From the Hamptons to Far Rockaway Queens

farrockaway-beachdolphins-25sep2016Well, he is certainly “not in Kansas anymore.” When I first learned of Elder McConkie’s new assignment as a District leader in Belle Harbor/Far Rockaway Queens, I explored the internet to get a peek at his new area. From the comfort of my overall safe community, I will admit what I read was pretty scary. But almost immediately my mind’s eye saw the light shining from these missionaries brighten the lives of others living in shadowed or even dark paths. My anxious soul comforted, this scene progressed forward. I thought of our son, with his spirit-lifting smile and his soul-embracing goodness, reach out to so many saying things like, “Hey, my friend! What’s up?!” (or however they say it in New York).  I know God is with these missionaries as they heed the Spirit and follow established safety rules. He has felt the Spirit whisper of danger as well as protection. What a beautiful thing it is that Elder McConkie can walk these paths, love the people and know he is watched over by God as he stands as Christ’s witness.

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One of the streets here.

    Alright, so I got transferred! After 6 months in the INCREDIBLE Hamptons, I got moved to the Belle Harbor/Far Rockaway area. As a quick note, the area I was just in was the largest area in the mission. From what I’ve been told so far, this is the smallest, or one of the smallest areas in the mission. Also, our companionship is one of the very few missionaries to have a car in Queens, so we’re often giving rides to the other Elders in our District.

 

     I’ve realized how much I love those in the Hamptons since being here. I have shared so many stories of my time there with my District members or people we are teaching here to help progress the work.

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Someone’s “pet” rat

     That said, I love it here! My word! I love how rough it is in some places, and I love how real the people are. I love how raw the culture can be, but also how relevant the Gospel is to these people. This area was actually one of the most impacted by hurricane Sandy, and missionaries took a big part in helping out, so we have a good name here. Also, we have the second most dangerous street in all of Queens here. Yeah, gotta love it. And I do!

 

Tuesday

     Today was my first full day in Belle Harbor. 🙂 And I loved it! This is such a fantastic area!

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The boardwalk.

This morning, we started off by going to the boardwalk and walking on the beach. And it was gorgeous! To add to that, we saw DOLPHINS off the coast. That’s right. DOLPHINS. So awesome!!

     We had District Meeting today at the church and it was a bit rough. The culture for the District Meetings here has not been super spiritual, so it was a little rough, but we got it going. 🙂 We got to talk about some good things and got the District going in a great direction! The missionaries in this District as so awesome!

     After the meeting, one of the elders pulled me aside and shared some concerns he had about the transfer and such. We counseled for a little and I hope I was able to give him the counsel he needed. I tried to follow the Spirit.

     For the next few hours, we ran the Elders around to do the shopping they needed to do (Transfers were this week, so they needed to get their food). It took a few hours out of our schedule, but I scored some sweet Star Wars socks out of it and we got some good work done in our area book.

     On a fun note: one of the daughters of our less active looks like the Black version of my cousin, Olivia. When I saw her, I was super surprised. Haha! And to add to it, her personality is pretty similar. 🙂

Wednesday

     Today we did a service called “Friends of Far Rockaway.” They are a team of people that go around and repair damaged homes in the area. We regularly go over and help them with their projects for a few hours. For the project today we scraped paint off of a metal railing. We had to leave early, so we didn’t quite get to the end of scraping off all the paint or get to see them paint on the new stuff. It was super fun though!

     I got to meet a woman from Haiti. She has 4 or 5 college degrees!! She was super kind. She and the other girl that were there talked with me about Broadway Musicals, which was fun. I really enjoyed it! They started asking questions about our missions and the rules they give us, so we got to share a little bit about what we do.

     Tonight we were contacting people on the streets and we ran into an African man that was sitting outside his barber shop. We gave him our card and got to talking. When we asked for his name, he said that we can just call him Black. I hope I don’t get jumped when we go back to his shop and ask for “Black”. Haha!

     Later on, we were doing a look up for this woman when we got to the apartment door. And it was locked unless you had a key. So it was at this time that someone just walked out and opened the door for us. We were able to get a return appointment with her and it should be good. 🙂

     Called Elder Corzo tonight and got to know him and Elder Grande better. Love those two! We got to talk about their pool, how their work is going, and such. I’ve decided I am going to do better about getting to know the district members and taking an interest in them.

     I love being out here in the field in Far Rockaway and Belle Port. It is so great! The Lord really is here. I am determined to help our District catch the vision of 5 6 7. They are incredible! I love them.

Thursday

     So we met a guy today who started talking with us about Sandy. His house was 4 houses from the beach when the hurricane hit. And instead of leaving, he sealed his house with silicone. And stayed. Apparently the water level reached to just below his windows, so all the sealing that he didn’t before hand kept his house from flooding. Haha! So great!

     At one point, we had an appointment with a lady in the project buildings. When we parked, we had to park alongside the road next to an elementary school (the only available parking). As we got out of the car, we looked over at the kids at recess and they have to have cops at their recess. Man. This can really be a sketch part of town.

     On that note, when the cops first met the missionaries here, they asked what we were selling. When the missionaries said that they weren’t selling anything and were proselyting, the cops told them they were crazy for walking around, looking nice, when oftentimes the missionaries are white.

     In truth, walking around the sketch parts of town doesn’t feel that intimidating. We definitely feel the danger on either side, but we feel protected. What comes to mind is what Bishop Monson shared before the mission. He told me that the only time he felt unsafe was when he was out past 9:30. Yep, I don’t plan on doing that here. 🙂 Far Rockaway has the second most dangerous street in Queens.

Elder McConkie told us in his letter of some of the, as he calls it, “sketch” things he sees each day. It sounds like something you would see on TV but this is real. I am so grateful that the Gospel is the message of good news and hope which can help people out of such sorrow, darkness, fear, and hopelessness. I pray so much that these brothers and sisters of ours will feel comfort and peace in the message; that they will find strength and courage in the opportunity for soul-blessing, life-saving doctrines which these ambassadors for Christ bring to them.

Saturday

     Today was a good day. Wait for it….we hit 5-6-7 with a day to spare! 🙂 the Lord provides.

     For one of our appointments, we taught this older lady who lives in one of the Projects (government owned apartments that were built to help solve poverty and recover from Sandy). While the lesson was spiritual, and we were able to teach simply and understandably, wit was difficult not to be distracted by the cockroaches crawling out of the oven, the cupboards, and other various places. That said, the lesson was inspired and we were able to answer her questions. I have been able to see that the Lord is really one the one teaching these lessons: we are just the tools.

     We’ve undertaken the massive responsibility of cleaning out the area book. There are so many people and it is so unorganized! There are so many formers, many with no info. That’s why this is our transfer goal. We are going to get it cleaned out so we can work more effectively! 🙂

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Someone’s garage door

     Funny little side story, when we we’re doing some look ups (that’s when you look up people in the area book without an appointment), we were spotted by some kids in their home. They called out to us “Hi suited men!” Haha it was so great!

     Today we gave a lesson and had a fantastic dinner with Sister Sidoway. She is incredible.  

     Tonight we gave Sister Albanese a blessing. She’s been sick for the past couple days, so she asked us if we could meet them at the church to give a blessing. It was a pretty cool experience. She is a new missionary from New Caledonia, learning to speak English. We all really love how happy she is all the time.

     Elder Grande is super awesome. This is also his first week in the mission field. He’s from Puebla, Mexico and is learning to speak English. I really love how patient he is with the language. 🙂 

Sunday

     Church was fantastic! We had a super super spiritual testimony meeting. We only had a few members in there (maybe 20 or so. Including 6 missionaries and the Branch President and his wife).

     I LOVE these people. Man. They are so dedicated to the gospel. Their testimonies were so sincere. They testified clearly and with conviction. Afterwards, I got to talk with them and they are the best! They talked with me about Ghana and Nigeria and all that. We have a recent convert from Haiti here–she’s super cool.

     Tonight we were walking around some of the projects to teach a lesson to one of our investigators. While we were walking to one of the apartment buildings (all of which smell TERRIBLE, due to the fact that it seems every corner in the building and the elevators are mistaken for toilets and the massive amounts of weed that are smoked), there was a group of guys sitting outside of the building.

     I looked over at them as one of the guys grabbed a huge bottle of something and as he started to make like he was going to throw it at us, I nodded at him and he seemed to rethink and back down. Now, that is not to say it’s because of my rippling muscles that he was terrified (haha), instead I had a very distinct feeling of the influence of the Holy Ghost in that moment. All I can say is the protection of Lord for his servants is real. Elder Johnson and I walk around Far Rockaway and the projects at night, and while we feel the danger all around us, we feel totally safe. I recognize that we need to not be stupid, but as long as we are about the Lord’s work, we will be fine.

I love you all!

Elder McConkie

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His new companion, Elder Johnson (the “2nd”) and Elder McConkie

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Elder Heiner, (Elder Asplund’s new companion), Elder Asplund, and Elder McConkie.

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