Hermanas back to study with her!
When we got home, Elder Albertson gave me another haircut. If I said he did a better job than Great Clips, I'd be telling the truth, but it also wouldn't be saying much! :) Nah, he did good.
When we exchanged back, Elder Ramage had picked up some bags of leaves from someone we had raked leaves for last week, with the intention of dropping it off to someone close to the church who had requested leaves for compost. Well... they'd typed the address in wrong, and they actually lived like a 30 minute drive into the middle of nowhere in our area, but we'd said we were going to drop them off, so... we made a day of it. Scrapped the plans and spent the day in and around Sardis, Arkansas, trying less-active members and formerly taught people. Not a lot were home again. But we actually met another Hispanic guy, who was the husband of that one lady who paid for my groceries at Walmart a few months ago! He spoke a little bit more English, so we did some back and forth between English and Spanish with him. But he ended up asking for a Book of Mormon. We talked about la cena del Senor, and showed him where in the Book of Mormon it talked more about that. It was cool! Spanish is kinda fun, but it makes me wish I was fluent. It kinda reminds me of like pictionary or charades. Like I can't say exactly what I'm thinking, but I can kinda gesture around and scribble with my words until they get the idea haha.
In another neighborhood, a dog that looked kinda like a tiger started following us around. It was nice, fortunately. But it was also a wimp, cause when like 13 other tiny neighborhood dogs started yapping at us and running at our heels as we walked as fast as we could away, it just started whining. Some tiger. As we walked away, someone peeked out the blinds of their trailer wondering who the heck was stirring up all the dogs down the road. She came out the front door and asked, "Can I help you?" Well there you go, we didn't even have to knock on the door. We introduced ourselves and she said she wasn't interested. Just then, though, her teenage daughter? came out the front door and caught the tail end of our spiel, and asked, "Mom, can I walk the neighborhood with them?" She sounded so excited haha. "No, honey," she said. We started backing out, too, saying we'd knocked on the whole street already haha. Her mom went inside, and we offered her a pamphlet at least, which she accepted. We had a good chat, and then she went back inside. In hindsight, we probably should've taken her up on the offer! Maybe we would've had better luck.
The next day, we had our own district council, and then met up with a member to do some service for a lady we found last week. She said she'd come to church if we helped her get rid of some of her garbage and scrap metal around her house, cause the city had given her a notice saying she had to clean it up. So we took her up on the offer, found a member with a truck, and called beforehand to make sure we'd be good to go. She said she'd be gone, but her son would be home. We knocked on the door. And rang the doorbell. And did it again and again. No, seriously, like we rang the doorbell like crazy. (She'd said beforehand that it was hard to hear from the back room, and that it was hard to wake up her son.) So uh... all of our preparation didn't work out that day cause her son was asleep. I've had teaching appointments fall through many a time, but appointments where we come help out don't usually get missed.
We spent a good part of the rest of the day visiting more less-active members in the Benton area, and met some interesting people. The most interesting was a young couple who was waiting to hear back from Salt Lake about the removal of their records from the church. They'd gotten into some parts of the church's history blown out of proportion and commentated on by less-than-favorable people looking through the lens of the present to judge negative parts of the past. They said they were done, and they just couldn't agree with it. It was sad. By their same logic, though, they should probably leave the United States, because many of the founding fathers have said and done far worse and offensive things.
On Saturday, we tried the whole scrap metal thing again. This time, it was like 20 degrees colder and raining. Perfect. But it all worked out, and I got to experience an Arkansas Scrap Yard. Wow. That was an experience! It's like another planet, like something out of Wall-E, or the remnants of a Mars settlement. And all the people there are like the "Walmart at 2AM" crowd, people coming in with rickety old cars full of metal junk hoping to sell it for a few dollars so they can pay their light bill. What a place!
Fortunately, the lady we did that for did come to church! She seemed to enjoy it and said she'd be back. So it was worth the effort!
We had kind of a slow Sunday afternoon, and after trying a few people, decided to try one more before heading over to our dinner appointment. It was a guy we'd tried a few times and were on the brink of giving up on, but he answered and actually came out and said he had some questions that had distanced him from Christianity a little bit. One was "if you can only be saved through Christ, what about all those other good people who have never heard about him?" A golden question to ask your local missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
There are people out there looking for truth! And there are people out there who don't want anything to do with truth. There are people who don't believe there is "truth," and there are people who live their lives based on the truth they know--real truth or perceived truth, for better or worse. All truth has to be in agreement. Truth is all-encompassing, and needs to be sought after! The Gospel of Jesus Christ includes ALL truth! Isn't that awesome?
