Gaffney is whack

I came to the realization this week that Gaffney is a weird place. Like literally the weirdest place I have probably been in my life. More on this later.

Anyway, Elder S. is my new companion. He is from somewhere in New Mexico that I can’t pronounce and has been out on his mission for about 10 months. He will probably be my last companion, which I am fine with because he is a really good missionary. Gaffney is probably going to be my last area. If I do have another area it would only be for 6 weeks and the mission president doesn’t normally like to do that, so this is probably it.

This week was pretty good! We were super busy and got a lot of stuff done. Because of the crazy nature of this week I neglected to keep a daily log of our adventures so I will just relay some highlights.

In the days leading up to transfers Elder N. and I went around and he said goodbye to people. We had a really good meeting with G., a lady Sister B. referred to us that was at her house when we went to say bye. She was really nice and seemed very interested! Sister B. told us later that she would not be surprised if she was baptized very soon! I am sure Elder N. was a little bit bummed that he couldn’t be here to teach her but it was good nonetheless.

Wednesday was transfers and we struggled hard core to find a ride in the previous days. All of our members were organizing relief for the people down in Florida so they couldn’t really help us out. We finally found a member in the Union Branch who was willing to drive us down with the Union Elders if we drove ourselves down there. It worked out well and we got to transfers on time. Transfers were fun as always as I got to see a lot of old missionary acquaintances. Afterward, the member who took us down to transfers took us to Cracker Barrel on the way back home. I had never had it before and was pleasantly surprised at how good it was.

The first few days with Elder S. were a little bit slow but we had some great things happen. We had a great appointment with a less active named S. who was temple worthy and everything and was about to go through but fell off the deep end shortly before. He expressed a lot of regrets and wanted to come back to the church. It was an amazing lesson and the spirit was very strong.

Sunday we went home teaching with Brother G., which was a ton of fun! We visited a lot of families in the ward and got to know them. Ever since the member meal policy happened the missionaries have become detached from the members, and missionary work went pretty stagnant. None of the members know us and so going around and visiting them allowed us to get to know them a lot better. Brother G. named all of the county roads in Cherokee county (the county this ward covers). Lots of the roads he actually named after Book of Mormon prophets. He has a lot of cool stories about how he named the roads and he also knows a TON about the history of the church here. There literally are abandoned historical buildings and other such things from hundreds of years ago that just sit and rot here, and most people don’t even realize that they had some sort of significance a couple hundred years ago. The mission home for the South Eastern States mission was at one point here in Gaffney, until some mob violence claimed the life of two missionaries and they moved it elsewhere. Gaffney apparently used to be the stake center for the entire northern part of SC and Charlotte area in North Carolina.

All of this made me wonder, what happened to this place? It used to be a booming town and one of the strong points for the church in the south. Now it’s just stop on the road that nobody goes through.

Something is really weird about this place, and at first I just ignored it.

My suspicions were confirmed on this when the first thing that Elder S. (my new companion) said when he got here was that the town felt dead. Like literally if cities were living beings then Gaffney would be dead. It has a very odd and unsettling spirit to it that words really cannot describe. Elder N. and I ignored the feeling when we got here because we both thought it was in our heads, but without prompting or even asking Elder S. he relayed the exact way I felt when I first got here.

Anyways, enough of that. Despite the challenging aspects of the Gaffney Ward, I actually enjoy being here. There is a lot I have learned from this place and there is a lot I probably will continue to learn.

GENERAL CONFERENCE IS COMING UP!!!! I am very much so excited. I would encourage everyone to prayerfully consider a question to bring to General Conference, because you will receive an answer, sometimes in ways unexpected.

Ok well I gotta go. I am running out of time here. Thanks for everything as always!

luv

Elder Jeremiah Brown

 

Pictures:

1. Me and Elder Neff

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2.,3. Gaffney in a nutshell

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Goodbye dumb phones

This week was pretty good. Lots of stuff is changing around here. I will be getting a new companion this week, which was expected. We did find out some big news about how we will be doing proselyting here. Starting in a couple weeks we will be getting smart phones and becoming a Facebook mission! I’m not sure exactly how I feel about it but it is coming nonetheless.

