I am writing you from the Silverdale Public Library. I get a whole hour this time to email instead of 30 min at the MTC. It's still timed though. So I am in the field!! I feel really overwhelmed. Might as well come out and just say it. Yesterday was hard and and the same time it wasn't too bad. We woke up at 3:45 am to make it to the MTC travel office at 5am. ( I miss the MTC sooooooooo much. ) There were 19 of us on a charter bus that took us to the Salt Lake airport. I slept most of the way there since I knew I didn't get much sleep the night before and that would be the last nap I would take in the next 18 months. I didn't feel nervous at that point, because I didn't really know what to expect.
Once we all made it to the airport and went through security we found any available payphone we could find to call our families. Airport patrons definitely took note of us. 19 young men and women strolling through the terminals in dark suits and skirts were a sight to be seen. A lot of people waved and encouraged us on as we walked. Most people just stared. We all were looking for people to talk to and potential listeners to lessons we were hoping to teach them in the boarding area or on our flight. I sat near a lady that was by herself and we got to talking. I couldn not tell if she was LDS or not and did not want to make any assumptions like she was. So I just began by asking how she was doing and why she was flying into Seattle. She said she lived in Everett, WA and she was out in UT visiting some family. She asked where we were going and when we told her Tacoma, she asked if we were going on our missions. So I was still under the impression that she was not a member. I asked her where her seat was and that the odds of her sitting by one of us [ missionaries] on the flight was pretty high. Her next few responses caught me off guard. She said, "Yes, I might be seated next to one of you. But there isn't anything you could teach me." I thought for a quick second and felt impressed to ask her, "Oh, why is that?" I thought maybe she just wasn't interested in the Gospel. She then said, "Because I have been a member my whole life so I don't think there is anything I haven't already learned." I wanted to cry. I couldn't believe she felt like she had learned everything she needed to know. That she had reached her gospel learning limits and that her testimony couldn't be strengthend or that it wouldn't even be worth her time for us to try to share a simple spiritual message with her.
Members are a HUGE key to successful missionary work. If missionaries are not working with the members they are not only working a lot HARDER than they have to be in regards to finding people to teach, but we are not working smarter. Please, please, please, help the missionaries. Even if it just means letting them speak with you for 5 minutes about a message that they are dying to share with the world.
We landed at around 9:30 am and it was semi-overcast. A little on the cool side, but not rainy. I was one of the first missionaires off the plane and was greeted by several pairs of stareing eyes. Then the coolest thing happened. A young guy in his mid 20's came up to us and said "Hi, Sister where are you headed on your mission?" My nerves were immediately calmed when he said he was a member of a ward in Tacoma. He congratulated us all when the rest of the group gathered outside of the jetway. I could not help with silently proclaim, "Hoorah, for Israel!" in my head.
President Bowen and Sister Bowen along with his two AP's (assistant to the President) met us at baggage claim to help us get our luggage and take us all down to Tacoma for a mini orientation and Mission Transfer meeting. The sisters rode with Sister Bowen. On the way she asked us why we wanted to serve a mission. I told her my story, one story that I haven't told many, if not any, of you. I told her that I had a dream. This was a dream unlike any I had ever had nor ever had since then. In my dream I was with my Mom and Dad and we were driving in the car. We were all just talking and driving but I didn't know where we were going but I didn't ever bother to ask either. After a while, Dad pulled the car up to a curb. I looked out the window and I realized we were at the airport. I thought it was a little strange but I just followed my parents inside. Once inside, I was greeted by all of the friends and family members that I have ever known, loved, respected, and looked up to. Coaches, teachers, neighbors, classmates, roommates, cousins. After talking to many of them, there was a silence. I looked around to find them all looking at me. Something in their eyes told me that they were there not to greet me but to see me off. But where? I didn't know. There was not a visible airline banner or marquee that mentioned where the flight was going to. Suddenly I had two suitcases and the pilot was calling my name over the airport intercom. "Sydney, we are waiting for you. They need you now." I looked back to my parents and they nodded as if to tell me, "Yes, go. They need you." I took the suitcases and began walking towards the jetway. Still unsure of where I was heading but knowing that they were right. I need to go. After looking back at everyone as I pulled my luggage, I realized I needed to turn around and continue forward towards the plane. I waved one last goodbye and then I disappeared from sight. Then I woke up.