905 Kierre Dr., North Little Rock, AR 72116
I turned 21 this week! I'm an old fogey in the mission, now!
On Monday, we had our zone P-day and decided to explore downtown Little Rock a little bit. Like a bunch of little kids, the general favorite part of the day for everyone was crossing the Arkansas River. (On a bridge, not by swimming, thank goodness!) The same gusto just wasn't there for the Arkansas History Museum we'd picked out haha. But it's alright, the bridge was fun, too. I'm just a museum nerd.
On Tuesday, we raked some leaves for a guy who took us up on our Facebook post offering service to people in the area! It didn't look like that much, but 2 hours later we still had a little ways to go, so decided to come back the next day to finish it, so we could try to find some new people to teach while there was still daylight. Talked with some interesting people. A lady from Brazil, a guy from Costa Rica, and creepy cigar-smoking guy that cussed out our beliefs haha.
We exchanged with the Pinnacle Mountain elders on Wednesday, and finished raking those leaves. I thought it'd only take an hour or so, but again it took a lot longer than I expected! But we were able to talk about the Book of Mormon with the guy we did it for, and he said he'd give it a read!
Thursday was my birthday! And it was also Zone Conference! And our interviews with President Hansen! And our Stake Missionary Council thing! So we were at the church for just over 12 hours straight. But it was awesome cause I got to spend time with other missionaries I don't get to see too often, President Hansen, and President Dixon, who are some of the best people I've ever met.
Elder Ramage and I got to instruct a little bit in Zone Conference, and the night before I'd put together this "Follow-up Dice" for "Roll" Plays [get it?] with a different commonly heard excuse for why people don't come to church on each side. Somebody would roll the dice, and then use that excuse on a set of a missionaries who had to follow up, figure out the concern, and recommit them to come to church next week! It was fun and President asked to keep the dice for future meetings hahaha. If I'd known that was gonna happen I might've made it look a little more presentable
And then Friday it was back to work! We started teaching this lady who was reading the newspaper under this tarp tent set-up in the carport of this kinda sketchy halfway house. We informed her that everybody was going to be resurrected and she liked that. People don't know that kind of stuff! The Restoration needed to happen so we don't have to wonder and be confused about it! Truth brings freedom and direction and happiness!
We had dinner with a member that night who has been through a lot. He served a mission, and then fell into drug addiction and was homeless for a while, and then on a whim/spiritual prompting moved to Arkansas and has been putting himself back together, since. He's awesome.
Then we drove out to the middle of nowhere. We spent 92% of our time in a pretty big city, and it amazes me how a few miles out can make you feel like you're out in the boonies. The dense trees can hide anything. [Even bodies. Probably.] We met this guy who had ordered a Book of Mormon, and delivered that to him. We followed him through his garage into his mancave house and sat on barstools around a desk explaining some of the restoration while he smoked. He's mostly just curious about the Book of Mormon, so hopefully he feels the spirit strong enough from reading it to get him out of his "spiritual but not religious" rut. Yeah, it's not about religion, but the restored Gospel will give you tools to build your spirituality like nothing else!
He had an old film camera on his desk and I asked about it. He said it was his step dad's dad's, who was a surveyor in the 50s and 60s. I told him I got into film photography a while ago and he asked if I still did it. I said yes and he told me I could have the camera. Right after he was telling us he looked on eBay and saw the same camera going for $150. So... that kinda felt like a Birthday present God himself had arranged for me.
I drove back home, excited about the camera, but also just happy to be on a mission. I'm really going to miss being able to meet random strangers, be openly accepted into their homes/dens and being able to just talk about God with them! Like... It's not like when I get off my mission that's not allowed, but it just won't be the same and I'll miss it.
On Saturday, Elder Ramage and I decided to go surprise blitz some other areas in our zone. So in honor of my brother Henry's mission, I found a "Halifax Street" in South Little Rock and we tracted there for 2 hours or so and actually met some awesome people! I hope to be hearing more about them soon!
Sunday was good. We went with one of the counselors of the Elders Quorum to visit an older lady who had decided out of the blue that she wanted to come back to church after years of being a Baptist. It was cool to review the restoration with her, related Bible scriptures, and to help her feel good about coming back. "Oh, why did I ever leave?" She berated herself. Apparently the siren call of being in a Baptist choir was the initial temptation haha. But now in her mid 70s, she was so excited to be back in the restored gospel. She's a wonderful, quirky lady.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Christ's church on the earth today! There are some weird things about it, sure. But tell me where else you can find all this truth? (Or if it's lies, where else can you find so many lies combined together so perfectly that it makes literally millions of people so happy?)
