Monday, July 27, 2015

Week 60 in the Field: Farewell to Eldorado and Becoming a District Leader

Exploring Rim Rock.  
"Experience has taught me that if we, like President Monson, exercise our faith and look to God for help, we will not be overwhelmed with the burdens of life. We will not feel incapable of doing what we are called to do or need to do. We will be strengthened, and our lives will be filled with peace and joy. We will come to realize that most of what we worry about is not of eternal significance—and if it is, the Lord will help us. But we must have the faith to look up and the courage to follow His direction." (Elder Carl B. Cook, 2011 General Conference)

Yup. Got a lot.

Wow. It's been quite an emotional week. So I guess it was good that I predicted myself getting transferred last weekend, because I was able to see everyone I could this past week. It was also filled with many adventures.

Monday I decided this would be my last P-day so we decided to head on down to this place called Rim Rock. There's loads of history in these rocks. There was one particular area called Ox-Lot Cave which is actually more like an overhang. The story about that area is that oxen were penned underneath this overhang during the bad weather. It was loads of fun walking around the high walls and the narrow caves. We also walked on a spider web-ridden trail towards this area called Pounds Hollow which is this giant swimming hole. We ended up walking back afterwards.

High Knob view of Shawnee National Forest

Corn! All of the stuff you see here is corn!

At Ox-Lot Cave in Rim Rock

Elder Steed Walking on the wooden walkway of the Pounds Hollow Trail

Pounds Hollow Lake

Rim Rock #1

We then drove to this city, or rather village, called Old Shawneetown. This place has loads of history. It was the first town in Illinois, and the bank there received an application for a loan for the then small city, Chicago, back in the day. Lewis and Clark also stopped by here on their way to Fort Massac, where we went a few weeks ago. The bank still stands, but the rest of the city is all but a ghost town. Less than 300 people live here now due to floods. In the evening we went over to one of the counselor's in the branch presidency for dinner. It was a good time and we appreciated them. After that we went back to the branch building to email home.

Old Shawneetown Bank (I think this is the bank that received an application for a loan for the small city of Chicago back in the day)

Putting one foot in the Louisville Kentucky Mission. (Theoretically, Kentucky owns the Ohio
River so by putting one foot in the water on this particular area, you step into another mission).

Old Shawneetown plaque

Tuesday we went over to our former member's home where we discussed plans for the FHE (Family Home Evening which is essentially gathering as a family and possibly win other friends for games and sharing spiritual thoughts) we were going to have with them and the (Branch Mission Leader's) BML family. After visiting shortly with the shut-in, we went over to the investigator with the baby who had a busted AC window unit. So yours truly with some help from my companion and her, took out and replaced the window AC unit with another. Fun stuff. The FHE with the BML family was fun. We played Scattagories and I shared a story from Church History about how the closer someone gets to the truth, the harder the adversary pushes them away from it. (This is still true today.  Please think about that.)

Wednesday we went down to Paducah for the final district meeting of the transfer. Sister Curtis gave a wonderful testimony and gave advice to all of us since she would be going home this transfer after finishing her 18 month mission. It was great. 

 The District

Two pictures of the district. (From left to right: Elder Steed, Elder Orr, Elder Parkinson, Elder Smith, Elder Senatore, Sister Curtis, Elder Peery, Sister Sumbot)

On the way up we stopped by this place called Millstone Bluff which is an archaeological site in Southern Illinois. Apparently Native Americans lived here more than 1700 years ago and some of the remains are still around here, including some rock carvings. The most famous of the rock carvings is a "Thunderbird". I took a picture of it though it is difficult to see due to all the moss. There were many other things there including the remains of a cemetery, homes, and buildings, most of which are simply just spaces where you can see the earth is depressed a little. Still super cool.

 Layout of Millstone Bluff

A millstone

We then went over to our investigator in Galatia and had a super spiritual lesson there and showed him The Restoration movie which talks about the origin of the church. It was super cool to see his reactions. 

