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
Take a picture of your letter and email it to me?
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.
In the South, all these people read that you need to be baptized by water, and heard something about baptism by fire. So they invented the DEEP FRYER.
*and with that high-saturated-fat sizzling sound playing in your brain, lemme tell you about this week*
(It's been a good one.)
Met a 93 year old amateur radio ham who lives in a trailer in the middle of ~nowhere~ on a plot of land he got from his wife's family, who got it from one General Robert E. Lee back in the day.
Had a good lesson and another lesson fall through after that, and then we had a good ole summer storm as we rode back with the Lims to Hope. It poured. The fastest setting for the windshield wiper didn't cut it again, and the dip in the road going up to our apartment complex was flooded. Water splashed well above the windows as we drove through it. We ran from the car to our building and took cover under the balcony for a few seconds before braving the uncovered staircase going up go our floor. I dropped something on the way up, adding another 2 seconds in the rain as I bent down to grab it, before making it to our floor. All in all, probably barely 10 seconds in the rain in total? We might as well have taken a shower, though haha. Everything was soaked. I went back outside with a cup and filled it by holding it out under the awning for a few seconds. It was awesome. https://youtu.be/o_8b0d1q_Ww
Summer storms are back. We had hot, cloudless afternoons and stormy humid evenings most of the week.
The next day we raked leaves, which was about as fun as you'd expect. For better or worse it was hot enough outside that the top layer of leaves were dry, but there were a lot of soggy leaves under them. We came back Friday morning to finish her yard and it took a few more hours than we expected. We lined her whole side of the street with leaves, all moved one (small) wheelbarrow load at a time. Church bells went off in the distance, chiming several hymns, so that was really cool.
On Wednesday, we went back up to Debbie's, our 'wonderful' lady who is unable to speak. She picked on me to say the prayer again. She had read a few chapters ahead of what we had invited her to read in the Book of Mormon. We asked if she had prayed to know if what we were teaching her was true. She nodded.
"Do you feel like God answered your prayer?"
She nodded again.
"How did you feel when you prayed?"
We gave her her little notepad and she wrote her signature answer - "wonderful."
We then invited her to be baptized, and she accepted. June 16th is going to be a wonderful day.
That night we went to the Hibachi food truck in town to celebrate. Dadgum that stuff is good. Chicken fried rice, y'all. And yum yum sauce, can't forget that.
On Thursday we worked on putting together a facebook post to volunteer to serve people. We got a bunch of likes, but no bites. :( We just wanna help!
We met one of our former investigators that afternoon and discovered that he used to live in our exact apartment. So that was kinda cool!
In trying to help one of the members with a broken washing machine, we went to this old appliance store to ask if they knew any of the repair codes or something. (Idk, it all went over my head.) One guy came in and joked about Mormons having horns and asked a couple other random jokes. ("What kind of business is King Kong in? / Monkey business." And "What state is round on the outsides and high in the middle? / Ohio.")
The guy at the desk helping us informed us that that guy was his brother. And that he'd been dropped on his head as a child. I'm not certain he was joking.
Friday was the day we finished that yard, and that night the Routts from Conway were driving through Hope and stopped by to feed us dinner! We went to a burger place downtown that was pretty good. It was so awesome to spend some time with them again. They crack me up.
They asked what my adventures were in Hope so far, and I couldn't really give them an answer. I dunno. We haven't really had a ton of funny or crazy experiences out here in the 7 weeks I've been here. Which made me kinda sad, thinking about it haha. But in thinking about all the amazing and hilarious people I've met out here, I've come to look at them as the best adventure that's here.
We met with Debbie again on Saturday, and had a great lesson. She is reading a lot of the Book of Mormon and is enjoying it! She was excited for church on Sunday.
We had tried another one of our investigators, Carmelita, on the way up to Debbie, and we decided to try her one more time on the way back. She was home this time and welcomed us and Elder Lim right in. It had been a few weeks since our last visit, but she asked great questions about revelation, and prophets. She had heard that people go to heaven right after they die, and disagreed with that and didn't know why. She had been baptized as a kid because her grandma told her to, and she didn't feel comfortable with that. As we testified of the restoration again, you could see the puzzle pieces connect in her mind as tears filled her eyes. We invited her to be baptized as well, and she accepted. July 7th is going to be another good day. :)
That night, Sister Lim fixed a homemade dinner of turkey and cheesy potatoes and rolls and corn on the cob. Oh man that filled my soul as much as it did my stomach. I'm not a bad cook, but having something other than fast food and what I make was amazing hahaha.
(That said, I have become very very proud of my roasted potatoes and chicken pesto gyro cooking game. They are dang good. So... look forward to that, future wife of mine.)
After dinner, we did a lot of planning. Both Debbie and Carmelita were planning on coming to church the next day, and we had gotten a text from the mother of one of the main families in the branch asking us to speak and play piano. 2/3 members of the branch presidency were also going to be gone, and so we were kinda worried if there would be anyone else at church at all!
But, I prepared a talk that night, and gave it to a good group of 25 people in the branch the next morning. It ended up being good, and both Debbie and Carmelita enjoyed church! Yay!
I've been learning a lot this week. Mostly the hard way, it feels like haha. But it's been well worth the cost of admission. I guess the main takeaway is the need to show evidence of Repentence. Repentence isn't just feeling bad and asking for forgiveness. When we show just how much we want forgiveness by the things that we do and change in our life, that is when the heavens open and the joy and peace we are seeking are given. It's a simple idea and probably one I would have just nodded along to before this week. But I feel like I get it more this week. I'm thankful the Lord is patient. He is so good.
I'm so thankful for the opportunity I've had to really feel like an instrument in His hands this week. We've helped two bible referrals come to church and accept to be baptized. In Hope, Arkansas - the "armpit" of the Arkansas Little Rock Mission. I'm so excited for each of them and for all the good, blessings, miracles, and crazy people that will yet cross my path here. [Romans 12:12]
Sending my love, and hoping you can feel His. Happy Memorial Day!
I hit my year mark on Thursday!?
I hit my year mark on Thursday!?
303 West 23rd Street, Apt. 9C
Hope, AR 71801
Well hello, my friends! I hope you know how much I love you. Truly.
It's been a long week. But not one void of goodness and miracles, cause that's how the Lord works. So I'll share those!
We had our district meeting in Camden. Instead of me telling you how my own district meeting went, I'll just share my takeaway with you in the form of a quote by Pres. Spencer W. Kimball.
"Each of us has more opportunities to do good and to be good than we ever use. These opportunities lie all around us. Whatever the size of our present circle of effective influence, if we were to improve our performance even a little bit, that circle would be enlarged. There are many individuals waiting to be touched and loved if we care enough to improve in our performance."
BAM. For more goodness, you NEED to read his article, "Jesus: the Perfect Leader," found in the August 1979 Ensign Magazine. It makes sense though, right? As we become better people, God will trust us to bless more of His children.
After the meeting, we went to the Red Habanero, a little Mexican restaurant. Even though they got my order wrong, my chile relleno was the best I've had in the south. (Which, granted isn't saying too much, but it really was very good!)
We then exchanged with the missionaries in Camden, and Elder Smith and I rode with the Lim's back home to Hope. 20 minutes down the hour long drive, we get a call. Elder Anderson had accidentally taken the car keys. Which also had our apartment key. So we found a half way point and drove back.
We had our second appointment with Debbie, the wonderful lady we met last week who can't speak. We asked who she would like to say the opening prayer, and she pointed at me again. I did, and then we taught her the Restoration lesson in full. When we asked if she had any questions, she wrote on her little notepad, "You said there was a living prophet today?" (There is!) And we explained that to her and showed her a picture of Russel M. Nelson and explained what a cool guy he was. I love that man.
"Any more questions?" We asked. She shook her head no and wrote, "what's my homework?" So we gave her chapter 2, the restoration pamphlet, and a DVD of the First Vision to watch. When asked who she wanted to say the closing prayer, she again pointed at me, and I obliged. What a sweet lady.
That night, we had one of the three socials for the branch in Hope. There were others in the neighboring towns of Nashville and Prescott. The members in each of those towns would get together for a spiritual thought and some dessert and games. We set up the church building for the one in Hope, and the Lim's came with Sloppy Joes and brownies. ...nobody else came hahaha. But we still did everything. Elder Lim conducted, I played "Give, Said the Little Stream" for the opening song, we had a prayer, the thought, and then played scripture trivia. I lost by one point cause I didn't know all 12 of the tribes of Israel smh. I was close, though! (Zebulon got me.)
Elder Smith and I drove back towards Camden the next day and exchanged back. We had the keys this time. :) we had a great lesson with another lady who was kinda distraught. She works in the elementary school kitchen, and had apparently left the dishwasher on over the weekend? (I guess you need to turn those big ones off when you're done?) Anyway, the pressure and water had built up in the pipes and dripped on the ceiling tiles until they burst and water flooded the kitchen. They had to turn the water off for the whole school haha. I felt bad for her, but it was also kind of a funny story worth sharing. She's a great lady.
Another day, we were looking for service opportunities and went to ask the lady who runs the museum in town. (The one with the Bill Clinton cutouts lol) She was confused, and another lady pulled up to where we were talking with her, and she pointed at the lady in the car and basically told us, "I dunno, guys, why don't you ask her for service? She's old." So... We did. And she did need our help! So we'll see what we can do this week haha.
Random note: I love giving hispanic people copies of the Book of Mormon cause they think it's cool that their ancient ancestors might've known about Christ, too. And also cause their receiving a Book of Mormon is a fulfillment of prophecy in 2 Nephi 3:15 and D&C 3:16-18, (and a few other places, too!)
On Saturday, Elder Anderson had a doctor's appointment in Little Rock, so with 200+ extra miles under our belt for the day, I figured we should at least stop at Tacos 4 Life on our way home. Awww yeah.
That afternoon, we followed up with Debbie. She picked on me to say the opening prayer again and told us by holding up two fingers and a smile that she had watched the Restoration DVD twice. (And kept her other commitments!) When we asked at the end if she had any questions, she pointed at the "Come Worship With Us" page at the end of the pamphlet and committed to come to church next week!
When we got home, we had a Baptist church pamphlet in our door. Our whole apartment complex got them haha. The one in our door was about a baseball player's deathbed repentence. And "just say this prayer and you're saved" type of stuff. I mean prayer is important. But also the verse after the one they quoted talks about being baptized! And Christ told a guy who was keeping all the commandments to go sell everything that he owned and give it to the poor. If Christ expected that much of one guy then, do we really think he's changed? I dunno. I don't think I can buy into a "religion" that isn't hard. That doesn't expect a lot from you. It sure would be nice if a prayer was all it took. But it wouldn't be as fulfilling. I don't think those people are going to hell by any means. They're just missing out on the blessings of doing hard things.
On Sunday, Elder Beheshti, our area seventy here, came to the Hope Branch to accompany his wife who was on assignment to speak about JustServe.org. He spoke on the Sabbath Day and it was great. Afterward, we gave our chicken catching friend a blessing for his hands, which were swollen about like when you inflate a rubber glove like a balloon. The chicken catchin' life is not for me, y'all.
We also did some service in downtown Hope, chipping plaster off a brick wall with a hammer and mallet. The original building burned down and was rebuilt in 1912. Dadgum. That's some old plaster. Hopefully I don't get cancer and my sore arms are the end of it.
Got transfer news and both Elder Anderson and I are staying in Hope! It's gonna be a good one. I'm excited to keep working with the amazing people we have! More miracles are in store!
Who am I?
~3 Nephi 5:13~
What am I doing and where am I doing it?
Love y'all! Have a good week! Do some service! - justserve.org
Tell me about this week!
Tell me about last week!
303 West 23rd Street, Apt. 9C
Hope, AR 71801
It's been a more difficult transfer, but man oh man. So many prayers came true this week. It's been a good one.
It began with some Arkansas Pineapple Whip (which I can only describe as like soft serve gelato) and a David's Burger. So with a start that wonderful, how could the week not follow suit?
I instructed in what I thought was one of my best district meetings on Tuesday. We talked about baptism and just how essential it is. Refocusing on that (teaching repentence and baptizing converts) as our divine purpose was really good for all of us.
Afterwards, I was able to stay in Hope while Elder Turner joined me and Elder Anderson went to Pine Bluff for the day. After some chicken fried rice hibachi, we tore it up in Hope and Prescott. So many miracles in that short time.
It seemed like everyone we talked to was open and receptive. In reality, there were still hecklers and people who waved us off, and people who pretended to be interested who later had given us fake addresses and phone numbers, but hey! We found a wonderful lady that day who, when we called that night to follow up on her reading, had already started reading the Book of Mormon and was just glowing on the other line.
We talked with a bunch of people that day, including a group of little kids in bright orange boxer briefs who ran around the other side of the house, and invited us to follow them. We arrived at the back yard, where a pool party barbecue was going on and Elder Turner and I were the only white people on the whole block, probably haha. Someone asked if we were there for the pool party and we laughed. The kids treated us like celebrities and asked for cards and pamphlets, but the adults didn't seem like they could care less haha.
Another lady was from El Salvador, and was stressed from work and her kids. We talked to her over her backyard fence, and testified of the Book of Mormon. She told us at one point, "okay, I'm more interested, now!" And when I testified that it was the word of God written by her ancestors specifically for her, the spirit was strong and I know she felt it. It was a highlight of the week.
There was one less-than-wonderful thing this week and that was when I was getting ready to shower on Wednesday morning and discovering a tick lodged in my butt. At first I thought it was too big to be a tick. But nope. I couldn't pull that sucker out, but good ole Elder Turner became Dr. Turner for me and managed to get most of him out. No swelling ensued so he did a good job and I think I will survive! But hey, there's a good story from the ALRM for ya. My zone leader pulling a tick out of my buttock on exchanges.
Okay, sorry, back to the good stuff.
We had a few other good lessons this week. It's so fun to teach. I've really come to enjoy it, and like to think I've gotten good at it. The gospel is pure and simple. A cool principle I've been thinking a lot about is the idea that "all truth is in agreement." Which makes sense, right? One truth cannot contradict another truth. One of them wouldn't be a truth. There is no contradiction in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Everything lines up in ways that I would love to take 5 lessons to explain to y'all. :)
We helped a couple move some loose ends to their new home at the end of a long dirt road that goes through a few creeks. Cows crowded the road, and their little address-less cabin at the end was just a fun time. Yellow flowers painted the fields, the afternoon sun was cooling down, and it was gorgeous outside. Something about it was how I imagine Texas is like.
On Friday, we cooked a big pre-weekly planning breakfast, and Elder Anderson and I just had a good long conversation about everything. Our frustrations and hopes and goals and ideas and struggles. It wasn't what either of us hoped to have accomplished in the time that it took, but we came to realize that we probably couldn't have spent that time any better.
I got to have a stromboli from a pizza place we stopped at. I anticipated it being a personal size but it was like a huge thing and so I had it for lunch the next day, too. Was it as good as my mom's? No. (But it was super tasty.) Happy Mother's Day to the best at everything from stromboli-making to traveling and advice-giving and everything else good in this world!
Saturday was WONDERFUL because Eric was baptized in Searcy, and I was able to attend! Our 1.5hr drive to the halfway/pickup point turned into a 2.5hr drive due to a burning semi truck and a few other accidents, but we still arrived in time for some members from Searcy to pick me up and get me to the baptism in time! Eric and his family are some of the main reasons for my love and missing of Searcy, and I know his wife had been praying for a long time for that day. It was so special to be a part of it, even with the 2 hour drive back to Hope that night, getting back at 11pm.
But seriously, I was not sure if I would be able to attend that, and I'm so thankful that I was. 5 hours of drive time between the Lims, Wandlings, and Webbs, and being able to be a witness for the baptism, accompany the musical number, and answer questions from one of my other Searcy friends was wonderful. So proud of Eric!
On Sunday, there were 17 people in church at the start of the meeting (Including us missionaries and the branch presidency) but by the time pot luck rolled around, there were a few more people. :)
[If you read one part of my email this week, this is the part to read.]
That afternoon, we had a Bible to deliver to a lady who had, over text, been very excited for us to come over. We followed the map to the middle of nowhere and asked a guy mowing his lawn for directions. He pointed us to a path going between a thick line of trees, so we followed that around to a little commune of trailers, apparently all family-owned.
We found the right trailer and knocked. A woman in a wheelchair opened the door and beckoned for us to come in. We stepped over a litter of kittens into the kinda dark trailer. It didn't take us too long to figure out she was unable to speak. She communicated via little nods and by pointing. We briefly explained the Book of Mormon, and then she opened it up. Finding the pictures, she started from the beginning and I explained the Book of Mormon again, using the pictures at the front, and teaching as simply as I could.
"Will you read that first chapter before we come back on Tuesday?" I asked. She gave a tiny nod. Elder Lim invited her to ask one of us to say a closing prayer. After a kind of long period of silence, she pointed at me, and I felt so humbled by that, that she would ask me to pray. I offered the prayer, and afterward she reached for a note pad. (Which, had I noticed, I might've utilized sooner.) She wrote a brief explanation that she had some kind of palsy and couldn't speak. Elder Lim asked her how she felt about what we had shared with her that day. She reached for the notepad again, and simply wrote one word.
When Elder Lim read her response aloud to us, the spirit about hit me like a truck. In that moment, I was able to feel just a part of the love that our Heavenly Father has for this woman. And I was able to receive an additional witness of just how wonderful everything is. The work we are engaged in is wonderful. The message we share is wonderful. Our Heavenly Father and His plan for each of us is wonderful. This good sister of mine is wonderful. And you, dear reader, are wonderful.
I hope your week is as wonderful as you are. :)
(Life pro tip: read your scriptures, say your prayers. That'll help!)
In case of the postal service being disbanded:
In case of the internet going down:
303 West 23rd Street, Apt. 9C
Hope, AR 71801
In case of [literally anything at all]
This weekly email brought to you by:
- Lyme disease
- Church potlucks
- Bumper to bumper traffic on the 30, and
- My wonderful mother. (Literally. This email was sent to you by her. Thanks, Mom!)
This week had its fair share of ups and downs, but it has definitely been a memorable one! Lots of good stories from the last 7 days. Sometimes I worry my emails are too long, so I'll just tell you the stories without all the fluffy context.
Story #1 - After our district meeting, we did an exchange and I went to Camden with Elder Taylor. After a stop at the Hibachi food truck, we spent the rest of that day doing service for a family who had recently moved in from Texas. We put in a bunch of extra posts for the barbed wire fence around their property. We rode around in their four wheeler thing with the 15 year old son driving, so that was a hoot and a half. We were tearing through fields and between trees, clearing 50mph hahaha. We definitely got air a few times and we went home dusty. It was awesome. I left feeling like I'd gained a whole new family of friends. Too bad they are in another area haha.
The next day we contacted some referrals, and before we exchanged back, Elder Taylor and I took a few pictures by this cool looking abandoned community center in Rosston, AR. Vibez.
Story #2 - On Thursday, we were invited to attend the funeral of an investigator's father. This was only my 2nd time actually meeting him. The funeral was held in a little baptist church in the woods at the end of a long dirt county road. The little chapel filled up while soft country music played over the speakers. I tell you what, the variety of characters that came in was a sight to behold. I loved the rag-tag community family feel of it all.
