Dear Family & Friends,
Life in South Carolina is fantastic. I adhere to the philosophy of President Holm, "Even the worst day as a missionary is glorious". I'm actually not sure if that's word for word, so don't quote me on that. I have tons of quotes from him that are fantastic.
But really. Even the worst day when we were rained on and nobody showed up to doors and we were chased down a pitch-black street by a savage dog (I didn't know I could run so fast!) was an awesome day of missionary work. I go to bed happy each day. It's fantastic.
President Holm has a rule about no bringing musical instruments into the mission, so I talked to him about it the first day I came in. He said because my future mission president was ok with it, I could have it with me. He decided it was ok for me to have it at the trailer and that I could practice on P-Days if I so desired. Honestly, I have only been able to use it for about 10 minutes once since I've been here. I'm hoping I'll be able to finish writing letters today and play a little bit. I have not been invited to perform anywhere yet, although I'm thinking about letting President know I am always willing to play at transfer meetings if needed.
I live in Chapin and attend the Chapin Branch. I love it! It is small, but the members are very close and solid. There is one family named the Jacobs that feeds us often. They are very missionary-minded and Brother Jacobs teaches seminary, so they always have an interesting conversation. Another reason I believe they are willing to feed us often is because they have a son on a mission. I hope you all are willing to feed the missionaries occasionally to reciprocate the service of the families around here! We really appreciate it :D.
My most spiritual experiences have been fairly limited by us having no progressing investigators the entire transfer. We have been able to teach several lessons and the Spirit has been strong in all the ones we've taught. I've felt strengthened several times when on a grueling bike ride and having no energy left. The leadership training meetings and general conference were very uplifting meetings. I think I related my experience with the mission's own "sacred grove" and my encounter with Tim and Grant. We talk to many people each day and share our faith and knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but none of those experiences really stand out from one another.
I have not spoken in our branch yet. My companions were invited to speak the first Sunday we arrived in our branch, but for some reason I was not. Many members didn't even know I was a missionary or that we were in a three-pack! I think it just didn't fit with the timing to have three people speak instead of two. Now I know most everybody though.
I always have either cereal or oatmeal for breakfast. For lunch I usually have a PBJ. I bet you would have never expected such a consistent diet :D. We usually get fed 1-3 times a week by the branch. If not I'll usually grab another PBJ or something else from my personal supply. I also have apples, so that means I'm healthy. I enjoyed mixing it up a bit with your package you sent a while ago! Sometimes we'll go eat out at cheap places in Chapin.
We buy our own food. My mission money is transferred to Elder Nissen's debit card. I don't get a card because I am a visa waiter (tear). I am pretty frugal with my groceries! So far I have been able to stay within budget. You're right that I'm not going to be able to send birthday presents anymore. Sorry Josh! The mission funds and my personal funds don't allow for presents and packages. We get $130 each month for expenses of food, supplies, and whatever else.
We are only able to attend the temple if a convert baptism or less-active member is attending for the first time because of our efforts. It acts as a sort of baptism/reactivation motivation. As if we needed motivation to baptize! President Holm explained "our work is to the living, not the dead".
We did receive training on the stress packet given to each missionary. I received it earlier in the MTC. I'm doing pretty well with stress management so far. I don't sense any problems now or in the future. I'm sure that packet will come in handy someday! I know people who have used it to great advantage.
So I'll run through my week real quick in the time I have left. Missionary work slowed down a little bit because of a 2-day training meeting that occurred for missionary leaders and trainees I was privileged to be a part of. President Holm and other leaders in the mission gave trainings throughout the day. I learned quite a bit! President Holm is particularly charismatic.
The quote from him that is standing out to me right now is "I will leap from my cot, while failures sleep another hour". Pretty strong language, but inspiring nonetheless.
And naturally, General Conference was instructive and uplifting. I particularly enjoyed President Monson's address in the Sunday Morning Session. Really each of the sessions were very good. I look forward to reading them again in the future.
Personally throughout the week, I have been focusing on the goals that I make. How many goals do we set every day, week, month, and year that are left unfulfilled? I realized that I am guilty of making goals and sometimes covenants lightly. I committed to take seriously every goal that I make, and to set daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals. I want to construct a self-correcting system of improvement to hopefully mold me into a better missionary and individual.
One experience that we had that I halfway mentioned earlier was with the dog that chased us. Looking back on it, it was hilarious. It was about 8:45 pm, so we had just a bit of the day left to contact people. We decided to follow up on a lead that had been contacted some time in the past that lived near us. The sun had gone done completely, so we had only the lights of whatever streetlights to guide us. We arrived at the street, locked our bikes to a stop sign, and started walking. It is a fairly rural area, and so the streetlights from the road began to fade. We could see the road around our feet and that was about it.
We walked down about 10 minutes trying to find this house that we had written down. We were talking fairly lightheartedly, but I am unashamed to say I was very unnerved. There was thick forest on either side of us, and we kept hearing movements in the trees (probably deer). I was quoting Psalms 23 from memory in an attempt to calm myself. It was probably just when I got to the part about "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death" that we turned around a bend and saw the outline of a house. We started towards it but heard a growl.
Missionaries are inherently afraid of large dogs, and this one was a black dog. If you have any common sense, don't run from dogs, because that will make them chase you. So after we saw this big, black dog chasing us, I turned around and just about fell over. Elder Nissen had already started sprinting, and I soon followed suit. I am ashamed to say that the thought crossed my mind that I don't need to beat the dog, only the other missionaries! I may or may not have pushed Elder Phillips out of my way. I don't really remember and he doesn't either. All I know is that I sprinted like Hell was behind me. Elder Phillips and Nissen may be much faster than me on bike, but if there is enough motivation I now know that I can beat them in a foot race.
We did escape the dog, although it was right on Elder Phillips' trail. Elder Phillips later told me he had the car keys clenched sticking out of his fist ready to punch it and Elder Nissen had pepper spray. I guess I'm not the best in a dogfight.
I love you all. Stay sweet!
Called to Serve,