If you haven’t seen it--or if you haven't seen it in awhile--please watch it.  
Here is the link:

We had to end the night after having a great dinner with one of the primary counselors.

Thursday we went out for lunch with the High Priest's group leader and had an awesome meal at KFC. After that our phone started getting ambushed by telemarketers for some weird reason. We literally got 7-9 phone calls in the space of an hour.

After that we struck out all over the place, but were able to make it up to Norris City where we had
a lot of fun having dinner with the Relief Society President and her husband. It was a great evening and it was fun seeing Norris City again.

Friday we were notified that our apartment wasn't in too good shape, so we spent the day cleaning it like crazy. We then went over to the church for planning. On the way home, we stopped by McDonalds which turned out to be a mistake ‘cause we almost got food poisoning. It wasn't a fun night, let me tell you.

Saturday was a very big day. Around 11:30am, President Andersen, the mission president, called us and asked me to be a district leader in a new area. (Elder Steed will be staying here in Eldorado.) It was very overwhelming and humbling, but I agreed. I don't know where I'm going or who my new companion is, but I do know that I will be a district leader -- meaning I will be over a group of 6-8 missionaries--very nerve-wracking and very humbling.

We proceeded then the rest of the day to pack, and began saying goodbye to people. The investigator in Galatia was super sad that I was leaving, as were the recent convert family in Eldorado. It was a really bittersweet day.

Sunday was very also very bittersweet. After a meeting in the morning, I proceeded to say goodbye to a lot of people. I gave a talk in Primary and told the kids that I will miss them a lot. I then taught a lesson on gospel principles on light and truth and how they work with each other. I based the entire thing around a scripture in Doctrine and Covenants 93:36 which says, "The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth." I essentially taught the idea that we are constantly gaining and losing light and truth by our decisions.

When we make good choices, we gain more light. This increase of light helps us understand more truth. Consequently by making wrong choices takes us further away from the Lord, which makes truth harder to understand. By making sure we are gaining light, we draw closer to the Lord, align our will with His will, and can understand more of what our Heavenly Father expects of us.  Pretty cool, huh!

Anyways, I ended up saying goodbye to pretty much everyone. Some commented saying they will miss the way I expound scripture. Others said they'd miss my optimism. I also got some marriage advice (ha!). But the whole time was very sad. I am really going to miss these good folks.  My heart is full.

Later on I said goodbye to the shut in, who took a picture of me and wanted to stay in touch. In the evening we went over to see the BML (Branch Mission Leader’s) family, where I said goodbye to the whole crew. That was very, very hard. We ended the night seeing the former member who I had seen every week. It was a very sad meeting and she was grateful for all the knowledge, advice, and help we had given. I cried a bit as we left her house.

Saying goodbye to the BML family (minus one, and a couple other pets). And yes, one of their dogs named Daisy, has to wear the "cone of shame."

Today we will be heading over to Ponderosa for the last meal I will have in the Eldorado Branch area. We will then head down to Garden of the Gods for the last time and then cross the river into Kentucky where we will spend the night with some other missionaries.

"I stopped to look back at what we had accomplished and said to my mother, “Look at all we have done!” Mother did not respond. Thinking that she had not heard me, I repeated what I had said a little louder. She still did not reply. Raising my voice a little higher, I repeated again. Finally, she turned to me and said, “Edward, never look back. Look ahead at what we still have to do.”  My dear brothers and sisters, the covenant we made with the Lord when we were baptized, “to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that [we] may be in” (Mosiah 18:9), is a lifelong commitment."  (Elder Edward Dube, Of the Seventy, General Conference 2013)
I will miss the branch dearly. It has been a very tough area, but I have gained a huge respect for the people of Southern Illinois. I love them all and WILL see them again someday.

I don't know where I will be serving next, but I know that I will carry all the experiences I've learned here with me. I can't wait.

Elder Peery

Please write me at:

Lewis and Clark meet Steed and Peery

Okay you can stop hating me now for all the pictures. I'm done. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Week 59 in the Field: Agency and Horseshoes

Hi everyone!  Hope you had a great week!

