A Day in the Life

Since the days here feel like they last forever, with so much happening and yet maybe not a lot worth mentioning, I thought I’d describe what the average day is like here:

6:30am (not 6:29am or 6:31am) – We wake up and go to the living room to ‘exercise’. As I mentioned last time, I am grateful for exercises that can be done whilst sitting or laying down.

7:00am – We shower, get ready, and eat breakfast. Figuring out what to wear, despite not having that many options to choose from, all of them being dresses or skirts, might be the hardest decision I have to make all day. Actually, no ‘might’ about it – it is definitely the hardest decision of the day.

8:00am (not 7:59am or 8:01am) – We study at our ‘desks’ (Costco tables) in our ‘study’ – the only non-carpeted room in the apartment, other than the Kitchen. This room looks a lot like those freaky serial killer/terrorist plot planning rooms you see in TV shows sometimes – we’ve got a big map on the wall with numbered dots for different people, white boards with names and symbols by each, binders with records and notes about every person missionaries have ever met with in our area….if it all wasn’t aimed at helping people with their eternal salvation it might be really, really creepy. It might be a little bit creepy anyway. But this hour of personal study is often the highlight of my day, despite the fact that it is at 8am.

9:00am (not 8:59am or 9:01am) – We do companionship study, which includes singing a hymn (just the two of us – not quite as awkward as it sounds, but almost), praying (kneeling on the cold hard ground is not my favorite thing), reading from the missionary handbook and this hilarious booklet called ‘Adjusting to Missionary Life’ (I will include some quotes from this one of these days, it is highly entertaining and gives a great glimpse into the kinds of things missionaries deal with), and then we discuss what we’ll teach the people we have planned to meet with the rest of the day.

10:00am – For the first 12 weeks we do an hour of extra study which is basically a review of all the MTC stuff.

11:00am – 9:00pm – We are out and about meeting with people or trying to find people to meet with. Here are a few examples of appointments or non-appointment interactions from the last week or so:

-Yesterday we went to meet with a couple that had met with missionaries a few times last year. We went to their house early last week and the husband mentioned we’d be welcome back on Sunday (yesterday) when his wife was home. This was pretty promising (we thought) but when we arrived, the wife told us she was Catholic and had God in her heart but that she didn’t care what denomination we were, her husband needed the word of God so he would be nicer. She then walked out of the living room to leave us to it. The man sat down on the bed that was randomly positioned in the middle of this room, that we had to slide past in order to get in the front door, and his shorts literally came half way off….and they stayed that way for the entirety of our visit. He proceeded to tell us how he doesn’t work anymore, he’s on disability (the pride with which people talk about having the government pay their way, especially when there is no obvious reason, at least to us, that they can’t work is still astonishing to me) but how he loves to listen to people talk about God. But after about two minutes his wife came back in and proceeded to yell at him – she ranted about how he calls her names, how he thinks of her as a domestic servant, how she is ready for a divorce, how she should go back to her country (Philippines I think), and then somehow got talking about how the doctor wants her to have a mammogram even though she isn’t sick. The husband then kept saying how crazy the wife was, she kept looking at us and telling us that he needed the word of God so he would be nicer, and we eventually gave them a pass-along card and made our way around the bed to the door while they were still arguing. Containing our laughter till we reached the car was almost impossible.

-Visited a member of the Ward in a rest home who can’t communicate all that well, and only ever wants the missionaries to sing to her, specifically all the verses of ‘Sunshine in My Soul’. So we do that, every time, along with a few other songs and mostly leave it at that. This last time a man in a wheelchair came up to the door of her room and made comments about our boots looking like they were ‘made for walking’ – we think he maybe was making a song request but neither of us knew it, and he wasn’t really able to communicate much more than to repeat his comment about the boots. Good times.

-Had dinner with the relief society president and her husband and spent a few minutes discussing the new Star Wars movie they had just seen – well actually we discussed Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, which lead to discussion of other old actors/actresses, at which point the man turned to me and said, "What are you…70?" I loved it! When I’ve told people my age here most have said they would never have guessed I was that old, which I think they mean as a compliment, but I’m not sure it is.

