Monday, June 10, 2013

I Made it to West Virginia!

 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!

We had to get up at 1:45 am to get to our bus on time, which dropped us off in front of the Salt Lake Airport. We got our bags checked and then waited for our flight to take off. It was an amazing sight to be surrounded by literally hundreds of missionaries who were making their way through the airport to their respective gates as they all prepared to enter the mission field. There were 21 missionaries who flew to West Virginia, the 12 members of our District, and 11 others. We were a big group! We made a connection in Detroit, and as all 21 of us walked through the Detroit airport we could hear passing groups of people whispering, "Those are the Mormon Missionaries." I have never been so proud to be wearing my name tag! I love standing out as a representative of Jesus Christ!

When we arrived in Charleston I was blown away by the beauty of it! The Appalachian mountains roll on and on forever! They are carpeted in a thick, dense, lush layer of trees! The hills are very very steep, but not too high. There are so many mountains, and they are so close together, that the city has to literally cut off the top of a mountain to build any large building, like the airport! I will not see a sunset for the next 18 months because when you are in town, (all the towns are build between mountains) you can't see the sky unless you look straight up! It is amazingly beautiful here, I love how green it is! Everywhere!

Our plane landed, and all 21 of us mobbed President and Sister Pitt! They were there to greet us and help us get our luggage. The AP's greeted us at the airport as well and helped us commute to the mission home. That night the Pitt's housed ALL OF US except 3 of the Sisters, who stayed with the Charleston Sister missionaries. The remaining 18 of us stayed at the Pitt's and occupied every available bed or floor space. Meals were absolutely chaotic, but the Pitt's were so gracious. I have come to love them so much.

We arrived in Charleston on Tuesday afternoon, June 4th, and Wednesday was completely devoted to more in-field training with the APs. Thursday was transfer day; we were assigned an area and a trainer. I was assigned to the Pikeville, Kentucky area! My trainer is Sister Ostler, she just completed her training! She has been in the mission field for 12 weeks! President told me that as soon as I was done training, I would begin training as well! So in 11 weeks I will be a trainer; the bar has truly been raised! President likes to say, "Babies are training babies." It is true! The Lord really does trust us!

Sister Ostler is a wonderful trainer! We are very similar, and I love it! We study and work and teach the same! We work hard, and we are exactly obedient, we are diligent and prayerful in all that we do, and we make it fun! We laugh all the time. When we work and teach together we are bold and confident in our message.

Pikeville is a very small town of 6,000 people, and it is squashed among all the mountains! It is absolutely beautiful here, I love everything about it! Our Branch consists of 25-30 active members, many of whom leave town frequently. When members leave town, the missionaries are often asked last minute to teach their lessons or give their talks, so we are very involved and active with the branch! It is great. My first Sunday here we taught gospel doctrine, and next Sunday I am speaking in Sacrament meeting. Sister Ostler and I are always prepared to teach something!

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....

The church is not very strong here, but my testimony of faith has grown incredibly since I began working with the people in Pikeville! It is not too difficult to find new investigators, but it is extremely difficult to help people understand the importance of progressing and keeping commitments. We work so hard every single day, talk to everyone we see, obey with exactness, follow up, and exercise strong faith, but our investigators do not progress. It is challenging, but we have seen blessings as a result of our diligence!

Last week Sister Ostler felt prompted to take our spare apartment key out of our house and give it to a ward member to hold onto for us. On Saturday we locked our house key (with the car key) inside the house. Luckily we had the phone with us! So we were able to call the Smiths, who had our spare key, and ask them to drop it off. We had been on our way to the Library to do some research on, and we had a dinner appointment and a lesson that night. As we waited for the Smiths to stop by, we decided to tract a street near ours. At the first house we approached, an elderly man and woman were sitting on their porch smoking, staring at the mountain in front of them (that is what everyone does here). We talked with them for a long time about their family, and the elderly woman told us about some struggles she was having with her family. We testified of the importance of our message and the joy and peace that we know it could bring to her family. We gave her a card with our phone number and promised to stop by again. Two potential investigators.

By the time we finally got our key and were able to drive the car, we were an hour behind schedule. As we drove by the park on our way to the library, we saw one of our less active members sitting at a picnic table with a friend of hers. We quickly found a parking spot and made our way toward her. She was excited to see us, and she introduced us to her friend, Don. They invited us to sit with them, and she immediately began telling Don who we are and what we do. Then she said, "Don, do you want to learn more? They can teach you right now! Sisters, do you wanna teach Don right now?" I almost laughed because I was so excited!

For over an hour we read from the Book of Mormon and got to know Don. He was excited to learn about missionaries and what we do, and he was interested in our message. We committed him to read a chapter in the Book of Mormon, prayed with him, and set up a return appointment. The less active woman came to church the next day. If Sister Ostler and I had not been an hour behind schedule, we may not have been able to teach them. Another potential investigator.
After our dinner appointment, our lesson was canceled. We needed some anti-itch cream for Sister Ostler's garden of bug bites, so we ran to WalMart. As we were walking down the aisle, we saw a woman pushing a shopping cart, and pulling another. She had a car seat and a baby in one, and a toddler in the other. We stopped to talk with her, and she began telling us about her baby who died last year. He was only 3 months old. She was very open about her life and her trials. We talked about her family, her loss, and our message for nearly 45 minutes in WalMart. She is excited to meet with us again. Another potential investigator. But if our appointment had not been canceled, we would not have run into her. The Lord carefully watches our path and the paths of others. He strategically places us so that we will meet the people who are prepared to hear our message. I know that because we had faith and were diligent and obedient, the Lord helped us to exceed our goals for the day. He is in charge and He is aware of us!

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!

Sister Shumway

1 comment:

  1. Sister Shumway, you are rocking the Mission field! I'm so proud of you and all of the Sisters and Elders out there finding those in need of the truth and light of the Gospel. So many are starving for truth! Keep up the good work!

    Shelley Barlow