This week has been off to a great start! On Tuesday I helped give a training about conversation starters to the other Sisters. The longer and longer I am on my Mission, the more I realize the importance of being able to talk to people! Having basic social skills really blesses your life. That would be my #1 piece of advice to future missionaries, and frankly just everyone in general. Talk to people! If you are waiting in line somewhere, or bored- don't get on your phone! Put it down, and talk to the person right next to you. Find something to talk about! It is such a great way to be able to do missionary work and to bless those that are around you.
On Wednesday, we received training from our Mission President about the upcoming District Meeting. To explain however what prompted this meeting, I have to explain what has been going on for the past month.
Right now, the Illinois Nauvoo Mission is going through some drastic changes. It all started from our request for more resources being denied by SLC. Our Mission President was told that we were not using the resources we already had in a good enough way. He was confused, and President Gibbons and the Assistants did some digging. What they found out is that Nauvoo has been using literally twenty year old methods of reporting data. The methods were that out-dated! Nothing has been current, nothing has been able to be actually used by SLC. At first the Sisters were a little bit frustrated, because SLC thinks that we have just been sitting here, twiddling our thumbs and not doing a lot of work, but then everyone got over it and used it as a fire to be better. Also, it is not anyone's fault that things were so messed up. Nauvoo is a very special and unique place. Where else is there a Visitor's Center, and a Historical Site that does not have a steady support of missionaries? With the Sister Missionaries leaving and going every six months, it was not a good environment or enough of a steady foundation to establish procedures for reporting.
Anyways! All of the Young Sister Missionaries have been frantic to report our numbers in the correct way for the past two weeks. We now input it purely onto our online Area Book, and report some others to our Assistants which our Mission President then calls in to Church Headquarters. Well, unfortunately (hee hee hee) we do so much work and teach so many lessons here in Nauvoo, we actually crashed the database for the online Area Book. :) . So, now SLC has been calling us multiple times a day, and we have become a priority again! Yay!
Now, onto this District Meeting Training. All of the Sisters have been jazzed because of our success, and wanted to share it with the Seniors. The only thing is that so far in the past, the Seniors have not been effectively trained. Well, I am here to tell you that Heavenly Father loves all of his children, especially those over 65, and wants them to be able to do a good job! It was decided that to help this, all of the Sisters would be going solo to the District Meetings and train the Senior. So, this past Wednesday we received training on what and how President Gibbons wanted us to present this information. It was a great time, and I had a lot of very spiritually enlightening studies the rest of the week on how to present the District Meeting. More on how the District Meeting went later, have to go chronologically!
On Thursday, I was coming back from working at the Family Living Center. It was a great day, and had shown quite a few people about how to make pottery, and testified that we need to trust that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ will mold us into the people we need to become. Then, while I am trying to grab together some dinner and still wearing my Pioneer dress, the Assistants called me at 15 min till 7. They asked if I could role play an investigator that night for practice with all of the first summer sisters. I said yes, of course, and they wanted me to be a 30-something single mom in an apartment. They also wanted me to dress-up. Well, this was the only problem, because we literally had to get into the car in five minutes, and I needed a convincing outfit! I also could not come dressed in the outfit because it needed to be a surprise to everyone, even my companion. I don't have anything that really could translate into a mom in her thirties. So, luckily my friend Sister Munro helped me out. She let me wear her jeans (which was a weird experience not wearing jeans for a year and then putting them on) and I grabbed a black t-shirt I had. The issue was the rest of the outfit. I grabbed a beanie I wore on my Outbound in Idaho, and then was frantically trying to think of something else. I decided I would be a little bit of a darker personality, so I needed the jewelry to pull it off. Unfortunately, I didn't have any of that either, so Sister Munro let me borrow all of her bracelets and some long earrings. I grabbed my make-up bag, my leather boots from my Outbound too and went for the door!
