I was trying to think of other things to include in the title of this email, but nothing else really compared to the highlight of this week. But we'll get to that.
On P Day, I got to spend a good hour or two on the grand piano in the chapel playing while everyone else played basketball and that was just... really really nice. I feel like my piano skills may be improving (or at least are not getting worse!) even though I'm not able to practice super often, so that's a definite blessing!
We had our first district meeting of the transfer, and that went pretty alright. After a Wendy's stop, we did exchanges with some of the elders in the 2nd ward. It was probably the hardest exchange I've been on... my companion for the day really struggled to plan out what we would do, and then fell asleep for 30 minutes while praying... That whole time, we only knocked on 2 doors. I tried my best to get him up and going, and hopefully I left him with something new to think about, but idk. It was rough. Of those 2 doors, one of them didn't answer, and the other one was an adventure.
This older lady, a member we were going to introduce ourselves to, answered the door with tears in her eyes, and said "maybe you can help me, come in." So we sat down and she talked for a little bit. By the end of it, we were thinking she might have dementia, but she was talking about how her daughter was stealing from a hotel and had told her she was going to send her away. So she was trying to get to her other family in Illinois, and didn't seem to have a solid understanding of the fact that she was in Arkansas. She had locked all her windows and doors and mentioned something about knives to keep the doors closed. As I looked around, I saw that she had actually put a butter knife through the molding around the back doorway to try to act as a second deadbolt in the door. (But in practice, if someone were to open the door, it would just tear the molding off... which is what happened to her front door.) So that was interesting.
We biked back to our apartment in time to pick up dinner from another member, and then spent an hour finding the 2nd door we knocked on during that exchange. Thankfully, biking is still a breeze compared to what it was in Collierville. I guess biking slower and having the seat at the right height makes a difference haha.
The next day their Ward Mission Leader took us to Quiznos for lunch and we exchanged back. It was good to be reunited with Elder Evans haha. Went into houses on opposite ends of the spectrum, some very nice, and others... less so. Like hoarder houses w/ calendars from 2011 hanging, and the very air just saturated with animal pee. I'm definitely learning a lot about what I do and don't want in life and in my home, and so on.
[We met a cat named "Seven." Not because it was the 7th cat the people had adopted, but because it had 7 toes. On more than one foot. Picture below.]
Found another trailer park to tract in, and had some success there. (One person said we could come back, and we were able to chat with another guy for a while who just wanted a better understanding of what we believed.)
That night was actually one of the other spiritual highlights of the week. The sisters found somebody a few weeks ago who they had been trying to teach but just weren't able to set a solid appointment with. They had asked him if he would want a Priesthood blessing, and he said yes, so they let us know and we were able to join them and give the guy a blessing. Back in 2008, he had been shot, and the bullet is still in his back. (That's the extent of the story that I know.)
When I first met the guy, I was feeling a little cynical and like this guy was just trying to be polite to the sisters, but it ended up being awesome. I was able to give the blessing, and as we visited afterward, he was just a different person. He was smiling, and said things like "I can feel it," and "That was exactly what I needed." It led to the sisters being able to set a more solid return appointment, and being able to explain some more about the Priesthood to him. He wasn't the only one who learned and felt something that night, though.
We then had our Book of Mormon class, and had a less active guy join us who shared his testimony about wanting to come back into activity in the church because he saw how happy it made his younger sister. We were in charge of teaching the class, so I was trying to keep the tears in haha. I hope that my younger siblings can see how happy the gospel makes me, and want to be involved in it more, too.
Friday was a little more rough. I started out so excited! We had five appointments for the day. This is like... unheard of. Having two teaching appointments is enough to get us pumped for the day. So five?! Long story short, every single one of those five appointments either canceled, or wasn't home when we knocked on their door again. Which is, you know, annoying. But at the same time, we got to the end of the day and were able to feel good about what we did. We did our part. We met our expectations. We kept our word and gave people their chances. It was other people's decisions that led to them missing out, not our own weaknesses or mistakes. That's definitely a freeing feeling, and one I've learned to appreciate on the mission. We can be happy with the things that we do and the way we react to the situations we find ourselves in. We don't have control over what other people do, so why feel bad/angry/sad/upset over it? We need to choose to be happy about those things we do have control over. (hopefully this makes sense lol)
After one of those 5 failed return appointments, our ward mission leader took us to Andy's Frozen Custard, which was pretty dang good, and that added to our "feel-good" feeling despite the "failures" we had today. He then dropped us back off at the church, and we were able to help load up almost all the chairs in the building to be taken to North Little Rock for the apostle visit the next day.
And then it was Saturday!
Got up at 5AM and picked up the trio serving in the 2nd ward and headed to North Little Rock. We had breakfast there and were arranged on these risers like it was 4th grade class photos again, and then waited for the apostles to come in. After a few kinda painful minutes squished in between ~184 missionaries, in walked Elder Holland, somberly strolling from the entrance to the gym and only looking up to see us til he got closer. Elder Uchtdorf came in a few seconds later, and then Elder and Sister Klebingat. The feeling I had as they walked in was kinda hard to describe, so bear with me as I use the word "huge" to attempt that. Maybe you've heard the phrase "giants among men" before, but I gained a deeper understanding of that seeing them. Like you just feel that they have these big souls. They don't command attention or really look like anything other than normal people. But when they walk in, you feel it.
They told us we looked great and has beautiful smiles, ("most of you," - Elder Uchtdorf) and then we took the picture and then got in line to shake their hands. They asked us to tell them their name and where we were from, and I'm pretty sure I was smiling pretty wide when I introduced myself as "Elder Dahl from Boise, Idaho!"
