It's so cool to hear about Dad taking people on Dam tours and Jess getting First in State for winter percussion!!!!!!!!!!!! I got Julie's letter by the way! I loved it! Write me again and I'll definitely write a reply next week, when we don't have zone p-day.
I don't think I have eaten so much cake in my life! Saturday was Sister Crowton's birthday, she turned 30, and Friday they Elders brought over their usual cake (but this time, decorated as a birthday cake). Then Sister Hale brings over another cake on Saturday for our little lunch party with 'magic' candles that re-light after they've blown out. Sister Crowton's mom also sent a 'party in a box' with grandma pink cookies and candles and cool glasses. Then we go visit Sister Okes (who just got her patriarchal blessing yesterday!!) that night and she gives us this GIGANTIC ice-cream cake. She loves missionaries. Then we made a cake for Sister Houtz birthday today! We went to eat at Gator Dockside and had some gator tail. While they were ordering, Sister Crowton, Hale and I snuck out and frosted the cake that we made in the parking lot and ate some that cake after eating the gator. Side note: they deep fry everything down here. Sister Houtz ordered a sandwich that was deep fried. I think my favorite thing at that food place was the Corn Nuggets. You take creamed corn, and deep fat fry it! Soooo good! The reason I'm writing you a little later in the day is because we went fencing as a Zone and we didn't have time this morning.
In contrast to all of this cake, we have also been doing more activity! Instead of running 10 laps around our parking lot, today I ran 14 and took the whole 20 minutes! First time I could keep up with Sister Crowton the whole time. The secret was Sally DeFord's "The Greatest Among Us" which was in my head the whole time and that kept a consistent beat going. It's nice to run when you don't feel like dying after a couple of laps!
We also had trade-offs during Sister Crowton's birthday! It wasn't so fun that every single appointment fell through, but it was wonderful because we got to eat a birthday lunch with Sister Carrigan and Sister Ashcraft! (Of course Sister Howell and Hale came by, we're still in their area since all of Gainesville is in their YSA branch). I had my first evaluation with Sister Carrigan. My planner got graded! I got a 40/41 :)
Things are starting to pick up and slow down at the same time here in Gainesville. We notice that there are several people that we need to drop who are not progressing at all, but there are also others we meet who you can tell they want this in their lives. We met at 96 year old woman yesterday in Church who: lives by herself in her own three bedroom house, volunteers twice a week, makes all of her own clothes, and still drives. Sister M is amazing and we're looking foreword with meeting with her this week! Cool side note for dad: This lady also had shoulder problems with calcium deposits. She couldn't move her arm above her head. Solution = celery! Sister Hawkins (a member of our ward who made instant friends with Sister M in Relief Society) mentioned that the magnesium will clear it up. It is evidenced in this 96 year old lady that it works. Eat more celery dad! Or put it in that green mush you like to drink. I personally have gotten some and will be eating it with peanut butter.
Tuesday we had this cool video conferencing with everyone who came out with me four weeks ago with President and the Assistants. It was really cool to see everyone again! Then the very next day we end up having to drive to Jacksonville anyway because Sister Crowton had to go to a leadership conference anyway. The Church is actually putting out a world wide leadership position for Sisters now. They're called 'Sister Trainer Leader' and will be like Zone Leaders, but for Sisters. They can't be in a companionship yet, as everyone is needed for training, but that is what the goal is. Our District Leader followed us home in a new car for the Elders in our ward! They day after they got it, it had a flat tire. Also, the poor Elders, they went to the 'Beast Feast' where they feed you all this meat and then tell you what it is (they had squirrel, duck, opossum, wild boar, frog legs, crawdad, and armadillo) and Elder Greenlaw got sick.
Cool story, Sisters Hale and Howell got one of the most high profile referrals in their lives last week! They got a referral from Elder Andersen of the 12! I don't know the details, but if the person is in our area, we might get to help out if they ask us. Other than that, nothing too exciting has happened.
Fast Sunday was really nice. I think that was one of the first times that I've fasted and liked it. The Testimony meeting was ok. Lots of kids got up and their parents whispered in their ears - not too many adults. Brother Stackhouse's kids got blessings in Sacrament meeting though. Brother Anderson (the former General Authority) gave the blessings. The last few days have kind of been centered around patriarchal blessings (we have been studying for preparing sister Okes and another sister in our ward who is preparing to get her's as well) and lo and behold, we have a Relief Society activity next week with the Patriarch! I need to finish studying mine before then. Jess should think about getting hers!
PS For my birthday, could you send: one or two black/white undershirts and maybe a gps? but only if you want.