I know this isn't a lie! God is far too involved in my life out here for that. There is too much power in the Book of Mormon for that. There are too many miracles I see for that. This is true! This is real! And God loves you too much to watch you not be a part of it.
1916 Brandon Rd., apt. A2
Bryant, AR 72022
Happy New Years! It's gonna be a good year. We had a good start to it here in central Arkansas!
On New Year's Eve, we gave a blessing to one of the people the sisters are teaching. We chatted in his big machine shop garage, surrounded by old equipment, race track flags, beer posters, and a pool table in the corner. We gave him a blessing and he definitely felt something powerful. It was special.
On Tuesday morning, President Hansen gave us a call and asked for some ideas about how to restructure our zone. After a quick call, the changes were made effective immediately, and now every district in our zone got mixed up a little bit! So that's been good but weird! Then we got a call from a member in Conway, and met her at a hospital in Benton to give her dad a blessing. He was in there for some crazy stuff, but that afternoon he woke up. So that was cool.
We exchanged with the Little Rock Elders, and spent a good chunk of time raking leaves, which was fun. We had a lesson with the Spanish sisters' recent convert and his brother. I took my turn reading verses in Spanish, and was able to understand a solid half of the conversation haha.
The next day, we exchanged back. It was rainy and we did some family history research in the local library for a while. Thankfully Elder Ramage knows a lot more about that than I do. We grabbed some dinner at a little taqueria that was super tasty, and then had an awesome lesson with the guy we met last week who said he only opened the door cause he thought we weren't mormons.
We had our new district's district council on Thursday morning, and that went well! It was another rainy day. We did some service for President Jones of the mission presidency again, and made some member visits. Tried out a cute little diner in Benton that became one of my favorite spots here! It's my vibe. And my BBQ plate was awesome haha.
We helped some members move in, went on exchanges with the assistants, and met some cool new people!
We had our first week of 2 hour church, which was good, and then that night we had a video call with the other leaders in our zone, which actually went really well!
I've learned a lot about leadership and missionary work in the last few weeks. It's all so awesome! And there is never a limit to how much we can improve and grow. Which can seem overwhelming, but actually is a cool indicator of our potential! Limitless!
It's another short one this week! But I love y'all and hope you have a great week!
I got my camera hooked up again so here's a recent fave along w a picture of some shady apts. in Little Rock. :)
1916 Brandon Rd., apt. A2
Hello! It's been a good week!
My brain is all over the place, though, so this email isn't the best!
On Christmas morning, we drove out to East End, Arkansas, which is pretty much the middle of nowhere. We had a yummy breakfast with some members out there, and then... went straight to a Chinese buffet with some other members. It was decent and I was already full from breakfast haha. But my fortune cookie read "enjoy yourself while you can." Which was both funny and foreboding.
A little while after that I got to Skype home and see my family! So that was awesome!
Then we went to President Jones' house and played a fun game called Skyjo.
We had a lesson the next day with a gal we met last week and her 5 year old son who was all over the place. It went okay haha! We had dinner with the member who came out with us for that, and that was good, too. He had this cool spaceship looking pizza oven that he cooked steak and pizza in pretty fast.
The next day was MLC! And that was good!
We exchanged with the Pinnacle Mountain elders, tried some people who weren't home, and even our finding fell through because the sisters had been in the neighborhood we had picked out like a week before.
On Friday, we had weekly planning and then went finding! I was kinda annoyed with apathetic "not interested" people, and when one lady said she wasn't interested in the Book of Mormon, I just asked her "why?" Like honestly. Seriously. Why wouldn't you be interested in the Book of Mormon?? She said she didn't really know, so we explained it again and she ended up accepting a copy and saying she'd read it! So being bold works!
Another guy an hour or so later said, "Oh, I opened the door cause I saw your nametags. I was afraid y'all were Mormons and believed in that crazy guy who had some crazy revelations and whatever." Uh... so we explained that a little better, and he was like, "Oh, that's not what I've heard at all!" And he also accepted a Book of Mormon! Heck yeah.
