Missionary work is the BEST!! My last week in the MTC was amazing! Because my Companion and I were the STLs, we got to work with the Zone Leaders to train the two new Districts that came into the MTC! It was so fun to greet them and give them a tour of the MTC, and then to do a few hours of orientation with them. It was amazing to see how much my companion and I, and our Zone Leaders have grown in just a week! We have been able to learn so much, grow so richly in the gospel, and increase our faith in Jesus Christ so that we can now train these new missionaries to do the same. I loved the experience.
At our last TRC appointment we taught a couple, Lois and Gerald, who had never met with missionaries before. Before we began the lesson they hinted to us that they were real investigators. After getting to know this couple and learning about their family and their lives, we began addressing some questions and concerns that they had. This led us to the restoration and the Book of Mormon. As we told them about the first vision, and the two personages that Joseph saw, Lois kept muttering, "that makes sense." They were amazed to learn that we believe that God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three separate beings, and they loved that principle! It was amazing to see how they had been prepared to hear our message and how it "made sense" to them as they recognized the message that is not new to them. I love missionary work!
The days prior to leaving the MTC, I could not contain my excitement for missionary work! I was so ready to leave the MTC and to get into the mission field! I know that I still have so much to learn, but I trust that as I have faith the Lord will stand by my side and help me in every moment. I am not nervous for any steps or for any upcoming trials, I know they will come and I am prepared to face them with the help of the Lord, I am so excited!
This area is a very difficult area for the church, it is very weak here. Pikeville is considered the "Belt Buckle" of the Bible Belt, so people are very rooted in their family church or religion. It can be difficult in such a weak Branch where the gospel is not very strong because the doctrine can easily be altered without anyone realizing it! As missionaries we often to correct members of the Branch Presidency or other church leaders when they start preaching false doctrine from the pulpit! Fast Sundays are a little scary, but they keep us on our toes! It can be pretty funny at times.
The people here are hilarious; literally everyone is a Hill-Billy! I love talking to people because I love sharing the gospel, but also because they are so entertaining to talk with! There is never a dull moment in Pikeville! There is a town in West Virginia called Buena Vista (a Spanish name). Say it out loud please, "Buena Vista".... That's not how you say it here! It is pronounced Byuna V-i-sta... I am pretty sure it is impossible to get more Southern than that! The people get offended if you pronounce it the "Spanish" way - I love it! I literally feel like I am in a foreign country: the climate is different (I love the humidity!!) the trees are different, the culture is VERY different, but I love it!
This area is incredibly poverty stricken though, the people are very poor. Education is rare, and many people have not worked for years. Their attitude is very interesting though; they either don't realize that they are living in poverty, or they are perfectly content with it. Their living status doesn't exactly humble them like missionaries would like, they are simply content. We will ask questions like, "Do you ever wonder if there is a purpose to life?" Most of the time the response is, "... uhhh, no." Great. We will work with that. Yesterday we talked to a man who just said, "Y'all don't need to preach to me! I am goin' to heaven with flyin' colors!" It can be difficult to talk to people sometimes haha, but they are funny and they are very optimistic! I am falling in love with these people!
(First apartment and car!)
I drove through my first Holler yesterday!! It was quite an experience, I have honestly never seen anything quite like it! I thought I knew what a true Hill-Billy was... then I drove through a Holler... NOW I can honestly say I have seen a TRUE Hill-Billy! What a sight....
Every day I receive a witness that this is exactly where I am supposed to be. I love the people here so much. It is an amazing experience to knock on someone's door, or walk up to someone in the park or on a street corner, and feel a sincere love for them, even though we have never spoken before. Missionary work is amazing. I love the study time we have each day, and I love working hard every day to bring people, even Hill-Billies, closer to Jesus Christ. What a blessing to be a part of this generation of missionaries. This work is remarkable, and it will continue to go forth until it has penetrated every continent. I LOVE BEING A MISSIONARY!