-Visited an older less active member of the Ward who has been trying to quit smoking for a long time. She lives in a trailer with one, sometimes two, grandsons and 5 DOGS. And apparently her sister came to stay with her over Christmas. I truly don’t understand how they all fit, but apparently it’s not that uncommon. And I think only one of them smokes so I don’t know how the rest of them stand living there. It takes several hours after we leave before we don’t smell like we’ve smoked an entire pack of cigarettes ourselves. When we visit her we always get a little bit of her life story, which is fascinating, and try different faith-promoting discussions and commitments that we hope might help, but we’re not sure they actually do. The TV is always on when we arrive, and it stays on for the duration of our visit. We even asked if we could turn it off and she said no, because there was a program about space on and she likes space, but she did agree to mute it. This is pretty much how it goes at every single house we go to, members or not. The TV stays on while we all sit there and talk and will either be muted or just turned down low. In Ohio this is apparently socially acceptable, or maybe it’s just socially acceptable with missionaries. I know maybe it seems like this is a sign that they don’t like us and want us to leave, but I swear even the people who like us and invite US over do this.

-As we were leaving the trailer park the other day we stopped to talk with two girls (about 10 years old). They were very nice and we gave them a card with a link to this year’s Christmas videos, but before we left one of the girls told us that we should be careful because ‘there are lots of kidnappers and drug dealers around’. She was pretty nonchalant in her warning, like she wasn’t all that worried for herself, but did seem sincerely concerned for our well-being.

-My favorite houses to go to are the ones where we don’t have to do missionary ‘backing’. There is a rule that whenever the car has to be in reverse, the non-driver (me for these three months) has to stand behind and watch to make sure the driver doesn’t back into anything. Sis. M is pretty good at finding pull-through spots or turning around in places where backing up isn’t required, but it still happens and it can be somewhat humiliating. Houses on busy roads with a double-yellow line are an exception to that rule, as is our recent convert’s house because there are two known sex offenders within a block or two, so I always like it when we get to go there 🙂

9:00pm – We are supposed to be back to our apartment by this time so we can plan for the next day (confirm appointments, fill in any gaps, make backup plans for appointments that will inevitably fall-through, etc.)

9:30pm – If we’re done planning and updating teaching records from the day, we get to take an hour to get ready for bed, write in journals, etc. though we never seem to be done by then.

10:30pm (not 10:29pm, not 10:31pm – I really, really love how important it is to be exact) – Lights get turned out, usually a nice thing.

So that’s how the days generally go. In general I’m not sure I’m handling it all that well, it doesn’t sound or seem like it ought to be that difficult but I have certainly had a harder time than I maybe expected. Well, I expected to have a hard time, just not necessarily in the ways that I am, but oh well…I will never run a marathon so I suppose this is how I’ll learn endurance. Hopefully the fleeting moments where I think I might have maybe helped someone somehow will become less fleeting.

Oh – one other interesting occurrence this week. As I’ve mentioned, we are the primary choristers (thanks for all the suggestions on that front by the way!) but this last Sunday, about 30 minutes before Sacrament meeting, Sis. M was asked to fill in and speak, I was asked to lead the music in Sacrament meeting (I thought my arm would fall off after all the verses of How Great Thou Art, The Spirit of God, and I Believe in Christ – none at a very brisk pace), then we were asked to fill in as Sunday School teachers as well, but we pawned that off on the Elders. I’ve just been the primary pianist these last two weeks because the regular one is out of town and Sis. M has had to fend for herself up there…next week we’ll be tag-teaming it.

On a more spiritual note…I’ve been thinking about things that are meaningful to me as I’ve been thinking about what on earth I’m doing here, and I always come back to this one verse – 1 Nephi 11:17 – "I know that God loves his children, nevertheless I do not know the meaning of all things." That might be the theme for these 18 months…I’ve found it to be helpful in dealing with the many things I do not understand or like – focusing on what matters. And also thinking about the fact that I know change is possible, for me and for others. I don’t have any idea how the Atonement works but I’ve definitely seen that Christ is the great agent of change – he is the catalyst for making us ‘new creatures’ (2 Cor. 5:17), and that is a hopeful prospect.

Hope everyone had a good Christmas. Thanks again for all the messages and prayers – both are appreciated.

Advertisements

Merry Christmas!

So I’m not going to write much today as I have P-day again on Monday and will be able to write more then, but wanted to send a quick Merry Christmas to everyone, and a thank-you for the Christmas cards and letters and packages I’ve received. Nothing is better than mail, seriously…nothing, so that has been very nice.

