I'm in Enid!! For those of you who don't know (likely everyone), Enid is located in the NorthWest part of Oklahoma--our area touches the pan handle--and has the highest population of Marshallese people in Oklahoma. So I finally get to put my language skills to use! Except I really only know vocabulary related to our church lessons at the moment, so I'm not a whole lot of use before or after the lesson. Also, they speak very quickly, and those that don't slur their words are few and far between, so I'm not much use in the lesson either. Hmmm...actually, I'm not entirely sure why my companion keeps me around...Probably because I have a great smile :)
So, I'm currently working on my listening comprehension. I can understand everything Elder Nicholas says, but that's because he has a vi-pelle (white person) accent. But I have been contributing to the lessons about as much as he has been, so I'm pretty pleased with my progress in the language so far.
Other than their rapid speaking, the Marshallese are great. In Ponca City, we could walk up to a ri-pelle and talk with them, but we would more often than not get rejected. But if we knock on any Marshallese door, unless they are asleep or leaving, we will not only be welcomed in, but also fed raij im bau (rice and chicken) more often than not. It's fantastic! They are really just the nicest people and they will do anything for a stranger. It reminds me of ancient Greek hospitality.
One thing that I did like about Ponca was that our area was reasonably small. We could bike everywhere no problem. Enid is big. We share a van and a truck with the other four Elders here, but we hit the mission mile limit , so was a biking day. We probably biked 30 miles, most of which included a strong headwind. I am so glad that my dad and I did our 65 mile ride to San Diego because 30 miles seems comparatively easy now. That being said, we were quite sweaty by the end of the day. I'm surprised that we got into those last few houses because I could smell myself, which means it was bad. Thankfully, we talked President into allowing us a few more miles so that will make the outer areas easier, but we will still be doing a lot of biking near our home.
In other news, allergies here are worse than any place I've ever been. I got smashed by Oklahoma's excessive pollen + strong winds + nowhere-to-hide-because-there-
are-no-mountains-combo . But it's okay because not only does honey never spoil, taste amazing, contain everything necessary to sustain life, and have medicinal properties, it ALSO helps with allergies!!! So I've been chugging raw Oklahoman honey and it's been helping. I'm a little obsessed, if you haven't noticed. I'll probably end up writing my doctorate thesis on why honey is the best food ever. The world needs to know.
Anyway, even though it's not as interesting as honey, I should probably move on to my challenge for the week. One thing that I have been learning on my mission is how to work with people. I used to be able to avoid people I don't like or spend a small amount of my time with them, but now I don't have a whole lot of say in who I am around. My companion is assigned to me, along with my area. I talk to people all day long. Needless to say, I spend time around people that don't always do things that I like. It's honestly been tough. Granted, sometimes I'm the idiot (sometimes puts it lightly), but often enough, I've found myself at cross purposes with someone in a situation where neither way is outright wrong.
The solution, I've realized, is located in Elder David A. Bednar's talk, "The Character of Christ" that I mentioned some time ago. In that talk, he says that through his study of the scriptures, he has learned that the character of Christ is that He turns outward when we would turn inward. What that means is that, in situations when the "natural man" in us says "me," Christ is turning toward someone else.
I'll refrain from going too in depth into his talk because he does a better job of explaining everything (you can and should watch it here or read it here but I will explain what I've learned that it means in my life which can be summed up pretty simply: It's not about you. It just literally isn't about you. It doesn't matter that I'm tired and that people don't want to talk to us and we aren't doing it my way and we are staying in a 2 bedroom apartment with 4 people for the 3rd week in a row or that I don't want to eat here or talk to this person or have to concentrate so I know that people are saying. When I focus on how much I don't want these things, then it makes the whole experience worse. They're still going to happen. More than that, no one is benefitted by my selfishness, not even myself. As I caught myself mentally complaining about how one missionary talks way too much and jokes around in a way that bothers me, I realized that if I were to think about what his needs were, and respond accordingly, then he would be happy and I wouldn't be miserable from wallowing in my own self-pity.
Most of all, I've realized that I don't grow when I turn inward. The periods of highest growth for me have been when I have been so focused on helping others that I forgot about my own problems. The reason is that the more closely we follow the Savior, the more we will be saved by His grace. As we seek to adopt His character, not for our own growth, but truly for others, we change to become more like Him.
My challenge this week: Seek out the character of Christ. Turn outward when you want most to turn inward. If you believe in prayer and scripture study, pray for and study the character of Christ. I am a living testimony that we don't change without divine help. If you don't believe in that, seek to turn outward. Think win/win in your interactions with others. As you strive to turn outward, you will find peace and happiness inward. I know that as we strive to develop joy, love, and all that is good into our lives, our families will be blessed, our friends will be blessed, and we will be blessed so long as we don't try to keep those blessings for ourselves, but use them to bless those around us. It's hard at first--infinitely so--but we are here to learn and grow over time, only by falling less and less each time we try.
Thank you for all of your support!
Elder Josh Kilmer
Oklahoma, Oklahoma City Mission, Marshallese speaking
Fudoshin: immovable spirit