tight like unto a banjo

Guess what happened on Saturday??? THE VERY FIRST BAPTISM OF MY MISSION :’) Everything about it was great. We’re teaching a little girl who really wanted other kids in her primary class to give the talks and it was just too cute. I was grinning the whole time watching these two primary kids give their talks. She’s a person who knows what she wants and she also wanted absolutely no primary songs, only hymns, and chocolate cupcakes with strawberry frosting and Oreo sprinkles on top. Can you tell that this little girl is so adorable and awesome yet? Her home teacher, who has been home teaching the family since our investigator was a little baby, baptized her. We got his jumpsuit and guessed a size XXL because he’s a very tall and hefty fellow. He’s also from Georgia and sounds like it and looks a lot like the KFC colonel. We gave him his jumpsuit and he said, “It’s taaaht lahk a banjeu, but it’ll wark.” And it did! Because he was so tall and she is so tiny it took 3 tries to get her fully immersed. She had the most confused look on her face the whole time. It is so gratifying to be able to be part of that step in someone’s spiritual progression because it’s a moment when you really feel the fruits of your labors.

asp and pratt baptism 2 baptism ing's companions
This week we also had ~sisters conference~ in which we hiked the Maryland Heights Hike, which is basically the local equivalent of hiking the Y, with all of the sisters in the mission. So fun! So wonderful! I really love the other sisters in the mission and it was a pleasure to spend time with them. We also had instructions for a few hours from the Sister Training Leaders, aka the Sister Bosses. Probably my favorite thing, though, is that we had salads and yogurt parfaits for lunch, in case we forgot that we were sisters. I got to know a lot of new missionaries, which is important because I am so new and haven’t gotten around the block, so to speak, in meeting a lot of people. I also got to see all my former companions and the other sisters I have served with. There are some really solid people in our group. I got another dose of ~girl power feels~ because the young women in our ward are so awesome. We work closely with them, which I expected to be about mentorship or because the young women are the people most other sisters can relate to the best in the ward, but it’s actually because the young women are just the best member missionaries in the church. There are always several new people at young women activities and most of the non-members who come to church who we don’t bring there are teenage girls. We also love taking them teaching with us. I don’t remember having the spirit with me or the depth of faith and commitment that these young sisters do when I was 16-18, but I am so glad we get to benefit from how good they are at what they do. If you want to be a good member missionary, look to the young women in your ward, because they’re probably showing everyone up.
The young men of the ward are also great. I love all of the youth and can’t wait for them to keep developing and to be missionaries one day. This Sunday I was sitting by a really sweet family in my ward and their four boys. I watched one boy tickle his brother’s back all through the service and it made me cry a little to see these guys being so tender with one another. I also loved watching the oldest son have charge over the door while the sacrament was being passed. His job was to maintain an air of reverence in the chapel while the sacrament was being passed by opening an closing the doors quietly while the sacrament was being taken into the foyer. I watched him close that door as carefully as he could and about at the speed grass grows. The care and attention he gave to magnifying his little calling really touched me. May we all bring such care to the seemingly unimportant things we are asked to do at church or for others.
