Hello there family and friends!If 1 in 22 mosquitos have West Nile Virus, I'm in serious trouble.
Happy ! This week went by so fast all the days kind of blurred together. So quite frankly, I'm not sure what I'm going to write in this email. So . . . we'll see how that goes.
When I Skyped all y'all a couple weeks ago Chelise asked me 5 things that I found different about Tennessee. At the time I couldn't think of anything because I've been here long enough to think everything here is normal. But this week I've been thinking about it a lot, and now I have a sufficient answer to that question.
1. The roads are super narrow! Every road has room for about two cars. Sometimes a car and a half. So if you're going down the road and a car is coming toward you, you have to drive off in the grass sometimes for it to pass. Of course the highways have more room, but if you're in the neighborhoods, there is no room to get anywhere. And being the directionally challenged person that I am, I am always having to turn around. Turning around in a road in Tennessee requires about a 50 point turn. Sister Mortensen doesn't really like to get out of the car and back me when I have to turn around. She's probably sick of my navigational skills.
2. The driveways are ridiculously long. Some people have driveways that we can't even get up unless we have a truck or hiking boots. We ate dinner with a family in the ward, and the elders told us to call them when we got to their house because they have a truck. I found that piece of advice terribly confusing. Until I got to their house, that is. Their driveway is somewhat of a hiking trail, and there is no way our car could get up it. It's so funny! Tons of houses are way back in the woods, and their driveways are ridiculously long. In fact, this week we even got lost in the woods looking for somebody's house. We thought we were on their driveway, but I guess it was something different, because it didn't end. Only in Tennessee.
3. It's ridiculously hard to tell the difference between the front door and the back door. We have this problem all the time while tracting. A lot of houses were built backwards and they don't face the street. What looks like their front porch is on the back side of the house, but the door facing the street still has a doorbell. So a lot of the time it's guesswork. We've knocked on a few back doors accidentally. That can get pretty awkward pretty quickly.
4. The lawns aren't really lawns here. They're just weeds. Not much grass. It's super funny when we hear people tell us they need to mow their lawn. I just look around and think to myself, "You mean . . . your weeds?" I don't know why there's no grass here. There just isn't. \
5. The baptist churches are huge! I expected churches on every corner, but not churches like these. I thought a few of them were official government buildings when I first saw them. Nope. They're churches. Some of them have several floors and playgrounds in the back. It's pretty interesting.
I guess that's it! Other things I've noticed are that there are no sidewalks, so tracting is an adventure. We walk through weeds a lot. There's also torrential downpours, lots of mosquitos (hence the opening statement) and everyone says "y'all be careful." Every time we leave someone's porch, no matter if they said yes or no to our message, they say "y'all be careful." I don't know if that's the Southern way of saying goodbye, or if they seriously are concerned for our welfare. Huh.
This week was pretty good! was the first time I conducted an exchange, which felt pretty weird to me, but I was able to spend the entire day with Sister Jones, who is an awesome missionary. She came out the transfer after I did, and she is a little firecracker. She has a way of connecting with people; I learned so much from her! I probably learned more from her than she did from me. She connected instantly with several of our investigators, and we had a fun and productive day! We taught Patrick the Restoration together, and he loved it. We haven't been able to see him since because he has been out of town, but he is pretty golden. He's 22 and has been through a lot, but he truly wants to get closer with God. I love helping penitent souls out here through their repentance process; it is an incredible blessing of being a missionary. There's nothing quite like it.
we also saw Ruby, and Sister Jones connected really well with her too. We taught her the Plan of Salvation and she really seemed to like it. Hopefuly we can get her out to Church!
Friday we saw Curtis again. My brain is so fried I don't remember who I have and haven't mentioned, but Curtis is the 16 year old grandson of Kathy and Jerry. He's pretty solid too. He has a rough life, but he wants to grow closer to God. We taught him the Restoration and committed him to be baptized in June! Hurrah for Israel! I love watching people's lives turn around as they accept the Gospel. He has seen some rough times, but I know his life will grow so much brighter as he turns to Christ. It's an incredible thing to witness.
