Well it has been a week since I arrived here in New Paltz and I am loving it! The city of New Paltz is a small little city in Upstate New York and our area actually covers many other towns and cities around it. It's a pretty big area so we have a car that we share with the two other Elders in our apartment, Elder Montierth and Elder Edwards. We also have bikes and we do a lot of walking. Since Elder Atwood and I are the new companionship in the area we spent this week getting to know the Church members in the area and doing a lot of tracting and street contacting. There is a small little Branch here in New Paltz with about 40 members that come to church every Sunday. The members take really good care of us with having us over for dinner and stuff and I have really loved getting to know them. There is also a senior missionary couple, Elder and Sister Howes, that live in the same apartment complex as us. They have had us over for meals and desserts a few times this week and they are the nicest! Elder Atwood and I have been working hard to find people to teach and also to visit members that are not regularly coming to church or have not come in years, and there are a lot of them!
On Monday we went through the branch list and called every family on it and tried to set up appointments to visit each one of them. So we have many appointments here in the next two weeks. A lot of the families are part member families and we are looking forward to meeting with them and get to know them and inviting them to come back to church. That will be our primary focus here for the next few weeks. There are 150 total members on the branch list so it will be a lot of work but we're excited!
What we typically do when we visit a members house or a part-member family is then go tracting in that neighborhood. We have knocked on many doors this week and most everyone has been very kind to us. Elder Atwood and I have also done a lot of street contacting. There is State University of New York, New Paltz right across the street from our apartment that just started school this week and we have done some contacting there, but mostly we have been talking to people in the downtown area, which is about 3 blocks, very small.
The weather has been mostly hot and humid, but also we have had some thunder and lightning storms with some rain so it's been a mix. One night after we went and gave someone a blessing we had to walk for quite a bit in the pouring rain. It was so dark too and we couldn't really see where we were going but it was a fun adventure, but we were pretty wet. New Paltz and the surrounding towns and cities we visit are quite rural. Very very small and everything is surrounded by trees, and trees, and more trees. It's beautiful here! And Elder Atwood said that when the leaves change colors in the Fall it is going to be amazing. Elder Atwood is great! We get along very well. He is from Payson, Utah and grew up on a ranch and is a bull rider. Actually he has broken multiple bones bull riding, including his femur bone when he got bucked off once and the bull stepped on it. Crazy! Anyways, he played football and basketball in high school and went to a year at BYU before his mission. He has been on his mission for 15 months. He also, of course, is in love with country music so we've been having fun singing some songs throughout our days, much to the dismay of the other Elders in our apartment haha.
So our daily schedule is wake up at 6:30AM and exercise, eat breakfast, shower and get ready for the day until 8AM. At 8 we have personal study time for an hour which has been an awesome part of my day. Then at 9AM Elder Atwood and I study together, typically to prepare for whatever lessons or visits we have that day, and then also we are doing the 12 week training program. Since he is training me we have and extra hour to do that, so two hours total of companion study. Then at 11AM I have an hour of studying Portuguese which is awesome but sometimes can be hard to focus, but Elder Atwood and I actually often do it together so he is learning some Portuguese too! Then we eat lunch at noon and get out there either to visit a less active member, visit a potential investigator, knock doors, or street contact. We have been keeping pretty busy so that's good but we don't have anyone we have started teaching yet. But we have met a few people that are interested and we are visiting them in the next few days here and have appointments set up for most of them.
One cool experience this week was on Thursday night, my first time street contacting, we were downtown and we sat down on a bench and Elder Atwood was kind of explaining how we approach people and start talking to them. As we were sitting there, up walks an older tall black man, who has this big smile on his face and he comes up and says in this excited and friendly low voice, "I can't believe it! I can't believe that you guys are sitting here right now." We shake his hand and he explains that he is very happy to see us because he just got back from a trip to Brazil where he spent 10 hours on a plane talking to a missionary that was on his way home from serving his mission. His name is Zelbert and he's actually a professor here at the college. He was very excited to hear that I will be heading the Brazil as soon as I get my visa and we spoke a little Portuguese. He actually travels to Brazil often because he teaches Brazilian history. He is very nice and says he would like to meet with us sometime, so we have an appointment with him this week as well.
Anyways, things are going well here and I am happy. The members are very kind and we have already made great relationships with many of them. It has been so great to read from the scriptures wherever we go and share a message about Jesus Christ with those we come in contact with. I am excited for the upcoming week because we have many appointments lined up and it will be good to interact with more and more people and help them come closer to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.
Thank you for the love and support from all of you. I hope you are all doing well.
Until next week.
This is me on our balcony at our apartment. Our apartment is on the second floor and we have a sweet little balcony. Beautiful view of the trees. there is a family of deer that live right there and there are two little baby deer, so cute! we see them everyday. We also have seen some awesome birds, including a big hawk that sits up in the trees and then swoops down and cacthes mice.
We were walking on the road and came across a beatiful field of sunflowers. It was rare to see an open area with no trees. It's beautiful here though!
My companion, Elder Atwwod. He's the man! We were admiring the scenery for a second on this bridge and we spotted some big fish in the river. We are thinking about going fishing one P-day!
We caught a snake while we were tracting in a neighborhood! haha not really, it was already dead, but we had fun.
This is the college here in town, called State University of New York, New Paltz. It is right across the street from our apartment complex. It is by far the biggest buildings around, for miles!