Elder Barrus, Elder Beckett, and Elder Peery outside the Nashville Temple
We had a lot of interesting experiences this week. Should be a long email.
Monday it was pouring rain so at first we didn't know what to do. So we went through the usual deal of going to the local Walmart for groceries. This time however some random guy came up to Elder Beckett and gave him $100. We tried to give it back but he wouldn't take it. So we decided to go use it and go to Cumberland Caverns, which is the 2nd largest cave system in the world (Mammoth Caves is the largest). Note from Elder Peery’s mom--Here is a link to the website: http://cumberlandcaverns.com
Cumberland Caverns stretches over thirty miles of cave but the tour itself was about two miles. It was super cool. The main use of the Cumberland Caverns back in the day was for saltpeter which is basically potassium nitrate. For most of you who don't know what that is, it's basically a mineral that was used during the civil war for gunpowder and for some reason it was used to flavor food back in the Middle Ages. Not the best for you though to my knowledge.
More rock formations. The blue light shows a source of dripping water used by thirsty explorers in the past
The larger part of the cave was discovered in 1810 by this guy named Aaron Higgenbotham. He went adventuring one day and came across a small opening in the mountain. Leaving his rucksack, he climbed into the whole with a torch and flint and steel and discovered one of the larger parts of the cavern. In his amazement, he wasn't checking where he was going and he slipped and fell. He didn't hurt anything, but he dropped his torch. If you've ever been to a cave before, when there's no light at all, you literally cannot see anything. Like it's pitch black. You can't even see your hand in front of your face.
They call this something else, but I nicknamed it the "Chess Room" because you can kind of see a knight (center), a bishop (left) and a rook (in the back. However they call that a king, which is why they call it something like "The King's Mountain". I guess that has a better ring to it than "The Rook's Mountain")
Top of "The King's Mountain"/"Chess Room" (this is where the "King"/"Rook" is located).
Graffiti from the 1800's (they used ash from their torches) some date back to 1820 but most are from the early 1900's
There are only two other areas in which you can experience total darkness:
1. At the bottom of the ocean and
2. Being blind
So this guy starts to panic and fumbles for the flint and steel. In his anxiety, he drops that too. Out of options, he does the only thing he knows how to do and prays. Among what he says is, "Oh Lord, can you find me? Even now?" Three days later, his friends come looking for him and discover the rucksack which was near the entrance. Aaron was still alive but barely. His skin had turned white and as soon as he saw daylight, he was partially blinded. But he lived to tell the tale about it. He often said what kept him alive was the memories of joy and happiness he had experienced in his life, proving that even in the darkest of places, one can find light.
But yeah the tour was awesome. We got to experience that same pitch black darkness in the same room of the cave he did. It kinda freaked me out a bit though to be honest. It was a very cool experience I probably won't forget. In the evening, we decided to use the remainder of the money at Applebee's, which was good. We also saw Debra and set up a time where we could come watch the church movie Mountain of the Lord with her. We are excited about it.
Tuesday we had district meeting and Elder Beckett trained on personal revelation. Elder McClain trained on teaching people, not lessons. But the highlight of the day was shortly after lunch. We went over to this lady that seemed really promising and she had us go around back and once we got there she said basically, "Okay let's see what you've got."
We started teaching the Restoration lesson, and once we finished she pulled out her phone and started asking us our interpretations on certain passages on the bible. She then would go to another verse and try to trap our words. This pattern continued for almost an hour until finally we said something along the lines of, "Look, I'm sorry if you feel that way, but if you really want to know what we believe and if you want to know if any of what we say is true, than you'll have to read the Book of Mormon. Could we give you a copy?"
She then refused and revealed she was actually a Jehovah Witness and basically had been trying to "find out more about Mormons," but really she was bashing us. She revealed that she had also done some "research" online and was wanting to know if it was true. She gave us a copy of it and turns out the "research" was some dude who bashed almost everything we do in the Church and praised their own church. Kind of irritating but we got over it. In the evening a lot of people cancelled, but we still got to see one of our more promising investigators. He just isn't interested in the whole spiritual side of things yet, just the logical side. Like he doesn't believe Jesus was the Messiah, just a good guy with morals--a rarity in the south for sure. We hope to help him out with that, too.
