Monday, September 30, 2013

1 MONTH IN SC AND COUNTING...

Hi family, friends, and everybody in between!

I am devastated to hear that Dad and Bosco are getting along. I had thought that my family would be protected from Bosco's evil influence...but it was not to be. I hope and pray that he will be stifled in his attempts to overthrow the very structure of our family.

I'll respond to the package before I forget. If there's any way you could send me the ties I put in the box to send me later, that would be great! I see now that so much tie trading goes on in the mission that the wear-tear factor doesn't matter too much. They are traded before they become too worn. I'm only exaggerating slightly.  I'll make sure to take pictures of some of the ties I've traded for. Some of them are pretty cool.

I really appreciated the small lunches that you sent last week. That is going to help me have good lunches for the next few days :D. The junk food is really good at first but hurts later when biking...so use your best judgment. Due to biking, I'm always hungry (basically no matter what), so anything filling that you can think of would be great! I actually will run out of stamps pretty soon if that wouldn't be too much trouble. I'll appreciate anything you send me.

I have a package to send to you too! It has Ben's birthday present (way overdue), the memory card, and the old camera.  Side note: Birthday presents. I'm going to send them as long as I’m able...but they will probably be late and I have no idea what will happen when I get to Brazil. So hopefully I can keep doing it...but no promises.
  
We got a call last night from President Holm. He said to meet him in our P-day clothes at 10:30 the next day. He only invited the surrounding companion-ships of the mission office, which included 14 of us out of the entire mission. He took us golfing! I suppose he is very into that whole thing. He has golfed with Elder Bednar at least once, and played on the same field the Masters is held at 4 times. He beat us all pretty bad. Later he took us all out to lunch.

You should look him up sometime. His full name is Monte Holm, and I guess he has written a couple books. He gave his card to a missionary once to buy some food, leaned in close, and said, "Be careful with that card. You could buy a house with that card." I thought that was humorous.

Anyways, that's why my email is late and I wont be able to write many letters today. It took about 4 hours of precious P-Day time and so we wont be able to go to the post office and send the package. Sorry, I know from experience how much you want pictures! I am doing my best to take lots of them, which does not come to me naturally.

My tri-pack is going well. They are both awesome.  For some reason, everybody in my trailer seems to think that I’m hilarious. Now I’m not stupid, I know I’m not very funny. And I still get the normal level of "no-response" whenever I try to be funny. But for some reason my mannerisms just crack these guys up. I'll wake up and stretch, and everybody will crack up. I'll be sharing my opinion on something, and everybody will crack up. I'll be tucking myself in for the night, and everybody just thinks I’m hilarious. I don't even know what it is. I think its funny that they think I’m funny, so it works out.

As for my exact address, I'm afraid that's classified information. Just kidding. I live on Old Lexington Dr. (maybe not drive) in Chapin, SC. I'm not sure on the exact number. You can look up my trailer on Google Earth or something!  However, you can’t write me at that address. Because of how quickly living arraignments can change, all letters and packages need to be sent through the mission office. I don't like the rule because it means it takes longer to get mail, but whatever.
  
So we were able to hopefully reactivate a lady in our branch. She hasn't been coming to church for a couple years, but we convinced her to come and she is bonding really well with the members. I hope that continues.

Have I mentioned that the members of our small little branch are absolutely stellar? They are. There are a couple families that stand out, but everybody is very unified. 

Do you remember Midia, the lady I talked about one of my first weeks into Chapin? Well we still haven't talked to her or been able to get in contact with her. However, we heard recently from a member that she is very interested in the church and is consistently reading from the Book of Mormon as well as researching the church websites. We are hoping to set up a dinner or something where we can meet with her and the member family. It is difficult to work with her schedule because she is working 2 jobs, but we'll keep trying.

So apparently Grant just left the area entirely. Tim told us that he was in an argument with Grant over using some form of Marijuana and other things and Grant just walked out and left. Tim is not sure where he went, but not too worried. I hope he is okay and doing good things. Grant has a lot of potential, and I hate to see him limit himself.

We have a lot of people to visit, but the majority of them are friend-igators. The previous missionaries were very friendly and nice, but not very committal. We are trying to forge the friendships that people have with the missionaries into learning and fellowshipping relationships. Our job really isn't to be their friend.