We sat down in the chapel in our pre-assigned benches. I was the first of our zone in there, so I got to sit in the front row off in the right row of benches, close enough to see Elder Uchtdorf's eyes tearing up a little bit during the 10 minutes in which Elder Holland praised him. That was one of the most powerful parts of the meeting, I thought. "Let me talk to you for a minute," he began. And then he just talked about how wonderful Elder Uchtdorf is.
Pres. & Sister Hansen spoke, and then Elder Beheshti, (the area 70) and then Elder & Sister Klebingat (General 70 and wife) and then Elders Uchtdorf and Holland. It was like having a spiritual dump truck unload on top of us, in the best kind of way. After Elder Holland had finished extolling E. Uchtdorf, he added, "In a second language, I just wanna get up and slap his face! That he can teach that well in English, his second language, and I can't even get a 'guten morgen' out in German. If I did, it wouldn't be that 'gut.'" Outside of General Conference, they were all really really funny. Also a little less organized in presenting their thoughts (largely because they didn't come prepared with a talk, they just spoke extemporaneously) but I think I liked it that way, because we got more, and it's making me study and organize their thoughts myself in a way that helps me internalize what they shared.
After the missionary meeting, we blitzed North Little Rock with the missionaries there, and then returned to the church after a trip to David's to catch the evening young adult session. Elder Jennings and I walked all over NLR, and past some kinda sketchy places with boarded up apartment buildings and stuff haha.
The evening session was just as good. So many incredible one-liners and mind-blowers. Missionaries were invited to come if they brought investigators/recent converts, and we had Prashanth with us, so we could go. People came all the way from Memphis, which was awesome for me, cause I got to see a couple people from Collierville there! Including Caroline and Wendy! It's so so good to see that they're doing well and getting to hear such awesome stuff from our apostles.
Got back to Conway kinda late, and, much like Lehi, "cast[ed] [myself] upon [my] bed, being overcome with the spirit and the things which [I] had seen." And then Sunday came, and they had a third 2-hour meeting that was broad-casted to all the church buildings in the mission. So all in all, I have notes from like 7 or 8 hours of different church leaders. A little overwhelming at first, but man they shared so much good stuff it's crazy. A point that was made in each of these meetings was essentially, "Of all of the [missionaries/young adults in the church/church members] in the world, it's pretty likely that you are the luckiest ones in the world right now." Definitely felt that that was true.
Here are some of the lines/thoughts/takeaways that I'll share rather than relate more boring stuff about meetings hahaha.
- "There are no vertical movements in the kingdom of god, except in our personal righteousness. We have one head, the lord Jesus Christ, and all the rest of us are disciples. A leadership position is just a diversion from what we really are. The issue is the cleanliness and purity of our souls." (Holland)
- The dots of life connect only in retrospect or from a spiritually higher vantage point. (Uchtdorf)
- Going through life thinking it will be easy is like going to the gym and hoping there will not be weights. (Klebingat)
- "True friends are like angels, they will lift us to our feet when our own wings have trouble remembering how to fly." (Uchtdorf - how poetic is that??)
AND, MY PERSONAL FAVORITE QUOTE:
"The great tragedy in life is not failure. It is not struggle, or heartache, or pain. The great tragedy in life is success... when we aim too low." (Holland.)
They also had some funny ["funny" if you are mormon, at least haha] lines like Elder Uchtdorf's "I went into the Stake President's office and they still had the wrong picture of the first presidency in there!" and "After 10 years in the first presidency, I get to finally sit between Elder Holland and Elder Bednar. Wow!!"
And Elder Holland's "When I hear stories about missionaries going home and leaving the church, it about makes me want to hurl myself into the Arkansas River!" and "I know of some Stake Presidents who, after fasting and prayer were released and assigned to the nursery! Of course, the ones who didn't fast enough to be assigned to the nursery were called as Scout Leaders." Man, Elder Holland had some jokes, I'm telling ya. Maybe I wouldn't have found them as funny before my mission haha.
He talked briefly in the missionary meeting about the importance of representing the image of an LDS Missionary well. He said something to the effect of "don't go home and tell people about that time you short-sheeted your companion, tell them you are a different person." So... I was a little bit rebuked by the spirit with that one, haha.
Pretty often, [read, "very often,"] my emails are about the crazy stuff like... dead rats and eating 200 Buffalo Wild Wings haha. I try to also include the spiritual things, but maybe I don't give those the weight I should. So here's me making clear a few things:
I am a different person now than I was when I left on my mission. If you expect me to come back as the same "Oliver Dahl" you will... not be disappointed, because this Oliver is a better Oliver. I have been changed not just because of "my mission" or from "living in the South," but changed through the Atonement of Christ. It is real. This is his church. There are too many "coincidences," miracles, and lives eternally changed for this to be anything but real. If God exists at all--and I know that he does, then this is His church and kingdom on the earth today, led by prophets and apostles like the very church He established in the New Testament. I am His disciple, and no other thing on this planet matters besides my ability to stand at the judgement bar and tell Him I gave it my all. I'm not at that point yet, and every day is a gift from Him allowing me to get closer to it.
I feel like maybe me not being clear about what all my mission is doing for me could be distancing me from that point. Yes, it's fun, yes, I laugh a lot. But this is changing my life, it's changing me. It's true and it's all that matters, and I have come to know that. I want everybody to come to know that. Thankfully, God has provided one simple way for us to know, and that is reading the Book of Mormon. Get ahold of a copy, and read that thing. Nothing evil could have written it, and nothing good would have written it, unless it truly came from God.
So anyway. This has kinda been a different type of email than I usually do. Hopefully it made some sense and helped you feel something good, warm, happy, curious, or wanting more. This is the "more" in life you need. Not gonna apologize for being "preachy" or testifying of what I know is true, cause that's what I do. (And increasingly, not just what I do, but who I am.)
