Expect this to be a short entry this week, folks.
We've endured bike week. Elder Bigelow and I are safe. It's been a week of going around, letting Elder Bigelow share with everyone how he got hit by a car a year ago and how he's now back in the area.
Not much has changed in anyone's progress since last week.
I guess there are a couple things I can touch on. I'll be telling stories, but they're not exactly happy ones.
Last Saturday (conference Saturday), Elder Bigelow and I attended a funeral in between sessions of conference. The funeral was for an investigator's "life partner", who passed away in a nursing home after fighting the side effects of a stroke for 3 years. Elder Bigelow, the investigator and I were the only Caucasian people at the funeral, so I felt a bit out of place.
The people were friendly, though, even though we had the name of another church pinned to our chests. It was held at a Baptist church with a Baptist preacher and I'm guessing an entirely Baptist congregation. That was the most intriguing point in my mission, being part of a world where prayers are shouted, you say "Amen" in the middle of every sentence, and songs of mourning are sung at a steady 3 beats per minute.
This past Saturday, we witnessed another funeral, but this one was different. Brother Mason, who was called to be second counselor in the branch presidency only a month ago, passed away from blood clots in his lungs. It was a terrible blow to the branch, losing one of the most powerful priesthood holders we had. It was a very solemn ceremony, where tears were shed from many members of the branch as well as friends and relatives.
It was somewhat amusing when the speaker, who was LDS, reiterated the Plan of Salvation to us, and described where Bro. Mason is now, when a woman a couple rows behind me whispered loudly to another woman, "I've never heard THAT before." As I explained to a member of the branch later, that is the doctrine Bro. Mason believed in (and we're all taught), so it is perfectly acceptable to share at his funeral.
During the fast and testimony meeting yesterday, many people went up to express love for Bro. Mason, and others got up to testify of how the Atonement heals heartache. I got up and thanked West Memphis for letting me stay 6 months of my mission out of the 12 I had already served.
I love this branch very much. They've been through so much loss these past few months, and the branch president is in a state of discouragement and heartache from it all. The Houstons had moved to Maine, Bro. Mason passed away, other members have been hospitalized and gone through car wrecks... You can imagine why I'm not exactly in the best of spirits at the moment. I still love the gospel, and I love the influence of the Atonement in my life. I really have to put it to practice over this next week, though.