Monday, July 22, 2013

Anna Herring
9:44 AM (2 hours ago)
to me
Hello my dear family!
I can't believe it has been nearly two weeks since I last wrote. I am now in my mission and out of the MTC. Yikes! I'm so excited though. I have my journal on hand so hopefully I don't miss any of the major details of these past couple weeks.
First of all, thank you for the pictures, videos, letters, and packages. You know who you are! :) I loved the mini-m&m's, licorice, funny pics, lip gloss, punching bag, and crown. heehee My companions think I'm a little crazy, but that's okay haha.
Okay! Here goes! The MTC was truly one of the best experiences of my entire life. The lessons and opportunities I had there will stick with me throughout my life. I gained such a testimony of the Book of Mormon, the Holy Ghost, prayer, faith, and so many other basic gospel principles. It is because of these simple things that the great work of the church can move forward. I am merely an instrument. Just know that I am a huge fan of the MTC. I wish each member could have the opportunity to go for a couple weeks. The spirit was in each classroom and even in the lunchroom there was something different than the rest of the world. What a great place! I even got to see Steve and Sharon Crosby my last full day there. Yay! I almost cried with excitement! :) Well, Tuesday morning we woke up bright and early and after getting everyone checked out and the room ready for the next group, we headed for the buses. I sat next to 3 people from Arizona. Crazy! One of them was even a cousin to one of my students at Benjamin Franklin. I don't think that was by chance. We were all very sleepy, but couldn't sleep because of the task that lay before us. We got on the plane and I sat next to this huge African American man and another sister missionary. We were beginning to pry and to find out more about him when he said that he was already LDS. Aw man! 4 hours on a flight with 2 members sitting next to me! :) When we got to detroit I sat next to another missionary on the plane. Out of 50 seats, there were 31 missionaries so there was a good chance that you would be sitting by one. It was a small plane and that was a good thing because as we flew into West Virginia we all began to wonder where we would be able to land. There were only trees more trees and hills. It was so green! Well, apparently they had blown off the top of one of these hills and put the airport there. Only certain-sized planes can land and if a larger plane tries to land, it falls off the edge of the hill. Crazy! Our mission president met us there with the APs and Zone Leaders from this area. They are awesome young men! So helpful! We then loaded our luggage into a trailer (which only opened once on the drive) and headed to the mission home. When we got there we had dinner waiting and it was divine! Holy Moly! Beef Stroganoff and green beans and other yummy treats. We then had our testimony meeting where each of us began to doze off, but I did my best and stayed awake. With 31 missionaries, we had to sleep in the hotel in town and it turned out to be quite nice! We even had a continental breakfast! The lady that was cleaning up tables came over and talked to us and we ended up giving her a Book of Mormon! Success! :)
The next day we went to training and interviews all day and that night we went to Chick Fil A to check out our debit cards. I gave a pass-along card to a man and his two sons. I'm trying to take advantage of every opportunity. The sister training leaders then took me and a couple of other sisters out to teach some lessons and I got to go to this man's house. We weren't able to go in because he was the only one home, but he talked the whole time! We shared a scripture and prayer and that was it! :)
The next day we got placed with our companions and in our areas. My companion is Sister Tuckett from Payson, Utah. She only has 4 months left and is amazing! Everyone I talked to said she is the best missionary ever! She is the Sister Training Leader of our area. We are in the Back Creek area. It is just south of Roanoke, VA. Its name fits it perfectly. We live in a house up in the mountains. :) It is a beautiful home and upstairs is an LDS family. They are in the process of moving, but it is a family home, so we are alone right now. I think we should be fine for awhile. I am in love with this area. After driving for 4 hours from Charleston, we got here and I immediately went to the dinner appointment at the Fergusons. I should specify though. This area is full of families that have been here for generations. Their great-great-grandparents were the ones that founded the church in the area and so they were all baptized in their youth but many are not currently active. We have many opportunities to teach less-active members or the families that have not heard of the church. The family that we went to is one of the active members of the Ferguson clan :) It was another amazing meal! Something I've come to realize in the few days I've been here is the fact that every meal consists of a type of meat (usually homegrown beef), potatoes, green beans, coleslaw, and biscuits, and cobbler for dessert. Every meal! It is heaven and torture all at the same time. Oh and a common phrase is to say, "If you leave hungry, it's your own fault". haha They start offering you more food before your plate is empty. I'm a fast learner though, and what you do is put a lot of food on your plate to begin with, then eat really slow. Once they are done you can be finished. haha I've gained a little weight, but having a companion that is going home so soon is extremely helpful because she is determined to lose the weight she's gained. They say this a 20 lb. mission. I'm hoping to stick to five. haha
The people here are so genuine and kind. We've only had one rude man and it was almost comical. It is a small area, but there is a lot of work to do. We got to go to this restaurant named "The Home Place". It is an old plantation home and again included all you can eat beef, potatoes, fried chicken, ham, mac&cheese, green beans, coleslaw, biscuits, and cobbler. We went with an investigator who is going to be baptized in August so it was worth it. :) The past couple of days has been spent meeting all the investigators, less-actives, members, and getting to know the area. We study each morning then go and teach lessons the rest of the day. I love it! I love this work!