Sounds like y'all had a eventful week! Elder Jenkins, Elder Greenlaw's trainer, keeps trying to get everyone to say the correct term for the word 'you' in this culture (it says this somewhere in the missionary handbook - but I think it's for foreign missions). So I, the obedient missionary, say it occasionally. Everyone is having teeth operations and whatnot. That story of seeing President Barry's daughter in the temple was really cool!
Lets go through how my week went:
Tuesday we were on trade offs with the sister's in charge of the YSA branch in Gainesville. I spent the day with Sister Howell. Lets just say that it was interesting. She is going back to the Temple Square mission next transfer. (Tomorrow I get to spend the day with her companion Sister Hale. Sister Crowton started her training last transfer, but didn't get to finish training her as I came in. Sister Hale has 'The Box of Sunshine' full of chocolate from her mom for easter. Sister Crowton kept saying throughout the week that she needed to prepare to meet the box of sunshine again, so she's been running for the whole 30 minute work out time! - I've been working my way up to 20 min and made it this morning! :)
Wednesday we were on trade offs with the sister's in charge of the Gainesville 3rd ward. Sister Crowton evaluated Sister Houtz while I spent the day with Sister Major! We spent most of the day in my area (GV 2nd ward) and drove around in the boonies, in the rain most of the day. Needless to say, lots of singing in the car took place. Took a picture of one of the roads that we went down. This is basically what GV's boonies look like. It's pretty universal.
Thursday was Zone Meeting (not conference). It was really nice to meet all the missionaries in the Gainesville Zone! There are a lot of people from my MTC District here :) They served TONS of homemade bread and water at the end. I think I had four slices of bread (they were big slices)! The Institute Building of UF has the smell of fresh baked home made bread infused in it's walls. Since it was zone meeting, I got all of the letters addressed to the mission home - I will only get stuff from them once a month so if you send anything there, keep that in mind. My apartment also allows packages (for future reference as my birthday is coming up...).
Friday was weekly planning session! The Elders made us another cake! Enclosed is a picture of the wonderful lemon cake :) We also had a Facebook conference call as well as my 3rd week of training conference call. We didn't get out the door til 4pm! We spent the rest of the day in the ritzy Town of Tioga neighborhood. Saw a limo.
Saturday was conference!!!!!!!! We watched the first session with the G family (investigators) at the Foglemans. I love the Foglemans! Their grandma was commenting that she was listening to an automated phone that sounded like GLADOS and was freaked out. The fact that their 70 year old grandma played Portal 1 and 2 made my day.
Sunday after General Conference was a huge contrast to what the day was like just a few hours before. Sister Crowton and I went tracting and met with some really nice people. They weren't interested, but it was a good experience to 'knock their number' lower. After listening to living prophets and hearing about the wondrous plan of salvation it was very sad to hear about these wonderful people's beliefs. One was a kind of 'inactive' Catholic who didn't really have any convictions or care all that much about religion, "I had questions about that kind of stuff when I was an altar boy, but I don't really care about it anymore." We also met another nice man with a beautiful yard who was a scientist/atheist that "God is something that man made up so they could get through life." And lastly a lady in our apartment building was moving out and her boyfriend came over to help her. We had a quick conversation about what happens after we die. I don't even know how we got on the subject. "After we die, God's love will cancel out everything else and we won't need relationships anymore and we'll all just be brothers and sisters in Christ."
This was a testimony to me that this gospel is true and that we indeed need to talk to everyone to get the word of the Lord out about this wonderful plan of happiness.
Love you all!
PS Sorry about the late email. We went to the butterfly museum at the University of Florida today.
Last Wednesday it was time to take Julie on a popular long bike ride. All we had to do was hitch up the bike rack to the car and make sure we had enough water.
Jessie had all four of her wisdom teeth pulled out and wasn't quite ready for physical activity, so she became our designated driver.
She drove us up Provo Canyon to Bridal Veil Falls parking lot and dropped us off around 11:am. The spring weather was perfect.
The Provo Bike Trail is very well constructed. The only part we had to be cautious was when we went through the long tunnels below the busy streets and down the hill from University Avenue on the sidewalks. I made sure that I warned Julie about going fast down hill. There was loose gravel right off some of the sidewalks which made the ride a little dangerous near the busy traffic.
Stopping at Macey's Grocery store was a nice rest stop for soft ice cream. While we were resting we decided to go all the way to the sandy beach at Utah Lake.
There wasn't very many people at the lake and the scenery was wonderful. Julie wanted to swim in the lake but the water was too cold. I talked her into taking off her shoes and rolling up her pants that way she could still wade in the water.
Julie was a real trooper! In fact she had to slow down a few times to wait for me. We rested long enough at the lake to make our way back home. When we got home around 2:30 pm we enjoyed a very long nap. Looking back, most of the bike ride was down hill. My kind of ride! If I were asked to go again, I would do it in a heart beat!
