“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
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