Well, here it is! Elder Dahl's last weekly email! Episode 105.
Last week, President Hansen told me to make this week the best one of my mission. It was definitely a good way to finish! A worthy grand finale!
Even though the days were full of "lasts," I comprehended it mentally, but none of it really sank in. (And with a lot of it, I still don't think it has yet).
A recent convert had all of his upper teeth removed, and called us up asking for a priesthood blessing. He hadn't ever had or asked for one before, so it was cool to be a part of that and to see it help him!
After that, we had to get an oil change and clean our car, cause it was getting traded in. I was hoping to not have to do that until I was gone, but oh well haha.
We met a guy who was mowing his lawn and had broken his neck once upon a time by jumping into a pool whilst intoxicated. But he turned his life over to the Lord and got better and was interested in the Book of Mormon!
Then before we turned in for the night, we had a lesson with a mother of 5 young kids who were bouncing all over the place, about prayer and our premortal life. It was good!
We started off our day with a lesson with a guy named Bubba, who within the last year has gone blind. We didn't know that beforehand, cause he was a referral from the sisters. But he came outside and felt the wall, and sat down on his porch steps in front of us. We read from 1 Nephi 8 out loud to him, and I was trying to picture the imagery like he would, and it was cool how clearly I was able to in my mind. I hope he was able to see it, too.
Later, we walked by a mailbox that said "Apostle" and then their last name. Hmm. I figured, what the heck, it's my last week, let's try it. An older mustachioed woman answered and welcomed us in. We sat on her ornate gold chairs and she told us about being a female pastor in an old country church. To add to it all, there was a big box by her front door all about medical marijuana. Man. I'm gonna miss experiences like that haha. Just little details make it so funny. Marijuana, a mustache, a female pastor... It's great.
Thursday is one of my favorite days of my whole mission, I think.
We began by helping a lady move out of her apartment. Then we had my very last district council. I've instructed in either 56 or 60 of those, now. I'm going to miss those, too. We had my "funeral" afterward and then went to lunch at Pizza Hut. They kinda got our order wrong and took forever, but I felt too spoiled to possibly complain after a man walked by our table, gave every missionary in our district a twenty dollar bill, and then walked right out the door before we could do anything more than stammer a thank you. People can be really really nice.
We got home and tried to study through our post-pizza-coma, and then had a lesson with a gal named Sherry we met earlier this week. She was awesome! She read the whole pamphlet we gave her, and even looked up the scriptures that go with everything. She wasn't sure what "Nephi" and "Alma" were all about, so we gave her a Book of Mormon and started explaining it. And then the Jehovah's Witnesses walked in. I guess they were close friends. She told us when they left, though, that she didn't agree with everything they teach. But despite the interruption, it was a good lesson!
From there we went down the road to a family we've been working with for a while. We were able to set a baptismal date goal for the parents to work towards. Not all their kids were home, then, but we're hoping to get the rest of the family on board soon!
Next up, we saw Isaiah, another guy we are working with towards baptism, and had a good quick lesson with him, too. Then we had my last missionary correlation meeting [as a missionary] and then had one of my favorite lessons of my mission.
We've been working with this couple since we got to West Memphis, and had a challenging lesson last time. But we were able to get President Hansen to come with us. At their request, we met at a Wendy's haha. We arrived around 7:15, and didn't leave until about 9:25! But it was just really enjoyable. That couple is awesome, and President Hansen is awesome, and we were able to share sooo many good scriptures all at once, basically teaching all of lesson one and two from the Bible. President and I both had the references memorized, but were able to help out the other when we couldn't quite remember off hand hahaha. He ultimately invited them to put John 7:17 and the restored church to the test by acting as though they were members of the church for 60 Days. Admittedly to our surprise, they shook on it!
As we were leaving Wendy's, President Hansen told me that he barely recognized the Elder Dahl in there, and I guess said I did a half-decent job or something. He'd come to another lesson with me in the first few months of my mission. But no, to hear that he could recognize that growth and that he was impressed with my teaching skills meant a whole lot.
We had interviews with President Hansen and then I went on my last exchange! I went up to Blytheville, AR with Elder Rockwood. We visited some of their investigators that spoke Spanish because they, (unfortunately for everybody involved) speak even less Spanish than I do. I was able to pick up on a few things and like share my testimony, but... I think they were both pretty hammered, honestly. When native-Spanish speakers talk in Spanish as fast as they normally do, it's hard to understand. Add some booze to slur it all together and I'm out of luck haha.
Brother Boggs from the good ole town of Collierville met us when we got back into West Memphis and we got ourselves some tasty fried pork chops for lunch that were really good. It was awesome to get to see him again! We had my last weekly planning session after that (Which is not something I'll miss too terribly much) and then had a busy evening.
Whoa! My last Sunday as a missionary. That's said. But I am excited that this Sunday (whether I do or don't) it's allowed for me to take a nap! And I can't say I'll miss the stress and disappointment of waiting for people to come to church week after week.
