Elder John Miller

Elder John Miller

Monday, October 26, 2015

Alaska Week 10, Fairbanks

Dear people,

 So I'm trying this new thing that I learned where I put a bunch of
names in the send to bar thing so that everyone doesn't have to look
up my updates and stuff. I figured this would be more convenient for
people. I'll send personal emails out too, don't worry.

 This week has been pretty crazy. Crazy in a good way though. Things
are starting to really pick up, which is quite nice. We have about 6
investigators left at this point, all of which are actually
progressing, but because we have so few we have to go finding all the
time, which usually means a lot of tracting. Knocking doors can get
old, but it's good. It gives me a reason to break out the sweaters.
Also the fact that it's 30 degrees out gives me a reason to break out
the sweaters.
 Tuesday we went on exchanges. Elder Jesperson made a joke that I
would be able to talk to all the people we're never able to talk to
when he's there. And then we actually did. We set up like 6
appointments, it was pretty funny. Elder Jesperson also has pretty bad
ADD so he loves to talk, meaning that when we teach he does a lot of
the teaching because he just keeps going. It's a good thing because I
learn a lot from what he says and how he teaches, but when I went on
exchanges with Elder Kettle I had to do 75% of the teaching. I felt
like I was actually doing my job, it was nice. I also got the package
Tuesday. Please stop sending me candy. Please. 

 Wednesday we had our last meeting with Daniel, our 7th Day Adventist
friend. He tried to convert us. It didn't work. He's moving down to
Tennessee because he likes the super hardcore Southern pastors better.
So this ones up to you Grandma. We also tracted for hours because we
didn't have anyone to teach that day. We were super discouraged
because tracting can get old pretty fast. I pulled the car over on a
street and I was thinking to myself ""If we can't get anything here,
we're done. We've been tracting forever, we'll find something else to
do." So we rang the doorbell of the first house on the street. No
answer. So we knocked. The guy answered the door and said "You rang
the doorbell and we didn't answer so...... yeah go away" so we went to
the next house. Some crazy old guy. At this point Elder Jesperson says
"Man, it seemed like in Ketchikan every time we went tracting we found
a potential." So at this point we're both discouraged. We knock on the
last door of the street, they had a colorful mailbox so I had hope.
This woman answers the door. She remarked on our nice appearance, and
then talked to us for a minute. She was about to have dinner with her
family so she didn't have much time but said we could come back later.
We started walking away when she opened the door again and invited us
to come in and have dinner with her family. We had a dinner
appointment, but we went back to the Andersons the next day.

 Thursday we picked up Elder Perkins, who is serving in Barrow but had
come down to Fairbanks for zone conference on Friday. He's a real life
cowboy, it's awesome. You remember that Cliven Bundee guy? Elder
Perkins worked for the guy who took that guys cattle. He got death
threats and everything. His dream is to own rodeos. He's awesome. That
day we went back to the Andersons and talked with Maria, the woman was
at the door, and her husband Glenn "the Glenner" Anderson. They're the
coolest people. He's a radio show host, stand up comedian, actor,
they're both crazy hippies, and everyone in the family is basically a
professional skater. We had a crazy lesson with them. They're probably
going to come to church next week too. Maria was worried because she
doesn't want people to judge her husband, he's a local celebrity and
everyone here knows him, but everyone we talked to was like "Baptize
them, they're the coolest people in town."" So that's our goal. 

 Friday we had zone conference, which is basically a 7 hour meeting.
IT was really good. There's always a testimony meeting at the end,
which was really cool. Then we had dinner at Clint Summers house. That
man is a walking party. He loves to swear and rag on his psycho ex
wife, but he's one of the nicest human beings I've ever met. 

 Saturday we had the adult session of stake conference. We got Larry
and Svetlana to come, which was really good for them because it was
amazing. I think President Duval, the stake president, will be a
general authority some day. He used to have a lot of reading problems,
so he memorized like half the scriptures and his talks are always
crazy good. Sunday was more of that, but after church we had a lesson
with Lorinda, who's working through all her issues and is making
progress, she just has a hard time seeing it. We also had a lesson
with Jennifer, who volunteered to come to church with us. What's up
with all of these people wanting to come to church? Aren't they
supposed to make our lives hard?

 So yeah, everything's going good here in Alaska. If Yahoo Weather is
to be believed (which it isn't, it's the worst) It should snow
everyday next week. So that'll be fun. Stay frosty down south.

Elder Miller

Monday, October 19, 2015

Week 9 in Alaska, Fairbanks

Dear family,

It gets in the 20s every night. Your weather app is weak. Pretty soon it'll be permanently in the 20s. Then the 10s. And so on and so forth. Winter is settling in. Today is icy. I'm the designated driver now, so I get to deal with it. Our cars headlights are bad, so driving in the dark is fun. Never buy a Jeep Compass. Worst car ever. I preferred the red car. But last night an incredibly dense fog rolled in. Then there was lightning. We drove down this old dirt road with a thousand potholes looking for this house that we couldn't find so we got out and started walking. Someone was listening to music really loud in a house down the street so all we could hear was this droning bass. I was literally in a horror movie. Halloween up here is spooky. Everyone has hanging effigies and weird, really dark stuff. If we don't stay in the city limits, every neighborhood we go to is basically a cult commune. Interesting doesn't even begin to describe it.