I’ll describe more of the daily routine next week, but to give a quick snapshot of the Christmas schedule….well, it’s the same as the regular for the most part. Up at 6:30am for exercise (today’s exercise was mostly stretching whilst opening gifts), getting ready, studying, then a nice Christmas breakfast at the Visitor’s Center with the senior missionaries (all of this still in a skirt). Then we Skyped our families (mine told me about there similarly exciting and unique Christmas – riding elephants in Thailand) and now we’re doing some email. We’ll be headed back to ‘ the Maple’ (the house where we stay when we’re in Kirtland two nights a week) to take naps.

Tonight we’re having a Christmas dinner at Don Tequila’s (a Mexican restaurant) with the four other missionaries in our Ward (Elders), then the six of us will go caroling for the last three hours of the day. There is a lot of singing in missionary life, so much in fact that they maybe ought to include some kind of musical training at the MTC because there are many who could use it. That scripture about the Lord qualifying those who he calls doesn’t seem to apply to tone deafness. But I enjoy singing, and the tone deafness of some in our group will probably generate some sympathy from at least a few of those we encounter, and sympathy makes people less likely to slam doors so that’s a good thing!

I’ve been writing down three things I’m grateful for every day (not allowing repeats or my list would be ‘mail, showers, pajamas’ almost every day) and there are some good ones. Since I don’t have any quotes to share, I thought I’d share a few of these:

-Cookies that don’t taste like smoke

-Lack of time for adequate food prep/eating – I’ve definitely lost weight since being here, and am enjoying being one of the skinnier people in most rooms. First time in my life for that.

-Exercises that can be done while sitting or laying down, though I’m running out of these – would love some suggestions, especially exercises which improve posture. It’s something I’ve always wanted to fix but now I actually really have nothing better to do for 30 minutes every day.

-Personal study time – one hour every day where I can read and think and write and almost feel like I’m by myself and in control of something

-Lack of access to social media – pretty grateful not to be able to compare my every day with that of others, though I could probably come up with some pretty unique selfies. I don’t think I’ve ever seen any of my friends post trailer park selfies, or smoke-filled garage beer and lawn chair party selfies, or furniture store teaching selfies, or praying-while-standing-in-a-circle-holding-hands-and-trying-not-to-step-on-oxygen-tubes selfies, or nursing home duet selfies. Shoot, now I’m a little less grateful not to have social media access.

-Past changes and the possibility of future changes

-Global warming (it was almost 70 degrees two days ago, and is still up near 60 today)

Still having camera issues, but here is a photo of my companion (Sister Morrison) and I with our investigator at her baptism earlier this week. Sis. M and I set up the chairs, filled the font, made the cookies, played the prelude and postlude music, played and lead the opening, closing, and interlude hymns (of which we sang 10 while Jerri was getting dressed), greeted people, gave talks, and did a musical number. It almost felt like we put on a two-woman show!

Anyway, hope everyone is having a very nice Christmas. More on Monday…

So…Ohio is not the MTC

Stating the obvious of course, but really…the transition has been rough. I’m probably not going to try to describe the day we left Provo or our first day in Ohio in too much detail because…well because I don’t really even want to think about it. Though there were some amusing parts…

We had to get up at 2am to be to the travel office at 2:30am with all our stuff – two large suitcases as well as a carry-on and a shoulder bag. All in all I’m sure we each had well over 100 lbs. of luggage, and as we maneuvered it all down the all we discovered that the elevator in our building was broken. The noises of exertion made by four extremely sleep-deprived girls in skirts hauling bags up two flights of stairs in the middle of the night, to say nothing of the grace and dignity we demonstrated, was one of the most hilarious things I’ve ever witnessed and had we not been running late or in fairly wretched moods, we might have taken a picture to document it. But were so we didn’t. The MTC emphasizes how important it is to look professional and make a good first impression upon our arrival in the field, but I’m not sure how they expect that to happen under these sorts of circumstances. We made it onto the bus even more exhausted and drenched in sweat (all of us wearing our big winter coats to save room in our suitcases) only to discover about ten minutes into the drive that our bus had some kind of problem, we pulled over, waited for a bit and eventually the beeping alarm stopped and we got to the airport, but it was a little stressful there for a few minutes. When we arrived at the airport, many of the missionaries in our travel group of 13 didn’t have any idea what to do (most hadn’t traveled without their parents, and I’m not sure one had ever really flown anywhere before – he happened to be our travel leader and when we arrived in Denver for our layover he asked where our checked bags were. When we explained they’d be in Cleveland, he asked if they had been shipped for us. I suppose knowing the ins and outs of the airline baggage system isn’t necessary information for life, and certainly not to be a good missionary, but I continue to be baffled at how sending kids with very little world experience off to places all over the world with very little supervision can possibly result in the productivity and progress that does come through missionaries.)