We came home for studies, and then Bro. Jones called and we rode with him over to Memphis to pick up a bike box. On Saturday, I'd called a bike shop over there and they said "yeah, we have a box, come on over." So I'd told Bro. Jones, and he hadn't gotten around to picking it up then, so we went with him today. He had called them again before picking us up. When we arrived though, they said "yeah, one second, lemme just grab it really quick." And then... a few minutes later, they said they'd thrown it away cause it was really torn up. What the.
Fortunately, Bro. Jones had the idea to go drive around back and dig through their dumpster. Even more fortunately, we didn't have to dive through a dumpster at all! The box was just sitting on their back porch in an alley, and only one flap was torn up, and easily fixable with some tape. Huh. Suspicious.
But we got back in town and hit the ground running! We visited a couple people, had a few short lessons, and WENT HAM cause it was like my last few hours of solid proselyting time. We ended up finding 4 new people to teach and they're all pretty awesome and I'm kinda sad I won't be able to teach them again... But God giveth the increase.
That night I had my last call-ins and that was weird, too! I've been doing call ins every Sunday night for 21 months haha.
Then Monday came around! I got a haircut and packed up my bike and my clothes and everything else I own into two suitcases, a backpack, and a sidebag. It was kind of a struggle tbh, but by the end of the day it was pretty much all done.
Bro. Simpson took us and the sisters out to Pancho's Mexican Restaurant for dinner. They're famous for their cheese dip, and you can buy it in Wal-Mart and stuff. I guess they started in West Memphis! The cheese dip was pretty good, but I'll take texmex and Idaho-mex over Arkansas-mex. Soon!
Both of our evening appointments fell through, but then the couple we taught with Pres. Hansen offered to take us out to dinner, too... so we went to Kelly's Kickin' Chicken. Gonna miss them! They're awesome.
Got a little extra packing done early in the morning and then got it in the car and drove to Bartlett. Bid farewells to missionaries and the Memphis Temple. Gonna miss everyone! I would say that Elder Bang is going to be a great missionary, but........... he already is! He's going places. :) Made the long trip to Little Rock. When we stopped for gas, we talked with a guy from Egypt who had become a Christian and he was really cool.
We made it to the mission home, and had my last interview with President Hansen. There were 4 other elders going home with me, and one sister. Through the afternoon, we had various devotionals from the mission presidency, local members, and Elder Beheshti, the area seventy. We had a yummy dinner, followed by a testimony meeting, and tried to sleep. Actually, falling asleep wasn't the hard part, because I was exhausted. Staying asleep was the trick.
I woke up around four in the morning unable to fall back asleep. After some restlessness, I was able to for a little bit. Got up again at six and just got ready. We had breakfast, got our bags ready, took a picture, and then we were driving to the airport. And then our bags were checked. And then we were just short of security and all the sudden we had to say goodbye to President and Sister Hansen. We'd said bye to them dozens of times after meetings, interviews, and so on, so even after lacing up my shoes again on the other side of security, it still didn't feel real.
Elder Peterson was the first to go, and then Elder Barney and Elder Pederson. And then it was supposed to be Sister Gerratt and Elder Jolie, but their flight was delayed, and so it was my turn. Sitting on the plane didn't make it seem real yet, either. I'm anticipating it will "set in" a few days after being home.
But as I finish up this email, I'm a few thousand feet in the air above Arkansas, bound for Houston, TX. (Funnily enough from the Bill and Hillary Clinton Airport to the George Bush airport). It's sinking in a little more.
Have you ever heard of people pulling out loose teeth by tying a string around their tooth and connecting the string to a doorknob, and then slamming the door? Yeah, sorry for that violent imagery. President Hansen didn't use that analogy, but I think it's not far from the truth. As we took off, it felt like a string was tied around a part of my soul and anchored to Arkansas. I didn't know I could love such a miserable place so much haha.
Since this is my last weekly email, I figured I probably better add my testimony to it. And why not make a long email longer, right?
I know that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is instrumental to our Father's Plan of Salvation, and is an ultimate manifestation of their love for us. I know that my Savior lives and leads His church on the earth today. While I "stand all amazed," filled with gratitude now, I can only imagine how on the other side I won't be doing much standing at all.
I am thankful for the opportunity and privilege I have had to represent Him and His restored gospel to the people of Arkansas and Tennessee. I've felt the Spirit in a pew and in the temple, and I've felt it on the porches and in the homes and trailers and garages of the South.
I know firsthand the joy described by Ammon, and the humility he tempers it with - "Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever" (Alma 26:12).
I have loved being an instrument in the Lord's hands, in helping others feel to "sing the song of redeeming love." This is real. This is true. It brings peace, causes joy, eases pain, ignites hope, and has power. I know it, and love it, and thank my Savior and Father in Heaven for it.
From the Houston Texas Airport with so much love,
https://youtu.be/LIiffBAaUTA (Video of man in West Memphis)
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