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

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