We saw Caitlin too! She is still super solid. I just wish she could get work off ! She just needs to come to Church one more time before she can be baptized. And hopefully she can get every off so she can keep coming to Church. She is an incredible person with so much faith. I just love her to pieces!
We saw Billy a couple times this week as well. We tracted into him a couple weeks ago, and he is Lutheran, but super open to learning more. The first time we visited him it felt like we were just being Mormon dictionaries, and nothing seemed to come out of that visit. I have learned that the presentation of the material matters. You can teach the same doctrine, but the words don't necessarily matter, it's how they feel. Teaching according to individual need is so vital. They have to be able to understand how the Gospel can bless their lives, and why they need it. So when we went back, we really focused on helping him understand and apply the doctrine, and he became more open. We committed him to reading the Book of Mormon and praying to know if Joseph Smith was a prophet. I think he's really progressing!
The rest of the week we had tracting adventures. We did a ton of tracting this week. With school out and summer vacation here, we are losing a lot of people because they're going out of town. We had a lot of appointments fall through this week too. Sister Mortensen and I have a little inside joke going on. Every time an appointment falls through or we are not sure how to make good use of our time, we'll quote Kronk from Emporer's New Groove when he says "More . . broccoli?" Only we'll say, "More . . tracting?" We like to picture him holding up a plate of pass-along cards. Yes, this is how missionaries entertain themselves. We get a kick out of it.
We also adopted another saying that we stole from the blog Hyperbole and a Half. Every Friday when we do our weekly planning, we plan for the investigators we want to see, the investigators we want to get with a baptismal date, the investigators we want to get to church, etc. Every Friday we take on the attitude, "Baptize ALL the people!!!!" and by the end of the week it's more like, "Baptize ALL the people?" So we say that a lot. Or sometimes it's "Tract ALL the streets!!!" Yeah. We quote things a lot.
Guess what I learned this week? A turtle shell can withstand the weight of a car! Do you wanna know how I know? Because I ran over a turtle on Saturday. I saw a turtle in the road in Lake City the other day. I tried to drive around it, but I heard a very sickening grinding noise under the tire. Sister Mortensen looked mortified. "Did you just run over a turtle?!?!?" She wouldn't let me keep driving until I would let her check on it. So she got out and checked on it. He was totally okay!! Silly turtle. Don't know why he decided to chill in the middle of the road.
Oh I almost forgot to talk about the adventure we had before I ran over the turtle! We got a referral for a family up in Lake City from one of our members. He said they had a lot of children. Yeah, he was right. We only met 8 of them while we were there; they were actually on their way out the door when we dropped by. Just guess how many kids they have. Nope, higher. Higher. Higher. 19. You think I'm kidding. They have 19 kids! Ages 26 and younger. And I didn't believe it either, but it's true; their mother birthed all of them. None of them are adopted, and all are healthy. There are several sets of twins I believe. We were talking to some of the kids outside, and one of them said, "Yeah, I have 18 siblings." Like it was completely normal. They have a smallish bus outside their house; I'm only guessing that's the family car. Pretty crazy, right? They have a really strong religious background, but I would probably die and go to heaven if they let us teach them the discussions. They invited us back, so that's a good sign!!
Well, that's all the adventures for this week! I wish I had more time, but I really don't. I do hope you all know that I love you and I'm praying for all of you! The Church is true, the Book is blue, and Moroni is still on the ball!
Though I won't close without my spiritual thought. This one comes from D&C 123:16-17. All of us have a part to play in God's eternal plan, even if it seems small. But it is through the small and simple things that great things are brought to pass. Even though our efforts seem small, we can help steer our brothers and sisters through the storms of life. Sometimes all it takes is a smile, or a phonecall, or a note of encouragement, but we can help lift our brothers and sisters in dramatic ways through small means. So listen carefully to the Spirit this week. Somebody needs you. Yes, you. So this week, as you pray, ask God who specifically needs you, look for opportunities to serve, no matter how small, and see whose lives you can bless this week. The best way to weather the storms of life is to help others through theirs!
Love you all! Have a splendid week!