I hope y'all have a fantastic week and can feel God's love for you within it!
Spiritual questions immaterially:
Spiritual questions tangibly:
3080 Pebble Beach Rd., apt. #1
Conway, Arkansas 72034
(Emails/letters/boxes/etc. are not limited to spiritual questions. Y'all can send whatever you want, like cool pictures or memes or a deluxe, high-pressure showerhead for example)
This weekly email brought to you by:
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- The Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ
- and readers like you, thank you!
Another week has come and gone, and now we're most of the way through January. What?!
This week was transfers week! Both Elder Evans & I are staying in Conway. Transfer day itself got postponed a day because of snow, though! Seriously. Come 7AM, while some people in far out areas had already hit the road to transfer locations, we got a text saying to stay off the roads because of the snow and ice, and to wait to transfer until the next day.
It was also a snow day for the local schools! Kinda... like, you guys... the grass was like a powdered donut. If you blew off most of the powder and licked the rest off. The roads were kinda wet, but not icy. It must have been worse in other sides of the mission. (I think Collierville actually had like 3 snow days in a row, but their snow actually stuck.) By about 11AM, all the snow was gone, and all the kids were still out of school. Riiight. "Snow day."
That day was also the day Pres. Nelson held his broadcast and press conference, and a bunch of us missionaries got together to watch that. (We figured it was safe to drive since... the snow was gone.) That was cool, and I was thinking how awesome these like 13 old dudes are. They're all just such awesome, Christlike people. I definitely sustain Russel M. Nelson as the world's prophet! That guy is legit the coolest 93 year old on the planet.
Later in the afternoon, as we were trying to contact some people, we got out of the car and walked around to do so for about 25-30 minutes. I had my big peacoat on, and a sweater. And my oh my, was it the coldest my face has ever felt in my entire life. I say that after having been outside in Idaho winters when it dips into the negatives. I think then it was in the high 10's, or low 20's. But it was a humid cold, which I'd heard about from more seasoned missionaries, but figured it couldn't really be that different from dry cold, right? Wrong. The best way I can describe it is like how your hand gets slow when it's been out in the cold for a while. Only that happens to your face. So if you make a funny face, you might actually have reason to fear that it might freeze like that.
Thankfully, it was a little bit warmer the next day, and we brought hand warmers with us. We had the hardest time planning in the morning, and half way through, just decided to embrace the fact that we would spend most of the day knocking doors. A lot of our investigators have dropped us, or have just vanished, or are just not available often enough for us to visit with them regularly.
So we picked a few streets, and started knocking doors in this trailer park. (We like those.) There were some pretty nice people there, and a handful of people who spoke only Spanish. In one or two of those instances, I kinda deferred them to Elder Evans, who had something like "Hello, we're the missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. We don't speak Spanish, but we know some other missionaries who do. Would you be interested in meeting with them?" memorized in Spanish. One lady said another time, so we figured we were doing pretty alright.
And then we met Geronimo! [This is the cool part/the highlight of my week!]
After we knocked on his door, we went across the street to the next trailer, but then he came out and started talking with us. Elder Evans delivered his line, and he continued trying to talk with us. "Solamente hablo un poco Español," I apologized. He just kinda stood there expectantly after that. I looked at Elder Evans and tried to come up with the vocabulary in my head to explain some of our message to him. I started super simply, and before I knew it, I had asked him how long he had had faith in Christ, and I understood his answer. I explained that we believed in Him, and that we have prophets and apostles on the earth today, just like what we read about in the Bible. He shared some of his Catholic faith with us, and I was able to understand that, too! He asked about the Book of Mormon, and I explained that as best as I could. It was probably the worst Spanish he had ever heard, but by the end of it, he accepted my invitation for us to come back and bring him a Spanish Book of Mormon!
As he went back inside, and Elder Evans and I walked away, we both just started laughing. What the heck just happened?! Getting called to the Arkansas Little Rock Mission, English speaking, I didn't think that my Spanish would really come in handy, or that I'd get to have a cool "experiencing the gift of tongues" story for my homecoming talk. But like... that's what it was. It was all said in what little Spanish I knew, but many of the words I did use, I'd forgotten existed until they left my mouth. I know the Lord was with me in this small way to testify of the truthfulness of His church on the earth today.
We had dinner with that Peruvian family again that evening, and the adorable grandmother cooked an amazing dish... I forgot what it's called, but it was rice with homemade french fries on top, and then like fajita steak filling on top. It was really good. She and her daughter spoke back and forth in Spanish a lot, and I guess the gift of tongues had left me cause I didn't understand a lick of what they were saying haha.
On Thursday, we helped out for a little bit at this other church that hosts a food kitchen type thing that feeds people in need. That was pretty fun, there were some characters there. We then went straight to the Book of Mormon class we put on every Thursday night, and nobody but the sisters and our Ward Mission Leader came. We still went over a chapter, though, and I learned a lot! I love how many new details and insights you get just by reading the Book of Mormon again. It's impossible to soak it all up at once.
That reminds me of something I forgot to include in my last email. At Book of Mormon class last week, we did have somebody show up, a recent convert from India named Prashanth. He had been reading in the Book of Mormon on his own, and had gotten to the Isaiah chapters. (Where portions of the book of Isaiah are quoted by the prophets at the time in the Book of Mormon.) Since he was the only one there, we decided to just pick up where he left off and read through some of the Isaiah chapters with him.
His English is pretty good, but it has taken him a while to get past the scriptural language. (Thee, thou, ye, etc.) And now we were going into Isaiah. He would stop us every once in a while to say, "I don't know what this means." We were kinda like... "Yeah, we don't really know what this means either. Let's figure it out!" So there we were, using the Institute Manual to help explain Isaiah to ourselves and to this Indian guy with no Christian background. That was fun haha.