Anyway, we eventually made it to Cleveland, arriving at about 2:30pm where President Brown and his wife picked us up, along with the two assistants, and took us to their home. We had interviews, were introduced to the office missionaries (one senior couple and two senior sisters), ate a delicious meal, had a brief testimony meeting, and were all asleep by 8:30pm. I contemplated hitchhiking back to the airport more times than I care to admit – and continued to consider that option during the first few days, but I haven’t even thought about it today, or even yesterday, at least not seriously, or at least not for very long.

Of course I knew this would be hard, and I’ve had harder times, but it’s a different kind of hard than I expected. Plus thinking about the fact that there is no out for the next 18 months is a different and not terribly encouraging thought in the midst of hardness. So I’ve been thinking a lot about why I’m doing this and how I might find a way to keep doing this – and what I am trying to remind myself is what my grandma told me a few weeks before I left. She mentioned that she had been praying for me and then she proceeded to tell me how I would have a lot of days where I would hate this (and she helpfully enumerated all the various things I might hate) but then told me just to remember that I’m not doing this for what I can get (though she thinks I’ll get a lot from it), but that I’m doing this for what I can give, and she said some very nice things about what she thought I had to give. Well, I don’t know what exactly I can give but remembering that has definitely helped. I’m not worrying too much about how much I’m enjoying or not enjoying any given moment, and that is pretty freeing. This might be the pessimistic way of phrasing it, or maybe it’s a martyr mentality, but somehow it’s much easier to be uncomfortable or exhausted or whatever else if I think that I’m experiencing those things for the sake of other people. Who knows if that mentality will last, but it’s been very helpful these last few days.

Part of that, no doubt, has been interacting with people here and starting to realize that there is a lot of good that can be done, and actually a lot for me to gain and enjoy in these interactions. I don’t know if I’ll have time to detail all the interesting characters worth talking about, but I will mention a few. First though, a description of the area – Sister Morrison (my new companion) and I cover Madison and Geneva Ohio (about an hour East of Cleveland I think). I am attempting to learn factory and industrial vocabulary as a good portion of the people here work in that environment. For example, I now know that when someone says they work ‘second-shift’ that means they work from 3pm to 11pm, often six days a week. I haven’t quite been able to understand what people actually do – fusion machinist and coil distributor are two of the job titles held by our investigators so if anyone actually knows what that entails and can explain it to me, I’d appreciate it!

People also seem to be pretty genuine and pretty open about things that I would think would be too personal to share, especially with total strangers. My second day here we went to see a woman whose name had been sent to us (we get referrals from the mission office via text, without knowing who referred them or why), and despite the fact that she had no idea how we got her name and address, she ended up crying to us about some hard stuff in her life and welcoming the hug offered by Sis. Morrison, all within the first two minutes of our conversation. Bankruptcy and an autistic 14 year-old son are just two of the difficulties she’s dealing with, neither of which we can really help with, but she wants to meet with us so we’ll be seeing her later this week. One thing that’s hard for me is seeing how I can help someone in a situation like this, but I suppose I have to remember that the ‘help’ provided by the gospel (at least in my own experience) isn’t really about fixing problems as much as it is about introducing an awareness of the love of god and letting that create positive momentum. Sounds really simplistic I think, and maybe not all that helpful, but despite the fact that it doesn’t sound all that helpful, for me that awareness made all the difference. It’s not an end in itself, hopefully it is a catalyst for change and improvement in a variety of ways. Anyway, we also knocked on the door of an 80 year-old man (Swedish decent, named Bill, ‘dyed-in-the-wool Lutheran’ – seriously he was like a character out of News from Lake Wobegon) who ended up crying as he talked about his wife who died earlier this year and the fact that the Lord has taken care of him throughout his life. It’s still hard for me to believe that this kind of stuff happens in real life, but there you go. Maybe it’s a Midwest thing.

