Thursday, October 27, 2016

Email Diez - Patience is a Virtue

October 24, 2016

Well dearest family and friends, this week was...well it was something.

So I developed a bit of a cold, so that was fun trying to continue doing missionary work without appearing sick.  I did use it as an excuse to take a few naps because your immune system can't work if you aren't getting enough sleep. I got Elder Sotomarino sick as well, so we were quite the happy campers.

Let me give y'all the rundown on missionary work here in Arkansas with Hispanics:

So Hispanics are usually more open and inviting then most white people, which is nice, but I must admit I'm tired of hearing the saying, "pero soy Católico..." (but I'm Catholic) as an excuse. Well that's all nice and dandy sir or ma'am, but guess what the message of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ is for Catholics too. Congratulations. Good for you. But do you wanna be Catholic or do you want to receive all the blessings of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ?  Dad, you were completely right about these people, what you said would happen, happened in my first week. We taught a couple named José and María (we joked and asked them if they had a son named Jesus), we taught them the restoration and they absolutely 100% agreed with every word that came out of our mouths.  They agreed that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, and that the Book of Mormon is the word of God and that baptism could only be done through proper Priesthood authority which had been restored through Joseph Smith, so we were thinking, well this is great. When we invited them to be baptized: "Well we're Catholic and we don't want to change." No but just said 30 seconds ago... "We've already been baptized..." yes as Catholics but so has anyone who's ever taken a shower or gotten caught in the sprinklers..."Have a nice day, God Bless." .... what just happened... I'm convinced I've heard and seen it all.

Also, another thing about Hispanics: they are always working. Seven days a week. So, it is difficult to set appointments because so many of our investigators are never home. Also, many of them work graveyard shifts.  So, that makes it...yeah, basically impossible. And when we do catch them at home, they are completely exhausted from work and the last thing they want is to hear a knock at their door. (Side note, people here in the south go to bed at around 8:30 so knocking doors after dinner hasn't been very successful.) Here's something you should know about our branch here in Russellville. The Spanish branch has nearly 60 members, 8 of those members are regularly active. No that was not a typo. Thankfully, we have 4 core families  who are very strong in the church and keep the branch still existent: the Roque family (recent converts, the Espinoza family (who are planning on moving to Utah) the  Barrerá family (our branch mission leaders) and then Branch  President Hernandez who counts as a family because he's a champ. They are awesome and I love them to death, all the wives make amazing Mexican food. But because the wives are always taking care of children and the home, and the husbands are always working, we have not been able to teach one lesson with a member. Not one. We are starting to get chewed out by our district and zone leaders for that. Rightfully so. Members make such a big difference.

Yesterday in Sacrament meeting I started to get hopeful because all of the talks were relating to missionary work, and one brother got up and said that the branch couldn't expect the missionaries to do it on their own and that everyone needed to be a missionary. So after the meeting we asked him to teach with us that night, to which he agreed.  That night he never answered our texts or phone calls. So we went to our appointment alone. Only to have our investigator tell us he didn't have time to meet with us. It really feels like the world is against this little Russellville Branch growing.

 Also we were supposed to baptize an investigator Saturday. On Wednesday, our investigator

Miguél passed his baptismal interview, but then Friday told us he wasn't ready. Both Elder Anaya and Elder Sotomarino said they'd never seen anything like it before. We met with Miguél Saturday and sat down with him at the ward building.  We had the Roque, Espinoza and Barrera family come over and then bear their testimonies to him, and then we all played basketball together, so I don't know if that counts as a member lesson or not. But everything went really well and Miguél said he still wanted to be baptized and we had fun playing ball and we thought everything was okay. Then Sunday when we called him to come to church he hung up on us and never showed up. We tried to go see him yesterday afternoon but his mom told us he had gone to the gym. So yeah that was a pretty rough turn of events. McKay, you were right this is the hardest thing I've ever done. As Elder Holland said:  " If you're doing it right it will be the hardest thing you ever do." Half the time I don't even feel like I'm doing it right. I definitely feel the adversary coming after me. He may get me down, make me feel like I'm not good enough or can't make a difference from time to time. But I am absolutely and stubbornly resolute on this: Satan can't touch my testimony. I have not seen God, but I know He is there because I have seen His influence in my life. I have paid the price to know that this Gospel is true. Now I'm in the process of paying the price so that others can have that same knowledge.