While in the class this week, an email came from our mission president, announcing which Apostle was going to visit our mission. (We'd gotten the news back in December that one would be visiting, we just didn't know which of the 12 it was. There were rumors it was going to be (now President) Nelson, but since he is now the prophet, things must have gotten shuffled around.) He told us that it wasn't just going to be one apostle, but 2! So Elder Uchtdorf & Elder Holland will both be visiting the Little Rock, AR area this Saturday!
To those of you who have no idea who they are, they're kinda the modern equivelant of like James or Paul in the New Testament. They might as well have announced my favorite band is going to put on a concert for us, I'm so so so excited. They are just funny, poignant, brilliant, Christlike men who I strive to be like. Anyway, I'll have that to write about in my next email! :)
Saturday was fun! Last week, Elder Evans & I were invited to speak at a "Super Saturday" event for the youth. We prepared 10 minute talks, and they had Little Caesars for lunch, so we were happy about that. I talked about how the hobbies and habits I was into at home helped prepare me for my mission, and I tried to make it kinda funny. I think I succeeded. (That or they were just laughing at me.) Sounds like a couple folks might end up getting my books haha.
Later that day, while we were walking around, a guy shouted at us. Elder Evans and I each caught a part of what he said, and when we put it together, we realized he told us "LaVell Edwards is a legend!!" which... was a much funnier thing to be yelled than what I expected.
Then, on Sunday, we had another guy just come to church. He opened up a lot in Sunday School, and a few of the members were able to bear testimony and help comfort him. We now have an appointment to visit with him later in the week!
One of the members of the bishopric told me he had been looking at my Amazon page earlier, and saw that I played piano. The cat was out of the bag. I played an opening song for 3rd hour haha. (But I didn't mind, I'd much rather play piano than have a bunch of people who aren't Pentatonix sing a capella)
The week ended off really well, when we had a lesson with another guy we've been trying to teach. We had a member over with us, and it was awesome! Not much really went according to plan, but it ended up better than we had planned. I love when that happens. Seeing the guy even just holding the Book of Mormon as we talked made me so happy. This book is everything!
Oh yeah! Tuesday/Wednesday was dang freaking cold, but it warmed up all the way to 65 degrees on Sunday! It was SOOO NICE! It's a little cooler today, but a long sleeve shirt will keep you comfortable. This whole week is supposed to have highs in the mid50s so I'm excited.
But, boring weather stuff aside, I say that because I guess the low to high temperature move wreaked some havoc. Cause last night was THE CRAZIEST STORM I have ever been through. It wouldn't have taken much to convince me the Second Coming was about to happen, this was some 3rd Nephi-level stuff.
Rain was pounding, that's nothing new, but still exciting. The wind was blowing, that's not super uncommon. Although, it was a lot windier than usual. But then there was the lightning and thunder. I seriously thought somebody put a strobe light outside our window. (And I'm not saying that, I literally looked out of the window to find where the spotlight was that kept flashing our window every 2-3 seconds.) And the thunder felt like it was all around us. It stayed like that for about 20-30 crazy minutes and then quieted down really fast.
Apparently, tornadoes happen in the silence after the storm, and not in the thick of them. Fortunately, our roof wasn't torn off, and Conway is still in tact. I don't think any tornadoes happened. But it was exciting, anyway!
So that's my week! How was y'alls? Sending my love,
3080 Pebble Beach Rd., apt. #1
Conway, AR 72034
This Weekly Email Brought to You by:
-19 individual flakes of snow
-Little Caesar's Pizza
-The Book of Mormon
Well another week has come and gone. This one didn't have any rats or elephant poop, but it was still good!
On Tuesday, we had a district meeting, and a recent convert in the area asked to join in. So we invited him along, and that was awesome!
After district meeting, Elder Evans and I drove to North Little Rock. A former missionary, one of my first zone leaders, Elder Breen, was driving through on his way to school, and stopped by the church there while we were there. It was fun to hear from him about life after the mission and the iPhone X and imagine dragons new album haha.
We then exchanged for just a few hours with Elder Jennings and Shelley, and then went to dinner at the Millers, a young member family in the area who fed 8 of us missionaries that night haha. We played the game "signs" and it came out that my birthday was the next day. Turns out, they had half of a "CTR" cake leftover from their son's 8th birthday/baptism last weeked, and some BlueBell 2-step ice cream. (It's cookie dough + cookies n cream combined. Yum!) So the whole North Little Rock District and the Millers, who I hadn't met til that day, sang to me and we all enjoyed some cake and ice cream!
From there, we went to their missionary correlation meeting, where they started a fast as a district, ward mission, and bishopric, fasting for the missionary work in the area. We then went over to their apartment, and before we got there, the sisters texted saying the lady they had on date to be baptized had asked to move her baptism even closer! Yay for miracles!
We all went over to the Office Elders' apartment, just around the corner from the North Little Rock Elders' apt. They managed to fit a full size ping pong table in there, and we stayed up until midnight playing ping pong. I didn't win a round, but I came close! :)
The next day/At 12:01AM, I turned 20.
On Wednesday, (my birthday) we had a meeting from 9AM to 4PM. But I think I preferred it that way! It was a good meeting. I felt the spirit, felt motivated and inspired, and got to hang out with a bunch of missionaries. We spent a few hours role playing teaching, and Pres. Hansen observed a group of 4 of us doing that. It wasn't intimidating, and he offered some awesome suggestions. He's so great. Plus, at this meeting, there was chicken spaghetti for lunch, so that was a plus.
