“we ended up on a four-wheeler with a preacher”

First of all, no, I was not the one on a four-wheeler with a preacher, much to my own disappointment. I don’t even know how many mission rules that would probably break.

In any case, this week was PIONEER DAY! Yay!! I just love Pioneer Day. My people! To celebrate, our ward had a barbecue that ended up having a great turnout and which included a live spinning wheel demonstration, a banjo, a stick pull, and some excellent jello. It was a perfect Mormon holiday. Pioneer Day is personally significant to me because it causes me to reflect on my heritage. I would encourage you to do the same! I have been really enjoying teaching people about family history and I have found something maybe a tiny bit radical in its being a sort of DIY history. Go interview your grandma! She has important things to tell you. To celebrate Pioneer Day we also were meant to have a special number from the Primary, but it seems like about half the ward is out of town. When the Primary children were called up to sing, there were only about five of them in the congregation. I heard the Bishop and Primary President murmuring “Plan B? Plan B.” to each other and then the Bishop got up and said, “We’re going to move to Plan B. As a rest hymn, we will now sing ‘Come, Come, Ye Saints.” It honestly felt fitting because I think the poor pioneers must have always been moving to Plan B. In our missionary planner, there is a column entitled “daily plan” and to the right of it a column labeled “backup plan.” There’s something kind of beautiful about it.

This week was also exchanges. It was a little scary, to be honest, because I was the one taking over the area for a few days. I still feel new here even though I probably shouldn’t after a month or so, but here we are. It ended up that we had kind of a hard exchange for completely different reasons than I expected. I thought I would have no idea what to do or who to plan to visit, but the issue ended up being that we just couldn’t seem to get in anyone’s door. This had a major bright side, though, because my temporary companion and I got in a lot of time walking around and getting to know people. Street contacting is definitely not the easiest part of missionary work but it is personally rewarding in the sense that getting face time with a random selection of God’s children is just a fun and strange experience. I think everyone should try walking around a strange city and introducing themselves to everyone they see. People are fascinating. I tried to think of how Jesus would street contact, and I kind of imagined Him taking an intense interest in everyone He met. I tried that and it was very fruitful. Exchanges are also a great chance to get a fresh perspective and advice on the area. I am really grateful for them.

ingrid mish 7-27
In baby animal news, we had dinner with an awesome family who is a perfect specimen of the regional dialect because they’ve both lived around here their whole lives. One of them is named Wilma and is from the nearby town of Flintstone. Incredible. I could listen to them talk for days and I just never wanted to leave. This family absolutely loves turtles and built their backyard into a perfect turtle habitat, so they keep wild turtles not exactly as pets but more as backyard friends. We got to meet one of them, and she was tiny and orange and we named her Esther. It was kind of perfect.

I love you! God bless us, every one, as my mission president wrote to us this week. I would love to hear from you, my address remains 923 National Hwy, LaVale, MD 21502. Or you can shoot me a li’l missive on dearelder.com!

Love,

Sister Appleston

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“you have no need to be a scrub”

Title excerpted from a talk by President Hinkley. Did I proceed to quote Destiny’s Child lyrics in a Hinkley voice for the rest of the day? Absolutely. Poor Sister Nish. I think she liked it though.
On Tuesday I woke up in the morning and whined, “Sister Nish, my ear hurts!” but she didn’t take me very seriously because I am almost always whining at 6:20 am. My poor companions, one and all. Over the next few days, my general health continued to decline so we called the mission president’s wife (we always get permission from our mission mom to stay home. I feel young again.) and I slept for a long time on all the different soft surfaces if our apartment. We finally went to the local urgent care emporium and I was diagnosed with an outer ear infection. The PA asked, “Do you go swimming a lot?” and I laughed and got a little sad. No I do not. In any case, between getting pinkeye and an ear infection, I feel a lot like a 2 year old. Unlike a 2 year old, I am able to be still for as long as it takes for ear drops to soak in, so I’m all better now. I have to say that living in the 21st century really suits me.

Between sessions of lying still for my special ear drops, Sister Nish and I have started to orient ourselves more toward finding. This is a challenging part of missionary work for me, but I am loving it more and more with each door knocked. It’s a really special experience to have license to just invite yourself to be everyone’s friend. I can love people probably 300% faster than I could before my mission. Love at first sight is sort of a spiritual gift that missionaries need because otherwise the often discouraging work of talking to everyone we see and being rejected by most of the people we see is just not worth it.