Another midwest thing – there are a lot of man rings here, big ones that almost seem like they could be used as brass knuckles. Kind of fun.

We visit one woman every week mostly to do service because, well because she needs it. Apparently when Sis. M and her companion first knocked on this woman’s door (I’ll call her K), K told them that she was starving because she didn’t have the strength to open the cans of food she had left. Her apartment had rats and all kinds of insects, K hadn’t showered in days, and she was probably slowly starving to death in her home. The missionaries got social services involved, as well as the Relief Society President (who is a saint), and have been going over to help clean periodically for about a month now. We went a few days ago (we got to wear pants and t-shirts because it’s dirty work – I say bring it on if it means more pants time!) and cleaned, and also talked a little bit about religion. K is really into reading (something she can do despite her various health/mental conditions) and likes Philosophy – specifically Emerson and Thoreau, which I was excited about. So she and I talked about Philosophy and the nature of God for a bit while we cleaned, pausing occasionally when she told us, in a panicked voice, not to throw that plastic bag or that can or that coffee tin away because she has no income and once something is gone she can’t just replace it. (We were able to convince her to throw away at least a few of the empty coffee tins since we showed her that she still had 9 left, with lids, not including the three unopened ones). We gave her a copy of the Book of Mormon to read and asked her to keep a list of questions she might want to discuss when we saw her again. Who knows if she’ll read it, though she said she would and she previously wouldn’t even take the book at all, and even if she does, she’s most likely not in any sort of mental/physical condition to explore religion much, but I appreciated being able to connect with her in a way others hadn’t, and I think she’s better off for our visits than she would be without them, so that’s great.

The Ward here is small and full of all sorts of interesting people – it’s not terribly glamorous to be a member of the church here, and that’s very clearly not why people go. That is definitely a different vibe than the Wards I’m used to where there is more of a ‘what’s in it for me’ mentality as it relates to the activities, the people who are there, etc. Here there are so many people who are so needed, every calling matters (there aren’t any fluff callings as they can’t even fill all the necessary ones – we, for example, are serving as the primary choristers). It’s almost like there are two groups – the ones who need the Ward and the ones who are needed, and I’m sure everyone has been in both groups at one point or another. The sacrifices made by the leaders in the Ward (the R.S. president especially) and requests made of them are far beyond those I’m aware of in Wards I’ve been in to this point – cleaning out a rat-infested apartment, dealing with extremely crazy people, driving people to church and to activities multiple times a week, feeding people several times a week, and all that while not being in a great financial position and working at least one very demanding job.

The Ward Christmas party was this last Saturday – it wasn’t a Federal Heights or Pepperwood-style spread of fancy salads, uniform entrees, and mini chalk boards with the names of different punch options. Nope. Simple ham and cheese sandwiches, Styrofoam bowls of condiments, creamed corn, potato salad, funeral potatoes, jello salad, a table full of pies, and I did see one bowl of fruit and one green salad (though when I went through the line it didn’t seem to have been touched much). Decorations consisted of plastic tablecloths and winter scenes drawn by the primary children. But it was really nice. The need-eds (who did all the work) didn’t complain about how much work it all was and the need-ers didn’t complain about what was done or wish for anything to be different. I appreciate that both groups seem to be involved in church things for reasons beyond the entertainment value or social interaction or quality of the treats.

Anyway, the point of all that is, I suppose, that there are cool people here and interacting with them more has been very positive. I’m feeling much better about being here and about my ability to do some good for the next 18 months and I expect I will continue to feel better and better about that. I’m almost to the point where I don’t miss the MTC – when I think about that now I just try to remember cleaning toilets in the residence hall and the revulsion I felt after an overly vigorous scrub splashed toilet water up into my mouth. Only one toilet to clean here is a definite blessing. It will also be fun to spend time at the Visitor’s Center, something I haven’t yet done due to the altered schedule of the first week. Sis. M and I are ‘satellite sisters’, meaning we live away from the historical sites and commute into Kirtland when it’s our turn to work there. We’ll do that two days a week generally, and we’ll stay in one of the homes there for those two nights. There aren’t many tours to give this time of year but there is a large nativity exhibit (over 900 on display) which is bringing people in, and we’ll spend most of our days there doing online teaching activities, which I have really liked thus far as I’ve had the opportunity to do that.

