Monday, February 26, 2018

26 February 2018

So yes, we are now officially a Facebook mission. We have the training, and the capacity. The funny thing was, my phone troubles continued. It works, but for whatever reason, my phone had not been given permission to use Facebook yet, so I got to spend some time with the lovely folks at customer support to get it working. Still, it is to be used for missionary work, so I won't be responding to anyone's posts, unless they're a comment on one of mine. And even then, I am going to be limiting that. So my Monday email is still going to be the big way I communicate. Yup, we're moving up in the technology world. Though in terms of the work, not much got done this week. Monday we had interviews, which took 3 hours longer than they should have (President James loves to talk), Tuesday was our P Day, and Wednesday we had another Zone Conference to train us on how to use Facebook. Really, it's all common sense. They gave us time for Q&A, which is what really took up a ton of time. Never let people who haven't touched a smartphone in two years ask questions about them. It'll go on forever, and drive you crazy. So all we had to work was Thursday through Sunday, and those were mostly a lot of knocking. Saturday was when it got really interesting. So, we had Stake Conference, the adult session. Now, the member who usually translates wasn't there, so we had to. At first we thought that we had weaseled out successfully, but then someone from our branch showed up five minutes late and so we had to do it. I was really nervous because I tried to translate from Spanish to English before on the headsets, and couldn't do it. Not a word. I put on the headset and it all turned to gibberish. And I thought that it would be even harder from English to Spanish. However, I put on the headset, and it was actually really easy. So much nicer than the other way around. So that was pretty cool. Aside from that, pretty slow week. We spent about three hours knocking doors yesterday, and no one wanted to listen to us. But hopefully we'll have more success coming up here soon. 
Well, we won a pie for having one of the two cleanest apartments in Fayetteville Zone. That was pretty great. We weren't expecting it, but I won't complain.

This is how you can tell that you have a bunch of missionaries in one place. All of them in pull-through parking, and they're (almost) all Toyota Corollas with bike racks. Well, I guess we have a lot of Chevy Malibus too. But this is 6 Corollas and one Nissan Altima. It get's easy to tell who the missionaries are by the car.

(Feeling like Chancellor Palpatine in Revenge of the SIth here...)

You have to love signs out here in the South. If you can't read it because it's both sideways and blurry, it's a fire department sign that says, "Honk if you love Jesus. Text and drive to meet him."

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

20 February 2018

No, no actual deaths. However, we did attend a dying missionary's funeral. That's the last district meeting that a missionary has before going home. This week we had Elder Kimber (a zone leader) and a senior couple who are going home. So, it was actually a triple funeral. And because of it, a pretty fun district meeting.
No, I don't know why this one is upside down. I fixed the other, but was too lazy to fix this one. This is Elder Kimber dying.
Elder and Sister Brown dying.
And the required district picture. A strange group of people. Basically, district meeting was the only big thing that happened this week. Right afterwords, we had exchanges with the zone leaders, which is why they were at our district meeting in the first place. That was pretty fun. We found a tiny fire hydrant in a trailer park, where we also found some really promising people. We have some appointments with them coming up tomorrow, as well as with our best investigator tonight. Hopefully things will pan out and we'll start to really get work rolling out here. 
​And this one is sideways, again I don't know why. The computer is being weird today. I tried to take a picture of the zone leader taking a selfie with it because it was funny, but it didn't save. And the last bit of news is that I'm in and out of the hospital with even more frequency than before the mission, and my family knows that was pretty often. Usually around once a year, but it's been slowing down. Mostly it was just crazy allergic reactions to something or another that we could never figure out. But out here, it's not for my own illness, it's people in our branch. One sister has been in and out of the hospital for about a week now, and they have no idea what's causing her problems. We ended up going to visit her on Wednesday and on Sunday, in what were for her two separate visits to the same hospital. We're really hoping that they find out what's wrong and that she gets better. The frequency that I've been to that hospital is enough where I get recognized by the desk staff. But yes, other than this it's been a fairly normal week, other than it being in the 80's for a couple of days. That was weird. And then two days later it was back in the 40's, and we're on the rise again.  We're having transfers next week now that I think about it, and so I'm probably getting moved again. So far I'm in my 4th transfer in my 4th area with my 5th companion. The way this works is a little weird. Now, new missionaries ALWAYS stay in their first area for two transfers because of training. But that didn't happen for me because my trainer and I had that lovely little bike accident. And so I went to area #2 with companions #2 and #3. Normally, the recently trained missionary stays in that same area for transfer #3 so that they get the experience of taking over an area fully. But my old area got shut down due to lack of Spanish speaking Elders (5 went home that transfer, a huge loss when you only have 20 total.) and so I got moved to another area. And then that area was getting switched to Sisters, so we got double transferred out. And now here I am, one week away from possibly getting moved again. Honestly, I'm kind of hoping that I get moved again just to keep the streak going. You never know, though. If I don't get moved, that'll mean that I don't have to pack! Which would be awesome! And I get to stay with people I've been working with! Even Better! I'll find out Saturday night, but y'all have to wait till Monday! Bye!

