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!
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.
Sign up to get my weekly emails!
(After June 20, 2017)
Elder Oliver Wrigley Dahl
Arkansas Little Rock Mission
905 Kierre Dr
North Little Rock AR 72116