Hellooo from Florida! Even though you said that not a lot has gone on at home, hearing about Jessie's wisdom teeth and the Young Women's Conference was still really exciting! I remember you mentioning that Dad was going to have something done. How did that go? He's had a busy week! I love that Christopher just got baptized!!! I don't really think that I can look at your blog since the only websites we can look at are Facebook, lds.org, and mormon.org. (Sister Crowton is a Facebook missionary). President Barry is more strict when it comes to that. We can't even read letters during the week - only on P-days, but he and his wife are so amazing that I have no problem doing it! This is part of the reason paper mail is best since most of the time I'm not in a place I can print out emails to read.
It was so cool to hear about Grant getting his call!!! That is so exciting that he is speaking Check! He is going to make a great missionary. :)
I'm finally getting the hang of Gainesville (sort of). We live right off of Newberry road, and from there, I can make my way around with the many churches as landmarks. The 'three dolphin' Trilogy Church when you go over the overpass, the North West, North Central, North East (and other directionally based) Baptist Churches all over the place (the central one being the biggest) - I've even seen a Korean Baptist Church! The First Church of the Nazarine is by one of our investigators. To get to the stake house where the GV 2nd ward goes to you have to get on Newberry, turn left in between the Missionary Baptist Church and the First Assembly of God, turn right at the midget palm trees (not left or that will take you to the Power House Church) and our church is right next to the gigantic School of Rock. Some of these churches are just warehouses with names in front of them, but some of them are real architectural pieces of art! I'll take some pictures driving by or something.
Last week on Friday-Saturday, Sister Crowton and I went to Macclenny so she could do a trade-off/evaluation of the two sisters working there. Sister Ashcraft and Sister Carrigan. It was so good to see Sister Ashcraft again! There are a lot less trees than in Gainesville - real deep south kind of place where EVERYONE has the accent. The sisters there live with a member who I love! K is a convert and during Saturday morning session, our trainers jumped us and said that we are going to teach her the first lesson and that she would pretend to be an investigator. I had a really good time with this lady! One of her burning desires is to move to Utah and go to school at BYU.
For lunch on Saturday we ate BBQ ribs that Preacher Man made! Preacher Man is a preacher and on Saturdays, he sets up a stand behind a store and makes BBQ. The ribs that we got there were basically amazing. Sister Crowton tells me that the BBQ sauce here in the South is a lot different that anywhere else. It's mustard based or something. Jake wouldn't like the heat but he would LOVE this!
One cool experience that I had there - Sister Ashcraft and I were visiting some less actives and we were meeting with this grandma who was baptized last year but was still struggling with smoking. When we were talking with her, I felt the Spirit more strongly than I ever have since coming out telling me that I needed to promise her something. I don't know how this would help her, but I told her that if she would read the Book of Mormon for 30 minutes every day, that God would grant her the power to overcome smoking. It was kind of a surreal experience. I feel that that could apply to anything that we are having problems with in our lives too.
Members of the GV 2nd ward love to feed us (I have had to make a vow that I won't overeat while I'm at member's houses because they make such good food!). The Loosli family fed us last night for Easter dinner - it was so good! They're kind of a health conscious family though so they had a wide variety of fruits and veggies to choose from. Believe it or not Sister Crowton LOVES doing dishes so after we ate we washed dishes! The Loosli family has seven girls and they had a lot of extended family over as well so there was a LOT of dishes, but Sister Crowton was so excited to do so many dishes that it made it really fun! :)
Today for P-day our district is going to eat at a place called Moes. The Elders who work in our ward with us (Elders Jenkins and Greenlaw) absolutely love the place so I wanted to try it out. Sister Crowton is kind of hesitant because she had a bad experience there (they put cucumbers on her salad and she hates cucumbers) but she was willing to go again so I could try. It's not very common to have Elders and Sisters in one ward together. Last
friday was the Weekly Planning Session that goes on for 5 hours or something. Elder Jenkins gets so bored that they have had a tradition to make a cake! They eat half of the cake and they brought us over the other half! They make really good cake. :)
Later on today we're going on another trade-off from 5pm today to 5pm tomorrow with the sisters in the Gainesville YSA Branch. Later this week we have another trade-off with the sisters in GV 1st ward (Sister Major and Sister Houtz). We'll hardly be in our own area! On top of that we have Zone meeting this week that takes a little longer than District meeting. Whew. Busy busy busy! Love it! We don't have a lot of investigators at the moment so it probably won't affect anything.
I'm so excited for Conference! We've been inviting everyone we meet with to prepare and write some questions down and to watch it! You guys at home should do that as well. Sister Crowton and I are!