Tuesday, October 15, 2013

in which I meet a Father Mother, the saints play the demons, and other small-town happenings

Hi family & friends!

I am in good ole Lamoni, IA! It is so crazy haha. I mean, check out that name! Lamoni?! Also, you should look it up. It is crazy, I think there are like 3000 people here, and I think just under 1000 of those are university students. I'm pretty sure it was like founded by Joseph Smith III or something and basically settled by the RLDS, now Community of Christ church. The university, Graceland, is the only school owned by the CoC. And we're about 5 minutes from the Missouri border and about 75 miles (that might be off) south of Des Moines. We also have an Amish community and the first night we drove in, I was greeted by a horse and buggy driving along the side of the road. The elementary and high school are connected and apparently the whole community participates in like, everything. There is one tiny Hy-Vee grocery store that is overpriced but super friendly. Sister Etherington and I keep going back and forth between "this is awesome! this place is so cute!" to "where in the world am I and what am I doing here?!" haha talk about culture shock. I have been out of my comfort zone for sure in many ways here, but it is so good :)

Holy cow do I have a lot to tell you today, so I'm sorry in advance if I don't get to respond to everyone's emails. I'm getting ahead of myself, so I'm going to back up a bit and tell you about my last couple days in Dub-town. I mean in Dubuque. (which I used to think was a pretty small city and now I feel like it's huge. Gotta love perspective!) Anyways, the Marshellese people are so wonderful and of course threw a going-away party for Elder Tripp and me. They had food (duh), then sat Elder Tripp and me on two chairs and gave a speech, sang "God Be With You till We Meet Again" and a good-bye song (both in Marshallese), came by one by one to shake our hands/hug us and give us little homemade trinkets like flowers and earrings and necklaces and such or to give us money (totally uncomfortable, except that it's super normal. Thankfully most of the time they just give you $1 bills), and then they had us each give a little speech and had a couple more speeches and then were finally done. haha it was crazy - I miss Marshellese people!

On Tuesday night we had a Relief Society activity, which was missionary-themed. it was great, and they had Sister Call and me role-play how a first lesson would generally go if someone were to invite us into their home to teach their friend. It went really well and the members we role-played with were awesome. And the cute little Lowder girl had everyone there sign a paper for me to say good bye! It was so sweet, I love it. I love that ward so much, and I miss them!!

On Wednesday (P-day, since it was transfers week) we had a last ice cream and ultimate Uno party at Elder and Sister Thomas' home. Oh how I miss them! Sister Call and I also went to a potential investigator's salon and had her do our eyebrows. The things we do as missionaries to try to get people to listen to us! ;) sneaky sneaky. But hey, my eyebrows look good! don't judge :)

Thursday was transfers day. My new companion, Sister Etherington, is awesome! Ahh she is so sweet and so motivated. It is a little different because she is actually a Nauvoo visitor's center missionary on her out-bound and will be in the Iowa Des Moines mission for 6 months. But that means she's actually been out 1 week longer than I have, so I'm like...you don't need training! Mostly I just help her with the logistics of being a proselyting missionary (area book, etc.) but she's rocking and doesn't need a trainer in other ways. We're still going through the 12-week training program though because that's what we're instructed to do, and I could use it again anyways. But I seriously love Sis Etherington, she motivates me to be a better missionary! Also she's 21 and spent 3 years at the University of Utah - but we love each other anyways ;) And she's the youngest of 5! 

Our area is super big (we cover several little towns, which are interspersed by lots of farmland and country) and the church is 30 miles away, so we got a brand new car! It makes me a little nervous driving it haha. The ward is very friendly and very different than anything I've ever been used to (again, a little bit of culture shock). Splitting a ward is hard too, because it's hard to get to know everyone. There aren't a whole lot of members in our area, and it doesn't look like we'll be eating with members very often. But hopefully we can build relationships with them, find lots of people to eat, and maybe lose a couple pounds while we have the chance haha. Yesterday (Sunday) I was feeling soooo stressed and overwhelmed by everything. There is so much that goes into whitewashing an area, and it is hard! We were fasting too, and I have just been trying to stay positive, which can be really hard sometimes. We are the only sisters in our district (it feels like the olden times before the wave!) and sometimes we feel a little alone out in Lamoni, especially since we still don't know many people and it is easy to start missing people that way. But fasting and praying brings miracles!

