This week has taken more out of me than I thought I had to begin with. But I am a happy kind of exhausted.
I went on 2 exchanges this week, one in Hope with our zone leaders and one in Camden with some missionaries in my district.
With one of our ZLs, we found a potential family to work with!! And had Debbie's baptismal interview, and tried by Carmelita again. (She had been told some lies about us by her daughter last week and had dropped us.)
We knocked on her door, not really knowing what to expect when or if she answered. She did, she smiled, and... She welcomed us right in! She said she wanted to continue studying with us, but we weren't sure if that meant coming to church with us again, too. We read 1 Nephi 6 with her. I know that it was no accident that was the chapter she was on. We read verse 5, which talks about how Nephi doesn't write the things that are pleasing to the world, but the things that are pleasing to God. She opened up and told us that as soon as she hung up the phone to say she was going back to her church, she felt like she had made the wrong decision, and that she needed to "finish what she started," (using her words). So she is back on track and stronger than ever!
Got home and chatted for a while. We ended up talking til midnight. It was good being able to vent a little bit. Picked it back up in the morning and honestly just kinda bawled my eyes out for a while. This last transfer or two has been rough. I read a great talk by Elder Hales this week, though, that pointed out how we think of the last week of the Savior's life as being awful, (and it definitely was!) But it was also when some of the most important parts of His earthly ministry took place. Likewise, despite the hard times, I also feel like I'm the best teacher I've ever been, and that there is more potential in front of me than ever before. I've just been kinda beating myself up cause I haven't felt like I've been pushing myself to improve like I need to be, and it's felt like all I can do to keep my head above water and be happy.
But! I think this week has been our best one here in Hope. We got rained out on one of our long driving days, but got to visit a few of the members that live further out. I love when it rains. Until it becomes a game of "how can I possibly stay dry the second I open this door?" (We usually don't even bother trying to play that haha)
On Thursday, we took our old dryer (Which Elder Anderson had fixed after the mission replaced it) out to a distant member, Sister Martin, who lives in a little trailer home without a functional dryer. They'd been hanging clothes up to dry on clothes lines and on monkey cages.
So we drove out there, recruiting the help of a less active member with a truck to help get the dryer out there.
--wait a second, what? Did that say monkey cages?
Uh... yeah. Anyway, we got the dryer unloaded and through the trailer to where it needed to go, and Elder Anderson worked on that while the Lims and I chatted with Sister Martin.
Yeah, that's what I said. I mean we had to use the dolly to get the dryer around all of those monkey cages in her trailer. But then I was chatting with Sister Martin and Gypsy.
Mmhmm. That's the name of her capuchin monkey. She also has a big Macaque that was in the big cage in the trailer. Its name is Devin. Devin and Gypsy.
(Yeah, they were pretty cool hahaha.) Gypsy had been trained to be able to unlock a padlock and give Sister Martin a kiss, and probably a whole variety of other mischievous things. So that was a highlight of the week haha. I was kinda hoping to get a picture with gypsy on my shoulder or something, but she was shy. I contented myself with watching her lick the salt off the inside of a peanut container lol.
After that, we had some great lessons with Debbie & Carmelita again, and then had another guy flake on us, but it's ok. 2 for 3 is pretty good haha.
I had my exchange in Camden and had a traditional dinner with members again haha. They were really cool. He was the youngest son of his father's 2nd marriage. His father was born in a US Territory--what a few years later became the state of Montana. Yeah. His dad was born in Montana before it became a state. And his great great grandpa? fought in the Revolutionary War I think haha. He's a neat guy. I pointed out the collection of cast iron skillets on his wall and he spent like 15 minutes talking with me about them and showing me how I can recognize the collectibles if I'm ever looking for 'em. Makes me wanna go hit up the DI's back home.
Of course, the real highlight of this week was Debbie's baptism. We held it after church services, and a few members from the stake, including the Stake President, stayed to attend. The font was filling up as fast as it apparentky had in the past, so we hooked a garden hose up and had that going into the font, as well haha. I was able to baptize her, and Elder Anderson was able to be in the font, too, to help her down the steps and back up. Afterward, she just smiled really big. She's a wonderful lady.
(For those who are just now reading this, a while ago, Debbie was involved in an accident that left her largely unable to speak. We received her as a Bible referral last month with very little information. She welcomed us in and eventually wrote on a little notepad that she couldn't speak. We explained the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and about the Book of Mormon. Elder Lim asked her how she felt about what we had shared, and she wrote one word on her notepad - "Wonderful." As we continued to meet, we learned how to teach and discern by the spirit, and "hear" her through nods, notes, smiles, pointing at verses, lingering on pages, and of course: her thumbs up. (Sometimes even two!) It was a "wonderful" day for a very wonderful sister of ours.)