So I arrive at the Visitor's Center in a Pioneer dress with a huge bag full of my stuff. Luckily my companion had not asked about the bag so I did not have to make something up, and Sister Hansen, one of the Assistants pulled me from the group and told the rest to go in. I literally had three minutes to change and get ready before I needed to be at my station. Well, I FLUNG everything everywhere, and some how got changed. To add a nice touch, I put on a ton of black eyeliner and smudged it a little bit to not look too put together. All of the actors met upstairs in the conference room to say prayer, and I was the last one in. All of the other actors were Senior missionaries, and looked positively frightened when they saw me! Success :) We said a prayer to help us get in character and have this be a role play where the Spirit could teach these Sisters and give them inspiration. So, I was assigned the Call Center as my "Apartment" and I wanted to get even more in Character. I turned on all the lights and had the only source of light be the blue from the computer screens and a little flashlight. I then strewed clothing everywhere, and literally make everything in my purse explode into the room. I got a little mischievous then, and decided the final touch would be to have me yelling at someone over the phone as the Sisters walked up to my door. So, I made up a back-story which was a compilation of several real people I taught in Idaho, and went to work :)
Here is an excerpt from my companion, Sister Mill's weekly email. This is how she described me :) :
First off: Tracting Training: BEST EVENING EVER!! It was a surprise from our wonderful assistants. They just told everyone to be at the Visitor Center at 7:00 for a training. When we got there they informed us that we would be practicing tracting. In each room would be a potential investigator, the second summer sisters (like me) would be members going with the missionaries and the first summer sisters would be the missionaries. Well we went off, I decided to be a Laurel named Emily going on splits with the sister missionaries. Well we knocked on the first door and there was my wonderful companion Sister Allred dressed completely Gothic, lights off except a computer (because in her "house" the power bill had not been paid) and yelling at her 11 year old daughter. The sisters then attempted to talk to her about the Gospel. I wish you could understand how amazingly funny this was. Sister Allred is always very well dressed. To see her in a black tee-shirt was one thing, to have her also wearing every piece of jewelry that Sister Munro owns was something totally different, complete with VERY black, not well put on eye liner and a beanie. :) BEST DAY EVER!! Those poor sisters had no idea what to do. :) hehe, but 'Chrissy' and 'Emily' got along really well.
The Sisters who came to my door were a little taken aback, because most have never been in environments like that. Well, after a while they all made it work, and one companionship even invited me to be baptized! It was a great role-play, and it even helped me too. As I was feeling what my investigator would be feeling, I am now convinced that all a person needs to become converted and to accept to be baptized is to feel the Spirit. Right from the moment those Sisters knocked on my door, I felt their Spirit. Sometimes I did not want to hear what they said, but I could feel their goodness. It was such a fun and special experience, I know I will remember it for a long time!
On Friday I was on Exchanges with Sister Munro to interpret for two recent converts from Mississippi. These ladies were taught by Sister Richardson (my former companion :) on her Outbound to Little Rock, AR Mission. They came here to experience Nauvoo, and I had such a great time getting to know them and have a great experience teaching them.
The first thing we did with these ladies is we went tot he Community of Christ Sites and we interpreted their tour for the Recent Converts. It was really interesting because after the tour was done, Bronzie, who was just baptized in November, asked the tour guide about his beliefs. Later, Bronzie told us that as she was talking with the Tour Guide, that the Spirit was telling her that she had made the right choice and needed to stay in the Church.
Well, as we were walking from the tour, we passed by the Site of where Lucy Mack and Joseph Smith Sr's homestead was. Sister Munro and I paused and told them about it, and how it was significant because Joseph Smith Senior gave many patriarchal blessings here. Well, I am convinced that inspiration was from Heavenly Father. Bronzie then proceeds to tell us about how she wants to get her blessing, but her stake will not allow her to have an interpreter while she is getting the blessings. She said that it did not feel right to get it at the time without being able to understand what was going on, and that she wanted to do it right. It was very interesting because Sister Munro shared her experience because both of her parents are deaf, they were able to have an interpreter there when their daughter was having her blessing, and that it would make sense for Bronzie to be able to. We conversed, and Bronzie asked if she could get it here, where there would be interpreters for her. She had all the paperwork and everything signed at home, but just needed to be in a place where someone could do that for her. Well, I told her that we could not promise her that it could be done here, but Sister Munro and I could find out what the protocol was and what needed to happen so she could have an interpreter when it was the right time for her.
We make it back to the Community of Christ Visitor's Center, and the two ladies go into the Film room to watch the movie. Sister Munro and I are waiting outside, and I ask to use the Visitor's Center's phone. I call my Mission President and am explaining what is going on, and I notice that the tour guide who took us on our tour is very interested in what I am saying. So, I kind of slip in my testimony of patriarchal blessings ever so casually so he does not realize I know he is listening. President Gibbons and I talk, and we find out the correct procedure to be able to help Bronzie. In the Church Handbook it actually gives specific instructions for ASL, and Bronzie will be able to receive a Patriarchal blessing with an interpreter! I am overjoyed, and while she will not have it here, she has the tools to be able to understand and accomplish what is required. We share the information when we are done, and are able to help her out a lot! I feel so blessed to be able to be able to help the Lord's children no matter where we are.
Funny Story: After the tour at COC, we go to the grave site of Emma, Joseph and Hyrum Smith. When we are there, we run into a family that I had given a tour to the previous day in the Family Living Center. I talk to them and are following up with them, and we actually have a wonderful experience. They have some questions about some of the specifics that happened here in Nauvoo, and I share part of a Journal entry that Lucy Mack Smith wrote at the Funeral of Joseph and Hyrum. The Spirit is very strong, and just a wonderful moment. I am starting to feel so grateful for this time with this family, when all of the sudden I hear a loud and resounding, CRACK!!! and I see and feel something fly towards me and kind of hitting me in the shoulder. It takes a little bit of time to realize what just happened, but something had fallen from the tree, hit the father of the family in the head (causing the crack) and part flew off and hit me. The family was very, very concerned because the father had brain surgery just two years before, but once we established that everything was ok, we looked up and saw a squirrel in the tree! The father screwed up his face, pointed to the tree and said in a loud voice, 'It was the squirrel!" We all just laughed and some were even crying, and we even found what had hit his head. It was a HUGE walnut, about as big as my fist and we were even able to find the part that flew off. All I can say is, that we have had quite a few problems with squirrels. Even in Carthage, after taking people on tours of the Jail, the squirrels will come out and pelt stuff at us! None quite as dramatic as my story, but I know I will be telling that one for a long time!
