I am just coming from the baby chick emporium, aka this farming supply store where they have had a sign on their marquee that says “chick days are here!” for a few weeks. Every time we drove past I would gently suggest that Sister Pratt should pull over so we could really efficiently look at the chicks but that is more of a p-day activity. Great news! Today is p-day so I got to go coo over the cuteness while my companion bought mulch. We were also accompanied by one of my fave sisters in the ward who was a fan of the speckled baby chicks. Those are the kind of magical shenanigans that are possible when you are a missionary in West Virginia. Other missionary shenanigans include going to the birthday dinner of a 5-year-old, the son of the same sister who accompanied us to the chick emporium.
On Saturday we had a family history party in the cultural hall, including a potluck dinner with foods from the places of our cultural heritage and some entertainment. I brought a jello salad with shredded carrots, raisins, and coconut in honor of my Mormon heritage and I was asked to sing a song in German with another German-speaking sister. I am not much of a singer and certainly not an experienced vocal performer, so this was quite an adventure. I think it went okay, though, although Americans tend to find the German language to be too funny/scary to invite the spirit.
This week was a time of bountiful service. Missionaries are special because we get to move people around and I think my box-carrying game is improving. We also got to sweep out the cramped, soot-filled attic of someone whose 200-year-old farmhouse was recently reconstructed after a house fire. It was honestly kind of fun and rustic. Have you ever climbed a ladder in a skirt? Try it sometime.
On Wednesday we got three new elders in our ward. One of them is fresh from the MTC (it is so so weird not to be the newest missionary in the ward. I’m a tiny baby still! Please don’t expect me to be competent!) and the other is returning to the ward, where he was at the beginning of his mission. This is very unusual so everyone in the ward has been flipping out. It’s a lot of fun and I think it’s giving everyone warm and fuzzy missionary feelings which makes my life a lot easier.On Sunday all six of us missionaries spoke in sacrament meeting, two in Spanish (translating for one another) about the Atonement and Easter. I talked about having a change of heart and tried to make an organ donation metaphor. The bishop also called everyone in the ward to be ward missionaries, which I am excited about. Hopefully we will get lots of referrals and people wanting to come teach lessons with us. Ward involvement is so important to missionary work, I am fast learning. In addition to help with the work, I really appreciate how every family in the ward has adopted us and wants to make sure we’re not dying of youthful incompetence, which is honestly a very real danger.
In with the new missionaries came a tiny hot pink bike just for me! Bicycling isn’t a huge thing out here in the countryside because nobody has the thighs for the rolling hills and long country roads, but it gets me around the neighborhood and I hope for a fun future with it. I texted our district leader (who is also new to the area) to ask if bike tassles are allowed and he was a little taken aback and had to ask the zone leaders. I don’t think he ever expected a question like that. The word is that they are fine as long as they are not too distracting.
One of my favorite people who we talked to this week was a woman who was sitting on her porch looking over her freshly-mulched yard. She is from Brazil and her husband, who is from El Salvador, was also hanging out. She was telling us all about how there were so many Mormons in Brazil and then she asked where we were from. When I told her I was from Utah she got so excited and started waxing poetic/yelling excitedly about how much she LOVES JUTAH and how it is SOOO BEAUTIFUL AND I WAS IN A HOTEL RIGHT BY THE BIG CHURCH!!!!!!!! I loved her. She said that she was in Utah in 1993 traveling with a family she nannied for. The most wonderful/truest moment of the conversation was when she said “JUTAH HAS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BOYS! BEAUTIFUL BLUE-EYE BOYS IN JUTAH!!!” Her husband was very good humored about it. She said she liked the church she was at but there is a family in the ward who has lots of people over for papusas and FHE every Monday and they said they wanted to come. I am thrilled by that, mostly because I want to hang out with them more. They are honestly my new favorite people.
Something I’ve been working on all week is bearing testimony and just confirming that I believe the doctrine I’m teaching really simply. Trying to convince or reason with people about religious truth isn’t very effective because spirituality is not really a matter of reason. Our goal is to invite people to seek out God and have personal encounters with the divine, and it’s not useful to try to make a lawyerly case for such activities. What is useful is creating experiences for people to have their own personal spiritual encounters so they can find the truth for themselves. When I bear my testimony in a lesson I try to think of the time I spent volunteering at the MTC so that the new missionaries who were learning German could practice teaching me. These missionaries had as many words as could be learned in a few weeks, but I always found these lessons genuinely enriching and edifying. The most they could do was say very simply that they felt God’s love for them or for me and maybe share a scripture that they liked or ask some basic questions but two weeks had taught them enough words to bring the spirit in really strong force. I think it was the sincerity and effort they were putting into being good missionaries that made those experiences sacred. They are my current missionary heroes.
I continue to be loving the Book of Mormon, and I hope you are too. I’m just having fun with the characters and the narrative. I am in Mosiah 20 at the moment. Reading the Book of Mormon is just a relaxing and pleasant part of my day when I don’t worry about anything else that is going on. It’s a real pleasure.
I love you all, and I pray for you, and I love hearing from you. If you want to write (you should! getting a letter will make you feel like you’re in an old movie!) my address is 14 Deerbrook Drive, Charles Town WV 25414.
Lots of love,