We met a woman named Shaquia and taught the first lesson to her. She seemed interested, so we're hoping that progresses. We went back but no one was there. Hopefully we'll catch her again soon.

Is everybody excited for General Conference this weekend! I'm pumped!  Quick note for those reading this that are not members of our church. We believe that God calls Prophets and Apostles to lead and guide His church just like He has always done. The current Prophet and Apostles will be speaking this Saturday and Sunday, broadcasted on BYU TV. Wouldn't it be interesting to watch a little bit of what we believe modern revelation from God?  Saturday and Sunday from 12-2 and 4-6 each day (correct me if I’m wrong). Watch it, if only to say that you've done it. All the cool kids are doing it.

Tuesday and Wednesday are leadership training meetings mission wide...which means that other missionaries will come to stay at our apartment and eat all of our food. Yay! I will get to attend because I’m being trained. I'm very excited! The trainings that are done with missionaries are professional and inspiring.

I hope everything is going well at home. I love you all so much.


Elder Carson Gale

Monday, September 23, 2013

ROCKIN' THE MISSIONARY LIFE!


THANK YOU SOOOOOO MUCH FOR THE PACKAGE!!!!! It was so nice and generous, and it filled my tummy up with good food from home. You definitely have not been a C on the packages. A++. I appreciate every one that you sent me so much.

You already know this, but I was so excited to receive 2 packages from the mission office the same day! Not only did I receive those, when we went home there were 3 letters for me waiting in the mailbox! What an awesome day!  The contents of the package were absolutely wonderful. When I opened it, I ran through about 3 pieces of banana bread right away. 

Life is going very well here in South Carolina. We still have no progressing investigators, and several of the people who we like to visit are going to need to be dropped. That's ok. Dropping is a natural part of life (snicker).

One fun experience we had was with a guy named Mark. He's a super cool "friend-agator" (friend investigator) who loves talking to the missionaries but isn't really interested in the church. He is an atheist and very persuasive and logical. I really like him. We knocked on his door and he talked to us for a good hour and a half. We talked about.... basically everything. He likes to take a subject like prayer, faith, etc. and deeply analyze it. It was interesting.

We were talking about why the experiences in life that people face are so different if God sends us here as a testing experience. For instance, why are some people faced with intense medical and social conditions while some live in luxury and wealth? How is that fair?

I don't have time to write the answer I gave, but he said that he had never heard a better explanation for it, and that it made sense. In his own words, "point 1 for the Mormons".

I didn't really tell that to sound prideful, I just thought it was funny and a cool experience in a week that wasn't filled with tons of spiritual teaching appointments.

We attended a service project for someone in the branch who needed help cutting down a large tree. As missionaries, we were not able to handle large power tools, but we were still able to help with loading and unloading logs to the places people wanted them. It was a great experience and a fellowshipping opportunity with the members. Tim and Grant were able/willing to come. Tim is old and has cancer, so he wasn't able to do too much, but Grant was a beast with a chainsaw.

We had a dinner with a man named Matthew who is going to marry a member of the church. They are very excited to be married, and we're hoping that he will join the church. He is going to church and reading the Book of Mormon, but doesn't want to meet with the missionaries until after he is married.

He took us out for Philly Cheese-Steaks and they were delicious. Which brings me to the tangent that I’ve basically lost all hesitation with eating meats. I'm hungry enough every day that everything members feed me looks delicious. I've devoured steaks, hamburger, and chicken without a problem. I'm glad that's the case, because I don't think I will get much else in Brazil.

We had other good and bad experiences with investigators, members and less-actives, but none of them were really memorable.

I understand the importance of exact obedience. With partial obedience you can hope for miracles, pray for miracles, and probably find miracles. But with exact obedience you can expect miracles.

I'm still far behind my companions in biking ability. I don't trail behind them too much anymore, but they still have to wait for me pretty regularly. I'm getting better, but I’m not exactly where I want to be.

