Howdy, y'all!I'm not actually saying "howdy" or "y'all" yet, but I figured I should get in the habit of doing it since I am going to live here for two years. Texas is a beautiful place. My whole life, I've been able to see mountains on the horizon, but now, the horizon is actually level with the ground I'm walking on! It's a little surreal, but I'm sure I'll get used to it. On the flip side, no mountains means that I can see the entire sky. Sister Watson (a Sister in my MTC district who's from Texas) told us that there's nothing in the world as big or as beautiful as the Texas sky, and I might be inclined to agree with her. I'm loving the heat, I'm loving the humidity, I'm loving the sun, but I'm not loving the burns at all. Every day I apply copious amounts of 70 SPF sunscreen, and I still manage to get fried. Another companion in my district told me that that happens to everybody, but I can expect it to fade in about a month. Hopefully these next four weeks will fly by, because it makes it pretty hard to focus sometimes.
Everybody here is super nice; in fact, not being nice is seen as rude. Everybody waves at us, and we wave at everybody. When we're out tracting, people may not listen to our message, but everybody's concerned as to whether or not we need water. I bring lots of water with me, but we never turn down an ice cold water bottle. It's a little strange how many people have cooled water bottles accessible within thirty seconds of their leaving the doorway. Maybe they just keep some in the fridge in case a salesman or missionary who needs one comes.
Everywhere that we go, there's some sort of a neighborhood Facebook page, and the members tell us that when we enter the neighborhoods, people start saying, "Those young men in white shirts are back! Don't answer the door, they're going to try to sell you Jesus!" The members have stood up for us, but it isn't making the work any easier. That being said, I have no idea if this was a successful or unsuccessful week. We've managed to place about three copies of the Book of Mormon a day, and while I don't know if that's good or not, just placing a single copy is a good thing that will help somebody's life.
President and Sister Ames are super nice! Sister Ames claims that we're related somehow, since her maiden name is Jensen. I don't know how true that is, but she made it pretty clear that while we're on our mission, she will be our second mother. I guess one way or another, I'll treat the Ames as family. It was great to finally meet them; they told us that all of the missionaries here while singing Called to Serve change the lyrics- instead of saying "Forward, pressing forward," we say, "Forward, Texas Fort Worth." I don't know if I'll ever be able to not sing that now. I was right about them being a stickler about the rules, but it isn't because they're strict or hard nosed. When we first got here, they told us that the goal of the Texas Fort Worth mission can be expressed in this short conversation:
"Which rules/commandments will we keep?"
"All of them."
"Because we love the Lord."
President Ames taught us something that has really stuck with me- God's commandments are difficult to keep when we think of them as a list of do's and don'ts. However, when we look at them instead as a list of guidelines to live a happy life, it's suddenly so much easier to keep. To emphasize this, he asked us if we could think of any commandment that we would be happier without. Obviously, we couldn't think of any. It's been great to see how obedience isn't just a commandment for our salvation in the life to come, but also for our happiness in the life we now live.
Sunday was interesting for a number of reasons. First of all, it was my first week in my new ward, so I was introduced to lots of new people. What made it even more unique, was that I was the opening speaker! One of the youth wasn't able to speak, and so I was given a couple of days notice to prepare it. The topic was faith, and it was only five minutes long, so it wasn't hard at all. I just got up there, introduced myself to the ward, and then gave my talk. I went a little over seven minutes, but I don't think anybody in the ward cared. It might have been the only time I've ever been excited to give a talk in my life. My ward is awesome; they've fed us some great food, and once, some people decided to drop off some treats at our house just because they had some leftovers from Primary.
My new companion's name is Elder Griffin, and we get along great. He's been out for almost a year now (his year mark is on August 6th), and he's a super hard worker. We go out and street contact so much, and he keeps reminding me of our zone's motto- Talk with everyone, they are prepared, or TWE-TAP for short. We talk with everybody, and it's led to a lot of success.
I'm super excited to finally be out here in Texas teaching God's children about how they can return to him!
Love, Elder Jensen.