And greetings from the great city of Lake Charles, Louisiana!
Yup, God totally answers prayers, and he gave me the area I wanted right from the start. Not that I was praying I'd be in Louisiana specifically...but I really really really wanted to be. Me and my companion, Sister Barton, are the only sisters in Louisiana! And I will be here for at least 3 months since I am training here. Which means that the address you should send stuff to until at least October 1 is:
1531 Country Club Road #911 (haha, yes indeed, I was amused as well)
Lake Charles, LA 70605
Since we are the furthest area from the mission home, we almost never get any mail sent to the mission home, so if you have sent anything since I've gotten here I have not received it, but actually probably will tomorrow since tomorrow we have president interviews - but after that you should send things to the above address to rest assure that I received them.
Anyways, we have a HUGE area here - so big we can't actually cover it all with the few miles we are given, which is kind of lame. But there are very few members here. We have three sets of missionaries in the Lake Charles ward here because it covers three mission areas the members are so few and far between. Surprisingly though, and thankfully so, even with two sets of elders and a set of sisters, the members come through and get us fed most nights, which is awesome because Louisiana food is THE BOMB. So the members here are pretty awesome.
Anyways, since I didn't get a chance to email last Monday as I was on a plane headed for Texas (also I finally got a window seat! and so pretty much spent the entire flight with my face plastered to the window staring out at the clouds. Also on our first flight - we flew from Salt Lake to Dallas, then Dallas to Houston - some of the missionaries had first class seats! I wasn't among them, but they totally got like breakfast and everything. So yeah pretty much anytime they complained about anything else the rest of the way there be it hunger or tiredness or what, I told them I had no sympathy because they'd gotten first class. Poor babies) so I feel like first I need to catch you up a bit on my final days at the MTC!
First of all, we totally got to watch fireworks on the 4th of July. Classes and appointments were cancelled that night and we had a special 4th of July broadcast in which we sang lots of songs and they let us applaud inside the chapel which was super weird and also made us all want to applaud for every speaker and everything the rest of the night and then we also watched 17 Miracles, and there was much sniffling and tears heard throughout the chapel the entire time. And then they let us go outside and gave us ice cream and we watched the fireworks from the Provo Stadium of Fire performance and could even hear some Kelly Clarkson. We also got to stay out till like 11, and my goodness I felt so alive - 11pm, seriously?! Like royalty.
Other things about the MTC. Oh, well I quickly developed a reputation in my district for being the "scary" and "intimidating" sister, and though I'm not quite sure how I earned that reputation, I didn't mind. One of the elders said that I gave this look that pretty much said "after our missions I will hunt you down and kill you" which made me very happy as that is a skill I've been practicing since I was like 3. Also at one point, I can't remember how the story came up, but I shared the story where we were in Massachusetts and I lost my pocket knife inside a roller coaster simulator thingamajig and then Elder Ard was like "you carried a pocket knife?" and I was like "yeah" and then they asked how old I was and I said like nine and then the elders were all "YOU CARRIED A POCKET KNIFE WHEN YOU WERE NINE YOU WERE A CRAZY GIRL" and made knife jokes from thereon out, and then also when I asked them why they thought it was weird they said that little boys carry pocket knives but little girls don't and you can imagine how I reacted to that so then they also liked to make feminist jokes because they knew how much I enjoyed that. But yes! I loved the MTC. I learned so much there in so few days and it really was kind of bittersweet to leave, but now I'm in Louisiana, and loving it.
Since I've arrived here, I've realized there are a few things I took for granted in the great state of Colorado:
1) Sidewalks. There are NO SIDEWALKS HERE. Or bike lanes. Or anything other than the road. We walk quite a bit too, in order to save our miles (and also because my bike isn't here yet - except even if it was I don't know how I would ride since there are no sidewalks or any bicycle friendly accommodations whatsoever) and you're pretty much walking right on the road and I don't want to say that I've had some near death experiences with crazy drivers, but let's just say they don't even swerve or anything they just fly past you a bajillion miles over the speed limit a foot from your elbow.
2) Clean water. Remember all those times I poked fun at Kegan and Rhys having no clean water in South America? Welp, here you can't drink the water either, so all our water we buy bottled, and yesterday I was running out and having to ration it and that's definitely a new experience for me.
3) A ketchup-mustard-mayo-free cheeseburger. Enough said.
