So, I am now a missionary in Minnesota. I feel like it's been a whirlwind since I wrote you, and even since I chatted with Mommy-daddy in ze airport. So let me give you the DEETS.
The flight was delightful. I sat next to our travel leader, Elder A, who is devastated that we aren't allowed to go to Mall of America while here, and also has a voice along the lines of a Tyler Hammond or a Richard Simmons. He's the best. Also, he had a large grocery bag of Chewy granola bars. Best seat in the house? I ain't hatin' it. I kind of alluded to it, but I felt prompted to write our beautiful flight attendant a letter. She was this gorgeous, middle-aged black woman in a bright red dress. World's best smile. I felt SO much love for her. So I just wrote her a note about all the great things she is, told her I felt God's love for her and her kindness was a way I felt God's love for ME, and slipped her a Mormon.org card. I KNOW, I KNOW. Every new missionary is like... I CONVERTED SOMEONE ON THE FLIGHT OVER. I don't know that I did at all. But I just wanted to share some love. She came over and reached across the person in the aisle and grabbed my hand and just thanked me over and over. She was lovely. Privilege was all mine, you tall drink of water. I hope we are homies in heaven.
Also, maybe my row had this conversation about how I picture every single person in Minnesota somehow being elderly and female and owning a cat sweater and having their nails DID and having a prominent china cabinet in their home. I don't know. It's plausible.
President and Sister C greeted us in the airport. They were all smiles and called me Cousin Ballif, which I'm all about. Family connections! We had an awesome mission training, I picked up my bike, GOT FED REAL FOOD. I can't handle how good homemade Minnesota food is. I'll be honest, the whole day is a disoriented blur, especially because of the lack of sleep. But a happy one. :) So... on to my trainer.
Sister Q is from Hurricane, Utah. She says HURRICIN. Which I love. Also, when I was terrified about who they'd call up to be my trainer, she ran up with a smile on her face and hugged me for a long time. I needed that. We are the sister missionaries reppin' the Minnetonka area! I know. Minnetonka. My favorite brand of Mocs. Too good.
So Sister Q! She's honestly incredible. Annnd, we both miss the red rock, or any mountains in general, like nobody's business. Boom. Two for two on best companions in the world. She is SO hard-working and hilllllarious. She's a volleyball champ and also can play pretty much any bomb instruments. And she has Ariel hair. If I had to describe her in terms of people we know, it'd definitely be that she's a cross between Jamie Clegg (which, all right, throw that girl in anything and how can you go wrong?) and my sister Torrrri. I love every minute with her. She's super compassionate, and so good at helping me out without every making me feel small. She's a great listener and so patient. We're on the same page about most errrrrthan. It's like we've been together for years. Kind of bizarre.
Being a missionary is the best thing! 10 out of 10 doctors recommend! Like honestly. Knockin' doors is the funnest thing ever. Like... yeah, we get maybe one person who lets us finish every few hours. But we knock every last one! And we have so much fun. I'm excited about what we're sharing. Would I be embarrassed if we were delivering news about a free Mercedes Benz or a million dollars? Nope. Not one bit. So why would I be shy about SALVATION? Although. First night, before we headed home for nightly planning and to unpack, Sister QT-pants had me go tracting. :/ But I ended up being led (trust me, I am not that awesome. No handiwork of mine involved whatSOever.) a street and a house where the guy was super open to talking and we challenged him to be baptized. He asked for a Book of Mormon and we'll see him Fridee. :) The Lord is nice. Cause honestly. I was shaaaakin' in my boots. Couldn't tell, though. THANKS THEATRE. But mostly the Lord.
Second day was a whole bunch of lessons, like five, I think? And craziness. Got thrown right in there. I love it! And I love all the different people we teach. So many different walks of life, and so much to share. I love getting to know each and every one. It is such a privilege to step into the love Heavenly Father has for someone for a minute, or for 18 months. I'm so humbled to be here. All I want to do is help these people. Also, we had a really rough night that night, feeling weird, WHEN WHAT TO MY WONDERING EYES SHOULD APPEAR BUT GANDALF! Just kidding. Kidding NOT kidding. This is real. He was dressed like Ragast the Brown, but it was clearly him. So we stopped and took a picture. I know it seems like a small thing, but it was a tender mercy, because the Lord knows me. He knows me THAT well. Even the funny things like that. Today, when we were shopping at Target - OH YEAH! So, Target is BASED out of Minnesota, so no Walmarts. Their Targets are LEGIT! - one of my favorite songs came on. That's What's Up, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes. (I believe it's on that CD I left some of you cuties?) I NEVER heard that on the radio ever. So that was another tender mercy. Stuff like that happens about 50 times a day, and it's the Lord telling us He's happy with us and to keep on keepin' on. We just have to see it that way.
