I have been called as a Missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to serve in the Alaska Anchorage Mission for 18 months (Jul 2016 - Jan 2018). This blog is a compilation of the weekly letters I send home which contain my experiences, thoughts, and feelings in the mission field.
So we we had a very fun week last week!! Me and my tripanionship bonded. We have our inside jokes already. We had some crazy things happen as well. The first is we are working on bringing more members to lessons, so we brought one of our ward missionaries and she and the less-active
member we were visiting do not necessarily get along. She told us this in the car right before we got there and during the lesson, the less-active said, "I have a bone to pick with you." It was the most awkward lesson ever. She looked over at us with a look in her eyes like "help", but what were we to do? She ended up crying in our car afterwards and I felt so bad. The worst part is that we had two more lessons for her to accompany us.
This week we were to go back and do more service for the scrap yard, but we got there and he didn't want us to get frost bitten so he didn't make us work. The member is one crazy man. He has a lazy eye and at one point while he was rambling he sees an eagle fly over head. He says we all will have good luck for the rest of the day. The crazy part is that one eye was looking at the eagle and the other was looking at one of the Elders. I could listen to him talk all day and laugh. We took Nick, one of our investigators, on a church tour. Nick sure can talk. He will share stories from his past and they go on and on. We had a member there to be with us for the tour and he wasn't use to Nick, so he was trying to cut him off to say things or help the tour move along. It was funny, but we committed Nick to be baptized! His tentative date is November 30th. He even came to church for the first time Sunday and it was our ward's Primary program. It was centered on the scriptures, Plan of Salvation, and Joseph Smith - all things we teach investigators, so that was a great experience for him.
We had some extra miles to use before the end of the month, so we went on a mountain adventure. We went up to the furthest part we could drive to and it ended up with a sign saying private property. We hit a lot of pot holes on the way up and hitting them on the way down really made our car dirty. I can't wait until we are allowed to go through an actual car wash during the winter time.
A ton of other funny stuff happened that i can't write out, but I am having so much fun with a trio that I couldn't have imagined.
Last P-Day we played basketball and scatterball (a mix of dodgeball and tag). I won a few games. We did journal signing as well for those leaving the district. Because Sister Nield is leaving to go serve in North Anchorage, we finally cleaned out the car. The outside is still dirty but the inside looks pretty good. Wednesday morning we drove down to Anchorage for our transfer. Because I am getting two companions we had to shove all their stuff into one car. I felt like we were playing a game of Tetris. Nonetheless, we got it all in there and with places for people to sit. We were about to leave when I realized I didn't have the car keys. Sister Nield had driven away with the keys. Some of the other sisters who are serving in Anchorage as well went to track them down and bring us the keys. We waited at the mission office until they arrived back; not the best way to start off the transfer. We arrived back into Palmer with enough time to drop off the luggage and head over to DQ for a district lunch. We met the newbies to the district and made plans for a district service opportunity that came up. We went to the service project the next day which required us to help clean a yard. Now when someone tells you you are cleaning a yard, you think of raking leaves, maybe mowing the lawn, and that kind of stuff. This is no ordinary lawn. This was a scrap yard owned by a member in the Pioneer Peak Ward. We thought we'd be able to accomplish the task with just our district, but we wouldn't even come close to finishing it even if we had our whole zone. They wanted this done before winter, but it snowed the next day. It wasn't even that cold Thursday and overnight it turned Alaska into a Winter Wonderland. When I pictured Alaska before coming here, this is what I pictured:
It has melted a little, but I think the snow will stay. I don't mind snow when it stays on the sides of the road and I don't have to walk in it. So Brother Werner is a Counselor in the Bishopric. Normally we try to avoid these people or screen their calls as its inevitable one will be asked to give a talk. Well, what are you supposed to do when they text you what they want you to talk about? So I now had to give a talk on Sunday. Mind you that he told me Thursday afternoon and I had to give the talk Sunday morning. "Ain't nobody got time for dat!" So for the next couple of days every spare moment I was preparing my talk. It turned out I was the last speaker to speak Sunday, which normally means you take up the rest of the time. Everything went find and I happened to plan more things to talk about than I had time. A lot of our investigators are on hold for the time being, meaning they are busy until a certain time, which is not right now, so we have been doing a lot of finding. We met this man named Art OYMing (open your mouth) and he had a polar bear looking dog. He said he lived on a certain street, so my plan was to track the street and find him. We didn't need to because we saw Gracie (the polar bear dog) outside his yard. We talked to him and got an appointment to come back. We brought Brother Miner with us and I am so glad we did. We went there and his house was filled with women, a layer of smoke in the air, and he was half intoxicated. We taught him anyway and he said he'd come to church only if he could bring Gracie. Now we say Gracie is a polar bear dog because she looks like a polar bear, but also, she is close to the size of a polar bear! Okay, not really, but she is a pretty big dog. We looked at Brother Miner to give an answer to this. He said it would be find if she sat in the back. He didn't come to church on Sunday though. On Saturday, our ward had a YW (Young Women) Auction. The Elders (really their wives) cooked chili and corn bread. A lot of people came and even some of the less actives we visit. The auction held at the end of the event was the best. Brother Morgan dressed up like some kind of gangster and was cracking jokes the whole way through. I think of it wasn't for him being the MC/Auctioneer, I don't know if they would have raised $5,200. They auctioned off desserts and services. They even had a silent auction going during dinner as well. All of the donations are going to the YW for their YW camp of rafting. The decorations were coordinated really well. Sent from ALASKA ! Sister Shelley Willden
Fun packed week!! For P-Day last Monday we played a game called Spyfall. This is where you have to guess who is the spy. Our location which is hidden from the spy was the Beach. I asked Sister Burdick what she would wear to this place. She said a T-shirt and jeans. From that I said, "I'd like to make a guess who the spy is.", and she laughed. Monday turned out to be Columbus Day and we didn't realize it until dinner time. I had just happened to be studying about the apostasy and the importance of certain people to help usher in the Restoration. One of those people I was reading about was Christopher Columbus. That is not a coincidence that I was studying about him on that day.