4) Air! I mean, I'm sure there is air here, but it's hard to breathe in through all the water that's clogging it all up. The crisp air of Colorado is gone, and it's just humid and muggy here, and every time I mention it people tell me it only gets worse and just wait for September.
Anyways, other things. Louisianans are very affectionate. The nicest people ever, no joke, but also really fond of hugging and all that. Which is great. Actually my first day here, after dropping my stuff off at the apt and going out to teach, our new investigator Terrance, who is this super sweet older guy, gave us both hugs and kisses on the cheek at the end of the lesson, haha. Also, funny thing, everyone here thinks my name is really weird! This one time we'd tracted a house and the man wasn't interested but we'd shared our names and a short message and he had me repeat my name like four times and as we walked away we could here him, as he closed the door, laughing and muttering "Enright." It's funny, because I never thought my name was particularly odd, but people here certainly think so.
There are also quite a very sketchy places here in Lake Charles. The other day, for instance, Sister Barton and I tracted into a drug deal which was a bit awkward to say the least and then after that we were still knocking on doors when I just felt unsafe and that we should go so I turned to Sister Barton and was like "we should go" and she said "yeah I was just about to say that" so we left. So thank goodness for the Holy Spirit.
Also, people here are all very religious which is both a blessing and a curse at times. A lot of people are Catholic, but there is also this huge Pentecostal church here, Living Way, and every time we tract someone who says they go to Living Way as we leave I say "Living Way!" in a Seinfeld-saying-"Newman" way because it's so true! This one time even we were talking to this man who was very open and asking all these questions when then suddenly his Living Way minister showed up and was like "I feel the need to pray here with y'all" so we did and then we had to leave. Prayer here is different too - the first time we asked someone if we could pray at an appointment they were really into it and then stood up and Sister Barton stood up and I was like "um, okay" and then we all stood in a circle and held hands and kind of each person in the circle prayed, except just Sister Barton or myself says the prayer when it gets to us. Also while someone else is praying, the other people talk out a lot, saying things like "oh yes, oh yes, praise the Lord, Hallelujah Jesus" and the first time that happened to me while I prayed it was a bit distracting. So one of the difficulties we face is that these people are all very very religious and love Christ and God and though some are open to receiving more truth, which is what we tell them, others are less thrilled about that. But so many people even if they aren't interested tell us what great work we're doing. We do a lot of tracting because our teaching pool here is so small, but I've come to really love tracting. It's amazing what short messages you can share just at the door and most people are pretty open to it. One lady the other day, after turning us down at the door, came running back out and asked if we'd come back and bless her home, so we went back and said a prayer with her and her family, and that was just so amazing.
We do have some investigators though! Which is really cool. Our newest investigator's name is Tim, and let me tell you the story. So Tuesday night, the night I arrived here, Sister Barton and I went out and met with some investigators and then were tracting when this guy driving down the street stops and yells out to us "y'all Jehovahs Witnesses?" and Sister Barton called back "no sir, we are from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!" and then we went up to his car and he told us he used to meet with two guys from our church several years ago and could we please come over and he gave us his address and phone number and then we went over a couples days later and he was so excited and told us all about how he wants to change and fix things in his life and was just so prepared for our message it was amazing. Even though much of our tracting and whatnot proves fruitless it seems, I know that God rewards us for our obedience and hard work because he gives us our investigators! Both Tim and our other newest investigator, Brenda, who was a referral from mormon.org, are wonderful blessings from God. It's amazing.
Another cool thing about the mission is that we have here "hour of power" each Thursday night at 6pm. That is the hour that the First Presidency goes in to the temple specifically to pray for missionary work, and so we have a brief lesson with a member family on miracles and then pray for miracles and then go out and tract for that hour. And it's amazing. You just feel the spirit so strongly and during that hour are just hyper aware of the great work you're part of.
My companion and trainer, Sister Barton, is awesome. She's very dedicated to exact obedience and working hard, so the two of us get a lot done together - even if "a lot done" just means lots of miles walked and doors knocked on.
I LOVE being a missionary. Seriously. The joys I've felt and the love I've felt for people I've just met is incredible. I love being able to feel the Spirit with me all day, and I love knowing that I am part of God's army doing His work and bringing souls unto him.
I love you all! Thanks for all your support and letters and prayers.
Sister Bayley Enright