First off, I'm in love. I didn't think I could enjoy anything as much as I enjoyed the MTC, but that is just not the case! On Tuesday I met Elder Russell and we drove out to our area, (Which is right next to the mission home) and got our bikes. We live at the top of a big hill, and all the people we meet are at the bottom. It's really funny talking to other missionaries with cars, (Because like 80% do) and they say things like "Wait... They're making you Terra Vista on bike?" It's brutal. I suppose it didn't really hit me how exhausting biking up hill for 2-4 miles in 105 degree weather with a white shirt, tie and slacks 2-3 times a day would be until we started doing it. But I'm picking it up fast and getting in shape really fast.
The other thing about the area is it's mostly apartment complexes. There's like 30-40 complexes in our area. And that's a lot considering they all have about 200 apartments. (You do the math. I'm too tired to try) But that means we have a lot of really cool energetic young adults in our ward! And lot's of tracting (Knocking on doors) to be done.
Crime is higher than I expected. Our lights and water bottles got stolen the first day and we were in a gated community! An investigators friend got jumped by an armed hoodlum group in the middle of the day right outside his apartment while we were teaching a lesson, there's certain areas of town we're not allowed to go near past 7:00.... It's freaking awesome! And Heavenly Father just keeps pouring his blessings on my companion and I.
There are 2 cool shopping centers nearby with a great 99 cent store and a target and nice restaurants, and there's a gym in our complex where we work out every morning. Alright. Now that I got that boring stuff out of the way, let's chat BUSINESS:
Elder Russell has already become one of the most influential people I've ever met. When I met him he looked like a stuck up missionary with a comb-over, but I couldn't have been more wrong. He is extremely down to earth and knows what he's doing. He's been out 18 months, is from Grantsville Utah, and is also majoring in commercial music! How cool is that? So we sing everywhere we go. Hymns, primary songs, we write spiritual spoofs of other songs, it's a party.
AND HE KICKS MY BUTT. He doesn't really allow break time, nor does he allow nap time, slack off time, nothing. We get up at 6:30 and kick it into high gear until 10:30. No breaks. He bikes a million miles an hour, and makes me keep up with him, and has cut our allotted lunch time in half because that extra half hour he wants to spend proselyting. At first I was thinking "I'm done for" But the spirit is so strong with him and with us as a companionship as we do our best to remain exactly obedient. ALL THE TIME. His philosophy is that a missionary is defined by how he spends his time from 6:30 in the morning until 10:00, so we don't miss a beat. But he's still super nice about it and leads more by powerful/forceful example.
We've planned and are working on a musical fireside at the end of this month. We're arranging songs and writing talks based on the Plan of Salvation with an emphasis on the Atonement. We hope to do more if it goes well and we get a lot of non members there.
It's awesome being so involved with the ward. We teach lessons during church, meet tons of nice people, get offers of referrals and things like that from everyone. I think my favorite part is working with the ward so closely.
We were whitewashed into this area, which means neither of us have served here and don't really know where to go for investigators. There were a few notes from the Elder's before us, but they didn't really pan out. We had hopes for a woman named Cori, but when we met with her we found out that she was a 57 year old with a 14 year old girl's personality. She just whined about her fiancee the whole time, and talked about makeup and clothes.... to missionaries... And found weird ways to go from the Restoration and Joseph smith to Mary Kay.... Yeah. That was an hour I'm never getting back.
But now for the cool stories. We were tracting one day and this huge african american boy from georgia comes out of nowhere, excited out of his mind. Apparently last fall he had been meeting with missionaries and wanted to be baptized but when he moved out to California, he had lost all contact, and didn't know where to find us. Teaching him has been so cool and his spirit is so strong. He's still struggling to follow up with commitments, but we think if we can get him fellow shipped by some boys in the ward, he'll start coming. He committed to baptism for the end of this month.
Then Saturday came, and we were supposed to go very far west to meet some less actives. But after dinner, Elder Russell felt prompted to go to the very south east corner (Like 5-6 miles away down hill) to visit a less active. This was an area we had avoided because of the enormous journey it would take to get there so I said "Well Elder Russell, he'd better be there and we'd better change his life" This was, of course, an extremely selfish and foolish thing for me to say and I have since repented and followed my companions promptings with much more faith.
So we made the extensive journey down, and GUESS WHAT?!?!?!?!?
No one was home.
Boy I tell you, I was not happy. In fact in the words of Elder Russell. "Wow, you know I've never seen you so grumpy Elder Brown" I then replied. "We have to bike back, and we got nothing done! And you're not even the fat one!" So we started back up and he felt prompted to visit some SUPER less active who was never home in a nearby complex. (Don't get your hopes up she wasn't home either) but while we were in the parking lot we were stopped by someone else.
You have to understand, here in Rancho EVERYONE is a born again Christian, and there are TONS of bible bashers. Like, tons. Most people want nothing to do with us. So this guys pulling us aside was weird.
He asked us to pray with him, so we did and started teaching him about the Restoration and his countenance changed completely. The spirit was so incredibly strong as we taught this man. Apparently he had just spent a few years in prison for manslaughter (That's a joke, I don't know what he was in for, but I figured I'd scare my mom) But he'd spent a few years in prison and he said he really wanted to change and become religious. He kept trying to describe what he was feeling, and I thought it was awesome! He was saying thing's like "It's like there's a rushing wind running through my body" "I can feel everything so much deeper" "I'm just happy but determined" "I can feel God telling me that meeting you was no coincidence." And things of that nature. We explained to him that this was the spirit testifying of truth. Then Elder Russell told the story of the first vision and recited verses 16 and 17, and holy cow. It was a powerhouse spirit. He started smiling and getting emotional, and I don't even remember the bike ride home being difficult at all.
I'm sure there's more I could say, but this is already too long. I love you all! Write me! Even if they're short! Just update me about your life! I'd love to hear about it and write you back! Church is true!