Left the MTC on Tuesday morning- we got up at 3am, then got on a bus, and then a plane with about 9 other missionaries going to Ohio and New York (I was surprised there were so many!) I can't believe the MTC is over- it went by way too quickly!
I thought all the missionaries would be scattered throughout the plane so we could do missionary work to the people around us (they stocked us up on missionary cards and stuff :) ) but then on both flights I was only sitting by missionaries. I was sort of relieved that I had an excuse to not hand out cards (is that awful or what? :) ) but then again, I was disappointed I didn't get to put what I just learned to work, and share the gospel with others around me.
The mission president and his wife picked us up and brought us to the mission home. We had dinner there (it was so good!) and we had meetings all night (testimony meeting, orientation, role plays, interviews, etc) We were EXHAUSTED by the end of the day! The next morning they gave us our handouts of our areas and who our companions would be. They took all the new missionaries to the Kirtland temple and met up with Karl Anderson (the author of Joseph Smith's Kirtland. Do you remember that book Mom? The one you showed me right before I left?) He was SO good at Kirtland history. He asked everyone if they had ancestors from the Kirtland era, and he recognized each and every one of them, and even gave a short little bio on most of them. He thought it was pretty funny that I was Heber C. Kimball's descendant, and kept teasing me or asking me to do things (like lead the music) :) He is a goofy guy with an infectious laugh! I never would have guessed
I got your letters that night! Thank you so much for those letters- they helped out so much! I was sort of upset that I didn't get to talk with you on Tuesday, so at least getting to hear from Mom, Dad, and Ray made me feel so happy! Thank you thank you thank you! I love you guys :)
We went to the transfer meeting, we met our new companions, and then we had a short meeting and my trio split up :( It was so sad! I have missed them a lot. The first time I got to see them was yesterday, and I was SO HAPPY to see them! It felt like it had been much longer than a week, that is for sure!
As soon as we got out of the transfer meeting, my companion handed me the keys (the car is a Subaru Impreza Dad. I looked for you because I figured you were probably wondering ;) ). Apparently internationals don't drive the cars in this mission, so I have been the designated driver! It has been crazy- the roads are really narrow here and they are pretty slippery as well. I am so impressed Sister Lee hasn't screamed yet! :) It has been a little scary at times. It is kind of like an amusement park on the roads! But I am being careful and driving slowly, don't you worry. It made all the difference when I almost slid into a ditch one time ;)
We then went to Historic Kirtland, in the school of the prophets and talked about being missionaries and our responsiblity. Everyone left the new missionaries in the room, and we covenanted with the Lord about what kind of missionaries we promised we would be. They also talked about how there are so many prophecies about Kirtland being built up again, and now that prophecy is being fulfilled. They talked about how blessed we are to be able to serve here, especially because we have the sites which have a spirit about them from the early saints. It was really neat, and I guess I am pretty excited about being able to serve in Ohio now :)
I am serving in Hiram, and my trainer is Sister Lee. So far I LOVE the area and my trainer is awesome. She is from Korea, but she speaks English surprisingly well and she is a very hard worker. Hiram is one of the farthest areas for sisters to work from Kirtland, so we only serve at the site on Monday and half of Tuesday. The other days were are doing work in Hiram. So far I have committed one person to baptism (he said yes!), so we have one young lady who was just baptized the week before I got here and two more with baptismal dates in February. The one I committed to baptism has given up smoking, and doing really well with staying away from cigerettes. He said it was easier to quit than he thought it would be. We are teaching him three days a week, so I am getting a lot of practice preparing lessons.
