***NOTE THE ADDRESS, looks like we had the wrong one before***
So as you may have heard, I think my mother said she posted a blog post mentioning it, I'm now out of the Training Center. I arrived in the Texas Dallas Mission on Wednesday, July 4th. It should always be easy to remember what day I entered the field. I hope everyone had a great 4th of July and had some time to think about the incredible blessings we have to live in the country. Having had the chance to talk to many people here in Dallas now who have lived in many other countries and have worked and sacrificed much themselves to be here, I am beginning to understand better why it is people will risk their lives to come to a land such as this. We are not perfect, but it is a blessed land. So much freedom, I hope we never take it for granted.
So Dallas indeed. It was a bit of a surprise to find out I would be back in Texas for a time. It is great to be here, even in the heat, and be working among the people here. To explain, because I was moved into the advanced district, my stay in the MTC was shortened, but my VISA has not come yet. And so I was given the opportunity to get out and start learning and working in the "real world" while I wait for it to work out. There is a consulate here in Dallas I am told, and so it is here that I was assigned. The rest of the Elders from my district in the MTC are waiting in Las Vegas.
Let me briefly explain the mail situation. So now that I am here, I have a new mailing address. Before I give it, let me say a few things. My companions have suggested that anything super important be sent to the main office. Anything sent there I will be able to receive probably twice a month at training meetings. That address is
Elder Eric Brighton
Texas Dallas Mission Office
13747 Montfort Dr. #110
Dallas, TX 75240
I also have an address at my apartment where I can receive mail. I was told it is occasionally "sketchy", but I will leave that judgement call to you. I would get it much faster that way. My address there is:
Elder Eric Brighton
804 North Nursery #126
Irving, TX 75061
The mail procedure works the same out here in the field. I will be able to write and respond once a week on Mondays. That is what I am doing right now. Okay, I hope that makes sense, pretty straight forward.
So, moving past those detaily kinds of things.
What is it I am really doing out here anyways?
I have been called to serve as a missionary. What that means is that my primary responsibility is to find and teach people who are interested in learning about Jesus Christ and about how they can make changes in their life. My official purpose (I have it memorized in Spanish, but this is pretty close in English), "Invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end". So that is my purpose and my goal.
What does that translate to day to day?
Each day we get up at 6:15 and run to a park and exercise for 30 minutes.
We get back shower, eat, and prepare for the day until 8.
At 8 we have an hour of personal study. During that time I'll read the scriptures and study things that I think will help the people that we have met and are visiting with.
We then have 2 hours of companionship study. Usually it would just be one, but both me and one of my companions, Elder Jones, are new to the field, so we have an extra for training and to learn more. During that time we will discuss the people we are teaching and try to know how we can meet their needs.
We then study the language for an hour, eat lunch, and get out the door.
Once we have left the apartment we head to any appointments we have. The rest of the day is spent meeting with investigators, those interested in learning more, helping any less active members of the ward, and looking for more people to teach.
We usually have dinner at some one's home around 5 and then head back out to work until 9:30. At 9:30 we get back to the apartment, plan for the next day, and get to bed by 10:30. They are long days for sure. I often can't remember what we did in the morning by the time I'm going to sleep. But it is satisfying to put 100% of my effort into something that means so much to me and into something I know is helping others. It isn't easy, but it is worth it. I will definitely be talking more about this later I'm sure.
So how's the language coming?
Well I'm doing alright. It is a big adjustment, but it is going well. I am able to talk to people when the answer their door and they can understand me as well. I don't know all the words I would like to yet, but it is coming along and I am definitely contributing. So I am with two other companions right now, which is a little unusual. Usually you live and work with one other Elder, but since I came in last minute and am in a little different situation, I am with two others. Elder Walker is our trainer, and Elder Jones has been here for almost 4 weeks. Both are also American, so it makes it a little harder to learn the language. We do our best to always speak Spanish, but it can be difficult. Elder Walker can understand better than I can and Elder Jones is working hard to learn. Everyday I do my best to make notable progress. Yesterday at church was great when I felt like I could follow just about everything that was going on. As much of a language adjustment it is, the culture is very different too. I'm beginning to learn better how to speak and understand what people mean, not just with words, but with other indicators. No one will tell you no, so if we can't figure out when they mean no, we end up wasting a lot of time going to return appointments that they set that they had no intention of keeping. It has been good and is preparing me well for my experiences to come.
How are the companions?
I mentioned a bit, but here's some more. Both these Elders are great. They are here to work, and we certainly get a lot done. It is nice to have two other people dedicated to the work and willing to do hard things without complaining. I couldn't ask for better first companions. They are showing me the example of doing things right and not looking back. I'm still getting to know them, but I feel comfortable with them already. Elder Walker played basketball for a smaller college before he came out. He is about 6'5 and 230 or so. Great guy, hard worker. He has only been out for about 9 months, so to be trusted as a trainer to two Elders already shows a lot about his character. Very trustworthy. Elder Jones joined the church less than 2 years ago and put things in order so that he could come out and serve. Great example. Really enjoying being with them.
So some experiences now. I've only been here a couple of days. We got to work as soon as I arrived Wednesday, before I had a chance to unpack or anything. I knew it was going to be good when that happened. So in this area we have bikes, so everywhere we go, we bike. I must have brought a bad streak of luck with me, but since I have been here we have had 4 popped tires! We'll park them somewhere and just start walking. Then every night we'll get them all fixed back up again. Then Saturday night Elder Walker was riding and his pedal just flew off. We pulled over and found that the bolt holding it on had snapped in half. Too bad. So we found a ride back to our apartment later and now we are on foot until we can get something figured out. There is a member in the ward that I think is lending us a bike. So that has been interesting, but nothing can hold us back!
One last experience before I go. Yesterday after church we were looking for people to teach in an apartment complex. In the first block of apartments we knocked and did not find one interested person. It was a very poor area and it sometimes felt like they weren't even able to understand what we were saying, not because we weren't speaking their language, but just because they weren't able to. So as I'm thinking these things we head to the next block. I'm wondering if we are just wasting our time as we walk up the first door. There we meet a woman and her daughter who want to hear the message we have to share. We share it with them and she asks a lot of questions and expresses interest. We will go by and visit again soon. We then go next door and find a man who is sitting there reading the Book of Mormon. He had been given it two months ago and was just finishing it when we walked up. He said he loved everything it said and wants to hear more about it. He was leaving the next day to drive to Mexico with a load of supplies for the poor people there, but said when he returns in a month we can stop by. As we continued knocking, we had two more great lessons. It taught me a great lesson. I need to humble myself and recognize that this work is not about me and what I think. All we can do is offer. People will accept or reject, and that is their decision, but we, as missionaries, must offer.
Anyways, my time is coming to a close, but thanks so much for your friendship and support. All is well with me. It is great to be a part of something so important. If it takes me longer to respond than usual, I'm sorry. Anything sent to the MTC may take a while to get forwarded. And I do not know when I will be leaving for Mexico. Could be in a week, could be in 3 months. No idea. Thanks a bunch. Be sure to let me know how you are doing. It is so encouraging to receive letters after a long day and remember the good friends I have back home.
I love you all and pray and wish the very best for you.
Elder Eric Brighton