Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Every day when you're walking down the street....

This is THE BRONX. Every ten steps takes you to a different smell, a different sound, a different bodily excretion on the ground in front of you! Every time we walk into our apartment our noses remind us there's a dead rat in the wall! Half the signs are in Spanish! This is GREAT!!! Seriously, when I have to carefully step over some homeless guy's feces on the sidewalk, part of me thinks, NASTY, but part of me thinks, oh my gosh this is so cool I'm in the Bronx!!! I'm sure the novelty of that one will wear off quickly though. But still, I love it here! The work is a completely different pace and style. I love running to catch the subway and diving through the doors right before they close! I love the complete disregard for traffic rules! I love hearing the occasional "God bless!" from random people on the street! I love the crazy old Puerto Rican guys that will talk to us for hours if we let them! (maybe I'll see Bruce on the streets one of these days... Crazy old Puerto Rican guy? Get it?)

I'm still figuring out what's going on in this area and what I'm supposed to be doing as a district leader (oh... I think I forgot to mention that in my last email), but so far I've met some pretty awesome people. I've only been here a week and I've already got quite a few of crazy stories, some of which I probably shouldn't mention to my mom... (Just kidding) It's great!

There are twelve missionaries in this ward (six elders, two sisters, and two senior couples), and man they need every single one of them to keep functioning.  I'm technically the district leader for all of them, but the senior couples just take care of themselves.  The bishop had only been a member for year and half before he was called, and they had to call him out of the Spanish ward.  Our area is about a fifth of the ward: everything south of Third Avenue/Boston Road and west of the Bronx River.  There are over two hundred members in our area alone.  Only two of them actually come to church.  One of those two is the bishop and the other is a guy named Brother Allyn Ford.  His middle name is literally John Wayne and he probably compares pretty well with the stereotype you imagine when you think fifty year old black man from the projects, except he's an active member of the church.  He's awesome. 

I met a Jamaican lady named R* who is a gem (no pun intended... though it's a nice coincidence). She's probably the sweetest old lady in NYC. She's been investigating the church for a few months now, but hasn't been able to come to church because her knees are shot (walking/subway is the only way for her). She knows the bible better than anyone I've ever met and interprets it completely correctly, probably largely because she prays whenever she reads and asks for the Holy Ghost to help her understand it. She believes in the Book of Mormon and all that, but she wants to come to church (and has to) before she is baptized so she can make sure that it feels right to her. We had an amazing lesson, and she said her friend is visiting this week and can drive her there.

I also met a man named I* (that's right, no "r") from the Dominican Republic who was baptized a few months ago. He's got a pretty cool conversion story and a strong testimony of the restored gospel. His girlfriend got evicted so her a room in his apartment and he's been feeling too guilty about it to come to Church! They're going to get married soon, so hopefully that fixes any problem

So earlier this week, we were looking up a potential investigator and we made a new friend! The elevator doors opened as we arrived at the correct floor, and there was a pit bull standing in the hallway in front of us. It looked at us with wide eyes and I couldn't decide if it was about to tear us pieces or not. We stepped out of the elevator and walked closer. As we approached, the dog's tail went between it's legs and it promptly wet itself. The poor puppy was scared to death by our presence! So we scratched his ears until his tail was wagging and he stopped being so timid (be proud, Dad). We had a hard time keeping it from following us into the elevator on our way out.

So one of the pictures I included depicts what happens when we happen to get a subway car to ourselves on our way home for the night. It only lasted for two stops and then a lost and confused Dominican got on and started asking us for directions to 168th Street--or rather "calle ciento sesenta y ocho." Luckily, Elder Beardall speaks Portuguese, which was close enough that we could help him out. But as we were helping him, another guy got on the train--a big, very New Yorker kinda guy. He immediately joined in trying to help this Dominican guy, though he didn't speak Spanish at all. Then once the Dominican guy got off, we were left alone with this big ol' New Yorker telling us all about his collapsed lung and smoking marajuana. He was very friendly (though very high) and even hand-rolled a joint for us right there on the subway. We turned it down, of course. He shrugged and said, "I guess they don't do that kind of thing in Utah." (Elder Beardall happens to be from Colorado, so... )

Here in the Bronx, the whole headphones thing never quite caught on. They created their own solution for music on-the-go, which typically involves a cheap stereo, a car battery, and a MASSIVE amp tied into a dolly, or something similar. They'll wheel that around with them everywhere they go and blast their tunes loud enough to here it over the sound of a passing subway train.

That's all for this week! Thanks again for all the support!

-Elder Samuel Burton

Pics: what happens when we get a subway car to ourselves, under the subway (towards the end of the line, they go above ground), the subway stop nearest our apartment.

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