Monday, February 12, 2018

12 February 2018

Well, this week people started keeping their return appointments! Yay! That's the worst part about Spanish work, almost no one keeps their appointments. But we actually started having people who are progressing. It only took us four weeks of work to get someone to start working, but we have a few solid people now. Two of them have families, and so that's even better. We missed one of the appointments one day as we saw him driving away to work. He waved, and he is still responding to our texts so we think that it'll be fine with him, we set another appointment for Tuesday. Funny story with him: we invited him to church and then realized that we forgot to tell him the address. So we texted him the address and reinvited him. He then texted us back a while later telling us that sorry, he wouldn't be able to come because it was too far to drive. At least without a license. Yup, Spanish work is interesting. So we told him that it's not a problem because we can just get him a ride. But the too far part is understandable, he lives about 45 minutes from the building. More of the joy of a stateside Spanish mission. And yesterday I found out something interesting about my Spanish skills. Although I'm doing pretty well (everyone is shocked to find out I've only been speaking it for 6 months, and I'm told I'm doing a lot better than the people I came out with.) I found out that I can't translate for the life of me. In our branch, we do an over-the-pulpit translation. I'm fine with that, that is easy. But if they pull out the headsets, I can't do anything. Just absolutely cripples me. I can't speak a word. So it got passed off to my companion. Who, though he says my Spanish is way better than his, can pull it off. He says he just kind of makes up his own talk about the same subject as the speaker. I can't do that either, so he is the official headset translator. I can do over the pulpit, but not headsets. It's just too much to do at once.

This morning we mostly hung out with our branch president. We used his home gym which is pretty nice, and played a lot of horseshoes. And his wife made some awesome smoothies. Their blender is incredible. The smoothest smoothies you've ever had. Fantastic. 
Anyways, this has been a pretty boring week. We were out in that one trailer park again and the same dog found us again. It's really great to have him around because he's super nice, but a lot of the other dogs aren't. They'll growl and bark and all that, but "our" dog will run at them and defend us. It's pretty great. We have our own personal bodyguard every time we go there. 
​Sorry the picture is so blurry he got excited. But yes, he's our guardian dog.