The preacher was a younger guy, but everything you'd hope for in a Baptist preacher. A very kind, bearded, smiley, fella with a real talent for drawing out words and evoking the occaisonal "amen" from the congregation. He mouthed along the words to another guy's (legitimately good) performance of "Amazing Grace." Everything I could've wanted in my brief time in a Baptist church. Including a smattering of people putting up their "Holy Spirit Antennae," AKA praise hands, AKA putting their arm up and moving it slightly in an effort to find the signal that the Holy Spirit is coming in on, so they can grab it and hold on tight.
Jokes aside, it was a great service, emphasizing the celebration of the man's life and where he is, now. The thing that struck me, though, was the focus they had on how death was also a freedom from the trials and pains of this life. Which like... It is, yeah. But life is more than just this trying tenure as mortals on earth until we die and get judged by God. We didn't just show up here. And we didn't just sign up to come here, either--we fought for this, and knew it would be hard, but begged to be able to come to earth to learn and grow and gain experiences we couldn't have had otherwise. So while we may rightly celebrate our return to the God who created and sent us here, we should also celebrate the time we've been given. Is it hard? Yup. But we get to do things like travel, cry, have warm apple pie, walk on the beach, and hug the people we love.
Story #3 - Finding people to teach, and then staying in contact with those we have found has been a real challenge. We looked for community events on Facebook on Saturday morning and couldn't find a dang thing haha. Well, we drove past the small downtown that afternoon and lo and behold, Hope's 4th Annual Train Days was happening. So that was kind of a funny thing.
Story #4 - Elder Anderson went to Memphis on Sunday again to play the organ, and I went to Benton with Elder Hall. 3 hours of tracting isn't my idea of fun, but we found some cool people. This morning, a member of the Benton ward was willing to cut our hair so that was wonderful! We drove to the address, and it ended up being an RV park so I got a liiiitle nervous, but the lady ended up being super cool and did a great job. She does doTERRA full time, and they are planning to visit all 48 contiguous states in their RV, homeschooling their 2 boys and their 2 cool lookin' geckos for the next year and a half. Definitely fed my wanderlust fire even more haha.
So there's the highlights from this week! Hope y'all have a good next 7 days! Happy Mother's Day! Celebrate life!
Love, Elder Dahl
303 West 23rd Street, Apt. 9C
Hope, AR 71801
Well, y'all. The baby calves are getting bigger, the trees are getting greener, my soul is growing stronger, and the astrological phenomenon of the earth getting slightly closer to the sun means the weather is getting warmer!
In addition to some minor sunburns, I've also gained a stronger conviction of the reality of this work. This isn't a vacation. And when we treat a mission like the sacred work that it is, we are going to be all the better for it.
Personal growth seems to happen the most on tougher weeks, which is kind of annoying.
But anywho! I was able to do a 2-night exchange in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, [AKA "Crime Bluff"] with our zone leaders. I've looked up to Elder King for a while, now, and so it was awesome to do an exchange with him!
We didn't experience or witness any crimes, but, we did:
- Have a peanut butter, jelly, banana, marshmallow sandwich. (Toasted, of course.) It was good. But of course, how could it not be?
- Go for a morning jog. This happened on Wednesday and I'm still kinda sore. But it's something I wanna get into cause it seems like every successful person who has their life together also manages to go for a 5k every morning.
- Do service at an assisted living facility. Okay, this one deserves its own paragraph.
We hung up these spinny shiny butterfly things from the ceiling. They hung just low enough that I might have to duck to the side a bit to avoid getting them in my hair. But all the residents were in wheel chairs and were just enchanted by those suckers. It was funny seeing their eyes light up, and hearing them consent to catch me if I fell down from the ladder.
After that, we were recruited to bring some bags of ice from a pickup truck into their industrial kitchen freezer outside. We were given a flat-topped cart to do it. We loaded the ice on and carefully steered it back through the brick-layed patio. Each bump shook the cart a little bit and we probably got about half way before the ice started sliding off the cart. We each grabbed whatever fell off and hurried to unload it in the freezer. Fortunately there weren't many witnesses to that, but I thought it was super funny. One of the ladies working there came out to us putting the ice bags in the freezer in our white shirts and ties and asked if we worked for Reddy Ice. Had she come out just a few minutes earlier, she probably wouldn't have asked that question.
We had a lesson after that that was pretty good. It started raining a little bit before we arrived. We couldn't teach in the guy's house cause there were like 9 dogs in there, and some cats. And it was raining outside. So the guy was quick to volunteer their abandoned RV, being used as a "storage shed" in their side yard, as the ideal place for a sit down lesson. Thankfully I got to sit in a chair by the open door. Cause that thing was nasty. After confirming there had never been a history of bed bugs in it, we taught the lesson and continued through our day.
We had one more lesson that night, thankfully in an actual house that didn't smell. The guy was super cool and open, and I loved seeing how much he actually agreed with the message of the Restoration. He lost his legs awhile ago up to the thighs. Cool dude! I watched some beetles scurry across his floor and desk across the room, though. And right before we said the closing prayer, he added, "hey, if anything bites you in that couch, it's not my fault," with an old southern black man laugh. He explained that his wife had sold the couch to someone, but they'd never paid for it, so she went into their house and took it back hahaha.
...so... We got home and showered and put our clothes in the dryer just in case. So far so good.
The next day was Zone Conference, which was awesome. It was a powerful reminder to raise my vision and expectations, and not to settle for mediocrity from anyone or anything, especially from myself. I'm making changes and sacrificing more to be better, stronger, and to invite more miracles.
Friday was one of those "best of times, worst of times" days cause the cool couple we found last week dropped us when we called to set up an appointment. They sounded mad after our very pleasant visit last time, leading us to believe they got "anti'd" pretty bad. (Which means they found or someone told/showed them some "anti-mormon" literature. Which happens kind of a lot. And that stuff is definitely out there. But not one piece of it is truth, or cannot be explained by additional truth. I've heard it all. I can answer it all. It doesn't shake my testimony--not because I ignore its existence, but because there has always been opposition to truth.) So that was a bummer.
But we taught an amazing lesson to a super sweet lady that felt like a textbook example of a perfect lesson. I'm excited to follow up with her! And then we came home and Elder Anderson made enchiladas. And they were DANG GOOD.
You know what else is DANG GOOD, though? Carrot cake Hershey's kisses. Yeah. I didn't even know those existed til this week. And apparently they're a limited edition deal? But they were so good.
On Saturday we did some super cool service! A member of the branch here works with a lot of the civil war history related stuff in Arkansas. We were able to go out and follow people with metal detectors around a civil war battle field with shovels, digging up whatever beeped.
I remember as a kid asking for a metal detector for Christmas cause I wanted to be an archeologist when I grew up. (That was after my paleontology phase.) So this was way cool, and very fun, even if it confirmed in my mind the fact that I don't really wanna be an archaeologist. I guess the field we scanned was a part of the battlefield technically, but the present plan was to turn it into a parking lot for the Praire-De'Anne (?) Civil War visitor center they will eventually make. We just had to scan it all to make sure they weren't paving over anything cool.
The metal detector beeped a few times, and we found such thrilling items as wire, a nail, some more wire, an old farm file, some wire, and half a horseshoe. So even though none of it was really civil war related, it was still pretty fun to hear the beep and start digging. I guess it's gonna take a few weeks, so we will have to plan a day to do it again in a more exciting part of the process. :)
Later that afternoon, we visited a member of the branch who is working as a chicken catcher for Tyson. He's had the job for about a month and hates it. But he had some funny stories. I guess after so long at it, you develop what are called in the industry, "chicken-catcher hands," that just get polished and worn down so much it rubs your fingerprints off! He wears a pantyhose with a head hole over his arms to keep the dust and ammonia off of himself. Each house, he said, has 20,000 chickens. (Sometimes 35,000) and they usually empty 2-3 houses a night. Wow. So there's your southwestern Arkansas chicken trivia of the week.
Had my first full Sunday in the Hope branch. All 2 hours of it haha. The visiting high councillor was the only speaker, and the heel of a loaf of bread was all we used for sacrament. And we had leftovers. I think we had 31 people total. This mission is so cool cause I've experienced polar opposites. A branch of 31 people in Arkansas, and being assigned over 2 large wards in Tennessee. But wherever you go, the church is true! The same gospel is taught. The way the Apostles and Jesus Christ himself set up. The way we read about in the Bible. Cool stuff!
We left right after, though, and drove to Little Rock for the musical tribute there. Only one more left, over in Memphis. I probably won't be able to go to that one, but it's ok. They've been very fun and spiritually powerful. Plus, the cookies and socializing at the end is fun. I've come to love a lot of people out here. Especially the missionaries haha.
Drove back to Hope that night, and have just done some shopping today. We tried another Mexican restaurant and checked out the museum in the train station today, and it's pretty awesome haha. They've got a train section of the building, and a Bill Clinton side of the building. Cracks me up. Got a hold of "Hillary Clinton's Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe." Can you believe they'd give something like that away for free? "Hope is dope, y'all."
Tomorrow I hit my 11 month mark! Almost been out here a year. That can't be right. Sometimes it feels like I've been at it for my whole life, but most of the time I feel like I got off the plane last week haha.
Missions are a blessing. So is the gospel. Live it, love it!
This is Elder Dahl, sending his love, and signing off from Hope Arkansas, "Birthplace of America's Best President, and a 200+lb watermelon, Mike Huckabee."
Send your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipes:
Send your favorite chocolate chip cookies:
303 West 23rd Street, Apt. 9C
Hope, AR 71801
[Been a while since I did these, but there were some good ones for this week lol]
This week's email is brought to you by:
- Grammatically incorrect phrases insinuating Mike Huckabee is a watermelon
- The thrill of a metal detector beeping
- The ensuing disappointment of digging up a rusty piece of wire
- Hillary Rodham Clinton (and her chocolate chip cookies)
- Your friendly neighborhood chicken catcher
- The bugs hiding in your couch
- Reddy Ice
Fun fact of the day:
One chicken farm house (pictured below) has 12,500 chickens in it. According to some guy we talked to, who seemed like a pretty reliable source.
Elder Lim bet us an ice cream cone, though, for whoever guesses the closest number to how many chickens they are able to fit on the trucks that drive through town. They're just stacks of chicken cages on the bed of a pickup truck. My guess/calculation was 2,500 chickens. But we haven't figured it out yet, so if you wanna Google that for me, I'll share my ice cream with you. <3
Well, last Monday wasn't too eventful. We spent the morning at the church. And the afternoon. Elder Anderson called some local business and church higher-ups to figure out how to fix the internet. We finally left at like 3, without having had lunch or cleaned our apartment or shopped. Stopped by two internet provider shops in town. One was a nice office with a polite receptionist, and the other was set up in the back of an old radio shack that hadn't been redone yet. A morbidly obese guy sat in a specially made chair at a computer desk watching "700 lbs of popcorn popping at the same time" on YouTube. Well, we ended up going with those guys. Yeah....
Our appointment wasn't home that evening. And then during our proselyting hours, E. Anderson stopped by a cool gas station called TAB's in town advertising their "most unique bathroom in town" on their billboard. (It was decent, clean, and plastered in mostly suggestive bumper stickers.) He got a fried chicken plate and a key lime pie for his birthday. I guess he spent his birthday doing what he loves, so that's a good thing!
The next day, we had our first district meeting of the transfer. I instructed on teaching when you find, and finding when you teach. We've got a super solid district.
Afterward, we went to this Hibachi grill food truck, and the Lims very generously paid for everyone. They spoil us. And that stuff was dang good. Had the leftovers for lunch the next day, too!
From there, we rode back to Hope, and the internet company we found yesterday came and installed everything. Elder Anderson was about as involved in that as he could be. At 2, we were going to go visit some referrals with the Lims and have a lesson with a lady in Mineral Springs, some 45 minutes away. Come 1 o'clock, the Lims arrived, and come 1:30, he was still going! So we skipped being able to see our referrals, and then the GPS took us too far, so we were like 30 minutes late to our lesson.
Thankfully, she didn't mind, and the lesson went well. This lady has been to the holy land twice, and was commenting on some of the cool bits of the Book of Mormon that match the culture over there. Kinda neat. I'll talk about her more later.
We had dinner with some less active members that night. She was a little tipsy, confessing she'd had 3 beers after a rough day of work. So that was interesting. The food was good! And so was the Wal-Mart cheesecake, for those who are wondering.
Wednesday was day 3 of fixing the wifi. Thankfully, I think Elder Lim caught on to the fact that I was getting bored sitting at the church, cause he came with us and we went through the branch roster we've been working with. We planned who all we would see later that day around 2 again. Well... Elder Anderson didn't finish until later and then we had 10 mins to warm up leftover hibachi and hit the road. Let's just say, despite being late again, I'm glad the internet is fixed once and for all.
We've been trying to visit everyone in the branch. And that includes people who have not been to church in decades or who have told people from the church to not come by. So that's been interesting! Nobody has been mean, yet! :)
Well, since the wifi was fixed, Elder Anderson turned his focus to the rest of the church building and we documented all the things wrong with the building, so hopefully some people can come and fix it all. It'll be good!
We did another trip that afternoon to Nashville, (Arkansas, not Tennessee) and stopped at Sis. Lim's favorite fast food place, Burger King on the way back into town. Good ole booger fling, right Elder Evans?
While she and E. Anderson sorted through notes on people to out into the computer, E. Lim and I planned our next trip and just talked about boy scout adventures and stuff. This guy rebuilt a dam in southern Idaho in the 70s, and collects and restores cool old cars. He is one cool dude.
Friday came along and so did our weekly planning session. That morning, the lady we taught earlier this week kept coming into mind. Usually we follow an order of who we plan for first, but I decided to just start with her. We gave her a call and caught her right before she was heading out. While we were talking, her appointment canceled, we were able to answer some more questions, and she said that she would use the time that just opened up to immediately start studying the Book of Mormon. That was cool. The Lord encouraged me to plan for her first, even if I didn't understand why. And he gave her the time and reminder she needed to start reading. These little "coincidences" are the miracles that keep me going and make up a mission.
In an effort to spoil back the Lims, E. Anderson made barbecue sandwiches/Sloppy Joes and we had lunch together. Sis. Lim picked up a key lime pie from TAB's, though so it may have only been a fair trade.
On our trip that afternoon, we met a guy whose wife convinced him to get a chicken farm on their property. He said he was being delivered like 12,500 chickens over the next few weeks. Crazy.
That night, E. Anderson practiced the organ and I practiced the piano right on the stage with him when I could hear the notes even play haha.
Saturday we didn't have any trips with the Lims planned, so we had time to do some finding. We'd set a goal to find 3 New people to teach this week, and had found 0 up to this point. Which was kinda hard. So with some extra prayer and effort we were able to get all 3 of those today, even if our planning in the morning was discouraging. We stopped at a taco truck for dinner, and that helped lift the morale. And then we were able to meet with a funny couple who live in a pretty nice trailer decorated with watermelons. She was your chatty southern belle type, and he actually grew up in Palmyra, New York. Not far from Joseph Smiths house. Pretty cool! Wonderful people looking for truth, saying they felt something missing in their lives.
And then that night, Elder Ogaard called and told me Eric is getting baptized on May 12th! Yay! That made my week. I love that guy and his family.
We didn't get to attend our own branch Sunday morning, and went to the North Little Rock ward so that Elder Anderson could be there in time to leave for the Memphis musical concerts the missionaries are doing over there cause he plays the Organ. I think I've been to the NLR ward as many times as I have the Searcy ward haha.
Chatted with missionary friends before they all headed over to the Memphis side. And then I went to the Benton area with Elder Hall. We did some walking around but none of their people were available for a lesson. I ate a bunch of cookies, caught up on my journaling, and had some extra studies on top of the 2 hour drive from that morning. So it was a good time.
We drove back to North Little Rock today and got to go to David's Burgers for the first time in a while with Elder Ogaard and his new companion, also named Elder Anderson. We went to the one in downtown Little Rock, so we got to walk around down there for a bit. Before we even parked a guy asked us for change haha. But our trip there was much needed. I miss those guys.
And now we are to now. We are in the middle of our 2 hour drive back to the end of the mission in Hope, Arkansas. We are gonna have a killer week and we are gonna keep loving the scriptures and sharing them with the people of Hope.
So anyway. Definitely not the most exciting weekly email I've ever written. Lots of driving. Lots of chickens. A bunch of neat people who would make for great movie or book characters cause they're just so... cartoonish in an awesome way. But I hope you can see, as I have, the Lord's hand in all this. In small ways. He's good to us, out here.
Read your scriptures, you yayhoos. Love ya.
I appreciate messages and artifacts from the outside world:
303 West 23rd Street, Apt. 9C
Hope, AR 71801
There's a lot about my email subject line that probably doesn't make sense.
I thought about starting these emails from Hope, Arkansas off with weekly titles like "Hope is dope," "trying to cope in Hope," "Hope, Arkansas: where the Pope isn't," "No one would elope to Hope," "Hope: home of the antelope," "Don't mope, I'm in Hope!" "You can't really hit the slope in Hope," "Wish? Nope. It's Hope," "ran out of rope in Hope," "cleaning Hope with soap," "using a miscroscope in Hope," or "pushing the envelope in Hope." But I don't know how long I'd be here and I don't wanna resort to using most of these, and I sure as heck wouldn't wanna have to come up with one using the word "grope" to keep my streak going.
So here I am with "The Organ, the Tornado, and the Bucket Seat."
Let the explaining begin.
Transfer day happened. I locked the door to the Searcy apartment one last time. [For now. I keep telling people I'll be back.] Drove to North Little Rock, and waited around for my new companion, Elder Anderson. He is from Box Elder County, Utah. And he is like a serious genius. He's good at setting up plumbing, electricity, or the internet, and at sewing, cooking, ham radio, programming, and like a zillion other things. And yes, the organ, too. [The big jazzy church piano thing, not like your liver. But I wouldn't be surprised if he could also operate on someone, too.] Right after I finished writing this, he just about stuck his finger in my ear and then proceeded to quote Pokemon hahahaha. I couldn't make this up. He's awesome, and I'm learning lots from him!
It was really hard saying goodbye to people, and getting into a car [a nice Nissan Rogue! No more truck for Elder Dahl. I probably won't miss it too much tbh] bound for the edge of the mission with someone I'd never really talked to before. But before the 2 hour drive was over, everything was good.
Elder Anderson told me that as he was looking through a list of people in the mission trying to discern who his next companion would be, that my name stood out, without ever having met me. He said the elder I replaced felt the same thing, and kinda testified to me that I was sent there for a reason. And well, the spirit testified to me of that like we just got t-boned. When things have been hard this week, I remember that feeling and keep moving forward. I'm excited to discover the reasons why I'm here.
We stopped at the grocery store upon coming into town. Got a water filter for the sink (cause apparently it was pretty bad and didn't pass a lead test with flying colors) and a loaf of french bread real quick cause you can use it for everything. Had I known how little food was in that apartment I would have gotten more. Cause literally that French bread, some shredded cheese, and candy was all I ran on this week haha. They had a lot of candy.
After shopping, I got to experience one of the things I was looking forward to most about Hope.
Last transfer, the missionaries here met a Presbyterian Pastor. One thing led to another, and uh... We have a key to the front door of the gorgeous Presbyterian church in town, so that Elder Anderson can practice the organ for our missionary musical tributes! (Our church building is too small to even fit an organ.)
We walked in at night and it was kinda creepy at first, but we turned the lights on and entered the sanctuary and it reminded me of the gorgeous cathedrals I saw in France and Italy. Not as big, but almost as pretty! I accompanied Elder Anderson on the piano while he organ-ized. And then I helped him pick out some left hand notes for a variation we were making to the song, and so...