So last Monday it was super hot so we stayed at the branch building for Pday. That's pretty much all we did, honestly. The heat was really awful last week and this week, and it will trend for the next few weeks or so.

Jam Session (I was on bass). Loads of fun.

Tuesday we went over to a part-member home and had a jam session with one of the kids. He knew mostly metal, but we were able to follow along for the most part. We then went over to a shut-in's house.  Her aide told us that Eldorado had been suffering a string of break-ins on one street. After that we went over to Eldorado to meet with our recent convert family who are doing well. During the time there we got a text from our investigator in Galatia who alerted us that he wasn't doing too well mentally. So we rushed over and escorted him to the hospital in Harrisburg, where he could get help. After that we went to the church, and we were able to watch President Packer’s funeral.

Wednesday after district meeting in Eldorado, I went on exchanges with Elder Parkinson to Foxcroft. We first went to this city called West Frankfort, where we went out on exchanges with one of their members to go see two less active families. The first was struggling with their faith after their son got cancer, but we encouraged them to hold on. It was actually a miracle because now they are able to get in touch with them over there. We then went to go see their investigator who will be getting baptized hopefully this week. She is a little well seasoned so this will be an interesting baptism. We ended the night at a member's home where they fed us chicken enchiladas and we talked about BYU-I, the Disney internship program, and some deep doctrine. It was a blast!

Thursday we met back and Elder Steed and I went to go check on the Galatia investigator who is doing much better. He appreciated us stopping by to check on him, and we started talking about WWE which I used to be into. It was fun connecting with him.

Messing with hermit crabs.

In the evening, almost as if Eldorado was saying "Oh yeah? We can do that, too, Foxcroft!” the branch president came out with us and we were able to see two different families. I appreciated one event in particular: When we went over to the second family's home, while Elder Steed held a hermit crab, they watched the Mormon Message, "You Never Know," which honestly has been the story of my mission thus far. It was also cool when the branch president likened the message to us as missionaries in this branch. That was actually super cool.

Here is the short  but powerful video, "You Never Know."  Please watch it.

Friday we didn't do too much other than go over to the BML house and where we ate these things called "horseshoes" which I'll describe. First you take a piece of toast, then you put a type of meat on top of it (steak, chicken, etc.), then you put on peppers or other vegetables, top it with fries, and then put cheese sauce all over it. Yes, it isn't the healthiest thing in the world, but it tastes amazing. I had two.

Saturday we spent time with our investigator in Galatia again and had fun with him. A lot of other plans fell through so we went over to see our former member who is returning and talked with her about how she's doing while she's going through Isaiah. We also showed her where Isaiah talks about the Restoration of the gospel which was cool.

Sunday we were very busy. I started realizing that this may be my last week in Eldorado, so I went from member to member setting up dinner appointments so that I could see them again before transfer calls this upcoming Saturday. I also taught a lesson in Gospel Principles on the topic of agency, which is basically the freedom to choose. Essentially there are 4 things you need to know in order to exercise agency:

1. The power to choose - If your only choice was to do good, how could you do anything else? Same thing works if flipped. If we didn't have any choices in is life, we couldn't learn or progress in the knowledge and skills we need to gain here.

2. Opposition - Everything needs to exist in opposites, wickedness and righteousness, happiness and misery, hate and love, "...Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one..." (2nd Nephi 2:11). If we don't know what bad is, how can we know what good is?

3. Laws - If God didn't have any laws, could you obey them? Could you disobey them? So then how could you follow Christ, if He doesn't have the "right way?" God's laws provide us a path that if followed, leads to happiness. When we choose to disobey God's laws, we are taking ourselves off the path that leads to happiness. So how can you know what's right vs. wrong?