In baby animal news, I met a baby chameleon this week! Who knew chameleons could be babies? I don’t know, maybe I thought they started out as tadpoles or something, but this one was pretty cute and small and of curly tail. I also heard a rumor that there is a pet hedgehog in the ward. We’ll see if we can make that friendship happen. Our beloved Zone Leaders also visited our district meeting this week. Zone Leaders are kind of intended to be the friendly neighborhood sticklers, but these fellows found a turtle in the middle of the road on there way over, named him Patrick, and would not stop playing with him though the whole meeting. Our poor District Leader was really struggling to keep them on task.

We also got a chance to take a tiny road trip to Martinsburg for an interview with the mission president. He’s the best. We spent some time hanging out with the elders (including 20 terrifying minutes when my companion was interviewing and it was just me and 8 elders. They talked about toilets the whole time. I wish I was joking.) and the mission president’s wife, who is just the most angelic person, and I’m not just saying that because she gave me permission to stay in sick for a few days this week. She’s just a sweetheart. She is always looking for something nice to say. I want to cultivate that. President has a quiet intensity that I would also like to cultivate because when he talks, everyone wants to listen. Getting to know him a little better was a great experience. The elders also had a long conversation about the roadkill they have been eating on their mission. I assumed this was out of courtesy to the kind people who were feeding them, but they explained that this was roadkill they had collected and cooked of their own accord. Missions get a little weird sometimes.

In Book of Mormon news, I have been really digging the war chapters after all! I started out a little intimidated but they’re quite exciting. I keep interrupting Sister Nish’s studies to tell her about what is happening between everyone and making such astute observations as “Well that Moroni is just hard-headed!” That’s that scriptoral insight I was promised for my mission coming into play. In any case, something I never expected to say but just keep coming back to is that the Book of Mormon is such a page turner. Who knew?! Or maybe I’m just deprived of reading materials, but either way. Definitely read it. It’s also a lot funnier than you would expect.

Finally, I am turning 23 on Wednesday?! My companion is a teenager. And she’s the senior companion. I actually don’t mind the age difference very much at all, we just have a whole lot to learn from each other. My dear companion let me write her a dating flow chart for when she returns to her mission, probably just to make me feel wiser/more useful. She’s the best. So far my plans for that day include helping someone dust their china hutch and having dinner with a counselor to the bishop. It should be pretty wild.

Also! I am told that dearelder.com delivers even after the MTC days, so that’s exciting. dearelder me! It’s probably even free?? I don’t know. Try it out. Tell me what you think. If you prefer the romance of putting pen to paper, you can reach me at 923 National Hwy, Cumberland, MD 21502.

Love,

Sister Mastodon

“96 years old and could she ever yodel!”

This glorious quote taken from a dear investigator whom we love to visit who has hair appointments every Thursday and was telling us a tale from her salon. Allegedly this blinged-out 96-year-old came in early for her hair appointment and sang the Star-Spangled Banner, followed by an unsolicited yodeling solo. Yes, this is a glorious time and place to be alive. God bless America.

Getting to know a new area is a lot of work/confusion but it’s full of adventure, for example trying to tell the population of Cumberland and surrounding areas how to pronounce my name when most of their eyes and ears are pretty old. I’ve long since grown comfortable with being called any variation of my last name. I’ll answer to anything that isn’t my first name at this point, especially if it starts with “sister.”

We spend so much time with the wonderful and mostly elderly population of the area that I have been honing my general authority imitations and often refer to my companion by her grandmother’s name in my “Spunky Older Gentleman” voice. I can’t tell if she loves it or hates it. Maybe both. This week I left a message for the local Zone Leaders in my best Tommy Monson voice, and they have yet to call back or mention it to me. Hopefully I haven’t offended the poor boys deeply. In any case, perhaps I’ll bear testimony in my homecoming address in said Tommy Monson voice, as that is quickly becoming the language of my mission. This week there was a little drama in the ward that was distinctively Cumberlandian because one sister gave another sister some leftover soup, but the soup was “Just too saldy” for this second sister’s blood pressure, so this diligent woman called us and called us until we came by to pick it up, lest the saldy soup go to waste. This is why I love this ward. The members are very thoughtful and represent all the best old school Mormon values. I am so blessed to be here, and I am particularly blessed with not just one but three different containers of leftover soup in reused jars and cartons. These folks know their provident living.