After being at the church from like 8:30-3:00, I was pretty tired. But we went and tried a few more people with no luck, and swung by home to visit the Lims for a little bit. As we chatted, the power flickered and went off, and a half second later, we hear this huge "BOOOM" and thunder following right after like a jet plane crashing through the parking lot. We, and a bunch of neighbors nervously peeked out the doors to investigate. Then it happened again. We all ran inside haha. When we opened the door again to peek, you could smell smoke. A few guys ran to their cars through the rain and said something about seeing a fire. But we never saw it, only smelled it. Of course, the rain was coming down so hard it would've put anything out in a second.
As cool as it would be to say that you've been hit by lightning... I think I'll pass on that experience.
Today, the Lims took us golfing up in Arkadelphia. I understand Ether 12:27 on a whole other level, now. Color me humbled, I stunk at that game haha. It was fun, all the same. I'll probably stick with some different expensive hobbies, though.
So that's pretty much my week. The usual ups and downs. But again, it really has been probably our best week in Hope - And not just because Debbie was baptized. I figured a lot of things out after mentally stewing on them for a while. We are moving in a good direction, and there is a lot of good work to be done here! Transfers are next week and I hope I'm not going anywhere! This is where I'm supposed to be!
303 West 23rd Street, Apt. 9C
Hope, AR 71801
This weekly email brought to you by:
- A diabetic monkey named Gypsy
- The US Territories
- Little Debbie's Oatmeal Cream Cookies (Which were on sale for 1$ a pack today yikes)
- righteous living: the best defensive measure for lightning safety
Video of monkeys: http://youtu.be/125wXPPUSU4
Video: Gypsy licking up peanut salt while Sister Martin explains that Gypsy is diabetic and "loves getting stuck." Apparently it'll eagerly offer a hand or leg for its insulin shot.
gypsy at Sis. Martin's.mp4
Another roller coaster week in Hope!
We got back in touch with several people who we were on the verge of giving up on, and we were able to teach a lot at the beginning of this week, which is about my favoritest thing to do.
The Lims, (The senior couple set of missionaries in Hope) had some of their family come and visit, and so they took them (and us!) to Tailgaters, the famous burger joint around here one day, and Big Jake's BBQ the next day. Man. I do love barbecue a whole lot. I'm gonna miss it back home.
Played a few rounds of Phase 10 at a branch social on Wednesday. The husband of one of the members there only speaks Spanish, and had never played Phase 10 before. He ended up winning. (With the help of pulling a wild card off the bottom of the deck on a round that he dealed hahaha. He cracked me up.)
We helped out at the Branch Presidents house again, swapping outlets and light switches. I pinched my thumb pretty badly in a pair of pliers but survived and the new outlets work, so I guess that's a success!
Debbie will be having her baptismal interview tomorrow, so we are excited for that and for her as she prepares to be baptized on Sunday!!
Our other lady preparing to be baptized was told some things about us by a well-intending daughter that are true about Jehovah's Witnesses... But not us. So we are not sure whether we will be able to continue teaching her or not. She called to tell us she was going back to her church, and asked if we believed in dialysis and blood transfusions. Um... yes we do? Despite our best efforts and even her admission that she knew what we had been teaching her was true, her daughter coached her along on the other line of saying she was just going to go back to her church. Man. That heckin stinks. I've been kinda beat up about it since it happened. Keep her in your prayers, I guess. We'll keep trying.
Walked around a little bit more of Hope one day this week. We walked around the Tyson Chicken Feed Plant, and man, you can smell that stuff from a ways out. We tried a former investigator there and he welcomed us right in, gave us each a Dr. Pepper, and chatted for a while. He even said he'd start reading the Book of Mormon again, so hey!
That afternoon, on our way up to Nashville, Arkansas, we stopped in the historic Washington, AR national park at the William's Tavern (eat. 1832?) again and got some tasty cobbler. Good stuff. But it didn't beat my Dad's Dutch oven cobbler. (And I'm not just saying that cause it was Father's Day yesterday. He is the best, though.)
On Saturday, we didn't have a lot of luck outside of our good lesson with Debbie. From there, we headed back to Hope and went downtown to help with their fish fry. We were assigned to the cooking tents, but don't worry, we just moved the French fries, hush puppies, and fried catfish and chicken by the boxload to the different tents where people were eating. And, above that, I didn't even drop a single fry. They had probably about 10 fryers running most of the time, going through cooler after cooler of yummy southern fried goodness.
