Let's see how much of this week I can fit in here. I'm thinkin' this will be a doozy.
On Tuesday, Elder Bigelow and I were roped into working as a clean-up crew for an abandoned apartment. We're talkin' Mike Rowe business here. I should have taken pictures to show how bad this place was... The apartment is owned by a sister in the branch, Sis. Mosley, who recently suffered from a stroke. The family that lived in the apartment was kicked out a month and a half ago for not paying rent. Elder Bigelow and I teamed up with Sis. Mosley's grandson to clean the place. We opened the door.
The apartment is made up of the main room, a hallway leading back to the kitchen, the kitchen, and then a small dining area. In the main room sat two couches, and laying on the black leather couch sat a cat that was just as surprised to see us as we were to see it. The scamp leaped off the couch and ran to the back of the apartment. It'll reappear later.
The apartment was left in a state of disarray that is near inhumane. There were baby clothes, toys and books sprawled all over the floor, along with DVDs, Happy Meal toys, wigs, brushes, blankets, fabrics, coins, random plastic objects -- everything a mother and 3 young children would need to be mildly amused all day. The smell was a haze that fogged my lungs, and the air was thick with festering bacteria. The shovels, rake and pitchforks we brought were very useful in filling the ten garbage bags we brought with us.
Every piece of clothing we picked up yielded a small crowd of cockroaches that dispersed from their homewreckers. Some roaches even lounged around on the walls, watching us move around the apartment. The kitchen was no better. More clothes, a box of corn starch with mouse dropping all around it, more ants and cockroaches and toys all awaited us. The cat reappeared from behind the kitchen counters and darted out the front door. The whole ordeal took 2 and a half hours. We had to go outside and renew the air in our bodies from time to time. Nevertheless, we removed a bluk of them mess, and I even picked up an old copy of Pokemon Stadium that might be salvagable. What an adventure. :3
Yesterday was my 21st birthday. I felt as if I was a true member of the West Memphis branch at church yesterday, given my assignments and invitations to help out. Let's see... For starters, we had a meeting with the branch presidency to update them on our missionary work and get them involved. Afterwards, I helped the branch mission leader draw out a map to his property for a hayride the branch is holding this Friday. As I made the final touches on the map, the chorister came in and summoned me as the branch's piano player.
Of course, I don't play piano, but I'm one of the only people in the building that knows how to operate the LDS electronic piano that stands as backup in the event our actual piano player is missing. I got sacrament meeting started off with a grin on everyone's face as I struggled to get the thing started up and had about 3 false starts before the music finally played. Elder Bigelow gave a talk for the latter part of sacrament meeting on fasting. Sacrament meeting ended, and after making copies of the map I had drawn an hour ago, we were swept off to teach Gospel Principles, just like every Sunday. The lesson was on the Postmortal Spirit World. Following Gospel Principles was Priesthood, and I'm glad that I was able to take a breather for that hour.
A half hour after church, Joe Orey's baptism was scheduled to begin. In Mormon time, that means 50 minutes after church ended. The first talk was given, and then we all filed around the baptistry to see the baptism take place. Poor little Joe... He stood in that baptistry, shaking like a leaf. Elder Bigelow and I tried so hard throughout the day to get the water warm, but nothing was working, so Joe stood in some colder-than-pool-temperature water. He was baptized, and the moment he came out of the water he darted for the stairs.
We waited for Bro. Orey and Joe to return from getting changed, after which I had been asked to share a talk on the Holy Ghost. It was short, sweet, and to the point, which was a relief to most people there, I think, because all the other talks given in the church building that day had been just the opposite. After my talk, Joe was given the gift of the Holy Ghost. Joe asked me if I could stand in for it. That was a great experience. The Oreys have become a dear family to me, and it'll be fun to see all the kids grow up. They plan to move to Idaho as soon as they have the means to, so they'll never be too far away to visit when I get back home. I told Sis. Orey a week ago that Elder Kowalk and I would have to get a van and take a roadtrip to see them. She laughed and got excited.
<streeeeetch> Oh man, lots of words are in this thing... It's been a good week. I had 5 different cakes for my birthday: a baby shower cake, a butter pecan cake with brown sugar cream cheese icing, a spice cake, a chocolate cake with Sis. Orey's chocolate trifle on the side (that stuff is LEGENDARY), and a chocolate muffin my parents mailed to me a few days ago. Thank goodness it's bike week.
Well, that's about it. We had once investigator to church that is very studious about other religions, and he stayed for all 3 hours of church AND the baptism, despite back problems and other ailments that get worse over long periods of sitting. What a trooper!
We're still working with part-member families, trying to use the gospel as a way to create unity and family blessings, but it seems that these families have run into a point in their lives that are hard to focus on anything other than getting by day after day. We're doing our best to strengthen and support them.
Thank you, everyone, for birthday wishes, and other wishes on a successful mission. The next transfer period is on November 14, and I'm thinking these will be my final weeks in West Memphis.