Monday, March 17, 2014

This is Sparrttaaa

No joke. I'm currently in Sparta, Tennesee, home to a tiny branch of mormons who worship in a small rented building. But get this, if we can get our numbers up to 120 they'll give us our own building!
It's so weird officially being a missionary. I stepped off the plane and the sun was shining and it all felt like home. We went to a giant transfer meeting where I would be assigned my new area and trainer. Of course with my luck something has to go wrong, and so the back of my nametag fell off and I couldn't find it anywhere! Luckily President Andersen had one he could give to me. 

I saw Elder Eric Smith and Elder Tyson Lovell as well (from Lacey)! Both were DYING they were so excited to see me, a familiar face from home. Especially Elder Smith... I think he misses home or something. LOL. After being assigned to Sparta I met my companion, Sister Pinkston. Ever since I got my mission call I've been praying for the sister that would be my trainer. Companions have been my biggest fear about coming out on the mission. I think being in the MTC just helped to solidify that concern... and so what a BLESSING that God answered my prayers after all! She is so great and we get along really well. She works hard and is extremely obedient. Like, can't be a minute late and we have to wear our shoes when we study in the mornings extreme, haha. But I love her so much! She's from Utah and is a dancer. I hope we can grow to be good friends.

My new companion and trainer, Sis. Pinkston,  and Elder Smith and Elder Lovell from back home!

After that big meeting we headed out to my new area, Sparta. Tennessee is way different than Washington in that everything is currently brown and there's no mountains. Just lots of hills and giant brown sticks! But I guess I shouldn't refer to all these weird trees out here as "sticks" because that's what they call rednecks/hill billies out here... I found that out the hard way when I was talking with the family of the Branch President. Don't worry, we all just laughed about it, even though my cheeks were pretty pink ;). The town is really old here and every single house is made of brick and is small and overly cluttered with all these random OLD knickknacks and such. There's also tons of land. Around here, you can get a horse for about $40 and a dog for $800... isn't that so turned around?! The accent is definitely awesome. I've already picked up on a few things.
My first encounter with someone out in Sparta was with an investigator named Wanda. We were praying with her and while my companion was praying I looked up to glance at her facial expression to gage her emotion, only to find her STARING straight at me! AHH! She quickly looked down at her feet, super embarrassed. All I could do was smile and try not to feel too awkward. And it's not like she was across the room either. She likes to hold hands with us when we pray so this lady was only about 2 feet from my face. HAHA. She seemed really nice though... I'll just wait and let that one blow over before we go back.
Another awkward thing was at church this Sunday when I was asking peoples name's... I asked one lady directly who she was and she just starred at me. "You've already met me" she says... oops! We definitely had gone to her house the other day and I even said the closing prayer to bless their family! Ahhh, I'll get there.
So this week we went and worked with a sweet 15 year old girl who's considering quitting smoking, which she has been doing since she was 9. EVERYBODY smokes here.
We also went to visit a lady who NEVER answers her door. I had the idea for each of us to stand on either side of the door, out of sight from the peep hole. Low and behold, she opened the door! We quickly popped into view before she could run and hide. hahaha. Being a missionary means you gotta be creative! The last lady we talked to that night was a less active with about 12 dogs... haha, gotta love Sparta.
There is a really sweet couple here who has sort of adopted in the missionaries. They don't have any children of their own and are just SO kind. Their door, fridge, arms, and services are always upen to us and I love them so much! They are the Tucker family. They love birds, so along side their parakeet they also have a parrot that roams free around the house and eats whatever they eat... it's pretty great. Sister Tucker went out with us the other night to go visit the Branch Presidents family like I had mentioned earlier. We were trying to get some referrals out of them but to no avail. I said a prayer, and suddenly found myself talking directly to their 15 year old son telling him that there was someone who needed him. It's like a light bulb went on and everyone knew exactly the person I was talking about (even though I had no idea). It was SO cool to see the results of acting on such a random prompting like that.
Another miracle of random chance happened this past Friday when we were out in the middle of nowhere trying to find this random referral the missionaries had gotten months ago. The lady's name was Alisha Gomez and we just couldn't find her house! We were headed home in defeat when I felt inspired to stare out the window at the mailboxes. Then I saw it! On one of the mailboxes was the house number we had been searching for! We turned around and went straight to the house. A friendly man opened the door to us and let us in. His wife welcomed us openly and quickly made room for us to sit down. I was starting to think they were already members with how friendly they were being... "are you Alisha Gomez?" asks my companion. The lady gets a confused look on her face. "I'm Ruby and this is George", she tells us. They were just a random couple who hadn't really found a church they liked yet. They were however, going to "the races" in which the audience was preached a sermon before watching bikers race around. She gave us a "Dirt Racers Bible" that had people in dirt bikes all over the front... HAHA. We taught them the Restoration and they believed every word. They are having trouble with he concept of needing to be baptized by the proper authority, but we'll get there. It was definitely my favorite miracle of the week. There have been countless others where I was able to follow a prompting and we saw awesome results. Like this Sunday I felt like we needed to text a less active. Turns out that text woke her up and motivated her to get her AND her family to church!
It just goes to show that the Lord is working hard through His missionaries, and His missionaries are working hard! The people of Tennessee are tough, a lot of them don't want to give us a chance because they already have somewhere they worship. I guess it's at least comforting knowing that if anything, they at least recognize and know that they have a Savior who is Jesus Christ. There are SO many churches here in Tennessee. I thought they were all LDS churches at first since they all had steeples... but that's actually NOT the case. There's a church here where they worship snakes, and the minister picks up deadly snakes and if he gets bitten he is going to hell and if not he is saved. I heard the last one recently passed away from a snake bite and now his son is doing it... there's also a church that I think Keith Urban or some country star built and all they do is sing country music all day. There's a stadium church where a band plays, and a workout church where you get preached to while you exercise. The baptists are huge here, and the Church of Christ seems to be what most people go to. It's hard teaching people from the Church of Christ because even though they recognize that we have truths and beliefs similar to their own personal ones, they think if they leave their church they'll go to hell. It's rough. It's like finding a needle in a haystack here. BUT I also have the spirit which acts as a sort of magnet and I have faith that people are being prepared to hear the message of the restoration and that they'll one day accept its truth. Fun fact: Taylor Swift's body guard was baptized in Tennessee last year!! :D
It's really difficult to get member involvement out here. For all ya'll back home, PLEASE help out your local missionaries. Go on exchanges, give them referrals, and if you want to be extra nice, don't feed them ANY JUNK. I'm dying for some fresh fruits and veggies! Maybe that's just part of being in the south though...
This has been a busy first week but it's going really well. My companion tells me I've come out "already trained" and that I'm actually just here for HER training (she's only JUST completed her own). It's been a really easy transition mentally and spiritually which is probably one of the rarest and best blessing I could have asked for. Physically I'm always tired and cold, but at least my back is doing pretty well since we are a car mission and we have PLENTY of food to stay full. Our apartment is really nice and we don't have to share with anyone. Sparta really is a fun place to be. I've absolutely LOVED getting letters so PLEASE keep writing. We only have today to write people and so I'm sorry if I don't get to everyone. But I promise to always reply as long as you write!
Until next week!
Sister Hochstrasser
Tennessee Nashville Mission
105 Westpark DR Ste#190
Brentwood, TN 37027-5010

p.s remember how I lost the back of my nametag that first day? Well that night I was walking up someone's driveway in the dark when I hear a "clink" and I look down, only to find the other half of my nametag down at my feet! *insert eery alien music here*

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