Monday, April 18, 2011

Carnes on the Cob - First letter from the "field"

Hello from Corbin, Kentucky!

Tonight I will have officially been in Kentucky for a week.  Tomorrow night I will have officially been in Corbin for a week. They didn't give us a Preparation Day last week because we were flying all day so, I've had a lot happen since I last wrote. 

My last few days in the MTC were wonderful. The spirit was amazing.  
On Sunday, the last day I had there, my district and I sang "How Great Thou Art" in Sacrament Meeting.  Our Branch consists of three districts with about eight missionaries in each district, so it's usually a pretty small meeting.  But, that Sunday was our Branch President's last Sunday and he and his wife were being released.  So, I look up at the start of the meeting and the President of the MTC, Gordon Brown, is sitting up there.  He was there for the whole meeting. The way talks work at the MTC is that the entire branch is given a topic and every missionary prepares a talk and then after the sacrament, whoever is conducting stands up and announces who will be speaking and if they call your name, you get up, right then, and speak. There's no warning or anything. Guess who they called on... Sister Nelson.  It wouldn't have been that big of a deal, except that President Brown was there listening to everything.  But, I think I did a good job and the Elder that spoke after me did a good job, too. 

I didn't sleep AT ALL Sunday night.  I had to get up at 3 in the morning to make it to the checkout and bus by 4.  I tried to sleep because I knew I had a long day ahead of me, but I just couldn't. My sweet companions got up with me and helped me carry my luggage out in the freezing cold to my ride. (They stayed for an extra week to get Visitor Center training.) So, it was me and my Elders and another Sister who is serving Spanish Speaking.  We had a three hour layover in Denver, Colorado and I was able to talk to Mom for a couple minutes, which was nice. 

When we got to the Louisville Airport, the assistants and President and Sister Glende were there to meet us.  We stayed the night at the mission home and I got some much needed sleep. President and Sister Glende are amazing. I'm sad that they are being released next month.  President Glende is a very intelligent man, he's literally a rocket scientist.  Sister Glende is very on top of things, but also very loving.  They hold hands wherever they go. It's cute. The first night we had a Kentucky dish called Burgoo which is a stew with three different meats in it and then we followed it up with Derby Pie (which Mom would love, but I had to gag down: it's made of chocolate, pecans and walnuts).

The next day we went to transfer meeting where I met my companion, Sister Gossett. She and I had a three hour drive to Corbin which is in the southeast of Kentucky, near the Tennessee border, where we got to talk to each other and get to know each other a little bit.  Sister Gossett is from Mississippi.  She has this transfer and next transfer and then she's going home. She has had a knee surgery and her gallbladder taken out while she's been on her mission.  They even sent her home for a transfer because they thought she had leg cancer. She also had gastric bypass right before she came out on her mission.  She's 24, like me and is pretty baby hungry.  She and I get along pretty well.  We have a similar sense of humor and we have a similar approach to the gospel. Her family was baptized when she was 10 but went inactive a couple years later.  She and her sister reactivated later on in High School and her parents are no longer in the church.  

Tuesday night, we came to our apartment and I was pleasantly surprised to find a pretty big, nice apartment. It's set up for four missionaries but only Sister Gossett and I live there.  We have an older man who lives above us and there's a dog next door that we call Hagrid that is big and black and makes me miss Dahlia. Every time I see him I give him human food and it makes me happy.  

The first night we had a teaching appointment with a man named Joe Deitlen.  When we showed up at his house though, he had skipped out on us.  We also met the Bishop and his wife that night (Corbin has about 10,000 people who live in it which is a big city according to Sister Gossett).  Corbin is one of the only areas in the mission that has a ward, too.

I know what people mean when they say that it helps to have a native companion.  That first night, sitting in the Bishop's house, I couldn't really follow a thing. My companion is from the South and the Bishop and his wife are from Kentucky.The three of them started talking and I just smiled because I didn't really know what they were talking about.  When one of them talks at a time, I can understand a lot better, but when they are conversing back and forth, it gets pretty difficult.  What I did take from that conversation was that people really do call black people "colored" down here and that the KKK is active here and that racism is alive in Kentucky. It's kind of crazy. The Bishop and his wife aren't racist, but they do believe that the races shouldn't mix, which I didn't understand until they told me about how the little kids that are half black and half white have a really hard time of it growing up out here.

