Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, etc.

Hey everyone. Sorry for missing a week of e-mails; the last P-Day was really busy because we had a lesson planned really early in the day so it kind of messed up our actual P-Day activities. But things here in Sealy have been great. Elder Jones and I just keep on going and we're getting some good work done, I think. The Lord is really paying attention to what we're doing. He has really blessed us in the work that we are doing.
Some events:

We (since Elder Jones and I are basically together all the time, I've found myself referring to our companionship more than myself when talking about what's happening in the mission, which is interesting.) spent a good deal of time on Christmas with the Prach family, who live in the middle of nowhere, which is pretty typical of my area. The Sealy mission area is about fifty miles wide, so it's really a huge area, just with very few people. We generally try to stick to the more populated areas unless we are visiting members like the Prachs.

Anyway, at the Prach house we got to call our families, which is pretty nice. I guess my mom decided to super-spoil all the other kids ever since I left and she bought a couple of things that I thought she was pretty determined not to get. Meaning, I hate. Haha, I'm pretty jealous and I can't help complaining about it a little, but that probably doesn't matter too much to most of the people in the group.

We ate some barbecue stuff (I'll probably gain 300 pounds on the mission especially because of all the stupid CANDY everyone gives us) and we ended the night by pouring a bunch of diesel on a big pile of wood and brush and creating a massive bonfire. Yep, that's Christmas in Texas. I guess that kind of thing is okay here.
Minor note: I expected to teach rednecks here in Texas and I really am teaching so many rednecks. (The Prachs are pretty much regular people, they just have a few redneck qualities like bonfire-building.) There are a good amount of people who live in the suburbs, and they pretty much live the same lifestyle as people in Utah (besides drinking and partying and all the not-Mormon things). They look the same and talk the same. Other people are Southern, really Southern, and you just never have any idea what they're saying because their accents are so thick. They aren't just okay with getting dirty, they'd rather be dirty than anything else. The thing that surprised me, though, is that rednecks aren't just a bunch of idiots. They are isolated and they are uneducated but their minds work just the same as anyone's, and their consciences work just the same. I judged them pretty hastily and harshly before my mission, but now I can honestly say some of the best, most honest people I've met (in life) have been rednecks.

Saying "ya'll" isn't something you catch from being in Texas, it's definitely a choice. I say it every once in a while; we'll see if I get a good habit of it.

We spent new year's at the branch president's house, which was kinda weird because they had a bunch of family over, but they were the ones who invited us, so hopefully they were ok with it. They set off a bunch of fireworks and we played a board game called Nuns on the Run (which is an excellent game, y'all ought to try it). The holiday season was really good, but also kind of bad because we didn't get much done, because who wants to talk about Jesus on Christmas? Am I right?

Another interesting experience is the first companion exchange I went on. I got paired with Elder Mariner, who I believe is from Samoa (or, at least, he was Polynesian). He was a really cool guy but the thing that made it interesting is how he treated the mission rules, meaning, he ignored them. He asked what music I like and I said Sufjan Stevens, and he just started playing one of his songs (even worse, it was "Eugene") on his iPad, and man. My heart just died a little bit. I probably would have cried or something if he had played it for more than two seconds. (not necessarily because it was breaking the rules, but because Sufjan) Most of the time he just played Linkin Park and reggae super loud. and didn't ever leave the apartment. and wasted time. I tried to do some studying but it was pretty hard with all the music. Also he had a guitar and a ukulele in his apartment and I definitely learned why those aren't allowed because they were so distracting for me.

I guess what I learned from that experience is how dangerously tempting it can be to just do nothing and live in comfort every day instead of doing work. On Christmas, I felt pretty bad for not getting very much done, but on that day I almost forgot about it (besides all the studying). That just scares me. It would be horrible to come home from the mission and realized that I hadn't accomplished anything.

I only have a few minutes left because the library here in Bellville limits your time on the computer. So, all I really have to say is that God is blessing us a lot. I'm trying to gain a spiritual conviction that Joseph Smith was a prophet, so that I can teach and testify more powerfully. I know the Book of Mormon is true, every time I read it I can feel it (which is really something else, just, it's so good.) but for some reason I just haven't made the connection to Joseph Smith yet. It's coming pretty slowly but I think that's a good thing. I don't want to just convince myself that it's true by repeating it over and over. Anyway, we have just been working really hard. There have been a few days where I felt really overwhelmed and stressed out because we just had to do so much. Then at sacrament meeting this week we had six investigators show up, which was more than we had expected. I just had a distinct impression that it had happened because Elder Jones and I had tried so hard to fulfill our duties and press forward despite the stress. We got three referrals in the past two days as well, which never happens. It all feels pretty miraculous.

There's so much more I want to tell all of you but I'm out of time. I know the gospel changes lives. I'm so excited to keep moving forward and to work hard and even to face the stress. I want to change lives and I can't wait to see what comes of all the work here in Sealy. It's not me, nor Elder Jones, who change lives, though. It's the investigators who change themselves and the Lord who gives them the ability to do it. All we are is messengers. It's pretty amazing.

I hope you all are doing well and that life is going your way. I love you all. (Please email me and keep me updated on life!)

Elder Taylor

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