Ummm. What else? Sister Q was super weirded out by me because I was so chill going into our first lesson. I told her after what the inside of my brain looked like. Picture 80 ADD kids all fighting over those circle things in the park that you run next to and then hop on. Name escapes me. I don't know anything about life. Okay. So. Picture that. And picture them all hopping on and screaming at the tops of their little lungs. That's me, every time we go into anything. But I know anything I'm capable of isn't coming from ME, and that's best assurance He can give to me. I don't have to be a perfect sister missionary. I have to be a perfectly obedient Shelby, and He works through that in love. I am so lucky.
Minnesota is straight-up BEAUTIFUL. No getting around it. Cutest houses. SO green. Sweetest people. Even when we get rejected, it's not ever terrible. Depends on the neighborhood, though. When we knock apartment buildings in Hopkins, the rejections that come flying through the cigarette smoke are sometimes colorful. But always story-worthy. We live in Wayzata with ward members. We have the whole basement to ourselves. It's this brick castle in the middle of the woods. Ridiculous. We have a kitchenette, a big-screen (yeah, those Mormon messages look GREAT up there), a fireplace, huge couches, bathroom with a heated floor, a library full of forbidden books I can't touch, and a home gym. No big deal, just heading on over to my personal gym this morning. HIIIIIIII. But also. They have the most glorious antique-y copies of the Lord of the Rings trilogy in that library, so I made a deal with Sister Q to never let me alone in that area of our home. Anyway. We are REALLY blessed, and it helps us focus on what needs to be done.
Knocking doors with Sister Q is the best. Examples for you? This one lady was TERRIFIED when we said we were Mormons. Legit wide-eyed fear and shaking voice. Umm...sorry, bye? One of our favorites Saturday (which was a long, looooong day of tracting. So fun.) was this old man who looked at us, saw our name-tag, and says, in THICK Minnesotan accent, "Ohhhh, noooo. Nope, nope, nope." And backed into his house. I say it every time something makes me feel weird now. ALSO. Sister Q knows all the Kristen Wiig SNL skits, so we do those in between doors. Before knocking, Lawrence Welk. "And a-one, and a-two, and a-three." Before lessons or baptismal invites, "OHhhhhhhhMYYYYgaaaaashhhhh! They're gonna be SO SURPRISEEEED!" Hahahah. Ah. If we weren't obeying all the rules, I'd say we were having way too much fun to be missionaries.
Something I've LOVED about even this first week is the better understanding I've gained about how Heavenly Father feels about each of us. How He roots for us each day, how badly He wants to check and wants us to check in with Him. He is reaching out in our lives ALL the time, if we're willing to see. Even in a song, or in a magical Gandalf statue. It's funny, but also, I'm serious. He is so aware of us as individuals, as exactly who we are. He wants to help us be who we can become, the best version of YOU there is. He doesn't want you to fit in a specific box. He just wants you to do good things and be good things while being the unique, flawed, talented creature that He made you to be. It's so humbling and kind of awesome to feel that. We've had some investigators REALLY move forward, and some really fall back. And it breaks my heart, and also makes me understand just HOW invested God is in each of our daily lives, our little decisions. We are so loved, and so known. I think that's my favorite thing to share with people when we talk.
I just love the moments where I know that we have the opportunity to do as Christ would do, when WE get to be that way Heavenly Father works that day. It's always Him, and sometimes He lets us jump in, too. Like when we knocked a door this week and found a less-active who just moved here and didn't know how to find the church. Or when we knocked on the door of a sweet man who cussed us out and told us we weren't Christians, but who by the end was crying and talking about his mother, who he'd been caring for the last eight months and who died last week. I also love the times we get to stop by less-actives. And not just because Sister T makes us SLAMMIN' Ecuadorian food in exchange for our brownies and drop-by, but because I know when we tidy her house, or when we listen to another member, or when we just sit with an elderly woman who can't make it to church and listen to her reminisce, we are doing as Christ would do. It's not all FIND, FIND, FIND, and baptize, although that's obviously a goal. It's retention, too. I love these people so much. I feel so lucky to put myself in their shoes, to be that listening ear or that shoulder for fifteen minutes or an hour or half an hour or two minutes or WHATEVER. Missionary work is literally being a representative of Jesus Christ, and it's a call to everyone - missionaries and members.
I love this gospel. It's true. Totally true. Toooootally true. I love these people. I am happy.
I love you all dearly.