And then yesterday we had our last musical tribute of the tour! Here in Little Rock! And it was awesome. I'm sad they're over. But also kinda happy cause theyve been rough on our zone, certain missionaries going over to the Memphis side every other weekend and so on. I just felt the spirit so strong in this last one. Life is good in the mission field!
Hope y'all had a good Christmas, and a great end of 2018! See ya next year!
Transfer #14; Week 1
Well, it's the start of a new transfer! It's Christmas Eve, and it's been an interesting week.
I started it out with Elder Bolos, shooting 3 rolls of film in about 2 hours. It was like being given a stack of candy bars. Usually I'd space such a treat out and enjoy it over time, but... when you've got that much, it's a little easier to just blow through it haha. I think we got some good shots, though. Hopefully I get the results back before next p day. And hopefully the camera we were using works. We're not 100% sure haha.
We also visited a bunch of people. Some members, some investigators... people we've gotten close to here in Benton. It made me kinda glad I wasn't the one leaving.
The next day was transfer day, and I cleaned up the apartment while Elder Bolos packed. We had a good run.
We stopped at the Gus's chicken in Little Rock on our way up to transfers. Unfortunately the only location in Arkansas. It had been over a year since Gus's spicy fried chicken graced my palate. Gooood stuff.
Elder Bolos headed up to Conway, and Elder Ramage came with me back down to Benton! We tried a few people with no luck, and started knocking around an apartment complex and knocked on the door of a JW lady we'd talked with before. Oops. She was nice, but wouldn't accept a Book of Mormon even though she'd liked what we had read and had been preaching to us about being open minded and studying all religions. So uh. That was a little contradictory. Give me a Quran, give me a JW Pamphlet, give me your full verse-by-verse commentary on the Bible. I don't care. I'll read it. I'll even pray about it! I know what I've felt about the Book of Mormon.
Speaking of which. We went back to visit that Hispanic guy we gave a Book of Mormon to. It was raining a little bit, but he stepped outside with us to visit. He said he hadn't read any of it, but shared that he wasn't happy that his children were raising their kids to be Catholic. We stressed the importance of the Book of Mormon in uniting Christianity, and he kinda stepped back and said, "You might not believe this. But my granddaughter was standing with me at the door when you first knocked and talked with us. Every night since, she has asked to read one verse from that book." WHOA. He was mainly of the opinion that "eh, at least the Book of Mormon doesn't teach Catholicism," but we encouraged him to read it, too, and he said he would. That was cool.
We went on exchanges this week with the Little Rock Elders, who just moved apartments. They live upstairs in a locked building, and stood on the balcony to wave us over as we drove up. We got out of the car and they used an RC Helicopter to deliver the keys to us haha. Funny guys. Their was a sign on the inside door that called out whoever was smoking marijuana in their room haha. It told em to use their balcony instead. What a place.
The next day, we were invited to the Spanish Branch's fiesta, which ended up being a wedding reception. We got some fajitas and stuff and mostly tried to stay low while the dancing and karaoke was going on so we could sneak out haha.
Sunday was a special church service with lots of Christmas music. It was really good. We spent the rest of the day, pretty much, trying to find new people to teach. Mainly by knocking doors. We had some good conversations, and some bad ones. It seems like this week, Benton has been especially rough to us missionaries haha.
So after a discouraging day and week, we headed back to the apartment for dinner and call-ins. Basically for the night. But Elder Ramage's area book map showed a member as living in our apartment complex. She didn't show up in my area book, and I didn't recognize the name. So we decided to try the member before we headed in. We knocked and a lady came out and we asked if she was so and so, and she said no and looked kinda nervous. So we introduced ourselves and she asked us "What's the difference between Mormons and Christians?" (A question analogous to "What's the difference between a tree and a plant?") We explained and bore testimony of the Savior and she just started crying. She said she's been running from God and kinda angry at Him since she lost her 10 year old daughter in a car accident a few years ago. She said she knew He had sent us to her door that night, and we shared the miracle it was that we knocked on her door at all. She cried some more and gave us hugs and we set up a time we could come back.
The Lord leads this work! And we don't even know it most of the time. I'm so thankful to be a part of it, and to be representing Him during Christmas this year! I love Him and I need Him!
Merry Christmas! Love,
1916 Brandon Rd, apt. A2
Bryant, AR 72022
Well hello! It's been a crazy week! (When has it not been a crazy week?) Here's all about it.