Monday we did nothing for P Day because of the hurricane. We were put on lock down from noon until the end of the day, so basically we sat inside for the entire day and played cards and sat around. It wasn’t terrible but it was a bit of a bummer because we didn’t get to go down to Spartanburg like we were planning on for the day.

Tuesday morning DDM was canceled mission wide due to the lockdown still being in effect. Shortly before the time we would usually have DDM the lockdown was ended but since DDM was already canceled and nobody was prepared, they kept it canceled. We still went on exchanges with the ZL’s like we had been planning on though. Elder B., our new ZL and one of my former companions went with me down here and it was a blast! It was way fun being able to reconnect with him and see how much we both have changed since almost a year ago. Elder B. was my last companion in Greenville before we were whitewashed. We only had 5 weeks together, but those five weeks were a blast because he was probably the easiest companion I have had.

We drove a ton and visited the outskirts of our area and had a few good successes. Elder B. was amazed at the backwoodsyness of our area and it reminded him of home. He was startled at first by hearing gunshots, something I realized then that I am just used to. We met some new less actives, and some new non members. One guy we met was convinced his dog had run away a week ago, and he would just rant to us about it. He clearly wasn’t all there. We talked to the neighbors and when the subject of his dog came up, they told us that he was crazy and the dog had been gone for a really long time. I honestly didn’t even think twice about it until later. Crazy people used to seem abnormal to me, but I think being out here has made me one of them so I don’t even think twice about them.

We went by this one person where we had to walk through someone else’s property to get to their house. Whilst walking through, I looked over to my right and saw a large black creature just chilling on the ground a good thirty feet away. It saw us quickly and shot up its head grunted and ran toward us. At first glance I thought we were about to get mauled by an attack dog, but then realized that this dark colored creature was actually a pig! I wasn’t sure if I should be scared or fall over laughing at this big grunting ball of blubber charging right at us. I looked for tusks and didn’t see any, so rather than running I backed up slowly. Elder Brinkerhoff, being the farm kid he is, stooped down and started playing with the thing like it was a dog. After a bit we left the pig and walked toward the house we were going to visit. We got across the property and up the stairs and rang the doorbell, and what do I see out in the distance? Mr. Pig decided to follow us across property lines and walk up the stairs to this house. Part of me hoped that the homeowners didn’t answer so that we didn’t have to explain ourselves out of this one. “Uh, well, yes hello sir. We are just in the neighborhood today spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ and wanted to know if you would be interested in a Book of Mormon and an oversized piece of hairy bacon?” I decided against this course of action, just in case the residents were armed and curious as to what grilled missionary wrapped in bacon tasted like. They didn’t end up answering anyway, so take that pig.

We explored a lot of new roads and even found a small flock of wild turkeys on some dirt road in the middle of nowhere. Elder B. loves catching them so we may or may not have tried cornering one and grabbing it. Those things are sneaky.

Later in the day we had dinner with Brother S. B., a less active we usually have dinner with once a month. He took us out to The Clock, a Southern burger chain, and we had a good discussion with him about the Book of Mormon and how it helps fill our lives with peace. I think it was a successful lesson and we were able to get him to solidly commit to reading it daily.

After that we went to Pelicans (the southern version of shave ice) and visited the owner, B., a less active member. He is a recent convert of a few years and has an incredible conversion story. Basically he somehow made friends with the Piano Guys and they facilitated his conversion. He is still friends with them today, but has been flaky on church because of work. It was good to be able to talk to him and he expressed how he wanted to get back to the temple. That basically ended our day. It was a really good exchange overall.

Wednesday was super ordinary compared to yesterday. We exchanged back and then had ward coordination. Brother M., our ward mission leader, is way cool and I always enjoy having ward coord with him. The rest of the day was pretty low key. I taught Book of Mormon class and it went pretty well. Nothing else too crazy happened.

Thursday we had apartment inspections in the morning, so we didn’t do service for meals on wheels like usual. We spent most of the morning cleaning and then having inspections. Most of the day was really slow until our appointment with C. at Sister B.’s home. It went really well! We got C. to commit to coming to church and trying things out. She told us that she would be moving to Greenville soon and that she was sad to leave her church here behind, but knew it was for the better. Since she was going to be without a church when she moved, I suggested that she try ours out since it was also down in Greenville. It was the opportunity that I had been waiting and praying for. She had even been reading the Book of Mormon to our delight, and had questions about baptism. We are hopeful that she will have a good experience at church and will be put on date soon.

