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Orlando is often labeled as being the tourist capital of the world due to the sunny weather and high concentration of amusement parks. Obviously Disney World and Universal Studios, Orlando are famous, but there are many other smaller attractions all around the Orlando area. It is also a melting pot of cultures. Among the most notable populations are Spanish speakers from Latin American countries, along with Portuguese-speaking Brazilians. There is also a significant population from many of the Caribbean Islands. It also does not take much effort to find people from all other parts of the world because people are there almost year round on vacations.
The church in the Orlando Mission is made up mostly of stakes and wards, including a temple in Orlando. There are a few Spanish speaking branches. When you get outside of big cities, wards get to be quite large geographically due to low member concentration (a few sets of ward boundaries just follow county lines). There also is a significant Haitian population among the members of the church. There are a few missionaries called specifically to serve in Haitian Creole. The members are like most church members anywhere in the world.
When you get into rural areas the food is mostly southern cooking, but in city you get mostly what you would get anywhere else in America: A decent mix of everything.
Most areas have what they call a car-share. That is, two companionships will share a car that they trade off either daily (if they live together) or weekly. When not on in a car, missionaries bike. However, members are quite helpful if missionaries need a ride somewhere.
Missionaries are quite safe in Orlando. I served in some of the worst parts of the city, but most people like missionaries and what they stand for, so with just a bit of common sense, it is easy to stay safe.
Southern Hospitality is very big, although it is more predominate in rural areas.
Sunscreen, a bike, and lots of water.
10502 Satellite Blvd Ste E
Orlando FL 32837-8479
Straight from the Florida Orlando Mission:
*What items were hard to get or not available?
*What did you eat the most of?
“Southern home cooking. Grits and eggs were new to me.”
“Usual food. Rice, beans, sandwiches… members fed missionaries a lot.
“Rice, beans, chips and salsa”
*What is the craziest thing you ate?
“Boiled Okra. Also, Brunswick Stew. The only part of the pig that wasn’t in it was the squeel.”
*What was most surprising about the culture?
“When people didn’t want you to come back, they’d always say, “Y’all come back now, hear?” They were afraid to offend the Mormon Elders because of some experiences in the early days of the church. There were interesting tales. Afterwards, missionary success just jumped.”
“Southern people are hilarious and super friendly…even I’m the Bible Belt”
“Weather. The humidity was way underestimated and unexpected.”
*What advice would you give to someone going to the Florida Orlando Mission?
“Learn to eat whatever you are served. Love the people and speak their dialect.”
“If you are not familiar with diversity and humidity then get prepared… you are about to face a lot of it.”
“It is insanely humid so make sure you bring sunscreen and water.”
*What do you wish you had known before you served?
“Some missionaries had someone present to write down their blessing as they were set apart. I didn’t know about that and would have loved to have had that instruction and blessing.”
“If you tend to stay indoors a lot, then you will do yourself a favor by going outside more often — especially during the summer. If you dislike hot weather, then find ways to make yourself comfortable or get along with it.”
“How to communicate with people…especially my companion”
“Pray hard, work hard, and listen to the Holy Ghost. Keep a journal. Follow up with your families after you return home. After returning home, marrying in the temple, and serving eight Stake Missions, I served as Bishop in a very missionary minded ward.”
“Do not take people’s comments (including your mission companions) personal — VERY important. Forget yourself, go to work and return with honor!”