Sister Johnson & Sister Anderson (the poor sisters we gave the dead rat to last week) came up to us during the meeting, and after the now-typical shade-throwing, they kindly gave us one of two $25 Tazikis gift cards a member had given them. (Taziki's is this REALLY REALLY good greek chain they have. There was one in Germantown, TN, and there's one in Conway, at least. Definitely one of my favorite places to eat at.) We were a little dubious, wondering if maybe they'd used the whole gift card and given us an empty one so when we go use it we have to pay for it ourselves, but they assured us that wasn't the case.
So anyway. I've been well taken care of during my birthday week this week haha.
That night, Elder Bingham & Elder Barney called me from Collierville and I got to hear a bit of an update from them. And Bro. Boggs called, too! It was so good to hear from them, it was a definite highlight of the week!
The rest of the week wasn't super exciting. Tracted in a few older-demographic neighborhoods. Old people are either the nicest or the meanest. Seems like we got more of the mean ones. Sweet is the work!
On Friday, after weekly planning, all the elders in our zone got together and watched Pres. Monson's funeral broadcast. Definitely felt the spirit confirming to me that Pres. Monson was a prophet of God, and I felt all the more ready, too, to sustain Pres. Nelson as the new prophet.
Friday was cold. I guess it snowed in Collierville this weekend, and a few other places around the mission. It hasn't hit Conway, yet.
On our 2nd exchanges of the week, I stayed in Conway w/ Elder Lee, and we had some adventures. We visited with this 97 year old lady in a retirement home, who didn't consider herself a member anymore, but was very sweet. "Why, I talk to God all day, every day!" She said. "If I didn't do that, I'd probably forget how to talk entirely!" And, my favorite quote of hers, referring to God: "That rascal lets me struggle on my own for a while until I learn a lesson before he steps in and helps me." You could just tell that she had a relationship with God, by more than the fact that she called him a "rascal" hahaha.
On Sunday, there was a regional broadcast stake conference. They streamed the event in Salt Lake to all (?) the members of the church in the Southeast United States. Elder Bednar gave an awesome talk on repentence. One takeaway from that: "You can't repent with real intent, if your real intent was to sin." *cue the mic drop*
Right after that, we had a meeting with the Stake Pres., Pres. Wing. (Who actually served his mission in the Boise mission!) We talked about what the missionaries and members can do better, and it was just cool getting to hang out with he and Pres. Hansen in a much smaller setting than usual. It was Elder Evans and I, Sister Anderson & Johnson again, and then I skyped in the other ZLs within the stake on my tablet.
SOMEHOW, Elder Evans convinced/connived/conspired with Sis. Anderson and got her to give us their other $25 Taziki's gift card. After we'd given them a rat last week. They are both leaving the Conway Zone, so probably won't be by a Taziki's. And they won't be able to exact their revenge on us. Still, I dunno how Elder Evans got that gift card from her, but maybe their revenge is just proving to us that they are more Christlike and angelic than we are. :/
That night for dinner, we went over to the Routt's. They made Chicken Spaghetti, and (after asking what kind of dessert I would like for my birthday) a peach cobbler!
I was kinda tired from the week, and not feeling super motivated to go out and knock doors at 7pm in the cold dark on a Sunday night, but we did it, contacting some former and potential investigators. We were able to set like 3 or 4 return appointments for the week, so I'm excited! It was a definite morale boost, since it seemed like most of this week was spent waiting for doors that never ended up opening.
So, thanks to good food, the good Lord, and some successful contacts, I had a good end to the B-Day week! So that's that!
It's also the start of a new transfer! Elder Evans & I are staying together in Conway for another 6 weeks! After this, he'll have served in this ward for 7.5 months! We are losing Sis. Anderson, Sis. Johnson, Sis. Shumway, Elder Clayton, & Elder Billman. I am actually like really really sad about losing every single one of them. I'm gonna miss them a ton! But they're off to spread the light of the Conway Zone to other parts of the mission. :)
So we'll have new people to meet this week, a bunch of appointments to keep, potentially some snow, and more adventures! Everybody seems to be getting pretty sick around the mission. Most of the missionaries have avoided it, but there are a lot of members who have it, and people who use it as an excuse to not meet with us haha. Apparently something big is going around? doTERRA, save me! :)
Love you all! Have a stellar week! Stay warm and healthy!
getchoself a hotmail:
getchoself a stamp:
3080 Pebble Beach Rd. Apt.1
Conway, AR 72034
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And readers like you! Thank you!
By the title of this email, you can probably tell that this was a pretty exciting week. If somehow you missed that, allow me to formally say that this was a pretty exciting week. It had a high concentration of stories that I think I'll be telling long after my mission is over.
But before we get to the dead rat, the police, and the elephant poop, there was other good stuff that happened this week, too. :)
On Tuesday, we had our District Meeting, where we talked about finding people, and using family history as a resource for that.
That same afternoon, a miracle happened! (Yay, I like miracles!) We knocked on this lady's door and she opened it and shared with us that she had just been watching a bunch of videos about our church for some reason. She eagerly accepted a Book of Mormon, and gave us her number so we could get in touch for a return appointment. As we were putting her name in the phone, we asked where her last name came from, and she knew! She told us a little bit about her ancestors, and how her uncle had given her a huge binder of family history information, and said that she hadn't been able to find a good, free website to do family history on. After Elder Evans and I excitedly looked at each other, we were able to tell her all about FamilySearch.org, and that just got her even more excited for us to come back.
I was thinking later how eager her ancestors are to be able to have their temple work done. They are working with us to help her join the church and be baptized for them. It's just super duper cool to think about.
On Wednesday morning, I found myself thinking about President Monson and what would happen if he passed away. Lo and behold, we got the news just a few minutes later. What an example of Christlike character, and surely a prophet of the Lord.