Friday we went to the soup kitchen and had a good time there. I am familiar with all the homeless people here now, which I guess is just the nature of a small town. It was Elder N.’s six month mark, so we celebrated by going to Subway with a gift card his parents gave him. It was right around then we got an email from President Innes to the entire mission, announcing some crazy new stuff! Starting in a few weeks, we will be turning into a social media mission! I honestly wasn’t too excited by this but I guess I will only have to deal with that for a couple months. The really cool news was that we have been selected as one of 12 missions to pilot a NEW SMART PHONE PROGRAM here, so in the coming weeks we will be getting smart phones to replace the piece of garbage flip phones we have now. This was joyous, because the current phones the church gives us are literally defective, so they get them for free. I have had my share of dumb phones and I have no problem using a good old fashioned flip phone, but these things are literally the worst. They call people randomly and break randomly without reason, unless you are trying to break them and then they don’t.

Saturday blew by like nothing else. We went out to Blacksburg and did a lot of work out there. Blacksburg days are interesting because you never know what you will find out there. We went on a lot of backroads and found a lot of dead end houses. We didn’t have too much success but it was fun nonetheless.

Sunday was fine. C. didn’t show up to church for whatever reason. It was a little disappointing to say the least. I was almost glad that she didn’t come though because Sacrament meeting was kinda rough. I won’t go into any details there.

The rest of the day followed suit. Nothing crazy, pretty dull overall. After begging the ZL’s to death, I was able to get them to tell us that Elder N. is going to be transferred. This wasn’t too much of a surprise though, because Elder N. and I have been together now for 6 months.

 

Anyway, that is all I have to talk about. Time is moving way too quickly here.

Until next week,

Elder Jeremiah Brown

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Mother nature is angry

Well this week was very interesting. Lot’s of crazy things happened but there wasn’t a whole lot of change in the work here. It seems that Hurricane Irma scared everyone into their homes for the week, as any storm does here. We went to walmart mid week due to the hurricane warnings and almost all of the bread, milk, and water was gone. Walmart probably loves these storm scares.

Anyway, as far as things go here, we will be fine. In the beginning of the week it was looking like we were going to get hit pretty hard but it seems we are off the hook now. We probably will just get a lot of rain and wind. I must bring bad luck to SC because this is the second hurricane that I’ve been present for in my time here. Luckily this time we aren’t homeless.

Monday we just hung out with a bunch of missionaries from around the zone. We didn’t do too much but it was way fun and good to just relax. We played a lot of dice games and stuff like that. Afterward the Union Elders couldn’t get their car to start so they ended up staying the night with us which was kinda crazy. Everything else was pretty low key.

Tuesday was not so great. We had DDM in the morning which went fine. DDM’s in this district are always interesting because there are no sisters, and generally sisters keep things more on the serious side. Basically just imagine six twenty year old guys meeting up and voluntarily having a serious conversation. Hard to imagine? That’s because it’s pretty much impossible. Honestly, Elders complain all the time about sisters and how they always make things really difficult, but in reality they make my life so much easier as a DL. So yea, DDM went good, but it’s just hard keeping everyone focused on relevant subject matter.

After DDM, Elder N. and I went to McDonalds and had a very interesting experience. Some guy tried to bash with us and it was stupid. I will include the story at the end of this email because it is very long and I am not very proud of it.

Wednesday was a pretty normal day. I don’t really have much to report on cause it was pretty slow and uneventful.

Thursday we did service for Meals on Wheels where we packaged bread and dog food. After that we helped move stuff around in the church so they could replace the carpet, and then we went out and visited people for the rest of the day. Not very many people were home.

Friday we did service at the soup kitchen and then did weekly planning. After weekly planning we went out and proselyted. We were sitting in our car in a Lowes parking lot using their wifi so we could sync our areabooks when I saw this guy book it out of Lowes with a box and jump into a car. Clearly he was stealing something so I got out of the car and caught a glance of his license plate as he drove off and wrote the numbers down. He obviously wasn’t very good at stealing stuff cause he parked in a spot where he had to back out and was driving the car himself. The fact that I had enough time to comprehend what was happening, get out of the car, and look at his license plate should say something about the quality of this robbery. Naturally, Elder N. and I spent the next few minutes talking about how much better of a job we would do if we were criminals and then we went inside and gave them the plate numbers.

