Hola!! Being in the south for not even one week has convinced me that by the time I come home, I will have the CRAZIEST Spanish speaking accent ya'll ever did saw - bit o' Castellano/Spanish with a sprinkle of southern -watch out world!! :)
If you haven't heard about me being reassigned to Nashville Tennessee, you'd better catch up fast, because I have a million things to update on :) For starters, I got to Nashville with a group of four - Hna Ihler (MTC buddy), Elder Lindeman (from my MTC district), and Elder Hill (new found buddy). It was a good flight/stay in the SLC airport, especially because I got to talk to my parents for a good while, and have some Cafe Rio before we boarded. That itself was a huge blessing - as Hna Ilher and I were in line for Rio (we hadn't eaten before we left and were scheduled to land at 6:00 pm). We were hungry!! A kind man leaned over the wooden divider, and started asking "the mission questions" (what are your names, where are you from, where are you going, what language do you speak, are you afraid of bugs - the works :). We were happy to talk to him, but surprised when we got a question that deviated from "the missionary questions". He asked what we were ordering - a little surprised; we told him, and he told us to not worry about paying, because he would cover it. We were surprised and tried to protest, but gave in once we noticed everyone else in the line looking at us like ungrateful swine for not accepting. So, we said a sincere thank you, and proceeded to eat our Cafe Rio like the starving missionaries that we were. It was a huge blessing, and made me feel encouraged - we've got the support of our God, AND the church members on our side! If that's not invincible, I don't know what is :)
We finally made it to Nashville and met with our President McKee - amazing man! We were running from the get go, and once President directed us to pick up our luggage, he told us to get to work contacting people. Ten minutes later, Sis Ihler and I were all proud of ourselves because we had mustered up enough courage to talk to an Australian family (so cute), only to be deflated when we realized that Sister McKee had placed 3 Book of Mormons in the time it took us to have one conversation. That woman is amazing :) Proof that the Lord loves willing missionaries, but He especially needs efficient ones!
We had some training, and I was sent off with my new companion - Hermana Courtney Smith. She's wonderful, and we got to work on our new area. We were sent to open a new area (this is the 2nd transfer it's been open since Sis Smith opened it 6 weeks ago) in Manchester, TN, with the goal of organizing a Spanish branch out here. Phew. It's a challenge, but we've buckled down, and seen miracles already. On our first day here, we sat down and defined what it meant to be "exactly obedient" - we committed to such things as "lights out at exactly 10:30", "ready and gathering materials by 10:55", etc. Once we defined our obedience, we set to work sticking to it, and have been blessed immensely so far! We've already started to see miracles happening in Manchester, and it blows me away :)
1) Sarah Moore, inactive for 15+ yrs - we visited with her, called her out on the fact that she has a testimony and knows she needs to be living differently, and she finally accepted our commitment to come to church this last week. She stepped foot in the same building that she was afraid of for the past 15 years, and nearly broke down. However, she did it, stayed for all 3 hours, and accepted our invitation to re-teach her and her children the discussions :)
2) We stumbled upon Imelda, 14 yrs old and the third oldest in a family of 9 children. We gave her a B of M, returned the next day and finished reading the section of the Introduction that she hadn't read (she read about half) and asked her opinion of this sacred book. She was quiet and finally said "this book is special. I already know that, and I feel like I want to read the whole entire thing right now!" It took all my self control to not jump up and down :)
The Lord has plans for Manchester, and allowing us to be instruments in bringing it about :) We're working hard, and the blessings are flowing. Stay updated for next week - it's going to be a whole rush of miracles, I know. The Lord's just barely getting started!
Okay. We've got to talk about Tennessee some, because this place is CRAZY! I've never been anywhere southern really, and Nashville was just as foreign to me as is Argentina! For starters, it looks nothing like I thought it would - green, trees EVERYWHERE! Couple fun facts about Manchester, TN so far:
1) Hands down, I've seen more roadkill in my past week here than in my whole life combined. Ranking right up there in the "frequent flattened club" are toads. Sick. I've developed this irrational fear of anything that's on the road now, because at first glance, I think it's something dead. Sigh. The things TN does to me.
2) Again, I have eaten more pizza in this past week than the previous couple years combined! Actually, let me rephrase that - people have GIVEN us that much pizza, I won't eat it anymore. We had 3 boxes in the fridge that were given to us when I got here, and have received 3 more since. Sheesh. Either people have a fetish with Pizza Hut around here, or they think we do.
3) I don't know if this will change once I get into the actual city of downtown Nashville, but Manchester at least, isn't the "southern stereotype" I thought it would be. Yes, there are occasional hillbillies who drive by in tank tops and cowboys hats, but mostly people are (fairly) normal. If I had to say one thing that was different: people are flat out frank around here. Its hilarious :)
4) Interesting characters I've met this week:
- Wildman - the huge dog owned by a massive black man. Whenever he starts barking at us when we walk by, this huge black man whacks the cage with his cane and yells "quiet down Wildman!"
- The nameless older lady who is outside of her house everyday, for multiple hours, mowing her lawn. With scissors. By hand. Everyday!
- Joel y Adelina, the amazing Hispanic couple, who told us stories about how many times they've been robbed, laughing through each story. They think it's hilarious, and that white people are crazy. They're kind of right.
- Jeremy, the 1/4 Native American son of a less active, who is a professional cook, hasn't cut his hair in 6 years, and carves AMAZING wood carving for a hobby. He also owns a pregnant chihuahua that was severely ticked off that I had the audacity to sit on her couch. Let me tell you, few things from this week have made me laugh more than this pregnant chihuahua, barking so fiercely that it practically fell over, waddling after me with its giant belly swinging around. Got that mental image? Pretty funny, right? :)
Needless to say, it's been an interesting week :) I love the south though!! Like I said before, the Lord has plans for the people here! I truly feel privileged that I was temporarily assigned here - I wouldn't choose anywhere different for the world! True to the Southern stereotype, everyone goes to church here, and it's amazing! Everyone has a belief and faith in their Savior, and no one is ashamed to talk about Christ. Despite their craziness (everyone here has it - it just depends on the severity :), these people are so prepared and receptive, it's amazing! In fact, one of my first days here, Elder Andrew (one of the Assistants to the President) shared this quote with me, a prophecy by President Spencer W. Kimball:
"Make no small plans: they have no magic to stir men's souls" This is the vision I have for the South. I believe that one day the South will baptize more people into the church than all other English-speaking missions in the world together. There are great hosts of marvelous Baptists, members of the Church of Christ, Methodists, and Catholics who are honorable people, and have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and love him. As they see their church veering off to the right or to the left of those basic teachings, they will begin to search for truth; and as pivotal teachers come into the church and have influence, we will see the time when we will baptize hundreds and thousands, tens of thousands, in your day you will see a million members of the church in the South. There will be temples plural in the South States. What a great call you have to serve with these marvelous people. They missionaries love the South. We are making great strides and expect to continue"
Amazing, right? Well, I'm holding the Lord true to His promise! Hna Smith is a hard worker, has a strong testimony, and just needed someone with the "greenie fire" to kick things into a higher gear. Like I said, stay posted - this next week's going to be a week of miracles :)
I love you all!! This gospel is SO true - for those who many not understand the gravity of that statement, I invite you to visit mormon.org and see what Christ's restored church has to say about eternal families, hope, chastity, and life after death. This is a marvelous work, and nothing will stop it from progressing!!
Hna Hillbilly :) (Now I've got my southern nickname too!)