Now I can say that I first played an organ in a Presbyterian church in Hope, Arkansas. So that's super cool. I'm a long ways away from learning it, but the keyboard part I've got down haha.
The next day, I got to meet the Lims, a senior couple working in the Hope branch with us. They're from Blackfoot, Idaho and are just amazing. He used to be a Stake President and they get along so well with everyone we meet. They are so funny and have been spoiling us lots.
We went over to a ward members house and helped with their water pipe in their front yard. Dug up a bunch of mud and threw some cinderblocks down to cover the pipe and then buried it again. Across the street was a huge meadow and a bunch of trees. I had no idea what I was doing and was just kinda laughing to myself about how different this was from Collierville. Literally as far apart geographically and area wise as you can get in our mission. (2 wards in a city compared to a tiny branch in bunch of small towns.) So it's fun!
Elder Anderson went on to fix the guys sink, too, so that was impressive. We then sat down with the Lims and made some plans for the next day, in which we drove about 150 miles around our area trying to visit a bunch of less active people. The Lims drove, and we rode bucket seats. We did another trip like that on Saturday. Both were fun and productive, even if most people weren't home. We've been able to make a good dent in who still even lives here, and have contacted some promising referrals while we are at it!
On one of those trips, (to towns like Prescott, Nashville, & Mineral Springs, Arkansas) we stopped in a town called Washington for lunch. I guess the whole town is like a museum cause it looks like a cute little colonial town from the 1830s. There was an adorable tavern Elder Anderson had heard good things about. It was built or has been running since 1832, so that's cool! Right up my alley. History and good food... sign me up. Had some killer chicken and dumplings, jalapeno corn bread, fried okra and mashed potatoes.
There are a lot of chicken farms out here. Like... A lot. Tyson farms and factories are everywhere. We've passed one or two truck loads of live chickens close to meeting their end. So next time you have chicken nuggets, just think: the chicken you are eating might have seen Elder Dahl more recently than you have seen Elder Dahl.
So I've talked about the organ and explained the bucket seats thing. And I've even thrown in some spiritual stuff and food talk. I guess you're probably wondering about the Tornado.
Elder Anderson found some weather news that our area was on a level 4 storm/tornado watch through most of Friday night. They were predicting golf ball sized hail, and potential tornados. Exciting, right?
Well we drove to the nearby town of Arkadelphia to have our interviews with President Hansen. It's clear he has a lot of trust and faith in me and I'm determined to live up to that and turn this area around!
We drove back to Hope and finished our weekly planning session. I had a baptismal interview with an investigator the other set of elders in my district were teaching. So after a stop at Wal-Mart to pick up a pizza, I Skyped in and was able to get to know their investigator for a bit. He has since been baptized and confirmed! Super awesome, down to earth guy.
We ate our pizza standing outside of the church doors, watching the sky. It was actually way cool. On our left, clouds were blowing to our right. And on our right, clouds were blowing to our left. They were meeting in the middle and just congregating into a bigger cloud. They were moving fast! At one point in time, rain was lightly falling straight down. Within a span of about 4 seconds, the rain blew sidewise. First to our right, and then totally flipped directions and blew to our left. Crazy cool.
We returned home without any problems, and our emergency weather radio only went off once or twice that night. Lightning was like the paparazzi in distant clouds, and the thunder got pretty loud, but there wasn't anything too dramatic. In the morning, the neighboring apartment buildings mailbox had been blown over, and a few tree limbs.
We went to the church to see how it fared. A few tiny things on the outside, but I guess they had a power surge cause the refrigerator and wifi both died. So Elder Anderson has been working on that haha.
On Sunday, we got to speak in church. Apparently that doesn't happen as often as I would think in a little branch this size. But I was glad for the opportunity to introduce myself and talk about repentence!
I also learned that day that the Hope Branch is on a 2 hour block, rather than the usual Mormon 3 hours. So that's cool! The 3 meetings are all just shortened down to about 45 minutes. Which meant that I was the concluding speaker of sacrament meeting. So that was weird and kinda cool. Another "first" for me in Hope, Arkansas haha.
We had to leave right after sacrament meeting though, to make the 2.5 hour drive back to CONWAY! For the musical devotional we had there. The same program is kinda touring its way through the mission. We arrived in Conway early enough to make it to their 1 o'clock sacrament meeting/fast and testimony meeting. It felt like I'd never left! It was so good to catch up with and see the Routts, Prashanth, Bro. Garcia, and all those awesome Conway people. I didn't realize how much I missed, Conway, too.
A lady went up and bore her testimony. It made my day. Because Elder Evans and I found this lady and her 5 sons while we went to try to visit a former investigator. The person we tried wasn't home, and so on our way back to the car, we had heard someone shout, "missionaries?" and it ended up being this LDS family, who had moved in that day from Little Rock. We got to visit them maybe once or twice later before we were both transferred out. So it was amazing to be there for her first day back in church in a long time, when she committed from the pulpit to stay in church!
So that was awesome. Seeing Conway people was awesome. And seeing missionary friends was also awesome! This Conway musical had the strongest spirit of the 3 that I've been to this year. I looked out and saw an older gentleman just bawling during one of the songs. Before I could finish the thought, "I want whatever he's feeling," I felt it and had a hard time finishing the song. Jesus is the Christ! Hosannas to His name!
That spirit is the best feeling ever. I hope y'all have felt it, can feel it, will feel it. It's peace, happiness, joy, confidence, and love. Do whatever you can to be able to feel it often.
I know this work is the Lord's, and that even though I miss Searcy, another little town in Arkansas needs me more. I'm excited to find out the who and why of why I'm here. There's people to bless. Godspeed!
It's been without a doubt one of the most eventful weeks of my mission. Mostly in a really good way!
On Monday we had our district P Day. We have seriously the coolest district in the mission. I love all those elders and sisters so much. We cooked fried chicken and fried up some Oreos and had a blast!
On Tuesday, we went back down to Lonoke and attended their district meeting. I stayed with Elder Albertson and spent the night there. We didn't have a lot of luck trying people. But we did get in my first bible bash in a few months. Gotta love it when people talk over you, ignore your responses, and think false perceptions about what we believe to begin with. I hate arguing with people [and always leave ASAP when it happens] but I always leave just feeling extra sure of myself.
That happened in a dumpy little town called "England." Like entire streets of houses were almost entirely abandoned. The wasps were out in full force but we made it out unscathed. It was starting to feel hot that day!
That night we also brought this Vietnam War Marines vet to tears in reading Alma 40 & reviewing the plan of salvation with him. He recently lost his wife. That was a cool cool lesson. This gospel is true and real and resonates with the soul.
Later, Elder Albertson and I just had a great conversation. I love that guy. He is so good. He hasn't had an easy mission so far, but he is just so good. That was one of those conversations that I hope I can use to forever be a better person. I felt the spirit and like one of the reasons I'd been called as a Zone Leader in the Searcy Zone had just been fulfilled. Maybe I didn't help him very much, but I know he helped me.
The next day we had a great leadership meeting. I love those and always leave feeling pumped. We got back to Searcy in time for the Beebe Elder's baptism! I got to do his baptismal interview last week, and it was cool to see everything come together for him to be baptized.
That night I had a weird nightmare that Elder Ogaard stayed in Searcy and I was sent to some other area in the mission. Searcy has become like my favorite area that I've been in. And that after just 1 transfer here. It'd suck to leave, cause I'm just starting to get to know the area really well, and I feel like I'm making a difference here.
On Thursday we did another exchange, up in Quitman. I went over there and didn't have a ton of success but did get to teach a cool lesson to this cool cat surfer dude that's been investigating the church for a while. Connected Mosiah 21 and 22 to him quitting smoking. It was cool.
I think about my teaching abilities now and compare them to my practice lessons in the MTC... It's clear that I've improved a lot. And I love that so much.
Friday morning I drove back to Searcy. We helped an older couple move in and planned out our week. Then we got to have a dinner/lesson with the family whose dad is on date to be baptized this month. Man they are so awesome!! Something changed for him after General Conference, and now he is finishing 2nd Nephi in his Book of Mormon reading. He asked some good questions and we enjoyed some pazole. (? I can't remember what it's called or how you would spell it but it was yummy!)
The next morning, we got transfer calls.
Elder Ogaard has been in Searcy for 7.5 months. And I have been here for like a month and a half. He was thinking he was leaving and I was really hoping he would stay one more transfer. I was pretty sure I'd be staying, whether he goes or not.
Well, Elder Ogaard answered the phone and President told him to be ready to serve another transfer in Searcy! I pumped my fist and got excited. Then he told him that he would be getting a new companion, and asked to talk with me.
Sooooo yeah. I've been honorably (and temporarily) released as a Zone Leader after 3 transfers. I've been given an assignment to serve in Hope, Arkansas as a District Leader, to be eventually reinstated as a Sr. Zone Leader somewhere, sometime afterward. [Hopefully back in Searcy!]
After hanging up, I was kinda shaking but just started busting up laughing. Mainly cause we had joked that Elder Ogaard would get sent to somewhere like Hope. Hope is one of those affectionately termed "armpits" of the mission that for some reason nobody wants to serve in. Then the laughing turned into kinda upset groaning because my nightmare from this week had come true.
Hope is a branch with like 20-30 active members in the town of the birthplace of Bill Clinton. The Texas border is about a 30 minute drive away. Dallas is as close as Memphis is. Hope is the furthest south-west area in the mission. I've heard mixed things about my future companion. But he plays the organ so hopefully he can teach me! The building our church meets in is the smallest church-owned property in the southeast region apparently. So that's cool haha.
So first thing is first: I'm actually really excited to serve in Hope. I don't feel like 2 years in the ALRM would be complete without serving in a tiny branch. I can already see a zillion different ways this is going to prepare me to be a better person and leader. So it is going to be sweet.
Second thing, though... I am at least as sad to be leaving Searcy as I am excited to be in Hope... I've been in a funk since transfer day.
The family we are teaching feeds us amazing Mexican food every Friday and Saturday night and he's getting baptized this month, the sisters were starting up an ASL class this transfer, and the mission office is toying with the idea of moving us from our apartment into a really nice single-wide trailer in a member's back yard. (Which would be SO FUN getting to say you've lived in a trailer for a bit!) The ward is awesome, the work is awesome, and there are other awesome people I'm going to miss working with. I won't go to MLCs for a bit, and I'll be pretty far away from everyone. I've already had my last Sunday in the Searcy ward and didn't even know it. It's probably been the saddest I've been on my mission, honestly.
So. I'm trying to look on the bright side haha. I really really am excited, but man I'm sad to be missing out on so much.
Anyway. After transfer calls, we had personal study, which might as well have not happened cause I couldn't think about anything other than Hope, Arkansas.
That day we had my first (and last!) missionary correlation meeting. And snow crystals fell from the sky. It was like 30 degrees. What. I'd been gone on exchanges the past few times correlation had happened, so I just told the ward mission leader that I was visiting, cause I'd never even met him in church before and I wouldn't be there for it next week.
We then went to help another lady move. Holy moly. This lady was crazy. Her daughter had texted us a week or so from Kansas City or something to gather the Elders Quorum to help move her mom. Well... This lady was kind of an old hoarder cat lady and didn't want anything thrown away. Her apartment was small and there were some boxes packed up. Buuut like she had barely started packing stuff into boxes. And the rental place where the lady had rented the moving truck was closed on Saturdays and she had lost the owners number. SO she had to drive to the next closest location in Little Rock to get that while us and a few other saints from the Searcy ward packed a bunch of cat stuff and knick knacks into boxes while she complained about how one time some guys had dug through her underwear drawer and stolen her gun. And how she had threatened to whip someone with a bull whip once. She was a character!
But fortunately the week ended off on a good note. We were able to get a ride to North Little Rock to attend Tim and Michele's wedding! They were that investigator couple I taught 2-3 times while in Conway, on exchanges in NLR. They are so awesome and were so prepared! They got married, and then Michele was baptized. Tim will be baptized soon, too! Got to sit by President Hansen during the ceremony. I love that man. Michele shared her testimony afterward, thanking the Lord for "handpicking" the missionaries who taught them. Super proud of her and Tim both. They love the gospel.
That night we helped clean up the wedding and reception stuff, and didn't end up leaving the church til 10. Slept on some couch cushions in the office elders apartment.
The next day, Sunday, Michele was confirmed and given the gift of the Holy Ghost by Elder Shelley. Super cool. SO much love for him and the whole NLR district. I miss seeing them all the time. And will see them even less now aha.
President Hansen then gave us a ride to Jacksonville. He talked about a few companions from his time serving in this same mission. Once in Jacksonville, we waited around for a bit until we practiced for our missionary musical tribute and then performed that. It was really good. I delivered the 2nd paragraph of the Living Christ memorized as a part of it and a bunch of people complimented that so I guess it was good. I don't think I missed any words haha.
The musical itself was pretty powerful. I think my singing ability has improved since coming out.
It was so good to see so many missionary friends there. And hard cause I feel like I won't see a lot of them as often, now. It's honestly pretty funny to see the surprise and sympathy in people's eyes when I tell them I'm going to Hope. But I talked with the elder I'm replacing there and he said when he saw that it was me coming in, he breathed a sigh of relief and said his prayers had been answered. So that was good.
Last night we stayed in the Beebe Elders apartment. Another night on couch cushions haha. Just a 25 minute drive away from home... So today is my last day in Searcy.
It's been good, Searcy. Until next time! #perfectbrightnessofHope
Love y'all! Have a good week!
It's been another awesome week in the Searcy Zone of the ALRM!
The weeks are getting faster, I think?
It was a tougher week in Searcy, but life's still grand, God's still good, and tummies are still full.
On Monday, we had our Zone P Day, in which I got pwned at Volleyball. But it was fun!
The next day, we had exchanges with the now combined Brinkley-Lonoke area. They've decided to go with "Bronoke" which is pretty good. Although the other option was "Loneley" (which, as the ironic choice seeing as there is a trio there now, would have been my choice.)
We went to their district meeting, and to the Taco Bell/KFC combo that's almost the only restaurant in that tiny town. I, uncharacteristically, chose KFC over Tacos, and was actually low key impressed. (Shhhhh)
Then I drove the hour drive back to Searcy with Elder Ramage, where we raked leaves for like 2 hours, did some missionary work, had dinner, and then met with this guy from Cameroon.
He! Is! So! Cool! He is a Bible major at the Church of Christ school here in Searcy, and the missionaries had knocked on his door months ago. He had been impressed by them, and by the Book of Mormon's bold claims. "This is a large volume," he told us. "Nobody would write this without a good reason." He's right! He has been telling the missionaries that once he graduates in a few months, he will dedicate all his time to reading it.
His story is so amazing. His dad was a shaman in Cameroon, which is someone who would defend a group of people from witchcraft and evil spirits, and so on. "Eventually," he said, "the people began to realize that shamanism didn't work. There was still evil. But they discovered something that did work - Jesus Christ." So he had gone into ministry work, and then come to Searcy, Arkansas to learn more and gain tools to use to help people back home.
What he said next was SOOO fascinating to me! "Here in America, people believe in Jesus Christ so they can go to heaven. Back home, we believe in Jesus Christ because we want protection. We want to be safe. Getting into heaven for us is an added bonus."
Anyway. That was so cool to me. We ended up talking about baptism and stuff, and left feeling like I'd gained a friend. I couldn't help but daydream about how awesome it would be if he read the Book of Mormon in like 3 days and knew that it was true, and was baptized before he went back home to Cameroon, and then he started up a branch of the church there. I'd have to visit, I think. :)
The next morning, we drove back to Lonoke to exchange back, and then back to Searcy. So there went 2 hours of our day haha. We did a lot of zone leader stuff preparing for our meeting with the local Stake President and President Hansen to discuss how the congregations are helping with missionary work. That meeting went well, and then we went to a lesson. This lady is awesome! But she's stuck in a catch 22. She wants to come to church, but she won't come unless her family does, so that she doesn't feel like she is betraying them. But her family won't come until she takes the lead and makes the stand. It's a tough situation.
We had another great Book of Mormon class this week. We were a little late cause we were hurrying to finish eating our re-creation of a Zaxbys Kickin' Chicken sandwich. For our first try, I have to say... We nailed it. It was so good hahaha. Maybe even better than the original.
Raked some leaves for a lady in a trailer park. She told us she was worried about snakes burrowing in them, cause that had happened last year. Thankfully we managed to take them all without getting bit by any snakes. (Or even seeing any, don't worry haha)
Raked some more leaves for another lady. She hadn't put her dog inside when she left for work like she had the last time when we started her yard, and so that thing barked & barked & barked & barked & barked & barked & barked & barked & barked & barked & barked & barked & barked & barked & barked & barked for the whole hour + we were there. But we finished the yard!
That night, the sisters were having dinner with an investigator couple of theirs. I dunno how much they are actually investigating, but they are really kind, awesome, Christian people with an adorable little family. They had told the sisters they could invite friends to the dinner they were planning, so... We were kinda "plus ones" but not really. But hey, we like being fed! :)
Speaking of being fed.
This has been alluded to, but I've been trying to add stuff to my repertoire/mental cookbook. I've got a couple really tasty things down. I made one of those for lunch on Saturday. Taco-sized corn tortilla quesadillas, topped w a fried egg, diced potatoes, and guacamole salsa. Really good.
And then for dinner we had american tacos with one of our home teaching families. Plus two slices of really really yummy apple pie.
And then we went over to the family whose husband/father we are teaching, and they made tacos, too. It was late enough we were coming thinking it would just be a lesson, but... one bowl of Mexican ham and bean soup and like 4 more authentic delicious tacos later... I was so full. I'd never been so full of tacos in my life. It was glorious.
On Sunday, we had church as usual, and then we were picked up in the transfer van and driven to Jonesboro, Arkansas, about an hour and change away. The mission's first Easter Missionary Musical Tribute was last night and it was awesome. The whole gym of chairs was empty which was sad, and there were some kinks we need to work out, but it was really good! I'm excited for the next one on the 8th in Jacksonville, AR. If I stay with Elder Ogaard one more transfer, I will get to go to all of them across the mission, back on the Memphis side! I'm kinda crossing my fingers for that.
So that's the week, really! Things are goin' in Searcy. Lots of awesome people. Lots of potential! And Searcy is the place where I am becoming the best person I've ever been. (Not just eating lots of tacos haha.)
Hope y'all have a stupendous week full of tacos and cool people and Jesus and the Book of Mormon! Happy Easter! Love y'all!
909 Holmes Rd, apt. 209
Searcy, Arkansas, 72143
There have been several times this week that I have felt like weeping. Don't worry, it's been one of the best weeks ever.
On Tuesday, we had exchanges with the APs. I got to stay in Searcy, and Elder Smalling (the Elder I replaced in Searcy) came down with me. We had a dang good day.
We started out raking a huge pile of leaves for someone, and then had a lesson with a recent convert. Taught him about Baptisms for the Dead and he's planning on going to the St. Louis Temple this weekend! Exciting! He also teaches our Book of Mormon class and is just awesome. He was going to school to be a Church of Christ pastor, but just fell in love with the Book of Mormon. Its the word of God, y'all!
That appointment went long, and so our planned hour and a half of finding was cut to just a half an hour, and we had our dinner appointment right afterward. I figured it would take us long enough to drive there and then to our dinner appointment that I seriously almost considered not going. But... We also had set a goal that morning to find 2 new investigators. We had picked a former in the neighborhood we planned on going and decided to just go and try the former investigator.
