Hello all my wonderful loved ones! Can you believe it? I've been out here for three weeks tomorrow! Crazy crazy! But I love it. It's where I'm supposed to be, that's for sure! Before I get into my "epistle" mode, I'll answer some questions.
1. Where is your companion from and how long has she been out? Sister Dansie is from Sunset, Utah, across the freeway from Roy and Clinton area. She goes home at the beginning of January! She says that time has gone by so fast, and she's not sure what she'll do with herself when she gets home. "My friends are going to think I'm lame when 9:30 or 10:00 rolls around, and I tell them that it's past my bedtime," she said. Ha ha ha! I believe it too.
2. How are the bugs and have you made friends with them? The bugs...well, there are mosquitoes galore, but so far they haven't been the problem. Apparently there's big ole cockroaches too, but I haven't seen any yet, and they don't really bother me anyway, seeing as how we have oodles of them back at home. The biggest bug problem I'm having is with the littlest bugs around...ants. They are MEAN suckers down here. I thought I was getting eaten alive by mosquitoes, except that all of my bites were on the tops of my feet and my ankles. They itch like crazy for about a week, and then they stop, but the spots are still there, and they are like a purplish color now. Apparently, if you scratch them, they get all swollen and pussy. I've decided not to test that theory, and so in the meantime, hyrocortizone is my best friend!
3. Did you get your package and bike and was it ok? I did get my package, and I had to laugh. We all (my MTC district) got mail that night, and everyone had their letters, and then comes Elder Jones (one of the office elders) with this GIANT box. Ha ha ha. It made us all laugh. And mine was the only bike that was pre-assembled, so I quickly became a favorite with the other elders at transfers because they didn't have to put mine together. Plus, it's pretty much the COOLEST BIKE EVER!!! I love it! It's all old school looking and awesomeness. I'm just sad I haven't gotten to ride it yet. But we'll get to fix that today (which I will explain about later)!
4. Do you need us to send anything? Hmm...um, not that I can think of off the top of my head. I'll let you know though, promise.
5. What names can we put on the temple roll to help you? I don't really have any names yet for the temple roll, but it would be awesome if y'all could pray for Emily and her mom. Emily is a friend of one of our amazing members' daughter, Lacey Butler, and she wants to take the discussions. However, her mom has us confused with the Jehovahs Witnesses or something, and they got in a big old fight and now Emily can't even go over to the Butlers' anymore, and it's really sad. She even came to church on Sunday and was in the Primary program with Lacey! Just pray for Emily, that she won't lose that desire to learn more, and ask that her mother's heart will be softened so that she too can see and realize what her daughter is seeing and feeling. Also, just pray to help us find those who will listen to our message and not keep skipping out of appointments.
6. How is the weather? The weather is GORGEOUS! It's definitely fall here in Louisiana, and it's amazing. Today is a little bit colder--in the 50's--but the humidity is pretty much non-existant, and it's just so nice!
7. What are some of the biggest differences? Biggest differences? Well, there are churches on every corner...just not LDS churches. Lots of Baptists, though. LOTS. Ha ha. Prairieville is a suburb of Baton Rouge, so there is a pretty good mix of people here. We haven't met with anyone hostile at all (yet) so that's nice too. There are times though, as Sister Dalley said, "I feel like we're two pieces of salt in a pepper shaker!" But everyone here is really friendly so far, and they all say, "Yes ma'am," or "Yes sir," and they call you, "Mr. So-and-So" or "Miss So-and-So." They're all very polite, and it's really nice. Also, in a lot of areas where our members live, they have gas porchlights, which is the COOLEST THING EVER! They are all flickering, and especially since it's Halloween time, it sets the mood real nicely. It's so cool. Sister Dansie said that she's going to have them on her house one day, and that's how everyone will know where she served a mission.
8. What are some of your biggest challenges? Right now, our biggest challenge is finding people to teach. We're finding 3 or 4 investigators a day usually, which is awesome!...until we try to come teach them a real sit-down lesson. That's where we're coming across some difficulty. They aren't home, or make up some excuse, or just tell us that "today's not a good day." So we set up another appointment with them...and then the same thing happens. It's a bit frustrating, but funny too. Usually when we show up for the appointment, which they made and set up and said, "Yes, that's a good time for you to come back," they look so surprised to see us on their doorstep. It's humorous, which is good and keeps my spirits up
9. What has been the most unique experience you've had to date? Most unique? Probably talking to people through their doors. That's happened twice now. Again, it's hard not to start laughing, because we look ridiculous, and seriously, how hard is it to just open your door a little and talk to us face to face? It's not like we're going to come barging in; you have your free agency to choose whether or not you want to hear our message, and we respect that. The funniest is when their door has a big window in it, so we can see them, and they can see us, and yet apparently we're still scary enough that they don't open the door. And it's not like these are little kids, home by themselves. That I could understand. No, these people are adults in their forties and up. It's frustrating and funny at the same time.
10. Do you ride bikes, walk, or use a car? We get to use a car! Hooray! Apparently, all the elders think it's super awkward to see a sister on a bike, so they'll do whatever they can to get us a car, which is really sweet of them. But most of our mission have cars. I think there's only a few who are actually on bikes 24/7. The reason we have them is if we run out of our allotted miles for the month. Then we have to use them, or arrange rides from the ward, or walk. And actually, our area is pretty spread out, so our miles this month are dangerously low--we're down to about 20 miles a day. But, when they gave us the car, it came from another area, so most of our miles were already gone anyway.
11. How long do you get on the internet on p-day? Internet time varies. It depends on the library--how busy they are, and how nice they'll be. So far, the library we go to is really nice and quiet, so we get as long as we need.
