N's email 8/17/2015

area: Jennings Branch (Welsh, Louisiana)
zone: Orange
companion: Elder Hobbs

I love Elder Hobbs, and the other elders in my district, Elder Heaps and Elder Rosenlund. We have had quite a few miracles this week! I like to ask Elder Hobbs right before we go to sleep what miracles he saw that day, and he always reminds me of one of the miraculous experiences we had. He asked me once and I said, "of course I did, I saw a Book of Mormon." He questioned my reasoning and I informed him that the Book of Mormon is a miracle because there is no way to explain it's existence besides there being a God who helped Joseph Smith. Therefore each time you see a Book of Mormon you see a miracle. He liked that.

But one of the miraculous experiences happened on Friday. We had scheduled to meet an investigator who lives in Elton (20 miles away) at the Jennings McDonald's. We got there at the right time, but on our way from the car to the building we heard, "Elders! Missionaries!" and we turned to see a family we didn't recognize as members of the Jennings Branch. We went over and through our conversation we learned that at least one of them was a member. They have some rare hereditary illnesses which need very high tech hospitals, but bad air quality causes their symptoms to get way worse. So they've been travelling the country looking for a good enough hospital in a location that has high quality air. They couldn't find one because all the good hospitals are in the middle of cities. But they ended up being from my home stake and we had a lot of similar friends. They asked me about places around Houston and I told them about Kingwood and they got really excited. (Our investigator we were supposed to meet there ended up forgetting about our appointment, so it was ok that we talked to that family for as long as we did, and we rescheduled with our investigator.) Right before the family left they told us, "We had been praying for comfort and peace and direction and help in general and as soon as we said 'Amen' and opened our eyes, there you were! You were our answer to prayer! You were a miracle today!"

I love being a missionary so much! The work is really picking up around here. We have quite a few investigators now: family of 3 - Ava, Cade, and Adrian; Milton is the one who was supposed to meet us at McDonald's; Brandon; Susan; Burnie; and others. We are also going through and trying to see every member on the branch list. That has offered some fun experiences.

Again, I love being a missionary!

I love all of you. But I love Jesus Christ more. And this is where He wants me. So this is where I want to be.

from N’s letter to his younger cousins, answering their questions:

*Yes, we do ride bikes and occasionally get chased by dogs.

*Yes, "y'all" is in the common vocabulary down here.

*No, Texans aren't incredibly good Bar-B-Q-ers. Actually hardly anyone down here has a Bar-B-Q at all. They all have smokers. GIANT smokers. They smoke everything! Hamburger patties, steaks, ribs, chicken, krawfish (similar to krawdads), shishcabobs, sausage, cookies, pizza... you name it they smoke it (not like cigarette smoke, but cook smoke)

*Yes, in the South most people have a car that's worth 5 times as much as their house/apartment/shed in the middle of the forest.

*Yes, there are weird animals. There's these weird chicken things. There's alligators. Snapping turtles (that get about 3 feet high and live up to 300 years!).

*Yes, missions are the best!

*Yes, being a missionary is the best.

*Yes, missions are hard. Here in Texas/Louisiana it's not the physical aspect that causes the exhaustion as much as it is in a 3rd world country or somewhere you'd bike or walk all the time. But the spiritual, mental, emotional is exhausting. It is hard work. But I've definitely gained a testimony that it you sow bountifully, you'll reap bountifully. So if you put "all your heart, might, mind, and strength" into a mission then you will receive more perfect charity, work ethic, intelligence, and a greater portion of the Holy Ghost.

*I love being a missionary!

and a snippet from N’s letter to Jacob:

So, we just got to the church after holding baby alligators for awhile. 
They also had some 4 foot alligators in a pond. Super sweet! And they also had a 50 year old alligator snapping turtle there. The alligators were SO cute! They looked like little versions of the raptors on Jurassic Park. They hold super still, even when you’re holding them, unless you move their tail into a curve, then they start moving. They can move SO fast! They whip their head around and use that momentum (cuz they have really large heads) to move the rest of their body around while their feet are running. They look really funny when they do it while you’re holding them around their belly.