One of the members in our Ward, Sister Casagrande, wanted to send her missionary daughter a package to do Boo Bags to "Boo" some of her investigators (like heart attacking a house). She got some extra stuff for us to do some people in the ward and it was so cool. We went to "Boo" Timothy and I had Sister Nield walk up to his door. Before she could leave the bag and leave, his aunt opened the door. Though she was still talking to Timothy so she was walking out backwards. Sister Nield didn't know what to do so she just stood there. The aunt turned around and almost punched Sister Nield out of fright. It's a good thing she didn't. Well we couldn't make this a secret anymore, so we just gave the bag to Timothy. He really appreciated it for his son, Ritchie. When we saw him I could already see the difference in him now having the Holy Ghost as a constant companion. We received the following text from Timothy. Unfortunately, autocorrect changed "you two" to "youtube".
We went to the doctor's for Sister Neld's appointment and they said she can stay on her mission because her condition is not causing her any permanent damage. We received our transfer calls later in the week and Sister Nield is being transferred to Jewel Lake, which is an area in Anchorage. I, on the other hand, am receiving two new companions. Making our apartment ready for a trio is very difficult when we don't really have the time. Early Thursday morning, we got a call at 5:15 in the morning from a member in the ward calling us to have a look at the northern lights. We went out and saw them, but they weren't like the other ones we have seen. There weren't any color. It was almost as if someone was shining a flashlight on the sky making them dance. It was weird, but cool. We were able to visit one of our investigators who we thought might have dropped us through text, but that doesn't seem to be the case. There was another lesson we had with one of our investigators and we had to do a soft drop with him. We are constantly finding new people to teach and sometime we have to drop those who aren't quite ready at this time to commit to living the gospel. The days are so long and the weeks go by so fast. I'm afraid my mission will be over in a blink of an eye.
Great week!! We started off P-Day with a trip to the beach. The beaches in Alaska are black sand beaches. We were really camped out off the Knik River, but it was like a beach. We made s'mores and roasted starburst and threw around a football and later played ultimate Frisbee. It was a bit windy so that added some difficulty to the game. The next day we walked to and from district lunch. We saw a person, so naturally we said we need to go give them a pass along card. She walked by us and all we said was hi and then she went off telling us her life story and all the abuse she has gone through. I don't know what it is about the tag we wear, but apparently it comes with a sign on our foreheads that says, "tell us about your problems." We learn about so many problems people face in life that my innocent ears probably didn't need to hear. It has made me very thankful for the life that I have lived up till this point. One of the daughters of a family in the ward recently returned home from her mission in Florida. She so eagerly wanted to go out with us. We took her up on her offer and had her come to a lesson we were having with a gentlemen we hadn't met prior, but only talked on the phone to arrange an appointment. He was a hippie and talking about very deep ideology for a 19-year old. Sometimes it is hard to bring a member to a lesson because we are afraid they will be scared to do missionary work ever again. Having this RM (Returned Missionary) come helped because she understands the struggle missionaries go through. The other day we were looking for a less-active lady in the Ward whom we hadn't met before and it took us a half hour to realize she no longer lives in the ward. That was a waste of time. That day all of our appointments fell through and we were trying people all day. Later that evening we went to visit another less-active and she was there. We met with her and it is funny; people know why we are stopping by their house if they are already a member - it is because you need to go to church. She immediately said she needs to go back to church and wants to come. Sadly she wasn't there yesterday. So my three month click day (like the month anniversary I entered the MTC) was Thursday, Oct 6th, and we were already in Anchorage for a meeting, so we went to Olive Garden and I got my lemon cream cake to celebrate. It was so good !!! The best pick-me-up there is.