On Wednesday we have TRANSFERS what the heck. I am staying here in Carlos Town but Sister Pratt is going elsewhere to be a Sister Boss?????????????? How can there be a Sister Asplund without a Sister Pratt, you may ask. Through Sister Blanchard, I guess? I haven’t met her yet, all I know about her is her name. I’m looking forward to meeting her and trying something new out despite feeling hesitant to let Sister Pratt leave me. There are three missionaries who are dying, aka going home on Wednesday in my district. I will miss them a lot but I am trying to focus on how fun it will be to have some fresh young missionaries in.
In baby animal news, I met a tiny kitten this week! I even got to hold it! And today I saw a very small snail on the ground and I picked it up and it just had its little curious antennae/eyeballs roving all around trying to figure out what the heck is going on. I put it on a leaf. I met this snail while I was hiking the Maryland Heights hike again this morning. Does that sound like the Y hike yet? I rolled out of bed VERY early this morning, even more so than usual, and stumbled up the mountain. We were supposed to be doing a sunrise hike, but the sunrise wasn’t actually visible from the lookout so it was just kind of an early hike. I love events planned by missionaries. Afterwards we played a game by the name of “corn hole”?? I like it because skill is probably about 15% of success or maybe even less, and also because it involves almost zero exertion. It’s also beautifully simple. You play corn hole by trying to throw corn into a hole. I love West Virginia.
Speaking of elders and of West Virginia, I ate a Slim Jim this week 😦 Not just any Slim Jim, but one that was sweaty, half-eaten, which had been in an elder’s back pocket for a few hours, and which several different elders had turned down. This was a first and hopefully a last for me. The English-speaking elders in our ward arrived to a meeting on Saturday in their service clothes straight from helping someone with yard work. One of the elders was trying to give away the aforementioned Slim Jim. Nobody wanted it but I was very hungry and also Sister Pratt had just impressed everyone by eating a whole (chocolate, strawberry-frosted, Oreo-topped) cupcake in one bite and the other elders dared me to eat it. Although I did once promise myself not to eat anything I had been dared to eat on my mission, I have been working on figuring out how to build friendships with elders because we don’t naturally have a lot in common and I thought maybe eating something disgusting would help us become closer. I’m not sure how I feel about this, but it absolutely worked. Now I know how to get in socially with elders. Thank you, Jim, wherever you are.
You are probably WAY CURIOUS about where I am in the Book of Mormon. OK, maybe not. Anyway, I’m still with the missionaries in Alma! These chapters are so good! I’m glad they’re lasting because I’m a little nervous about the war chapters. We’ll see how those go. Ammon and Aaron and co, though, those guys are solid. I want to be more like them. My theme this transfer is “work hard, pray hard.” I have yet to encounter a problem on my mission that can’t be solved either by working harder or by praying harder. I have just felt full of energy and drive since the baptism on Saturday. It felt so good to really see my efforts in action and I think I’m addicted.
Well I love you wonderful humans. I love hearing all about your adventures and your joys and pains. Send me lots more at 14 Deerbrook Drive, Charles Town WV 25414.
Sister Awesomesauce