The next day I woke up for my first full day as a missionary in Corbin.  My companion wasn't feeling well so she slept and I studied and then when she woke up she was crying all day and we couldn't really go out.  We did make it to appointments that she had already made, but we didn't go tracting or anything.  She was crying because she misses her old companion and she doesn't want to train and she wants to go home because she's "wore out" from being so physically sick during her mission.  The same thing happened the next day.  We'll make it to set appointments, but not much else.  We've been here a week together and have done a total of an hour and a half of tracting.  It's hard because she feels bad about it all, but she physically can't do things.  She's over the fact that her companion is gone now because she likes me and we get along, but she doesn't want to be training and she doesn't want to be out here. She called President Glende on Wednesday and told him she wanted to go home early but he told her to stick it out for a week and see how she feels.  I think she'll stick it out.  It's just hard because she's sick a lot and so I study while she sleeps but that's really all I can do.  I just hope that I don't lose the momentum I had before I came out here.  And I hope that when I do have a companion that can go tract and study with me that I'll know what all is expected of me. That being said, I don't blame Sister Gossett.  And I really do enjoy her.  And we've already had some miracles this week.

We're teaching quite a few people.  Sister Tanner was the Sister before me and she was in this area for 9 months so she has a lot of fans who are sad to see her gone and me in her place, but I'm hoping that they'll give me a chance and that I can continue the work that she started here.  There are two young college kids who got baptized a couple days before I got here and we're teaching them the new member lessons and hoping they'll go on missions.  There's a couple other people who we're hoping to baptize this transfer if they can get married and quit dipping [tobacco] and make it to church.  

It's pretty different here than it is in Vegas. Most girls have their first baby by the time they're 15. Almost all the people we're teaching don't have cars or jobs and live off of the government. A lot of them live in the hills and it takes us 45 minutes to drive out to see them.  A couple of them don't have any teeth.  Our area covers a circle of Kentucky with the radius of about 45 minutes or so in all directions with Corbin being the sort of center. Another big area is London and Williamsburg.  There's a college called Union in Barboursville that I really want to go tract when we can tract. 

There's a family called the Carnes that have 6 kids, 5 of which are old enough to be baptized, but the parents won't let them be baptized unless the dad can do it and he's not worthy to get the priesthood so they're kind of holding their kids hostage.  There's a crazy lady in the ward who talks very loudly through all the meetings and her name is Wilma.  She tells people about all the things she's done that are wrong and she doesn't really know what's going on ever. There's only about 10 women in the Relief Society including me and Sister Gossett because the other women are in the Primary. For our closing hymn yesterday we sang 303 and during the prayer she asked really loudly which page number we were on because she was on 203 and it was the wrong one.  It was hilarious.

I want to tell you about the miracle we had.  Sister Gossett called and left a message on the phone of a lady in the ward asking about something.  We got a call back and the person on the other line said we'd called the wrong number. Sister Gossett started apologizing and the lady, Angela, said not to apologize and that she and her fiancee didn't think it was an accident that we called because they're looking for the true church and that they spoke to the missionaries years ago in Indiana and had some questions and wondered if we would mind coming over and teaching them.  Of course we were thrilled! We went over and taught Angie, Matthew and Gabriel (Angie's daughter).  Everything we told Matthew he already believed through his study of the Bible.  He would open up to a verse that proved that the church is true with every new topic we got to. We committed them to baptism in that first lesson.  Their date is May 21st. They didn't make it to church the next day, but I still have high hopes for them.  They are COMPLETELY PREPARED.  I just love them so much already.  I could feel the spirit as soon as we stepped into their home which was clean (the first place I've seen that is clean).  They'll need to quit smoking and get married, but I think they'll be sealed in a year and they'll help build up this ward.  Our ward needs people who are strong.  Most people stay in the church here for a year or so and then get excommunicated or don't come anymore but use financial aide.  Our bishop runs himself ragged.  But the church is true, even in Kentucky and I can't wait for this family to help build it up.

Michael, I'm sending you a birthday package. I sang "When you're the best of friends" all day yesterday.
Mom and Dad- Happy Anniversary tomorrow!
Joel- My district leader is Dexter Croft's cousin, Elder Kastendeick.

I love you all and I pray for you and I can feel your prayers for me. The church is true! Share it!
-Sis Nelson

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