Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Email veintiuno: First week of transfer 3

January 9, 2017 
First and foremost I want to thank my parents and siblings that sent me emails of encouragement, maybe my email last week was pretty concerning, but I want to y'all to know that I am much better now, and you guys are a big reason why.

a "sketchy" shack we often pass by
Monday after saying goodbye to Elder Sotomarino in North Little Rock, I spent the majority of the rest of the day playing basketball. There were about 25 other Elders there so we had plenty of people to play with. I had completely forgotten to bring P day clothes so played in missionary attire. The first game we played full court. The white handbook explicitly says if you play basketball, only play half court. They asked me to join so I took off my tie and name tag and jumped in, thinking it would be half court. Then the game started and I quickly found out that all 10 of us on the court were not being obedient. I tried to raise my voice and say something, but everyone just kept playing so I just went with it and kept playing. I should have just walked off the court. I don't want to be an exception missionary, I want to be a rule missionary. That day I promised myself I will never again play another full court game on my mission, even if everyone else chooses to ignore that rule.

We got snow! Yep that's our car ... very funny
At around 4:30 Elder Toomer arrived. I have to say, he's made quite the first impression on me. I love this guy! He has been out for 6 months, only one transfer more than I, making us one of the younger companionships in the mission, and keeping the Russellville District tradition of being the greenest in the mission. Elder Toomer is from Cokeville Wyoming, population 500! And people think Herriman is small! And yes that is the same Cokeville as portrayed in the movie Cokeville miracle. He is a small-town, hard working, and very funny guy. He is EXTREMELY obedient. I absolutely love that, it's hard to find some times in this mission. If there is a question if something is obedient, he doesn't even question it. He also loves country music as well, so you already know we get along great.

Brother Walter Smith (Russellville Ward mission leader) gave us a ride back in his famous missionary transport van. Monday night we drove all the way out THE STICKS to have dinner with the Carnathans, who have a 47 acre ranch up in the mountains. Wouldn't mind living there.

Tuesday we got out contacting. Elder Toomer is crazy. When he knocks doors he POUNDS on the door, then if they don't answer after 15 seconds, he pounds on the window and the side of the house or jumps up and down on the porch. I was just glad no one called the cops! We had a ton of fun and set a bunch of return appointments and found some pretty awesome people as well.

an area we tracted
 Friday we had an awesome lesson! We went to this lady's trailer named S (Spanish speaking). Her mom comes out and starts talking to us about how much she loves the missionaries. Then we get into teaching the Restoration and the mother begins explaining the Restoration to S, and we're thinking: holy cow she knows a lot! Then out of nowhere the mom says: "by the way...(English paraphrase) I was baptized in your church. WHAT?! She was a member! She was baptized years ago in California, then went inactive and moved here. We had an amazing lesson, probably taught the Restoration as clearly as I have ever taught it, and S seems super golden!

S and T update: so Saturday we were planning on giving the wedding ring to T, we waited for a solid hour for him to get home but he never did, and S never opened the door when we knocked. Then Sunday morning T texts that he never slept the night before, and needs to talk to us. We arrive at the apartment, knock about 10 times, HARD. Finally I screamed "¡T estamos aquí!" That woke him up and he answered the door and invited us in. We enter an the apartment is a complete disaster, trash and food and all kinds of things all over the floor. Then through tears he told us that he and S got in a huge fight and he had found out some pretty dark stuff, and she had left for her Mom's house. He told me this literally as I had the ring in the pocket of my coat. I'm heartbroken for the guy.

and the awesome letter I got
from my niece Abbie
He still ended up coming to church yesterday, after a sleepless night, but had to leave before Sacrament meeting because he had work at 1pm until 1am. What a champ. Pray for him please.

On a happier note I think I figured out what I want to do with my life when I get home. Elder Toomer told me that I was a really good writer, and I thought about how much I enjoyed writing and Literature classes in high school, what the heck, I'll be an author! I've always had a passion for writing, but I always told myself it's not stable enough, but I'm not gonna let money stop my dreams folks. I don't know the first thing about being author so we'll see how it works out. The highlight of my week was a letter from Dad. It was in response to last weeks letter, and made me cry pretty good.

 Well I'm outta time folks, but now I am doing 1000x better and this was probably the best week yet because of all I have learned! Church is true, Book is blue, Dad you're a champ, and Mom you are too

Email veinte: Transfers and Miracles

January 2, 2017
This week was pretty interesting.