We started the week off with an appointment we set with a guy we met last week. We were gonna meet him at Taco Bell, but uh... he never showed up. Or responded to our messages. So that's great. But, while we were in the Taco Bell, BYUtv was on, [in Arkansas?! In a Taco Bell?!] so we figured thst was a sign that we were supposed to be there. As we sat in a booth waiting, somebody gave us some money to order lunch, and then another guy walked in wearing a "Halifax" sweater, which is the mission my brother is going to! So we talked with him for a while and felt like that was why we were supposed to be there.
That night, we exchanged with the Little Rock Spanish South elders! Spent the next day bikin' around and trying to find people. Spent some time in a trailer park and ended up helping this funny older lady put up Christmas lights around her trailer, so that was a memorable highlight. Then we biked to have dinner at this place called "Sharks," a hit franchise across central Arkansas. Honestly, I've been wanting to try it for a while, but every Sharks location I see looks sketchier and more questionable than the last. But Elder Worley and I took the plunge. I got catfish nuggets, and he got frog legs. And they were both extremely... decent. About what I expected. Although the consequences came sooner than we thought. 4/10
Exchanged back and had our mission Christmas Social on Wednesday! That was fun. We've got an awesome mission.
My brother Henry also reported to the MTC that day! He's headed for the Canada Halifax mission. Brr!
On Thursday, we got back to it with a District Council that became one of my favorites, and then went to lunch at our favorite hibachi place. (They turned down my suggestion to try Sharks haha)
Worked on my BYU application essays at the church and finished those in time for a dinner at Red Robin with an older couple in the ward who are pretty great. Then we went back up to the church for our meeting with the Stake President and President Hansen, and that was good, too! Apparently the Memphis temple is getting close to completion. Close to opening? Nobody knows. But I hope it's open before I go home! We will find out soon I guess.
After the meeting, President spilled the beans that we were going from 9 zones in our mission to 7. Yikes! So then we got nervous for transfers, cause we didn't know which zones were closing and wondered if Benton was getting the boot.
Friday was rainy all day long. We did our Weekly planning and visited a few people, including an older couple who invited us in and we talked for a while about family history so that was fun. He's not on board with the idea of baptisms for the dead just yet, even with 1 Corinthians 15:29, but we'll get him. :)
And then Saturday was crazy busy. Tried to find some new people to teach. Talked with some crazy people instead. In the middle of our conversation, one guy just pulls out his phone and he's like, "look at this fish I caught."
Me: "Uh... wow. That's... pretty big. Is that a catfish?"
Me: "...When did you catch it?"
Him: *looks at his phone* "July of 2017"
Quit living in the past, Craig. Go get you some big fish this year.
Went to a baptism in the Spanish branch and I played the piano! Then we found 2 more people, and went shopping with $100 Elder Bolos' mom gave him as a family tradition each Christmas to use it to serve other people. We got a christmas tree and a visa and kroger giftcard for a returning member we've been working with for a while. He's grown and changed and recovered and brightened so much. We love that guy. We dropped it off outside his hotel room door, knocked, and ran away.
Then we went to IHOP for dinner cause we had gift cards. Yeah I don't think I'd go if I didn't have a gift card.
We got home and played the waiting game, refreshing our emails over and over again until transfer news came. Elder Bolos is headed to Conway. I'm gonna miss him! I'm staying in Benton! And the Benton Zone is staying. It might be the smallest zone in the mission, though. So there are only 2 companionships we can do exchanges with, now haha. But I'm glad to be staying! This will be a good place for Christmas and my birthday! Central Arkansas is awesome.
I had the opportunity to share my testimony at the mission Christmas party, and in our district council. At the heart of it was my gratitude to be a missionary! Representing Jesus Christ during a season all about Him just makes me appreciate Him more than ever before.
I'm so thankful for my missionary nametag. I wish when we knocked on people's doors, they knew everything that it meant to me. Sacrifice, being away from my family, hours of scripture study every day, change and growth and fervent prayers, the brink of exhaustion being met day after day, miracles witnessed and lives blessed and changed. The nametag isn't about me. It's not about past areas or companions or experiences. It's about Him, Jesus Christ, and His gospel and His church ON. THE. EARTH. TODAY. AND PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW!!
This isn't a vacation. It's fun. There's good food and wonderful friends and people all around. But it's also hard and tiring and depressing. But somehow joyful and rewarding all at the same time? "I can't say the smallest part of what I feel." I'm so glad I've got 4 more transfers ahead of me to do this thing. To let people know! To change and grow some more. To spread the spirit of Christ[mas] in every season, to every person, wherever the Lord needs me. I'm scared of not realizing just how WONDERFUL this opportunity and privilege is until I'm home.
