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Snapshot of the Oregon, Portland area. First reached by America when explorers Lewis and Clark reached what they called “Oregon Territory” in 1806; Oregon became the 33rd state half a century later, in 1859. Land-wise, Oregon is the ninth largest state although in barely reaches the top 30 for density. The Oregon Portland Mission primarily encompasses the Portland Metro Area; Portland is the state’s most populous city (with roughly 600,000 inhabitants) and one of the twenty most dense metropolitan areas in the United States, with over 2,200,000 people living in the area. Known for being one of the most environmentally-friendly, or “green” cities, along with the beautiful pine trees that grow voraciously, Portland has a reputation for attracting indie groups, hippies, and hipsters alike. Along with this comes fine cuisine, music, and art–and Powell’s, the largest independent bookstore in the nation. Because of great rose-growing conditions, and impressive flower gardens throughout the area, the city is nicknamed “the City of Roses” (among others, like P-town, PDX, and Rip City). The only major sports team in the area is the Portland Trailblazers (NBA) although Portland hosts minor-league baseball, hockey, and soccer teams. As well, Portland has 14 major bridges that cross the Willamette River
The Church has a strong community in the Portland area. There are 8 stakes to which a missionary can be assigned to serve in the OPM (the Oregon Portland Mission or the “Only Perfect Mission” to those of us who are and were lucky enough to serve there). There are also multiple Spanish-speaking branches and wards. The Portland, Oregon Temple and Visitors’ Center are also located within the mission boundaries. The Temple Visitors’ Center was new in 2012 and is staffed with senior couples and sisters missionaries. The OPM encourages missionaries to travel often to the Visitors’ Center with investigators.
Missionaries who serve in the OPM can expect to eat pretty traditional American foods (pot roast, fish, burgers, etc.), and can expect to be well fed. Every fast-food chain imaginable can be found throughout the mission. Portland is famous for its food carts that are located all over the downtown part of the city, with over 600 licensed carts, making Portland one of the most robust street food scenes in North America. Carts sell all varieties of food ranging from burgers and hot dogs to Thai food and everything in bewteen. It has been named the best city in the world for street food by several publications, including the U.S. News and World Report and CNN.
About 50% of missionaries in the OPM are assigned to areas with cars. The other half are assigned to bike areas. Cars are usually assigned to areas that are larger in size, that are isolated from other missionaries and/or contain mountainous or hilly areas. Cars are also almost always assigned to missionaries in Leadership positions. For those assigned to bike areas, Portland was ranked #1 for the most pedestrian friendly city in the United States. Bike lanes run throughout the city and on almost all major roads in surrounding cities. It is a very bike friendly city with travel on bikes being very safe and easy. Portland also has a great public transportation consisting of buses, a light rail train system called the MAX, and street cars. While the street cars run only in the downtown part of the city, buses and the MAX provide access to lots of suburbs of the city.
In October, 2009, Forbes magazine rated Portland as the third safest city in the United States; it has a very efficient police department. However, Portland’s crime rates are somewhat above the national average. Missionaries should always be on the watch for petty theft in a city the size of Portland. Because of loose freedom of speech laws in the state of Oregon, Portland is notorious for human trafficking and illegal drugs. It is extremely rare, however, that missionaries have any direct interaction with any of that type of crime. Overall, the city of Portland is a clean and safe. For more information please visit: http://www.portlandoregon.gov/police/29795.
With its proximity to the Cascade mountain range, which contains active volcanoes (Mt. St. Helens, for example) there is a possibility of some sort of damaging effect to the OPM if one were to erupt. The nearest mountain, however, is not volcanically active. There is also always a slight chance of earthquakes, flooding, and tornadoes (extremely rare) in the area although the last earthquake above magnitude 5 in the area occurred in 1993.
One of the most popular events that occurs every year in Portland is the Portland Rose Festival, which includes 2 massive parades that travel through all the downtown portion of the city, carnival rides, and dozens of other events. Missionaries serving in or close to downtown often get a service opportunity to help decorate floats for the parade.
Portland is famous for its Rose, Chinese and Japanese Gardens. Located in Washington Park in West Portland the gardens receive millions of visitors a year along with the Oregon Zoo located nearby.
Because of its loose Freedom of Speech laws some weird and interesting things also occur in Portland. Started in 1999 by 7 riders, the annual World Naked Bike Ride takes place in Portland every year. As of 2010 there were nearly 13,000 riders in the annual event. The city embraces this strange tradition and even uses Portland Police personnel to direct traffic. If I were you I would avoid downtown Portland at all costs the day of the bike ride.
Oregon also has legalized medical marijuana and it has become part of the local culture of Portland.
Overall, Portland has become somewhat of a safe-haven for those seeking a laid-back place with very liberal freedom of speech laws. One can expect to see all sorts of strange people and behaviors. Here is a small sample:
“Pod” -refers to any of the food carts in Portland.
“Freddie’s”- refers to local grocery store chain Fred Meyer’s. Locals regularly refer to it as Freddie’s and you will often here people say, “I’m going to Freddie’s” or “I got it at Freddie’s.”
“The MAX”- short for Metropolitan Area Express, it is what Portlanders call the light rail train system that runs through the city.
“The Coast”-in Portland few people call the beach, the beach. People in Portland always say “we’re going to the coast this weekend.”
Pronunciation Guide to Portland
Couch St. -pronounced KOOCH
Glisan St. -pronounced GLEESUN
Willamette (River/Valley) -pronounced WOOL-AM-MET
Tualatin -pronounced TOO-ALL-IT-IN
Tigard -pronounced TIE-GIRD
Water proof shoes
Some must see sights and must visit locations in the Portland area-
Voodoo Doughnut- Known for its unusual doughnuts featuring cereal, candy, bacon, and other unusual ingredients and its bright pink boxes, Voodoo Doughnut has become an international tourist attraction. It’s located at 22 SW 3rd Avenue in Portland.
Mt. Hood- with breathtaking views and fun hikes Mt. Hood is a must see spot on a preparation day. Just take Route 26 East.
OMSI- The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. It contains a variety of hands-on exhibits covering the physical sciences, life science, earth science, technology, astronomy, and early childhood education. OMSI also has an OMNIMAX Theater and is home to the USS Blueback submarine, used in the film The Hunt for Red October.
1400 NW Compton Dr Ste 250
Beaverton OR 97006
What items were hard to get or not available? -nothing was particularly hard to find for someone from the US. Everything that I needed over the course of my mission was available in local stores.
What did you eat the most of? -pot roast.
What is the craziest thing you ate? -cow stomach or chicken gizzard.
What was the most surprising things about the culture? -people drive really slow, almost everyone is laid back.
What advice would you give to someone going to the Oregon Portland Mission? -bring an umbrella.
What do you wish you had known before you served? -missionaries are just normal humans.