Feliz año nuevo!
Tuesday: we had Zone Conference in Conway. At the beginning of the conference I was holding back tears. We talked about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, what it means to have faith. I felt so bad, because I realized that in the past few weeks I have had very little faith as a missionary. I have been so pessimistic and negative in my thinking, I really had lacked the faith to believe that I could have a good mission, and that things would work out, and that I could find success. Every returned missionary I talk to, including Dad, Joel, Erinn, and McKay, tell me that they miss the mission and would do anything to go back. I feel super guilty because I feel far too often that the mission is simply a trial that I have to pass through, a two year prison sentence for the reward of blessings afterward. I asked myself many times "How am I going to make it through the next 20 months?" But I don't want to simply "make it through" my mission. I want to enjoy it. I want it to change me. I desperately need it to change me.

My old DL, Elder Hooker is going home!
After Zone Conference we went and ate lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings. It was really strange because I heard a ton of songs from back home, worldly music, and on the tvs they had 3 different college football bowl games on, as well as a replay of the Cavs Warriors game on Christmas Day. I couldn't keep my eyes off the tvs, jaja. The English Elders did an exchange with the Zone Leaders, so on the drive back to Russellville I told our Zone Leader Elder Johnson how I wasn't sure how I was going to make it through the rest of my mission. He told me he remembers feeling the same way.

So is Elder Carter!
When we got back to my apartment. I found a package from Grandma and Grandpa Erb. I felt so discouraged I went upstairs and vented everything out that I was feeling in an open ended prayer to Heavenly Father. "I'm struggling right now. I don't know how I'm gonna do this. I miss my Dad. I wish I could talk to him. Talking with him always really helped me out. He tells me he's proud of me, but I feel like I have done nothing to make him proud. I feel like everything that's wrong with the area here in Russellville is my fault, that the church isn't growing here because of me. I'm too scared, too ashamed, too awkward, and too weak to talk to people. I'm too weak to help the work progress. It's because of me that nothing is happening here. It's my fault. Sometimes I feel like I don't deserve to be happy." I cried and I cried and I cried.

 When finally got myself together, I went downstairs and opened the package from Grandma and Grandpa: cookie brownies (they were delicious). At the top was a note from Erinn. She told me she loved me and was proud of me, and at the end, she said: "You can do this." Then I cried and cried again, but for a different reason this time. I felt such a powerful outpouring of love, I knew that was an answered prayer. And it kept me going.

They made him a cake!
Thursday we did an exchange with the English Elders. I went with Elder Barnes. It was really funny because we are both greenies and still being trained (well...I was still being trained at that point). I tried to be super silly and animated and excited. Elder Barnes is a great guy, and fun to be around, but when he starts teaching the Gospel, he gets very timid and speaks quietly and forgets to smile. So I was trying to force this principle very firmly in him, and I exaggerated the smiling and the enthusiasm to do so. Well what did all this enthusiasm yield? Two Book of Mormons passed out and two teenagers yelling "Hail Satan" at us. Even though every appointment fell through, we still enjoyed it. I've learned the sucky experiences are just as valuable as the good experiences.

The goodbye this morning
Saturday we had dinner with S and T, and celebrated the New Year. They really are the best. Then we got the transfer news: Elder Sotomarino will be going to speak English in Blyville, Arkansas, and I will be staying here in Russellville with...Elder Toomer. I really was shocked, and to be honest, a bit disappointed. I really thought I had at least another transfer with Elder Sotomarino. We really got close, we were like best friends. I'm really going to miss having a native speaker as a companion. It has been so helpful, and got us in a lot of doors. I'm really going to miss him.

The good thing is that I've already met Elder Toomer, I met him at my training meeting. I'm excited to start working with him. He should get here in about 20 minutes. (I'm writing this from North Little Rock). When Selina and Tomás found out Elder Sotomarino was leaving they invited us over for dinner again last night. I want to say that they are the best again. And they came to church yesterday.

The Church is true, Book is blue, I'm now done with transfer two.

 Love y'all!

Email diecinueve: Last Email of the Year

December 26, 2016
So since 2016 is coming to a close let's take a look at the year:
  • January: I started my mission papers
  • February: I got accepted into BYU!!!
  • March: we were witnesses to the greatest march madness in college basketball history #Villanova clutch
  • April: I became legal and FINALLY sent in my mission papers
  • May: I received my mission call......TO THE GREATEST MISSION IN THE WORLD
  • June: I graduated high school and I started COLLEGE at BYU for Summer Term!
  • July: I said goodbye to Elder Stallings, Elder Duval, Elder Tillman, and other departing missionaries and basically lost all my friends from Herriman...
  • August: Summer term ended, moved back home for 3 weeks, worked at the temple, and set off for my greatest adventure of my life
  • September: enjoyed my time and made amazing friends at the MTC in good ole Provo Utah USA
  • October: I entered...THE FIELD.
  • November: I completed my first transfer and said goodbye to Elder Anaya and our family of three, and celebrated my second straight Thanksgiving eating tacos 
  • December: Elder Sotomarino and I continue to strengthen the area here in Russellville as best we can, and hope for our first baptism and celebrate our first Christmas away from home