Now it’s time for the obnoxious request for mail 🙂 I have more time on the computer for email and such here, which is great, but it still means a LOT to hear from people more regularly rather than having to wait a whole week. If you’re not sure what to write, you can write about the current events of the world (I won’t have heard about any of it), or you can write about your day, or even describe your dinner in detail – I will read and appreciate it all.

I’m not going to post the address to my apartment here for safety/privacy reasons. (After we were knocking on doors one evening we got a call from a man who wasn’t very happy with us (we had been giving out cards with our number on them) and wanted to know where we lived so he could come and ruin our evening by knocking on our door, though the words he used were nowhere near as nice as that, and he also mentioned that he had called the police. He called us again – we think – to hear our answering machine and get our names, but that wouldn’t help him to know where we live.) If you want my apartment address just shoot me an email and I’ll send it to you – I can get mail there every day. Or, you can use the Visitor’s Center address below (and on the blog) where I can get mail the two days a week that I’m there:

Sister Jennifer West
7800 Kirtland-Chardon Road
Kirtland, OH 44094

Beyond mail, prayers are always appreciated as well. Also, if anyone has thoughts on the items below (because I can’t just google them), please share:

-ideas for primary singing time
-decent restaurants near Madison or Geneva, OH (Madison Family Diner is not one)

If I were to go home today I’d be an improved person and would value what I’ve learned thus far but I’m not sure it would really stick after so short a time. It’s been hard but I am looking forward to solidifying the good from the experiences I’ve had so far and absorbing the experiences that are ahead.

PS – No pictures today (again) – sorry, my biggest pet peeve is when missionaries don’t send pictures but I hope to be able to next week.

Last few days at the MTC

Today is my last p-day at the MTC! We leave for Ohio bright and early Tuesday morning – the most important point about that being that I will have a new mailing address (see address on the right). I am so, so, so grateful for the mail I’ve received this last week, thank you all so much. I will respond to everyone, but it might take me awhile – I’m behind and never seem to have enough time to write. (Note: DearElder.com still works even when I’m not in the MTC, they print and deliver letters, but not same-day and it isn’t free – costs the same as a regular stamp would).

Anyway, since this is the last time I’ll write from here, here are some reflections on the MTC…

There is almost nothing about this place that I shouldn’t be hating….9 hours of classes (taught by 21 year-olds) every day, waking up at 6:30am, sleeping on a bunk bed in a cinderblock basement room with three teenage girls, sharing what is essentially a locker room bathroom with 40 other teenage girls, cafeteria-style food, no alone time whatsoever, no phone, no computer…I could go on and on. Anyone who knows me at all knows how unlikely it is that I could even tolerate one of those things for a few days, let alone 2.5 weeks, and yet none of it has bothered me at all. The only explanation I can come up with is that I’m being blessed – maybe I’ve been given some kind of spiritual rose-colored glasses, I’m not sure, but I know that the way I’ve felt about being in this place makes absolutely no sense. Seriously, the only two complaints I can even come up with, and I’ve tried, are the mail rules (see previous letter) and the fact that the chairs here are unbelievably uncomfortable, though even that has lessened because now we’re into Visitor Center Training in a different room with nice chairs. It’s possible that having a purpose and feeling good about that purpose makes this all very doable. Kind of like Psalms 25:1 – the Lord is my light, in an unconsciously and unexpectedly sustaining way. I was reading this week and came across a verse that is along the same lines, but much less comforting…Proverbs 28:25 – He that puts his trust in the Lord shall be made fat. I definitely haven’t gone hungry here and am hoping that a little more walking around in Ohio will help make that verse strictly metaphorical.