Salvation isn't easy folks, it wasn't easy for our Savior when He suffered and died for our sins, and because of that I'm so grateful He's helping me every step of the way. I want to change guys. I know to become the servant He needs I have to. I love all y'all, thank you for your prayers and support, I'll keep working hard day in day out because I feel the support.


Elder Smalley


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Email Nueve - Howdy from Russellville!

October 17,2016

Well folks I've made it. I'm finally here. It's really really nice to not have to answer where I'm going on my mission anymore.

The last week in the MTC was sweet. I got to see my pals Elder Brayden Buttars and Elder Jaeron Masina come in two Wednesdays ago, which was awesome. Elder Buttars and his district just happened to be a couple doors down, but in a different branch, I still got to see him a bunch of times, which was a tender mercy, because I love that kid...I mean...Elder.

Last MTC  pic with my homies from the Branch
So Elder Ibarra and I really started to understand each other that last week, we worked out our silly little problems. We really gained a deep respect for each other, and I was able to learn to let go of my pride, which definitely needed to happen. I said goodbye to him 1 week ago at 3:30 in the morning, then I spent the rest of that day either packing by myself or with Elder Villarreal and Elder Ramon. It was weird. The MTC went by so dang fast. Really glad I had six weeks instead of 3.

Then Tuesday morning I finished packing and then said goodbye to rest of the district (the three still there left that morning too). Driving down I-15 at 4 in the morning was strange, especially since I could see Herriman from the bus. We arrived at the airport, checked in, found our gate. The pin for the pay phone Poppa Smalls gave me didn't work, so I had to ask a lady to borrow her phone. Hearing my parents voices really made me tear up, talking to them was such a tender mercy, I can't wait till Christmas.

Then we boarded, and took off, and said goodbye to Utah for 22 months. It was really funny because I sat next to an English speaking Elder going to Little Rock named Elder Smalling(yeah that made things really confusing I'll explain later), and it was his first time flying. He saw his house from the airplane after we took off, and his mind was absolutely BLOWN. You should have seen the look on this kids face. Hilarious.

Then we landed in Atlanta, had a quick missionary moment talking to a lady who had been to Palmyra New York, then boarded for Little Rock. I was able to read Be the Fourth Missionary and the 10 page letter that McKay wrote me, and both changed my life. I was really pumped as we landed, I just wanted to land and get the heck out there, finally stop talking about missionary work and start doing it!

beatiful view of the mississippi river flying in
Flying over Arkansas was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. Farm field after farm field, just good ole southern green country wide open spaces by the grace of God, and then out of nowhere: LITTLE ROCK. I knew I was gonna like this place. We landed, and met President and Sister Wakolo at the baggage claim. The we got our bags, went outside, where we drove to a chapel in Little Rock and there I learned that I would be going to RUSSELVILLE ARKANSAS GETTING TRAINED BY ELDERS SOTOMARINO AND ANAYA!

Elder Sotomarino is from Peru, and as you can guess; a native speaker, which I was so grateful for. Elder Anaya is half Mexican and straight out of Los Angeles. I love these guys to death. I'm so lucky to get such awesome trainers. They have the same sense of humor as me, and everything in our companionship just flows really nicely, and they are both hilarious, so we have had lots of good times already.

So we stayed in Little Rock for a few days to have meetings about getting acquainted with the mission and everything we need to know. Every time President Wakolo said either my name or Elder Smalling's name it was super confusing because of his thick Fijian accent. But President is awesome, such a powerful guy. I met with him one on one, shook his hand, and said: "President, you're not going to have to worry about me." He was pretty happy about that.