Hiram ward is AMAZING! Going to their ward for the first time last week was so neat, becuase just by sitting in the sacrement room you can feel the love and closeness they have. Their bishop has been in a coma from a stroke, so this Sunday they called a new bishop (the father of the first family I had dinner with in Hiram!) We heard news that the last bishop had opened his eyes, lifting his fingers, and recognized his wife, so everyone was really happy. But last night we got a call from someone in the ward saying he had passed away :( Sister Lee was really sad- the missionaries used to stay with his family, and they only moved out a few weeks ago. I feel really bad for the ward- there has been so much concern for the former bishop :( But at the same time, it has been amazing to see how the new bishop came into the ward when he did, and how certain other events played out. You can tell the Lord knows what he is doing. The other bishop was needed for missionary work elsewhere I guess.
Mom and Dad, do you remember Brother and Sister John (or Johns) from the Thunderbird Hills ward? A senior missionary couple said their parents used to live in the Thunderbird Hills ward, and when I mentioned Bishop Pierce they started freaking out and saying, 'That's the one! That's the one! Wasn't he a spectacular man?!' I guess he was really good about visiting them and making them feel loved before they passed away. I don't remember them...
I am learning how important it is to have a balance between listening and taking control of conversations. It is pretty tough! There are so many people who just want to talk and talk and talk... and I don't understand them at all! Why are they talking? But then again, I appreciate that they feel comfortable around me (even though I am a complete stranger) and are willing to share their thoughts. The problem comes when we get on a tangent (which happens approximately every 2.5 minutes) and then it is difficult to be talking about pertinant subjects. It is something I want to learn quickly! The people out here seem so friendly- so far I have loved everything about Ohio! It doesn't even seem that cold yet. ...I hope I didn't just jinx myself there.
There is a recent convert I just met on Saturday who is amazing! She was in a car accident a few months ago where she was hit by an 18 wheeler. She had extensive injury to her back, so she had a lot of x-rays taken. In the x-rays, they found that she had something in her neck. Upon investigation and biopsys, they found out it was a cancer that is difficult to detect, and often fatal. They were able to do surgery to get most of it out, and these next two weeks she is under quarentine for radiation treatment to kill off the rest. And you know what she said? She said she loved how the auto accident was a blessing in disguise. She knew there had to be some sort of reason for the accident, and it ironically has saved her life. She is so optomistic and grateful! So many of these people are going through hard times, but have such a good attitude! I am grateful to be learning so much from them.
I have noticed how for the most part I have been blessed with sleep. I am so thankful for that! I really believe that it has been a blessing to wake up with 8 hours of sleep in the morning. Missionary work is tiring! I mean, I always expected it to be, but really, wow! Overwhelming and tiring, but definitely rewarding and a growing experience. Mom and Dad, thank you so much for making this opportunity a possiblitity for me- I feel like I have already grown, and will learn so much more in the coming months!
What has really stuck out to me this week is how important families are. Even when we have someone who doesn't really want to hear a gospel message from us, or even if the person has been difficult to talk to, they always open up when you talk about families. There is no way families are not divinely inspired. They are a support system with love, and they help us out in this life, especially when times are tough. I am so grateful to know that families can be together forever. It is so comforting, and I am glad Heavenly Father blessed me with such a miraculous family. I feel bad for everyone else though- I got the best one :) There is a less active we met the other day who is living in a nursing home. He had a stroke, so he is paralyzed on one side of his body, but he is very smart. We started talking about families and he got sort of emotional when he was talking about his grandkids. It is amazing- out of the 5 older people we met with this week, they are all so loving towards their grandkids. The LOVE them so much! It seems like they love them even more than their kids! :) But this man was so lonely- his family is close by, but they don't come by very often. While I was glad he was getting taken care of, my heart went out to him. He was so excited to talk with complete strangers for an hour! He was so cool. I think his favorite topic was talking about the game of horseshoes- he says I have the right sort of stature for it, so when I said I hit more people than I do posts in that game, he had the biggest smile and said that was ridiculous and he would teach me the technique so I wouldn't be hurting people anymore. After we read scriptures with him, he kissed our hands and waved to us the entire time as we left. He was such a nice man! It kills me to see how sad and lonely he was though.