Fresno, California--- Home of the...

...crazy dirty air quality. 

Hello friends and family,

Elder Jalla reporting in for my first week here in California! The Mission President sent you (Claire, Dad, Mom) a video of me meeting my trainer, yeah? I want to see it. I was so nervous.

I'll be serving in Clovis, California for 12 weeks. It's a small town--sort of. Reminds me of Rockford to be honest except there are a lot more people on the streets. My trainer/companion's name is Elder Mo'o. He is Tahitian/Maori from Syracuse, Utah. He is 19 years old, laid back and yet loves to be active. He reminds me a lot of Kuya TJ. He has been out on the field for 4 months and has served in Clovis for that duration. So when he is done training me he would have been in the same area for 1/4th of his mission. He really likes it here though and he has expressed his desire to serve in Clovis for his last transfer.

Yesterday we were walking up to a recent converts home and a plane was flying over us. He asked me, "Elder Jalla--- How far is that plane?" I shrugged. He answered, "24 months Elder, 24 months." I fell for that one. We had a good laugh about it. 

My mission president is so flipping awesome! His picture on my call packet does not reflect his sincerity and love that he has for his missionaries. I feel safe and comforted under his direction. He is like a giant teddy bear. There are two main concepts we follow out here in the California Fresno Mission

1. We are COMPLETE missionaries
"obedience brings blessings, exact obedience brings about miracles"
2. We serve because we LOVE the Savior. 

We also recite our missionary purpose every week as a zone. It's a little different towards the end. It goes like this, "As a missionary of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints my purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end---and in the California Fresno Mission--We BAPTIZE! (first pump)" And that's how it is. Haha

And baptize we do. Our mission is the second highest baptizing mission in the world. Some place in Utah is first, but we have a goal of 1,000 baptisms this year, something that has never been done before (if you don't count Book of Mormon days, of course) The mission might actually exceed that with how many baptisms all the missionaries out here are doing. I know numbers don't matter, and it's true they do not-- but we need a goal or else we aren't moving forward. The work here is booming, every missionary out here is dedicated to the work.

There are a couple mission rules that are unique to this mission.
1. Every Elder needs a part in his hair. An apostle came to this area and said that if every Elder parted his hair the work in Fresno would double. And so every Elder here does it. It is an outward expression of an inward commitment. Parting our hair is symbolic of setting ourselves 'apart' from the world.
2. Wake up at 6am. Not 630. (Pretty self-explanatory)
3. Run 3 miles every morning (except SundayPlank for 2 minutes
4. Talk to every single person, no exceptions.

The first day in the mission all the new missionaries had to do an "Open Your Mouth" seminar-- Not even 30 minutes in the field I found myself tossed out in a college campus talking to every single person about the gospel. Here's the catch--we had to invite every single person to be baptized. I almost died of a panic/anxiety attack. On the bright side--I gave away 3 Books of Mormon, a stack of pass-a-along cards, and had 2 people say yes to the baptism question. 

I struggle with mission rule 3 and 4. My trainer can run--so despite all the running I did pre-mission I can't keep up with him. I feel terrible, but a year of doing this will change all that. Talking to every single person... I am doing a lot better each and every time I do it.

When I went to our area of Clovis my trainer and I put my bags in our house and then we grabbed our bikes and off to proselyting! We bike from 1pm to 930pm every day. Lots of biking. I've met very nice people and lots of very not nice people. It feels so surreal, I'm actually out biking with a helmet and a name tag. I'm a missionary-- I know it, I love it, I live it!

I have had complete strangers cuss and yell at me...one person tried to "curse" me with a demon, and I've already had a death threat. I came close to a couple bike crashes. One lady said that my testimony was the most insincere thing she's ever heard in her life. I've had a full day of dropped appointments with full expectations and preparedness of teaching amazing lessons. A full day of biking where people shun, spit, yell, cuss, laugh and threaten you. It can get overwhelming at times and at the end of the day I tell myself that today--was a great day. I don't know why my first week has been as hard as it has been, but I know that I was called to this work--and there is someone waiting for what I have to share. No amount of negativity or naysayers can dissuade me from my purpose as a missionary of One who has done infinitely more for me and you and for the people of Fresno. 

Alma 26:29-30 [My joy of the possibility of saving some soul will always outweigh the tribulations and afflictions of the day]

 29 And we have entered into their houses and taught them, and we have taught them in their streets; yea, and we have taught them upon their hills; and we have also entered into their temples and their synagogues and taught them; and we have been cast out, and mocked, and spit upon, and smote upon our cheeks; and we have been stoned, and taken and bound with strong cords, and cast into prison; and through the power and wisdom of God we have been delivered again.
30 And we have suffered all manner of afflictions, and all this, that perhaps we might be the means of saving some soul; and we supposed that our joy would be full if perhaps we could be the means of saving some.
Also, if you haven't seen it already. Spread the word and watch "Meet the Mormons" Our zone had special permission to watch it. Here's a trailer video. It is so inspiring. Made me feel the spirit so strongly.

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