I left the MTC for "o campo" (the field) at 3:30 am. It was exciting yet strange and unreal. Before I left, one of the Elders from a different district on our floor who was called to Brazil and reassigned to CA and is from Tennessee, shared with me "The Vision of the South," which you can probably find online.
This first week in the field has been amazing, starting from day one when I left the MTC. From the moment I got on the train to the airport in Salt Lake City, I began to receive Spiritual promptings to open my mouth and talk with people about the Church. At first, I was a bit nervous about going up to random people because I am not a very bold person. However, I recognized from the moment it started that the justifications I was making to not open my mouth were all the work of the adversary, and this made me all the more motivated to follow through with what I was being prompted to do.
On the train to the airport, I spoke with a woman, who was already a member of the Church, about missionary work and the blessings of the Gospel and, before she left, gave her a pass-along card and invited her to give it to someone she felt prompted to. I must admit that my excitement died a bit when I found out that I had been so strongly prompted to speak to someone who was already a member of the Church. However, I quickly thought back to what Elder David A. Bednar said in an MTC devotional about recognizing the Spirit.
In this devotional, Elder Bednar taught that when you receive a prompting, don't stop and justify your way out of it; don't question whether it's a prompting from the Spirit or if it's just you making things up in your head; it doesn't matter; don't wait; just do it. Because, if you heed those promptings, good things will result and you will be blessed. I don't know if I changed that woman's life in any way by talking to her on the train, but I do not that my life was changed. I later recognized that my Heavenly Father was testing my faith, refining me, and warming me up and preparing me for what would happen next.
On the flight from Salt Lake to Dallas, I found myself seated next to an older man. I, of course, knew at once what I had to do, and this time it was not nearly as nerve-wracking as it was on the train with the woman I had spoken to earlier. After getting to know the man a bit better, he told me that although his wife was a devout Catholic and he believed in God, he didn't go to Church much. He said had met the Mormon missionaries many a time and would always invite them in when they knocked on his door. However, in the past he had always felt that they were a bit close-minded.
After listening to him describe his feelings about religion and life in general, I told the man that I was not out here to force my religion on other people. Instead my purpose was to share my beliefs with others and invite them to come unto Christ. He told me that he wished that every Mormon missionary had that same mindset. After hearing that I lived in China and had been to so many different places and seen so many different cultures and still chosen to be a member of the LDS Church, he told me that his perception of Mormon missionaries and the Church changed because he could see that I definitely was not a close-minded individual.
At the end of our flight, I asked him if I could say a prayer with him and he agreed. I then gave him a Mormon.org pass-along card on which I had written my name, a short testimony, and the address of my mission blog, seeing that he was interested in hearing about what kind of experiences I, as a Mormon missionary, would have serving in Tennessee and Brazil.
I'd like to think that both [the man I talked to] and I got off the plane feeling a little bit happier and enlightened than we were when we boarded it, so the first reason I have for why the Lord has reassigned me to Tennessee is so that I could meet this man and share with him my testimony of the Gospel. Because if I had not been reassigned to Tennessee, I would not have been on that flight to Dallas on Tuesday.
My companion and I are getting along very well. We've had kind of a slow week as we have tried to contact less active members of the Church and tract for investigators. It seems like all the less active members we try to contact are not there when we call or are not there when we try to visit them. It was a bit discouraging for me at first. However, I have come to realize that I am on the Lord's mission and as long as my companion and I are diligent in doing His work, great things will happen in the Lord's time.
So far, there have only been a couple of less active families that we have actually been able to meet. However, we were able to find a few potential investigators while tracting and will meet with them this week, which I am very excited about. The members here are very enthusiastic about missionary work and [my companion] and I are hoping that we will be able to get some referrals from them soon.
Fun Facts about Tennessee:
1. Everyone has at least one dog here
2. My companion and I have had a furry feline companion following us around as we tract on more than one occasion.
3. Halloween is either a really big thing here, as seen by all of the decorations, or I have been away from the U.S. too long.
4. Book of Mormon bar codes work as Kroger's grocery cards. They accept them and everything – fun way to start a discussion. :)