There is so much to put into this e-mail and I don’t know if I’m going to be able to fit it all in but I will try. To begin with, my final days in the CCM were some of the best that I had there. The last day at the CCM was also Mexican Independence Day “Eve” and everybody in my district except for Elder Patchett and I had left the CCM. So we were just studying together all day and taking final pictures throughout the day. In the evening, the CCM brought in an authentic Mexican dancing group and put on an hour-long show about the different dancing styles of Mexico while presenting information about Mexico’s history at the same time. It was really interesting!!
Then we all sang the Mexican National Anthem, which we learned the day before and the CCM President, with the help of a flag crew, performed a Mexican flag ceremony!! It was basically like any flag ceremony except everyone had to repeat what President Pratt said which was “Viva Mexico” over and over again. Then at the conclusion, no one knew but they had set up fireworks on the stage and with the last “Viva Mexico,” fireworks blasted and everyone cheered. It was pretty awesome. Then we all walked outside of the auditorium and it was evening by then so the city sky was ablaze with fireworks and the sounds of fireworks were all around us. Some of the missionaries were able to climb on roofs and watch the whole fireworks show. It was truly amazing!! But my companion and I didn’t stay out for very long because we had a crazy adventure to undertake the next day. So we went to bed around 11:00 pm. and had to wake up at 1:00 am. (2 hours later) to catch a bus that was leaving for the Mexico City airport. So, extremely tired and weary missionaries were piled on a bus and taken to the airport. From the CCM, it was about an hour drive and we arrived at the airport and went through customs and then one elder and I waited at our terminal and got on a plane that took us to Atlanta. In the Atlanta airport, I was able to call my family. I also met up with a bunch of “Elders” and “Sisters” who were coming from the Provo MTC and going to the Birmingham, Alabama Spanish-speaking mission. So we all got on a plane and flew to Alabama. In the airport terminal, President and Sister Hanks were waiting for us. Yay! So that was my experience leaving the CCM and arriving in Alabama.
And now I am going to share some of my experiences thus far in Alabama. Really, where in the world am I? Ha! Ha! Alabama is an amazing and interesting place, but it is definitely not Irvine, California. I have a wonderful trainer named Elder Shawgo and we live in Homewood, just outside of downtown Birmingham. I’m still trying to get adjusted to mission life and now Birmingham life as well, but I have also had some amazing and funny experiences . . . too many to include in one email, but I will share a few. My companion and I were “contacting” in a park near where we live and we were walking along the sidewalk and there was a mother with a small child coming towards us and even before we could smile or say hello this hilarious child looks up at us and says: “Y’all going to jail or something?” I couldn’t help but laugh. He thought that just because we were dressed up nicely, it meant we were going to court, but the mother said, “oh no!
Shush! They work for God.” And we were able to give her a card! This actually happened twice, another time with a teenage girl. Ha! Ha! So “you know you’re a missionary in the south when . . . more people recognize you as somebody headed to court, rather than somebody who is simply wearing a suit.”
Another time we were walking by a “farmers market” near where we live and we weren’t going to stop in and look at the booths, but a lady spotted us and said, “hey you guys! Come on over here and let me show you around.” So this really nice woman who was a complete stranger took us around this farmers market and introduced us to people and had them show us what they were selling. It was a really fun experience. (Southern hospitality)
And my last experience for this week, we were “tracting” (going door to door) in a neighborhood and an older woman answered the door. Now in the south, what I have learned so far is that the least friendly people here are older people because they are mostly all Baptist and very religious. So she answered the door and as we were explaining who we were (missionaries for Jesus Christ) she asked, “y’all Baptist?” When we said “no,” she simply said, “I’m Baptist and you’re not, so adios!” and then slammed the door. My companion and I walked away laughing because it was just a funny experience. You have to maintain a sense of humor!
In spite of the challenges, I am loving it here in Alabama and absolutely loving the work. The weather is a little warm, but that doesn’t stop the missionaries or the work from progressing. I love and miss everyone back home and I am having a great time.