This past week has been awesome! For several reasons, most of which revolving around This Christmas Season.
Last Monday night My companion and I were invited to the "Empty Nesters" Get together. As the name suggests this is an exclusive club for those who've completed their primary roles as parents and convinced in one way or another all of their children to leave home. I finally Realize that with my departure Mom and Dad also fall into this category. Old people are awesome.
The night started out with a spiritual Christmas devotional in a Members living room where a legit fireplace was burning along. They're really big out here. Almost everyone has a wood burning fireplace and actually uses it! Then we were treated to a pot luck dinner. Luckily for us (and probably everyone else) we aren't required to bring any food. There was a wide variety of casseroles, Salads, dips pastas and other savory goods. My favorite being this sweet potato dish which was a layer of yams on the bottom and on the top was a kind of bread dumpling with melted brown sugar and cinnamon. Mom you would have loved it. I'm still trying to find out who made it to get the recipe. After Supper it was time again to gather around the fire, but this time there was live entertainment to be provided. A few of the members are talented musicians in the Bluegrass tradition. With 2 upright bass's, a acoustic guitar, a superb banjo picker and another instrument which is strummed in some manner. And let me tell you, They were good! Playing both Chirstmas classics and olds school southern music it set a great mood throughout the rest of the party.
Wednesday we had a Zone meeting/Christmas party. It was awesome as President Thornock and Sister Thornock had driven down from Charleston to attend. Pres. Gave us a lesson in the morning, while Sister Thornock prepared a lasagna lunch for us. After that we watched a movie about a man named John Tanner (I think that was his name) and how he'd given all he had to the service of the church and his fellow man. Many say that he is responsible for saving the Kirkland Temple! After we had a short testimony meeting. It was so great to see that we have such faithful missionaries in our zone. We then commenced with a game of human Foosball, which I'd never seen done before, But we did it.
Just as the activities where coming to a close President said he had one final Surprise for us. Each Elder/Sister was handed a large white envelope with our names on it. As I opened my envelope at first I was very confused. There was a letter from the Mission Presidency, another from the First Presidency of the Church, but then I found 15 envelopes. Each one had only My name and Merry Christmas in fine writing alternating between Red and Green. As I looked at the others around me I saw Christmas Cards of various shapes and sizes. No one else had the plain white envelopes that I had. But as I opened each one I began to realize what they were. As I read the names of family members and Friends my heart was filled with joy. I'd been in the Field for nearly 3 weeks and had received scarce little from North of the Boarder. Perhaps the mail took longer to get to me than I had anticipated I thought. I eagerly waited for Elder Pendleton to retrieve the mail each day. But upon reading each of those letters I understood why the mail did not come. It was the greatest thing I could have asked for. And to find not only family but friends and members of the ward had been thinking of me. I was not forgotten after all :D. I realized that I am very blessed to have a mission Presidency who would be considerate enough to do such a thing for me, as well as for all of you back home who have shown your love and kindness. I cherish each letter on each page. It has truly been a highlight of my experience here so far.
Being a missionary and living on a missionaries budget I'm constrained by what I can send home. But Many of you have asked questions about what its like out here and so the least I can do is attempt to address a few of the most frequently asked ones.
1#. My companion. His name is Elder Pendleton and he is freakishly tall standing at 6'7. He's from Auburn, Washington which is just a little south of Seattle. He's a huge sports fanatic and has facts about every player from every team it would seem. We get along pretty well and he constantly tells me that he's so thankful that President gave him someone "Normal" to train.
2# Do we have fun? Absolutely. Elder Pendleton is all about making sure we have fun while we work. I find tracting can be fun, just because of how ridiculous some people are. I try to make a point of laughing after each house to keep our spirits up. We also laugh it up in our apartment. Missionaries have their own brand of jokes. Often relating to scripture and biblical events. I'll make a point to write down some of them and share them in the future. A mission is lots of work, But Loads of fun!
3#What are the people like out here? Crazy. haha only some of them. Being in a small city I find its much like anywhere else. You'll always have your crazies. Though I must say the Southern brand of crazy is a little different than I've encountered else where. One man who is a less active that we visit falls into this category. I'll try to list some of his traits. He loves Nascar. He fed us man food (instant potatoes with hambergers and bacon on top, chili con carne from a can on the side), He loves his guns and has shown us how scary it would be if someone came up behind you and cocked his shotgun, He loves Nascar. My favorite line from his mouth thus far is a very enthusiastic "COWBOY UP SON!!!!" But Many of the people that we meet on a day to day basis are very normal and polite. The members of the ward are fantastic and are exemplars of Southern Hospitality.
4# FOOD. The one thing nearly everyone has asked about. And actually it hasn't been that bad thus far. Keeping in mind that most of the crazy dishes you hear about are found only in West Virginia. The strangest thing I have had was probably that man meal. Oh and it broke my heart the first night I ate here. A member family invited us out to dinner. For Japanese Food!! I was super stoked. But I will say this now. What I ate, was NOT Japanese. The miso soup was a clear broth. the Salad while resembling a spicy mayo sauce was very odd aswell. The main course which I has was chicken and vegetables was ok tasting, so long as you didn't compare it to what it could and should have been. And finally the rice...oh the rice. this is where I almost cried. It was fried...in what seemed to be bacon grease almost. I ate as much as I could to be polite. But as I have found out, Japanese is not the only cuisine to have suffered such monstrosities. I have learned that if you want to experience any kind of Ethnic food that is not Southern in nature, don't come to Roanoke. The Melting pot structure of America has even affected the food. Anyways, perhaps that was a bit of a rant but I had to get it off my mind. I think this outburst is a side effect of "Rice Withdraw Syndrome" I guess its in the Genes.
5#Finally where are we living. We are currently housed in the basement suite of inactive man and his wife. I'll explain a little about them. Jimmy is what I had imagined in my mind as a typical Virginian. He was of large girth. And spoke in an accent so thick I could hardly understand him. However I later found out that he was born with a flat cleft, mostly deaf and also legally blind. So my first impression had been horribly amiss. His Wife is Laura is a sweet Woman who is almost entirely blind. She even has a seeing eye dog! They are in their 60s at least and are super nice to us. They even invited us up for dinner once. We take the mail to them every night and occasionally Laura asks us to help her out with something that Neither Her Nor Jimmy can read. The Deaf leading the blind. But its cute and they're Wonderful.
Anyways I'm running over my limit to write by quite a bit now! Its just so hard to get everything in. And there's so much more I could say! But I should say that I wish you all a Very Merry Christmas and Hope that you can keep in your hearts the True meaning behind all the Festivities.
As they like to say around here, "Christ is the reason for the Season"