So let's do this.
I love y'all!
On Monday night, my presence darkened the doorstep of the Bryant Great Clips again. I know I said this last time, but yeah I won't do that again.
After that, though, the week grew back. Er, I mean, got better. We exchanged with the assistants to the President that night, and I got to go up to Pinnacle Mountain/downtown Little Rock with Elder Ridgwell.
On Tuesday, we went to a district council meeting, and then Elder Ridgwell got word that Sister Hansen needed some help at the mission home ASAP. So we left the meeting early and hurried to the mission home. I'd stated in a hotel my first night in Arkansas, under the last mission President, and the next transfer was under Pres. Hansen, and the elders stayed in the mission home, too. So I'm one of just a few people left in the mission who hasn't been to the mission home. Until Tuesday, anyway! I got to see it about 6 months earlier than I thought I would haha.
We moved all the furniture out of the living room, and then some maintenance guys took a little chainsaw to the walls in there looking for something. Then we peeled up the carpet, hauled out soaking wet flooring cushions, and tried to pry out some of the floor boards, but it just crumbled instead of coming up, cause they were so wet. I guess a waterline that went into the fridge had gotten a tiny hole in it and leaked who knows how many gallons into the floor. There's a parable in there somewhere.
So that was fun. I got to climb behind the fridge and replace the lil tube. Life pro tip: don't use the plastic kind. Use the braided kind.
We exchanged back that night and then stayed busy the next day just visiting people. Someone pointed us over to try their neighbors. An older lady answered the door and said we could come in. I asked if she was sure, cause... We aren't invited in before introducing ourselves, ever haha. "Yeah, come on in and get warm." Her husband was there, and was 91. Apparently he served in World War II. It was hard to teach them anything new, but it was cool to hear how they credited every blessing in their life to the Lord.
On Thursday, I stayed in Benton on exchanges with Elder Peterson, who I'd served with in Hope. It was fun to relive some Hope adventures! It was a rainy, drizzly day. We were gonna rake some leaves but that didn't happen. We tried visiting a few members. One of them also directed us towards their neighbor.
It was dark, and we couldn't really see around their yard. We ducked under a tree with some low branches and climbed some squeaky wooden steps up the front door, all the while hoping there wasn't a dog loose in their front yard. There was a TV on inside, but no one answered. As soon as we turned to go back down the steps, the porch light turned on and then off again... and a mean sounding dog started barking. Crap. My heart slowed back down a bit when I saw that it was chained up, but didn't relax completely til we got back to the car. When we did, another door in the house opened and someone shouted after us, "Can I help you??" We reluctantly walked back to the house to explain ourselves. The intimidating silhouette in the doorway gave way to the form of what turned out to be a really nice Hispanic guy and his daughter. We told him we were the missionaries, and he gave us the whole "I have a church already" spiel, but I found myself testifying of the Book of Mormon, showing him the picture in the front of Christ visiting the Americas, and telling him what the book had done for me. He came to be so grateful I gave him the book. So that was a highlight of the week.
Another one happened on Friday, after exchanging back, having some Little Caesar's, and catching up with Elder Bolos. A couple we've been working eith for a while said we could come over that night, so we had a good visit. We'd originally intended to just answer their questions about the Plan of Salvation, and not teach them too much new stuff, but one of their questions was what commandments they'd need to keep to be baptized. Golden sounding question. But uh they weren't too fond of the whole tithing idea. They weren't 100% on board about no coffee, tea, or alcohol, either, but they could understand why that's a commandment for the most part. We invited them to do a church tour again and this time they accepted, when we set it up for later that night rather than further into the week.
So we went to the church for a baptism in our zone, and then afterwards set things up for a church tour that went pretty well!
Saturday was busy. We cranked out our weekly planning session, and then drove around town trying to visit people who for the most part weren't home. But that night was also our ward Christmas party! And it was awesome. Because a member of the ward smoked like 1-200 pounds of pork for barbecue. I was in heaven. There were 2 big, deep dishes of the stuff, and a cauldron of barbecue sauce and the whole cultural hall smelled like BBQ. By the time the 100+ people there had eaten, there was still more than half of one of those dishes of meet left. So we were gifted a gallon zip lock bag and grabbed a few pounds. Aw.yeh.
And that gets us to Sunday! Church was good, and we headed up to North Little Rock right afterwards to practice for the missionary musical devotional that night. It ended up being really good, and a lot of fun. It helped not being sick this time around. Got to see some familiar faces from Conway, which was great, too!