We got there, knocked on the door, and the former had moved, but the lady who answered the door had sat in on a missionary discussion before, and was willing to have us back and read something before our next visit, so within like 2 minutes we had 1 of our 2. We saw there was another former investigator around the corner, and we had like 10 minutes left, so we gave it a shot and bam! She let us right in. It seemed like the missionaries had just stopped coming by in the past, and she was willing to have us back over!
So... wow. The Lord magnified our time to accomplish our goals and led us right where we needed to be. How cool is that??
Well the day went even better, cause we set a baptismal date with the father of a wonderful family this week! Bro. Aguilar. I hadn't set a baptismal date since like... August. It felt really good. We've got a lot to teach him before April 14th, but we are excited!
The next day, the Lord made us work a little harder to get our goal of 1 investigator. Okay... a lot harder. But it was awesome!
We had our goal of one new investigator, and we picked a street. We walked in with 4 Books of Mormon, 2 Bibles, 7 passalong cards, and 4 pamphlets between the two of us. We determined that we wouldn't leave without our one new investigator, and that we would return to the truck with nothing but our tablets left.
Well... We talked with every person we saw. We found a couple nice people, but nobody too willing to hear us out. We were down to 1 bible, and 2 pamphlets. We were 45 minutes into our planned dinner hour, and finally found the one! Gave her two pamphlets to read, and set up a time to come back. Walked away with misty eyes. Wow wow. God is good.
We still had a bible, though, so we quickly gave that to somebody and were totally empty handed. But that didn't stop us from talking with one more person. Who, as it turned out, had met with the sisters before, and said she was open to having them back.
Dadgum. Got back to the apartment totally exhausted. But still made a late dinner, started planning for district meeting the next morning, and had a MLC Skype group meeting thing.
We were sooooo tired going to bed that night. But it was an awesome feeling.
On Thursday, we had our district meeting, and then we had to head out so Elder Ogaard could make his Urologist appointment. Which sounded fun. A member who works at the place passed us in the hall and volunteered to take us out for lunch, so that was awesome!
That evening, we had a lesson with a guy who had just lost his wife and grandmother. He was pretty distraught and was visibly comforted by what we shared with him in the chapel. He was so promising! But we got a text from him last night saying he was going to just keep going to his grandpa's church. Dang. He probably got some anti-mormon stuff fed to him. :(
We had our Book of Mormon class right after that, which was awesome, and then we left to have dinner with a bunch of members of the ward who were getting together at one of their [extremely] nice houses. I've literally never seen a nicer back yard in my life. Palm trees, a 2 story tree house, a pool with a waterslide, a tennis court, swing set, full kitchen, large patio, and string lights hung up. It was like a resort. It's fascinating to see that and trailer parks in the same day.
On Friday, we started our weekly planning session and didn't get too far. We got a phone call from one of our district leaders letting us know an elder in our Zone is going home, and that his companion will be joining them in a trio. We had no idea about any of that. So... We made some calls. Said some prayers, and decided to keep that trio as is. Called the Elder going home and just told him we were super proud of him for putting repentence and living the Gospel of Christ before serving his mission. Still so hard, though. He'll be back out this fall. There were more than misty eyes this time, over this whole situation. We have some awesome missionaries.
That afternoon, we did an exchange with Cabot. So I added another apartment I've been in to my long-growing list haha. Walked around to a bunch of less active members homes, but nobody was home so that was a bummer.
The next day, we exchanged back. It felt good to be back in Searcy. We met with a referral we received a few weeks ago again and wow, she is awesome! Her family is kinda wayward and going through a hard time, but when we arrived, she had a notebook full of notes from reading the first chapter of the Book of Mormon, and had even done the "extra study" questions at the end of the pamphlet. (Nobody ever does those. The last person that did was Caroline, and... she got baptized. So we are stoked!)
We then went to the Aguilars for dinner (the family whose father we had set the baptismal date with). They made the BEST tacos I have ever had in my entire life. Grilled beef, chicken, and pork, with homemade salsa, onion/habanero stuff, rice, and cactus, and it was SOO good.
Afterward, we watched the Restoration DVD, and had a really good lesson. Felt the Spirit really strongly and there were more misty eyes. Idk if I've cared for an investigator/family as much as I have like this before. They are so wonderful.
On Sunday, church was good. A less active member came for the first time in over 5 years. He handed me his tithes before heading out so that was awkward and funny haha. We got a ride from a priest preparing for his mission to the tiny town of Augusta, AR. Which like really made me want to come back and do a ton of photoshoots there. Its kinda run down and a little sketch but also stuck in time and kinda cute.
We visited a referral out there, and in so doing reached our week goal of 5 New Investigators. Just in time. The lord provides a way!
So you can say it's been an awesome week. Idk if I've ever worked harder. And I like this. Miracles are everywhere. And this week I have definitely fallen in love with Searcy. There are so many awesome people here and the ward is amazing and the work is going well... life is good here!
I hope life is good in y'alls corner of the vineyard, too. Work hard, have fun, pray lots. Love y'all!
I like emails
I like letters
909 Holmes Rd, apt. 209
Searcy, Arkansas, 72143
This week was one of those that seemed to go fast, but when I think about Tuesday it also feels like forever ago. Ya know? It's been an awesome, fulfilling, week, though!
On Tuesday, we had our Mission Leadership Council meeting, which was really good. Got me HYPED. Searcy Arkansas isn't ready for what's about to hit it.
Afterward, we had our personal interviews with President Hansen. Man, I love that guy. He asked how I was doing and I said good, and he told me, "I can tell! You look good." Which wasn't a compliment to my looks or anything haha. And it's not that I didn't look "good" or "happy" before, but it was just good to hear that the changes I've been making are showing and that the happiness is, too. Yay! The gospel is for real, y'all! Living it works!
We were the last ones to leave, and after helping clean the church a little bit, we went to Wendy's for dinner (4 for $4 ayooo) and my free frosty card gave me a full size rather than a mini frosty that time. #TenderMercies
After that, we drove to Jacksonville (Arkansas, not Florida) and met up with the elders there at their ward Volleyball night. Changed and exchanged. Elder Carter and I stayed in j-ville with Elder Seastrand. Played (and lost, yikes) some volleyball and then headed to their apartment for the night. (It was a nice, 2 story apartment. 2 bed, 2.5 bath, full kitchen... it used to be a sisters apartment, I guess. Definiteky one of the nicer apartments in the mission. Got to experience both sides of that this week, but that's for later.)
The next day, we biked out to a food pantry/thrift store place and I got to presort clothes like back in my Uptown Cheapskate days. Checking if the zippers work, if there's stains, etc. Difference was, step 1 at this place was to just smell the bag in case it smelled like... well...anything bad. 4 bags did, so that's fun.
We biked back, had lunch, and then walked around a bunch. Visited a recent convert who had some good lines. "I love the guy, but he's a low down snake. I wouldn't touch that guy with a long-handled spoon." And "oh, no, that's a whole other bag of snakes." Things like that help me love the south hahaha.
We walked to the Air Force base up there, and a member picked us up and took us to Larry's Pizza buffet. I hadn't been too impressed last time, but maybe this location was better. They've got all kinds of cool, weird flavors of pizza haha.
Elder Carter got a call letting him know he would be Emergency Transfered from our trio. :/ so we exchanged back that night so he would have time to pack.
The next day was zone conference, which made me EVEN MORE HYPED about missionary work. I'm so glad to be getting this instruction and motivation this early in my mission still. I've got a long time still to put it all in practice!
After Zone Conference, we had our 2nd exchange of the week. I went to Brinkley, Arkansas, a tiny little podunk town in between Little Rock and Memphis kinda. We chatted with this nice old baptist lady for a while, who still kinda adamantly disagreed with us on some stuff (like how everybody is going to be resurrected, and how we have to actually do stuff to accept Christ's grace. Stuff other than claiming you're saved, anyway.) But she was super nice, and ended up accepting a Book of Mormon and our challenge for her to read it!
Driving back to their apartment, the headlights glared in the eyes of the occasional racoon, and frogs hopped off the two lane road here and there. We passed like 2 other cars the whole ride. It started feeling a little more real that I'm not in Collierville, TN, anymore haha.
I was a little nervous for this exchange, mostly because of the Brinkley apartment. I'd heard [literal] horror stories about their last apartment. Their last apartment had been haunted. And I guess all they did was move them next door, basically. I won't go into details here, but I'll just say that I didn't believe in ghosts/etc. until my mission.
It didn't help that their apartment was kinda old. It was also 2 stories, but not in the same nice way as the Jacksonville apartment haha. They hadn't gotten blinds for downstairs yet, so all the windows there were uncovered. That night, Elder Albertson showed me how to play Magic: The Gathering. (Which I lost drastically. I guess you have 20 lives, but he cleared my defenses and hit me with 31 level attack. Or something like that haha. I don't think I'll play again lol.)
When we went to bed, he locked the bedroom door. And... He kinda snored a lot so I kept waking up and having a hard time falling back asleep. But we survived, and nothing came of the occasional thump coming from downstairs. But the apartment did kinda smell like crack in some places.
Elder Woodland and Ogaard came up the next day to exchange back and help with their weekly planning session. Afterward, Elder Ogaard and I went back to Searcy. We drove on some fun back roads. It started out reminding me of Idaho. This was a different side of Arkansas than I'd seen before. Wide open fields, letting you see for miles. I miss the mountains, though.
After half an hour or so, the open fields turned kinda marshy, with dead looking trees on either side of the road, submerged in flood water. From time to time, the trees would give way to more open fields, flooded enough to make the road look like we were driving through a lake. Hopefully they are rice fields that need to be flooded, to contribute to Arkansas being the number one exporter of rice in the world, apparently? (Even beating China, as the fun fact goes, but I don't have Google so I can't fact check these hooligans and prove them wrong. Can someone get back to me on that?)
We were both kinda nodding off on the drive back, but I at least managed to keep my eyes open often enough for us to get back to Searcy safely.
We had a good rest of our afternoon! We visited a referral we received who has met with the missionaries before, and even read a bunch of the Book of Mormon. She recognized the peace it brings into her life, and wants to share that with all 4 of her kinda wayward kids. So we are excited to keep working with her.
And then that night, we had an awesome lesson with the nonmember dad of an adorable little family. He asked lots of good questions, and his wife kept teasing him about getting baptized. We are excited for him and his family!
We spent the majority of the next day doing our own weekly planning. We got kinda burnt out and haven't finished everything for it just yet, but I feel like I know Searcy better, and I'm way more pumped to be here, now. [Deep cleaning the kitchen and bathroom this week also helped! We found a dead mouse under thr kitchen sink ayooo]
We went to do service for a member, who said we could plan on staying afterwards for dinner. Well... when we got there, dinner was ready and they said we didn't have to do service for them that day. They tricked us haha. But it was a nice surprise. They had ~homemade mashed potatoes~ which us 2 Idaho boys had been talking about just earlier that day. #TenderMercies
It got even better than food, though, when their 10 year old grandson said that he wanted to be baptized after the spiritual thought we shared with them! He has to get permission from his dad, though. So keep that in your prayers! Got my picture taken over there to be added to their wall-sized collection of all the missionaries that have been in their home.
It was raining when we left, and we had scheduled time to try and meet some members and former investigators, but by the time we made it to where we needed to be, there was lightning and thunder and rain coming down, so we couldn't have seen the address numbers if they even had them up. (That's a problem in Arkansas I've noticed. People sometimes don't have their address numbers up on the house, mailbox, sidewalk, anything, really. Which is annoying.)
Daylights savings felt real good Sunday morning. :-)
Church was good. Afterward, we went to the bishops house and Elder Ogaard made the bishop's family and the sister missionaries who joined us fried chicken. (And did a really good job. He's improving! ) It was a fun evening. Bishop Webb an his family are really awesome.
This week, Elder Ogaard and I are going to try to find 5 New Investigstors. Finding has been a struggle in our Zone for a while, now, so we need to lead by example! Also pray for us to reach that goal, and find those people this week!
I'm excited for this week! Got some good stuff lined up, and some big goals to shoot for. Let's do this!
Have a great week!
I could use some quick, cheap, few-ingredient recipes!
Or maybe a Blue Apron subscription idk
909 Holmes Rd, apt. 209
Searcy, Arkansas, 72143
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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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We almost had to build an ark this week. ♂️
But before that happened, we finished up our time in North Little Rock on Tuesday. Elder Shelley instructed district meeting again and we played a game of "Heads Up" that was pretty fun. Afterwards, we got free Jimmy John's again, and then Elder Evans, Shelley, and I went across the street to Paul Mitchell for free haircuts. Mine was... Good. Until my neck, I think she forgot to square the neckline or something, so it's not too great. But everything else still looks like signature Oliver Dahl.
We had dinner with the Baird's that night, one of the office couples. I haven't been around the senior couples my whole mission as much as I have this transfer. They're awesome. Definitely sending them wedding announcements.
Went with the Office Elders and dropped some furniture off in a storage facility, and then went home and prank called some other missionaries, which was fun.
The next morning, we drove back to Conway for our district meeting, and that's when we got the first flash flood warning alert.
So naturally, we decided to go out in the boonies of our area. Stopped at a sketchy trailer that had a former investigator in it. Lights on but no answer. With places like this out in the middle of nowhere, the psycho in me wonders if the inhabitants have actually been dead for 3 weeks, but nobody in the world would even know otherwise. I'm sure they're fine. (*Gulp*)
The roads on the way back were just starting to have the water in the canals off to the sides breach in some places, but we made it home safe without hydroplaning once!
The next day, a member took us to Umami's, a fancy looking Chinese restaurant that is now up there with Tacos 4 Life on my list of favorite places to eat in Conway. Went back and visited a guy who said we could come back a few weeks ago. He's not a member of the church, but I guess 10-15 years ago, he helped out the missionaries a ton, even driving them back and forth between here and Memphis for transfers. He's read the Book of Mormon and heard it all. His main excuse seemed to be that he was too old to change what he grew up with. The whole point of life is changing, though. Incredibly nice guy, but also kinda sad.
For our dinner hour, I took a nap instead of eating cause I was still full from Umami's. That was a good choice.
We had our Book of Mormon class after that, and while looking over my notes for the 2nd chapter of the whole book, found stuff that I don't remember writing, about how the plan of salvation is embedded in the last few verses. I'll leave y'all to figure it out, how. (As a hint, Laman and Lemuel are 2/6 or 1/3 of the family. Kinda remind you of how one third of the hosts of heaven rebelled, too...?)
The next morning, President Hansen called about transfers.
Like we supposed, Elder Evans is leaving Conway, and the Conway Zone is getting dissolved, and merged into the neighboring Russellville Zone. They're the 2 smallest zones in the mission, and President had hinted at merging zones, so it wasn't a surprise. But! Instead of me staying in Conway... our Zone Leader area is getting whitewashed. (Both of us leave and two new missionaries come in. Yikes.) I'm headed to continue being a Zone Leader in Searcy, not too far away from where I am already. But I'm gonna miss Conway! Especially since this week (and this day in particular) as bumping.
After that call from President, we had 4 teaching appointments through the rest of the day. 2 second lessons with investigators who feel like friends, now. Just super cool, open minded people who are down to earth, funny, and so kind. Gonna miss those two. Had Little Caesar's for dinner, a new member lesson with Prashanth, and then read a chapter out of the Book of Mormon with a less active guy.
Prashanth was talking about how much better his life is without smoking and alcohol, and Elder Evans added "and you're saving money, too!" as a potential benefit. After some hesitation, Prashanth responded, "No... not really. Now I just spend it all on ice cream." Which was even funnier than it usually would be because of his Indian accent.
So yeah. Friday was a really good but really sad day. Lots of good, made sad cause we are leaving these guys! I was expecting at least 6 more weeks here, but both of us are heading out. :/
On Saturday, the office elders came and picked up Elder Shelley, concluding our 2 week trio adventures. Gonna miss that goofy guy.
We went over and gave a member's son a blessing in the hospital that morning, and then had a crepe lunch at the Routt's. Left to try some people and got flash flood warning number 2 and number 3. It was funny trying to visit people cause they open their trailer door or whatever and it's just dumping buckets and we're soaked and shouting over the sound of it all, asking if there's a good time we can come back.
So yeah that wasn't super productive. But then we got a call from a member in the other ward asking if we could help with sandbags in a neighborhood that's flooding. So we changed and drove up there. A lady pointed us over to someone's covered patio, where a command station had been set up over their table, with maps, radios, and weather alerts. They got our names and after a few minutes gave us an assignment. The grass was muddy, but that was about it.
And then we got in the little 4 wheeler thing, and the sisters joined us. We drove just down the road and whoa. It was a different scene. 1 or 2 big trees had fallen over at the roots, and a lake was inching itself up to someone's backyard before our eyes. We unloaded sandbags from a big jeep truck thing, and then moved them around the house, on top of some plastic sheets, which we then folded over the sandbags. It's an art form I can now consider myself aquainted with, getting them to overlap and stack just right. After doing it so long, my rain jacket came off and we just hucked the sandbags in t shirts, letting ourselves get drenched and sandy.
I talked with the homeowner for just a little bit in the chain gang passing of heavy sandbags. He said he had only lived there for barely a year, and this was the second time he was having to do this. Yikes!
We helped out there for like 2 hours, sometimes just the 4 of us, and towards the end about 8 or 9 people. We completely surrounded the house. The rain thankfully stopped at the end, there. Cause earlier it had been raining harder thsn the fastest windshield wipers setting could keep up with. Seriously. (I know my emails are known for hyperbolizing, but this one's for real.)
We left as our ward chili cook off was starting, and decided to just go in our service clothes. I was a mess, and had water in my shoes and socks. I fared a lot better at this chili cook off, cause I limited myself to two bowls and no peanut butter chili was involved. :)
Got home and took a hot shower and then went to bed and woke up sick. :-)
Okay, not too sick. Just a runny nose that got progressively worse throughout the day. It looked like I was crying by the time we were taking goodbye pictures with the Routt's for their son, Evan's birthday. But after a good night of sleep last night and my last David's Burger for a while, I'm feeling a lot better now. Although the sickness has mostly faded away, my sore shoulders, back, and arms have not yet recovered haha.
I've only been in Conway half the time I was in Collierville. So it's a little bit of an easier goodbye, but I will miss the work here and the people we were teaching! I hope they are still as receptive to new faces!
So anyway, it's been a crazy week. Left North Little Rock, got a haircut, worked in Conway, taught a bunch of people, [presumably] saved a house from getting flooded [worse than it would have without us, probably?] and got the news that Elder Evans and I are headed out of Conway! Craziness.
Stay dry! Read the Book of Mormon! Be the best you and embrace all truth!
Send swimming tips & life updates:
Send inflatable pool floaties:
905 Kierre Dr.
North Little Rock, AR 72116
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I've been disobedient this week.
Page 43 of the Missionary Handbook: "Limit how often you eat at restaurants, including fast-food restaurants."
So, I guess... I'll keep a tally for you as far as restaurants goes.
Fast food aside, it's been a wild week. As a trio, we are working 2 areas at once, both Conway and North Little Rock. We spent Tuesday & Wednesday in NLR, Thursday through Saturday in Conway, and then we came back to NLR yesterday, and will be here through Tuesday. It's insanity. It's also kinds fun.