4. The Knowledge of Good and Evil - Yep, you may hear this and think of the fruit that Adam took in the Garden of Eden that exposed them to all of the world. But in fact, what it did was give us everything you see above this. Sources of knowledge include our parents, the scriptures, prophets and apostles, and more. With this knowledge, we have the right and wrong choices laid before us. But it's up to us to make the right decision.

So why do so many people mess up? It's because Satan disguises wrong choices by enticements or weakness or things that get us to choose that thing—such as parties, events, or things that on the outside may seem normal, but are actual traps. It's up to us to gain all the knowledge we can so that we can know what to choose correctly.

That's essentially what I talked about.

Later that day we caught up with some less actives and then had dinner at a recent convert's home just outside of Equality. We had fun chatting with them about various things. We ended the night at the former member's place and set up an FHE with her and her son at the BML's house.

Other than that not much else happened this week. Tomorrow marks 14 months in the mission which is cool. It also is the start of what could be my last week here. Not looking forward to that honestly. It's been fun, and I am grateful for all the experiences I have had here. Even the bad ones. I'm looking forward to at least one more week here.

Elder Peery

Cool cave and ruins of a house near Herod

Monday, July 13, 2015

Week 58 in the Field: Up to our Ears in Mud

I really didn't get the chance to take too many pictures, but it should be fun this week. The only photos I got were of the barn in Ozark. It was a very dirty experience--but fun nonetheless.  Here is Elder Steed-- Elder Steed and I were both covered in dirt, and you don't even want to know what else besides dirt! (Since it was a barn, just use your imagination!)  This is a picture of his filthy arms. He was wearing gloves. You don't even want to see what I looked like.
Hi everybody!  Hope you are doing well.  So this week was fun.

On Monday we went over to the church and pretty much stayed out there most of the day doing miscellaneous stuff. We were waiting for the branch president to go check out our house which has started warping due to severe heat and humidity. It looks kinda cool but it probably isn't very safe.

Tuesday I felt sick so we had to stay in for a bit till I felt better. We then went over and had dinner with our former member who is coming back. She made us this really really good lasagna and chocolate chip cake with homemade butter cream icing on top. Yeah. It was really good. She's currently reading through Isaiah and we said we'd be willing to help since it is semi-challenging.

Wednesday we went to go see our investigator in Galatia. He's currently going through a rough time right now with multiple things going on. But he was grateful we stopped by. We then stopped by our "Warriors of Christ" investigator. He is literally a walking miracle. He has suffered two strokes since we had last seen him and that day was one of he first days he was back on his feet. His grandson later showed up and had a similar foot problem I did. I gave him some advice which he was grateful for.

We then stopped by a less active in Eldorado who was huge on making things. He showed us this spare room he had converted from a simple shelter. It was pretty sweet looking. In the evening we decided to go have a Bible Study at another church called "Little Chapel," which is kind of a mega church with usually a few thousand people per Sunday meetings. At this particular meeting there were probably about 70-90 people there total and about 40 in the room we were in.

The guy who headed the meeting was a Steed, so Elder Steed had some fun talking with him. He was also pretty famous for using church bands at NASCAR events and has worked with Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Jr. It was fun talking with him. After the study, he invited us to stay around for this BBQ thing where they discussed plans for Liberty Fest. Everyone was really nice and welcoming. We had fun.

Thursday we drove down to Paducah, where we had interviews with the mission president, President Andersen, and his wife. I got to talk to Sister Andersen first and I showed her some pictures from the area. I think she may have gotten us confused with Foxcroft, which is the neighboring Illinois unit, but it was still a good chat. President was also great. He's noticed a lot of improvements with me and he gave me some insight from him about how to be better as a missionary. Everything went well.

1. Side view of the barn showing the loft and the moat of mud. We spent most of our time in the loft.

Friday we went to work with the Baptists in Ozark. It had been pouring rain and storming the past few days so they gave us some boots to work in since there was loads of mud. We worked mostly on the wall closest to the road and then the loft. There was so much dirt, dust, and you don't even want to know what up there. We got coated with it. By the end, however, we had taken out the entire floorboards and the wall facing the road. After a long shower we went and did some planning at the church.