On Tuesday I came the closest I've ever come to being found dead in a ditch. We were tracting this culty street, and we knock on the last door when this lady comes outside of another house and starts screaming at us. She was yelling all manner of obscenities and about how Jesus wouldn't save us and that kind of fun stuff, so we walked away. She followed us down the street, screaming and yelling. I thought about turning around and just yelling back at this vile woman, but when I turned my head I noticed she was ready to draw a gun on us. If I had been like Lot's wife and turned around I might have gotten shot. So I didn't. We got in the car and left really fast. I've almost died a couple times up here, but that's the closest I've ever come to being murdered by a sad lady who thought I was ruining the world. I'm getting kind of tired of almost dying in not cool ways. Death by moose is cool. Death by deranged old woman is less cool. I'm not ready to make the eternal transfer just yet.

Other than that we had a really good week. Our Ward is getting really excited about missionary work. We had a really good lesson at the Bishops house on Sunday with our investigator Karla. She could probably use a prayer. She's recently divorced and has four kids, two of which live with her and are in high school. The others are moved out. We also have an investigator named Jennifer who's a hippie woman. She's 24 and has a 5 year old daughter, I don't know if I already told you about her, but she's a really solid investigator and has a lot of interest and desire to learn. Oh, we also learned that Lorinda, who's 20 with a 1 year old, has a psychotic exish boyfriend who does meth, sells drugs, and abuses her. He has face tattoos, and the anarchy symbol and swastikas tattooed on his hands. So I could use some help. Sh needs a lot of prayers, and I don't really know how to help her. We keep going over to teach her, we can't when he's there, and she loves the Gospel, but if she can't break free from this guy it doesn't matter. And we can't call the police, and she won't. The whole situation is messy.

But this has been a good week. I get up everyday excited for another adventure.

I know it's Old Testament  this year, that's why I've been reading it too. I just finished the book of Job today, so tomorrow I start on Psalms. Some of its confusing but most of it makes sense. Isaiah may get a little tougher though. We'll see. I'm also studying the Book of Mormon. I finished it and now over started over. I'm at the end of second Nephi, and I'm going through and marking up my scriptures. It's been really helpful. I wonder how many times I'll be able to read though it on my mission. 

Life in Alaska is crazy as usual.

Elder Miller
Elder Miller enjoying cream puffs from one of the ward members.  

Monday, October 12, 2015

Week 8 in Alaska, Fairbanks

Dear family,

Yay, boxes. I already have a flashlight, but I can use another. Hats are good too. I think I'll need a better scarf soon too. But that can come later. ( I told John in my letter to him that I just sent a box last Friday and there were flashlights and hats in it. )

We have a couple investigators who are progressing. The first is Lorinda. She's really awesome, but she's got a lot of troubles. She's twenty, has a one year old son, and her sons dad died right after he was born. She has a crazy ex boyfriend who has so many tattoos. They're on his face, hands, and feet. And hey aren't the nice "heart with mom inside" kind of tattoo. We've never met him, but she tells us about him and it's not a good situation. I think if we ever go over there when he's there there would be a good likelihood of something bad happening. So that's a sticky situation, and I would rather not get in a fight with someone with face tattoos. So we could really use some prayers there. She loves the lessons, although because she has no religious background it takes time to get all the points across so it's going slowly. She's progressing though, and she may get baptized. We just need to put her on date.

We also have a recent convert were teaching named Taryn Dyer. She's 15 and lives in a really weird family situation. She lives here with her mom, step dad, aunt, and older sister and niece. It's her aunts apartment though. I don't know how they fit that many people In those apartments. They're a slum. My Ward mission leader owns them. He's a slum lord (not really). So we were teaching her the first lesson, because whoever taught her in California where she was baptized didn't do too hot so we have to go over everything again (normally you can just check for understanding and move on) and her older sister comes out and starts talking about her baby daddy, who she joked about getting her Uncle Mitch to murder. These people have exciting lives, it's just sad that they're not the good kind of exciting. But we ended up teaching the older sister, Rikki, who we now have a return appointment with.

Our last investigator wig potential is Carla O'Donaghue, who is a 45ish year old woman who's recently divorced. She probably has the most potential of any of them, but I don't really like grading people by potential. I look at everyone like they're a child of God, and I'm pretty sure He doesn't value one of them over another because of their potential for baptism. Anyways, she has two kids still at home who we can also probably teach and help the three of them find the Church, which would be awesome.