Timothy got baptized on Saturday !!! I didn't want to believe it until it was over and accomplished. Because our good investigators are getting baptized, we are needing more investigators. Our current investigators are not really progressing as fast as they should. We went tracting around an area we didn't even know was part of our area until a member moved in and we met her neighbor who is a Buddhist. He was so nice and said he didn't want to be rude when we came knocking. We had our zone meeting on Friday as we do at the beginning of every month. Elder Janes was giving a training and accompanied it with an object lesson. We were going to do hair racing. We each plucked a hair out of our head and put it on this plate of water. They said to get close to see who wins. All of a sudden he slapped the water and we all got wet. The sad part was that I was wearing white. Thank goodness for undershirts. The rest of the day my hair was half curly, half straight. The training was on distraction ... I don't think I'll ever forget about that one. As missionaries we get to see little miracles all the time which is our little tender mercies during the trials we go through. I am grateful for Timothy's decision to be baptized and can't wait to see what other miracles we will witness. Many Thanks!!! Sister Shelley Willden
I hardly remember all that happened this past week. For P-day last week we had a Nerf gun war with the Elders in our district. It was fantastic! The Elders in charge planned it well in advance so we were able to be prepared and obtain our guns from our ward mission leader. It was all so well executed. We arrived a little late from the errands we had to do but the hallways were all blocked off with tables and the gym was made into like a lazer tag arena. It was so fun.
The next day we had our weekly district meeting, but this time President Robinson and his wife came to visit ours. It turned out to be really good. Our district leader gave a good training on humility and I gave a training on Chapter 7 of Preach My Gospel book that is about languages. I had to make it applicable to our mission which is no fully, but mostly English speaking. I talked about the mission language and the words we use seem to be a foreign language who have no idea what we are talking about. We have to explain the doctrine simply so that a child can understand. The gospel is so amazing and it really is that simple that a child can understand but it is then our job to explain it simply. It can be easy to go off using words we know but others do not. We got our tires changed to get studded tires for the winter but one of our less-actives told us that two weeks on the road and they would be worn down before the snow even gets here. The weather this week has been crazy. It is late September, early October and the snow has been melting from off the mountains. The higher portions still have snow but not nearly as much as it has before. It is cold in the mornings, warm throughout the day, and cold in the evenings. It is getting dark now that we are driving home up the mountain in pitch black darkness with only our headlights allowing us to see.
Thursday we had Sisters Training. There are now 30 sisters serving in the mission.
We had majority in person come to the mission home for lunch and training and some were video-conferenced in. The Elders were joking about having Elders Training down in Anchorage some day. They are just jealous that the sisters get their own meeting and wanted to know what they talked to us about. It was mostly just giving us encouragement and helping us find ways to have joy in the work. It is starting to get to that point where the season depression will start kicking in and they want to help us in anyway they can.
Friday we do a weekly service at the nursing home serving ice cream and a lady came up to us afterwards and said she had some Elders come to dinner with her and her friend and that she wanted our names to give to them to start dating us. That was really awkward. I gave her our names, but not our phone number :).
This weekend was what we call our Mormon holiday. General Conference is when the Prophet and the Apostles speak to us from a broadcast filmed in Salt Lake City. It is 4 hours long on Saturday with a 2 hour break in between and the same thing on Sunday. Our recent convert, Mary thought it was 4 hours, an hour break, and then another 4 hours all in one day. We laughed and asked her, "so you decided to come?" She is so cute. She knew she had to take her daughter to work so when she thought it was 8 hours long in one day she was sad that she was going to miss 45 minutes of it to drop off her daughter. Who is she?! Not even regular, Mormon-all-their-lives Mormons are so enraptured in conference like she is. Other people binge watch Netflix. No, Mary binge watches conference talks on what she calls a YouTube trail. She is so awesome. Our investigator Timothy had baptismal interview yesterday and is ready to go for his baptism on Saturday. We are all so excited. He has come so far. He has been investigating the church for some time now and he has finally realized that this is the true church. He is so committed that he quit smoking for good and is excited about getting a calling in the church already. There are so many people here in Alaska who are addicted to drugs or things of that sort and we see a lot of struggles people go through in life. It is so amazing to see the gospel change their lives for the better and not make them dependent on things that control them. Our ward million leader is some kind of a drug stopper or something like that and his drug dog recently had to be put down so he said he has about $20,000 worth of heroin in the back of his truck. It is crazy the amount of drugs that are in this state, but I know that the gospel can help all who are struggling with this. That is the majority of the things that happened this week. There is always too much to say and not enough time to say it all or to write it out. Many Thanks!!! Sister Shelley Willden