I haven't felt like my best self this week, but our 3 days in Conway this week have been some of our best, most effective days. President Hansen promised us that our little time in our own area will be magnified, and that is sooooo true. We taught 3 new really solid-seeming investigators, one each day we were there. Here's my run-down of the week.
In my last email, I mentioned going to Tacos 4 Life for lunch. That was #1. #2 was going to Red Robin that night. It was Elder Webb's birthday, and his parents sent him some money for all of us to go out somewhere, so he picked Red Robin, which just opened. (It was the first Monday it had been open)
And then came Tuesday! Elder Shelley nominated himself as District Leader of the NLR district, so before finishing 12 week, he instructed his first district meeting! He did a pretty good job haha.
Afterwards, we went to Jimmy John's, which was free since a member of our church owns that location. Tried contacting some people in the North Little Rock area book but no one was home. One lady we tracted into referred us to a neighbor down the street from the Philippines who had just lost her husband. We said a prayer with her and gave her a Book of Mormon.
We had Wendy's for dinner that night, which is #4 for those of you keeping track.
On Wednesday, Valentine's Day, we joined the Office Elders in the morning to go to the tiny gym in their apartment complex. I broke my pull-up record at 20, and then it started pouring rain. We ran back to the apartment in it and finished getting ready for the day.
After studies, we went to Larry's Pizza buffet and discounted all the good we had done at the gym that morning. It was a nice day, though, and we were able to walk some of #5 back off. Again, we found that nobody we wanted to try was home.
For dinner, I wanted to try a new Mexican restaurant, so I found one on Google maps that was rated pretty high and sounded good, so we went off to #6. Yikes it was kinda shady haha. The inside looked like a gas station, and nobody in there spoke English. My torta was pretty good, though, and I didn't get food poisoning, so that's a win!
After attending their missionary correlation meeting, we convinced Elder Shelley to buy a tub of BlueBell 2-Step ice cream, (the kind with both cookies n cream and cookie dough in it.) We then played Apples to Apples with the Office Elders until late. So a pretty good day!
The next day, we drove back to Conway and had our district meeting. And then went to Wendy's for lunch. That was #7.
Being back in Conway, we tried a former we've been trying to meet for a while, and finally caught him on a day off! He invited us in and we talked for almost an hour. He said that at one point in his life, he would have been afraid to read the Book of Mormon because of how he had been raised, but he said he would start reading it as soon as we left, and have some questions ready for us this week! Yay!
That night, we had a home cooked meal, to end the streak! Excluding breakfasts, that was 7 consecutive meals eaten at a restaurant and I was getting tired of it haha. After that wonderfulness, we had our Book of Mormon class and that same kinda weird guy who came last week was there again. We read the book of Enos, and he kept forgetting the guy's name and calling him "Anos." Yikes. The sisters had an investigator there, and this guy asked for a ride to the other investigator's church from him, in the middle of class. Agh. Hopefully the other guy wasn't scared away. :/
Day 2 in Conway, we tried some potential investigators. The guy we were trying to see wasn't home, but his roommate answered the door, and invited us in. He's been searching for truth, and found a cool local church thst meets in people's homes and follows the example of the church in Acts. They believe in something called "The Recovery," which is the idea that parts of the Bible have been removed and there is more truth being discovered. So we shared our message, "The Restoration" with him, and a Book of Mormon. He said he's open to it all, so we will see how that goes!
On top of being in a trio, we had the missionaries from Glenwood join us, since Elder Miller had a doctors appointment in Conway. So there were 5 of us in our apartment which was fun haha. Found 39c while tracting that afternoon, and had restaurant meal #8 at Tacos 4 Life again. Man, thats my favorite place here i think. That night, we learned how to play Skipbo, and that was pretty fun. It was good hanging out with my MTC companion again!
Saturday had my favorite lesson of the week! We had been trying to see this lady for a while, and she told us to come back today, so we went and she was available, and invited us in. She lives with... her partner, who is a woman, and together they raise their 4 kids. She said her faith hasn't felt as strong lately, and asked us what she should do. We ended up explaining the restoration. She said she believed us! We told her to check out "mormon.org" to help answer any questions she has. She shared that she named one of her son's Elijah, and then went to Google what that meant.
By divine providence of God, the first result that came up on her Google search was mormon.org haha. She kiiinda freaked out a bit, but in an awesome way. She asked for "one of our Mormon books" and I gave one to her. She started flipping through it right away. "Wow," she kept saying. "I've just been looking through the index, and like the names, like Alma? And Nephi? And I just feel something good." It was so clear she was feeling the spirit! How awesome!!
We met the Glenwood missionaries up for lunch at Beebe's, a burger joint none of us had ever been to before. For #9, it was pretty good! Shoutout to Bro. Routt for paying for all of us hooligans.
Delivered a Spanish Book of Mormon and visited Steve, our investigstor who is waiting on his approval from the 1st Presidency to be baptized. Hes been waiting for a while now, so he should hear back soon. Or so we have been thinking since January!
Yesterday morning, we drove back to North Little Rock. Elder Jennings was there, already back from having given his departing testimony in that building the week before haha. He came up for a baptism that happened in their district on Saturday. That's 1/11 We need to get as a zone before the end of March!! It was good to see him again. The NLR ward had a missionary Sunday, in which Pres. & Sis. Hansen spoke, and I accompanied the NLR missionary district choir + Elder Evans in "Teach Me to Walk in the Light" on the piano. Got to see the amazing couple I helped teach up here a few weeks ago! They're still staying strong and progressing so much!
We got to have lunch at the Hess's, an awesome office senior couple. And then we went to the Cronin's for their Family Home Evening. Sis. Cronin was the one who was baptized on Saturday. Sis. McNall shared a spiritual thought with their 3 young kids, while one of their 2 pugs snored super loudly. Elder Stiles-Culver was laughing himself to fits but trying not to interrupt the thought or distract the kids, but every 4 or 5 seconds, the pug would snore again and he'd start shaking with laughter. It was infectious to me, so it got to the point where I was stabbing myself with my pen to distract myself haha.
Right after that, we went to have dinner with the Office Elders and a member couple. They made some kind of African curry that was pretty good. I guess she was one of the kids who first introduced and performed "I Am A Child of God" to the world!
And now it is P Day again and it has been a crazy week with cool people and cool experiences and lots of fast food grease. Don't take homemade food for granted. Fast food is only good for so long, unless it's Tacos 4 Life. But that add$ up.
It's cool to think that if I can have a week this good and fun and busy and crazy while I'm not on my best, this week, where I am determined to do my best, is gonna be heckin nuts. Until next time. I'm off to go give 'em heaven. [And bowl, at the moment]
Love y'all! Have a good week! Stay outta trouble! Read your scriptures!
What's your favorite fast food restaurant?
Fast food, slow mail
3080 Pebble Beach Rd, apt. 1
Conway AR, 72034
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The words of the bard, William Shakespeare, have survived the tests of time, inspiring countless audiences - in auditoriums and bedrooms alike. Throughout his playwrighting masterpieces, he doesn't just portray elements of the human condition, but he evokes through his words fear, love, awe, joy, and misery. Of all the countless lines that have etched themselves a place in the library of time, I have found my favorite. "No man is free who is not a master of himself."
BAM. HOW RAD IS THAT?!
I forgot to mention I hit my 8 month/one third mark last week! What the!?
It's felt like a looong week. Looking back on earlier in the week, I almost didn't believe that stuff happened only a week ago. It's been a less successful week here as far as finding and teaching goes, which is discouraging. Our main problem is that we have a handful of investigators that seem super solid... but we have the hardest time getting to see them... ever. They're always canceling appointments. Bunch of Frosted Flakes. Trying to get those *Golden* Grahams. All we seem to find are a bunch of people that are coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs.
Anyway. Even though the week didn't have much success, it did bring with it some stories. On to those.
On P-day, we got together as a zone, and went to Urban Air, a trampoline park place that was pretty fun! They had these American Ninja Warrior courses that were awesome. (I was sore for the next 3 days though haha)
The next day, we had our MLC (Mission Leadership Council meeting) and that was good. Yeah, not sure what else to say about that for once. It was good.
On Wednesday, we had our district meeting, got that Wendy's 4 for $4, and exchanged w the missionaries in Choctaw. I stayed in Conway w/ Elder Mair and that... was also good. Found 1 or 2 people who said we could come back, so I was happy about that.
Some members took us to Cafe 501, a kind of upscale restaurant that was very very tasty. I got a burger with some kind of subtle orange sauce on it, and ghost pepper jack cheese... it was so good.
After dinner, we went and visited Rickey, this cool older gentleman we've visited a couple times. He is content with the Bible and doesn't see why we have a need for the Book of Mormon. For the millionth time on my mission, I just wished I could bluetooth my testimony over to his brain. Or even just the questions I would have only having the Bible to go off of. Why aren't there prophets on the earth anymore? If all these apostles were writing their epistles to correct false teachings in one singular church, where is that church now? What the heck is this about baptisms for the dead, and Jesus teaching dead people? What does it mean to "inherit" the kingdom? What does God want me to do? Profess my faith and that's it? Do I need to be baptized? Am I saved just once?
So many questions the Book of Mormon helps answer! I would have a pretty hard time believing the Bible at all if not for the Book of Mormon.
On Thursday, we exchanged back, and went to the UCA Campus to give out candy and passalong cards to let people know about the LDS Student Association club we are starting on campus. Right after Elder Evans and I were sent to buy more candy, I guess the rest of them had some lady inform them they needed to register a table or something to do that. Ooops. So there went our afternoon haha.
Later that night, we went to try to meet a former investigstor, who, as it turned out, had moved. As we walked up to the house, there were 2 young boys, probably 8 or 9 years old, jumping on the trampoline in the back yard.
"What are you doing?" One of them asked.
"Talking about Jesus," I responded.
"Can you go to my house, too?" He asked. "I'm house 18."
So, a little dubiously, we went to house 18 and knocked on the door. A 12 and a 14 year old girl answered the door, and the kid came running over and basically asked for us if we could "come in and talk about God with us." Their parents weren't home, so I was quick to agree with the oldest daughter's "no, not while mom is gone."
"Okay, I'll bring chairs out here," the kid said, and ran inside to bring two chairs out onto their little porch, while 3 dogs walked around us and tangled us in their leashes. We showed a video to the 3 of them and the neighbor friend and talked about how cool it is to have living prophets!
That night we had Book of Mormon class, with a pretty small group, plus... I'll just say a pretty weird dude. This guy has been calling us and the Conway 2 missionaries changing his mind back and forth between going to the 9 o'clock and 1 o'clock services. Every time he calls he asks the same questions. We finally met him at Book of Mormon class, and I was able to more fully diagnose his "Dory syndrome" cause he asked the same questions again. "Do y'all have pastors? Are y'all Catholic, or nondenominational? What are prophets like? Do they have long beards? Was Joseph Smith an englishman?" He's nuts. But he cracked us up. He's a good guy. He's going to like 3 churches every Sunday.
On Friday, we got a call from a lady asking for help to move her son in. It started raining as soon as we got there, so that was fun. Afterwards, we visited with a recent convert in the 2nd Ward that Elder Evans has taught while he was serving there. She was also a little nuts. A really well meaning lady, and she told us she felt a lot better after our visit. She shared that before Elder Evans and his companion knocked on their door, she had been praying that Elders from her Jehovah's Witness church would come visit her. And then in come the Mormon Elders! That's a sign from God, no?
My main lesson from that visit was how terrifying and awful addiction is, going back to the Shakespeare quote at the beginning of the email. She said she had let in and smoked a few times recently. She downed a Diet Coke and she and her husband were talking about all these prescriptions they were changing and how hard that was. They have a daughter that is a recovering meth addict, and... you can tell. It's just so sad. It made me reflect on how I can better control and master myself. My sins may not smell as bad, but there's always something more I can do.
The best news of this week, though, is that that couple I was able to teach on exchanges last week, just set a baptismal date!! After having met w/ the missionaries for just over 2 weeks, or 3 or 4 appointments, they are planning to be baptized in early March!! I'm so excited for them!
Alright. So that's the week! Now here's those things that I included in the title of the email.
1. The Chili Cook Off Incident.
Some members invited us to attend their Blue & Gold Banquet for their kids, which was held at another church. The gym was full of excited cub scouts and parents, and in the next room over, was 25 different crock pots full of chili. Within these 25 pots were such flavors as pumpkin spice chili, chili with cocoa powder in it, deer chili, ghost pepper chili, and... peanut butter chili.
Now, some of those sound pretty gross, right? Peanut Butter Chili? Really? Like... I almost hate to admit it, but like, I'd recommend it to a friend. It was good! ...Was. The first time it was in my mouth.
From the chili cook off, our cool Indian recent convert, Prashanth took us to Andy's, and we buried our several bowls of chili in frozen custard, and then went to the church and convinced Prashanth to stay for a YSA Valentine's Dance haha. He enjoyed it, though!
We went to bed, and I was starting to feel a little off. I fell asleep, and then came 12:30PM.
There was no falling back asleep. The bulk of the next hour was spent in the bathroom.
If you're squeemish, I'll just leave it as "it was coming out of my nose," and let you scroll past this next paragraph.
If you're not squeemish, (or if you are, and are reading this anyway, even though I warned you) I'll add the details that it felt like being waterboarded and that I don't think I've ever thrown up that hard or that much in my life. Fun stuff. I honestly can't remember the last time I've thrown up, but it's been years. I've gagged a few times on the mish, and Buffalo Wild Wings has done me wrong, but hey, if you don't throw up on the mission, did your mission even happen?
Okay, sorry. back to more reverent things. i was just jokin about that last part.
After extending his mission 1 month, Elder Jennings is heading home today! But there is still the rest of February left in this transfer. So what is his companion, Elder Shelley to do? Well, Elder Shelley has joined Elder Evans & I for the rest of the transfer, so we are in a trio for a few weeks! I'm excited about it haha. We picked him up yesterday after church!
Then, this morning, we got a notification from the APs that our emergency drill is happening, so everybody in the mission had to get to their emergency contact/member safehouses. Once our whole zone was in (over an hour after the notification haha) we were able to continue with our P Day. We got our shopping done, and went to Tacos 4 Life. Man, that place is another one of my favorites in Conway. So good.
And now I'm here, writing this email. Feeling quite a bit better than I did Saturday night and Sunday morning! So now you're caught up!
I hope your week has significantly less vomit than mine did! Love y'all!
Be silly & beware of bad chili!
Tell me about your week! (And what the heck this whole "tide pod" meme is about)
Tell me about your week!
3080 Pebble Beach Rd., apt #1
Conway Arkansas, 72034
This weekly email is brought to you by:
- William Shakespeare
- Cub Scouts of America
- Regrettable amounts of chili
- Cafe 501 & Tacos 4 Life for not making me throw up and bringing me joy
Well, it's been 7 days and I'd like to think I'm a slightly better Elder Oliver Dahl than last week! Here's what went down.
(But first just a really quick cool miracle I forgot to write about last week)
We were trying a less active member in an apartment complex that I had been to just twice before in my entire time in Conway so far. The member wasn't home. As we were walking away, a lady calls down to us from the upstairs of the apartment building, "missionaries!" Apparently she, her non member husband, and her 5 boys had just finished moving in that day from downtown Little Rock! How awesome that we were able to be in the right place at the right time to welcome them into the area, the first day they got here, before anyone else knew they were even here!
Okay, sorry, that was just one of those cool little moments that is too cool to be an accident, and I had to share it. On to this week.
I have just been so stinkin tired the past little while. Especially this week, in large part due to our two consecutive days of exchanges in North Little Rock. They were exhausting, but so so fun, and the definite highlight of my week.
We met Elders Jennings, Shelley, Brownell, and Stiles-Culver (the NLR & Office Elders respectfully) at good ole David's Burgers. We split off from there, Elder Shelley and I going tracting and walking around a few neighborhoods. We found one kinda potential investigator, but didn't find a ton of success. Elder Shelley, who has been out for almost 3 months now, seemed to enjoy my door approaches and was trying to take mental note of them, so that helped me know that even if we weren't finding success then, hopefully the things I was demonstrating could lead to eventual success as Elder Shelley implements them down the road.
We met up again at the Millers, an awesome young family in NLR who fed 8 of us missionaries in the area, and then we played a game called signs with them before heading out to their missionary correlstion meeting. Spent a good chunk of time there reviewing our main takeaways from last week's visit from Elder Holland & Uchtdorf. I was trying to come up with a one sentence summary as requested, and I didn't realize what it really was until I said it. It has since become my goal. To not just wait around for my mission to change me because "missions change people," but to actively change myself while on my mission. Because that's the only way it really works. And you don't have to be on a mission to change yourself into the best version of you that you can be!
That night, we played ping pong in the office elders apartment again until midnight. Slept on a couch, and then started day 2. Had studies and then went to exchange with the Office Elders after a taco bell lunch, but Elder Stiles-Culver was sick. So... Elder Evans went w Elder Brownell to do office stuff, Elder Jennings stayed w/ Stiles, and... I had another day of exchanges with Elder Shelley haha.
This time, we got dropped off in South North Little Rock, in a primarily African American part of town. I was able to give away a bible to a lady that asked for one, but that was about as much success as we had. But it was still judt really fun to explore and walk around a new part of the world that before my mission I never would have thought I'd be in.
While walking past an old car, an adorable little girl (probably 4 or 5) startled me a little bit by looking out the back window at us. I waved at her, and she just beamed and waved back, her little beaded dreadlocks bouncing as she giggled. Further down the road, I turned around and she was still looking at us. I waved again and she ducked out of sight haha. What a cutie. Just a few doors down, a 7 or 8 year old kid looked at us through the window after we knocked on the door. He told us his parents weren't home and asked what we were doing.
"We're missionaries, so we talk to people about Jesus. Do you like Jesus?" I asked.
"Yeah," he responded. "He died but then he came back to life!"
"Yeah! How cool is that?! He sure helps me be happy!"
Little kids are the future!
That night, all 4 missionaries, (the North Little Rock and office Elders) had an appointment with a couple they had helped move in last week. I guess they had seen a friend and talked about how they needed help moving, and the friend had another friend who had talked about the Mormons helping them out. So this couple showed up at the church one day and asked for help, and these 4 guys spent the majority of the day helping them move.
Since Stiles-Culver was sick, I was able to take his place and have dinner and share a lesson with the couple. I'm so glad I had this opportunity, because it was the definite highlight of my week.
We had some pizza and then the conversation naturally flowed toward the gospel. We walked in at 6:30, and didn't leave til almost 10:30, which is kinda against mission rules, but they just kept asking awesome questions and loving our answers. (So how could we leave??) They talked about how excited they had been all week to have the missionaries back over, since they felt so much peace and happiness around them last time.
When we explained a question they had, one of them always asked the other what they thought about it. They would always nod and say something like "I like that. Yeah. That's right." They especially liked the doctrine of Baptisms for the Dead and how that resolved some of the "plot holes" they had recognized in past religions. Toward the end of the lesson, I asked them if they had felt the spirit, and they were quick to say that they had. I promised them that what we were teaching was true and that they could find more of that spirit in the Book of Mormon. They were sad to see us go, and we left with Elder Jennings dedicating their home. Received some hugs as we left and we were all glowing on the way home. It was awesome.
Stayed up til midnight again as Elder Evans and Jennings dribbled a ping pong ball back and forth until they hit 200 consecutive hits. After (a lot of) failed attempts, they hit 200 and kept going til 333. It was hype. Sleeping on a couch again left us pretty zonked out the next day, though, for our Zone Conference.
