Dearest residents in Utah. I have safely landed in Little Rock, Arkansas. God's country.
Well, ok, first off. Salt Lake City Airport at 6 am on Tuesday morning was cold and wet. It was raining pretty bad. I understand that Utah has gotten a lot of snow this past week, and it makes my insides tear up. I'm very jealous. The plane ride wasn't too bad. My whole district sat next to each other... except for me. I was shoved a couple rows back next to some members. But hey, I got to sleep. Landed in Georgia. We were all nervous over approaching people.
We all packed into a tiny 13-row plane for Arkansas. It's the smallest plane I've ever flown in. Flying into Arkansas was a terror for each of us. Farmland. Everywhere. No cities or even small towns or suburbs. It was only until about 5 minutes from Little Rock that civilizations started popping up. We were all relieved.
The mission president and his wife were there to greet us, along with Elder Kelly and Elder Badger. They were the assistants to the president or whatever. I don't understand mission hierarchies yet. Anyway, first night in the mission home was great. The food was AMAZING and the mission president, President Petersen, is a great guy. We all woke up at 5 the next morning (it seemed like 4 because we were now in Central time) for a morning walk. That was the initiation part, I think. Then we packed up and went to the church building to get our comps. Oh yeah, side note. Church buildings here are huge. Not only that, but it was weird realizing these were church buildings for faiths like Baptists, Methodists and other Christians. They were enormous!
President Petersen started listing off names. It was a big list, but my name was nowhere in there. Then he explained, "Those were the names that are staying on this side of the river." There were a total of 3 groups: those staying on this side of the river, those going across the river, and those waiting for their compaions to come from the other side of the river. He called off my name for those that were going across the river. I was going to Memphis.
Six other Elders and I packed into a minivan and drove 2 1/2 hours to get to Memphis, Tennessee. Two other missionaries from my district came with me. Leaving the other 4 people behind was hard, but we knew we'd see each other again. After crossing the Mississippi River, we got to a church building and went through the same orientation. I got assigned to my first companion, Elder Fry. Everyone had been telling me up until this point that my first companion would be a stud, and that's exactly how he's been showing himself so far. Anyway, we were assigned to an area he had been in for the past 3 months, a town I couldn't pronounce at first called Collierville. Imagine a Collie. Now imagine a Collie that was more Collie-like, or "Collier", and slap "-ville" on there. There ya go. We packed my stuff up, said goodbyes to my remaining MTC district, and went into Collierville.
Elder Fry is from Eagle, Idaho. He's a funny guy that likes to have fun, and marvels at my Biblical abilities or something like that (because we all know I don't really have any at all). If I was to define his work so far in one phrase, it's that he loves the people. Elder Fry is friends with everyone here, and people are warming up to me better than I expected.
Anyway, first day. We dropped off my stuff and left immediately to teach a girl named Keisha in Collierville. Collierville is the Alpine of Tennessee. Lots of huge houses and incredibly nice people. Anyway, we taught Keisha the first discussion. It was really cool and fun to teach her. She has 2 little kids, and the oldest is a 3-year-old girl named Cameron. She has the most personality I've ever seen. My favorite line she said would have to be (imagine a tiny African American toddler saying this with as much sass as possible), "I'ma do what I wan' cuz my momma says so." It was the best thing ever.
I've been meeting new people left and right and had too many experiences to shove into one post, so I won't bore you with too many details. I will say, though, that the very next day, Elder Fry and I got together with one of the ward mission leaders, Bro. Pennington, and went to go talk to some folks 30 mintues down south. That's right. My area covers MISSISSIPPI. I've been to 3 states so far on my mission in a matter of 3 days. The families down there are really fun and are about as southern as southern can get. I've been acquiring the southern drawl by will. I've decided I want to learn how to speak it so that 1) I can understand others that speak it and 2) I can give my homecoming talk with a southern accent. Family, expect a southern boy when I get back.
So far the strangest thing I've had to eat is pickled okra. Everyone's warning me to stay away from chitlins. They take raw pig intestines, fling it around like a rodeo rope to get the feces out, and then fry it. Bam. Chitlins. One guy, Daryl, took us out to have a Reuben sandwich. I wasn't too big of a fan. Too much 'slaw. Ok, my mom asked me a couple questions, so I'll go ahead and answer them.
I mostly use a car. I've been biking once, and next week is an all-bike week. We cover the biggest area this side of the river, so having a car is essential. We have a Ford something-or-other really nice car.
We cover two wards: Collierville First and Collierville Second. We're the only missionaries in these wards. Before, our area didn't even go to the First Ward, but once I got here that changed. Now we go to both. Just Elder Fry and me.
Hmmm....I honestly don't know what else to describe. The members are amazing, and they feed us well. Oh yeah! I got to ride on top of a cotton picker the other day! Pretty fun. They kinda forced me to jump on it. Sis. Byrd (her husband is the cotton farmer) is excited for missionaries to try new things. She's a member. Her son Caleb is not. Caleb likes to shoot and hunt. He's a funny kid, only a couple years younger than me.
I'll be out here for at least 12 weeks. That's how the training program works. So I'm in Collierville at least 3 months. Hopefully, I get to stay here for a lot longer than that. I feel at home here. Like I said, it's like another Alpine. The people are good. The issue out here isn't so much baptisms as much as getting people to come to church. It's disappointing. But we'll see how it goes. Anyway, I might get my first baptism commitment this week. We'll see what happens. I wanna thank ya'll for your support! If you wanna send snail mail, I'd send it through the mission home adress if I were you, because that location will never change. I'll put up my current address, though, if you're confident enough to use it.
441 Sweet Apple Cove #8
Collierville, TN 38017
Well, gotta go enjoy my P-Day! Bye!