The bike I was using was great (an extra bike), until it popped a tire. I need to buy another tire at Wal-Mart, but I have yet to do so. I keep forgetting to check the tire size before I go. I am currently using Elder Hutchinson's bike. He is a zone leader and his companion cant ride a bike due to medical reasons, so he's graciously letting me borrow his with the condition that "you break it, you pay for it". I'm a bit nervous about using it...but I don't have much of a choice.

Random Tangent: We live with Elder Hutchinson and Elder Ah Kui in our trailer. They are our zone lords, so it's helpful with coordination between district and zone in our areas. They are awesome missionaries and friends, both about 25 years old.

Elder Hutchinson is outwardly very tough, but a sweetie deep down. 

Elder Ah Kui is a really chill Polynesian dude. He is hilarious and very respectful of everyone. Elder Nissen and I will go on exchanges with him in the near future.

My companions are great. They both continue to work hard and have fun. Elder Nissen is absolutely comical. He is constantly dancing to the phone alarm and making strange noises and faces. I hope he sees this description sometime in the future because it will make him laugh. He is a stellar missionary and very brave.

Elder Phillips is our fearless leader and teacher.  He is a very intelligent teacher and hates wasted time. He is humble and loves to learn.

I seem to get reputations wherever I go. Here, I am known for being relentlessly optimistic. The Elders constantly mimic terrible situations happening and me saying something like "well that was a great learning experience, guys!". I told them my family called me the Grinch at home, but they just thought that was funny. I guess my attitude must be changing or something. They also make fun of my awkwardness. We are all growing in friendship and unity as roommates.

I'm the only one in the trailer that doesn't have a girlfriend back home. Elder Phillips has already set a wedding date with his girlfriend for when he returns (I’m killing him this transfer).

We have yet to do any fun P-Day activities. Usually all we want to do is write letters, do laundry, eat, and shop. I'd have thought we would have more time to hang out, but P-Day just goes so quickly. And it ends at 5 if we have a member dinner, and 6 if we don't.

I've heard no news on the visa. I can tell that my Portuguese is getting a bit worse, but I’m not that worried about it.  We skip language study if we ever have to find time for activities, so my study time is very limited. I'm sure it will come back to me quickly when I reach Brazil. I've heard that the waiting time is usually 1 transfer, although some Sister Missionaries have been here for 6 months. It doesn't really matter. Missionary service is missionary service wherever you go.

Our trailer is a bit bigger than a normal trailer. We line the 5 beds up along the middle of the area, and we have 2 study rooms that each companionship can use. I've never met the owner. She lives in a different area.

BTW, I live in the Chapin area of SC. Our address says Irmo because that's where the mission office is. (just in case you were ever going to find us on Google map or something). I'll send the actual address of our trailer in my written letters today.

I love you all so much!  Stay sweet.

Called to Serve,

Elder Gale

Monday, September 16, 2013

THE SOUTH IS WHERE IT'S AT!!

Dearest Family and Friends,

Hello! Everything is going well down here in the South. The people are so nice and friendly. The members are solid and the missionaries are stellar.  I realize that I was being coddled in the MTC with all the letters and packages.  Thank you for everything!

I think mission life is quite a bit harder than life at the MTC.  The MTC was just study all day, everyday.  I can deal with study.  Study is easy for me. Mission life, however, is pretty difficult.  Physically, because I've never biked so much in my life!

We had a bit of a disappointing week investigator-wise. We visited a billion less active/lead/recent convert/part member/member homes. We taught very little.  We do a lot of knocking, which really isn't very effective, because people are very religious and don't want to be told a message about Jesus.  Because we bike everywhere, my legs are constantly sore. I need to build up some muscle. I eat like a pig--it's great!

Despite all the things that sound bad about mission life, I really enjoy it.  I am more tired than I can ever remember being, but I'm happy.  It really is fulfilling work.  I feel like I'm doing well at getting adjusted to missionary life.  It was really hard at first, but it's getting easier.

I'll describe a trip we took after we arrived at the mission home, but before we met our companions.  The Mission President described it as an excursion.  We left around 7 am from the mission home.  He drove to a seemingly random spot in the woods and stopped.  We walked into the woods with the president and discovered a hollowed-out cove in the middle of the woods.  The sun was just coming above the trees, so it was beautiful. 

