I forgot to mention last week that I had dinner with the Dahl Family! I forget the exact relation, but we are like 2nd or 3rd cousins, because Bro. Dahl's grandpa, and my Grandpa Dahl are cousins! It was kinda fun, and affirmation that Dahl's are cool wherever you go. (Also, their son Chase has been following me on Instagram since before I even knew I was coming to Arkansas/Tennessee! How cool is that?)
Is skimboarding against the rules as a missionary?
Whether it is or isn't, it might be a stretch to call what I did in the muddy, grassy stream that formed from falling rain in the back yard of our apartment complex on a skimboard I found by the dumpster a few months ago "skimboarding."
It was fun anyway.
That night the sky was glowing this crazy red/orange color. I thought for sure the world was ending right then and there, I've never seen anything like it.
Besides my failed skimboarding attempt about 10 yards from our door, going to the parking lot of our apartment complex to pick up dinner was about as far from our apartment as we had gotten all day on our p day thus far.
Dinner came in a box. A large box. With a whole sheet of enchiladas, another full of taquitos, another with rice, and another with refried beans. Plus a bag with a salad and a generous plate of cookies. I dunno if they realized we don't share our apartment with another set of missionaries haha. We even had the Elders from Holly Springs help us with the leftovers and we didn't finish them all! Good stuff.
Thankfully, at the end of our P Day, Brother Boggs came to the rescue. We got to leave our apartment and go to the exciting destination of Kohl's. I dont remember why we went there in the first place. Maybe to look at ties?
Elder Bingham found a pair of black work jeans and I found a pair of black jeans as well, since the ones I brought with me are now too skinny to fit me. And there was a BOGO 50% off pants deal, but even with that, the pants would've been more than 50$/each... A little out of my missionary budget.
Brother Boggs joked that if Elder Bingham could fit in my pair of pants, he would pay for them. Before I knew it, they'd shaken on it, and he was trying my pants on. To Bro. Boggs' surprise, (and maybe Elder Bingham's, too haha) he fit! Needless to say, we got some new jeans that night haha. And I thought he was joking.
And, as someone who before my mission practically lived in black skinny jeans, it's soooooo nice to have a pair that fits me again. Oh man. Seriously the best thing.
Had district meeting the next day, and I felt good about it. Like maybe I was called to be district leader for my own benefit. To help me feel important and contributing and making a difference. Because like, I know that I am, and I that I am in missionary work as well, but not seeing the fruits of that gets pretty disappointing sometimes. So being able to say that district meeting was good, is the kind of success that helps boost me up for the rest of the week. And I learn a lot from that group.
Wednesday was a definite highlight for the week! We had received this Bible Referral (meaning, he ordered a free Bible from mormon.org) like a month ago, who lives a pretty good distance away. The number we had didn't work, and he never responded to our email. We decided to help Bro. Gaar out with their new house they are remodeling kinda near where this guy lives, and then go try to meet him.
After a stop at this family owned gas station for a sketchy looking ham sandwich (that ended up being some of the best tasting ham I've ever had... I guess that's their specialty?) Bro. Gaar drove us to visit the bible referral in person. He is on dialysis 3x a week, and we happened to catch him on one of the days he was home! (A "happy coincidence" or sweet miracle in and of itself!)
Turns out this guy is super cool. He reminds me of one of my good friends from back home, and expressed a lot of opinions and desires that exactly fit the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which is super cool. We gave him a Book of Mormon, too, and he talked about his family, and the miracles he has seen in his life. He made sure we got his correct number, and then called us the next day to talk about how he thinks God put us in his life for a reason. Then he texted us the next day haha. We will see him again on Wednesday of this week!
We then helped out at the Gaar's new house for a bit, moving furniture, chucking moldy logs off their property, and testing out their cool rope swing. :)
That night we had Chinese takeout with the Whitakers for dinner, and my fortune cookie was kinda spooky. I've come to believe in the magic of fortune cookies while on my mission. Every one I've had has been pretty relevant. (For example: like the 2nd fortune cookie I got, early on in my mission said: "don't give up, the beginning is always the hardest." Spooky, huh??) Anyway, this fortune cookie said: "You constantly struggle for self improvement - and it shows."
At first I was a little salty, cause I was like "dang, I just got roasted by a fortune cookie," interpreting it as it shows to people that my endeavors to improve are clearly a struggle. But Bro. Whitaker helped me interpret it another way, that it is clear to others that I am trying to improve. I liked that interpretation better haha.
Self improvement has been a struggle. And still very much is. But it's not like we ever get to the point where we don't have to worry about self improvement anymore. And that won't ever be easy.
(Since we had just come from service, Sis. Whitaker complimented our new black jeans and normal outfit saying it looked like we just walked out of a J. Crew magazine haha. It was good to feel like myself again.)
Had another fun dinner appointment with a younger family in the ward, whose 3 year old daughter was really funny haha. She kept calling us "missioranies," [mish-oh-rain-ees] asked if we were husbands, and informed us that "red light means stop." Her dad was telling us he had let her make a character on one of his video games before, and she made a skull-faced robot with axes for arms that just murdered on that game. She named him "Mr. Dingles" and I was dying laughing haha.
We went over to Brother Boggs' house on one particularly slow afternoon and raked all the leaves in his back yard. I was reminded of the scripture that talks about how even if we spend our whole lives in God's service, we will still be unprofitable servants. There's no way our raking a few leaves--or even a lot of leaves--could "repay" him even just for our new pants on Monday, let alone the rides places, the fun p days, and the yummy meals. And then he just kept spoiling us after that. We can't repay that guy, the same way the Lord is always gonna bless us more than what we can ever work for.