Thursday we drove to Russellville. I was terrified entering the field, but now I don't even miss the MTC, just the people. I love it here. Lemme say that again, I LOVE IT HERE! I love the food, the culture, the people, everything.

Everyone here has a VERY VERY VERY THICK SOUTHERN ACCENT AND IT IS SO AWESOME. Basically every stereotype about the South is true here. People here are so friendly, people who aren't members (so pretty much everyone) will honk and wave at the missionaries, I feel like a celebrity! Everyone here is Christian, there is some church every couple blocks, and people are so open about Religion so talking about and sharing the gospel isn't hard at all.

Finding Hispanics has been hard because it has been bike week aka walk week because Elder Sotomarino doesn't have a bike. So we haven't been able much because we are always walking, but it's okay, it gives more opportunities to get honked at and waved to!  When we have been able to teach it's been incredible.

STORY TIME: One time we were walking through some apartments trying to find Hispanics when this very very very drunk white guy starts yelling at us: "BOY OH BOY HAVE YOU COME TO THE RIGHT PLACE, COME OVER HERE YOU SINNERS!"

So come to find out this fellers name is Bobby. Bobby says (in very explicit terms) he used to love Mormons, shoot the good ole boy has even read the Book of Mormons cover to cover, but because of something Mitt Romney did (I have know idea what) he doesn't like Mormons as much. But after talking to this feller for a little bit he warmed up to us. We had a more pleasant than expected conversation, then suddenly his crazy also very drunk wife came out and flashed us (not making this up I swear, but lucky for me I was able to look away before getting scarred for life) and told us she didn't believe in God, and then went back inside. What lovely people.

Turns out his neighbor is Latino and the wife just recently had a miscarriage, Bobby told us, "THEY NEED Y'ALLS GO TALK TO EM." You got it Bobby.

We talked to his neighbor, and set up an appointment. Can't wait to share Moroni chapter 8 with that poor mother.

This Church is dang true folks, in less than a week, I've seen how God directs His work. Truly a privilege to serve Him.

Con amor,
Elder Smalley

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Email Ocho - Hola Y'all from Arkansas!

October 11, 2016
Elder Smalley (3rd from the left) with all new missionaries
I made it!  I'm emailing from one of my companions iPads, I get mine tomorrow! My first area will be Russellville Arkansas! Both of my trainers are Latino, super grateful for that, I already know I'm gonna love them both, my Spanish is really coming along! Getting to talk to you this morning was such a tender mercy!
I love you, I'm gonna work hard for you😘❤️

Elder Smalley

Elder Smalley with President & Sister Wakolo
Elder Smalley with his trainers Elder Anaya and Elder Soto

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Email Siete - Arkansas, here I come!

October 4, 2016

Well folks this will be my last email from Prison!  Excuse me, I meant MTC, sorry for the typo... Like I've said, I love it here and I wouldn't trade it for anything, but I am convinced I'm losing my mind from sitting in class for 12 hours a day.  I GOT MY FLIGHT PLANS FRIDAY! LET’SSSS GOOOOOOOOO! I will fly out to Atlanta (no surprise there) then Little Rock, Tuesday morning. My flight is at 7:20, but I will have to report to the travel office at 3:30 am, so that will be a joy! 

Honestly I'm super nervous going into the field. Here in Mormonville, Provo, Utah, everyone shares the same beliefs as me, the crime rate is preferable, everything is handy dandy, and then….BOOM!  Welcome to the real world Elder Smalley!  In a week, I will begin the hardest experience of my life, so hopefully I can just hold out till I get my footing a little bit. Pray for me folks😂🙏. 