Monday, February 5, 2018

5 February 2018

By way of explanation of the title, trailer parks don't have the best roads. So bad, in fact, that we can go no more than a few miles an hour on them. And if it rains, forget it. They're just about impassable. As are all of the driveways leading up to the trailers. In fact, just a few days ago, we got stuck. There were a whole bunch of little connecting roads to this main road that we had to turn onto to make it to our appointment, but they were all flooded. So, we were trying to turn down one of them that looked clear and all of a sudden there was a huge puddle that covered the entire road. (This was at night and so it was dark too.) We thought it would be alright to go through, but we only made it halfway across before the wheels started spinning. My companion was driving, and we both opened the doors to see how bad it was. I had water going up to about five feet off to my right. So my companion got out and I slid over to the driver's seat. He started pulling on the bike rack and some random guy came up and started helping. I had to turn off all of the car's electronic safeties because they were limiting tire spin, but we got out after a minute or two. So now our bike rack is kind of bent. Which is okay because the mission was going to replace it this transfer anyways and we've not been able to use bikes because it's such a huge area anyways and I don't have my helmet. Once I get one, I'll be able to use it again to help get around a little better though. The person who helped us ran off right after so we couldn't talk to him any more. I would call him one of the three Nephites, but he was smoking so... Anyways, we made it to appointment, we just had to go on foot. It turned out she didn't have a man home so we couldn't go in, but we were able to talk to her a little bit more. We're visiting her again on Thursday with a member, so hopefully that'll pan out. We went back to another trailer park for a return appointment who wasn't there, but we did have that same dog come up to us and follow us a bit again. We were about to leave when he found us, but he had learned from our escape last time and was determined to not let us leave. When we got in the car he came up to me and stuck his head in the car so I couldn't shut the door. I had to push him away and get going pretty quick. It's too bad we're not allowed to have pets out here, otherwise I'd just let him hop in the back and take him. Clearly he doesn't have anyone caring for him right now, and no collar. It makes me sad sometimes.
The coolest moment that we had this week was during tracting. We knocked on someone's door but as soon as we mentioned Jesus Christ, she said "Oh, we don't believe in that kind of thing," and shut the door. This really confused us, because she was wearing a cross. Later, as we were walking down the street, she walked up to us again. She apologized for being rude and said that she's always shut out people like us because she always felt bad for not knowing about this kind of thing. She started to ask us some really great questions about the purpose of life and what will happen after this life. We could answer all of her questions, and she said that it really helped her. She wasn't familiar with God and had never even seen a Bible before (which is really surprising in the South) and had only heard what people had said before she'd closed her door. Then, she asked us what made us so different from other churches, so we were able to share the Restoration with her. She loved it and invited us back! It's amazing how much the Spirit can open the hearts of people who previously wouldn't be willing to listen to us at all to then let us come back. The only downside is that she wasn't Spanish and so we had to refer her to the English missionaries, but hopefully she'll progress. 

That's all, folks!