And that’s the story of how I fought crime and saved the day.

Saturday ended up not going to plan but it ended up good in the end. We helped our Elders Quorum President move out of their house and into an apartment, which happened to be in the same building as ours. It took WAY longer than we planned and we somehow afterward got roped into setting up a trampoline, which took an absurd amount of time. When all that was done, we had to rush to an appointment with Sister B. and C., our new investigator. The appointment went well, although we found out that C. was not going to be able to make it to church this week. The appointment took most of the evening and then we had to go to Walmart last thing in the evening and go shopping for the week (The mission had advised us to go shopping before P-Day this week, in case of the hurricane ripping us apart).

Sunday was pretty quiet. I had to give a talk again, which I don’t mind doing I guess. I talked on missionary work and how we can make it a more natural thing. We had a non member come to church. Sister B. has really been stepping it up and brought another non member friend to church. She really enjoyed it and we will be hopefully meeting with her this upcoming week! Good things are happening! The rest of the day was pretty slow. We spent a lot of time sorting records out and getting appointments set up.

 

I was reading in John 10 the other day and came across this scripture:

9 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.

I was thinking a lot about how lots of other faiths, especially in the south, constantly talk about “getting saved,” and how once you are “saved,” you are always “saved.”

Looking at this scripture, I realized that clearly we all have need to be “saved” more than once. As members of the restored church, we “get saved” every week. If you look at the passage, Jesus says that once we enter in “the door” (representing his atoning sacrifice), we SHALL go in and out. If we are going in and out repeatedly, and the act of entering in the door is being saved, then clearly we are going to be “saved” more than once. With the blessing of the sacrament, we re-enter this door on a weekly basis, having sinned and metaphorically “walked out” of the door during the week. Christ knows that we will all sin and make mistakes, and therefore tells us that we “shall go in and out,” and “find pasture” in partaking of the sacrament each week and in being a part of His fold.

The perspective we gain through the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is truly amazing. Having prophets and apostles, the Book of Mormon, and the true authority here on the earth grants us so many blessings that you cannot find anywhere else! It is truly incredible and we need others to see that as well!

Anyway, that is all I have to say for this week. Wish us luck as Irma sneezes on us. I’m more worried about the terrible drivers in this weather than I actually am about the weather, if that says anything.

Gotta go. Thanks for everything!

muchos gatos,

Elder Jeremiah Brown

 

P.S. As far as pictures go I don’t have my camera with me so they will have to wait until next week. Sorry…

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Ok, so here is the McDonalds story, if you really want to hear it.

We were minding our own business, clogging our arteries and then throwing away our trash when a middle aged guy sitting at a table across from us asked us if we could come talk to him about Jesus. Red lights and sirens went off in my head because I have seen this ploy way too many times, but, being a missionary I gave him the benefit of the doubt and decided to take him seriously. We sit down and he starts asking us about how he can “get saved” (which phrase, mind you, I absolutely deplore but that’s a rant for another day). We asked him if he went to a church around here, to which he responded with no. From what I gathered though he definitely had a baptist like background. I tried translating what we believe from mormon speak into baptist-like terms and was doing a pretty good job when some lady walked up and basically threw a monkey wrench into our already shaky conversation by saying “sir, what these boys aren’t telling you is that you can be saved sitting right there on that bench.” He replied with “ma’m I know this, I am a member of (insert baptist church here) and I just wanted to get these boys here so I can witness to them of the dangerous path they are on.”

At the sound of this I pretty much had a rage aneurism on the inside. He turned to us and started ripping us apart about how we were wrong about this and that and how we were brainwashed and “yadda yadda yadda my preacher said yadda.”

Now let me just say this. I have had my fair share of baptistery bashing in my time in the south. In fact, I spent 6 months in the home of what is arguably the anti- equivalent to BYU (Bob Jones University). I have had a TON of people try to bible bash with me. I got really good at getting out of situations like these. Bashing with these people DOES NOT HELP any side.

