Wednesday, September 18, 2013

First week in PA

September 16, 2013
Finally I'm on! Man this has been such a long week, and I bet you were dying too! But get ready for the scoop! Though you've probably heard some from Scott and Lynne by now. So, after showing up pretty late to the stake center, we headed back to the mission home. It was Elder O and W and I (the CCM elders) and about 21 missionaries from the MTC. Coming from Mexico made us somewhat celebrities to the other elders, that was pretty cool actually. But President and Sister T are super cool! They're not super uptight and just seem very fresh and funny. President T has super white hair. Very GA-like. 

So the next day we all went back to the Stake Center for more missionary training. I guess that was Tuesday. We knew that there were three Spanish elders in our mission, and so we were trying to figure out who they were and where we'd be serving. Well, I am serving my first transfer in the Harrisburg Walk area! It's legit! I've got two companions, actually, so we've got a tripanionship action going on here. Elder L is my senior companion; he's from New Jersey and is fluent in Spanish! He's super friendly and really has his head in the game. He makes sure we have plans and are busy and is able to keep us constantly improving. He was the one who was there to pick me up. So we were leaving the building and President T asks really quickly if someone can take one of the mission cars down to Harrisburg. Elder L doesn't have a license, so on my first day in the field I pulled off a 4 and a half hour drive from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg. Kind of brutal, but gave me a great chance to get to know one of my comps. And I only got lost once!

Once we hit the apartments, (which was after we checked in all the other elders, since Elder L is also district leader) I met Elder B, he's from Colorado but he's been called to Brazil, he's been in Pennsylvania 6 months because he doesn't have a visa. But he's really cheerful and upbeat and positive, and a good counterbalance to Elder L. And our apartment is big! One of the biggest in the mission actually, which is good because there's three of us. And I'm sleeping on an air mattress, which leaves a bit to be desired I guess.

To answer your questions, we're the Harrisburg WALK mission. So we actually never drive. We do have bikes, which is really lucky, which we use all the time. The Elders above us have a car; they're the DRIVE mission.
Elder L's parents are from Mexico, he grew up speaking English and Spanish. God's got a sense of humor! Earlier, Elder L was in a district with two Elders named J and Wright. He loved them! He prayed that in his next transfer, he'd be a companion with Elder J. He got paired with another Elder named J. Before his mission, he was praying he could learn Portuguese. Elder B, our third companion, got called to Brazil and is trying to learn Portuguese himself! And Elder L was praying to be companions with the other Elder Wright as well. He got me. I guess God's trying to teach him about specific prayers, huh?

So there are a few Hispanic families in our ward, and there are some in Harrisburg! So I will be using some Spanish at least! And I'm really going to focus on speaking it more with Elder L. He's going to be a big help in that regard. But let me just tell you- the days are long! And tiring! But so so worth it! Honestly this mission is such an incredible experience! The chance that I have, to share a message that can touch and change lives, is so incredible. So Sept. 11 was my first day of technically missionary work. I'll describe it in detail to give you a better sense for it. But first- Harrisburg is the highest teaching area in the mission. The members are all excited for missionary work, and we're focusing on getting tons of referrals this week. And we have! We haven't done any straight up tracting yet! So here was Wednesday. Woke up, dressed, showered, STUDY! I have to study so much because I’m a new missionary, it's like an additional hour on top of everything else. First we taught a lesson to a less active member (we do a lot of that) who lived in our apartment complex. By the way there are two other drive missionaries who live above us. But we were halfway through our lesson when some neighbors came out (nonmembers) and asked us to say an emergency prayer for their daughter who was having a baby in the Philippines. So we were able to talk to them a bit too. We got picked up by Brother C, an older member, and went to teach another less active but he wouldn't let us in. So we taught another less active member who was really receptive to our message. That was great. She lives with her dad, who's been excommunicated twice. But was a nice guy, he gave us popsicles. Oh yeah it was like 95 degrees on Wednesday. That was brutal. Humid too. But after we went back to the apartment and got bikes, because we're one of the few bike areas in our mission. Taught a recent convert named S at a member's house (the D's). They speak Spanish so fast I can understand barely 50%.) And one time Bro D said something to me in English and I thought it was Spanish because his accent is that thick and indecipherable. Embarrassing! Rode to N's house, an investigator, he wasn't there. More on N later. Biked back to the apartment, had a quick dinner of microwaved taquitos, headed out with Brother H and taught a recent convert named C and a less active member named B. Then we got back and planned for the next day! So that was just straight up exhausting!

There's way too much to tell you all! There's this place called Sheetz here, it's a gas station that makes super cheap food. It is a big and expanding chain here in Pennsylvania. Pretty good too. We went to the grand opening of one of them on Thursday after the district meeting. So some bullet points from Thursday- we biked to E's house. She's an older black lady who was super receptive to what we taught her. We asked her to read and pray about what we told her, and then to be baptized if she felt the Spirit! She said she would! Awesome! She was at church yesterday too by the way and loved it. Then it started DUMPING rain. And I had basically nothing. I got soaked. And a car drove by and I barely dodged the big water spray. As I congratulated myself on that close shave, another car drove by and soaked my legs. So. 

Here’s the story of N. It's pretty miraculous. So he's had this crappy life, he's a young adult, addicted to cigarettes and the like, living with his brother and brother's girlfriend, who's a less active member. Elders L and B were teaching the brother and N walked in, they told them who they were and he asked a boatload of questions. He was apparently pretty standoffish. But he agreed to read from the Book of Mormon, and then called them and asked for more lessons. His whole demeanor changed, he now just wants to know more more more. For example, we taught him the Word of Wisdom, all that no smoking and drinking and everything, but he had already read the pamphlet and said he would. So we followed that up with the Law of Chastity, which is a lot tougher to swallow. He said he would do that as well. I invited him to be baptized October 12, and he said he would be! Miracle! Wow! And that's only a fraction of what happened on Thursday!

We set crazy goals as a companionship. It can honestly be a little overwhelming, and I did not have a lot of faith on Friday. But after our weekly plan session, Elder L told me to think of a number between one and 10. I said 7. Then we went out in our day and I didn't think about it. We taught two lessons in the day where we extended a baptism invitation. The first was to K, actually the son of L, whose boyfriend's brother N is getting baptized. He's 11 and he goes to church, but for whatever reason no one has baptized him. So we've begun teaching him all the lessons.  And there's this other guy named K, who was basically just interested in Mormons and agreed to take discussions. He's really smart, asks a lot of questions, and follows through. He wants to be baptized later this month. So at the end of the day, we tallied up our numbers. 7 referrals received in one day- that's new people we could go out and teach. And 7 lessons taught- that's a ton. Way more than I thought we could do. Some of the more suffering areas in our mission teach that many in a week! I am so blessed! This mission is freaking incredible!

Sunday was stake conference for us. Good experience, got to meet some members but not that many. President T made a suprise visit, he was giving a talk. His wife asked if I was in shock yet, I replied in the affirmative. But of course I saw Scott and Lynne! That was so cool! What incredible good fortune! I'd been kicking myself all week, actually, for not knowing in what part of Pennsylvania they lived in. But Lynne called us last week and so we're going to set up a dinner sometime. And she made us cookies! They're delicious, and definitely needed because we work hard all-day and everyday. Whoo!

Love Elder Wright

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