I hit my 9 month mark this week! So that's crazy. Even if it's not a notable milestone or anything. And now we are pretty much a week through March!
Last week, I was writing you from Conway, Arkansas. And now I'm just one county over to the east, in Searcy. The Conway Zone no longer exists, and I am currently a Zone Leader over the Searcy Zone, which has 10 companionships total. My companion is Elder Ogaard, from Mountain Home, Idaho. And Elder Carter from Prescott, Arizona! Yup. I'm in a trio again. Elder Ogaard is my fellow ZL. I replaced Elder Smalling here, who is now our new Assistant to the President.
Searcy is about a third of the size of Conway. It's an older town, and in that sense has an equal share of charming and run down. I guess the factory where they make pop tarts is here in town, and it employs a lot of people. It's also known for--according to the sign as you drive in--Harding University. Which is like the Church of Christ's equivalent to our BYU. Only a lot more expensive.
The actual area we cover is actually several times bigger than Conway, though, because it encompasses several smaller towns over an hour drive away. We share the ward with the STLs. Our apartment is the longest running lease in the mission, having housed missionaries for the last 15 years. ...yeah. [As a fun fact, apparently the next-longest-running-lease is only 5 years.]
The apartment is still standing. And it works. And it has quirks. It's not too gross until you open a closet, cupboard, or drawer and just see 15 years of missionary clutter in there. There are 2 bathrooms, which I was very happy about! Buuut only one of them has a shower. And there's 3 of us. And because it's a rule that we have to sleep in the same room, there are 3 twin mattresses almost side to side in the bedroom.
So... I'm not super stoked about the apartment, but I've got some good companions, and the work here in Searcy seems like it has a ton of potential. So I'm excited about that!
Last week, I had my last David's burger in Conway. The next closest one is in Cabot, which fortunately is in our Zone. Finished packing up, and went to Umami's one last time with the Routt's for Evan's Birthday. Gonna miss that family!
The next day we got up early and drove to North Little Rock for exchanges. Gonna miss Elder Evans a lot, too! He's in Oxford, Mississippi, now. About as far away as you can get from Searcy. I guess we had too much fun.
Got picked up there by my new companions. And oh what joy, I'm the designated driver. [Sarcasm is difficult to express in written form, but suffice it to say I'm not a huge fan of driving, especially in new places and when people don't give great directions.] I guess Elder Ogaard got into an accident on his mission so he's not allowed to, and I was just assigned to be the driver. And not of a Corolla anymore. No sirree. We're in small town Arkansas, now, so we drive a truck.
I drive a truck, now.
[A chunky white Nissan Frontier, aw yeah.] Say goodbye to making tight turns and having a short turning radius. Oh, and Searcy doesn't believe in having shoulders on the road, so that's fun, too.
But it beats biking, and I drive a truck, now, so I don't complain!!! We actually fit in, now.
My first morning in Searcy, the painful morning alarm went off. We said prayers and started exercising. I stood up for a second and checked the time. Wait a minute... that can't be right. 6:14?!
The missionary handbook instructs us to get up at 6:30 every morning. And I treasure every minute of sleep that I can get. At first, I was a little miffed, but when it was 7:40 and I had caught up on journaling, showered, shaved, exercised, and had breakfast, and had time to spare for extra studies... I realized that this was gonna be one of those hard things that makes me better. So 6AM mornings it is.
Our bishop went out with us to visit some people, and took us to... Tacos 4 Life for dinner! Ayooo. I think I can like Searcy.
We spent a lot of time this week revamping our whiteboards with investigstor and zone info. It was kind of a mess before, too, and now it at least makes a little bit of sense to me. I'm still trying to figure out what areas and people are in our Zone, let alone their investigators. But I'm learning!
I also spent about 2-3 hours organizing our pantry, which we use as a library for all the cards, pamphlets, and books we hand out. It looked like a tornado hit in there. And now it looks better! I haven't had the courage to do the same to the bathroom or kitchen yet. But it's coming. (Gulp)
Had a leadership meeting with the Stake President, and scavenged some spaghetti from the Cub Scout blue and gold banquet that was happening. So that was a good break from the "new people and area etc." information firehose.
The next day was gorgeous. Like textbook definition of a beautiful sunshiney day. Saw a couple kids playing in the street on their bikes and thought that was weird when we realized it was like 11:00AM. We soon found out that because of the rain the day before, school had been canceled. Not a snow day, but a flood day. Some parts of the towns outside of Searcy I guess had pretty badly flooded roads. Interesting!
Chatted w 3 Pentecostal ladies for a while, and that was awesome. They're going through hard times, and want to quit smoking, and just "amen" and "yes, Jesus,"'ed through our whole prayer with them.
Went to visit a less active guy who lives out in a trailer next to an abandoned house with his grandmother and 29 cats. Hoo boy. Maybe this was the Lord telling me to be more grateful for our apartment. Of all the gross things in my mission I've seen, this takes the cake. The trailer was dark and there was furniture scattered everywhere. The guy was barefoot and had flecks of cat poop between his toes, and cat hair matted to his heel. You could smell the place walking up to it. I had to try to hold back my gag reflex a couple times. The abandoned house with the sunken in roof would have been an upgrade.
We had an awesome end of the day, though! We have a Book of Mormon class followed by board games afterward every thursday night. An 18 year old recent convert named Braxton [who was baptized like... last week] actually taught the class and did it phenomenally. He goes to that CoC Harding University, and hadn't told his parents yet that he had joined the Church. [We heard just yesterday though that his dad was supportive, yay!]
