Written 20 Mar 2017
Hola hola hola! Aqui estoy, mis paisanos. I'm super excited to be writing you today from... (...) (wait for it...) The Dalles, Oregon! It's basically a completely different country from Othello! It's weird; it feels a lot more like home, as far as weather and foliage is concerned. It's like a weird mix between Wenatchee and Massachusetts. Imagine if a town from central Washington (Wenatchee) sprang up randomly in the middle of northern Massachusetts, and then got picked up and plopped down in northern Oregon instead. That's kind of like The Dalles. Yes, the name of the city is actually "The Dalles", it's not just a name for the area (like "the Salt Lake Valley" or "the Valley of the Shadow of Death"). It's just the name of the City of The Dalles. It's pretty different, but super cool as well.
I got a huuuuuuge surprise when I got here. As it turns out, The Dalles Spanish (my area) is actually pretty huge. There are not many members of the church here that speak Spanish, so we're actually working on starting a Spanish Group here within The Dalles 2nd Ward. However, our area covers a really large part of the Zone/Stake. We cover everything Spanish in the entire city of The Dalles and all the way up to Goldendale, although we don't normally go there unless someone else finds someone who speaks Spanish there. It's pretty exciting! Because our area is so huge, we have a car here for the first time in my mission! I was pretty excited. However, I was surprised when my new companion handed me the keys. Normally, the more senior companion drives, but I was surprised to learn that he never got a license! Haha! I guess I'm driving for the first time ! Hahaha, we're going to die!
Seriously, though, I've been remembering pretty fast how to actually drive a vehicle larger than a bicycle. It's been an adventure, especially since the day after I got here I had to drive 2 hours to Yakima for a huge meeting and 2 hours back. Talk about a baptism of fire! It was pretty terrifying, but I remembered how to drive pretty quickly. After all, I'm still alive to send this email today. Let's hope our luck keeps up.
We had a crazy meeting with Elder Juan A. Uceda from the Seventy this last Thursday. He came in and we had a big Zone Conference. Sister Uceda, Sister Lewis, and President Lewis all spoke briefly, and then we got to learn from Elder Uceda for 2 1/2 hours. It was crazy. First of all, he expressed his gratitude for us and told us we're doing really well with a lot of things, and that he can feel we have a really strong mission here. However, he then told us that of course, we aren't perfect. We can always do better. He told us all the things we should do better as missionaries in this mission, that we aren't doing very well right now. Mainly, we're not super good with doing things with people if they haven't done them on there own. We need to be a lot more bold with our invitations to pray and read the scriptures, and we need to not give in if people don't want to pray with us in the lesson, but really be bold. We also need to work more with members to get rides for our investigators to church. He also promised us that if we study a video from the District 2 (missionary training videos) as a companionship each day, we will become more persuasive teachers.
I'm still trying to really get to know the people here, but we got a new investigator since I've been here: Lili. She seemed incredibly open to our message, and incredibly open to act! She prayed with us, even though she didn't have much experience praying before. She promised to read the pamphlet we left her, and we are both excited to go back tomorrow and teach her again! I haven't been able to meet some of our other current investigators still, but I'm excited to meet them and work with them. There is another lady, Rosa, who wasn't really excited to pray with us, but we tried to follow Elder Uceda's council and not back down with our invitation to pray. Eventually, she did! It was awesome! I know that what Elder Uceda shared was exactly what we needed to hear in order to continue progressing as a mission. I'm excited for what the future holds, and I'm extraordinarily grateful for the opportunity Elder Tapia and I have to be a part of that!
I love you all a ton, and wish you the best! I am very grateful for your support and prayers.
Quick funny story from Othello...
Once in Othello, we were trying to teach the daughter of a less-active member. The member has some mental challenges (like schizophrenia), but is a really nice lady. As we were teaching her daughter about Baptism and the Gift of the Holy Ghost, we asked the daughter "Did you know God gives you a gift when you are baptized?"
