To start this weekly letter off I would like to relate a very unusual experience! Elder Goates and myself pulled up on our bikes at a red light and coming from behind us in the right turn lane, a muslim woman with a head-shawl on driving a maroon SUV blazed past us with the windows down and rock music blasting!! She ran the red light to make her turn and sped off. We looked at each other and I said to Elder Goates, "I will never stereo type again." I did NOT expect to ever see such a sight nor do I ever expect to see it again!
The highlight of the week was participating in our stake's annual rodeo. The event is held at a ranch fully equipped to host a large scale rodeo. An estimated 2,000 people came with their family and friends. There was free food, a petting zoo, and pony rides leading up to the rodeo event. I have to mention that it was very dry and dusty and all the kids seemed to think it would be fun to kick the dirt and dust. The result was a thick layer of dust in the air standing it stark contrast to the clean air above it. In fact an older lady in one of our wards blacked out due to the amount of dust and was rushed to the hospital that night!!
The rodeo was organized kind of like a swim meet. The 3-4 year olds rode sheep, the 5-11 year olds chased chickens, the 12-15 year olds chased a greased pig, the 16-18 year olds chased steer with money tied to their horns, and 18 and up did an event called branding the steer. When the younger kids chased chickens I honestly felt some sympathy for the chickens. Imagine the horror stories the older chickens tell the younger chickens year after year: "The humans will put you in an arena with 200 of their little ones intent on grabbing you. In the chaos you will be stepped on, pulled, grabbed, and strangled by little hands. You may not live. You may not want to live." I honestly am shocked none of the chickens died of heart attacks when all the kids began stampeding them!
The branding the steer event consisted of a team of 3: 2 held a rope that was tied around the bulls neck and 1 was the grabber who's job it was to grab the horns and wrestle it to the ground. The rope holders would pull on the rope quickly pulling it in close and then the grabber could grab the horns. Once the grabber made contact with the steer one of the rope holders would join the struggle and once the steer was on the ground the third member would grab the unheated brand and touch it to the steer to finish. My zone leaders and I signed up for the challenge with Elder Kloepfer acting as rope holder and wrestle support, Elder Stiles acting as rope holder and brander, and myself as grabber. When I first grabbed him I got tossed around a bit. Once I got a better grip and Elder Kloepfer attacked his rear (literally. His shirt was covered with the bulls manure Elder Kloepfer got branded, not the bull!) we brought it down. On top of me. :) It didn't hurt but getting out after it fell on me was a challenge!
On a spiritual note I would like to share that all of us can receive a testimony of the gospel. Each of us can receive a witness of the truth through the power of the Holy Ghost. God promises that if we truly desire to receive a witness and we intend to act on that gift, we will be given it.
Facebook and skype is great! I've been messaging back and forth with a friend from high school and she accepted to take the first missionary lesson over skype!! Me and Elder Goates will be teaching that lesson this afternoon with her roommate at UT Tyler who happens to be LDS! I don't believe it's a coincidence! The Lord is so intimately involved in this work and he places certain people where they need to be to share the gospel. Take the challenge and invite a friend, work associate, acquaintance, or family member to hear more about the gospel!! You will be inspired with how to do it if you ask God who is a really big fan of missionary work :)
Love, Elder Janis
(Elder Janis is the one on the ground:) )