Thanks to all those that did send snail mail. I feel bad for calling you out last week in my e-mail because we went home that day and there were like 3 letters sitting in my mailbox.
The biggest adjustment for me as a full-time missionary is just understanding what the work is. You think that it will be walking down the street all the time, or teaching new members, but a lot of the work is actually working with less active members. And it's also figuring out what an effective use of time is. When I first got here, driving around to less actives and stuff seemed like being lazy, but it's actually useful. The first few days no matter what we were doing I always thought there was something better we could be doing, but you just have to trust in your planning and in the Lord to help you find people as you do what you're doing. Elder Pratt today was saying that following plans is important because if you pray and plan and tell the Lord you're going to do something, and then you go somewhere else, the people he had prepared for you won't be wherever you are.
Another big adjustment is just being in California. The trees all look wrong, like the ones in The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. I haven't seen gas under $4 a gallon anywhere, and there's always traffic no matter where you go. We have a 2015 Chevy Cruz and we are allotted 900 miles per month, which is more than enough since our area is pretty small.
Elder Camper is great because he works super hard and is super spiritual at times, but he is also straightforward and just tells it like it is. He is a lot of fun to be with and has a lot of really cool insights and experiences. He has taught me so much, I can't write it all, but a lot of it has been about how to be an effective missionary, and not to worry about numbers or other missionaries, just to focus on your area. He's also taught me a lot about how people like to be taught and the best way to approach lessons in order to not scare people off who aren't 100% enthusiastic about learning about the gospel every second you're with them.
Also here is a suggestion for how to read/mark the Book of Mormon. We have been doing it as a mission and it is pretty cool. Basically you mark 5 different things every time you see it. Those are, the name of Christ, a reference to the missionary purpose(faith, repentance, baptism, gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end), times when the Lord is speaking, principles being taught in the Book of Mormon, and attributes of Christ. Just something you might like to do if you don't have a particular marking scheme already set up.
The Priesthood is pretty cool, and the more we talk about it and use it the more I realize exactly what an important thing it is, and also the importance of the calling of a priesthood holder. I have had more than one occasion to use it now, giving blessings and baptizing and such.
Claire's baptism went smoothly. She was the little girl who we got as a baptism, just because of her age and technicality rules, but it was still a really cool experience. Elder Camper said that when he was in this ward almost a year ago, he told his companion he would see her get baptized, but then he left and figured he was wrong, but it all came true this week when she got baptized, so I thought that was pretty cool. We'll be teaching her and her sister the new member lessons the next few weeks before they go back home to live with their mom. We're also hoping that seeing Claire get baptized will encourage the sister to get baptized. She wants too, but her grandparents(they're half sisters) don't want her to and so she's waiting. But we'll be teaching her when she's around too.
As for Mitch's baptism, that was quite the story and quite a trip. So a little background on him, he had a stroke about 2 years ago that made it so the left side of his body basically doesn't work. He's out of work and is just living in a room in someone's house and he stays in bed pretty much all day, trying to keep himself entertained and also looking for work. He was a controls engineer so he's a smart guy but the stroke has left him a little slower than he used to be. He's been telling us that he was going to move somewhere else ever since they started teaching him, so we kind of discounted it. We continued meeting with him this week and he said that he had found a place to move and his rent ran out at the end of the month. So we figure everything will work out alright. We met with him Thursday night, and he didn't say anything about moving. Then on Saturday, we send someone over there to pick him up for the Stake Pioneer Day activity. They get there, and then give us a call and tell us. . .HE MOVED! So we start freaking out and calling him and he doesn't pick up. We go to the stake activity the whole time freaking out that Mitch up and left us. Finally we got a hold of him, and long story short, they were ready for him, it's a much better situation, and so he moved when someone offered him help. Luckily, he had every intention of coming back for his baptism, so everything was on. Elder Camper was still stressing and freaking out though until we saw him at the church for his baptism on Sunday. We are very lucky to have some really good members who were good friends to him and helped him with the whole process. For his baptism, I performed the ordinance and Elder Camper was in there to assist due to his disability. The first time we went to baptize him, his left foot slipped and it freaked him out, so we had to re-do it. Everything went smoothly that time and we all got changed and finished the service. During the closing him you could tell that he was feeling pretty emotional about everything. He will be coming back next week to get confirmed, but after that he will be going to his new ward in Rancho Kukamunga(spelling?). I'll miss him, but we'll make sure that we get people over there to help and teach him.
The rest of the week sort of pales in comparison to all that excitement. We did have dinner with some really cool young couples with a few kids, and it's nice because they have fun mission stories and let us just relax because we feel comfortable with them. One of them who is really into games. He's got Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne and Bang and all the fun games we've played at home. Also, we have set up with a recent convert to have FHE with his family. He has an 8 year old grandson, so I'm going to help him learn some hymns and we'll play games together and share messages.
Another really cool experience, was that we were walking around a neighborhood looking for some less active member names we'd been given. While we were walking, one of our investigators texted us to tell us that he didn't feel like meeting with us any more, he'd learned everything he wanted to and didn't feel right about it anymore. So Elder Camper showed me how to "drop" someone, basically what kind of text you send to let them know you understand, but also let them know that they can call us back at anytime. It did get him sort of down in the dumps though, but literally 2 seconds after we send that text, a lady in a car pulls over and tells us that she is so glad to see us. She hadn't seen missionaries in 2 years(she's on the far side of our area), and that she needed a blessing and wanted some motivation to come back to church, and she introduced us to her non-member husband. Elder Camper said that it is pretty typical that right after you drop someone, the Lord provides you with someone else to meet with, but never that quickly before.
I'm building up a little repertoire of dinner messages to share with people, so I'm starting to feel like a missionary, being able to pull out scriptures and experiences to share with people. Elder Camper is looking forward to the 11th week of training, known as "Senior Week", where the training is to have me be the senior companion and lead in all lessons and planning activities. I'm trying my best to be prepared for that.
And just for a little spiritual thought, it's about how humans think. It was Wednesday and I was like "wow the week is already half-way over, how did that happen?" And I realized that it is because humans are really good at finding beginnings and new starts. In my life, Sunday is like the first day of the week, but Monday is the first day in the planner, but it's P-day so it doesn't count. So Tuesday is like the first day of the week. And then you get to Wednesday and you feel like it's the start of the week when it's half-over. And I realized that humans are always looking for new beginnings, and that is why the Gospel appeals to so many people. The idea that you can start over fresh every day, every week, every time you pray, appeals to that part of everyone, and that's why the Gospel is so great. Through repentance and the Atonement, we can start over every single day of the week, and you always have an opportunity to get a fresh slate and improve.
See you soon,
"Get on your knees and pray, then get on your feet and work." -Gordon B. Hinckley