I got Camo for Christmas!
All in all 2016 wasn't a bad year, some pretty awesome stuff happened, along with some not so awesome stuff, I sincerely hope that 2017 is an even better year...  Now that we've talked about the past year, let's talk about the past week.  Monday we basically did absolutely nothing for P day but sit on our butts in the Church building, that's basically been every P day this transfer...super lame that night we had a dinner with a member who was super strong in the Gospel but out of nowhere just stopped going to church about 6 weeks ago. We don't know what's going on but he said he should be able to come this next Sunday so we shall see.

Tuesday we had District meeting, and talked about our 7 baptismal dates that fell through... WE GOTTA GET PEOPLE TO CHURCH. The English Elders felt super sick after District meeting so we took them back to our apartment, fed them, and let them sleep while we finished studies. I even gave Elder Janes my delicious leftover spaghetti and tucked him in. And what did I receive in turn for this kind deed? Well I won't go into details, but it was pretty crappy ... those two hooligans got me sick.

When you haven't eaten in days,
a simple bowl of cereal simply
is not enough!
So we had to spend all of Wednesday of most of Thursday in the apartment...I got to catch up on sleep... but I drove me nuts being stuck in the apartment. Friday was Glorious because I finally got to eat again. Food glorious food. Fun fact, the 23rd is also Joseph Smith's birthday. I'm so glad for the life of the Prophet Joseph, for all the sacrifices he made so we could enjoy the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Saturday was of course Christmas Eve. We got to have a few lessons and give Christmas cards to a bunch of our investigators. We had dinner with David Bunton and his dad, and watched Meet Me in Saint Louis. Don't worry, we covered our eyes during the kissing scene. After we had ANOTHER dinner, this time with S and T. Long story short, after our lesson with them on Monday, they are still unsure about the whole marriage thing, pray for them please.

But dinner with them was amazing. Our bellies were about ready to explode, we didn't tell them we had just come from another dinner. S cooked a super spicy sopa, which was good but hard to eat on a full stomach. We love them lots.

Yesterday (CHRISTMAS!) was amazing, we spent all day with the English Elders, I love those guys to death. Elder Barnes has really come to be a great friend of mine. I thought when I first met him that he was just super quiet and shy and kinda nerdy, but I've gotten to know him, and he is the coolest. He is super funny and so kind. He has an amazing Spirit with him.

We opened presents together at our apartment Christmas morning. That was so much fun, I really got so cool gifts, thanks to my wonderful family! They are an even better gift though.

Church was good, we went to both the English and Sacrament hours, but S and T never came to church... we drove over to their apartment and knocked and we saw someone look through the blinds but no one ever answered us it was a bummer, so their baptismal date is toast for sure now... We will continue to do our best to bring them to the waters of baptism and the true church of Jesus Christ.

AND now the biggie: SKYPE WITH THE FAM That was such a tender mercy to speak with my family and hear their voices and see their faces. I treasured every second of it, I couldn't stop smiling. I love them soooooo much and the knowledge that I get to be with them forever is my motivation for everything. The awesomeness of my family itself is a testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel.

Also while we were waiting for Elder Barnes to finish his call I happened to find some anti-Mormon literature lying around in the office (we Skyped in the Bishops law office). It was this super old book written by this Baptist dude who had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. It was hilarious. I had a good laugh reading that crap. It ended up building my testimony of the reality of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I know it happened, and it doesn't matter what lies others say in attempt to disprove or belittle the truth, it doesn't make it cease to be truth.

The Church is True, the Book is Blue, I know it, and so can you too ;)

Email dieciocho: Ready for a Christmas Miracle

December 19, 2016
Howdy folks!
Monday we went back to our apartment and finished weekly planning, which is what we will be doing tonight as well haha. We never have time on Fridays, they are the busiest days.

Wednesday we had the Christmas Zone Conference. All three Zones in Arkansas were there, I had seen that many missionaries since the MTC jaja. The first part of Zone Conference was basically the actual Zone Conference, we heard from President Wakolo and Sister Wakolo, as well as an area Seventy named Elder Behesti. Elder Behesti gave a talk and compared missionaries to Navy Seals.