In baby animal news, we are teaching a family with 4 dogs (including a TINY chihuahua named Chipotle), 3 cats, 2 gerbils, 2 sugar gliders, and 2 horses. It’s a fluffy menagerie over there. Oh, and a baby guinea pig. I love it. I also got to meet my favorite animal of all in profusion when we tracted into a house colonized by honeybees. We approached a house kind of hidden in the woods and as we walked up, we saw a sign out front that said, “Caution! Live bees!” My very favorite sign to see, of course. The woman living in the house is also one of my new favorite people. She introduced herself as “Fancy” and then said, “You know, like ‘I’m so Fancy!'” Anyway Fancy was maybe 40 and came out in giant motorcycle boots plus a li’l tank top and shorts (probably what I would have chosen to wear that day, to be honest). She told us all about how she coexists with the bees because “they make my back yard like the garden of Eden!” Fancy also invited us to come by her edenic back yard any time we needed a quiet spot to pray, but specified that we should not bring men there. She then told us all about how she is “hard-core into Jesus” and pontificated on her love for the blood of Christ. The conclusion of everything I’m saying, if you don’t know already, is that Fancy is definitely me 20 years down the line. Our conversation with her was priceless.
Lots of missionaries really struggle with being a little too hard on themselves, so Sister Nish and I decided to start doing “Individual Worth” studies every day during comp study. I direct IW studies, which includes scriptures about building good self-esteem and a new tradition that I want to start with all of my future companions wherein at the end of studies every day, we write one compliment for ourselves and one compliment for our companions, each on a sticky note. We are decorating our bathroom mirror with these colorful compliments. Uplifting sticky notes are one of my favorite things about sister missionary culture. These girls are are so kind.

Today Sister Nish and I are having the ideal Preparation Day, in which we visited the Emmanuel Episcopal church, which is home to three Tiffany windows (!!!!!!!!!!!) and a stop on the Underground Railroad. The woman who gave us a tour watched me looking at the art and said to my companion, “I think it’s natural for an art history major to geek out a little.” Yes it is. Tiffany has a powerful and rich sense of light and color and being in front of great art again after all these months felt like coming home. We also went to the Queen City Creamery for s’more-flavored frozen custard. I love how ice cream flavors are always based on other desserts. It’s a good setting to deconstruct flavors and textures.
One of the most exciting things that happened this week/ever was that we got to meet our new mission president and his wife! Like me, they come from the One True City, aka Provo. President Christiansen is a slight, soft-spoken man, which is to say that he is the opposite of President Richards. I love them both so dearly. Each of them is hard not to love. We gathered with the other missionaries in the zone to get to know these two newest missionaries and everyone felt an enormous love and fellowship for one another. There is often a very strong family feeling among missionaries, especially with the mission presidency, and this spirit was palpably present. All the missionaries are so excited for this family to be in our mission and I have zero doubt that they are going to have a huge and positive impact on my life. Having two different mission presidents is kind of a treat at the end of the day because there are more people to love.
For the spiritual corner of our week, I’ve been reading in the Book of Mormon all about the sordid deeds of Amlikiah. At the end of the day, he is a character who I love to hate and is quickly becoming one of my personal Book of Mormon faves. He is such an evil genius and I can’t help but wonder what the Book of Mormon would be like had he used his powers for good rather than evil. I’m sure he would have been a powerful servant of God if he had chosen to fight the good fight. Moral of the story: don’t be evil?

We also joined the elder missionaries in bringing the sacrament to a woman who lives in a nursing home. This was a sacred opportunity and reminded me of how I sometimes take for granted the privilege of the sacrament. In particular, back in the olden days before I had to be at ward council I would sometimes arrive at church after the sacrament had been passed. Now the sacrament is a highlight of every week. It’s a great effort to remain focused during the blessing and passing but when I concentrate, I often start to feel like a lightning rod for revelation. Receiving the sacrament is worth putting effort into. We are blessed to have it available to us.

You are all some marvelous individuals. I will have to write the first presidency and ask them to call you all to this mission so we can serve together. That would be perfect. Until you all receive your calls, drop me a line at 923 National Hwy, LaVale, MD 21502

Love,

Sister Sassplund