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
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