A lady I've been teaching since I got here in Collierville almost 6 months ago dropped us, saying she just wants to keep going to her own church. Not a huge surprise, but definitely a bummer. I've grown a lot as a teacher since my first visit with her, and I have her to thank for a lot of that. But I kinda felt walking in there that it might be the last time I teach her. So its not wasted effort or time at all, it's just disappointing that it ends like this for us. Some other missionaries will get her eventually.
Biking back home that day was rough. The weather has been mostly gorgeous this week, like long sleeve shirt weather. But we were biking home kinda late, right at sunset. Sunset started when we left (shortly after meeting someone we later learned had killed somebody with a steak knife before!) And it was dark by the time we got back to our apartment. It gets dark fast here. It was cooling down, too, so my nose, ears, cheeks, and hands most of all, just froze while biking back. But I still got back hot and sweaty. It was such a painful feeling. And biking hasn't gotten much easier since starting, so I had one of my first real "what the heck am I doing with my life" moments on one of the slight inclines before getting back. My legs are burning, I'm sweating, but my hands are frozen, and we'd just gotten dropped by a long time investigator. Not a fun time, but the sentiment passed after having sat down for a good long time haha.
That night, Kohls was doing some kind of sale, and Brother Boggs had some newly acquired Kohls cash to spend. :) he called us and volunteered to buy us gloves or scarves since it's getting cold out, now. That definitely helped me know the Lord is looking out for me. He won't just make all of my pains disappear, but he will use some awesome people to help me out a bit. Those gloves are gonna save me from so much pain.
On Saturday, we helped a young couple move, and I got to be a speed bump while they moved an old upright piano down the stairs. (Thankfully they didn't need me to actually do my job. Too bad only so many people can fit around a piano going down a staircase.)
Then we helped another couple move some cabinets from their garage upstairs to a bathroom, which took all of about 3 and a half minutes. They then took us out to eat at Interstate BBQ, and that was pretty dang good. Cole slaw on the bbq sammich is the way it comes from the kitchen. (And the way it's generally done in the south. Good stuff.)
We continued helping prep Brother Boggs yard for fall after that, with another break in between with a stop at Burlington Coat Factory (which made me miss wearing normal clothes) and this international farmers market that was so cool.
Like this place made me feel like I was in a different country. They had a hispanic/latin side of the store, and an oriental side of the store. They had all kinds of cultural items and food, etc., ranging from Maseca and ketchup to dried squid, this weird aloe vera drink, and rambutans. There was a butcher shop and a seafood market in there, and that place was hopping. I saw one other white person in there. It was cool.
Fun food experience of the week: that aloe vera drink I mentioned. We got a peach flavored one (because I am addicted to peach juice yikes) and it is SO GOOD. It tastes like normal peach juice, but there are little "globules" (for lack of a better word, I know "globules" doesn't sound appetizing) of aloe that have been flavored as well. It reminds me of those little squishy water sphere things you can use to water plants, or like boba tea, but smaller little gooies in the drink. I guess its really popular somewhere in asia, and is about as cheap as water. Too bad walmart doesnt have it. 14/10.
Probably the spiritual highlight of this week was actually the Primary Program. (The Sunday once a year where children under the age of 12 sing songs and share their testimonies for the majority of the main meeting.) It was fun seeing so many of the kids who had been so fun with us at dinner appointments over the past 6 months. Like siblings for an evening at a time haha.
I started my morning not feeling very great about my accomplishments and our progress this week, and just prayed that I'd be able to feel the spirit that day. And boy, did I.
Troy Dahl, one of those 3rd cousins or whatever I talked about earlier, actually played a piano solo as a part of the program. He did a really really good job. He missed a few notes here, and hesitated there, but it was awesome! I watched as he sat down, made eye contact with his mom, and just looked disappointed in himself. His mom shook her head and mouthed that he did a great job, and he wouldn't accept it. In my head, I wanted to tell him "A few mistakes doesn't make it not awesome!" I felt so strongly that he shouldn't feel disappointed by such an awesome performance.
As I thought about that, I realized that it was that very message that my Heavenly Father was trying to tell me. When I realized it, I felt the spirit so strong I almost started crying haha. "Just because you make a few mistakes here, miss something there, mess this one thing up, doesn't make your performance or service not awesome!"
And man, did I need to hear that.
The primary then sang the song "Nephi's Courage" and I was moved again by Nephi's bold declaration that he would "go and do the things the Lord commands, I know the Lord provides a way, he wants me to obey!" I felt reenergized to do just that. And I thought about how I already have decided to "go and do" by being out here to begin with.
And finally, they sang "When I Am Baptized," one of the songs I played at Caroline's baptism about 2 months ago. It brought back some of the happy, proud, spiritual feelings I had then, and reminded me of the joy that comes with baptism.
So by the end of this primary program, it was a struggle keeping my eyes dry haha. I had been comforted, reminded, and encouraged, in just the right ways. Our Heavenly Father surely communicates to us through music, and through promptings of the spirit through our own thoughts.
It's been another kinda slow, tough, week, but I've definitely seen the Lord's hand in my life. I want so badly to be a means by which others can feel His hand, too. His love is the best feeling ever and I want more opportunities to help others feel that. I pray that there will be more instances of this to write home about next week!
Until then, look for ways that God is blessing you in your life this week, and then BE a way that God blesses others!
Love, peace, and chicken grease,
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866 Schilling Rd, Apt. #103
Collierville, TN 38017
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