Remember that guy that let us in last week and pretty much bashed with us for an hour and a half? Well... he invited us to "meet up for coffee or something sometime" and that happened on Wednesday. (Not the coffee part, the meeting up part.) I guess I wanted to show him we were cooler than the Jehovah's Witnesses that flaked out on him the last time he tried that. Turns out, the JW's had the right idea haha.
We met at a Waffle House, and that basically made it worth it. I only had a glass of water there, but now I can say that I've literally bashed with a preacher in a Waffle House in the Bible Belt. Maybe I shouldn't be so proud of that. But it's just a cool statement haha. He's a nice guy, and he was trying to "save us" and whatnot. I had a scripture out the Bible for every little thing he disagreed with us on, but I just enjoyed yawning while he talked and letting him go. After it all, he recommended a bunch of fun things to do in Arkansas. 95% of those things were either: A) Out of our mission, B) Involved swimming or rafting, or, C) Involved guns. So other than one hill we could hike, it would be against the rules for us to do any of the other stuff, anyway. Oh well haha.
After that, we went to a teaching appointment that canceled, and then drove out to the "boonies" of our area, around Lake Conway and a tiny town called Mayflower. As we were driving into this one "settlement," (a little pod of ~20 trailers and small houses in the middle of nowhere) three or four little dogs started running boldly at our car. I was worried I'd run one over, but they survived. They followed us all the way up a hill. We got out of the car, and they didn't touch us or anything, but after a minute or two, a few more dogs joined and yapped at us. The hills were alive with the sound of... dogs barking. We tried the person we were going to try there, and it turns out they had moved ages ago. Another dog, a big and really old one started following us around, too, but it scared the other ones off, I think haha. It became my favorite.
As we were driving, there were maybe like 2 dozen other cars on the roads out there, and about a third of them were big ole trucks that rode my tail until they finally impatiently passed me. (There's a machine in our car that warns us if we exceed the speed limit, etc. So that's frustrating.)
That night, a missionary who served in this mission was in the area and volunteered to meet us for lunch. We went to Stroud's Country Diner, and I tried a country-fried steak sandwich. I thought it was pretty good. Until we got back that night. I brought a trash can into our bedroom because I was pretty sure I was gonna puke. Thankfully, I did not. But I don't think I'll be going back there again.
The rest of the week, like every single appointment we had got canceled. Pretty frustrating, but that's life. It even happened a lot as a photographer back home. People don't like to stick to plans, I guess.
We did visit with a potential investigator we found a while ago, and, well... that was a trip. This guy seemed like super cool, and down to earth, but he was pretty up in space. Literally. He talked about talking to trees and animals, and showed us this YouTube video with all the conspiracy theories he believes in, including (but not limited to) the fact that Nazis landed on the dark side of the moon in 1949, the government has people's brains in jars connected to robots "like in Futurama!" and there is a hidden ice planet directly behind the sun that houses a military base and bird-looking aliens. Elder Evans and I kept exchanging looks and trying not to lol because this guy was like really opening up to us. So that was another highlight of the week.
*The Part of the Email Where I Finally Talk About the Dead Rat*
We had dinner at the Routt's again, and they gave us a bunch of their leftover cookies and candies from the holidays. As we were leaving, we saw a dead rat in the road in front of our car. The conversation went something like this.
Elder Evans: "Hey, Elder Dahl. We should empty out one of those cookie boxes the Routt's gave us and put the rat in there to give to the Conway 2 Elders."
Me: "What? No, that'd be gross!" (Also dying laughing at the thought of doing that.)
Elder Evans: "C'mon, it'd be funny!"
Me: "...Okay, let's do it." (The laughing continued)
So, we took out all the Chips Ahoy cookie bags out of a Nutter Butter box, and we prodded the rat in there. We then buried it in the aforementioned Chips Ahoy bags, put it in the back of our car, and then proceeded to go to the Thursday Night Book of Mormon class.
Afterward, we were going to give the Conway 2 Elders a ride home to their apartment since they are full-bike. Elder Lee went to dig for a nutter butter in the box and touched something weird at the bottom.
But lo! The sisters parked next to us had rolled down their window and were trying to tell us something. Elder Evans rolled the window down, and Sister Johnson asked if we had any Brother Routt shirts (shirts w/ Bro Routt's face on it, just because) that she could have. We responded that we forgot them, and she got a little bit mad. Elder Evans turned around to Elder Lee and gestured for the Nutter Butter box. (Can you see where this is going?)
"Here, here," said Elder Evans. "If you guys take these Nutter Butters, we'll get you your Brother Routt shirts."
"I don't want any Nutter Butters!" Sis. Johnson argued.
"I do!" Sis. Anderson said from the passenger seat. So Sis. Johnson sighed, grabbed the Nutter Butter Box, and then Elder Evans told me to "Go, go, go!" So we took off out of the church parking lot, and as we turn around, we saw them run out of the car. Elder Evans and I are having a laughing fit, and Elder Clayton and Elder Lee have no idea what was going on.
"There's a rat in the box!" we manage to say. "What?! I touched a dead rat!" Elder Lee exclaimed. About one and a half minutes later, the sisters called us to say the war was on. Thankfully, they were good sports. I was feeling kinda bad about doing that to them, especially since it was meant for the Conway 2 Elders. But when they sent us the video they had recorded soon after discovering there was a rat in the box, it was all worth it. Thankfully they were pretty good sports and don't hate us too much. :)
Alright, back to the usual. Miracles and Food. Oh, and this is where the "Trailer Parks" aspect of the email comes in.
So anyway. The next day, we went on exchanges with the Choctaw elders. Before driving up there, though, our Ward Mission Leader took us to Burgers, Pies, and Fries. I got a burger and one of their fried Oreo Pies. "Eating healthy" and "living in the south" are pretty difficult. Thankfully that wasn't my New Years Resolution haha.