Contrary to popular belief, missionaries actually do make mistakes. Well today, I will admit it. I done goofed today. And I done goofed bad.

Not only was this guy insulting our beliefs openly and loudly in front of everybody in McDonalds, but he was making us look like idiots and had literally lied to us so he could get us in this position of weakness.

This is the point where I messed up. NEVER DO WHAT I DID. It was stupid and I regret doing it.

The smart thing to do would have been to stand up and leave, or compliment his ideas or his hair or something and politely remove ourselves of the situation, but this guy didn’t have hair and I was not feeling polite.

I ripped him apart. Like literally I’ve never ripped someone so badly before. Some unseen force inside of me just pulled every ounce of wit I had and shattered this mans arguments and slandering. Then, I told him to be honest with us next time and actually tell us why he wanted to talk with us, and we walked out.

Like I said, it was a dumb, dumb, dumb decision. I immediately felt terrible and guilty all day. Bashing will never get you anywhere. Ever.

I may have “won” the argument but in reality nobody actually won. I didn’t change his mind, nobody was edified, it was a just a stupid thing altogether. Anyway, that’s the story. I don’t understand why people like doing stuff like that.

Another good week

So this week was really great! We found some new people and had some
good success!

I didn’t keep a good record of this week and I only have about 15
minutes to write this so this email is gonna be a bit short.

On Monday we did nothing for P Day, yet it was the highlight of our
week. We just sat around and rested, which was good for a change.

In the evening we had an appointment with a referral we received from
a member and it went awesome! Her name was C. and though she is
really determined to stay with her current church, we had a great
lesson with her and the Spirit was very strong. You could tell that it
was working on her because it she is opening up more and more to us.
It was a great appointment and honestly I think that Elder N. and I
learned more about ourselves than she did from us.

Tuesday I went on exchanges in Union and had a good time. We went to
some trailer parks and found some people. We were having
trouble finding one less active’s trailer so we asked the neighbors and
they told us that they lived way out in the woods and we would have to
walk to the edge of the property. They told us to stop at the edge of
the property though because they have dogs that will attack us.
Apparently the way you get ahold of these people is you stand on the
edge of the property and let the dogs bark at you, but they won’t
attack you if you don’t go on the property. The residents hear the
dogs bark and basically use it as a doorbell. It was just a weird
place. The members were nice but didn’t want to come to church.

Wednesday we had ward coordination in the morning and Brother M.
told us that we would have to make it quick because he had a lot going
on. We talked with him about what was going on and decided to help him
out with some of the work they were doing on their house.

We had no idea what we had gotten ourselves into. We ended up spending
all day moving 10 tons of gravel into a ditch in front of a wall. It
was a lot more difficult than it sounds. Once we got home it was late
and I pretty much dropped on the bed cause I was so tired.

Thursday we went on exchanges with the other Gaffney elders, which
went good. We had another appointment with C. and it went pretty
good, though not as good as the former one. She is really trying to
make herself a better person, we are just struggling to get her in the
right direction. We are hoping coming to church will help do that.

Friday we went to the soup kitchen in the morning and then interviews
with president right after that. The total time it took to drive there
early, have interviews, and drive home literally took the entire rest
of the day because interviews were behind by almost 2 hours.

Saturday was pretty dull and not a whole lot happened. I was pretty
sick and tired so we didn’t get a whole lot done. We did a lot of
planning and didn’t have too much success with finding new people.

Sunday was absolute madness. C. got a stomach virus so she wasn’t
able to come to church, which was a bummer. Aside from that church
went pretty well. Right after church we went out with Brother G.
and visited people the entire day. We met a lot of actives and less
actives in the ward and it was a really good experience. Brother
G. is a really incredible guy too. He named all of the roads in
the county and named quite a few of them after Book of Mormon
prophets. He also named the road next to the dump Lemuel, haha.
Anyway, we didn’t get back until late and that was basically our day.

 

Anyway, that was my week. Sorry that I didn’t include as much detail
as I normally do. I am very short on time.

Thank you all for the support you send my way! I really appreciate all of it!

Until next week,

Elder Jeremiah Brown

This is the trailer with the dogs and stuff:

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