12. Have you seen fireflies yet? NO, I HAVE NOT SEEN FIREFLIES YET AND I AM VERY UPSET BY THIS FACT! Okay, well maybe not very upset. Fireflies are in the bayous more, and seeing as how we're mostly in the city, and the fact that it's getting colder, it makes sense as to why I haven't seen them yet. But I will! I'll find a way.
13. What are some of the different foods you've been given by members? Well, they're just starting to let the members feed us again, so we haven't had too many meals anywhere yet. It's a priesthood directed visit, and our ward mission leader was out of town so we just ate at our pad. But we did get to go eat "snacks" at the Butlers' house twice this last week. The first time we had crawfish fetticine alfredo stuff, and BOY OH BOY WAS IT GOOD!!! It was so yummy, and Sister Butler gave us the ingredients and instructions so we can make it on our own. The second time, the Butlers had just gotten back from fishing all day, so we had fresh fried fish. I can't remember what kinds though. I know one was a type of trout. But they were the BIGGEST fish I've seen yet! Monster ones. And they were really yummy too.
Keep the questions coming!
I love 'em!This week was really good, actually. We found a few more investigators, knocked on a lot of doors, and I actually got my first polite rejection. This lady had been taught by the elders a long time ago, so we thought we'd drop by and see how she was, if she was still interested, etc. She was very nice, talked to us for a while, but politely said that if she joined any church, it would be one of her sons, and that she just didn't believe the Book of Mormon. She then talked about the Messianic Jews, and completely lost me for a while. The biggest impression I got from this whole occurance was how I felt during this whole conversation. It didn't shake my faith at all; I just felt a little sad that she wouldn't open her heart to the wonderful message I had to share. As we left, Sister Dansie mentioned similar feelings. She said that she could have gone into more scriptures with her, but the feeling wasn't right. It would have been contentious, and pretty much whatever we would have said, she would have found an answer or excuse to combat it. The lady brought up the Revelations scripture about how none shall add to this book, and we tried to show her it says the same thing in Deuteronomy, and that it was meant to be specific for that book, but she just wouldn't hear us. In the end, we asked if she knew anyone else who might be interested in hearing our message, she said no, we thanked her and left.
My testimony was only strengthed by this experience. I came to understand the promptings of the Spirit a little better, and how NOT to Bible bash. All in all, it was a good thing. And besides, we found two people later that day who were actually really interested and receptive to what we had to say, so there you go!
I wasn't going to share this, but I'm being prompted to, so here goes. The same day all the above happened, I had a good growth experience. We'd been out contacting all morning, and I was really struggling. I was letting my fear of talking to random people stiffle my words, and Sister Dansie was doing all the talking. I was really frustrated with myself! Here I was, on a mission, and what was I doing? Clamming up? That wasn't how it was supposed to work! But every time we walked up to someone, that fear became so overwhelming, I could hardly breathe. Sister Dansie was so kind and caring, and tried to encourage me, but I still couldn't do it. We went back to our pad for lunch, and the whole drive home I spent looking out the window, berating myself. I felt so weak, and it really got to me.
We walked in our door, my mood still melancholy. I sat down at our table, and pulled out my Preach My Gospel. I was having doubts about whether or not I was currently able to feel the Spirit, and I knew there was a whole chapter in there about the Holy Ghost and recognizing it's promptings. As I opened it up, I started to feel a little better. I kinda skimmed through it until I got to the part entitled, "Relying on the Spirit." As I read, I found the answer to my dilemma. There was a box that had questions followed by scriptures that answered that question. I was drawn to the question, "What should I say?" for this indeed was my dilemma. The scriptures that followed pulled me in, and even Sister Dansie later mentioned that she noticed how intently and intensely I was reading my scriptures. All of the scriptures had the same theme---the Spirit will tell you what to say. But they each were different, and I took something different from each. The fear I had been feeling was, I felt, Satan's way of tripping me up. I had the distinct thought that Satan knew me and remembered me and remembered my weaknesses, and he would use them to his advantage. So far, he had been successful. But he could only use those weaknesses as long as I let him, as long as they were still weaknesses. In Exodus 4:10-12, Moses is expressing a similar concern to the Lord. The Lord's reply to him was the Lord's reply to my silent prayer as well---"Who hath made man's mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say," (v. 11-12). Such comfort came with those words! I felt happier than I had all day, and knew that yes, I'd probably still have that fear. But I no longer dealt with it alone. I knew that I could follow Moses' example again, and tell Satan, "Who art thou? For behold, I am a [daughter] of God, in the similitude of his Only Begotten; and where is thy glory, that I should [fear] thee?" (Moses 1:13) I am not alone. This isn't my message, but His who made me, His who created all things, HIS. This is the message of our Father in Heaven, our God. This is the message of our Savior, Jesus Christ. In D&C 84:85-88, we are told that as long as we do our part, we will be given the words that Christ would have us say, and that He will be there with us, in our hearts. With that kind of company, how can we fear? How can we fail? I testify that we cannot, that we will not. This gospel isn't the gospel of Sister Pedersen, it isn't the gospel of Joseph Smith. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ. I testify of that eternal truth with all that I am, and I do so in His precious sacred name, the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Wow...that all just flowed right out. I don't know if I just needed to bear that testimony, or if someone needed to hear it. But I was prompted to bear it, and so I did.
My time is pretty much up. I love you all! I'm off to go ride some trails! (Yes, they have mountain bike trails here...except I'm not so sure how they are mountain bike trails without mountains. Oh well. I get to ride my awesome sweet bike, and I am so totally excited!)
Your Favorite Missionary,
P.S. I included some pictures of my MTC district, Sister Dansie, the Baton Rouge Temple, and some other things. I'll keep sending a few pics every week.