In order to become a Seal, you have to pass through training. Only about 4 of every hundred applicants pass through training and go on to become Navy Seals. The hardest part to pass is not a physical or mental test, the hardest part is the bed and uniform inspection. Many soldiers are turned away because they don't know how to make their bed or present their uniform properly.

Santa!!! (I swear I do not have my
thumb in Elder Janes' nose)
Many potential Seals, even after having done everything properly, are told that they failed, and that they have to go jump in the ocean or roll in the sand, making them what they call "a sugar cookie". Many soldiers have their pride so hurt by this that they choose to drop out. Elder Behesti said to be successful missionaries, we have to get over being a sugar cookie.

Then afterwards we had a talent show, which was really fun, a few missionaries got up and did dances. Two Elders got up and danced to Christmas Trap music, which was pretty awesome. Then we had a minute to win it challenge and we had a bunch of fun activities. Then to finish we had an activity where they showed pictures of every missionary in all three zones. That was a bunch of fun.

Then President Wakolo got up and and talked about how his heart hurt that we had to be away from home for the Holidays, so of course that made me cry. He said he loves us so much for the sacrifice we make to be here, and he is grateful for the work we have done, that makes me want to work even harder.

Friday we had interviews with President. That man is called of God, I'm a witness to that. He is so spiritual, and what's so impressive is that he's a convert. He was Christian before he joined the Church, his knowledge of the Old Testament is really impressive.

Saturday we cleaned the apartment for 3 hours because of a challenge from the Zone Leaders, that was soooooo needed. The apartment looks immaculate. It's so nice to live in a clean place. I really have come to love our apartment. Being on a mission has made me want to live off campus when I get back to BYU.

We have a very own tree!

 Here's the catch: T leaves to join the Marines in January, and they want to have a nice wedding and don't have they money for a ring....BUT THE LORD PROVIDES MY FRIENDS We had dinner with Sister McMullin last night, and I felt a prompting to start telling her about S and T....so she goes into her room ... comes back WITH A WEDDING RING AND SAYS: "You can have this it's from my first marriage." I almost cried. THEY GON GET HITCHED FOLKS.
We are going to visit T tonight and talk to him about planning a wedding and proposing to S....PRAY FOR US PEEPS WE NEED THEM PRAYERS. We are really praying hard it all works out ... I'm fasting today, I BELIEVE IN CHRISTMAS MIRACLES.

Let's talk about Christmas: This will be my first Christmas away from home, but I'll be home if only in my dreams I'm okay jaja I promise ;) I hope all y'all forget yourself this Christmas, forget about what you want, think about what your Father in Heaven wants from you, what your Savior wants from you, and I invite you to pray for strength to align your will with Theirs and repent

That's my counsel for Christmas, I promise it will be the best Christmas yet. Say a prayer of gratitude for your family, especially if you're lucky enough to be with em this year.

Love y'all. Church is true, Book is blue, #LIGHTtheWORLD with everything that you do!

Email diecisiete: First taste of Little Rock

December 12, 2016

Well folks another week has passed down here so lemme tell y'all about my week 

Tuesday the Spanish Zone Leaders, Elder Spencer and Elder Jorgensen drove up from Little Rock to do exchanges. Elder Spencer stayed in nearby Danville to go on exchanges with Elder Santiago, and we were stuck with Elder Jorgensen.

Turns out Elder Jorge forgot to bring their phone and left it in Little Rock. Because he is a Zone Leader and has to call a bunch of people throughout the day, and because we were going to have a Teleconference with the Spanish Zone that night, we decided to drive back to Little Rock and do exchanges there instead of Russellville. I was all for, a change of scenery for a day or two seemed real nice. Lemme tell you a little bit about Elder Jorgensen, he's a really cool guy. He's from Sandy, is also 6'3" and 160 pounds, and also loves skiing, so we got a lot in common. We hit it off pretty well.

On the drive down to Little Rock, we listened to Feed My Sheep by Elder Holland, this was my second time hearing it and let me tell ya, it affected me even more this time. It made me really feel blessed to have a resource like Preach My Gospel. I decided I seriously have to start using it more, with more sincere intent. My goal is to read it cover to cover in the next few months. We also listened to this talk in a podcast series called Mr Mormon. One of the podcasts was a 45 minute long talk on why the Priesthood was restricted from Blacks until 1978.

from our stay at the "hotel"
I really thought it was cool so here's what it says in a nutshell: Many people don't know that when the Church was first organized, the Priesthood was available to men of all races and nationalities. I believe he said it was about the year 1848 when the restrictions were placed on who could receive it, but before that a few black saints had actually received the Priesthood, the restriction was in affect for only 130 years. The author goes on to explain that in the time of the Old Testament, from the time of Moses until Jesus, only descendants of the tribe of Levi could hold the Priesthood. Not even King David or King Solomon could participate in tabernacle ordinances because they were from the tribe of Judah, and thus couldn't hold the Priesthood. Do we know why? No. But we do know that God loves us all equally and his ways and purposes are greater than the understanding of Man. The Priesthood was restricted from people of a certain lineage for 1400 years in the Old Testament, and then again for 130 in these Latter Days, and we do not know why, but God does.