While Elder Andreason and I were in Conway, we spent a good amount of time in this trailer park. We were gonna stop by one guy, and then try to find 2 other trailers. Trailers rarely have the address number on them, and when they do, it's usually faded, covered, or missing a number so you kinda have to guess. Well, we found one of them, and were able to visit with the less active part member family that lives there. Nice couple that's been through a lot in the last few months. Their car busted, and they were on the last of their paycheck. They'd just spent a good chunk of money taking a cab ride to the nearest AutoZone to buy a wrench to fix the car, but they'd gotten the wrong size wrench and were getting ready to go buy another cab ride. We volunteered to get it for them. When we came back with the right size wrench, he was able to fix the car in less than 5 minutes. Cool that we were able to be in the right place at the right time.
Then we went to find the 2nd trailer. Got talking with a super drunk guy sitting by a fire in front of his trailer at like 4 in the afternoon. Then found the trailer we were looking for. It was totally abandoned and hollowed out, and had a hand print and the word "help" written in red paint on the door. Classy. Across the gravel road were more trailers and two police cars. As we were leaving, one of the officers called us over. "Elders!" We stopped and turned around to meet him. "Hey guys, come back another time alright? This isn't a good time or place to be right now."
Didn't need to tell us twice! Though I'm curious as to what was about to go down haha. Thank your local police officer for keeping your missionaries safe.
*The Part of the Email Where I Finally Talk About Elephant Poop*
Now, when you read "Elephant Poop" in the title of this email, what were you thinking? Probably something along the lines of how I was probably exaggerating something that happened, right? Wrong. This is where I get to talk about pure, unadulterated, genuine, elephant feces. Elephant. Feces.
On Saturday, we exchanged back with Choctaw. But we did a little bit more than that. We went to exchange back a little bit early, and we brought our service clothes. One of the hidden gems of Arkansas in the existence of a legit "Elephant Sanctuary" in the middle of nowhere. It's home to 2 retired circus elephants. Somehow, the missionaries got the hookup to go do service there once a month. So once we got our service clothes on, we drove through the hills to this gate. The lady who operates the place opened it up for us. She had short hair, dyed blue and green in spots, three tear drops tattoo'd on her face, and was rarely far from a cigarette. We rode in the bed of her pickup truck over to the elephant barn, where we met Booper the elephant, and had the pleasure of shoveling a lot of elephant poop and cleaning the barn.
This place reminded me of Jurassic Park. It was sweet. And I'm definitely going to brag about having scooped up elephant poop in Arkansas for the rest of my life.
After poop-scooping, we bucked hay. (Threw bales of hay down from a big tower onto the bed of a pickup truck.) We were going to do two trips, but decided to just put all 35 hay bales on at once and do it in one trip. We then rode on top of those 35 hay bales in the back of a pickup truck back over to the elephant barn, and unloaded them there.
Unfortunately, that was all that we had time for. But it was definitely a mission highlight so far hahaha.
So there you have it! Dead rats, trailer park adventures, and elephant crap! Plus arguing with a preacher in a waffle house, getting chased by dogs, and being exposed to the truth of the government's ice planet behind the sun. Sprinkle in a few miracles here and there, and it's been a DANG fun week in Arkansas. We're going HAM this week, and I also will begin my 3rd decade this week, so I'm planning on more miracles.
The Lord definitely leads this work! Too many things "just work out" for it to be anything else. Jesus Christ lives, he's my Savior, and this is His church on the earth today! Let the world know!
Love, soup, and elephant poop!
Tell me 'bout your favorite conspiracy theory, animal feces, or something, idk.
Plz don't send rats or elephant poop, the sisters are already gonna get me back. My punishment is sure, my consequence is fixed. Pray for me.
3080 Pebble Beach Rd, apt. 1
Conway, Arkansas 72034
This email is brought to you by:
Booper the elephant
The Conway Police Dept
Deceiving Chips Ahoy
and readers like you, thank you!
Merry New Year!
This week was nuts. We had a district meeting, 3 different exchanges (companion swaps for a day) and a MLC meeting.
1st up: Exchanges with North Little Rock gone wrong/fun. The office elders drove Elders Shelley & Jennings to Conway from Little Rock, and then left to do errands that took so long that instead of going back to North Little Rock with them, they both just stayed in Conway with us all day. Which ended up working out since we were double-booked for dinner appointments haha. So we made both appointments and got to introduce Elder Jennings to the Routts, an awesome member family in Conway. They had ordered my books "The Dreamers" and "Lies" so it was fun to hold copies of my books again.
That night, the NLR Elders crashed at our place. We all stayed up playing/watching ping pong on a tiny table. Elder Shelley, who crashed on the couch, snored way loud so that was entertaining.
The next day we drove them back home and went to meet the Office Elders for our 2nd exchange of the week. On the way, our car's mileage range kept dropping faster than a mile a minute. We got down to 13 miles left while on the highway, and it was dropping fast. After debating going all the way without filling up, we took an exit and filled up. Close one! We had lunch at David's Burgers, an Arkansas specialty. It's kind of like a more expensive, better tasting In n Out, very near and dear to Arkansas Little Rock Missionaries.
We met up with the Office Elders. Elder Stiles-Culver and I ran some errands. We dropped off furniture and mail to some missionaries in downtown Little Rock, and then... We DROVE TO MEMPHIS!
There, we met up with the Bartlett Elders, who were being fed by one of the folks Elder Evans taught and baptized! She got us milkshakes, and then we crashed at the Bartlett Apartment, which is the proud home of a pool table. I won the one round I played haha. That day, I had been in 6 different missionary apartments. They're each pretty funny, with their own personalities and quirks and messes. (See photos below).
