Holley has been in Talladega for about three weeks now, and Cullimore has been here about a month and a half. “I was born in Georgia and lived there until I was 13,” said Holley, who is 20. “So being in the South always feels like home to me. I always enjoy coming back here to serve the Lord.”
Cullimore, 19, a native of Sandy, Utah, says the South is “very different for me. Everything is a culture shock. I’ve never been here before I started mission. But everyone has been very cool all along the way. I’m having a blast.”
Both elders had done previous mission work in Mississippi (Holley in Columbus, Cullimore in Tupelo), so that was helpful as well. Neither knows how long they will be staying in Talladega, however.
“It could be anywhere from six weeks to six months,” Holley said. “It’s not really up to us. We have someone who prays to God to determine where we need to be.”
“Some missions can last 10 or 12 months, but that’s less common,” Cullimore said. Holley expects to be sent to one or two other cities before he completes his mission, and Cullimore said he will probably be sent more places than that. “Some elders are picky, but it’s all up to the Lord. The president is inspired by the Lord to send us where we are needed,” he said.
Holley said his biggest hope for his missionary time is to “help people understand God and Jesus Christ, and their roles in their lives. Here in the South, most people already have a good understanding of Jesus Christ, so I’m looking for someone who doesn’t know His blessings. I want to help bring them closer.”
Agreeing with Holley, Cullimore added, “I want people to know more of God’s word. I want to let people know there is a modern-day prophet here on earth, chosen by God and Jesus Christ. I want to let people know what to expect, where they’re going and what they’re going to be.”
Although they initially had some concerns, both elders said they found people in Talladega open and receptive.
“When you’re spreading the Gospel, the message of Jesus Christ, you have to take into account that some people might be going through a hard time that you don’t know about,” Cullimore said. “You have to love them like friends and family, and let the Gospel touch them just like it does normal people. You let the Holy Ghost touch their lives with the message we bring with the Book of Mormon.”
Holley said his work here has “really been an awesome experience. I’ve really enjoyed talking to people. Here in the Bible Belt, you might think people would be more antagonistic, but I’ve seen just the opposite. If I walked up to someone in Utah and asked them if they wanted to talk about God for a few minutes, they’d probably think I was crazy. But here people have been very receptive to us, and talked with us for five, 10 or even 20 minutes at a time.”
Both Holley and Cullimore said they want more people to understand what Mormons believe, and encourage people to learn more by “letting us in their homes, or going to www.mormon.org,” Holley said.
“It’s a way for people to see what we really believe,” Cullimore said.
Contact Chris Norwood at firstname.lastname@example.org.