Hello! It's been a good week!
My brain is all over the place, though, so this email isn't the best!
On Christmas morning, we drove out to East End, Arkansas, which is pretty much the middle of nowhere. We had a yummy breakfast with some members out there, and then... went straight to a Chinese buffet with some other members. It was decent and I was already full from breakfast haha. But my fortune cookie read "enjoy yourself while you can." Which was both funny and foreboding.
A little while after that I got to Skype home and see my family! So that was awesome!
Then we went to President Jones' house and played a fun game called Skyjo.
We had a lesson the next day with a gal we met last week and her 5 year old son who was all over the place. It went okay haha! We had dinner with the member who came out with us for that, and that was good, too. He had this cool spaceship looking pizza oven that he cooked steak and pizza in pretty fast.
The next day was MLC! And that was good!
We exchanged with the Pinnacle Mountain elders, tried some people who weren't home, and even our finding fell through because the sisters had been in the neighborhood we had picked out like a week before.
On Friday, we had weekly planning and then went finding! I was kinda annoyed with apathetic "not interested" people, and when one lady said she wasn't interested in the Book of Mormon, I just asked her "why?" Like honestly. Seriously. Why wouldn't you be interested in the Book of Mormon?? She said she didn't really know, so we explained it again and she ended up accepting a copy and saying she'd read it! So being bold works!
Another guy an hour or so later said, "Oh, I opened the door cause I saw your nametags. I was afraid y'all were Mormons and believed in that crazy guy who had some crazy revelations and whatever." Uh... so we explained that a little better, and he was like, "Oh, that's not what I've heard at all!" And he also accepted a Book of Mormon! Heck yeah.
And then yesterday we had our last musical tribute of the tour! Here in Little Rock! And it was awesome. I'm sad they're over. But also kinda happy cause theyve been rough on our zone, certain missionaries going over to the Memphis side every other weekend and so on. I just felt the spirit so strong in this last one. Life is good in the mission field!
Hope y'all had a good Christmas, and a great end of 2018! See ya next year!
Transfer #14; Week 1
Well, it's the start of a new transfer! It's Christmas Eve, and it's been an interesting week.
I started it out with Elder Bolos, shooting 3 rolls of film in about 2 hours. It was like being given a stack of candy bars. Usually I'd space such a treat out and enjoy it over time, but... when you've got that much, it's a little easier to just blow through it haha. I think we got some good shots, though. Hopefully I get the results back before next p day. And hopefully the camera we were using works. We're not 100% sure haha.
We also visited a bunch of people. Some members, some investigators... people we've gotten close to here in Benton. It made me kinda glad I wasn't the one leaving.
The next day was transfer day, and I cleaned up the apartment while Elder Bolos packed. We had a good run.
We stopped at the Gus's chicken in Little Rock on our way up to transfers. Unfortunately the only location in Arkansas. It had been over a year since Gus's spicy fried chicken graced my palate. Gooood stuff.
Elder Bolos headed up to Conway, and Elder Ramage came with me back down to Benton! We tried a few people with no luck, and started knocking around an apartment complex and knocked on the door of a JW lady we'd talked with before. Oops. She was nice, but wouldn't accept a Book of Mormon even though she'd liked what we had read and had been preaching to us about being open minded and studying all religions. So uh. That was a little contradictory. Give me a Quran, give me a JW Pamphlet, give me your full verse-by-verse commentary on the Bible. I don't care. I'll read it. I'll even pray about it! I know what I've felt about the Book of Mormon.
Speaking of which. We went back to visit that Hispanic guy we gave a Book of Mormon to. It was raining a little bit, but he stepped outside with us to visit. He said he hadn't read any of it, but shared that he wasn't happy that his children were raising their kids to be Catholic. We stressed the importance of the Book of Mormon in uniting Christianity, and he kinda stepped back and said, "You might not believe this. But my granddaughter was standing with me at the door when you first knocked and talked with us. Every night since, she has asked to read one verse from that book." WHOA. He was mainly of the opinion that "eh, at least the Book of Mormon doesn't teach Catholicism," but we encouraged him to read it, too, and he said he would. That was cool.
