Saying goodbye to our zone reminded me of EFY-- we all became close friends as we grew spiritually together for a short period of time. We took lots of group pictures together, sang songs together, and instead of hugs there were handshakes. I'm grateful that the sisters are all sticking together though! We got up at 2 in the morning and began our trek across the country. There was a sign on a screen saying, "Welcome LDS Missionaries!" Ha ha ha, only in Utah! We flew to Atlanta and then got a smaller connecting flight to Knoxville. It was a small flight so we got to talk to a lot of people and everyone was just so nice and friendly!
We got off the plane and were met by President and Sister Irion-- they are SO nice and friendly! Sister Irion gave us all big hugs and made us feel right at home. The weather here is perfect! My ideal weather--seriously. It's in the 70s and sunny with a light breeze. There isn't much humidity right now so it feels just like home. The Irions fed us a home cooked meal and let us sleep in soft beds. It felt so good to be in a home with soft fluffy carpet and the delicious aroma of a home cooked meal in the air.
The next morning we went to the church and met who our trainers were going to be. President makes a big deal of the fact that we are not called "greenies" but rather "golden" because we are fresh from the MTC and ready to go. He even wears his gold tie-- it made me laugh! Our mission is not just the Tennessee Knoxville Mission, but everything is the GREAT Tennessee Knoxville Mission-- good thing I came to such a great mission ;)
My companion is Sister Paxton from Bountiful, UT. She studied neuroscience at the U for a year before coming out here. She is a talented pianist and dancer and so down to earth. We are on the same page-- we both want to work hard and stay busy-- so we get along great. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by all I need to learn and am frustrated that I don't know things better, but she helps me through it. I love being here!
After we got home, I had a minute to put my stuff down and then we headed out to go teach! The girl we were supposed to teach wasn't home, so we stopped by a woman's house close by who was baptized when she was younger, but doesn't remember it at all. The sisters have been working with her and she seems to be doing better. We were there talking and Sister Paxton says, "We'd like to share a scripture with you. Sister Hales, do you have a scripture to share with her?" Of course when that happens, your mind goes blank. I had only known this woman for 5 minutes! How was I supposed to know what she needed? Sister Paxton talked to her some more and I found one in Alma (I should have written down the reference, sorry!) and shared it with her. I think she really liked the scripture and the spirit was definitely there. My companion is going to help me get adjusted quickly!
After a quick trip to Walmart to get food and dinner, we went out with Sister Williamson in our ward to teach Lisa, someone the sisters had tracted into. She knows the gospel is true, but needs to stop smoking before she can be baptized. She has such a sweet heart and it's been neat to see her love the scriptures even more in just the short time since I've been here. She used to smoke 2 packs a day-- that is a TON! She has since cut it down in half twice to a pack a day to half a pack a day. We taught her againand she was all set to come to church with us the next day, but while we were teaching her, her mom fell and she felt that she needed to stay at home with her Mom. It was such a bummer! We really hope she will be able to keep cutting down the cigarettes and come to church soon!
That night we were going to teach Sara (who has a baptismal date on!), but she was really sick, but told us to talk to one of her neighbors down the street. He was an older man who had a Muslim father and a Jewish mother. That's definitely unique! It was fun to hear him talk about his beliefs and made me think about my days in Jerusalem, but he kept talking and talking and talking-- we could barely get a word in. It seemed like he was more interested in converting us to his beliefs than us teaching him! He's the second Muslim person I've seen today-- I hope I'll be able to talk to use my knowledge of their culture and beliefs to connect with someone and introduce the gospel soon.
We are in a car share area so we share our car with the other sisters in our area which means that we bike every other day.was our day for the bikes. We didn't go to far away from our apartment, but it was tough! It's not the distance that is the problem here-- it is the HILLS! We live on a hill and there are rolling hills everywhere. We've been able to get rides with members and coordinate our efforts with the sisters so we haven't had to bike too much. If anyone knows a lady like way to ride a bike in a skirt, please let me know ASAP!
There is some funny lingo in the missionary church, and that is especially true of missionaries! "Celestial Parking" is where you can pull through the parking spot (because someone has to awkwardly stand outside the car every time you back up and since I'm not the driver, that job falls to me!). Another funny term we use all the time is Larc which stands for Less Actice/Recent Convert. Oh Mormons!
I love being a missionary and being out here in Tenneessee! It's going to be a great 18 months!