Wednesday we went to the temple with Bro. Wade, and I got to see President and Sister Andersen again. It was really nice to be in the temple again because it felt awesome. It also marked the last time I will attend the temple on my mission without the people I came out with. The next time will be the day before I go home.
Holiness to the Lord
The House of the Lord
After the temple, we still had some time so we got to hang out with the current Thompson's Station elders. Turns out that three transfers later they are still seeing most of the same people I was so that was cool. After we got back, I got massively car sick on the way back (those back roads take it out of ya) so we had to call it.
Thursday we did a lot of walking around and tried a bunch of people. The only person we were able to see was this lady we tracted into. She was a bit of a gamer thanks to her teenage daughter, so Elder Beckett and I connected with her on that. She was pretty interested thanks to one of her LDS friends who was a chaplain in the military and basically explained everything about the Church--even took her to the DC Temple once when she was living in Maryland! So that was a cool moment. We also had dinner with the Blockers who have a son in Sterling, VA, which is pretty cool.
Friday was a tad hectic. Bro. Hennessee needed some help unloading some things, Bro. Wade wanted to go out to see the Majors, and Bro. Weeter wanted help with setting up for an activity. We were prepared to do a triple split, but thankfully Bro. Weeter canceled. I went to go help Bro. Hennessee while the other two went to go see the Majors (Bro. Wade also cancelled). I helped Hennessee unload an oven, dishwasher, countertop, and a few other things into his almost finished house. It looks really good by the way. Unfortunately my hand slipped and I slightly dented the oven a bit. It didn't affect the functionality at least but it did give Bro. Hennessee something to make fun of for the rest of the time I'm here. After that we met back up and went to go try some more people but didn't have a lot of luck there.
Saturday we helped Bro. Hennessee move some more furniture into the house. This time there were no problems and we got it done really quick. We later went to go try some people but only saw Bro. Mathis. We encouraged him to come to church and he said he would. We are trying to help him and his wife progress towards the temple, and they are really really close. We are excited for them.
Sunday lots happened, but once again, no investigators showed up at church. It's been a tad depressing but we are doing our best. Elder Barrus taught Gospel Principles and I taught Elders Quorum. The lesson in Elders Quorum was on the First Presidency's message from February entitled "Landing Safely in Turbulence" and I used a few examples from all the times I've flown on airplanes.
Here is the link to President Uchtdorf’s talk from lds.org, so you can read it, too:
It was cool to get some feedback from other members who were actual pilots though. What was a
general summary was basically that when turbulence happens, we are not to give up and fly to another airport because it's easier, we are to push forward with our focus on the centerline of the runway, until we safely touchdown. It was a cool lesson.
We then had lunch with the Caten's, and Bro. Caten informed us that he would no longer be the Ward Mission Leader. He was very happy with all the improvement we've done and explained the reason why he hadn't been in as much contact as he used to be. Turns out due to all the complaints of the disobedient missionaries who served here six months ago and three transfers ago, he kind of decided to pull out from assisting them. So yeah, being obedient does have its benefits. He sees the work progressing now at a more rapid pace because of obedience and is excited to see us succeed. He afterwards went out teaching with us and we saw Brad, one of our more promising people who has a lot of good questions. He's also a truth seeker which is awesome.
Later in the day we went tracting (right before the Super Bowl) and got massively bashed by a Church of Christ lady. She straight up told us in a disgusted tone that the Book of Mormon was "garbage" and told us that we'd be better off if we dropped it. We proudly stood there and bore testimony that we would never do such a thing and left with that. Elder Barrus was deeply offended but I tried to encourage him and Elder Beckett saying, "Guys, we've gotten bashed twice this week! We must be doing something right! Otherwise why would Satan be stepping it up?"
I also was reminded of the scripture in Acts 5:41-42 "And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ." But yeah we ended up having a great dinner at the Pennington's/Hennessee's home after that which made it all better.
I sincerely hope the area will be getting better. I've been really impressed at how difficult it has been the past few weeks. I'm sure miracles are around the corner. I'll talk to you guys next week.
I’d love to hear from you. Here is my contact information:
Elder Andrew Peery
Tennessee Nashville Mission
1646 Sunset Road
Brentwood, TN 37027
Here is Elder Peery's missionary plaque, which is displayed on the Herndon Ward missionary bulletin board.