Zone Conference was good, though! Pres. Hansen instructed on some of the finer details I hadn't thought about regarding some new testament stories, and that was cool.
Afterward, we took our dinner hour and just napped instead of having dinner. But then we did service at that one church kitchen again and had some leftovers. Book of Mormon class was awesome again.
Spent the next day wandering around the shady small town of Mayflower, AR. There were some sights, including a wolf or something someone had strung up to a tree in their front yard. #Arkansas!! (Picture below)
Had a lesson w a guy who walked into church a few weeks ago. We sat around his bed in a back room of his trailer and he, too, talked about how he felt something different about us and the other members of the church he had met. Hoping we can keep meeting with and helping this guy!
While trying to contact someone [else] in an apartment building, [we do that a lot haha] they weren't home, but I heard the tv playing in the next apartment, and felt a prompting that we should knock on it. Elder Evans had turned around to go down the stairs, but I suggested we try this one, and knocked.
Lo and behold... no one answered! My turn to turn around and go down the stairs. But there was one more door on that floor, and Elder Evans started walking to that one.
But this time... no one answered! We were on a roll. So we headed down the stairs, and half way down, that last door opened. The guy ended up inviting us in and turns out he actually knew a lot about the church and was eager to have us over to answer some questions about the Book of Mormon!
So anyway, I include this story cause it was a cool example of how the spirit guides us and works in companionships, and how just because we don't see results from a prompting right away, doesn't mean it's not from God, just that we should keep working and waiting.
Later in the day, another person we were trying in another apartment complex had moved, but the new resident told us to "Stay on the battlefield, fellas," which was funny and kept us going haha.
We had our monthly meeting w the Stake & Mission President yesterday, and we got the scoop on some top secret, cutting edge deeds coming to the mission. So that's exciting. There'll be some [more] cool stuff [and people!] coming to the mish.
We drove back to Conway after that and I was able to stand in the circle for Prashanth, (Elder Evans super cool, Indian recent convert) to receive the Aaronic Priesthood! It was super cool to participate in the gospel and priesthood being able to bless more of the people around the world!
Sorry this email is so sporadic haha. But hopefully some of the stories were enjoyable! I can feel myself improving as a person and missionary, and just need to keep up the momentum! I'll issue the same challenge to y'all - be a slightly better person the next time you read an email from me. Share what you change!
Have a good week! Love y'all!
Email contact info for people we can teach in Conway:
Mail us people in big boxes who we can teach in Conway:
3080 Pebble Beach Rd, apt. #1
Conway, AR 72034
This weekly email brought to you by:
- David's Burgers
- Apartment buildings
- The surplus wolf population?
- The Sketchy parts of NLR & Mayflower
I was trying to think of other things to include in the title of this email, but nothing else really compared to the highlight of this week. But we'll get to that.
On P Day, I got to spend a good hour or two on the grand piano in the chapel playing while everyone else played basketball and that was just... really really nice. I feel like my piano skills may be improving (or at least are not getting worse!) even though I'm not able to practice super often, so that's a definite blessing!
We had our first district meeting of the transfer, and that went pretty alright. After a Wendy's stop, we did exchanges with some of the elders in the 2nd ward. It was probably the hardest exchange I've been on... my companion for the day really struggled to plan out what we would do, and then fell asleep for 30 minutes while praying... That whole time, we only knocked on 2 doors. I tried my best to get him up and going, and hopefully I left him with something new to think about, but idk. It was rough. Of those 2 doors, one of them didn't answer, and the other one was an adventure.
This older lady, a member we were going to introduce ourselves to, answered the door with tears in her eyes, and said "maybe you can help me, come in." So we sat down and she talked for a little bit. By the end of it, we were thinking she might have dementia, but she was talking about how her daughter was stealing from a hotel and had told her she was going to send her away. So she was trying to get to her other family in Illinois, and didn't seem to have a solid understanding of the fact that she was in Arkansas. She had locked all her windows and doors and mentioned something about knives to keep the doors closed. As I looked around, I saw that she had actually put a butter knife through the molding around the back doorway to try to act as a second deadbolt in the door. (But in practice, if someone were to open the door, it would just tear the molding off... which is what happened to her front door.) So that was interesting.
We biked back to our apartment in time to pick up dinner from another member, and then spent an hour finding the 2nd door we knocked on during that exchange. Thankfully, biking is still a breeze compared to what it was in Collierville. I guess biking slower and having the seat at the right height makes a difference haha.
The next day their Ward Mission Leader took us to Quiznos for lunch and we exchanged back. It was good to be reunited with Elder Evans haha. Went into houses on opposite ends of the spectrum, some very nice, and others... less so. Like hoarder houses w/ calendars from 2011 hanging, and the very air just saturated with animal pee. I'm definitely learning a lot about what I do and don't want in life and in my home, and so on.
[We met a cat named "Seven." Not because it was the 7th cat the people had adopted, but because it had 7 toes. On more than one foot. Picture below.]
Found another trailer park to tract in, and had some success there. (One person said we could come back, and we were able to chat with another guy for a while who just wanted a better understanding of what we believed.)
That night was actually one of the other spiritual highlights of the week. The sisters found somebody a few weeks ago who they had been trying to teach but just weren't able to set a solid appointment with. They had asked him if he would want a Priesthood blessing, and he said yes, so they let us know and we were able to join them and give the guy a blessing. Back in 2008, he had been shot, and the bullet is still in his back. (That's the extent of the story that I know.)
When I first met the guy, I was feeling a little cynical and like this guy was just trying to be polite to the sisters, but it ended up being awesome. I was able to give the blessing, and as we visited afterward, he was just a different person. He was smiling, and said things like "I can feel it," and "That was exactly what I needed." It led to the sisters being able to set a more solid return appointment, and being able to explain some more about the Priesthood to him. He wasn't the only one who learned and felt something that night, though.
We then had our Book of Mormon class, and had a less active guy join us who shared his testimony about wanting to come back into activity in the church because he saw how happy it made his younger sister. We were in charge of teaching the class, so I was trying to keep the tears in haha. I hope that my younger siblings can see how happy the gospel makes me, and want to be involved in it more, too.
Friday was a little more rough. I started out so excited! We had five appointments for the day. This is like... unheard of. Having two teaching appointments is enough to get us pumped for the day. So five?! Long story short, every single one of those five appointments either canceled, or wasn't home when we knocked on their door again. Which is, you know, annoying. But at the same time, we got to the end of the day and were able to feel good about what we did. We did our part. We met our expectations. We kept our word and gave people their chances. It was other people's decisions that led to them missing out, not our own weaknesses or mistakes. That's definitely a freeing feeling, and one I've learned to appreciate on the mission. We can be happy with the things that we do and the way we react to the situations we find ourselves in. We don't have control over what other people do, so why feel bad/angry/sad/upset over it? We need to choose to be happy about those things we do have control over. (hopefully this makes sense lol)
After one of those 5 failed return appointments, our ward mission leader took us to Andy's Frozen Custard, which was pretty dang good, and that added to our "feel-good" feeling despite the "failures" we had today. He then dropped us back off at the church, and we were able to help load up almost all the chairs in the building to be taken to North Little Rock for the apostle visit the next day.
And then it was Saturday!
Got up at 5AM and picked up the trio serving in the 2nd ward and headed to North Little Rock. We had breakfast there and were arranged on these risers like it was 4th grade class photos again, and then waited for the apostles to come in. After a few kinda painful minutes squished in between ~184 missionaries, in walked Elder Holland, somberly strolling from the entrance to the gym and only looking up to see us til he got closer. Elder Uchtdorf came in a few seconds later, and then Elder and Sister Klebingat. The feeling I had as they walked in was kinda hard to describe, so bear with me as I use the word "huge" to attempt that. Maybe you've heard the phrase "giants among men" before, but I gained a deeper understanding of that seeing them. Like you just feel that they have these big souls. They don't command attention or really look like anything other than normal people. But when they walk in, you feel it.
They told us we looked great and has beautiful smiles, ("most of you," - Elder Uchtdorf) and then we took the picture and then got in line to shake their hands. They asked us to tell them their name and where we were from, and I'm pretty sure I was smiling pretty wide when I introduced myself as "Elder Dahl from Boise, Idaho!"
We sat down in the chapel in our pre-assigned benches. I was the first of our zone in there, so I got to sit in the front row off in the right row of benches, close enough to see Elder Uchtdorf's eyes tearing up a little bit during the 10 minutes in which Elder Holland praised him. That was one of the most powerful parts of the meeting, I thought. "Let me talk to you for a minute," he began. And then he just talked about how wonderful Elder Uchtdorf is.
Pres. & Sister Hansen spoke, and then Elder Beheshti, (the area 70) and then Elder & Sister Klebingat (General 70 and wife) and then Elders Uchtdorf and Holland. It was like having a spiritual dump truck unload on top of us, in the best kind of way. After Elder Holland had finished extolling E. Uchtdorf, he added, "In a second language, I just wanna get up and slap his face! That he can teach that well in English, his second language, and I can't even get a 'guten morgen' out in German. If I did, it wouldn't be that 'gut.'" Outside of General Conference, they were all really really funny. Also a little less organized in presenting their thoughts (largely because they didn't come prepared with a talk, they just spoke extemporaneously) but I think I liked it that way, because we got more, and it's making me study and organize their thoughts myself in a way that helps me internalize what they shared.
After the missionary meeting, we blitzed North Little Rock with the missionaries there, and then returned to the church after a trip to David's to catch the evening young adult session. Elder Jennings and I walked all over NLR, and past some kinda sketchy places with boarded up apartment buildings and stuff haha.
The evening session was just as good. So many incredible one-liners and mind-blowers. Missionaries were invited to come if they brought investigators/recent converts, and we had Prashanth with us, so we could go. People came all the way from Memphis, which was awesome for me, cause I got to see a couple people from Collierville there! Including Caroline and Wendy! It's so so good to see that they're doing well and getting to hear such awesome stuff from our apostles.
Got back to Conway kinda late, and, much like Lehi, "cast[ed] [myself] upon [my] bed, being overcome with the spirit and the things which [I] had seen." And then Sunday came, and they had a third 2-hour meeting that was broad-casted to all the church buildings in the mission. So all in all, I have notes from like 7 or 8 hours of different church leaders. A little overwhelming at first, but man they shared so much good stuff it's crazy. A point that was made in each of these meetings was essentially, "Of all of the [missionaries/young adults in the church/church members] in the world, it's pretty likely that you are the luckiest ones in the world right now." Definitely felt that that was true.
Here are some of the lines/thoughts/takeaways that I'll share rather than relate more boring stuff about meetings hahaha.
- "There are no vertical movements in the kingdom of god, except in our personal righteousness. We have one head, the lord Jesus Christ, and all the rest of us are disciples. A leadership position is just a diversion from what we really are. The issue is the cleanliness and purity of our souls." (Holland)
- The dots of life connect only in retrospect or from a spiritually higher vantage point. (Uchtdorf)
- Going through life thinking it will be easy is like going to the gym and hoping there will not be weights. (Klebingat)
- "True friends are like angels, they will lift us to our feet when our own wings have trouble remembering how to fly." (Uchtdorf - how poetic is that??)
AND, MY PERSONAL FAVORITE QUOTE:
"The great tragedy in life is not failure. It is not struggle, or heartache, or pain. The great tragedy in life is success... when we aim too low." (Holland.)
They also had some funny ["funny" if you are mormon, at least haha] lines like Elder Uchtdorf's "I went into the Stake President's office and they still had the wrong picture of the first presidency in there!" and "After 10 years in the first presidency, I get to finally sit between Elder Holland and Elder Bednar. Wow!!"
And Elder Holland's "When I hear stories about missionaries going home and leaving the church, it about makes me want to hurl myself into the Arkansas River!" and "I know of some Stake Presidents who, after fasting and prayer were released and assigned to the nursery! Of course, the ones who didn't fast enough to be assigned to the nursery were called as Scout Leaders." Man, Elder Holland had some jokes, I'm telling ya. Maybe I wouldn't have found them as funny before my mission haha.
He talked briefly in the missionary meeting about the importance of representing the image of an LDS Missionary well. He said something to the effect of "don't go home and tell people about that time you short-sheeted your companion, tell them you are a different person." So... I was a little bit rebuked by the spirit with that one, haha.
Pretty often, [read, "very often,"] my emails are about the crazy stuff like... dead rats and eating 200 Buffalo Wild Wings haha. I try to also include the spiritual things, but maybe I don't give those the weight I should. So here's me making clear a few things:
I am a different person now than I was when I left on my mission. If you expect me to come back as the same "Oliver Dahl" you will... not be disappointed, because this Oliver is a better Oliver. I have been changed not just because of "my mission" or from "living in the South," but changed through the Atonement of Christ. It is real. This is his church. There are too many "coincidences," miracles, and lives eternally changed for this to be anything but real. If God exists at all--and I know that he does, then this is His church and kingdom on the earth today, led by prophets and apostles like the very church He established in the New Testament. I am His disciple, and no other thing on this planet matters besides my ability to stand at the judgement bar and tell Him I gave it my all. I'm not at that point yet, and every day is a gift from Him allowing me to get closer to it.
I feel like maybe me not being clear about what all my mission is doing for me could be distancing me from that point. Yes, it's fun, yes, I laugh a lot. But this is changing my life, it's changing me. It's true and it's all that matters, and I have come to know that. I want everybody to come to know that. Thankfully, God has provided one simple way for us to know, and that is reading the Book of Mormon. Get ahold of a copy, and read that thing. Nothing evil could have written it, and nothing good would have written it, unless it truly came from God.
So anyway. This has kinda been a different type of email than I usually do. Hopefully it made some sense and helped you feel something good, warm, happy, curious, or wanting more. This is the "more" in life you need. Not gonna apologize for being "preachy" or testifying of what I know is true, cause that's what I do. (And increasingly, not just what I do, but who I am.)
I hope y'all have a fantastic week and can feel God's love for you within it!
Spiritual questions immaterially:
Spiritual questions tangibly:
3080 Pebble Beach Rd., apt. #1
Conway, Arkansas 72034
(Emails/letters/boxes/etc. are not limited to spiritual questions. Y'all can send whatever you want, like cool pictures or memes or a deluxe, high-pressure showerhead for example)
This weekly email brought to you by:
- Elder Dahl's long-as-heck writing style. Sorry.
- Andy's Frozen Custard
- The Arkansas River (don't go less-active after your mission)
- David's Burgers, as always
- The Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ
- and readers like you, thank you!
Another week has come and gone, and now we're most of the way through January. What?!
This week was transfers week! Both Elder Evans & I are staying in Conway. Transfer day itself got postponed a day because of snow, though! Seriously. Come 7AM, while some people in far out areas had already hit the road to transfer locations, we got a text saying to stay off the roads because of the snow and ice, and to wait to transfer until the next day.
It was also a snow day for the local schools! Kinda... like, you guys... the grass was like a powdered donut. If you blew off most of the powder and licked the rest off. The roads were kinda wet, but not icy. It must have been worse in other sides of the mission. (I think Collierville actually had like 3 snow days in a row, but their snow actually stuck.) By about 11AM, all the snow was gone, and all the kids were still out of school. Riiight. "Snow day."
That day was also the day Pres. Nelson held his broadcast and press conference, and a bunch of us missionaries got together to watch that. (We figured it was safe to drive since... the snow was gone.) That was cool, and I was thinking how awesome these like 13 old dudes are. They're all just such awesome, Christlike people. I definitely sustain Russel M. Nelson as the world's prophet! That guy is legit the coolest 93 year old on the planet.
Later in the afternoon, as we were trying to contact some people, we got out of the car and walked around to do so for about 25-30 minutes. I had my big peacoat on, and a sweater. And my oh my, was it the coldest my face has ever felt in my entire life. I say that after having been outside in Idaho winters when it dips into the negatives. I think then it was in the high 10's, or low 20's. But it was a humid cold, which I'd heard about from more seasoned missionaries, but figured it couldn't really be that different from dry cold, right? Wrong. The best way I can describe it is like how your hand gets slow when it's been out in the cold for a while. Only that happens to your face. So if you make a funny face, you might actually have reason to fear that it might freeze like that.
Thankfully, it was a little bit warmer the next day, and we brought hand warmers with us. We had the hardest time planning in the morning, and half way through, just decided to embrace the fact that we would spend most of the day knocking doors. A lot of our investigators have dropped us, or have just vanished, or are just not available often enough for us to visit with them regularly.
So we picked a few streets, and started knocking doors in this trailer park. (We like those.) There were some pretty nice people there, and a handful of people who spoke only Spanish. In one or two of those instances, I kinda deferred them to Elder Evans, who had something like "Hello, we're the missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. We don't speak Spanish, but we know some other missionaries who do. Would you be interested in meeting with them?" memorized in Spanish. One lady said another time, so we figured we were doing pretty alright.
And then we met Geronimo! [This is the cool part/the highlight of my week!]
After we knocked on his door, we went across the street to the next trailer, but then he came out and started talking with us. Elder Evans delivered his line, and he continued trying to talk with us. "Solamente hablo un poco Español," I apologized. He just kinda stood there expectantly after that. I looked at Elder Evans and tried to come up with the vocabulary in my head to explain some of our message to him. I started super simply, and before I knew it, I had asked him how long he had had faith in Christ, and I understood his answer. I explained that we believed in Him, and that we have prophets and apostles on the earth today, just like what we read about in the Bible. He shared some of his Catholic faith with us, and I was able to understand that, too! He asked about the Book of Mormon, and I explained that as best as I could. It was probably the worst Spanish he had ever heard, but by the end of it, he accepted my invitation for us to come back and bring him a Spanish Book of Mormon!
As he went back inside, and Elder Evans and I walked away, we both just started laughing. What the heck just happened?! Getting called to the Arkansas Little Rock Mission, English speaking, I didn't think that my Spanish would really come in handy, or that I'd get to have a cool "experiencing the gift of tongues" story for my homecoming talk. But like... that's what it was. It was all said in what little Spanish I knew, but many of the words I did use, I'd forgotten existed until they left my mouth. I know the Lord was with me in this small way to testify of the truthfulness of His church on the earth today.
We had dinner with that Peruvian family again that evening, and the adorable grandmother cooked an amazing dish... I forgot what it's called, but it was rice with homemade french fries on top, and then like fajita steak filling on top. It was really good. She and her daughter spoke back and forth in Spanish a lot, and I guess the gift of tongues had left me cause I didn't understand a lick of what they were saying haha.
On Thursday, we helped out for a little bit at this other church that hosts a food kitchen type thing that feeds people in need. That was pretty fun, there were some characters there. We then went straight to the Book of Mormon class we put on every Thursday night, and nobody but the sisters and our Ward Mission Leader came. We still went over a chapter, though, and I learned a lot! I love how many new details and insights you get just by reading the Book of Mormon again. It's impossible to soak it all up at once.
That reminds me of something I forgot to include in my last email. At Book of Mormon class last week, we did have somebody show up, a recent convert from India named Prashanth. He had been reading in the Book of Mormon on his own, and had gotten to the Isaiah chapters. (Where portions of the book of Isaiah are quoted by the prophets at the time in the Book of Mormon.) Since he was the only one there, we decided to just pick up where he left off and read through some of the Isaiah chapters with him.