2. Front of the barn

Saturday was rough. Most of our appointments cancelled, and we were also still tired from the previous day of work. The only person we ended up seeing was the former member again and helped her get through more of Isaiah.

Sunday was fun! We had a good showing at church and had some great talks on agency. I taught a small gospel principles class on missionary work which was okay, but the fun part was getting to teach the young men during third hour. We had an investigator in the classroom so working with the youth we "role played" teaching the Restoration. It was fun to get to teach with 13 year olds. We also set up an appointment with him for Tuesday. 

After church we had lunch and during lunch two random kids came up and asked us if we were using the bikes on the back porch, which we weren't. They take things apart and try to make their own bikes which is cool. They also noticed we were missionaries and asked us to follow them to see if their parents would be interested, since they were looking for a new church. We were glad to do so, but sadly, the parents weren't interested. We ended the night talking to the district leader and it turns out I will be going on exchanges to Foxcroft later this week, which will complete my tour of all possible areas to serve in Illinois. I'm excited.

It's been rough, but it's been fun. Hope ya'll are having a good week, too!

Elder Peery

Monday, July 6, 2015

Week 57 in the Field: Big Foot, Great Catfish, and the Currant Bush

 Hanging out with Bigfoot (literally in the middle of nowhere this statue exists)

Okay, things have been going all right out here. It's been a very stressful week but I'm always trying to stay optimistic. We had a lot of fun adventures so this'll be a good one.

Bell Smith Springs entrance area

Elder Steed in the Bell Smith Springs canyon area

On Monday we decided to go down to Bell Smith Springs, which is a little south of Harrisburg. I had been there before with some members but this time it was just us. We went down to the place I went the first time, and it was completely different. So much forest, so little trail. Everything had overgrown since the last time. The water level was also kinda lower than the first time, but we had some fun nonetheless. We went over to an area I hadn't been before and there was this giant natural arch that was pretty sweet. We were able to climb on top of it using a ladder that had been made in the rock. Only got a few ticks but I was grateful that I wore jeans because there was a ton of poison ivy.
Walking through creeks in Bell Smith Springs. We only saw a couple of snakes here and there.

Giant natural arch in Bell Smith Springs

Looking down from on top of the arch  (I am at the bottom.)

Burden Falls. I've heard this is the tallest waterfall in Illinois, but I'm not sure.

Canyon at Bell Smith Springs

Old staircase at Bell Smith Springs carved out of the mountain

On Tuesday Elder Steed came down with something nasty and so we had to stay in most of the day. It was rather quiet, because there wasn't too much to do. I spent most of my time studying church history and some other stuff. In the Institute manuals in the Gospel Library app there is a manual called Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual. I recommend y'all to take a gander at that if you're ever bored cause it entertained me for a couple hours.

On Wednesday we had district meeting in Foxcroft, and I gave a training on being yourself and on companionship unity. Most of my focus was on the idea that every single missionary is unique in their own specific way that they act, teach, and be an example. It was something I had trouble with in my first transfer over figuring out why I matter. I encouraged the missionaries to read Preach My Gospel and the White Handbook and replace the word "you" with their names. After district meeting we went out with the first counselor in the branch presidency, and we went to go see a few people. In the evening we went over to the BML (Branch Mission Leader’s) house and helped load a fridge onto a truck. They were also kind enough to give us dinner.

Thursday afternoon we went out to lunch with the high priest's group leader, which was awesome. Elder Steed was still a touch on the sick side, but he still had some fun. In the afternoon we saw our former member coming back and we organized for dinner this week as well as the lesson I was supposed to teach yesterday. She ended up not getting a ride so I will teach it this week. 
With the Primary Counselor’s cute kids at the Ohio River

In the evening we went down with the Primary Counselor’s family to Elizabethtown, which is a city on the banks of the Ohio River in between Rosiclare and Cave-in-Rock. It was a really good meal of catfish and corn nuggets (deep fried cream corn balls).

