Woohoo, I'm finally out in the real world! My area is Tuscaloosa, AL. My companion, Sister Bailey, and I are over the home ward here. We were able to go to church yesterday, and it was Ward Conference. The ward is definitely the smallest ward I've ever been to, I'm not in Kansas any more, that's for sure! The investigators we invited to church didn't show up, but that's okay. The meetings were really good. The Stake presidency is awesome. Our Stake president is actually the first black Stake President. He is awesome! He is full of the light of Christ, and teaches amazingly! Something that he taught yesterday in Sunday school was about how you can be active in the Church, but not active in the Gospel. Don't go through the motions of church, make sure you are active in the Doctrine of Christ! The Doctrine of Christ is Faith, Repentance, Baptism, the Holy Ghost, and Enduring to the end. Make sure to have a good outlook though...it should be Enjoying to the end. :) Enjoy the Gospel.
My companion is super nice. She has been out for 6 months. She is patient and answers all of my questions. She also takes the lead where I lack confidence. I've found that once we have an investigator and are teaching, I love it. I'm good with lessons, and pretty good with trying to teach by the Spirit. But I do lack confidence in finding, or street/store contacting. It's a little weird going up to random strangers and telling them who we are and asking for their phone number so we could teach them. Sometimes I worry that we're annoying them. But this is what missionary work is all about! Got to remember that their salvation is on the line!!
Something that's hard in the South is that everyone already has found Jesus. Everyone is part of a church, everyone is religious. There's a select few that aren't, and there's a select few who are willing to let us teach them. Some people let us get their phone number simply because they see that we are here to talk about Jesus, and they love Jesus. Their testimony of God is so strong! For example, we met an older lady at Chick-fil-A for lunch. It was her first time talking with the missionaries. During the hour that we were with her, I think we learned more from her that she did from us! She was telling us about trials that she's gone through, and her love and testimony of God. It was amazing. Then there's yesterday, where we were street contacting and stopped man on the street. He told us that he is Baptist and that he sings in the choir. We jokingly asked him to sing, and to my delight he sung a couple lines from "Amazing Grace." It was a special moment. These people are very strong religiously, but what they don't know is that they are missing the Restored Gospel of Christ. Their churches have truths, and they are good people, but they lack proper priesthood authority, and the Book of Mormon, and the other truths that it gives us. So that's one of the challenges we face out here. Getting them to recognize that.
Nonetheless, we continue on. We have a few investigators already. Rachel, a 17 year old girl. Dottie, an older lady in her 50's. And Jasmine, a Chinese woman in her 30's who's here for her Doctorate. We met with Jasmine on Campus at Starbucks last week. I really enjoyed our lesson with her, which was totally governed by her questions and the Spirit. We mostly covered basics about God, and His nature, and where we'll all end up. It was really refreshing to teach someone that didn't come from a Christian background!
The Southern drawl out here is great. Some people have it really strong, others don't. I have to be careful not to say "you guys", because the proper way to say it is "ya'll", or for a group of people, "all ya'll." For the most part, it's easy to understand people. We went tracting around the ghetto a few days ago. One of the first doors we knocked on, we got invited in by a woman in her 20's. We actually got to sit down and teach her a little bit, and she seemed interested. :) It's really good to have your scriptures bookmarked, and materials on hand, so you can teach on the fly. A few doors later, we were at the doorstep and it started smelling like a farm to me, which told me the apartment was full of weed (grosssss!) It was really sad to see that, because kids were running around and it makes me sad that they grow up in that environment. Another door we knocked on, a man answered and he was playing classy, jazzy music from back in the day. It was really fun. Culture!
It's really green here, the forest is thick and the river we pass over is huge! The weather has also been bipolar. One day it's really nice, and the next day it's like 30 degrees cooler! It was FREEZING my second day here. And we were out tracting! The people here call it a "sleet day" and literally everyone stays home from work and school. I didn't think the weather was bad enough for them to stay home, but I guess it's a good enough excuse?
Adjusting to missionary life is going fine, it's hard sometimes, but I've got to remember to keep on keepin' on. I love you all!
And now for some pics.....
Enjoying some Starbucks Hot Chocolate!
Sister Bailey and Me! Bama Girls! #rolltide
OK, this one has a unique story. Standing next to me is Sister Sheffield, who I met in the MTC. When I was in China recently, I knew her sister who was also a head teacher!
I thought this was a pretty cool connection! What a small world!
And, it was pretty funny to get into my apartment, open up the kitchen cupboards and see the EXACT same dishes that we have at home!