It was a hot day, and we were in our slacks, white shirts, and ties, walking boxes of catfish around the streets of Hope while train horns sounded off every half hour or so and a train rushed right by us on the other side of a fence. Everybody was sweaty, but it smelled like the food section of the county fair, and we got to eat the fried catfish fillets that were too small to give to people. So that was a plus. The South is one heckuva place, y'all.
We helped take down the chairs, tables, and tents afterward. (Shoutout to all the Church events that trained me for this moment.) Dumped out the better part of probably a 10 or 15 gallon metal drum of leftover sweet tea into the street, like it was the Hope Tea Party. We were some of the last people to head home, and were told "thank you" more times than catfish bites I ate. (Which is to say, a lot.) The owner of Tailgaters even said she'd buy us dinner there whenever we came in. We were able to get to know a lot of the leaders of the community, chamber of commerce, and Lions Club there. Plus it was a lot of fun. ...And we were sent home w several to go boxes full of chicken and fries and fish.
On Sunday, I recreated Zaxby's Kickin' Chicken sandwhich again with the leftovers. That and church were really good, thankfully. Cause not a single investigator we tried to visit that day answered the door. Missionary work is weird. And people are crazy. We just get to hear and witness often how very strange people and their decisions are. Although I'm sure Heavenly Father thinks that way of me, sometimes, too haha. I'm one of the weird ones.
Did a lot of thinking and pondering this week, and as usual, despite the hard times I have definitely felt like I've learned and grown a lot. I love getting to study the scriptures so much every day. They are seriously my favorite books. There is power in every verse and word. Power that I don't want to give up by missing a day of reading. It's magic, I guess. :) I wish I could make people magically understand that. President Nelson said it best in quoting Brigham Young: "I might paraphrase President Brigham Young in saying, 'I wish I had the voice of seven thunders to wake up the people' to the truth and power of the Book of Mormon."
Maybe if people knew just how "marvelous a work and a wonder" this really was, they wouldn't miss appointments, not read, ignore our texts or go less-active haha. But I know! And that's what I have control over, and what I find joy in.
Hey. I love you all. Thanks for being awesome. Keep those prayers coming. <3
I'm usually quick at responding to emails. (By next Monday at least.)
But I'm slow at responding to letters, I'm sorry. But I do respond!
303 West 23rd Street, Apt. 9C
Hope, AR 71801
Extra train video: https://youtu.be/zrRCLhZYgOg
If I said that this week brought me to tears, on my knees, and to the verge of passing out, it would make it sound like a bad week. But I don't wanna do that haha. It's been a good one, don't worry.
We had a great lesson with Debbie this week, and she is continuing to progress. She is such an incredible lady. I feel very lucky to be able to teach and learn from her.
We stopped by a less active member's house on the way back into town and talked to him in his garage. There was a cool breeze going through it, and it wasn't too hot of a day. But, after standing on the concrete for as long as we did, coupled with my not drinking as much water as I usually do that morning, and the subject matter of the conversation (things that went wrong with this guy's surgery) led to me getting really light headed. Everything went white and fuzzy. I could make out shadows of outlines and hear the conversation continue as if I was underwater. I stayed standing but finally had to just sit down after a few minutes of that. When I stood back up again to leave, I was all pale and clammy, but felt a lot better.
Got a drink of water and went out and visited a few people. There's so much potential in this area. Lots of cool people, and some of them even want to hear the gospel! The only thing that would make it better is if they kept their appointments and used their phones! :-))
Got back that evening and Elder Anderson made dinner while I napped for 45 minutes. That turned my week around. Naps are the best.
The next day, every appointment we had canceled. Which stunk, but it was still a good day. I decided to try the next door neighbor of a house we tried, and we ended up giving a Book of Mormon to a young mom. We'll go back to check on her eventually, and it's cool to think about how much good that reading this book can do for her and for her kids for generations. And it's hard to see her or anyone not just read it. It's such a simple thing. But so many people just don't.
We stopped at a Mexican restaurant in town there with the Lim's in lieu of our appointments. My chimichanga helped fill the void. (Almost as much as giving that Book of Mormon away, anyway. That really helped me feel like the trip had not been wasted.)
We got back to Hope and tried visiting some former investigators. Both of the ladies we tried actually said we could come back. Yay!
The next day we went on exchanges with the Zone Leaders. They got in a small car accident a week or two ago, and so they had a brand new Malibu with less than 300 miles on it. On our way back to Pine Bluff, we stopped to visit their old car in the mechanics shop to make sure they got all of their stuff out of it. We had decided when we left Hope that we would challenge ourselves this exchange to ask every person we talk to for referrals, and to share a scripture from the Book of Mormon with them.