At Elizabethtown is the Rose Hotel, which is one of the oldest functioning hotels in existence. It was made in like 1812ish and is pretty cool.

Gazebo at the Rose Hotel in Elizabethtown

Elder Steed and I outside the Rose Hotel in Elizabethtown

On the way back to Harrisburg we stopped by a Bigfoot statue which is literally in the middle of nowhere. There wasn't even a plaque or anything saying when it was made haha.

Later that evening, we went over to the Walmart to do some store contacting, and we contacted a group of teenagers who were all talking about various political topics going on currently--some of which I hadn't heard too much about. It was a lot of fun talking to teenagers again. They were all nice guys.

Friday we went over to Eldorado where we met with the recent convert family over there. They are still trying to get off working on Sunday's so they can come back to church. After some planning, we went back to Harrisburg where we had dinner and then went over to the BML's house cause we heard there would be fireworks that evening. Some guy thought it was going to rain so they moved the fireworks show up a day so we got to see it.

Fireworks on July 3rd. This was the biggest explosion.

Saturday we went up to Carmi to see our Norris City investigator who was in jail, but when we got there we found out that he had received a 2-year sentence in a prison in Western Illinois. He was looking at 3-7, so I'm sure he was at least a little happy to hear that. He's a good guy and I hope he will be okay.

We struck out with everyone else up there. And I guess one of the interesting things was that we got contacted by a Jehovah Witness who gave us the new website address to their new website which is kind of like where it talks about their beliefs. I tried to share information about our website, but they weren't interested.

We went over to Norris City and also struck out there except for the Relief Society President. We had a good chat on what life is like for the family of a policeman, which was interesting. It changed my view on becoming a police officer for sure. We had to go in early due to crazy people on the 4th of July, so while Nashville was having one of the hugest fireworks shows in the country, we were building a puzzle in our house in Southern Illinois. Not jealous of Nashville missionaries who could see it from their place at all--haha.

Sunday we had a new sister move into the branch so that was cool. Classes were mostly small ‘cause a lot of people left or were with their families. We had a really spiritual experience with a shut in when we went to give her the sacrament. I had recently downloaded the Mormon Message called The Will of God which talks about Elder Hugh B. Brown and the currant bush. 

Essentially the video talks about an experience Elder Brown had back when he was a farmer. He spotted a currant bush that had grown tall and was yielding no fruit. So he pruned it back drastically. He saw what he imagined were tears on the stumps of the bush as if the bush was crying saying, "How could you do this to me? I was growing so well and now you've cut me down? How could you do this to me? I thought you were the gardener here!"

Elder Brown replies, "Look, little currant bush I AM the gardener here and I know exactly what I want you to be. I don't want you to be a fruit tree or a shade tree, I want you to be a currant bush. And some day little currant bush when you are grown with fruit you will say 'Thank you Mr. Gardener for loving me enough to cut me down.” 

Years later in the story Elder Brown was up for promotion to General in the Canadian Army, but even though he was fully qualified, it was denied him simply because he was a Mormon. When he got home, he shook his hands in rage at heaven and stated "How could you do this to me God? I've done everything I could to measure up and now you've cut me down!" And then suddenly he heard a voice that was his own voice state, "I am the gardener here. And I know what I want you to be." Elder Brown humbled himself and was later called to be an apostle.

The sister we were teaching, Elder Steed, and I all felt the Spirit strongly when we heard the words, "I am the gardener here." It sent chills down my spine and really humbled me. It was a neat experience. Here is the video.  Please take three minutes to watch it, too.

We ended the day going over to the former member's home and having a lesson with her.

So yeah it was a cool week filled with a lot of fun stuff. I am trying to be more humble and patient with myself and the area. We are working very hard, and it's still fun. I'm looking forward to the remainder of my time here. 

Have a good week.
Elder Peery

(effective July 17th)

Elder Andrew Peery
Tennessee Nashville Mission
1646 Sunset Road
Brentwood, TN 37027