We went on exchanges this week with the Little Rock Elders, who just moved apartments. They live upstairs in a locked building, and stood on the balcony to wave us over as we drove up. We got out of the car and they used an RC Helicopter to deliver the keys to us haha. Funny guys. Their was a sign on the inside door that called out whoever was smoking marijuana in their room haha. It told em to use their balcony instead. What a place.
The next day, we were invited to the Spanish Branch's fiesta, which ended up being a wedding reception. We got some fajitas and stuff and mostly tried to stay low while the dancing and karaoke was going on so we could sneak out haha.
Sunday was a special church service with lots of Christmas music. It was really good. We spent the rest of the day, pretty much, trying to find new people to teach. Mainly by knocking doors. We had some good conversations, and some bad ones. It seems like this week, Benton has been especially rough to us missionaries haha.
So after a discouraging day and week, we headed back to the apartment for dinner and call-ins. Basically for the night. But Elder Ramage's area book map showed a member as living in our apartment complex. She didn't show up in my area book, and I didn't recognize the name. So we decided to try the member before we headed in. We knocked and a lady came out and we asked if she was so and so, and she said no and looked kinda nervous. So we introduced ourselves and she asked us "What's the difference between Mormons and Christians?" (A question analogous to "What's the difference between a tree and a plant?") We explained and bore testimony of the Savior and she just started crying. She said she's been running from God and kinda angry at Him since she lost her 10 year old daughter in a car accident a few years ago. She said she knew He had sent us to her door that night, and we shared the miracle it was that we knocked on her door at all. She cried some more and gave us hugs and we set up a time we could come back.
The Lord leads this work! And we don't even know it most of the time. I'm so thankful to be a part of it, and to be representing Him during Christmas this year! I love Him and I need Him!
Merry Christmas! Love,
1916 Brandon Rd, apt. A2
Bryant, AR 72022
Well hello! It's been a crazy week! (When has it not been a crazy week?) Here's all about it.
We started the week off with an appointment we set with a guy we met last week. We were gonna meet him at Taco Bell, but uh... he never showed up. Or responded to our messages. So that's great. But, while we were in the Taco Bell, BYUtv was on, [in Arkansas?! In a Taco Bell?!] so we figured thst was a sign that we were supposed to be there. As we sat in a booth waiting, somebody gave us some money to order lunch, and then another guy walked in wearing a "Halifax" sweater, which is the mission my brother is going to! So we talked with him for a while and felt like that was why we were supposed to be there.
That night, we exchanged with the Little Rock Spanish South elders! Spent the next day bikin' around and trying to find people. Spent some time in a trailer park and ended up helping this funny older lady put up Christmas lights around her trailer, so that was a memorable highlight. Then we biked to have dinner at this place called "Sharks," a hit franchise across central Arkansas. Honestly, I've been wanting to try it for a while, but every Sharks location I see looks sketchier and more questionable than the last. But Elder Worley and I took the plunge. I got catfish nuggets, and he got frog legs. And they were both extremely... decent. About what I expected. Although the consequences came sooner than we thought. 4/10
Exchanged back and had our mission Christmas Social on Wednesday! That was fun. We've got an awesome mission.
My brother Henry also reported to the MTC that day! He's headed for the Canada Halifax mission. Brr!
On Thursday, we got back to it with a District Council that became one of my favorites, and then went to lunch at our favorite hibachi place. (They turned down my suggestion to try Sharks haha)
Worked on my BYU application essays at the church and finished those in time for a dinner at Red Robin with an older couple in the ward who are pretty great. Then we went back up to the church for our meeting with the Stake President and President Hansen, and that was good, too! Apparently the Memphis temple is getting close to completion. Close to opening? Nobody knows. But I hope it's open before I go home! We will find out soon I guess.
After the meeting, President spilled the beans that we were going from 9 zones in our mission to 7. Yikes! So then we got nervous for transfers, cause we didn't know which zones were closing and wondered if Benton was getting the boot.
