OK. This week has flown by. It seemed like it lasted forever but at the same time it was just Tuesday a second ago. It's a wonderful place here in New Jersey.
Some crazy things that have happened so far are:
1. It rained Wednesday, Thursday, Friday here. Flash flood on Wednesday. Seriously the streets were FILLED with water. It rained so hard for about an hour straight. We were driving through thigh deep puddles and stuff. It was wonderful because the first 2 days we got here it was 93 degrees with humidity. Unbelievably sweaty.
2. I did what's called a fear-buster on Monday where we went off with a trainer and spoke with people on the street. ON the FIRST day. It was a little sketchy but it was a really great experience. Newark is terrifying. Not really but there are some areas where missionaries can go, but you're not supposed to be walking around in that area. Just from this first week I've realized time and time again how blessed I am to live in Utah and have a nice house and a yard and whatnot. DAD: the houses here are literally 4 feet away from each other. Even in the nicer area where we live (just outside of Newark) called Kearney (pronounced Kar-nee), the houses are nicer but still very close to each other. We live in a small apartment-like building. AND GUESS WHO MY ROOMATES ARE?? So my companion/trainer is Elder Storey from Orem UTah. He's just great. He has super curly hair, a high voice, is hilarious, 21 years old and makes fun of me because I'm not a New Jersey driver. (FOR SOME DUMB REASON, I'm the designated driver, which is weird because drivers here are nuts. I'm already an incredible parallel parker though. You HAVE to be.)
Anyway, the other Elders in our apartment are Elder Garcia from the Phillipines and......ELDER KEY. Remember the polynesian Keys who lived across the street from us?? LARS. Remember Ammon?? His older brother, Alema Key, I live with him. It was so nuts when I saw him at the transfer conference. AHH. Anyway, his family lives in Missouri now but he's in New Jersey, English speaking. He's been out about 10.5 months. He's wonderful. He's our district leader and I've already learned so much from his wonderful example and goodness.
3. We've had two experiences where guys came up to US on the street. One time we were walking to a less-active member's house and this guy was driving past us in a beat-up minivan, but he slowed down and was like "I WANNA READ THAT BOOK!" in a thick Dominican accent. So he pulled up ahead and we gave him a Book of Mormon. He was like "You've got that Mormon book right?!" and we were like "YEAH RIGHT HERE." He said he had been wanting to read it for a long time. He was Dominican, so he was a black guy, wearing a stained and tattered tank top, and had a goldish, grayish goatee. He was so nice though but other Elders have to teach him because he doesn't live in our area. The Lord TOTALLY prepares people for the gospel.
4. President Jeppson is the man. He basically said to us straight up that he loves the Mormon Tabernacle choir (he sang with them for a while) but he does NOT like listening to them all the time. He said we can listen to anything that invites the spirit and uplifts us to be a better missionary. Also, he said, if you play an instrument and don't have a way to play it here in Jersey, FIND A WAY. He was saying how the Lord doesn't want your talents to go to waste. SO basically I'm going to try and find a guitar somewhere. He said it's totally fine. Elder Garcia has a guitar right now but I want one of my own. However we're only allowed to play on P-DAYS which is alright and totally reasonable. I was suprised to hear that we are even allowed to have them and play them. So Elder Storey and I are going to start doing opening hymns in our lessons with the guitar and voice and stuff. Good thing I picked up a spanish hymn book in the MTC.
Sorry this is so long. There's way too much to tell you.
5. We only have like 3 investigators and they are all part of part member families or friends of members. We have Carlos: Coolest guy ever, He's probably in his late 30's, Peruvian, speaks English and Spanish; his family are all members but he's not yet. We're going to try and work with him. We also have Israel; he's a friend of a member family and he's AWESOME. Long, messy curly hair, from southern Cali, dresses nicer than most New Jersians and is pretty loud especially when we teach him with the family. He's a little femi too but he is wonderful.
I've learned so much about being a missionary in the first week. So the ward is about 300 people (approx) but only about 90 come to church. The retention rate is not good here so in this area, we work mostly with less actives. TONS OF LESS-ACTIVES. It's difficult to teach families I realized because you have to talk to the kids in English and the parents in Spanish, so you're constantly switching back and forth. But overall I'd say we teach 80 percent spanish and 20 percent English. It's very interesting. It's a little frustrating working with less-actives though because you have to find something for them to truly be converted... again. They've already experienced the joy of baptism and joining the church but they've lost that. So it's our job to get them on a higher spiritual plane and really help them realize how important this is. Elder Storey was telling me during a rad companion study last night that it takes a BETTER missionary to reconvert less-active members.
OK. So our address is:
310 Elm Street FL #1
Kearney, NJ, 07032
Pretty cool. Kearney is really nice. It's pretty and all the houses are small and quaint. Our area is called Kearney and Oranges. Two cities just outside Newark. Newark is pretty dirty and trashy. A lot of one-way streets. Garbage all over the streets and gutters. A LOT of black people. A lot of hispanics. Not a whole lot of white people. MORE fried-chicken stores than I've ever see in my whole life.
MUSIC: I NEED MUSIC BAD. I'm going to make some assignments and more than anything in the whole world (you have no idea) I want you to send me CD's.
DAD and FINN: I need: O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack, George Winston (everything), start me off with a few good classical CD's. The Lower Lights. (PLEASE), The Cold Mountain Soundtrack, Emily Browns church stuff (Finn FIND IT), and here are a few songs I would like you to tack on the end of burning those: Thrice: Come all you Weary, and Child of Dust, and from Brandon Flowers: On the Floor (it's about prayer). Don't think that I'm pushing mission rules because I have prayed and I feel good about all this stuff. ALSO: If you could buy the We Bought a Zoo soundtrack and send that to me I would explode with happiness. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE I'm begging you.
LYDIA/CHRIS: YANN TIERSEN. PLEASE. An elder was playing it on the piano the other day and I freaked out. Also, Sufjan Stevens appropriate stuff and EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY. I'm serious guys. I NEED THIS. ALL of Explosions in the Sky's discography. Chris I"m serious. I need you to help me out man.
EVERYBODY WRITE ME. I LOVE YOU ALL SO MUCH.
Remember that the gospel is true. There are two brothers in at the computer next to me fighting over the computer and they're nuts. But seriously, God loves all of you. Pray to him, read your scriptures an go to church to learn about Jesus Christ.
Elder Niels Christensen