Shoutout to Dad for sending me sports updates!  It stinks that BYU has lost three close ones, I don't know what happened this weekend.  Also Alabama is number one...of course...😒. I'm still convinced BYU lost to Utah because some elders were being disobedient and watching the game on ESPN.  Chumps.  Also folks, can I get on my soapbox for a minute, WHY DOES BEING OBEDIENT HAVE TO BE SO HARD FOR SOME PEOPLE?  I haven't been perfectly obedient here, but I sure am trying (the no dancing gets me every time). There's an elder in our district and everyday I have to yell at him for not getting up at 6:30.  Elder Ibarra has a video of me LITERALLY DRAGGING HIM OUT OF BED! (I can send that later because it's hilarious). His definition of getting up is different than mine, and the Lord's. The white handbook says arise at 6:30!  Arise implies getting out of bed dude! 

Time to talk about the real highlight of the week: General Conference of course. WOW. Basically during the entire first session Saturday morning I was crying. It was pretty funny, I was sitting next to these sister missionaries I had just met and talked to before the session started and then I was bawling the whole time.  I didn't have any tissues and my nose runs really bad when I cry, so it was not pretty!  Kind of embarrassing, but good thing I'm a missionary now and don't care what girls think anymore😋. 

What really got me was Elder Hales's talk. "We come to know Him by loving and serving each other...His perfect love inspires us to help one another."  That was a direct answer to a prayer and a question I had written down.  Lately I have been praying for charity because it's really bothered me how self-centered I can be sometimes.  When Elder Hales used the phrase "perfect love", I immediately thought of my mom.  Like Elder Holland has said, the love of a mother is the most Christ-like love in this world.  That is especially true for my momma. We have been taught here that when we focus on the needs of others instead of ourselves, that is when we will find the most success.  Well lemme tell ya, if that's the case, my momma is as good a missionary as any prophet in the scriptures because for my entire life, and the lives my siblings, Momma Smalls has sacrificed herself for us.  She has given of her time and her effort for our welfare and benefit.  And she has done so while dealing with incredible pain almost constantly. I've been so blessed to receive the best of the best for a mom.  I know she has quite the mansion prepared for her in Heaven for all the wonderful things she has done and will continue to do. Dad you're alright too.

So in conclusion, I have been blessed with two examples of perfect love. The Savior and my momma. So if I want to have more charity, I can follow both of their examples, because they are one in the same. 

There were so many awesome parts about general conference. Too much to talk about in one email, or any number of emails. I hope y'all paid attention to Elder Bednar's talk, because that was right on the money, very similar to Character of Christ. I hope this conference was everything for you that it was for me, so many life changing messages in two days.  We are so blessed to receive revelation from the brethren twice a year. 

Also I finished the Book of Mormon Sunday for the 5th time, and I found out it's true...AGAIN!
Pretty neat stuff. Also we met Elder Reis from the District one, he's a teacher here now!


SUNDAY NIGHT VOCAL POINT CAME AND DID A DEVOTIONAL!!!!! THAT WAS SO SWEET AND BASICALLY A DREAM COME TRUE!  They sang a song called "I'll never be the same" and I started to tear up because I know that I will never be the same because of my mission, my priorities, my desires, my goals have done a 180, but don't worry folks, I'm changing in the best kind of way. I still get super frustrated at myself with how much of a bumski I can be some times, but I believe I can say I'm headed in the right direction!

To any who has sent me a letter and has not heard back from me, I AM TRULY SORRY AND I WILL TRY TO SEND ONE TODAY IF I CAN. For those of you who actually read these, thank you. I'm sure there are more stories I could tell but I can't remember any of them so hopefully this'll do! Also I've given up on making my emails grammatically perfect. It's just too much effort.

So next time I email it will be almost two weeks from now and after what will probably be the hardest week of my life up until now!  How exciting!  Can't wait!  Hard is how you grow, and I definitely need a lot of growth!  I'm forever grateful for my time here, and I know that in less than five weeks Iv'e changed forever, and I have a lot more that needs to change! 
I love y'all, chose the right, and REPENT!  Talk to y'all in two weeks.

Elder Smalley