Friday was rainy all day long. We did our Weekly planning and visited a few people, including an older couple who invited us in and we talked for a while about family history so that was fun. He's not on board with the idea of baptisms for the dead just yet, even with 1 Corinthians 15:29, but we'll get him. :)
And then Saturday was crazy busy. Tried to find some new people to teach. Talked with some crazy people instead. In the middle of our conversation, one guy just pulls out his phone and he's like, "look at this fish I caught."
Me: "Uh... wow. That's... pretty big. Is that a catfish?"
Me: "...When did you catch it?"
Him: *looks at his phone* "July of 2017"
Quit living in the past, Craig. Go get you some big fish this year.
Went to a baptism in the Spanish branch and I played the piano! Then we found 2 more people, and went shopping with $100 Elder Bolos' mom gave him as a family tradition each Christmas to use it to serve other people. We got a christmas tree and a visa and kroger giftcard for a returning member we've been working with for a while. He's grown and changed and recovered and brightened so much. We love that guy. We dropped it off outside his hotel room door, knocked, and ran away.
Then we went to IHOP for dinner cause we had gift cards. Yeah I don't think I'd go if I didn't have a gift card.
We got home and played the waiting game, refreshing our emails over and over again until transfer news came. Elder Bolos is headed to Conway. I'm gonna miss him! I'm staying in Benton! And the Benton Zone is staying. It might be the smallest zone in the mission, though. So there are only 2 companionships we can do exchanges with, now haha. But I'm glad to be staying! This will be a good place for Christmas and my birthday! Central Arkansas is awesome.
I had the opportunity to share my testimony at the mission Christmas party, and in our district council. At the heart of it was my gratitude to be a missionary! Representing Jesus Christ during a season all about Him just makes me appreciate Him more than ever before.
I'm so thankful for my missionary nametag. I wish when we knocked on people's doors, they knew everything that it meant to me. Sacrifice, being away from my family, hours of scripture study every day, change and growth and fervent prayers, the brink of exhaustion being met day after day, miracles witnessed and lives blessed and changed. The nametag isn't about me. It's not about past areas or companions or experiences. It's about Him, Jesus Christ, and His gospel and His church ON. THE. EARTH. TODAY. AND PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW!!
This isn't a vacation. It's fun. There's good food and wonderful friends and people all around. But it's also hard and tiring and depressing. But somehow joyful and rewarding all at the same time? "I can't say the smallest part of what I feel." I'm so glad I've got 4 more transfers ahead of me to do this thing. To let people know! To change and grow some more. To spread the spirit of Christ[mas] in every season, to every person, wherever the Lord needs me. I'm scared of not realizing just how WONDERFUL this opportunity and privilege is until I'm home.
So let's do this.
I love y'all!
On Monday night, my presence darkened the doorstep of the Bryant Great Clips again. I know I said this last time, but yeah I won't do that again.
After that, though, the week grew back. Er, I mean, got better. We exchanged with the assistants to the President that night, and I got to go up to Pinnacle Mountain/downtown Little Rock with Elder Ridgwell.
On Tuesday, we went to a district council meeting, and then Elder Ridgwell got word that Sister Hansen needed some help at the mission home ASAP. So we left the meeting early and hurried to the mission home. I'd stated in a hotel my first night in Arkansas, under the last mission President, and the next transfer was under Pres. Hansen, and the elders stayed in the mission home, too. So I'm one of just a few people left in the mission who hasn't been to the mission home. Until Tuesday, anyway! I got to see it about 6 months earlier than I thought I would haha.
We moved all the furniture out of the living room, and then some maintenance guys took a little chainsaw to the walls in there looking for something. Then we peeled up the carpet, hauled out soaking wet flooring cushions, and tried to pry out some of the floor boards, but it just crumbled instead of coming up, cause they were so wet. I guess a waterline that went into the fridge had gotten a tiny hole in it and leaked who knows how many gallons into the floor. There's a parable in there somewhere.