Monday, January 29, 2018

29 January 2018

Yes, we are a technology mission. The long awaited day (for some) has finally arrived. Personally, I'm not the biggest fan because I know some missionaries will use it as a crutch in their work rather than just a tool to help improve it. Most of all, I hope I won't use it as a crutch. Still, onward and upward. I haven't had the chance to use the Area Book and Planner apps yet, but I've heard that they're phenomenally useful. Unfortunately, I'm having some technology issues right now that are hopefully getting resolved.
This week has mostly been a lot of knocking doors. So much knocking doors. I haven't done this much since Raleigh, and that's saying something. Still it's bringing us in contact with some great people who seem like they could be really ready to accept the gospel. Our biggest problem is how huge our area is. In all of my previous areas, I could ask "When would be a good time for us to come back?" Now I have to ask "We'll be in the area on (insert day here). Can we come back that day?" Still, we're working. The best places to find people to teach are trailer parks. So we sat down with some members and discussed the locations of every trailer park they could think of. We have quite a few, but we're running through them pretty quickly. Still, we're finding a lot of people and if they keep their return appointments then we won't have to tract quite as much! And tracting in trailer parks is pretty funny. You'll be knocking on someone's door, and they'll say that they're not interested. We respond by asking them if there's anyone in the area who speaks Spanish, because we mostly teach in Spanish. Every time, they'll look you in the eye and say something to the effect of, "Son, (or honey, sweetie, baby, or however they feel like addressing us that time. Yup. I'm in the South.) EVERYONE around here does." Which boosts your confidence about finding someone in the area who does until 4 or 5 unopened doors later you repeat the exact same experience. Which makes you begin to wonder about how much people actually know their neighbors. Still, you get to see some interesting stuff while tracting. Like stores out of the back of trucks, weirdly friendly dogs, and burned out trailers. ​​​​​ 
Some dogs that followed us around for a few minutes
Just a completely burned out trailer that looked like it had been sitting there for a long time.
And then this dog that followed us around for about an hour that would come up onto the doorstep with us. That got some interesting reactions. "Is that your dog?" "Actually, we have no idea who's he is." "Well he looks scary." It kind of made me sad to leave him, because as we were trying to drive away, he kept on walking in front of the car so we couldn't. We would stop, he would walk up to my door, I would start again, and he'd be right back in front of the car. Eventually, I got away, but he ran after the car for a while, then stopped. I don't think he's been given some love for a long time. Makes me wish we didn't have a rule against having pets out here. 
Sunday was interesting. Our branch president called us and asked if we could bear our testimonies the next day. We said sure, but then I started worrying. Now, my last ward was English with a Spanish translation. This branch is full Spanish like my first one. Now, this was the first time I've had to speak in front of a crowd since my farewell. Somehow I'd managed to avoid it up until almost six months into my mission. So the time came around and I got up and bore my testimony about member missionary work. I wish I could tell you more about what I said, but I don't remember. I don't like speaking in front of crowds, especially without having anything planned out. So, all I remember is the topic vaguely. Afterwards, members were coming up to me and congratulating me on my Spanish and testimony, and I was just sitting there like, "Well, it's a good thing that they know what I said, because I sure don't!" And then in third hour we had an English speaker that I was translating for, but the topic (keeping the Sabbath day holy) started to get really heated. You know how it's hard to keep up with a whole bunch of people talking really fast over each other? I invite you to try to translate that from a language you're still learning. I got maybe half of it done well. Then after church we were going to visit a member who's in the hospital to give her the sacrament with a couple of members. Now, one of the members had a meeting that we didn't know about, and so we waited until he was done an hour later. Our church ends at 4, so it was already almost 5:30. Then we had a very long travel time to the hospital, gave the sacrament, and then the members drove us to their house for dinner. They didn't tell us they were going to give us dinner until then, and so we had no idea. All in all, we didn't even get back to our car at the church until 8:30, so we couldn't really do that much. 
This morning we had a cool little moment with a Walmart greeter. She stopped us and asked who we were, and so we got to explain a little about what we do and why we do it. She  seemed interested, but very devout in her own faith. Maybe she'll feel that desire to keep learning. Who knows?

Have a great week y'all! (And I said "y'all" before the mission too so that's not new.)

