Happy (late) Thanksgiving!
Glad to hear Thanksgiving treated you well. I miss Thanksgivings at home, I enjoyed them the best. I mean, they've been good on the mission but it just isn't quite the same. We spent Thanksgiving with the Riley's- They invited us to go with them to a relative's house in the Aloha area, and we just ate dinner and played board games with them. The Raleigh Hills elders got us into playing chess, so we've playing quite a bit. I was holding my own pretty well, but I am pretty sure Elder Wheeler was hustling me because the scoreboard is 15-5-2 (in his favor). He just suddenly got much better, but it's been frustrating. I think I've psyched myself out because of it, because I am doing terrible. I hope to even up the scoreboard before I leave..!
But, aside from the holiday there hasn't been much going on with us this week. With everybody being out of town our schedule was pretty open. We had dinner with one of our investigators and her boyfriend (a member of the church), and that was interesting. It was their Thanksgiving dinner, but they did it on Saturday. What made it so interesting was the assortment of people- it was two Mormon missionaries, a family of people who love to party (drinking, clubbing), and a Jewish family. Such a weird collection of people, but they were all friendly and we had a great time!
The highlight of my week though was on Tuesday-Wednesday. I went on an exchange with the Market Street elders, and got to spend 24 hours proselyting downtown.
There was a mistake somewhere in these two years, I should have served downtown..!
It was great! It is definitely a difficult area (can't do much more than street contacting, working with the saints in the branch, etc.) but I freaking loved it! We had such good experiences. We were walking towards 3rd Ave. when we saw a group of people gathered, a big group. Well, we get up close and Elder Dierks says to me, "Oh, this is a protest" and sure enough— a protest about the Ferguson incident! It was a fairly big protest, lots of picket signs demanding justice, etc. We took off fairly quickly, but the whole way to our dinner appointment we saw tons of bike cops and horse patrol everywhere! We laughed, the bike cops blocked off bridges and everything. We joked about how they could just crawl over the bike tires, we still didn't quite get how effective of a barricade that was. They protested around downtown the whole night, it was a fairly big protest.
We ate a few burger joints pretty popular downtown- Killer Burger and Brunch Box. The food is really good down there, and the menus are infamous for their cleverly-named items. It was pretty cool but there are so many different restaurants and food-carts you could eat at. We'll have to come back and try some of them, I think you all would like it!
But, we spent most of our day walking through the streets, talking with a variety of people. We had some cool miracles though just talking with people! So, a little bit of back story for the miracle, we had district meeting two weeks ago and went to a McDonalds downtown. Well, Elder Dierks talked to a man there who looked down on his luck briefly. Well, fast forward to Tuesday night and we were walking along the waterfront looking for people to talk with. Well, I have this prompting that we needed to go back and talk to this man just sitting there eating a cracker. We'd walked past when I turned to Elder Dierks and say to him we have go back. Well, we approach him and it turns out to be the same guy from McDonalds! We talked with him for like 15 minutes and set up an appointment to meet with him at the branch!
So after that we walked towards the branch because it was starting to get late, and we saw another guy who looked down on his luck sitting on bench. We started to talk with him, and he told us his name was January. It was a street name he'd picked up, he was an interesting and friendly person. Had a really good heart, they both did. Well, we ended up talking about the phrase "the biggest thing since slice bread" and I made a pun about it being "food for thought". Well, after we all had a good laugh about it, he told us that he was glad we talked with him. He was having a rougher day and appreciated friendly faces to stop and talk with him and brighten his day up a little. We ended up teaching him the following morning at the branch as well, we found two new investigators for the branch in one night. It was awesome!
I have gained a new appreciation for the need of welfare/charity. While there are still people who put themselves in those situations, these two men had just had wave after wave of bad luck and misfortune. One of them was just trying to skim by until he could get money to get an apartment or someplace to live again, then find a job to support himself. He'd lost his job and gone through a series of events that left him broke and struggling. He was a college graduate, and such a good person. People sometimes just need help, it is scary to realize how close we can all be to that same situation.
But being with Elder Dierks was great as well, we have similar perspectives and have a similar sense of humor. We had a great night just laughing and talking. Their apartment is this small studio, and what's crazy is the mission office pays $800/month for rent. City living, I love it but it is really expensive. I wish I could have served in the branch..! I love the city, it's so weird because I don't fully get why all the time.
I also was suddenly hurled into speaking at a funeral this week! That was weird too! We had a guy we taught that moved to Texas like four months ago (don't know if you remember me talking about him), that killed himself like a month and a half ago. Well, his family out here decided to have a funeral for him in our church building. Only one of his cousins is actually a member, and the rest of them have little to no knowledge about the church. Unfortunately, not many people knew him out here. So, they found the person who knew him best, which happened to be me! I knew him for like, three weeks- spending like an hour a week teaching him. So I spoke to a small congregation of his mourning family (including his wife and children) about who Tom was..! Everybody said I did really well, and since I basically was speaking for half of the funeral, that was a compliment. Somebody said to me, "You'll make a great bishop someday!" I think by great bishop he actually meant to say ward librarian.
Well, it has been an interesting week--full of weird experiences! I am excited to come home, but it will be tough to leave. I have loved my mission, I really have. I'm especially grateful I got to spend it in Portland. Great experiences that have brought me much closer to God.
Well, I love you all. See you soon!
Elder Samuel A. Burge