So that was fun. I got to climb behind the fridge and replace the lil tube. Life pro tip: don't use the plastic kind. Use the braided kind.
We exchanged back that night and then stayed busy the next day just visiting people. Someone pointed us over to try their neighbors. An older lady answered the door and said we could come in. I asked if she was sure, cause... We aren't invited in before introducing ourselves, ever haha. "Yeah, come on in and get warm." Her husband was there, and was 91. Apparently he served in World War II. It was hard to teach them anything new, but it was cool to hear how they credited every blessing in their life to the Lord.
On Thursday, I stayed in Benton on exchanges with Elder Peterson, who I'd served with in Hope. It was fun to relive some Hope adventures! It was a rainy, drizzly day. We were gonna rake some leaves but that didn't happen. We tried visiting a few members. One of them also directed us towards their neighbor.
It was dark, and we couldn't really see around their yard. We ducked under a tree with some low branches and climbed some squeaky wooden steps up the front door, all the while hoping there wasn't a dog loose in their front yard. There was a TV on inside, but no one answered. As soon as we turned to go back down the steps, the porch light turned on and then off again... and a mean sounding dog started barking. Crap. My heart slowed back down a bit when I saw that it was chained up, but didn't relax completely til we got back to the car. When we did, another door in the house opened and someone shouted after us, "Can I help you??" We reluctantly walked back to the house to explain ourselves. The intimidating silhouette in the doorway gave way to the form of what turned out to be a really nice Hispanic guy and his daughter. We told him we were the missionaries, and he gave us the whole "I have a church already" spiel, but I found myself testifying of the Book of Mormon, showing him the picture in the front of Christ visiting the Americas, and telling him what the book had done for me. He came to be so grateful I gave him the book. So that was a highlight of the week.
Another one happened on Friday, after exchanging back, having some Little Caesar's, and catching up with Elder Bolos. A couple we've been working eith for a while said we could come over that night, so we had a good visit. We'd originally intended to just answer their questions about the Plan of Salvation, and not teach them too much new stuff, but one of their questions was what commandments they'd need to keep to be baptized. Golden sounding question. But uh they weren't too fond of the whole tithing idea. They weren't 100% on board about no coffee, tea, or alcohol, either, but they could understand why that's a commandment for the most part. We invited them to do a church tour again and this time they accepted, when we set it up for later that night rather than further into the week.
So we went to the church for a baptism in our zone, and then afterwards set things up for a church tour that went pretty well!
Saturday was busy. We cranked out our weekly planning session, and then drove around town trying to visit people who for the most part weren't home. But that night was also our ward Christmas party! And it was awesome. Because a member of the ward smoked like 1-200 pounds of pork for barbecue. I was in heaven. There were 2 big, deep dishes of the stuff, and a cauldron of barbecue sauce and the whole cultural hall smelled like BBQ. By the time the 100+ people there had eaten, there was still more than half of one of those dishes of meet left. So we were gifted a gallon zip lock bag and grabbed a few pounds. Aw.yeh.
And that gets us to Sunday! Church was good, and we headed up to North Little Rock right afterwards to practice for the missionary musical devotional that night. It ended up being really good, and a lot of fun. It helped not being sick this time around. Got to see some familiar faces from Conway, which was great, too!
It's already Wednesday, now, but I'll save Monday and Tuesday of this week to write about next Monday. Here in a just a few days! It's been good!
So there's the report of the [last] week! My younger brother reports to the MTC today to head to the Canada Halifax Mission! I'm excited for and proud of him! I'm so glad I decided to serve a mission, it's been the best 18 months ever. Hard and tiring and at times boring and nerve-wracking, but always rewarding. I've grown a lot. And I'm so glad I've got another 6 months out here to change and grow some more!
Well I've officially been on my mission for 18 months. 3 weeks in Provo, Utah, and then a few months in Collierville TN, and then it was over to Arkansas, in Conway, Searcy, Hope, and now Benton! It's been the craziest, most adventurous and rewarding 18 months ever!