On Saturday morning we went to this less-active man in our ward. I want you to picture the grandfather from Heidi and you'd have him. He is so kind and is bald with a beard. I absolutely love him! We did two hours of service in his yard pulling out the roots from these bushes that have been on the land forever. He had his huge tractor pulling them out, but with the amount of rain they've been receiving I began pulling them out by hand. He was so impressed! haha He even let me drive his tractor after we were finished. His wife has dimensia and his 2 grandkids come and stay with him a lot, and he showed up Sunday with his granddaughter. She is 9 and we are going to try to start teaching her.
We also went to visit some less actives higher up the mountain and as we drove up to their house, the man (sitting on his porch in his overalls and that was all) waved to us. His wife came out and we sat and talked for a little bit and shared a message with them. They are super cute but are as backwoods as they come. Some things to know about this area is that everyone is related somehow, everyone has a gun near the door, everyone has had a heartattack or some heart problem, everyone and their dog has a dog, cat, and other sort of animal, and they would give you the shirt off their back. I do have more teeth than most, there are those rare few that are the kids that came back after seeing the world, but those that stayed are very set in their ways. Oh and our ward is older. Not many of them are younger than 60. I love it though! Teaching people that have lived here their entire lives and getting to know their heritage. It is awesome! I'm in the right area! Oh and Dad, there is such a thing as rain! Who knew?! :) It is extremely humid here, but I love it. It makes my hair nice and curly and my skin super soft. I use 1/4 of the lotion I used to. You definitely don't need to worry about my being safe, or sick. I am in a beautiful and safe location. If I was a Jehovah Witness I'd be scared, but the church has such a good reputation here that even if someone is not interested, they are super nice. Just this morning I taught the Restoration to this lady who is Catholic. She simply wants to learn more about our church, but has asked us to come back. Oh and this other lady said she likes the sister missionaries because she wants to learn more but without the pressure of the elders. We are excited for the many lessons we are getting to teach and for the receptiveness of the message.
I love my mission president and his cute wife. I love my companion, and I love the people. My companion is a genius and is teaching me all she knows. Oh and there are fireflies like crazy here! I can't believe this is where I get to begin my adventure. I'm looking forward to all the experiences I'm having and going to continue having. During studies I learn so much and I've started the BOM again and each time I read it I feel the spirit so strong and gain a stronger testimony of its truthfulness. Just this morning I was reading the vision of the tree of life and it hit me that the Tree of Life is the Love of God and the Iron rod is the word of God/Scriptures. That means the way to get to the Love of God is by reading and cleaving to the Scriptures. Wow! How powerful is that?! Preach My Gospel says that the Book of Mormon and the spirit are the most powerful tools of conversion. If only the whole world knew this message. I'm sorry this is so long, a lot has happened and I could go on for hours, but these are the main points. I want you all to know that I have a testimony of this gospel. It is true and all points back to our loving Heavenly Father. Faith, Repentance, Baptism, Receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and Enduring to the End are the steps to have an eternal family. What a great gift that our family all has this knowledge. This life is not the end and the Book of Mormon is the rod to get us there. Read it! Love it! Live it! I love you all so much and am grateful daily for your examples to me. Keep up the good work at home and know that all is well out here in Roanoke, Virginia. :)
The first pic is of the sisters in my district one last time. Me, Sister Francis, Sister Pearson, and Sister Wahlin.
The 2nd pic is of my district with our teacher Brother Sebesta. He's in the middle.
the 3rd is of my drive into Back Creek
the 4th is the view from our window where we study.
I will get more pics with next week's letter and try to send some hard copies home. Sorry I don't have any with my companion yet, just know she is awesome. :) Oh and my address  here is:
6744 Christopher Drive
Roanoke, VA 24018
Have the best day ever!
Sister Herring

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