Monday, July 30, 2012

Hello family and friends!

So I have some news! I received a phone call Thursday informing me that my visa has come through! So I'll be going down to the consulate tomorrow to sign it, and then I will be flying out for Mexico on August 13th. That was my original date to arrive before any of the crazy schedule changes and all of that, so I guess my Mission President down in Guadalajara decided to have me come in with the rest of my friends that are finishing up their time at the MTC. So that's great, because I have two more weeks here in Dallas to work with the wonderful people I have met.

Every 6 weeks something called "transfers" occurs. This is the time when the Mission President sits down and decides which Elders will be moved into what areas. So I will not be moved every six weeks, but every six weeks the chance to be moved will come up. Does that make sense?

So here in Dallas, tomorrow is transfer day. We got a call Saturday night letting us know what would be happening with Elder Green and I. We are both staying here in this area, but we will be receiving an additional companion, Elder Miller! That way, when I leave in two weeks, they can continue working as usual. Perfect plan. Neither of us have met Elder Miller yet, but we're excited to meet him tomorrow. He has been out on his mission a little less than a year. He reported just a transfer or two after Elder Green. (So missionaries tend to mark time in transfers, because that is when things change).

So that's super exciting. Tomorrow morning I will be catching a ride with an older couple that works in the mission to the consulate and Elder Green will go and pick up our new companion. Being in a trio definitely presents its challenges, but it will be good. We'll just have to make sure we are open and communicate well. It is easier to do with just one other person, but it's all good. Learning every day (seriously).

Last week I kind of gave an overview of what a week might look like. What did you think about that? (Not a rhetorical question). This week how about I try to zoom in on a day and give you an idea of what, specifically, a day might look like. With the activities and everything all built in. I'll give it a shot and await your critiques and suggestions on what you would like to hear.

So I'll focus on this last Saturday. Mostly because I can still remember most of what happened. The only different days of the week of Sunday, because of Church, and Monday, preparation day. So Saturday then...

I got up at 6:15 so I could pray, make my bed, and get dressed etc before we walk out the door at 6:30 to exercise. In this apartment complex we have a small gym with a treadmill, dumbells from 10-50 lbs, a bike, and a small all-in-one machine thing. Thursday or Friday I was overexcited and ran a mile a little too fast on the treadmill, so Saturday I focused on abs and forearms. I love having goals every morning and using every minute of that 30 minutes to stay fit. Awesome!

So we make it back to our room by 7. One of us hops in the shower and the other has breakfast. As I recall, I had oatmeal, and half of a grapefruit. So from 7 to 8 I eat, shower, shave, dress, and sometimes read letters I got the day before.

When 8 o'clock arrives I start my personal study with a prayer. Saturday we had several lessons with people planned, so I read the Book of Mormon for 30 minutes and then focused my studies on the what I thought the people we are meeting with will need.

Saturday is a little different than usual because we have a meeting in the morning. A few minutes before 9 another companion of Elders with a car came by and picked us up to take us to our correlation meeting. There is a man in every ward (congregation) who is called to help the missionaries work with the ward and coordinate our efforts. So we meet with him at least once a week to talk about how everything is going, report what we have done, get assignments, request help etc. Our meeting went really well. We had been super busy so we had a lot to talk about. Our meeting ended a little after 10 and we were taken back to our apartment.

We then had an hour of companionship study. During that time we talk about what we learned during personal study, I will receive some training often about the work we are doing and how we can be more effective, and then we focus on the lessons we will have that day and what we want to teach. We talk about the needs of each person and what we can do to help them. It is a good time to learn.

We then had an hour of language study. For me, I made a little plan to help me study effectively. I write for 15 minutes, usually a letter back home to my mother and family. I hope they can decipher what I am trying to say. It is really gratifying to see how it is becoming easier and easier to write and I can say things in a more natural way. I then like to read a magazine from the church that has recent talks and addresses from different church leaders. It is in Spanish, and I highlight all the words that I don't know as I go. It is my goal to learn at least 10 new words a day, and this is a great way to find very relevant and useful words that I can learn. Much better than just flipping through the dictionary anyway. I then study grammar and tenses for 15-20 minutes, and if I have any time left over I'll work on memorizing a scripture in Spanish.

After language study is lunch. No idea what I ate Saturday, but usually I'll boil some noodles, or have some sandwiches. We usually take about an hour for lunch, but since I only eat for maybe 20, I'll read some more during the rest of the time.