So just cuz we thought it was funny I thought I'd tell you a story from last P day. Every week, we're supposed to write President Hansen, specifically mentioning the people we are teaching, our companion, things we're studying, and so on. And we were sick last week. So I jokingly wrote that "Elder Bolos is a big fat meanie head because he got me sick," and meant to show it to him as a joke after I finished writing my email. Well... I forgot I'd written that and just copied, pasted, and sent it off to President Hansen haha. We had a good laugh about it in interviews this week.
Started the week off with a District Council in one of the districts in our zone. It was good and I felt like I was back in the MTC during the role plays cuz I got humbled real quick haha. They went to Buffalo Wild Wings for lunch afterward. Yeah. I haven't been back in a BWWs since the incident. You know, the transfer 2, "everything is chicken" incident. So I wasn't super thrilled about going back there, and didn't want to relive that at all, so I got a pulled pork sandwich cuz barbecue is the best. Well... not at BWWs! The State of Delaware was further south than that "southern barbecue." (Yeah, I know, who gets pulled pork at a BWWs?) Plus, they took forever and we were all getting antsy to leave cuz we were burning daylight!
On our way back to the church, we got a call from the mission nurse telling us one of the sisters in our zone was headed to the ER. As it so happened, we were like 3 miles away from the hospital they were going to. And if we'd been pretty much anywhere else in our zone, or had exchanged on time as planned, we'd have been at least a half hour away. So I guess BWWs did us a favor, as much as I hate to admit it.
So we went and gave her a blessing in a little "prayer room" they had, and headed back to exchange. The dumb hospital made them wait for hours in the waiting room. So I kinda wanna punch that place, cuz they weren't admitted until like 10:00 that night. :(
But anyway. We got a really late start on our exchange, and had a 30 minute drive back to Benton. So we got started and headed off to an appointment we had with a lady. One of the young men in the ward came with us. We got there a little early, and decided to knock on some doors while we waited.
Door #1, no one home!
Door #2, no one home!
Door #3, a really nice kid who was so grateful we stopped by and shared a Book of Mormon with him! He seemed to really get how cool it is to have more of God's word! Set an appointment for Saturday!
We crossed the street back to door #1, because there were people out and about, now, and had a good talk with the people there, and then went to our appointment, which was door #4.
Door #4, no one home! Dangit. So with one of our missionaries, and a young man from the ward looking at me wondering what we'd do, we decided to just keep tracting. We picked a house with the lights on across the street.
Door #5, a really awesome couple came out and talked with us to escape their noisy house and the 5 kids horsing around in there. We had an awesome visit with them, and they ended up being our 2nd and 3rd new people to teach that night!
I wish 3/5 was a more consistent ratio, but it's cool to see how the Lord magnified our time, gave us all a good experience, and led us to his prepared children. He is good!
The next morning, we went to see that couple we'd met, and they weren't there. Dangit. But we crossed the street again and talked with another lady... who was kinda crazy. She's had a really hard life with abuse and whatnot. And told us how she hunted down one of the pastors that had abused her and threatened him at gunpoint to resign from the church. He did. "Some days I wish I pulled the trigger," she said. Phew. I'm glad to be in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! There's some crazy drama that goes down in some places down here hahaha.
We exchanged back after that, and Elder Bolos and I spent some time trying to visit a bunch of people we hadn't seen in a while. Had a lesson with a less active family. There were li'l roaches crawling up the walls. But their kids are pretty bright and liked having us over.
We put all our couch cushions in our car to give to some elders who forgot to bring their own while they stay with another companionship for a week. So our back seat was full of couch cushions. And then we gave them a ride to their temporary apartment. I'm not sure how they squished in there, but they did hahaha.
On Thursday, we had MLC, which was great! And then we went and had dinner with the Clarks, the parents of the young man who came out teaching with us. We had some yummy deer steaks, and then had a pretty good lesson with his girlfriend afterward! It's cool to see how the Lord prepares people! She's awesome.