It's already Wednesday, now, but I'll save Monday and Tuesday of this week to write about next Monday. Here in a just a few days! It's been good!
So there's the report of the [last] week! My younger brother reports to the MTC today to head to the Canada Halifax Mission! I'm excited for and proud of him! I'm so glad I decided to serve a mission, it's been the best 18 months ever. Hard and tiring and at times boring and nerve-wracking, but always rewarding. I've grown a lot. And I'm so glad I've got another 6 months out here to change and grow some more!
Well I've officially been on my mission for 18 months. 3 weeks in Provo, Utah, and then a few months in Collierville TN, and then it was over to Arkansas, in Conway, Searcy, Hope, and now Benton! It's been the craziest, most adventurous and rewarding 18 months ever!
So just cuz we thought it was funny I thought I'd tell you a story from last P day. Every week, we're supposed to write President Hansen, specifically mentioning the people we are teaching, our companion, things we're studying, and so on. And we were sick last week. So I jokingly wrote that "Elder Bolos is a big fat meanie head because he got me sick," and meant to show it to him as a joke after I finished writing my email. Well... I forgot I'd written that and just copied, pasted, and sent it off to President Hansen haha. We had a good laugh about it in interviews this week.
Started the week off with a District Council in one of the districts in our zone. It was good and I felt like I was back in the MTC during the role plays cuz I got humbled real quick haha. They went to Buffalo Wild Wings for lunch afterward. Yeah. I haven't been back in a BWWs since the incident. You know, the transfer 2, "everything is chicken" incident. So I wasn't super thrilled about going back there, and didn't want to relive that at all, so I got a pulled pork sandwich cuz barbecue is the best. Well... not at BWWs! The State of Delaware was further south than that "southern barbecue." (Yeah, I know, who gets pulled pork at a BWWs?) Plus, they took forever and we were all getting antsy to leave cuz we were burning daylight!
On our way back to the church, we got a call from the mission nurse telling us one of the sisters in our zone was headed to the ER. As it so happened, we were like 3 miles away from the hospital they were going to. And if we'd been pretty much anywhere else in our zone, or had exchanged on time as planned, we'd have been at least a half hour away. So I guess BWWs did us a favor, as much as I hate to admit it.
So we went and gave her a blessing in a little "prayer room" they had, and headed back to exchange. The dumb hospital made them wait for hours in the waiting room. So I kinda wanna punch that place, cuz they weren't admitted until like 10:00 that night. :(
But anyway. We got a really late start on our exchange, and had a 30 minute drive back to Benton. So we got started and headed off to an appointment we had with a lady. One of the young men in the ward came with us. We got there a little early, and decided to knock on some doors while we waited.
Door #1, no one home!
Door #2, no one home!
Door #3, a really nice kid who was so grateful we stopped by and shared a Book of Mormon with him! He seemed to really get how cool it is to have more of God's word! Set an appointment for Saturday!
We crossed the street back to door #1, because there were people out and about, now, and had a good talk with the people there, and then went to our appointment, which was door #4.
Door #4, no one home! Dangit. So with one of our missionaries, and a young man from the ward looking at me wondering what we'd do, we decided to just keep tracting. We picked a house with the lights on across the street.
Door #5, a really awesome couple came out and talked with us to escape their noisy house and the 5 kids horsing around in there. We had an awesome visit with them, and they ended up being our 2nd and 3rd new people to teach that night!
I wish 3/5 was a more consistent ratio, but it's cool to see how the Lord magnified our time, gave us all a good experience, and led us to his prepared children. He is good!
The next morning, we went to see that couple we'd met, and they weren't there. Dangit. But we crossed the street again and talked with another lady... who was kinda crazy. She's had a really hard life with abuse and whatnot. And told us how she hunted down one of the pastors that had abused her and threatened him at gunpoint to resign from the church. He did. "Some days I wish I pulled the trigger," she said. Phew. I'm glad to be in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! There's some crazy drama that goes down in some places down here hahaha.
We exchanged back after that, and Elder Bolos and I spent some time trying to visit a bunch of people we hadn't seen in a while. Had a lesson with a less active family. There were li'l roaches crawling up the walls. But their kids are pretty bright and liked having us over.
We put all our couch cushions in our car to give to some elders who forgot to bring their own while they stay with another companionship for a week. So our back seat was full of couch cushions. And then we gave them a ride to their temporary apartment. I'm not sure how they squished in there, but they did hahaha.