There was us, the sisters, 3 members, and 2 girls who came, too. They were also raised Church of Christ and were just kinda checking our church out. They stayed for board games and we played a pretty fun game of "would you rather?"
After some time, we just stopped playing the game to answer their questions. They had noticed a lot of hypocrisy in their growing up years, and didn't like how there were questions you didn't ask in their church. They were obviously impressed by our candor and openness about some of the difficult questions they asked. It was really awesome. I left feeling like they were friends, and hopefully they left feeling something different and good about us and the restoration of the gospel.
The next morning, we called bingo at a retirement/assisted living home. I got to sit by Dale & Marvin. Marvin was 94 and a WWII Navy veteran, who had essentially circumnavigated the globe on an aircraft carrier, and celebrated his birthday the day the peace treaty had been signed. The two of them cracked me up. My job was to "keep them honest" and help them if they missed anything. Dale won 2 bingos in a row, winning a tub of tootsie rolls each time. When he saw what was inside after i opened one for him, he realized, "Oh, im not supposed to eat these, I have diabetes." Which is maybe more sad than it is funny, but I thought it was funny.
That afternoon, we had our first exchange of the transfer with Beebe, a small town south of us about 20 minutes. Both Elder Carter & I stayed down there with Elder Riley, who had been in my Conway Zone for a couple weeks before getting moved out. It was weird being the senior companion again, over the 3 of us. There are 5 or 6 other areas in our Zone, where I've been out longer than both companions there. And that's WEIRD. I still feel new!
We did a lot of finding, and chatted w some interesting folks. Met someone who worked at taco bell, and that being one of the few restaurants there in Beebe, we decided to have dinner there. We then went to a less active family's house and read the Book of Mormon with them and chatted for a while.
They told us the story of this old guy who lived up in the boonies of Arkansas and rode a little scooter thing all over town. He carried his cane with him and would wack a dent into any car that came too close to him. The way the story ended was that one day he got hit by a car and died. The end.
The next day we exchanged back and raked a lady's yard. Had some of Elder Ogaard's self-proclaimed "world famous" fried chicken that was "mediocre at best," as my joke went. [It was actually pretty good, don't worry. Not too raw to have killed me, anyway. 🤣] Started our weekly planning and made some cookies for some folks who committed to come to church, to remind them. Only 1 of the 3 actually came, so I guess the cookies weren't as good as his fried chicken.
Sunday was my 1st Sunday in Searcy, and it was Fast & Testimony meeting so I could introduce myself, too. We had a guy come to church after having felt a prompting to talk to the missionaries from Quitman, AR the day before. We arranged him a ride and he actually came!
Spiritual thought of the day/revelation I received from testimony meeting:
I am grateful for my Savior Jesus Christ. I understand the concept of His sacrifice and death for me. The drops of his blood that fell as he shouldered my pains and the consequences of my mistakes. I have felt His love and peace flow within me more strongly than I can describe. I know I am eternally indebted to him. And that through him is my happiness possible.
I can begin to comprehend only with an earthly level of understanding and gratitude, His sacrifice, and the pain he has spared me from, and the energy with which He invested Himself in my life.
When I stand at the judgement bar, I suspect that the level of gratitude I attain in this life will be meager in comparison to what surely will be a humbling, painful, and joyful experience as I realize just how much He went through, just how much He did, and just how much He loves me.
I don't know if mistakes will hurt afresh, or if, in reality, through His cleansing power they won't even be remembered. But surely, standing in His glory and knowing that it is because of Him that our purity is possible will our current levels of gratitude seem insignificant in comparison to what we will then feel.
That day, we also secretly requested everyone in the zone fast for the Beebe area. They called us that night to share the news that a member had given them a pretty solid referral! Then we shared the news that the whole zone had been fasting for them that day. Cool cool stuff. [Bonus, this morning we also got a referral from a member! Blessings all over the place!]
After church, we gave a blessing to a lady who fell before church started, and as we were leaving, another lady, clearly with some kind of mental illness, asked for us to "lay hands on her," too. She was a character and very absorbed in her can of Pringles and her diet coke. So we gave 2 blessings that day.
We gave another one this morning, and I dunno if I've ever felt the spirit as strongly while giving a blessing before. It was a blessing of comfort to a kid my younger brother's age, whose aunt had just committed suicide. His mom, the woman's sister, also received one, but E. Ogaard gave that one. While those blessings were happening, I definitely felt like the love of the Savior was being channeled through me, and I was allowed to feel just a portion of the love He has for them. I could feel how much He understood their pain. What a sacred privilege. I had a hard time saying amen and holding the tears back.
So it's been a good week. Busy, and full of adjusting. I'm going to be gone 3 or 4 nights next week on exchanges. Gah. Sometimes I just wanna work in my own area. I wanna be able to know our ward and investigators. But it is what it is I guess.
I'm determined to let my time in Searcy build me to be the best me that I have ever been. I can confidently say after this week, so far so good. That's a good feeling.
My invitation to y'all: think about your gratitude for your Savior. Go out of your way to call or visit someone you either haven't in a while or don't usually. Don't take the time we have to improve as people and share existence with those around us for granted.
I love y'all! The gospel is so undeniably true. Searcy is awesome. I'm happy!
909 Holmes Rd, apt. 209
Searcy, Arkansas, 72143
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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