Right then, the mom piped in and said, trying to help out, "Yeah, after baptism, they give you the... the... um, the Gift of Fire Hands!"
Ever since, the Gift of Fire Hands has become a bit of a running joke between those of us who know. Hey, I think the Gift of Fire Hands would be pretty awesome! I mean, who needs a roaster?
Questions from Editor Mom:
Tell us about your companion. Are you speaking more Spanish than you were before? - He's awesome. Elder Tapia is from Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. His English is fantastic, even though he didn't speak any before joining Elder Steadman in Othello. Yes, that's right. You may have already known this, but when Elder Tapia was transferred to The Dalles, I took his place in Othello. Now, I've joined him down here! We're definitely speaking more Spanish, but it's still a mix, since we work with a LOT of English-only speakers. Almost everyone (except our investigators, claro).
What did you learn/talk about at zone conference? - HOOLLLYYY COOOOOWWWW!!!!!! IT WAS NUTS! Elder Uceda is awesome, and told us exactly what we're all doing horribly wrong and how to get more people to progress. It was crazy. Basically, don't let anyone get away with not praying. Don't let people squirm out of saying the prayer with you. Be bolder! Don't talk so much! Read the assignment with them if they didn't do it themselves! IT'S GONNA BE NUTS!
Whom did you most enjoy reconnecting with at the transfer site/zone conference? - Elder Wunderlich, Elder Steadman, and Elder Woodfield. Definitely. Elder Steadman was being transferred to Rocky Reach in Wenatchee, and Elder Wunderlich and Elder Woodfield (my MTC compa) are both in the Yakima Valley Zone, so I saw them at transfers and also at Zone Conference.
When is your temple trip? - The temple trip is a week from tomorrow. Portland Temple, here we come!
What's your apartment like? Are you living with just your companion or others as well? - Our apartment is suuuuper nice. It's just Elder Tapia and me there, and it's the biggest, nicest apartment I've been in yet. Well, except Mattawa, but that was never MY apartment. I just stayed there once, when I was in a tri-pan with Elders Steadman and Garcia and we went to work in Elder Garcia's area for a day and a half.
Have you run into anyone we know, like the bishop of the Stevenson Ward or Sister Jensen's sister or her daughter's in-laws? - No... wait, you know the bishop from the Stevenson Ward? Who on earth is it?!? That's totally in the Zone! Also, I don't remember any of those other people super well... what ward are they in?
Bishop Zimmerman is the bishop of the Stevenson Ward. We were in the same branch when Dad and I lived in Oregon. You wouldn't remember any of the other people. I don't know them either, but our best friends from our Oregon days are from the Dalles. Their sister, and their daughters-in-law are still in The Dalles.
What's your teaching pool like? - Really, really big. Our entire goal here is to start a Spanish Group in The Dalles 2nd Ward. That means that even if someone prefers English but can speak Spanish, we teach them. I don't know a ton of people still, but I'm working on it. We got a New Investigator named Lili. She seemed super cool and open to our message. It was amazing.
Any dogs? :-) - Actually, yes! They are very friendly. My first night here, on Wednesday, we got greeted by two huge, muddy, friendly dogs. I was reminded of them the rest of the evening whenever I looked at my formerly white shirt or blue/brown pants.
How were your trips down to The Dalles and then back up to Yakima for Zone Conference? - Exciting, terrifying, and awesome. Down to the Dalles was kind of boring, but alright because we had some nice conversations. I am in a driving area down here in The Dalles, and I am the designated driver. That means I drove to Yakima and back for Zone Conference. I haven't driven for at least 10 months, so it was a bit of a baptism by fire.
Finally, can I ask a really, really big favor? I get kind of lost now that I'm driving. Can I have a simple GPS? As long as it doesn't access the internet/interwebs and stuff, it's approved. I just don't want to keep having to ask if I should turn at almost every intersection.
Pictures from the Yakima transfer site on transfer day: