So all of the transfers went smoothly and I am now having a good time here in Marianna. It is so fantastic, and the people here are amazing. Marianna pretty much plays into every southern stereotype possible, which makes it so much fun.
One of those stereotypes is that everyone is related. In the ward there are three big family names: the Sims, the Rooks, and the Gauses. Pretty much everybody in the ward has lived in Marianna for their entire lives, and everybody is part Sims, Rooks, and Gause. I had my first Sunday meeting there yesterday, and it was really great. The three of us elders and the two sister missionaries in this area had the chance to speak. During that meeting our first hymn was the national anthem, and let me tell you, there is nothing like a congregation of southern Mormons singing the national anthem. There is a huge military culture and history down here, and almost everybody has served in the military at some point. It sent some gnarly chills down my spine when the whole ward started to belt out that anthem. If anyone understands what patriotism is, it's the Marianna ward.
We have some fun characters in our ward. Our ward mission leader, Brother Whittle, is probably the most micromanaging man that I have ever met. He is this 75-year-old white-haired man that stands perfectly erect, with his hair flatly parted on his head. The best way that I can describe the way that he speaks is by comparing his voice to Herbert the pervert from Family Guy: he talks softly with a bit of a whistle. I think he is more southern woman than southern man. To put it in technical terms, he's a goober. My first Sunday there he tested my retention of the Articles of Faith and gave me an assignment to memorize the sacramental prayers and to report to him promptly next Sunday. What a goober.
Another fun character is Mark Sims. Brother Sims looks and speaks almost exactly like John Goodman from O Brother Where Art Thou?, with the white suit and everything. He is a faithful member of the ward and has a great testimony of the Book of Mormon. He has two main professions, both of which I would say are very respectable. His first job is as the local public defender, which he does a great job as. But his alter ego is The Defender, and every so often he dons his cape and stretchy pants and participates in amateur wrestling. It was probably one of the coolest things that I've ever heard.
I'm sure that I will have more stories as time goes on. My new companions are Elder Bochenek and Elder Taylor, and they are so awesome. They are my first companions in the mission field, other than Elder Correa, that I think that I would be friends with outside of the mission field. All of the companions that I have served with have been great missionaries, but I really get along with these two elders here. There is a lot of work to do here in Marianna, because Elder Taylor's last companion that just left was kind of a deadbeat and didn't get any work done.
We taught a couple last night that was super great, Stephanie and Keith, and we have some great hopes for them. Florida is fantastic!
I hope everything is well with you! Thanks for your letters and I am grateful for your love.
Elder Jon Hendrik Vawdrey