Last night we taught a man who is from Venezuela and is a referral from Nauvoo. He was taught all the lessons by the missionaries in Nauvoo, so Sis Etherington knew about him and knows the sisters who taught him, which made him really excited! He's a Graceland student (side note: Graceland recruits heavily, and there are tons of international student and a ton of racial and religious diversity, so that's actually really fun). We taught him with another lady from church, also a Graceland University student and a Returned missionary who served in Argentina. She is amazing! I'm starting to think maybe they push member-present lessons because they know that the missionaries really aren't very good haha. Sometimes I wonder why we're the ones who have the responsibility to teach! I learned so much from that lady and just really hope that someday I'll be as powerful a missionary as she is. Anyways, he now has a baptismal date of Nov 2! He says if he KNOWS it's true and it's the right thing for him by then, then he'll be baptized. I think he already knows from the way he talks about the gospel - I mean, he loves telling people about it! He's already a missionary! - but he needs to just commit, which is hard because he knows it's not a little thing - it's a change of life. So please pray for him!

And please pray for Sister Etherington and me here! I take it back what I said a while ago about it being hard being junior companion - it's just hard being a missionary in general haha. But it is good. I love bearing my testimony to people here. They are, for the most part, so nice to us. I'm trying to learn people's names because everyone will know us soon so we're trying our best to get to know everyone as well! It's funny how small towns can sometimes be more overwhelming than big cities. I realized, though, that as I've gone out of my comfort zone, I feel a stronger pull to the Book of Mormon and prayer, as they bring comfort and familiarity. I'm so incredibly grateful for this gospel, and for all of you! I love you so much!

I had some fun pictures, but my device doesn't seem to be working :( I'll try to figure it out, but for this week, no pics. Sorry!

Love from Lamoni,
Sister Whipple

PS we tracted into this cute little guy (probably about 10) who, when we asked him if he's ever wondered what happens to us after we die, he answered "lot of times." His parents weren't home so we said we'd come back, and when we were about to leave he threw his arms around us and hugged us. Haha it was a little apostate (aka not really allowed for us to hug him), but he was the cutest little man. It just made me so sad when we went back and the parents weren't very nice to us at all. I'm not sure if we'll be able to really go back there, but hopefully he'll remember us someday and I'm sure he'll have another chance when he's older to hear and accept the wonderful truths of the gospel!

PPS holy cow, sorry. But, I didn't explain the subject line. We met a lady who's a Community of Christ pastor (she's an elder) and she invited us in and talked with us for a while. She was sooo nice and is also the president of the chamber of commerce so is a good connection! But I almost died of laughter when she told us about how when she became an elder, her kids started calling her "Father Mother." baha. I have never met a single CoC person in my life and now I'm surrounded by them! It's definitely a new experience! As for the saints versus the demons, the high school mascot here is the demons, and there's a school in a nearby town called Mormon Trek High School or something, and their mascot is the saints (haha figures, right?!). So when they play each other, it's the saints versus the demons. Also made me laugh. Love you!

PPPS: I have like 4 minutes to tell you about another miracle I forgot about!

Tuesday night at the RS activity, a past investigator who told us never to return to her house, came!!!!! We couldn't believe it! Closest thing we've gotten to bringing someone to church. I got to talk with her a little afterwards. She said, in her quiet broken sweet English,
        "I'll miss you. Maybe someday I'll be a part of this [pointing around]"
I told her that she will! She is interviewing to change jobs so that she can work a regular schedule and won't get called in to housekeeping ALL the time, including Sundays and when we have teaching appointments. He life is so crazy and she's so lonely. I told her to keep letting Sister Call come and teach her because life IS so crazy, but the only thing that is always the same and is always stable and brings true peace is the gospel, and that that's what Sister Call and us as missionaries share. She said yes, and the Spirit was there and was so sweet. She takes her Book of Mormon to work and reads it during the slower hours. She wants the gospel in her life, and I am just sure that she will be baptized. I will miss her, but I love her and am excited for her to find the joy of the gospel more fully in her life! 

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