Well, here were these two mechanics in Poyen, Arkansas. (Side note. Arkansas pronounces things really weird. See note below.) They'd given a Book of Mormon to one the first time they came in, and it turns out the other guy had a lot of family that was LDS. So we shared a scripture with the two of them, just standing in their shop while they sat on a bench or worked on a car. We had a great chat with them and answered a few questions. Really nice guys. This was definitely a highlight of the week. There's no bad place to share the gospel! (Well, okay, maybe there are a few places, but at least we can remove a mechanic shop from the list!)
On Arkansas pronouncing things weird:
Poyen is pronounced "Po-wen"
El Dorado is pronounced "El Dor-ay-do"
Nevada County is "Ne-vay-duh"
The list goes on.
A lady we talked to there in Pine Bluff was pretty funny. "I'm surprised y'all are out walking on the streets talking to people. This is Pine Bluff! The crime rate is crazy." She said "Pine Bluff" as if she were saying "The slums of detroit during a gang war." The missionaries joke about it being called "Crime Bluff" but it's really not as bad as people make it out to be haha.
The next day was Zone Conference and a member gave us a ride up to North Little Rock, teaching us about how he tries to live the Nazarite law of health, and all about the sci-fi book he is writing. It was an interesting ride haha.
Zone Conference was really good, though. We had the whole Arkansas side of the mission together to hear Elder Perkins of the Seventy, and Elder Johnson, an area Seventy from Alabama. They were both awesome and I learned a lot and left with exactly the kind of motivation I wanted to feel afterward.
We stopped at another Mexican restaurant in a small town on our way back to Hope from Little Rock. Yum.
The next two days were Stake Conference, which was preceded really just by service and planning out our week. Elder Anderson set it up so that we could stream the broadcast at our church building, which was great. We had invited like 6 people to come watch it with us, but not one showed up. :( It was an amazing session, though. So was the Sunday session. Ill get back to Saturday night in a second.
After the Sunday session, we had pot luck with the branch. As we were stacking chairs, Debbie pulled one alongside her wheelchair literally an inch at a time. She managed to pick it up and add it to a small stack against the wall. I wanted to help her, but something kept me from it, and I think she felt a sense of fulfillment with having helped in the small way she could. She's incredible.
We got recruited by the Branch President to come to his place and help install some new outlets. This was right up Elder Anderson's alley and so I was afraid I'd have to stand around and twiddle my thumbs again, but President Porter showed me how, and by my 3rd outlet I felt like an accomplished electrician. We will probably go back and do some more of those!
Okay, back to Saturday.
Despite the wonderful Saturday meeting, I got home that night in kind of a bad mood, honestly. One of the themes of both conferences this week was that "enduring joy" is the result of living the gospel. And you know what? I didn't feel too happy. And it felt like it had been kind of a long time since I had. There have been plenty of great moments, and joyful experiences, but I've been in kind of a funk for a while.
So I poured my heart out in prayer, praying a little harder than usual. I asked for forgiveness, peace, comfort, and the joy I felt I was due. Elder Anderson was in the bathroom while I just wept in prayer. It's been hard. But through prayer, I felt very very loved by my Father and my Savior. I miss them and can't wait to see them again, the same way I can't wait to see my earthly family again. But the feeling I got was that if I didn't have the hardships I had, I probably wouldn't have prayed to the extent I had, and wouldn't have been able to feel the love that I did.
I'm still working on the "enduring joy" thing. Missionary work is so fulfilling, thankfully. And between the conferences we had, and that special moment, my faith is stronger than ever. I just want to beg with people in the streets to read the stinking Book of Mormon. I want them to feel how much I know it is God's word by the light and power that shine through me.
I know that book is true, and that this isn't just some "mission trip" that I'm doing. I am a participant in the work of salvation, representing the church that Jesus Christ Himself established and that He leads today. Does that sound crazy? (It kinda should.) Thankfully, he has given us evidence of that that we can hold in our hands and judge for ourselves. This evidence is, you guessed it - The Book of Mormon. There is just too much depth, spirit, symbolism, and purity of doctrine for an unlearned Joseph Smith to have dictated it without notes in two months. It's true, y'all. What more can I say?
Pray for me. Pray for the people out here. Pray for you.
Have a blessed week!
Print out your email and mail it to me, too, cause letters are fun
303 West 23rd Street, Apt. 9C
Hope, AR 71801
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Well, y'all. You've read about 365 days of my mission, now. On May 31st of last year, I walked into the missionary training center. And now, one year from me writing this email, I'll be walking off the plane into the cool, warm, nonhumid air of the Boise Airport. But I'm not ready for that yet. I've got work to do, and people to save, and a better person yet to become.
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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Elder Oliver Wrigley Dahl
Arkansas Little Rock Mission
905 Kierre Dr
North Little Rock AR 72116