Not only has the MTC been surprisingly okay, but so have the people. I just really like an unusually high percentage of the people I’ve met. Normally I’d say about 10% of those I meet make it into the ‘like’ category before several weeks of acquaintance, but I haven’t known most people here for that long and I really, really like at least…50% of them, and I even like the other 50% (well maybe 48%), but in a more distant, probably-don’t-feel-the-need-to-keep-in-touch-kind-of-way.Shocked doesn’t begin to describe how I feel about this – especially given the varying backgrounds and ages of these people and how much time I spend with them. For example, Sis. Talbot (my companion) is from a tiny, tiny town near Bryce Canyon (Tropic) where there are 7 stop signs and 3 yield signs, and only two stoplights in the whole county (yes she knows the count). She was a Miss Utah competitor and is 19. In what universe would I find myself spending every waking minute with someone like this, and being grateful for every one of those minutes? Part of that is that she is extraordinarily mature, very smart, funny, and caring. She is an incredibly person, has dealt with a lot, and is dedicated to being good at this missionary thing. I love her – not in a compassionate/sympathetic kind of way, but in that I respect and admire her, and she has become very important to me. My capacity to love has increased since I’ve come here, and once again, the only explanation I can come up with is that the Lord is in this. I’m a little worried about the transition to Ohio, but I suppose the Lord will be in that too. It will be hard to leave the people I’ve met here though – as a friend of mine likes to say, ‘God is a great adhesive for souls.’

Other MTC stuff…we don’t get as much time in front of the mirror as we probably need. The whole ‘Look good, feel good, baptize’ motto might have to be modified to ‘Sleep more, look good enough…’

One missionary requirement which no one told me about was the whole smiling thing. Every time we do roleplay teaching exercises we evaluate each other and give ‘constructive’ feedback. Last week I was paired with an Elder I had never met to do bus contacting practice (something that takes less than two minutes between the two of us) and in the eval his suggestion was that I ‘get that smile a little bigger’ and he demonstrated by lifting the corners of his mouth with his fingers. Even in my blessed and more loving state…this comment did not go over well. And I’ve had to explain, repeatedly, that my face just looks like this in repose. I’m not grumpy or angry, I just have that ‘resting face’ issue. Apparently I need to practice my warm and friendly face.

We started Visitor’s Center Training this week, which includes doing online teaching – phone, chat, and email. That is a part of what VC sisters do just about every day and I cannot being to describe how excited I am about this. The feel of the keyboard under my fingers, the tapping of the keys, the glow of the screen…I was born for this! I was so giddy that Sister Gren wanted to take a picture.

Anyway, I have to wrap up, but I have a few MTC quotes to share first…some classics this week:

  • "Sometimes Sister West’s melancholy benefits us." -An Elder in my district who is extremely positive and doesn’t always appreciated my sense of humor. Also not sure he knows what melancholy means exactly.
  • "You remind me of my mom." Another Elder in my district. Thank you?
  • Speaking of getting married when we all get home, an Elder in my district looked at me and said, "You better get crackin…unless you don’t want to have kids." Awesome.
  • "I read that you still regenerate pretty well up till about age 25, and then after that you’re slowly dying every die. Is that how you feel?" -An Elder in my zone.
  • Talking about the definition of ‘liberally’ in James 1:5, a sister said, "Oh, like liberals…how they give away money?"
  • "Boys and girls do their laundry in front of each other? That’s terrible." A sister who arrived Wednesday doing her laundry for the first time today.
  • "He has the same sex-attraction." A woman talking about a man in a Mormon message video.
  • "You played an old grandma really well – I don’t know where you get this stuff." – A sister in our VC class, after I had pretended to be a 70 year-old investigator and made a comment about the rain not being so bad because it made things nice and green. Clearly an old grandma comment.
  • "Isn’t the University of Utah the church’s rival?" Uh….this elicited a long lecture from me about how ‘the church’ doesn’t have a rival becuase they don’t have sports teams. BYU is not the church, more apostles attended the U, etc. The Elder initially tried to argue, but gave up pretty quickly – it felt good to win. There’s not enough of that here.
  • "I need some law of chastity in my life." -when we began practicing how to teach this, not my favorite lesson to teach that’s for sure.

Thanks again for all the prayers and letters – keep them coming! And I would LOVE Christmas cards from those of you who send those, that would be a nice way to decorate whatever living quarters I’ll be in I’m sure.

Not sure when my p-day will be in Ohio, I think the Visitor’s Center sisters may have different p-days to accommodate the shifts, but who knows.

No photos again this week…sorry, picked a bad computer again. Hopefully this won’t be a problem in Ohio and my next post will include a flood of Provo temple selfies (that’s basically all we have), oh and the classic map picture.