It's so weird to write just once at the end of the week - SOOOO much has happened last Monday! Let me see if I can get it all in. :)
We arrived at the mission home last Monday evening. We spent the evening in the mission home before being assigned to our new companions and new areas. The mission home is literally ACROSS THE STREET from President Thomas S. Monson's home!!! What?! For those that don't know, President Monson is the current leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and he is called as prophet. It may seem strange to think of modern day prophets, or to hear people refer to prophets. It was for me at first as well. President Monson does not use his authority to manipulate, but rather to guide. He teaches the doctrines of the gospel and applies them to life today in the 21st century. If you read the old testament you see that God often called prophets to lead and guide His people, because He loves all of His children and wants them to safely return to him someday. It makes sense that He would call a prophet to lead and guide the people again today. For more information please feel free to ask me any questions, or to learn more on lds.org or mormon.org :)
There is my shameless missionary plug. ;)
On Tuesday we were assigned to a new companion who would train us and teach us the area that we will be serving in.
MY COMPANION IS OLDER THAN ME!!!!!
I didn't think that would EVER happen! I still have to remember to be humble sometimes and bow to her greater experience as a missionary, but that is definitely SO much easier coming from someone who is 2 years older than me, than it would have been with someone who is 6 years younger. Not that I'm super prideful. It's just... how would you like to be nearly 25 and have a 19 year old as your teacher and trainer? We get along great, and she is so patient and compassionate with me.
So our area. We cover the Bountiful Heights Stake in Bountiful Utah. This is TEN wards (bigger congregations) and one branch (smaller congregation.) Which will actually become 11 wards because two of the wards are splitting this week and forming a third. Apparently this hasn't happen in 50 some years, so the people around here are not super happy. Our Branch is at a resident care center for people who have suffered traumatic injuries - usually car accidents or strokes or the like - and can no longer take care of themselves. It also helps to rehabilitate people as best as they can. Several members in the area have been called (assigned) to be full-time missionaries specifically for the people in this facility and we work with them to help care and uplift the people living there. I won't lie - it's kinda scary at first. There's a REASON that I picked crime scene investigation as a career... I personally find it easier to help people in that state. My first day in the care center was for a Relief Society activity. Relief Society is a women's group in our church, but at the branch it is open to all male's and females, and members and nonmembers. Before they share a short Spiritual message with the patients they spend time singing silly songs and otherwise helping to lift their spirits. I always thought "relief society" was a strange name, but in that moment I was so overcome with the love and goodness and grace that these women expressed as they visited the patients of the Branch. These women were TRULY providing relief to this society, and I was so overcome by the pure Christlike GOODNESS that I was brought to tears. I prayed for the ability to see each of these wheelchair bound immobile patients as people, and I was blessed to see them as God does. Again, it brought me to tears. South Davis is a really special place, and I feel SO honored to be able to serve there for part of my time here in Bountiful.
In fact, I received one of the biggest compliments ever from a couple that serves in South Davis. They told me, "Sister Tipton, I am so impressed with how easily you have begun to interact with the patients here. It usually takes new people a few weeks before they begin to feel comfortable." I still don't always feel super comfortable, but I'm so glad that at least I am not allowing any personal shock to affect my demeanor towards the precious people there.
So on the first day I got two "official unoffical rules" from my new companion. The first was to not ask the patients at South Davis about how they ended up there. The second is not to talk to the polygamists.
Yes. You heard that right. There is a GIANT polygamist compound about a minute down the street from where I live. He has so many wives and children that he actually has stadium bleachers in his yards so that they can all be together for activities. Crazy! In case you were unsure, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints do not practice polygamy anymore. It has been abolished for over a century, and any members that practice it will immediately be excommunicated. There are a few other religious groups that we're not allowed to proselyte to, but the polygamists is probably the bigger one in this area.
In Utah you run into all kinds of people. :) Jon Schmidt from the piano guys attends one of the wards that I serve. Be jealous. Be very very jealous. :D But yesterday the CRAZIEST thing ever happened! So we have 11 congregations that we serve in - we obviously can't attend their church meetings every week. Yesterday at the last minute we changed our plans and ended up in 50th ward sacrament meeting. The second I enter a little girl comes up to me and says, "Hi Sister Tipton!" I recognize her, but I've met SO many people in the last week that I just couldn't place her.... but then I look up and see her mom and dad and brother and I think my jaw fell to the floor! I didn't recognize her because I didn't expect to see her here!!!! This was one of my piano students from Maryland that I so painfully said goodbye to a few months ago!!!! THE OLSON FAMILY WAS IN MY WARD!!! I couldn't believe it! Dear friend Amanda was visiting her mother and I just happened to be called to serve in her stake, and we just HAPPENED to walk into the same congregation when they were visiting. Seriously brought me to tears!!!!
Later, during the meeting, little Mary was sitting next to me and she looks at my nametag which says "Sister Tipton" and then under it "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints." She points to it and says, "Now you're a real missionary!!" And I nearly cried again. LOVE that family! I still can't believe that happened!!! We're going over tonight to teach Family Home Evening before they fly home. I love that we can do that!!!
We live on a mountain. Like a really BIG mountain. We can see the Bountiful temple from pretty much anywhere we go, and it never takes us more than 5 minutes to get to another area. Every morning we go on a walk for exercise... which would seem lame until you realize that we hike up a mountain every day! I am SO tired here, but it is so worth it!!! I love the people that I meet and work with, and it is truly such a joy to help bring a little joy to people every single day. It feels so good to center myself on this one purpose alone - even as it is a little overwhelming at times.
The other day I was praying and studying the scriptures about receiving revelation. I read a story about a prophet named Nephi who after he prayed and studied the scriptures, and had faith that God would answer, received a huge revelation. In fact the scripture says, "He was taken up into an exceedingly high mountain." When my companion, Sister Haddock, and I studied together I said that I wasn't expecting THAT kind of revelation, but that I hoped I wasn't missing the little things... that it didn't always feel like I was learning anything. And she said, "So you don't feel like you're taken up into an exceedingly high mountain? It's because you're already there!!!" She of course meant literally, but I found that statement to be quite profound as well. Sister Tipton... don't look for things that aren't there, and don't forget where you already are.
It is so good to hear from you all! I love my life and hope to be able to send pictures soon. :) My address for the next 5 weeks at least is:
Sister Ashley L Tipton
183 S Ridgeview Dr
Bountiful UT 84010
You can send packages and letters there. I don't have much time to email, but I will absolutely respond to every bit of snail mail I receive!
Thanks for all of your love and support!