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
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