The next morning, we had to get up at 4:45AM! Quickly got ready and to the church building in the big ole van and left with the missionaries we picked up there by 5:45. After a stop in West Memphis, Arkansas to pick up one other companionship, we drove BACK TO LITTLE ROCK with all the Zone Leaders going to the MLC meeting. Definitely slept a little bit on the 3 hour drive back. The fact that dinner last night and breakfast that morning consisted of Reese's Clusters, half a can of Mountain Dew, the rest of the can of flat Mountain Dew, and a milkshake didn't help.
MLC was good! Pres. Hansen shared the number of people who he believes are ready to be baptized in the first quarter of the year, and then challenged each of the zone leaders to pray to come up with a number of people within our zones to be baptized. We received the number 11! So in the next 3 months, we will have 11 baptisms in the Conway Zone/Zion!
After MLC, the APs (Assistants to the Mission President, just 1 companionship of 2 elders that help and lead the mission) had a meeting before we were going to split up for our 3rd exchange in a row/of the week, so we got to our dinner appointment super late. Thankfully they were patient with us and we were able to give them a heads up.
This was probably my favorite exchange of the week. Elder Parks and I were in Conway, while Elder Evans and Wall were in downtown Little Rock. I learned a lot from Elder Parks, he is awesome!l
We started the day of the exchange off joining the Conway 2 Elders for their weekly planning session. After that, we went to the David's Burgers in Conway, thus marking my unofficial missionary rite of passage in having David's twice in one week haha.
Elder Parks and I baked some cookies for members of the ward, and then went to contact some folks and do some door knocking before delivering them. While we were knocking doors, a woman peeked through the window at us and then called for her husband. He opened the door and warmly invited us in. Super nice, cool looking guy. Somewhere along the way, a switch flipped, and he spent the next hour arguing with us.
But! This was no ordinary bible bash. The guy let us have our turn to talk, and we decided to mostly just ask him questions to make him realize what he was doing and to recognize that there are just so many different ways to interpret the Bible that the Book of Mormon is necessary to help us know the gospel perfectly! The guy still tried to kinda belittle us and save our souls and whatnot, but in the end, our testimonies were strengthened, and he said he would try reading the Book of Mormon. So we'll see! Usually in such situations, we just try to bear testimony and move on, but Elder Parks said something was holding him back from doing that, so I hope things can work out well!
When we went into his house, it was light outside, and when we came out, it was dark. We were able to deliver one batch of cookies, and that was fun! Before we made it back home, we got a call from the bishopric asking us to stand in for someone who got sick and speak in church in 2 days.
We exchanged back that night, and I slept very well. 3 exchanges in a row will take it out of ya! But it was fun and I learned and laughed lots and lots!
When Sunday rolled around, there were about 5 cars in the parking lot, which was also about how many degrees it was outside. I was starting to think they had canceled church without letting us know, but come 3 minutes before 9AM, people started coming!
Don't tell anyone, but I actually just recycled/adapted the last talk I gave. What was cool, though, was that both of the talks before mine went perfectly with it. (On courageously standing up for and sharing our beliefs) How cool is that?
After church, we visited with an 83 year old member of the ward who kinda reminded me of my Grandpa Wrigley. He was very talkative and funny and every force of nature from the winds, snow, bushes, trees, and Canadian geese, was a "mystery" to him. Every time we tried to walk back to our car in the cold, he'd be like "Oh, and lemme tell you something else!" By the end of it, Elder Evans and I were in tears laughing at this sly guy. "You need to know this!"
That night, we had dinner with our "investigator," Steve. He's had the lessons and read the Book of Mormon several times. He had been in prison for the last 20 years. While there, he turned to the Bible and came up with some of his "own" theories. Then a nurse gave him a Book of Mormon, and it supported all of his theories! He started teaching out of it to his cell mates. And now he is ready to be baptized, he just needs a permission letter from the 1st Presidency. (His letter has been in the mail since early October, so... hopefully it comes soon!)
Anyway, we were having dinner with him over at another member family's house. After dinner, we went up into their decked out attic-turned-movie theater and watched "How Rare a Possession," which tells the story of this Italian guy who found a Book of Mormon without a cover or title page, and at
after preaching out of it without knowing where it came from, only that it was true. He was fired from the ministry, discovered the church, but missionaries weren't able to find and baptize him until he had fought in 2 different wars, including WW1. Pretty cool story, though!
After the movie, Steve was like, "Lake Conway is right there, man. You have the authority, let's baptize me right now!" We were like "yeah!!" and then he shut us down, saying "nah, we don't have permission yet," which was pretty funny. Cool to see how well Steve could relate to Vicenzo.
And now it is 2018! And today is our P Day!
The Routt's invited us over today for a New Years party. So Elders Evans, Lee, Clayton, and I arrived and we quickly discovered that the sisters had received the same invitation from the Routt's, and that they had decided to make it their "Sister P Day." So... there were us 4 elders crashing the 12-sister P day haha. My books were still laying around, so that was a conversation topic for a while. I'm not super vocal about the fact that I have written 3 books, so it was pretty funny seeing people be like "What?! You wrote these??"
So anyway. It's been a crazy crazy week. Lots of exchanges, 6 new missionary apartment visits, a drive to Memphis and back, being an office elder for a day, and other laughs.
Here's to a fantastic, incredible, faith-promoting, successful 2018!
One year closer to the 2nd Coming. :)
Love you all! Happy New Year!
I like emails, so...
My 20th Birthday is on January 10th so...*
3080 Pebble Beach Rd, apt. 1
Conway, Arkansas 72034
*and I'm freaking out about it a little bit.
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