When we arrived in Little Rock, we made ourselves comfortable. The Zone Leaders apartment is SUPER nice, everything is newly refurbished, it felt like staying in a nice hotel.

Then we went and taught one of the coolest couples I've ever met. The wife is from Argentina and has a really cool accent, and the husband is from France and speaks Spanish as a second language, WITH A FRENCH ACCENT. It was seriously so cool. Their two sons speak French, English, and Spanish. The wife is pretty golden, she had read all the way through Lehi's dream. I never thought I'd get to see such incredible diversity here, IN ARKANSAS. So cool. A city of 300 thousand people is a lot different than Russellville. All the traffic seemed pretty crazy in comparison, I felt like I was in California again.

Wednesday as we drove back we listened to Glen Beck's conversion story. Super powerful. He talks about how he
My comp reading a Jehova's
witness study reference book
overcame alcoholism, I don't think I'd realized just how serious a problem and an addiction that can be until I listened to this talk. He then explained how he he was drawn to the Church because it encourages seeking, actively testing God for answers, as if He is telling us "Try Me." I love that about the Gospel. One thing we try to explain to investigators is that we don't expect them to believe us, we expect them to go to God and let him tell them the truth.

Thursday we decided to go handout Light the World pass along cards in a Grocery store. Eventually a store worker came up to us and told us we couldn't pass out cards anymore because people were starting to complain. That hurt my heart a little bit. All we were doing was saying "would you like a Christmas card?" And "Have a lovely day." I was surprised, I could see people getting upset in other parts of the country, but I expected more from you Arkansas. I should have known better, you did vote for Trump after all. I'm losing hope for you America. I love you but you're breaking my heart.

I hope y'all have looked in #LIGHTtheWORLD already, such a great message, I cry every time I watch the video.

Saturday we had about 10 lessons fall through, but we taught two new Investigators with Hermano Roque, so that was a miracle. We are gonna teach S and T the law of Chastity tonight, pray for us! I promised I would only email an hour today so I'll have to stop right there, but love y'all.

The Church is True, Book is blue, emailing one hour should be nothing new. (My bad on that one)

Email dieciséis: Looks like 2017 is gonna be a good year

December 5, 2016

Let me start off by saying this: this week was awesome. And also this: miracles happen. Basically that's all you need to know about this week. 

So for those of you who are already bored, you are not obligated to read any further. For those of you who want details, ask and ye shall receive:

y'all can admire my haircut
Monday through Wednesday we basically got nothing done missionary work wise because we were either doing service, getting haircuts and then getting haircuts again because of a bad first haircut, or trying to finish weekly planning (we never got to do it last Friday because we had so many appointments). We finally got it done Tuesday. Wednesday we hadn't gotten anything done, we had planned to contact people all day in public. We tried to talk to people in Walmart without being creepy, which is very difficult. As a result of 5 hours of finding efforts we had two lessons set for the weekend, one of which actually ended up happening.

Basically here's my problem: I'm okay with talking to people every once in a while, but the principal of talking to everyone is something very hard for me to grasp. Everyone actually means EVERYONE. I've never liked being around a bunch of people or talking with a bunch of people. I've only ever lived in smaller towns, usually I've hung out in small friend groups, the smaller the group the better. Lots of people just bother me. Know I'm told I have to talk to everybody...*sigh*

It's a lot easier for me to talk to Hispanics. I've gotten by by telling myself if I talk to every Hispanic I've done my part. I don't like talking to white people... I don't know why but I just don't comfortable talking with fellow nillas. White people are scary. I'm trying to work on my fear.

We had a dinner Wednesday night with a member, Sister Watts, and she chastised me for only talking to Hispanics. Pray for me folks, I don't know if I can do it. Hispanics are so much friendlier, in general. And speaking Spanish is fun, it's fun to to practice my language ability and strike up a conversation with a stranger.