On Thursday, we had MLC, which was great! And then we went and had dinner with the Clarks, the parents of the young man who came out teaching with us. We had some yummy deer steaks, and then had a pretty good lesson with his girlfriend afterward! It's cool to see how the Lord prepares people! She's awesome.
Then on Friday, we had our own District Council, and then met with President Jones, of the ALRM mission presidency at his house for a personal leadership training meeting that was really cool. I've come to like being humbled and seeing how much distance I have yet to go, because it just shows me my potential! I've got a lotta potential and a lotta room for improvement, which means if I do all I can, things are looking good. :)
Visited a few more people, and then a member dropped dinner off for us before we headed up to the Stake Nativity Festival the church put on this weekend. They gave us chicken spaghetti and it was so so good. Chicken spaghetti is a blessing.
At the nativity festival, Elder Bolos got recruited to be Joseph in the live nativity, and a 2 other missionaries and I were snagged to be wise men. So that was fun haha. At least the other missionaries not involved in it sure thought so! :)
Afterwards, we got the whole zone together in the high council room and just shared stuff we learned from MLC. It's fun having the whole zone in one place.
Saturday happened, and I hit my 18 month mark! We met some of the family we had day-after-thanksgiving with last week at a Starbucks for a lesson on the Book of Mormon. Before we even started they had presents for us. Mine had 3 rolls of film, and Elder Bolos got a thrifted film camera. WHAT. That was way too nice and I'm way too excited to shoot some film. I don't have my film camera with me, though, so I'll have to search or get it sent out here or something.
They were pretty well-researched... unfortunately just in those parts of the gospel that people seem to disagree about the most. Lack of archeological evidence for the Book of Mormon, grace vs. works, the trinity, becoming like God...
They were still very respectful, and didn't ask any questions I hadn't already asked myself. I wish I could explain better that 90% or more of their concerns can be answered by the Bible, more than the Book of Mormon. And that the Book of Mormon doesn't contradict the Bible, but that it may contradict one's interpretation of the Bible. One of 'em said "If I could just see the plates..." Well, that wouldn't change as much as we'd like to think it would.
I know this is Christ's church! I don't know where else I could go to find doctrine of God's universal love to the living and dead, or to find prophets and apostles that maintain "unity of faith," or teachings that bring so much joy and help us become more Christlike in such real ways.
So anyway. We had interviews with President Hansen after that, and then were surprised to see our apartment manager lady at the nativity festival that night! Our power had gone out that afternoon and we'd stopped in to ask about it, and given her an invitation. She brought a friend and seemed to really enjoy it, so that was cool! I guess that's probably why the power had gone out. To get us to invite her.
Church was good yesterday! We had a few less active/returning members we've been working with for a while at church, so that was good. We made fried rice for dinner and it was actually really tasty. Then we headed to a member's house to watch the First Presidency Christmas Devotional, which was wonderful btw. (I think it should be on www.lds.org, if you haven't seen it!)
During testimony meeting, one lady shared her testimony from the pulpit on "the Miracle of the Egg," which I will abridge for you as follows:
"The last egg in my carton had a little crack in it, but being the frugal woman that I am, I put it in my next carton of eggs to save the morning. I wasn't going to make it for my husband in case it made him sick, but I planned to make it for myself for breakfast. Well, the next morning, when I went to make breakfast, the egg was gone brothers and sisters. I know that Heavenly Father made that egg disappear because it would have hurt me real bad if I'd eaten it."
She was so serious she looked a little confused as to why people were chuckling. But hey, who am I to say whether it was a miracle or not? Miracles still happen!
It's been a busy week. But I like busy. The mission field is the place to be! Especially if it's in Arkansas.
P.S. next week, my p day will be on Wednesday, so if you're worried cuz you haven't heard from me next Monday, that's why. :)
1916 Brandon Rd, apt. A2
Bryant, AR 72022
Serving A Mission!
What's all this about? As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, it is expected of me that I will serve a two-year mission. (And yeah, the "riding bikes and wearing nametags and knocking on doors" kind of mission.) But this isn't something I'm doing because it's expected of me... I'm doing this because the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ has blessed my life SO much, in SO many ways. I can't think of a greater honor or responsibility than being able to play a part in someone's story of finding and enjoying these blessings, too.
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(After June 20, 2017)
Elder Oliver Wrigley Dahl
Arkansas Little Rock Mission
905 Kierre Dr
North Little Rock AR 72116