Monday, January 22, 2018

22 January 2018

Well, I have officially been transferred again. And I have another companion who has only been out as long as I have. So we're both still working on the Spanish out here. Thankfully, we're in a full Spanish branch so that we can learn a little bit faster. My new companion's name is Elder Clement, and he's a big guy who used to play football, and is planning on playing for Southern Virginia after his mission. (I think.) Anyways, he seems like a good guy and is easy to get along with. Our biggest issue is that the previous people in this area broke the phone (we were double transferred in) and so we've gone down to a flip phone. Do you know how hard it is to text an investigator on a flip phone? Well, we're converting to a technology mission so that'll be over soon at least. There wasn't too much to do for this first week except try to meet the old investigators and get to know the members and find out how much they've been worked with. On Wednesday we drove 40 minutes out to district meeting, had about the first half, and then got a text from the assistants telling everyone to cancel district meeting because of the snow. So we then canceled and drove the 40 minutes back to the apartment. We didn't get anything more than a little bit of rain. Oh North Carolina and your unpredictable weather patterns.
Friday was our best day. We got out and worked from 10 until 9 and found a whole bunch of great people. Two of them were teenagers who were actually really open to hearing our message. The weird thing I've seen out here is that it's usually the younger people who are really open to receiving you, even though the same group is also the ones who cause the most trouble. Teaching them will be interesting because we want to teach the whole family, but it's not uncommon that the kids don't like speaking Spanish and the adults can't speak anything but Spanish, so we have to come ready to teach in both languages. It just makes it a little more challenging, but also more fun at the same time. The hardest part is making sure that you're not neglecting the ones who speak Spanish because they are harder to communicate with, even  though we're only allowed to teach in Spanish out here. (In some areas it's part English part Spanish because they don't have any English teaching out there.) Then we ended up helping this old guy change his tire and push his car because it wouldn't start. He was really cool, and it turned out that he already knew some members, which is surprisingly rare out here. It's not uncommon to talk to multiple people in a row who've never even heard of the church before. What we weren't expecting was that changing his tire was only practice for the next day. 
We had another really big day planned and were really excited to go out and work, and so we got out and started knocking a trailer park. This one didn't have any Hispanics, so we moved on. Or tried to. When we got back to the car, the front right tire was flat, and we found a screw in it. So we called our Fleet Supervisor and she said to take it to Firestone because they fix flats for free for the mission or something. So we threw on the spare and took off to the nearest Firestone 15 miles away. When we got there, they said it'd probably be a fairly long wait. So we went to the mall and started store contacting there. Store contacting is really hard because if it looks like you're there to teach people, they'll kick you out. Still, we had a few good conversations. After about two hours we decided to check back on the car. They hadn't even started on it yet. We decided to wait there and sat down and waited. And waited. Eventually we got the news that they had gotten to the car and declared the tire irreparable. So they wanted to replace it. Which wouldn't have been too bad, but it required a call to the Fleet Supervisor. Little did we know that just 15 minutes earlier all of the senior missionaries in the office decided to go out to a movie. So we were trying to contact them for the next few hours before we finally got through. Still, the tires got replaced and we were on our way at about 4:30. (We got there at around 11:30) When we were halfway back, Firestone gave us a call and said that they'd forgotten to put the spare back in the trunk. So we drove right back and got that taken care of and then headed back out, had dinner, and mostly taught some of the members for the rest of the night. So that was interesting. At least it (probably) won't happen again this week! 
Displaying IMG_0258.JPG​My companion's bike after it randomly just stopped pedaling. We have no idea how it happened. ​
The situation out here is definitely interesting. It turns out that we live on the western edge of Fayetteville, but cover a huge area. As in (if you have a map) just north of the 295 in Fayetteville, our southern border is Marietta, as far east as Autryville, and as far west as Raeford/Silver City. (Different than Siler City.) To do this, we only have 1600 miles a month. With where the car was mile wise when we came in, we have about 43 miles a day. We've gone over the past three days because there are areas that are so far away that just going there and back take up everything we have and more. So today we're not going much of anywhere in order to save miles. In positive news, my packages have been located (or at least one of them) and they're waiting at the mission office. Hopefully I'll have them in just a few weeks.  I asked her not to ship them for fear of them getting lost again, so my Zone Leaders will pick them up when they go. I think they were planning on this Friday for some meeting or another, but I'm not sure. So ideally I'll have it by next Wednesday. (Our district meeting) And to answer the question about Fort Bragg, yes. Everyone. Almost. Out here, everyone either works on base, has someone who is stationed there, or has a friend who is. It's pretty crazy.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

16 January 2018

Well sorry I couldn't email yesterday, all the libraries were closed for MLK Jr. Day. So here it is today in a very abbreviated form. It was a cool week with a pretty good amount to do. We were always busy running to appointments, and the last few days we were going out and prepping our investigators for the new people coming in, because our area is getting whitewashed. Well, kind of. It's getting pinkwashed. That's when the sisters come in and replace the Elders, which is kind of good just because we had a ton of investigators who are single women and we couldn't catch up to them without a male member so it got pretty hard. But we have a few people who are progressing really well. I really hope that they continue to progress and that the Sisters keep up with them. We have a few really good members as well that love to go out with us, so hopefully they'll be able to keep that up. Sorry this couldn't be longer, but I promise I'll do better next week!