Raise Heaven

As is my preference, I spent a lot of this week with tiny creatures, such as a 4 lb baby (I dare you to look at a newborn sleeping peacefully and just try not to feel the spirit. Impossible.) named Ralph and the smallest dog you could imagine. This tiny chihuahua, or perhaps it was a mouse that could bark, ran up to me and started jumping on my leg and licking me. I couldn’t believe that this dog could be real because it was just too small and because it seemed to come out of nowhere with no collar and no human companion, so I had to pick it up just to see. It was definitely a real dog and a few minutes later a lady came up with a baby (about twice as big as the dog) in her arms and said, “That’s my dog! She is always getting away from me!” I thought she might like to learn more about the gospel but she mostly just wanted her mouse back.

I also have been working on my doorstep etiquette, due to some failures this week. Fortunately nobody ever answers their door but Sister Pratt has had to correct me several times this week. For example on Tuesday we visited someone who gave us each a hunk of delicious homemade bread and I was still munching on it when we got to a later doorstep to knock. I was too absorbed in my bread to remember that it is kind of a faux pas to be eating bread when you meet someone and when Sister Pratt saw me she whispered “Put the bread in your pocket now!!!” and I did. At a different doorstep I saw a tiny caterpillar crawling across the welcome mat and I bent down to try to rescue it from a future of being squished and Sister Pratt was like “You need to stand up Sister!” so I waited until they were clearly not going to answer before I put it in the bushes. The life of a greenie just consists of being corrected all the time but I have been surprisingly amenable to it. Mostly it’s all just funny.
Another trial of my mission has been learning how to wake up in the mornings. On Wednesday I woke up and realized that Sister Pratt was already in her bathroom and assumed that I must have slept through the alarm. Sleeping in is seen as kind of a major moral failure for missionaries so I jumped out of bed immediately and put on my workout clothing. I was putting on my name tag when I looked at the clock and realized that it was 11:30 pm and my companion had just woken up to use the bathroom. She just said, “Go back to bed, Sister Asplund.” which are words I’ve been dreaming of my whole mission long.
We have a really fun new investigator who is an ancient Jamaican woman who is mostly blind. She has been really getting everything we teach her, but when I invited her to be baptized she said, “You want me to be baptized into your church?!” and we said “… yes?” and she laughed out loud. She said she would pray about it, though. She came to church on Sunday with her grandson who didn’t quite get along famously with the other Primary children. His Primary teacher brought him into Sunday school to sit next to his grandmother and she took one look at him and said, “You have been bad, Sijohn. I can feel it.” Whether or not she wants to be baptized I know she wants to go to church but has been having trouble finding a kid-friendly church and a ride to said church so hopefully our congregation will satisfy her desire, especially if Sijohn gets used to using his “kind hands” which is our investigator’s adorable phrasing. She also can’t remember my name so she just calls me “Sister Apple.”
A major highlight this week was taking a recent convert to the temple to do some temple work for her ancestors. The temple is a very special place and the DC temple baptistry is especially close to my heart because I went there many times in college. Fern absolutely loved her time there. I was there just to help her out and I really treasured the long waiting periods, which I spend deep in prayer. I had some really great and really helpful conversations with God on Saturday. Praying without needing to rush off to bed or to studies or to teach a lesson or eat right after proved very fruitful. I always get a little too focused on praying to open or close some other event and forget that prayer itself can be the event. Because I was stuck there I could really get in-depth and figure out some answers. Praying is just such a wonderful, cathartic, restful experience.
We also learned how to make papusas on Saturday! I love papusas so much and it was so exciting to get to know them a little better. We were making them for a ward fundraiser for girl’s camp and scout camp, where we served dinner, had a dessert auction, and where the youth put on a play. The play was amazing as only a youth production can be, and it included singing and dancing and a backdrop made of garbage bags. I’m sure you can imagine.
I’m still in Alma in the throes of Ammon’s mission. King Lamoni just learned about the gospel and he couldn’t even believe how true it was. I love that chapter. I believe it’s Alma 18 and 19. Ammon is such a great missionary. I want to be like him when I grow up, at least as a teacher. Hopefully I won’t have to cut off any sheep thief’s arms.
I also got to Skype with the family on Sunday! I think missionaries like Mother’s Day better than most mothers. My family is just the best. Many of you get to spend a lot of time with them, and I am a little jealous. Give them hugs for me.
Despite not getting to give my own family hugs for me, I am just so happy to be on a mission. It is a space of fullness, and not just because we sometimes have two dinner appointments in a row. We talk a lot about the fullness of times, the fullness of the gospel, and finding a fullness of joy. I feel like my heart is full all the time and that my life is full of meaning and purpose. It’s a real joy. If you are thinking of going on a mission but you aren’t sure, my advice is to do it. It’s wonderful. As a missionary you have nothing else to do but visit and care for and love the people who are the most neglected and who need spiritual refreshment the most. We are always searching for people who have fallen through the cracks.
I love you all! I want to hear from you. I want to hear about what has been making you happy and also good jokes. My address remains 14 Deerbrook Drive/Charles Town, WV 25414.
Sister Apple

Sunshine Eyes

I think that if our goal was to baptize animals instead of people, I would be a lot more successful as a missionary. Maybe it’s the farmland positioning, but I interact with all creatures of our God and king. My personal space is disrespected by cats and dogs on a daily basis (this week, a dog jumped on my face, but I miraculously sustained no injury) and this week held many other zoological adventures, such as:

– I found the tiniest salamander in the world, no longer than my thumbnail and the color of a starry night sky, under a rock in someone’s garden where I was weeding. That thing could really slither.
– We had dinner with our Relief Society president and her family, who keep chickens. She has some baby chickens, one of which went to the bathroom on my shirt when I picked it up and I got to spend the rest of the evening with a mysterious stain on my shirt. Awkward. I also got to hold the largest chicken in the whole world, whose name is “Black Star”
– I RESCUED A BABY BUNNY. You heard my right. We were having dinner with a family in the ward and there was a fellow mowing their lawn who stopped his mower and said there were bunnies in the yard. One of them ran under the porch but the other one got stuck on its way under the porch. I got it free and carried it around until the lawn mowing was through, but it was so cute and tiny. Just a handful of bun.
In Doctrine and Covenants there is a promise oft-quoted to missionaries: “Open your mouth and it shall be filled.” This is true with words, such as when someone asks a question you’re not sure how to answer or when you try to street contact someone without deciding what you’re going to say ahead of time. I’ve discovered this week that this promise also applies to a practice missionaries call “double-dinnering.” This week at the bunny’s house we enjoyed a wonderful steak dinner and then afterward went out to eat with a different family at an exotic location by the name of “Ruby Tuesday,” where I have never eaten before. I had planned to get a nice salad and had picked mine out when I closed the menu and saw a very exciting-sounding hamburger on the back, all decked out with blue cheese and bacon. I was still all the way full from first dinner but I looked up at our server and heard myself order an enormous hamburger. You’re not a true servant of the Lord if you don’t clean your plate, so I ate the whole thing. On my way home I thought wistfully of the days when I used to be a vegetarian. In D&C, after the line “open your mouth and it shall be filled” there is also a promise that we will become “like Nephi of old.” I definitely felt, like unto Nephi, a little bit more “large in stature” as I returned from the evening.
Last week on Preparation Day I got this great wrap skirt at Goodwill, and the next day when Sister Pratt and I were running out the door after changing out of our gardening clothes (by the way, I also got some enormous floral culottes which might be even more perfect than my denim dress) and I threw on this skirt. Little did I know that the skirt insisted upon having a serious gap if I ever sat down (my KNEECAPS were showing. What kind of woman does this skirt think I am?) and we were on our way to have interviews with the mission president. I had no safety pin and no idea how to make my skirt modest (could I tell my mission president that I preferred to interview standing up?) so I took an extra name tag that was in our car and pinned my skirt together with it. I was walking around for the rest of the day with a name tag flapping around inside my skirt but it worked like a charm. Classic sister missionary #lifehack.
The work is just great. We taught 33 lessons last week! Life is great when there are a lot of lessons to teach. That is what we missionaries live for. We get to visit with the most strange and interesting people. This week, for example, we talked to a men’s rights activist who looked exactly like the older fellow from “Back to the Future” in his yard who said he was not interested in organized religion because he finds it too female-centered. I didn’t really know how to respond to his claim at all. The cool thing about having the mantle and being called of God and whatnot is that while I would otherwise have run far away, I felt a responsibility to love this person, so I did! An important tool that missionaries have is that we can feel the love God has for everyone around us, and that love becomes more powerful than all of our squeamishness about how different we are from other people. This is also a spiritual gift that I prayed to experience. Highly recommended!
My Book of Mormon adventures (by the way, my companion instructed me this week that it is disrespectful for me to call it “The Book of Mormie,” just in case y’all were wondering) have taken me to Alma 7. Read on with me! It’s so good! You’ll want to slap yourself in the face with the book (this is why we usually distribute paperback copies) every few sentences because you can’t believe it.
In conclusion, I hope something fluffy comes your way this week. Send me a letter if you would love to because there is nothing better than getting mail. I guarantee that you will get some mail back. My address is 14 Deerbrook Drive, Charles Town WV 25414. Send me all the hot gossip and your spiritually uplifting tales and anything in between.
Sister Applesoose (as my 8-year-old investigator spelled it)