President Holm compared the grove where we were to the First Vision.  He said we could each take time to pray and ponder.  After about 10 minutes, we walked a different way out of the woods.  The path led to a clearing, where the Columbia Temple appeared!  The temple president met us and we were allowed inside to talk for a bit.  It was a great experience!

One of our investigators named Midia was looking super solid. She is the spunky black lady I mentioned in last week's letter. Unfortunately, when we went to meet with her again at the time we had set (last Saturday), no one was home. We've tried calling her over the week, but she never answered. She called us back once, but we were unable to answer, so I suppose we're playing phone tag.  Hopefully we will be able to visit her sometime this week and find out why she wasn't home. She seemed very excited for the lesson as of last week.

Elder Gale and Tim
I know I mentioned Tim in our letter last week, but I forget if I mentioned his son, Grant. We had an unsettling experience with him this week. Grant is not a member, but was willing to attend church with his father this last Sunday.  Last Saturday, we stopped by Tim's house to check up on him and make sure he was planning on church. I'll just write out my journal entry:

"After a normal conversation with Tim (if it is ever really normal), we were just about to pray. We saw Grant walk up to the door, shirtless and completely hammered. Totally drunk. Wordless, he went to sit down on the far couch and looked down abjectly. For some reason, this just made Tim mad. In an awkward fit of rage, Tim yelled, "Grant! I want ya ta pray now! Come right here and pray now!" - Pointing to a spot near him on the floor.

Obviously, this is not really how an invitation to offer alms to the Most High God of Israel ought to be said, but we didn't interrupt Tim for fear of making him mad. We could see that this was not a good situation to be in. Tim was crazy and Grant had had enough. I tentatively said, "Tim, it looks like Grant is tired, maybe you could say it?". But he seemed not to hear me.

Grant slowly looked up amidst Tim's ordering. And then he snapped. He stood up suddenly, screaming phrases like "******, I can ****** pray when I ***** wanna pray. I'm not a *** Mormon."

And then he turned to us.

"****** Jesus Christ needed no ****** restoration. Why'd ya change the Word of God? It didn't need no changing! We're fine the way we are! We don't need no Mormons!"

At this point, as I analyzed the situation of Grant's drunken despair, I was tempted to point out that he did in fact need something, whether it was Mormonism or a bath, I wasn't sure. Probably both.

Meanwhile, Tim was trying to apologize and stop Grant. It was a bit humorous. He would start yelling at Grant, and then turn away and start counting, "1000, 2000, 3000, 4000, 5000", and then turn around professionally, saying "Now, Grant...".

But Grant would have none of it. Eventually, he went outside, still looking at us, yelling "Y'all are going to hell! I'm a ******* Baptist, not a Mormon! I'm a ***** Baptist, not a Mormon!" (not to detract from the character of Baptists, anywhere, they're fine people! Grant just happened to be one.)

We just listened quietly the whole time, and realized it was time to leave. As we walked out, I held out my hand to shake Grant's. He just looked at me, but then softened. He shook my hand and gave me a shirtless and dirty hug. I said, "We love you Grant". He said, "I love you too".

And we rode off.

-End of journal entry-

Tim did not come to church the next day, but we'll stop by sometime throughout the next week and check up on him.

We spent some service hours in the lawn of one of our investigators, named Dottie, who is an older lady of 50+ years. She is very nice and very interested in fishing and her dogs. We worked in her lawn for about an hour and then asked her questions about her religious beliefs. I think it is very unsettling for most people to talk genuinely about their real religious feelings with people their not too comfortable with, so we didn't really get a lot of information out of her. We're trying to build that trust so she'll be more open with us.

We visited a part-member family, and I can’t recall their names. The wife is a member and the husband is Presbyterian...and racist. We could barely ask questions about the role that God plays in his life amidst the ramblings of what felt like pre-Civil war discussion. He kept talking about the different things that he felt was significantly affecting his life. It was unsettling to see that attitude take hold in anyone's beliefs. It was not a very successful visit.

Another family that I don't know very well named Rich and Jessica seem like golden investigators, but are never home. They work as a doctor and nurse respectively, and they work a billion hours every week. We're trying to find some time to meet with them.

I love you all very much.  I've missed you all more this week than ever before.  I'm safe and happy.

Called to Serve,


Elder Gale