On Saturday, Sister Mills and I get to go do Nauvoo on the Road at the Illinois State Fair! It is a blast, and they actually even had us perform and sing some songs. I think it turned out pretty well, and I even learned all of the words to those old songs! They had us sing the songs typical of that time period like, "Clementine", "Camptown Ladies", "Polly Wolly Doodle" and "Amazing Grace". We had about four performances that day, and I was even surprised by having Elder Broadhead making me do a solo! On the 3 hour car ride there, we were all joking and playing, and the other Sisters and I started to reminisce about Girl's Camp songs. Well, we sang a few and I lead everyone in the song, "The Princess Pat" . Elder Broadhead was in charge of the music, apparently liked that song, and wanted me to do it! So three times I sang it and had the crowds at the State Fair sing back at me, and talk about a "Rickabamboo" :) It was quite enjoyable!
After a while it was quite apparent that Sister Mills was not doing too well, so I was kind of left alone- of course with other missionaries but alone at my job. I was assigned to find a way to make people come to the booth and our huge tent, so I decided what would be more attention grabbing than a twenty-year old brunette, wearing a light green pioneer dress, singing on top of wooden stilts? Haha! My catchphrase I said to everyone who passed by was, "I bet that you have never a pioneer on stilts before!" My method was very successful. I was able to have almost everyone go in and make rope, and even play other games. I even was able to have quite a few spiritual conversations, and made quite a few good conversations. One bummer though was, I think I needed shoes with a steel shank in the sole, because now my feet are bruised. But it was totally worth it! It was the best!
Also a cool part it that at one time during the day, I felt like I needed to talk to two men who were sitting outside of the Convention Center. I did, and invited them to get on stilts too. Also, a great conversation starter with adults- they never just take it, and normally I could coax them into trying it. Well, one of the men responded with a German accent. Of course, I responded in German, asking him where he was from, etc. He was from Cologne and was here with his family! Also, while he was not confident with his stilt walking abilities, his kids would probably like to do it. His family comes right out, and there was a four year old and a six year old boy. The kids came up to me, and when I started talking to them in German they just lit up! Both just started talking my ears off, asking where I was from in Germany, or maybe I was from a Russian country because I had a weird accent ( I have been told by many Germans that I talk like I am Eastern-european). It was very, very cute, and trying to answer all of their questions all at once was a little bit overwhelming because I have not really thought in German for over a year, but it was great! The kids were so cute, and literally their Mom had to pry them away from me when it was time for them to go get dinner. It was just the best day every with the cutest kids!
After we drove home from Springfield, IL (Where the fair was) Sister Mills was out for the count the rest of that night and all of Sunday. Well, while I was confined at home, I got to call a lot of members and investigators, and got a lot of lessons in too! It was kind of weird to call them from the house phone in our kitchen with a bad connection instead of an office, but I think it made me rely on the Spirit more because I had to really focus on what they were saying. Overall, it was a great experience.
Even though Sister Mills was sick on Sunday, I was still able to give a District Meeting to a group! It was great and I think it went over really well. The only shocker was the District only wanted the meeting to be an hour long, and we were told we would have 1 1/2 to 2 hours. But it worked out, and it was a blast! It also worked out well for role-playing because Sister Gifford was at home sick, and her husband needed someone to role-play with. So, I was able to do it and we had a great time! One of the Senior couples in the group, the Hatches, are just a riot. Elder Hatch was making smart alec remarks the whole time, to which I just told him to suck it up and role-play! Haha it was great. After the meeting, we had treats and the night ended with throwing popcorn into his mouth across the Udall's living room.
Well on Monday, Sister Mills was still recovering and they needed me to switch my shift from working at the Visitor's Center to working at Sarah Granger Kimball Home with one of my favorite seniors ever..... Sister Murray! My Canadian spitfire was as lovely as ever, and we had a great time together. If it is any indication of how well we get along, when she dropped me off at my house and I was climbing out of her lifted truck, she took my hand and said, "Sister Allred, I think we were meant to be friends. We are kindred spirits, and age doesn't matter!" I love that woman with all of my heart and soul.
Needless to say, this week has been wonderful and I love you all. This email is long enough already, and I can definitely say I can now type faster now that I have been on a mission :) #RMperks. have a great week!