No one in Alaska is normal. I don't think anyone anywhere is normal. We were talking to someone and they said this "Everyone in Alaska is running from something, whether they know it or not. People come here for the adventure, for the solitude, for the ease of escape. You know why? Because life sucks, and you're in the state where everyone who can't handle that fact runs to so they can try and fix what's broken inside them. Everyone you see here is broken. They're all trying to get fixed. None of hem ever do." And after that wonderful bit of nihilistic hopelessness we moved on. That guy was not an investigator. Elder Pulou, one of the zone leaders, said this in a zone meeting later "We street contacted a born again Christian woman who said she had been saved 20 years ago and didn't need to talk to the missionaries. Guess what. She was saved way before that. We've all been saved, we just have to make it back. People up here in Alaska have a lot of problems, but they can find salvation just as easily as you or I. We've all been saved, whether we want to be or not. So go out and fix what's broken." This was a crazy spiritual week. It was awesome.

This week had its low points, but I'm still doing good. It's a lot of fun up here, as well as spiritual. I'm exhausted too. But I can't catch up on sleep for a while. I got to go on a road trip to Nanana which is about 100 miles south of here, and Elder Jesperson slept the whole time. I love driving. It was nice. But yes, I'm doing good.


I asked about Nanana and this is his response:
There's literally nothing in Nanana. There are two investigators down there who we went to teach because President was going to put it in our area (our area is about the size of the state of Maine) but he ended up giving that town to the 5th ward sisters. So we went down there to teach one lesson. Fairbanks third Ward is the biggest congregation in the world. It covers an area the size of the state of Utah. Our area is huge, but it has a bunch of different branches and stuff.

We met some Yaks

Monday, October 5, 2015

Week 7 in Alaska, Fairbanks

                                                     Elder Jesperson fell asleep during study time.

                                                                         16 inches of snow

I like trains

Dear family,

You know what's awesome about Alaska? Everything. From getting shot at (the gunfire wasn't really aimed at us, but there was gunfire), to getting more up close and personal with moose than I'd ever care to, and meeting a man who killed a bear with a knife. There's a super old man in our Ward who's a gunsmith, but in his younger days he would go hunting bears a lot. He got bored shooting them with guns or bows, so he decided to go spear hunting, which then became knife hunting. He killed a grizzly bear with a knife because he could. Then he ate it. That's the most hardcore thing I've ever heard of in my life. That guy, his name is Ron Arter, also almost shot a missionary for accidentally walking into his place of business at night. He's crazy. This is the best place ever
Only two missionaries live in our apartment. There's only three places in the mission where there's more than one companionship in an apartment.

Tuesday and Wednesday we got 16 inches of snow. I've never seen so much in my life. It's since warmed up and most of its melted, but it's supposed to snow again later this week. We'll see though, long term forecasts aren't normally all that reliable. We also had transfers Tuesday. I stayed because I'm being trained. I probably won't leave Fairbanks until December 15th. So I'll get to see the dark. I'm excited. Basically everyone in our zone is training right now. It's crazy. But I'm not the new kid on the block anymore, so that's nice.

Thursday was great. We picked up two really good investigators. The first one is named Eric and he's interested. We asked him if he would get baptized and he was like "If God tells me to, yes" and we were like *unexpected answer silence*. We haven't had an investigator say that in forever. So that was nice. Then we were trying this other investigator who ended up not being home, but as we walked away her neighbor came out to smoke. So we talked to her. Then she told us her life story. Her name is Lorinda. She was adopted 6 times. She's twenty, has a one year old son, and her husband died last year. And she's the best investigator we have. She was going to come to conference, but she couldn't make it. 

Conference was awesome. It was probably the best conference I've ever seen, mainly cause I didn't fall asleep at all. My favorite talk was President Uchtdorf's from Priesthood session. We talk to a lot of atheists, so his talk is very useful in teaching. Plus President Uchtdorf is my favorite. All the talks were awesome though. I called Elder Rasband. I knew he was going. I got a member of the presiding bishopric so I was close. But I'm excited for Elder Renlund. His talk last conference was one of my favorites.

So that's my week. I have gloves and a hat, I looted gloves from a departed elder. Plus I have the hat from Grandma which is really nice. I just don't wear them that much cause it's not that cold. But I did break out the snow boots one day this week.

I got my drivers license. I can now legally not know how to drive in the snow. It'll be exciting. Thanks for helping with that. Josh was very nice. And my picture doesn't make me look really high like my Oregon license does. So that's a plus. 

It's really foggy here. It's nice, it reminds me of home. Pretty soon it'll be freezing fog. I miss the ocean a lot. Fairbanks is the heart of the interior so I'm 500 miles from any coast. Anywhere else in the mission I'll be on the coast, unless it's North Anchorage. Or Wasilla. I'll get to the ocean again soon enough. 

Are you still in California? I love you guys.


Elder Miller

Mom note: I sent back a quick email and asked for clarification on the gun shots and this is the response I got:  

We were in our apartment and we could hear automatic gunfire nearby. We were totally safe don't worry, I just wanted to scare you. I'm pretty sure it was cops. Or army maybe, were near the base. There was nothing wrong. Yes there was another moose incident. They just wander around. They're dangerous though so we avoid them.  (gotta love that kid!)