Monday, September 9, 2013

SOUTH CAROLINA FOR THE WIN!!

I'M SOOOOO SORRY I WASN'T ABLE TO CALL!  I'll explain that story in the chronological ordered email.

So I'm trying to remember what life was like at the MTC...it's not coming to me. I know we had a devotional, and it was probably pretty good. I have no recollection of who spoke.

So I packed up my stuff Sunday night counting on about 30 minutes to finish it up in the morning. My departure time from the travel office was at 4:30. I had decided to wake up at 4. Around 3:50, my roommates woke me up in a frenzy, saying that the intercom had come on and called for me to go to the travel office. Turns out they gave me the wrong time for my departure; it was supposed to be at 3:30!

Another Elder in a room next to me, Elder Blackner, was in the same situation. I hurriedly threw my random things into my suitcase. I ended up leaving behind quite a bit to make the weight limit. We rushed up to the travel office around 4:10 and had to wait for the next bus to take us to the airport. We had red stickers for urgency. Saying good-bye to my companion was easy but tender.  Same thing for my district.

When I got there, we finished checking our bags and safety precautions and progressed directly to the plane. That waiting period of about 30 minutes to an hour is usually when the missionaries called their parents, but I missed it! We did have a layover, so I was determined to call you then. We got off and found our next plane and it was already time to leave! About 5 other missionaries were in my same situation, and none of them were able to call their parents. When we arrived at the Columbia airport, we greeted the Mission President immediately, and I was a bit too intimidated to ask him if the group could wait so I could call my mom. But I wanted to!

President Holm, Elder Gale, Sister Holm
We did go to the mission home after the plane. We stayed there for 2 nights for training purposes. I'd imagine Sister Holm has a Facebook group to which she uploads all of the pictures she takes. I'm glad that she is thinking of parents and family back home.

The training was fun! I felt like I made a good impression on President Holm. I felt a bit separated from the rest of the missionaries. I could tell that he was not planning on having visa waiters until last minute, and that we made life a bit difficult for him. Because we are only here temporarily, he cannot use us as effectively as other missionaries. During interviews and car rides I emphasized to him that South Carolina is my mission, not a waiting period for my mission. I'm excited to serve right now, not just when I go to Brazil.

I have no idea if that made an impact on my placement at all, but when transfers came, I was placed with two completely solid missionaries who have a great work ethic! Because I am a visa waiter, I am in a tripack (three missionaries). I am with Elder Phillips and Elder Nissen. Elder Phillips is a tall, experienced missionary who is almost dead (finished). Elder Nissen has only been out for about 2 months, and is still being trained. They are both mentally sharp and witty. I enjoy our companionship.

We are in the Chapin part of South Carolina. I don't know much about it except for what I’ve seen. As soon as we arrived in our area, grabbed some lunch, and put our suitcases in our trailer, we went to work.

The Chapin area has been a bit slow on missionary work for the past few transfers, but we are determined to change that. This is Elder Phillip's last transfer, so he wants to go out big. I hope I will be able to stay with these Elders for the full transfer.

We have no progressing investigators. There are lots of possible leads and former members, but very little progressive teaching has been done this last week. I suppose I'll describe a typical day, and then a couple of prominent people.

We wake up at 6:30am. I am always dead tired, but my companions get me up right away. No sleeping in in our trailer! The other Elders in our trailer are our roommates, who are also the Zone Leaders. The only other companionship in our District are the AP's. Elder Phillips is the DL. We have lots of leadership in our District!

We then try to work out for 15-30 minutes. Elder Phillips is a monster.  We don't really need much exercise, because we bike everywhere. We eat breakfast and shower, etc. The food situation has been very limited here because we have only been able to eat what was left from the last transfer..., which was not much. Today we ate the last crumb of food for breakfast and went shopping. Thank goodness.

We have personal study for and hour and companionship study for 2. It is basically training picked up at the time of Elder Nissen. Because I am a visa-waiter, I don't really get training here...the idea is that I will be trained in Brazil. I'm not worried. I am learning quickly enough.

Then I have an hour of language study while they have an hour of personal study. I can't tell if it bothers them. I have to do it regardless.

We have lunch and get to work.

Right now, we are visiting a ton of leads and former members and knocking on a lot of doors. Everything is spaced out pretty well and we bike a pretty good distance every day. Elder Nissen leads the biking because he knows the area, and he is a great biker. I thought I was going to be able to do the physical exercise without problem, but I consistently slow down our group. I feel bad because I can’t quite keep up with the other Elders. My legs and butt are just constantly sore. 

What I lack in physical ability, I feel like I make up for it in teaching. The first lesson I jumped in and got excited and interrupted everybody and took over the lesson. It's a bad habit from the MTC where I would HAVE to teach the whole lesson. Everything I taught was solid and well thought-out; it was just me saying it the whole time.

Since then, I've learned how to be more unified with my companions and let them talk every once in a while. It helps that they are great teachers. Despite my tendency to take over a lesson, I feel (and they've verified) that I am doing very well at teaching effectively, promptly, and convincingly.

So individual people we've taught... 

There's the most interesting ones, Tim and Grant.

Tim was baptized a month or so ago and Grant (Tim's son) just attended church for the first time. We are in a branch. I think the best way to describe Tim's quirky personality and appearance is to compare him to Golem in Lord of the Rings. He is hunched over but very strong and well built. He has strange rashes and holes all over his body. I have yet to see him with a shirt on (besides church). We went to see him once and Grant answered the door and told us to wait a minute (Tim was buck naked just hanging out). They live in a shack of sorts... and they are always cooking meat. 

Another good one was with a lady named Midia.

Midia is a spunky black lady who lives in a pretty nice neighborhood. We met her while tracting, and she said she had a Mormon friend who is always happy, so she'd listen to our message. We talked for about an hour and a half. She had grown up in a very tough situation and had escaped all of it for a better life. She had never been satisfied with the churches she'd gone too, and thought they didn't really help at all. She is about 25 years old.

We taught the First Vision and I swear, the Spirit in that room was tangible. She was crying as we discussed the restoration of the Church on the Earth, how God was our loving Heavenly Father, and how He cares about and responds to our prayers.

She accepted the invitation to church, and we are going to try to get her member friend to come for the next lesson.

Naturally, there were more lessons and people we interacted and taught with. Those were some of the most interesting. The average person here is super-religious and reads the Bible and not much else. They are very different from my personality, but they are some of the nicest people I have ever met. I admire the community and trust that prevails in the streets and houses.

You can send mail to the mission office. I don't know the address from the top of my head but I’m sure you can look it up.  Again, I'm sorry I wasn't able to call. I anxiously await the next opportunity to call and talk to everyone at home.

Called to serve,
Elder Gale

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