Thursday we got out and did finding. Then that night we had the lesson with the couple we met at Walmart: A and Z.
I died of laughter when I took this, lol

I died of laughter when  I took this lol We showed them the new Christmas video and talked about it with them, then we had a great conversation with them, and they ended up inviting their friend, Hermana Gallardo over, who is a member of the Branch, so we got a member present lesson. 

We really hit it off and talked for a long time, before we knew it it was past 9:30 so we had to drive home as fast as the computer on the car would let us. Have I not explained those before? Every mission car has a computer that tells you to slow down, buckle seat beat, and drive more safely. I push that computer to it's limit haha. It's good to be driving again jaja.

This weekend we set 4 more baptismal dates, would've had five, but I forgot to extend a specific date with one investigator. So we've got 9 baptismal dates set for New Years Eve. Pray for these nine children of God. Please. The prideful side of me wants to see an investigator enter the waters of baptism by the New Year. I have to remember this is His work and His Glory, not mine.

Friday we had weekly planning again and after that we were BOOKED. We had lessons all day Saturday. Weekdays are the GRIND and the weekends are the PAYOFF . Find all week, commit on weekends. This week we begin the grind all over again, LETS GET IT.

Definitely saw the Lord's hand in the work this week. We didn't commit a single person to baptism these past two weeks, the Spirit committed nine to baptism. Whatever success I encounter here on the mission is His not mine.

Saturday night we had the best lesson ever with S and T. They accepted a baptismal date last week when we brought Hermana Berrera with us. We brought Hermana Berrera again, and two and a half hours later S was telling us she felt like a weight had been lifted from her shoulders, and the Spirit testified to her that our message was true. Her husband T is pretty golden, so most of our worries were about S because she has had a bunch of doubts. Hermana Berrera bore a strong testimony and my goodness that woman is a Saint. She has had a lot of challenges with her family. But her faith is incredible. She does so much for us and has helped us so much. God bless her. She's like my Mexican Mom.


Hope y'all have a lovely week, Church is true, Book is Blue, Shannon please email me because I haven't heard from you 

Email Quince: The power of The Fast is real

November 28,2016
Howdy y'all! 
This week we saw the blessings of going to work. 
Fall in Arkansas, it's breathtaking,
especially when there's fog in the morning
Weather update: it rained a lot this week. It's so nice to be back in a rainy and tree-filled state, reminds me of New Jersey. Seasonal update: Fall is gorgeous here in Arkansas. This concludes my update. 

Monday night after we said goodbye to Elder Anaya, we returned to the chapel and finished Pday. We didn't have a car, so around 5:30 we started walking home, and it was already almost pitch black outside. About 1/3 of the way home, Brother Bowler from the English Ward happened to be driving by, so he gave us a ride home. It was a good time, he had a giant log in the back of his tiny sedan, Elder Sotomarino had to sit on it. I love the South lol.
When we got back to the apartment we were waiting for a sister from the Spanish Branch to bring us dinner, so I thought it was an opportune time to visit a less actives who is literally our next door neighbor. Her front door is an inch from our front door. Since we didn't want her to think we were piles for not visiting her last transfer...we told her we were both new to the area. Then she told us about how she served a mission in 🇸🇪 Sweden. I then told her we were the Spanish speaking Elders, and she told us she wants to learn Spanish. She is a professor at Arkansas State University so she is very busy right now with Finals and the Holidays but she told us she wants to meet with us sometime in January. Heck yeah. 

Then we walked to President Hernandez's house in the pouring rain. It was amazing. No one understands why I love rain so much haha. It's because I've lived in the desert for 6 years after twelve years in the Garden state. President Hernandez is a straight up champ. He is so strong in the Gospel, and such a help for us. We talked with him about what our vision was for this transfer, and it got us pretty pumped. 

After that we visited J. Oh J... Every time we visit him it's the same: Have you kept commitments. No. Why do you want to meet with us. I want to stop drinking and change my life. If that's what you want, keep commitments. But it's hard I have work. You were playing FIFA when we came in. But I'm drunk right now. Yeah we know, stop drinking. We are really going to buckle down if we are going to get anywhere with him, or else we will have to drop him. 

Tuesday was tough. We were finding all day with no set appointments. It rained all day and was super cold. But we had three solid lessons. The lowest point was when H and D dropped us. D sent us a text saying they didn't want to meet with us anymore. We were planning on having a lesson with them that night, WITH A MEMBER MIGHT I ADD. Having a member lesson fall through is always a toughie, because member lessons are far and few for us here. I did everything I could to try and ask if we could meet one more time, just to talk, to understand what happened, I LITERALLY BEGGED HER TO LET US MEET ONE LAST TIME. She wasn't having any of it. She straight up said: "There no way to better understand it than that we simply won't be going back to church or doing the meetings anymore. We are going to keep looking until we find the right church." But honey you ain't gonna find the right church anywhere else! Look no further than right here! Agency. Such a bummer sometimes. I got really sad because I started thinking about what I could have done better, then I realized they chose not to accept the Gospel, I didn't choose to not bring it to them. Then we had dinner with President Hernandez. Once again, love that man. 