His English is pretty good, but it has taken him a while to get past the scriptural language. (Thee, thou, ye, etc.) And now we were going into Isaiah. He would stop us every once in a while to say, "I don't know what this means." We were kinda like... "Yeah, we don't really know what this means either. Let's figure it out!" So there we were, using the Institute Manual to help explain Isaiah to ourselves and to this Indian guy with no Christian background. That was fun haha.
While in the class this week, an email came from our mission president, announcing which Apostle was going to visit our mission. (We'd gotten the news back in December that one would be visiting, we just didn't know which of the 12 it was. There were rumors it was going to be (now President) Nelson, but since he is now the prophet, things must have gotten shuffled around.) He told us that it wasn't just going to be one apostle, but 2! So Elder Uchtdorf & Elder Holland will both be visiting the Little Rock, AR area this Saturday!
To those of you who have no idea who they are, they're kinda the modern equivelant of like James or Paul in the New Testament. They might as well have announced my favorite band is going to put on a concert for us, I'm so so so excited. They are just funny, poignant, brilliant, Christlike men who I strive to be like. Anyway, I'll have that to write about in my next email! :)
Saturday was fun! Last week, Elder Evans & I were invited to speak at a "Super Saturday" event for the youth. We prepared 10 minute talks, and they had Little Caesars for lunch, so we were happy about that. I talked about how the hobbies and habits I was into at home helped prepare me for my mission, and I tried to make it kinda funny. I think I succeeded. (That or they were just laughing at me.) Sounds like a couple folks might end up getting my books haha.
Later that day, while we were walking around, a guy shouted at us. Elder Evans and I each caught a part of what he said, and when we put it together, we realized he told us "LaVell Edwards is a legend!!" which... was a much funnier thing to be yelled than what I expected.
Then, on Sunday, we had another guy just come to church. He opened up a lot in Sunday School, and a few of the members were able to bear testimony and help comfort him. We now have an appointment to visit with him later in the week!
One of the members of the bishopric told me he had been looking at my Amazon page earlier, and saw that I played piano. The cat was out of the bag. I played an opening song for 3rd hour haha. (But I didn't mind, I'd much rather play piano than have a bunch of people who aren't Pentatonix sing a capella)
The week ended off really well, when we had a lesson with another guy we've been trying to teach. We had a member over with us, and it was awesome! Not much really went according to plan, but it ended up better than we had planned. I love when that happens. Seeing the guy even just holding the Book of Mormon as we talked made me so happy. This book is everything!
Oh yeah! Tuesday/Wednesday was dang freaking cold, but it warmed up all the way to 65 degrees on Sunday! It was SOOO NICE! It's a little cooler today, but a long sleeve shirt will keep you comfortable. This whole week is supposed to have highs in the mid50s so I'm excited.
But, boring weather stuff aside, I say that because I guess the low to high temperature move wreaked some havoc. Cause last night was THE CRAZIEST STORM I have ever been through. It wouldn't have taken much to convince me the Second Coming was about to happen, this was some 3rd Nephi-level stuff.
Rain was pounding, that's nothing new, but still exciting. The wind was blowing, that's not super uncommon. Although, it was a lot windier than usual. But then there was the lightning and thunder. I seriously thought somebody put a strobe light outside our window. (And I'm not saying that, I literally looked out of the window to find where the spotlight was that kept flashing our window every 2-3 seconds.) And the thunder felt like it was all around us. It stayed like that for about 20-30 crazy minutes and then quieted down really fast.
Apparently, tornadoes happen in the silence after the storm, and not in the thick of them. Fortunately, our roof wasn't torn off, and Conway is still in tact. I don't think any tornadoes happened. But it was exciting, anyway!
So that's my week! How was y'alls? Sending my love,
3080 Pebble Beach Rd., apt. #1
Conway, AR 72034
This Weekly Email Brought to You by:
-19 individual flakes of snow
-Little Caesar's Pizza
-The Book of Mormon
Well another week has come and gone. This one didn't have any rats or elephant poop, but it was still good!
On Tuesday, we had a district meeting, and a recent convert in the area asked to join in. So we invited him along, and that was awesome!
After district meeting, Elder Evans and I drove to North Little Rock. A former missionary, one of my first zone leaders, Elder Breen, was driving through on his way to school, and stopped by the church there while we were there. It was fun to hear from him about life after the mission and the iPhone X and imagine dragons new album haha.
We then exchanged for just a few hours with Elder Jennings and Shelley, and then went to dinner at the Millers, a young member family in the area who fed 8 of us missionaries that night haha. We played the game "signs" and it came out that my birthday was the next day. Turns out, they had half of a "CTR" cake leftover from their son's 8th birthday/baptism last weeked, and some BlueBell 2-step ice cream. (It's cookie dough + cookies n cream combined. Yum!) So the whole North Little Rock District and the Millers, who I hadn't met til that day, sang to me and we all enjoyed some cake and ice cream!
From there, we went to their missionary correlation meeting, where they started a fast as a district, ward mission, and bishopric, fasting for the missionary work in the area. We then went over to their apartment, and before we got there, the sisters texted saying the lady they had on date to be baptized had asked to move her baptism even closer! Yay for miracles!
We all went over to the Office Elders' apartment, just around the corner from the North Little Rock Elders' apt. They managed to fit a full size ping pong table in there, and we stayed up until midnight playing ping pong. I didn't win a round, but I came close! :)
The next day/At 12:01AM, I turned 20.
On Wednesday, (my birthday) we had a meeting from 9AM to 4PM. But I think I preferred it that way! It was a good meeting. I felt the spirit, felt motivated and inspired, and got to hang out with a bunch of missionaries. We spent a few hours role playing teaching, and Pres. Hansen observed a group of 4 of us doing that. It wasn't intimidating, and he offered some awesome suggestions. He's so great. Plus, at this meeting, there was chicken spaghetti for lunch, so that was a plus.
Sister Johnson & Sister Anderson (the poor sisters we gave the dead rat to last week) came up to us during the meeting, and after the now-typical shade-throwing, they kindly gave us one of two $25 Tazikis gift cards a member had given them. (Taziki's is this REALLY REALLY good greek chain they have. There was one in Germantown, TN, and there's one in Conway, at least. Definitely one of my favorite places to eat at.) We were a little dubious, wondering if maybe they'd used the whole gift card and given us an empty one so when we go use it we have to pay for it ourselves, but they assured us that wasn't the case.
So anyway. I've been well taken care of during my birthday week this week haha.
That night, Elder Bingham & Elder Barney called me from Collierville and I got to hear a bit of an update from them. And Bro. Boggs called, too! It was so good to hear from them, it was a definite highlight of the week!
The rest of the week wasn't super exciting. Tracted in a few older-demographic neighborhoods. Old people are either the nicest or the meanest. Seems like we got more of the mean ones. Sweet is the work!
On Friday, after weekly planning, all the elders in our zone got together and watched Pres. Monson's funeral broadcast. Definitely felt the spirit confirming to me that Pres. Monson was a prophet of God, and I felt all the more ready, too, to sustain Pres. Nelson as the new prophet.
Friday was cold. I guess it snowed in Collierville this weekend, and a few other places around the mission. It hasn't hit Conway, yet.
On our 2nd exchanges of the week, I stayed in Conway w/ Elder Lee, and we had some adventures. We visited with this 97 year old lady in a retirement home, who didn't consider herself a member anymore, but was very sweet. "Why, I talk to God all day, every day!" She said. "If I didn't do that, I'd probably forget how to talk entirely!" And, my favorite quote of hers, referring to God: "That rascal lets me struggle on my own for a while until I learn a lesson before he steps in and helps me." You could just tell that she had a relationship with God, by more than the fact that she called him a "rascal" hahaha.
On Sunday, there was a regional broadcast stake conference. They streamed the event in Salt Lake to all (?) the members of the church in the Southeast United States. Elder Bednar gave an awesome talk on repentence. One takeaway from that: "You can't repent with real intent, if your real intent was to sin." *cue the mic drop*
Right after that, we had a meeting with the Stake Pres., Pres. Wing. (Who actually served his mission in the Boise mission!) We talked about what the missionaries and members can do better, and it was just cool getting to hang out with he and Pres. Hansen in a much smaller setting than usual. It was Elder Evans and I, Sister Anderson & Johnson again, and then I skyped in the other ZLs within the stake on my tablet.
SOMEHOW, Elder Evans convinced/connived/conspired with Sis. Anderson and got her to give us their other $25 Taziki's gift card. After we'd given them a rat last week. They are both leaving the Conway Zone, so probably won't be by a Taziki's. And they won't be able to exact their revenge on us. Still, I dunno how Elder Evans got that gift card from her, but maybe their revenge is just proving to us that they are more Christlike and angelic than we are. :/
That night for dinner, we went over to the Routt's. They made Chicken Spaghetti, and (after asking what kind of dessert I would like for my birthday) a peach cobbler!
I was kinda tired from the week, and not feeling super motivated to go out and knock doors at 7pm in the cold dark on a Sunday night, but we did it, contacting some former and potential investigators. We were able to set like 3 or 4 return appointments for the week, so I'm excited! It was a definite morale boost, since it seemed like most of this week was spent waiting for doors that never ended up opening.
So, thanks to good food, the good Lord, and some successful contacts, I had a good end to the B-Day week! So that's that!
It's also the start of a new transfer! Elder Evans & I are staying together in Conway for another 6 weeks! After this, he'll have served in this ward for 7.5 months! We are losing Sis. Anderson, Sis. Johnson, Sis. Shumway, Elder Clayton, & Elder Billman. I am actually like really really sad about losing every single one of them. I'm gonna miss them a ton! But they're off to spread the light of the Conway Zone to other parts of the mission. :)
So we'll have new people to meet this week, a bunch of appointments to keep, potentially some snow, and more adventures! Everybody seems to be getting pretty sick around the mission. Most of the missionaries have avoided it, but there are a lot of members who have it, and people who use it as an excuse to not meet with us haha. Apparently something big is going around? doTERRA, save me! :)
Love you all! Have a stellar week! Stay warm and healthy!
getchoself a hotmail:
getchoself a stamp:
3080 Pebble Beach Rd. Apt.1
Conway, AR 72034
This email was brought to you by:
BlueBell 2-Step Ice Cream
Chicken Spaghetti (which I hadn't heard of til I got to Arkansas. It's pretty dang good. Would recommend making it and enjoying it for dinner this week. It's not just spaghetti w/ chicken instead of meatballs. It's more than that.)
And readers like you! Thank you!
By the title of this email, you can probably tell that this was a pretty exciting week. If somehow you missed that, allow me to formally say that this was a pretty exciting week. It had a high concentration of stories that I think I'll be telling long after my mission is over.
But before we get to the dead rat, the police, and the elephant poop, there was other good stuff that happened this week, too. :)
On Tuesday, we had our District Meeting, where we talked about finding people, and using family history as a resource for that.
That same afternoon, a miracle happened! (Yay, I like miracles!) We knocked on this lady's door and she opened it and shared with us that she had just been watching a bunch of videos about our church for some reason. She eagerly accepted a Book of Mormon, and gave us her number so we could get in touch for a return appointment. As we were putting her name in the phone, we asked where her last name came from, and she knew! She told us a little bit about her ancestors, and how her uncle had given her a huge binder of family history information, and said that she hadn't been able to find a good, free website to do family history on. After Elder Evans and I excitedly looked at each other, we were able to tell her all about FamilySearch.org, and that just got her even more excited for us to come back.
I was thinking later how eager her ancestors are to be able to have their temple work done. They are working with us to help her join the church and be baptized for them. It's just super duper cool to think about.
On Wednesday morning, I found myself thinking about President Monson and what would happen if he passed away. Lo and behold, we got the news just a few minutes later. What an example of Christlike character, and surely a prophet of the Lord.
Remember that guy that let us in last week and pretty much bashed with us for an hour and a half? Well... he invited us to "meet up for coffee or something sometime" and that happened on Wednesday. (Not the coffee part, the meeting up part.) I guess I wanted to show him we were cooler than the Jehovah's Witnesses that flaked out on him the last time he tried that. Turns out, the JW's had the right idea haha.
We met at a Waffle House, and that basically made it worth it. I only had a glass of water there, but now I can say that I've literally bashed with a preacher in a Waffle House in the Bible Belt. Maybe I shouldn't be so proud of that. But it's just a cool statement haha. He's a nice guy, and he was trying to "save us" and whatnot. I had a scripture out the Bible for every little thing he disagreed with us on, but I just enjoyed yawning while he talked and letting him go. After it all, he recommended a bunch of fun things to do in Arkansas. 95% of those things were either: A) Out of our mission, B) Involved swimming or rafting, or, C) Involved guns. So other than one hill we could hike, it would be against the rules for us to do any of the other stuff, anyway. Oh well haha.
After that, we went to a teaching appointment that canceled, and then drove out to the "boonies" of our area, around Lake Conway and a tiny town called Mayflower. As we were driving into this one "settlement," (a little pod of ~20 trailers and small houses in the middle of nowhere) three or four little dogs started running boldly at our car. I was worried I'd run one over, but they survived. They followed us all the way up a hill. We got out of the car, and they didn't touch us or anything, but after a minute or two, a few more dogs joined and yapped at us. The hills were alive with the sound of... dogs barking. We tried the person we were going to try there, and it turns out they had moved ages ago. Another dog, a big and really old one started following us around, too, but it scared the other ones off, I think haha. It became my favorite.
As we were driving, there were maybe like 2 dozen other cars on the roads out there, and about a third of them were big ole trucks that rode my tail until they finally impatiently passed me. (There's a machine in our car that warns us if we exceed the speed limit, etc. So that's frustrating.)
That night, a missionary who served in this mission was in the area and volunteered to meet us for lunch. We went to Stroud's Country Diner, and I tried a country-fried steak sandwich. I thought it was pretty good. Until we got back that night. I brought a trash can into our bedroom because I was pretty sure I was gonna puke. Thankfully, I did not. But I don't think I'll be going back there again.
The rest of the week, like every single appointment we had got canceled. Pretty frustrating, but that's life. It even happened a lot as a photographer back home. People don't like to stick to plans, I guess.
We did visit with a potential investigator we found a while ago, and, well... that was a trip. This guy seemed like super cool, and down to earth, but he was pretty up in space. Literally. He talked about talking to trees and animals, and showed us this YouTube video with all the conspiracy theories he believes in, including (but not limited to) the fact that Nazis landed on the dark side of the moon in 1949, the government has people's brains in jars connected to robots "like in Futurama!" and there is a hidden ice planet directly behind the sun that houses a military base and bird-looking aliens. Elder Evans and I kept exchanging looks and trying not to lol because this guy was like really opening up to us. So that was another highlight of the week.
*The Part of the Email Where I Finally Talk About the Dead Rat*
We had dinner at the Routt's again, and they gave us a bunch of their leftover cookies and candies from the holidays. As we were leaving, we saw a dead rat in the road in front of our car. The conversation went something like this.
Elder Evans: "Hey, Elder Dahl. We should empty out one of those cookie boxes the Routt's gave us and put the rat in there to give to the Conway 2 Elders."
Me: "What? No, that'd be gross!" (Also dying laughing at the thought of doing that.)
Elder Evans: "C'mon, it'd be funny!"
Me: "...Okay, let's do it." (The laughing continued)
So, we took out all the Chips Ahoy cookie bags out of a Nutter Butter box, and we prodded the rat in there. We then buried it in the aforementioned Chips Ahoy bags, put it in the back of our car, and then proceeded to go to the Thursday Night Book of Mormon class.
Afterward, we were going to give the Conway 2 Elders a ride home to their apartment since they are full-bike. Elder Lee went to dig for a nutter butter in the box and touched something weird at the bottom.
But lo! The sisters parked next to us had rolled down their window and were trying to tell us something. Elder Evans rolled the window down, and Sister Johnson asked if we had any Brother Routt shirts (shirts w/ Bro Routt's face on it, just because) that she could have. We responded that we forgot them, and she got a little bit mad. Elder Evans turned around to Elder Lee and gestured for the Nutter Butter box. (Can you see where this is going?)
"Here, here," said Elder Evans. "If you guys take these Nutter Butters, we'll get you your Brother Routt shirts."
"I don't want any Nutter Butters!" Sis. Johnson argued.
"I do!" Sis. Anderson said from the passenger seat. So Sis. Johnson sighed, grabbed the Nutter Butter Box, and then Elder Evans told me to "Go, go, go!" So we took off out of the church parking lot, and as we turn around, we saw them run out of the car. Elder Evans and I are having a laughing fit, and Elder Clayton and Elder Lee have no idea what was going on.
"There's a rat in the box!" we manage to say. "What?! I touched a dead rat!" Elder Lee exclaimed. About one and a half minutes later, the sisters called us to say the war was on. Thankfully, they were good sports. I was feeling kinda bad about doing that to them, especially since it was meant for the Conway 2 Elders. But when they sent us the video they had recorded soon after discovering there was a rat in the box, it was all worth it. Thankfully they were pretty good sports and don't hate us too much. :)
Alright, back to the usual. Miracles and Food. Oh, and this is where the "Trailer Parks" aspect of the email comes in.
So anyway. The next day, we went on exchanges with the Choctaw elders. Before driving up there, though, our Ward Mission Leader took us to Burgers, Pies, and Fries. I got a burger and one of their fried Oreo Pies. "Eating healthy" and "living in the south" are pretty difficult. Thankfully that wasn't my New Years Resolution haha.
While Elder Andreason and I were in Conway, we spent a good amount of time in this trailer park. We were gonna stop by one guy, and then try to find 2 other trailers. Trailers rarely have the address number on them, and when they do, it's usually faded, covered, or missing a number so you kinda have to guess. Well, we found one of them, and were able to visit with the less active part member family that lives there. Nice couple that's been through a lot in the last few months. Their car busted, and they were on the last of their paycheck. They'd just spent a good chunk of money taking a cab ride to the nearest AutoZone to buy a wrench to fix the car, but they'd gotten the wrong size wrench and were getting ready to go buy another cab ride. We volunteered to get it for them. When we came back with the right size wrench, he was able to fix the car in less than 5 minutes. Cool that we were able to be in the right place at the right time.
Then we went to find the 2nd trailer. Got talking with a super drunk guy sitting by a fire in front of his trailer at like 4 in the afternoon. Then found the trailer we were looking for. It was totally abandoned and hollowed out, and had a hand print and the word "help" written in red paint on the door. Classy. Across the gravel road were more trailers and two police cars. As we were leaving, one of the officers called us over. "Elders!" We stopped and turned around to meet him. "Hey guys, come back another time alright? This isn't a good time or place to be right now."
Didn't need to tell us twice! Though I'm curious as to what was about to go down haha. Thank your local police officer for keeping your missionaries safe.
*The Part of the Email Where I Finally Talk About Elephant Poop*
Now, when you read "Elephant Poop" in the title of this email, what were you thinking? Probably something along the lines of how I was probably exaggerating something that happened, right? Wrong. This is where I get to talk about pure, unadulterated, genuine, elephant feces. Elephant. Feces.
On Saturday, we exchanged back with Choctaw. But we did a little bit more than that. We went to exchange back a little bit early, and we brought our service clothes. One of the hidden gems of Arkansas in the existence of a legit "Elephant Sanctuary" in the middle of nowhere. It's home to 2 retired circus elephants. Somehow, the missionaries got the hookup to go do service there once a month. So once we got our service clothes on, we drove through the hills to this gate. The lady who operates the place opened it up for us. She had short hair, dyed blue and green in spots, three tear drops tattoo'd on her face, and was rarely far from a cigarette. We rode in the bed of her pickup truck over to the elephant barn, where we met Booper the elephant, and had the pleasure of shoveling a lot of elephant poop and cleaning the barn.