Then on Friday, we had our own District Council, and then met with President Jones, of the ALRM mission presidency at his house for a personal leadership training meeting that was really cool. I've come to like being humbled and seeing how much distance I have yet to go, because it just shows me my potential! I've got a lotta potential and a lotta room for improvement, which means if I do all I can, things are looking good. :)
Visited a few more people, and then a member dropped dinner off for us before we headed up to the Stake Nativity Festival the church put on this weekend. They gave us chicken spaghetti and it was so so good. Chicken spaghetti is a blessing.
At the nativity festival, Elder Bolos got recruited to be Joseph in the live nativity, and a 2 other missionaries and I were snagged to be wise men. So that was fun haha. At least the other missionaries not involved in it sure thought so! :)
Afterwards, we got the whole zone together in the high council room and just shared stuff we learned from MLC. It's fun having the whole zone in one place.
Saturday happened, and I hit my 18 month mark! We met some of the family we had day-after-thanksgiving with last week at a Starbucks for a lesson on the Book of Mormon. Before we even started they had presents for us. Mine had 3 rolls of film, and Elder Bolos got a thrifted film camera. WHAT. That was way too nice and I'm way too excited to shoot some film. I don't have my film camera with me, though, so I'll have to search or get it sent out here or something.
They were pretty well-researched... unfortunately just in those parts of the gospel that people seem to disagree about the most. Lack of archeological evidence for the Book of Mormon, grace vs. works, the trinity, becoming like God...
They were still very respectful, and didn't ask any questions I hadn't already asked myself. I wish I could explain better that 90% or more of their concerns can be answered by the Bible, more than the Book of Mormon. And that the Book of Mormon doesn't contradict the Bible, but that it may contradict one's interpretation of the Bible. One of 'em said "If I could just see the plates..." Well, that wouldn't change as much as we'd like to think it would.
I know this is Christ's church! I don't know where else I could go to find doctrine of God's universal love to the living and dead, or to find prophets and apostles that maintain "unity of faith," or teachings that bring so much joy and help us become more Christlike in such real ways.
So anyway. We had interviews with President Hansen after that, and then were surprised to see our apartment manager lady at the nativity festival that night! Our power had gone out that afternoon and we'd stopped in to ask about it, and given her an invitation. She brought a friend and seemed to really enjoy it, so that was cool! I guess that's probably why the power had gone out. To get us to invite her.
Church was good yesterday! We had a few less active/returning members we've been working with for a while at church, so that was good. We made fried rice for dinner and it was actually really tasty. Then we headed to a member's house to watch the First Presidency Christmas Devotional, which was wonderful btw. (I think it should be on www.lds.org, if you haven't seen it!)
During testimony meeting, one lady shared her testimony from the pulpit on "the Miracle of the Egg," which I will abridge for you as follows:
"The last egg in my carton had a little crack in it, but being the frugal woman that I am, I put it in my next carton of eggs to save the morning. I wasn't going to make it for my husband in case it made him sick, but I planned to make it for myself for breakfast. Well, the next morning, when I went to make breakfast, the egg was gone brothers and sisters. I know that Heavenly Father made that egg disappear because it would have hurt me real bad if I'd eaten it."
She was so serious she looked a little confused as to why people were chuckling. But hey, who am I to say whether it was a miracle or not? Miracles still happen!
It's been a busy week. But I like busy. The mission field is the place to be! Especially if it's in Arkansas.
P.S. next week, my p day will be on Wednesday, so if you're worried cuz you haven't heard from me next Monday, that's why. :)
1916 Brandon Rd, apt. A2
Bryant, AR 72022
Serving A Mission!
What's all this about? As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, it is expected of me that I will serve a two-year mission. (And yeah, the "riding bikes and wearing nametags and knocking on doors" kind of mission.) But this isn't something I'm doing because it's expected of me... I'm doing this because the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ has blessed my life SO much, in SO many ways. I can't think of a greater honor or responsibility than being able to play a part in someone's story of finding and enjoying these blessings, too.
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(After June 20, 2017)
Elder Oliver Wrigley Dahl
Arkansas Little Rock Mission
905 Kierre Dr
North Little Rock AR 72116