Wednesday I honestly don't remember what happened. Wait yes I do: our new Greenie arrived in the field. Que lindo. Elder Barnes is Elder Janes new companion. Have I not told y'all about Elder Janes yet? Man love that kid. He's the kind of person where you meet him and you're glad you did. You feel better after you talk to him, he truly radiates Christ-Like love. He's the new District Leader. Elder Barnes is older than everyone in the District except for Elder Sotomarino, but he's the least experienced missionary haha. He's super quiet, but I've made sure to make him feel welcome. 

Wednesday night we had dinner at Sister Watt's house. I ate a TON of spaghetti. Then after dinner we went and taught a less active, and he made us eat Tortas. In Hispanic culture it is very disrespectful to say no when people offer you food, so we had to accept. I thought my stomachs was going to explode. The whole lesson he talked about his trials, such as poverty and drug addiction. He then started telling Elder Sotomarino that I was an example of a spoiled Gringo with lots of money who had it easy because he thought I couldn't understand Spanish. I then spoke up and basically said "You don't know me bro." I said we all have different trials and hardships that others don't know about except God because he knows us perfectly. He had assumed I was from a big city with lots of money, but I told him how I was from a town smaller than Russellville and the financial struggles our family has had in the past and he was super surprised. He ended up apologizing. 

Thursday was Thanksgiving. It's weird to think that over a year ago we were in Tijuana Mexico as a family eating Carne Asada Tacos for Thanksgiving dinner. For lunch we went to Brother Bunton's house to have Thanksgiving lunch. It was delicious. They do Thanksgiving right in the South. The Pecan Pie was to die for, it reminded me of Momma Small's homemade pie. Side note, the mysterious case of Brother Bunton: Brother is one of the most interesting people I have ever met. He's a genius, and the sassiest white man you will ever meet. He is a convert to the church. He gets a kick out of telling missionaries how he swore, in his own words, "a blood oath to never let missionaries inside his house", whenever they come to his house. He screamed in one missionary's face years ago that he would never read the Book of Mormon, and now it is his favorite book. He converted because the Holy Spirit spoke to him one day and said: "Listen to the missionaries, they have my seal of approval." 

After thanksgiving lunch, we all shared what we are thankful for. Here's what I shared: Through the course of my life, I have had the privilege of knowing tons of simply awesome people, which is fortunate considering how many morons there are in this world. I have an incredible family, two Christ-like parents, and five older siblings who have all stayed strong in the Gospel and chosen the right. I have amazing people to call my friends. I have a true and loyal best friend in Elder Stallings, I made incredible friends at BYU and in the MTC, and here in the field as well. The person I am most grateful to know is Christ. 

Friday I got permission to take a three hour nap from the mission nurse because I literally could not stay awake during weekly planning. That was nice. Saturday the Spanish zone had a fast and that night we set 5 baptismal dates. Enough said, that is a straight up miracle and testimony of the power of prayer and fasting. Yesterday I fell asleep in Sacrament meeting and everyone made fun of me. 

That about sums it up, Love y'all! Church is true, Book is blue, if you're tired don't complain I guarantee I'm more tired than you.


November 21, 2016
Howdy folks! This week ... in a word ... odd. I will explain later. 

Monday. Pday. Emailing. Shopping, using up the rest of my monthly budget  (sorry folks sometimes I can't control my appetite or desire to not be skinny anymore). Next: Basketball. This last transfer, our District was by far the largest in the Mission. So our basketball is pretty serious on Pdays. Also, apparently we are allowed to play full court in our mission...still not so sure about that...probably should look into that more....Anyways, being by far the tallest missionary, I take no mercy on these poor missionaries. Pretty sure I had a quadruple double last Monday: scored somewhere between 50-100 points, 20-30 assists, 20000 rebounds and at least ten nasty blocks, including an absolutely cruel volleyball spike on a sister missionary's shot, a little uncalled for?...personally I feel it's an excellent analogy for missionary work: DONT BRING THAT WEAK STUFF! Our pickup game also featured a fast break dunk from me, so it's nice to know I can still get up there. 