So Saturday we were all done with everything and ready to head out the door a little before 2. Our first appointment was at 2 o'clock, about 5 miles away. So we carried our bikes down the stairs and took off. (Fun fact: Apartment gates open because there are metal detectors in the ground in front of them. You can see the outline of the box in the cement usually, same with at stoplights. So if you want to trigger the detector on a bike, stop on top of the box and lie your bike down parallel with the ground. That will get enough metal over the box to trigger it. Cool! )

We arrived at the apartment complex right at 2. We had met this man and his daughter the day before when we had been knocking doors. He invited us to come back. We knocked and he eventually answered. He told us he had to head to the airport and would have to reschedule for another time. That is pretty typical, so we got his information and we'll find another time that works for him. We now had almost an hour before our next appointment, so we knocked a few more areas in that complex and headed over toward our next appointment. We had a few houses to stop by before to say hello and remind them about our invitation to church the next day. One of them answered and we talked to the brother of the man we had talked to before.

At 3 we went to our next lesson. This was with a family we had met the week before and who had come out to church the previous Sunday. Their daughters had to take off to work, but we were able to talk with both of the parents. We had a great discussion and they were very open with their questions. That went until a little after 4. We hopped back on our bikes and went back to the apartment complex we had been at before for another lesson. We had a member of our church meeting us there to come to the lesson with us.

Our next lesson ran from about 4:30 to about 5:40. This one was in English, so it was a little easier to say what I meant and of course I understood everything. It was a very productive discussion, and it was very nice to have a member there also to share his perspective. I know sometimes we, as missionaries in shirts and ties, can seem pretty weird or unusual. So having someone there that is just a normal person is always great.

We got out of there and hopped back on our bike and rode hard down to the other end of our area. We had an appointment at 6. We called ahead to let them know we were on our way. We got there about 6:25. This appointment was a little different than the previous. There was a young man that has been coming to church and all the activities with his friends for quite a while. When we talked to him he was very interested in learning more and wants to get baptized in the church. He is 14, almost 15, so of course we needed to talk to his parents. So this was a meeting with his mother to give her the opportunity to ask questions and find out more. It went really well.

When we first arrived she expressed that she is very Catholic and not interested herself in learning more about our faith. She said her son has been fighting a lot and she doesn't know exactly what to do, so she is happy to accept any positive role models she can get. She said if he is interested in our church and really feels good about what he is doing, she will support him. So after talking for a while we asked if it would be all right if we shared with her the basic message of our church, what it is we believe. She agreed and so we went ahead. By the end of the discussion her attitude had changed significantly. I look forward to returning and talking more with her and her family. It was funny to see. As we began, it was only her, her son, and us. The rest of the family was in the other room with the TV on real loud. By the end a few more had trickled in, the TV volume was turned off, and everyone was listening. It went really well and I know they felt the power of our message of happiness.

So that went right up until 7, but fortunately our next appointment was just down the street. We had another member coming with us to this one. We met with the Banos family, a family we have been teaching for a few months. They came to church the previous Sunday and are really starting to progress well. That night we taught the law of chastity. That is always a fun one to teach, but having the member there to bear his testimony of how it had blessed his life and his family made all the difference. We explained that marriage is essential for a family. Though this couple is wonderful, faithful, and have 5 children together, they are not married. So we explained why that was an important step and hope to help them set up their own marriage soon. So that lesson went on until after 8.

The general rule is that if you are in a lesson you can be out until 9:30, but otherwise try to get home by about 9. We hadn't had time for dinner that night because we had been running from one appointment to the next, so we figured we would just head back and get home a little early and have dinner. But as we were headed back Elder Green thought of someone we had been trying to get a hold of for a while but hadn't been successful. We were nearby, so we decided to head that way.

On the way we got stopped by a homeless man and we talked to him for a while and answered some of his questions. We stopped at a Jack in the Box to use the restroom, and as we were coming out a police car pulled over to us by our bikes and the officer started talking to us. We ended up being there until almost 9 talking to this officer. His name was Angelo and he was a great guy. Turns out he is about to propose to his girlfriend, who is Mormon. So he had some questions for us and also wanted to tell us a lot about his culture as a Serbian. I learned a whole lot about the history of Christianity in Serbia, it was fascinating! Finally it was time for us to be heading back (the area that we were in was not a good one to be in after dark) and so we got his address and number and he invited us to come by sometime. So we hope it is our area so we can.

It was cool to have that experience that would not have happened if we had just called it quits for the day and headed back early. So when we finally did make it back a little after 9 we sat down and planned for 30 minutes. We always take this time to pass over what happened that day, decide where to focus our efforts the following day, confirm appointments, and just get things straight.

I then ate dinner (cereal, sandwich, maybe some leftover macaroni), wrote in my journal for a minute, and got ready for bed. By 10:30 I was in bed. No doubt by 10:31 I was out.

Saturday was a great day! Occasionally we will spend more time knocking doors, but ideally, we have appointments like that.

So that's that. All is well with me. I got some great letters this week and look forward to some more this week. Here as we enter August I guess people are starting to think about school again. Let me know how you are doing!

Much love,
Elder Brighton

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