At the time, I had no idea what the dream meant. The next day was my college graduation. The most pivotal moment in my life and student career. I was dressed in my cap and gown along with the thousand other graduates and all of our families. The general authority that spoke to us had just concluded his talk and asked us to close by singing the hymn, "I'll Go Where You Want Me to Go." It was as if someone had instantly cut the volume. I momentarily felt like I had lost all ability to hear. Then I heard a quiet but very clear voice tell me, "You know where I want you to go. I want you to serve a mission." Tears began rolling down my cheeks and the sound came back on as if somehit hit the unmute button on a remote control. I was not prepared to hear this. I wasn't even wondering about a mission. But just like Joseph Smith had felt about the first vision, the same did I about what I just experienced: "I knew it. I knew that God knew that I knew it. And I could not deny it." Fast forward a few months to our stake conference and a visit by none other then Elder L. Tom Perry. He boldly declared that the church needs more missionaries and they are needed now. I felt like he was speaking directly to me. The rest is history.
As I type this email I am trying my best to hold back the tears. I did not anticipate the feelings of being overwhelmed and frenzied. I guess because I didnt cry at all when I was at the MTC in regards to it being hard, I didn't think I would cry or find it really hard to transition to the field. Well...it is. It's way hard. So much to learn. I felt like everything I learned at the MTC was instantly erased the second I got my new companion. Like someone hit a master delete button on a keyboard and I was starting over from nothing. Because I never planned on serving a mission or dreamed about going on one, I feel like my reason for being here is almostly entirely founded on faith. Faith that what I heard was from God. Faith that this is what He needs me to do. Faith that Washington is where I am supposed to be. I did not anticipate to feel as sad as I did yesterday when our district was abruptly disbanded as we each were assigned to our new companion/trainer. We were all in a conference room and asked to us to stand one by one as they read our rames. Beginning with the elders they read off a name and a trainer came running in and told them who they were and what area they were being assigned to. It was lightning quick. I felt like a mother hen watching people swoop into my coop and take my chicks. Especially when they took Elder Homer. He looked so afraid and so nervous. He was the elder that I made sure to watch out for in the MTC. I got a little emotional and still feel a little that way. I miss my district sooooooo much.
So I have already experienced by first go at tracting or finding people to teach. In our mission, the golden time to do this is from 5-7pm. People are home from work and school and the entire family is usually together. Talk about scary. It was like "alright here is your first door, ready, go!" In the MTC they did not teach us a door approach, let alone allow us time to really practice it and said that our trainers would show us how. It went pretty well. We only got to do it for 40 min because we had an appt for a church tour. Our mission was the first to launch the church tours as part of missionary efforts. So that is what we asked when we went tracting. If they were interested in taking a tour of the church building. One other really foreign/semi-awkward concept to me was car contacting. Yep, literally contacting people while we are driving in the car. We were on our way to a zone meeting this morning and all of a sudden my companion, sis Mills, pulls the car over, rolls down the window and asks an elderly (Filipino) couple if they attended a church, what church, and if they would be interested in coming to our church. Wow, ok. They said they were just visiting their daughter. I got the next one, a lady in her 50's probably out walking by herself. She declined politely and said she would pray for us. Hahah. Yeah this is tough stuff. Pray for me.
So my companion is pretty cool. From Georgia. Nice. She has been out for about 13 months. She said she gained 20 pounds on her mission so far. Yeah, not happening to me. She has a really nice singing voice, as do most sisters out on missions. We drive a 2010 Toyota corrola. Our apt is pretty decent. Pretty good size. We have a washer/dryer in the apt so that is super nice. I actually miss Sister Eichenmiller.
I hope all is well at home and where ever you all may be. Missionary work is tough. It's easy to get discouraged but there is so much joy in the work if you remember who you are representing and what your purpose is. We have a couple lessons today and tonight and even have two baptisms scheduled, one this weekend and one the next. Crazzzzzyyy exciting!!! Unfortunately, these dates were already confirmed before I got here so I cannot take any credit for them. I am going to have to speak at the baptism this weekend on the Restoration. Bear testimony about it. They guy that is getting baptized is name Mac. Single guy, 44 years old. Pray for him! This week will probably be super tough for him as the adversary will try so hard to discourage him and thwart our missionary efforts.
I love you all so much and miss you tons. There is a letter coming your way that we sent from the mission home yesterday. And happy belated father's day, DAD!!!! I love you so much and wish I could have spent it with you.