Tuesday. We had an awesome member present lesson with H and D, our two English speaking progressing investigators. We taught them the steps of Faith, Repentance, Baptism, the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and Endure to the End, and we committed them to be baptized New Year's Eve! Now we just gotta get em married...anyone got tips for teaching the Law of Chastity to two people living together and not making it awkward...that'll be fun haha. Monday night we had prayed as to which area to visit. The word "cloud" randomly popped into my head so we searched cloud on Google Maps. We found Cloud Lane, 12 minutes away, so we decided to visit it at 3 pm on Tuesday. When we got there, this place was OUT IN THE STICKS. We would never have thought to go there. But we knocked on a door, and a Hispanic Lady who told us she had almost been baptized a Mormon in Las Vegas years ago, we are planning on paying a few more visits. This truly is the Lord's work. 

Wednesday. Zone Conference. We had a member drive us down to Conway. Zone Conference was fun, people made it sound way more exciting than it actually was but it's all good. When President Wakolo spoke I bawled the whole time. Mom, I'll tell you why in two years️. Our District also won the Zone competition for best District! That was pretty sweet we won a pumpkin full of candy. Then that night we went to the Missionary Correlation meeting for the English Ward for the first time because we are teaching English people now. 

Thursday we taught a family, the parents are named S and F. They are super awesome but we weren't able to get all the way through the lesson because their kids were so disruptive. But we will be back! 

Friday night we had Branch Correlation meeting and it was super intense because The conversation turned to how our ward mission leader hasn't worked with us very much, to which he spoke up and said he didn't owe us anything because we hadn't done our job as missionaries in keeping him involved. He has a point. Anyways we had no idea he was that upset about it, then he didn't come to church yesterday so we definitely have to try to mend that burned bridge...we were gonna bring him cookies but then we found out he's diabetic... 

Saturday was the day...we found out...transfers.... *gasp* Elder Sotomarino and I will be sticking around here in Russellville, and Elder Anaya is going to Jonesboro Arkansas to join another trio! I learned a lot from him, and he made me laugh my head off countless times this transfer. Fare thee well🏼. THIS MEANS IM DESIGNATED DRIVER NOW BECAUSE SOTO AINT GOT NO LICENSE! Elder Smalley's gonna be back at it behind the wheel people! 

Saturday we has also had a ward Thanksgiving luncheon and it was here that I realized I had forgotten something very important. I started talking with Hermana Gallardo and she was telling me how she has a daughter who will get home soon from her mission in Kansas, and started telling her about my sister on a mission in Spain...until I realized she wasn't in Spain anymore... HERMANA SMALLEY IS HOME WHAT THE HECK WHAT THE HECK She had gotten home two days earlier and I forgot lol! Have fun big sis, don't get married! I forbid it! That was definitely strange to think about, seeing photos and stuff almost made me a bit trunqy if I'm honest. But I'm so happy she's made it back safe :) and she totally killed it too. She's a total champ and I miss her, but I have a pretty good hug waiting for her at the airport in 21 months. The picture of her and Joel hugging...what the heck Mom do you want me to cry?! I feel bad because I told her I would wait for her to get home before I left but obviously I did not keep that promise. In the photos I saw there is snow in Utah. WARNING WHAT I AM ABOUT TO SAY DOES NOT EXPRESS TRUNQINESS OR A DESIRE TO GO HOME...but I really miss Utah winters. There. I said it. The temperature FINALLY dropped here in Arkansas, we get below freezing in the night now. Though there are still plenty of trees that are bright green. The seasons are weird here...  Yesterday was not a good day missionary work wise because Elder Anaya had to pack and say goodbye to people all day, but H and D came to church!  

I can't remember if I said anything about the Election last email, but I truly was astonished when I heard who won. I can't even comment on this. All I can say is may God forgive us and have mercy. Enough of that, best of luck America! Stay together for me!  I am seriously so pumped to be here with Elder Sotomarino this next transfer! He is the coolest. His teaching skills are incredible and he's a great example. I've been helping him with English and he's been helping me with Spanish. Peruvian Spanish is sooooo much easier to understand than Mexican Spanish. I think at this point the language isn't a concern anymore, so thanks to the Big Guy up there for that. I love being able to have conversations with Native Speakers! People are so surprised that the tall skinny blonde white guy can speak Spanish lol! 

Anyways seriously Elder Sotomarino es lo máximo. Can't wait to go to work with him here and build this little Ramita aquí en Russellville. Lo siento Madre, yo sé que me dijiste que no debo escribir en Español pero Erinn puede ayudarte ahora. We are gonna work hard. Nuff said.  

Church is true. Book is Blue. See y'all in less than two. Erinn don't get married because I have to approve.