This place reminded me of Jurassic Park. It was sweet. And I'm definitely going to brag about having scooped up elephant poop in Arkansas for the rest of my life.
After poop-scooping, we bucked hay. (Threw bales of hay down from a big tower onto the bed of a pickup truck.) We were going to do two trips, but decided to just put all 35 hay bales on at once and do it in one trip. We then rode on top of those 35 hay bales in the back of a pickup truck back over to the elephant barn, and unloaded them there.
Unfortunately, that was all that we had time for. But it was definitely a mission highlight so far hahaha.
So there you have it! Dead rats, trailer park adventures, and elephant crap! Plus arguing with a preacher in a waffle house, getting chased by dogs, and being exposed to the truth of the government's ice planet behind the sun. Sprinkle in a few miracles here and there, and it's been a DANG fun week in Arkansas. We're going HAM this week, and I also will begin my 3rd decade this week, so I'm planning on more miracles.
The Lord definitely leads this work! Too many things "just work out" for it to be anything else. Jesus Christ lives, he's my Savior, and this is His church on the earth today! Let the world know!
Love, soup, and elephant poop!
Tell me 'bout your favorite conspiracy theory, animal feces, or something, idk.
Plz don't send rats or elephant poop, the sisters are already gonna get me back. My punishment is sure, my consequence is fixed. Pray for me.
3080 Pebble Beach Rd, apt. 1
Conway, Arkansas 72034
This email is brought to you by:
Booper the elephant
The Conway Police Dept
Deceiving Chips Ahoy
and readers like you, thank you!
Merry New Year!
This week was nuts. We had a district meeting, 3 different exchanges (companion swaps for a day) and a MLC meeting.
1st up: Exchanges with North Little Rock gone wrong/fun. The office elders drove Elders Shelley & Jennings to Conway from Little Rock, and then left to do errands that took so long that instead of going back to North Little Rock with them, they both just stayed in Conway with us all day. Which ended up working out since we were double-booked for dinner appointments haha. So we made both appointments and got to introduce Elder Jennings to the Routts, an awesome member family in Conway. They had ordered my books "The Dreamers" and "Lies" so it was fun to hold copies of my books again.
That night, the NLR Elders crashed at our place. We all stayed up playing/watching ping pong on a tiny table. Elder Shelley, who crashed on the couch, snored way loud so that was entertaining.
The next day we drove them back home and went to meet the Office Elders for our 2nd exchange of the week. On the way, our car's mileage range kept dropping faster than a mile a minute. We got down to 13 miles left while on the highway, and it was dropping fast. After debating going all the way without filling up, we took an exit and filled up. Close one! We had lunch at David's Burgers, an Arkansas specialty. It's kind of like a more expensive, better tasting In n Out, very near and dear to Arkansas Little Rock Missionaries.
We met up with the Office Elders. Elder Stiles-Culver and I ran some errands. We dropped off furniture and mail to some missionaries in downtown Little Rock, and then... We DROVE TO MEMPHIS!
There, we met up with the Bartlett Elders, who were being fed by one of the folks Elder Evans taught and baptized! She got us milkshakes, and then we crashed at the Bartlett Apartment, which is the proud home of a pool table. I won the one round I played haha. That day, I had been in 6 different missionary apartments. They're each pretty funny, with their own personalities and quirks and messes. (See photos below).
The next morning, we had to get up at 4:45AM! Quickly got ready and to the church building in the big ole van and left with the missionaries we picked up there by 5:45. After a stop in West Memphis, Arkansas to pick up one other companionship, we drove BACK TO LITTLE ROCK with all the Zone Leaders going to the MLC meeting. Definitely slept a little bit on the 3 hour drive back. The fact that dinner last night and breakfast that morning consisted of Reese's Clusters, half a can of Mountain Dew, the rest of the can of flat Mountain Dew, and a milkshake didn't help.
MLC was good! Pres. Hansen shared the number of people who he believes are ready to be baptized in the first quarter of the year, and then challenged each of the zone leaders to pray to come up with a number of people within our zones to be baptized. We received the number 11! So in the next 3 months, we will have 11 baptisms in the Conway Zone/Zion!
After MLC, the APs (Assistants to the Mission President, just 1 companionship of 2 elders that help and lead the mission) had a meeting before we were going to split up for our 3rd exchange in a row/of the week, so we got to our dinner appointment super late. Thankfully they were patient with us and we were able to give them a heads up.
This was probably my favorite exchange of the week. Elder Parks and I were in Conway, while Elder Evans and Wall were in downtown Little Rock. I learned a lot from Elder Parks, he is awesome!l
We started the day of the exchange off joining the Conway 2 Elders for their weekly planning session. After that, we went to the David's Burgers in Conway, thus marking my unofficial missionary rite of passage in having David's twice in one week haha.
Elder Parks and I baked some cookies for members of the ward, and then went to contact some folks and do some door knocking before delivering them. While we were knocking doors, a woman peeked through the window at us and then called for her husband. He opened the door and warmly invited us in. Super nice, cool looking guy. Somewhere along the way, a switch flipped, and he spent the next hour arguing with us.
But! This was no ordinary bible bash. The guy let us have our turn to talk, and we decided to mostly just ask him questions to make him realize what he was doing and to recognize that there are just so many different ways to interpret the Bible that the Book of Mormon is necessary to help us know the gospel perfectly! The guy still tried to kinda belittle us and save our souls and whatnot, but in the end, our testimonies were strengthened, and he said he would try reading the Book of Mormon. So we'll see! Usually in such situations, we just try to bear testimony and move on, but Elder Parks said something was holding him back from doing that, so I hope things can work out well!
When we went into his house, it was light outside, and when we came out, it was dark. We were able to deliver one batch of cookies, and that was fun! Before we made it back home, we got a call from the bishopric asking us to stand in for someone who got sick and speak in church in 2 days.
We exchanged back that night, and I slept very well. 3 exchanges in a row will take it out of ya! But it was fun and I learned and laughed lots and lots!
When Sunday rolled around, there were about 5 cars in the parking lot, which was also about how many degrees it was outside. I was starting to think they had canceled church without letting us know, but come 3 minutes before 9AM, people started coming!
Don't tell anyone, but I actually just recycled/adapted the last talk I gave. What was cool, though, was that both of the talks before mine went perfectly with it. (On courageously standing up for and sharing our beliefs) How cool is that?
After church, we visited with an 83 year old member of the ward who kinda reminded me of my Grandpa Wrigley. He was very talkative and funny and every force of nature from the winds, snow, bushes, trees, and Canadian geese, was a "mystery" to him. Every time we tried to walk back to our car in the cold, he'd be like "Oh, and lemme tell you something else!" By the end of it, Elder Evans and I were in tears laughing at this sly guy. "You need to know this!"
That night, we had dinner with our "investigator," Steve. He's had the lessons and read the Book of Mormon several times. He had been in prison for the last 20 years. While there, he turned to the Bible and came up with some of his "own" theories. Then a nurse gave him a Book of Mormon, and it supported all of his theories! He started teaching out of it to his cell mates. And now he is ready to be baptized, he just needs a permission letter from the 1st Presidency. (His letter has been in the mail since early October, so... hopefully it comes soon!)
Anyway, we were having dinner with him over at another member family's house. After dinner, we went up into their decked out attic-turned-movie theater and watched "How Rare a Possession," which tells the story of this Italian guy who found a Book of Mormon without a cover or title page, and at
after preaching out of it without knowing where it came from, only that it was true. He was fired from the ministry, discovered the church, but missionaries weren't able to find and baptize him until he had fought in 2 different wars, including WW1. Pretty cool story, though!
After the movie, Steve was like, "Lake Conway is right there, man. You have the authority, let's baptize me right now!" We were like "yeah!!" and then he shut us down, saying "nah, we don't have permission yet," which was pretty funny. Cool to see how well Steve could relate to Vicenzo.
And now it is 2018! And today is our P Day!
The Routt's invited us over today for a New Years party. So Elders Evans, Lee, Clayton, and I arrived and we quickly discovered that the sisters had received the same invitation from the Routt's, and that they had decided to make it their "Sister P Day." So... there were us 4 elders crashing the 12-sister P day haha. My books were still laying around, so that was a conversation topic for a while. I'm not super vocal about the fact that I have written 3 books, so it was pretty funny seeing people be like "What?! You wrote these??"
So anyway. It's been a crazy crazy week. Lots of exchanges, 6 new missionary apartment visits, a drive to Memphis and back, being an office elder for a day, and other laughs.
Here's to a fantastic, incredible, faith-promoting, successful 2018!
One year closer to the 2nd Coming. :)
Love you all! Happy New Year!
I like emails, so...
My 20th Birthday is on January 10th so...*
3080 Pebble Beach Rd, apt. 1
Conway, Arkansas 72034
*and I'm freaking out about it a little bit.
Merry Christmas, y'all! Hope your day and season has been splendid and that you have been able to feel the joy of Christ's birth. He gives me hope!
This has been one of the more fun weeks of my mission, and somehow being on bikes was a part of that!
By way of explanation, our car had been dented pretty good before I got to Conway, and our appointment at the collision repair place was from the 18th through the 22nd. So, for those few days, we were on bikes!
Additional background information: on transfer day, I left my bike in the mission office because we were hosting 2 other missionaries for the next few days and there wasn't room in the car to bring it. When we dropped them off later in the week, I forgot to grab it. Well... it had been given away to another missionary. Thankfully, I was able to get it back after one of the many meetings we had last week. When I braced myself for the cold misery that is riding a bike in the Arkansas winter, I quickly realized that my bike seat had been adjusted a little higher, and that something was up with my gears. (It won't go into the 3rd gear on the left handlebar? Idk if that's the right terminology or whatever). Which, at first was very annoying. And then it became very humbling, because... Biking had become easy. Either this week was a miracle and angels were peddling for me, or... I just needed to raise the seat of my bike a little bit.
Whatever it is! Biking without my legs dying made it a lot more enjoyable! We started out pretty close to our apartment, just knocking doors. Didn't really find anyone interested, but it's like that sometimes. (Read: a lot of the time.)
One of our investigators texted us out of the blue asking how we were doing. How cool! We had a brief, nice conversation about our day so far, and then they asked if they could borrow $200 and pay us back haha. Sooo that was fun. And then the investigator in that neighborhood we were waiting to see canceled our appointment.
After that exchange, the overcast sky gave way to sprinkling rain. It didn't stop until like 8:00 that night. It was just sprinkling most of the day, but there were some times when it was pouring.
While we were close to the apartment, Elder Evans and I biked back. He changed his shoes, cause the ones he wore that morning were soaked through and went from a tan color to a wet cardboard color haha. We put our clothes in the dryer and tried again!
This time we went across town, and it was raining pretty good. The sidewalks were covered in puddles, and there was just no way to avoid getting completely soaked. The spinning tires of the bike are always misting your front and back, and puddle splashes get your legs pretty good. But the good thing about being soaked, is once you're soaked, you can't really get any MORE soaked. :)
We locked up our bikes and walked into a trailer park. I guess the sister missionaries aren't supposed to be there at night or on bikes. But as we were walking, a member driving by with the sisters in her car passed us. They had a lesson with someone in there, too haha.
Ours was with a less active member who has been coming to church more regularly lately. He's a sharply dressed older black gentleman, who is renting out a single room of the double wide. He had had some questions about life after death following a lesson in sundsy school. We gave him the Plan of Salvation pamphlet and started to teach him, but before long he had effectively told us to be quiet and he just mumble-read the pamphlet to himself while Elder Evans and I looked around at his room and at each other. He would ask a question about a word here and there, and would nod along every once in a while. I guess that's what they call "teaching by the spirit"? We didn't have to do much, but he thanked us and was happy about it all making sense now! It was a pretty cool experience, even if it was a little weird haha.
We biked back across town and it was dark, now. We try to stay on he sidewalks, because I don't trust drivers, and my bike is the only one with lights right now. But man, the sidewalks are just awful haha. Tree roots have busted a bunch of them, and there often aren't "dips" to get onto and off of the road from the sidewalk. So pretty often you'll have to hard fall on the road or brake and lift the bike onto the sidewalk again haha. So while we were doing this and bumping along, it was dark and raining, and thankfully not too cold. But it was actually pretty fun. Like mountain biking almost!
We met some members at Stoby's, a Conway specialty restaurant, that I wasn't terribly impressed with. But from there, the member drove us out of town a bit and joined us for a lesson with that guy who wants to go to the Temple! (He came to church this week, yay! Such a cool guy!)
Sometime during that lesson, it stopped raining. But our bikes were back at Stoby's. So the member dropped us off back there and then we biked home at like 8:30 from Stoby's.
And that's just Tuesday!
Wednesday was our mission Christmas party, which was pretty fun! We got there early and helped set up, and move all the presents from missionaries' parents to the gym from the mission office. It was like Santa's workshop in there! We spent the morning playing games and doing a white elephant gift exchange. Then in the afternoon, we watched the movie The Testaments, which (though pretty cheesy) was also really good.
People before Christ had to have the faith to look forward to His coming. They had to hope that the Savior would come to allow them forgiveness for their sins. (Mosiah 3:13) Now, we know he has come! We get to live knowing that the atonement has been performed for us. We just have to have the faith to use it.
After that, we had a testimony meeting that was supposed to be 35 mins long, but went for an hour and half. President was going to instruct, but he had to save it for another time, which was kind of too bad. But the testimony meeting was good, too.
President shared the exciting news that we will be having an entire mission conference in late January, because... (dun dun dun dunnn!) one of the apostles will be visiting! We don't know who yet, but I'm excited. That's a sweet Christmas present.
After the party, we hurried back to Conway for dinner at Don Pepe's (kinda like a hole in the wall chipotle) with some members. The mother is from Peru I think, and her mother is Italian (and doesn't know a lot of English). She has an 8 year old son, and the dynamic between those three is pretty funny. The son was snitching on his grandma for driving 80mph to get to Wal-Mart, and his mom wouldn't believe him. Then the grandma admitted to it, and the son said something about her being old, to which she responded in spanish: "your pants are old!" Elder Evans and I lost it haha.
And, since we were dropped off to dinner, we walked the 4.4 miles back to our apartment from Don Pepe's. We ended up getting home right at curfew haha. Thankfully, it was actually gorgeous outside! Like high 50s, low 60s, even at night. And no rain!
As we were walking back, a member texted us saying he was moving and he had a little keyboard that we could have if we wanted. He lived in our apartment complex so we stopped by and he let us take his piano keyboard, and sent us with groceries, too. There was a bottle of balsamic vinegar in there and that made me very happy. Merry Christmas from the Lord! He's definitely looking out for me.
The next day was a beautiful day to bike! Again like high 50s. It started out kinda cold, but we actually took off our sweaters later in the day. That night for dinner, the members made us gumbo. Homemade gumbo, and it was very yummalicious. Chicken, shrimp, and sausage in that yumminess.
And then it rained again! Thankfully, our car got finished earlier in the day than we were expecting. So after weekly planning, our ward mission leader drove us to the collision repair center and we got the car! Yay!
We had dinner w someone Elder Evans baptized last transfer, this cool Indian guy named Prashanth. We went to Tacos for Life, which (on top of being very good) was also playing the Idaho Potato Bowl game. I don't know much about football, and I don't remember who was even playing, but I can recognize that Boise Smurf turf anywhere! :)
That night, we picked up cookie dough from Wal-Mart to bake for Christmas eve caroling. I saw a cookies n cream flavored cookie dough, and thought we'd give it a try. We got other dough for everyone else. Well, it turns out Hershey's Cookies N Cream Cookie Dough is not very good. So that was a bummer. 2/10, would not recommend.
After that failed experiment, Elder Evans and I made a nativity puppet show /silly sketch with some puppets my mom sent me. It ended up being pretty dumb, but in the kind of way that is also kinda funny. I'll see if I can attach that somehow.
On Friday, we did a day exchange with the elders in the 2nd Ward. I was with Elder Clayton in their ward boundaries, biking around again cause they are a full-bike area. Got to visit with a few members there. We were going to have a dinner appointment a half hour drive away, but the member called and said he was bringing food to us instead. Which worked out, because literally just a minute or two later, the 2nd ward sister missionaries called and one of them needed a blessing cause she was feeling sick. But we needed a member with us to be able to be in their apartment. Thankfully, the member dropping off dinner was available, so within 10-15 minutes we were able to be there. She said her naseated feeling went away after the blessing. How cool that the Lord provided a way for us to very quickly be able to give her a blessing, when our original plans would have put us pretty far away. Things just seem to work out right in the mission field.
After exchanges, Elder Evans and I wrote a Jingle Bells "remish," or a missionary remix/parody to the tune of Jingle Bells. It ended up being... very awesome. I'll try to remember to include the lyrics at the bottom.
On Christmas Eve, both the 1st and 2nd wards combined for one sacrament meeting at 10:00. Afterwards, the other Elders in our area joined us to practice our "Remish." I played piano, knocked, and shouted "go away!" during the chorus. We went over to the Routts, a really great family here who hosted 5 companionships of missionaries in the Conway area. We had an awesome lunch and then went caroling in their neighborhood, played Bean Boozled (I gagged a few times) and laughed a lot. We got a bunch of Brother Routt shirts. (Shirts w/ Bro. Routt's face on them. Yup.)
After our dinner for the night, we went caroling again with most of the same missionaries as earlier. Not a lot of people were home though, haha. But the ones who were appreciated it!
I slept really well last night haha. Had a strange morning, opening presents in our apartment with Elder Evans. Went to the Routt's for breakfast which was fun again, but Elder Evans and I were the only missionaries this time. We got called out early, though, because the sisters locked their keys in the church building haha.
And now we are caught up to this moment! A few of us missionaries are chilling in the church. I've finally finished this long email.
Thanks for reading my emails, and thanks for the cards and notes! Those were probably my favorite presents! I hope you've had an awesome Christmas!
Love, rains, and candy canes!
3080 Pebble Beach Rd, apt. #1
Conway, Arkansas 72034
This weekly email brought to you by:
Your tax dollars, which are going towards everything but fixing the sidewalks
The ghost of Christmas past
And readers like you, thank you!
Our irreverent nativity video:
1. Zone selfie!
2. The Conway Zone, woooo!!!
3. Merry Christmas!
4. My one grungy artsy photo for the week
5. That time when the pamphlet (and the spirit) taught the lesson
Jingle Bless "Remish" lyrics:
Biking in the rain,
Getting doors slammed in my face
Got called to Arkansas,
Where even is this place?
I left for two whole years
to preach the gospel from my mouth,
now I'm here bible-bashing
with a preacher in the south!
Ding-dong bells, Ding-dong bells,
Ding-dong (GO AWAY!)
Oh what fun it is to tract on this cold and dreary day, hey!
My companion goes home soon,
he's been acting a bit funky.
He keeps talking to the sisters
I think he's getting trunky!
Don't call us the JW's
We don't do polygamy
You might think we're a little weird
'cause we don't drink coffee or tea!
We're always together,
I wonder if they think we're gay
as we hit the streets
knocking all the way. [knock knock knock]
I wanted to go home,
but I'm so glad I tarried
I got a letter from my girl,
she says she's getting mar... [crestfallen silence]
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