Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Rising to the challenge

Well, in my last entry I told you that Alex got transfered yet again.  He is now in Lawrence Kansas and loving it.  I also told you that this was a double transfer, both Alex and his companion were transfered into Lawrence at the same time.  One of things that Alex has mentioned in his most recent letters is that for whatever reason, Lawrence seems to be one of the tougher places to be for missionary work.  When Alex and his companion got there, they literally had to start from ground zero.  They had nobody to teach and no current referrals.  But that's OK, it just means that they have more opportunities coming, to meet and teach new people.  In fact that is exactly what they have been doing.  After spending time shoveling snow, knocking on doors and talking with the members of their Ward, they have found some new people to teach and as Alex told us, things are looking better than ever in Lawrence Kansas.

So Alex told us a story about his first Sunday in the new Ward that I am sure all of you returned missionaries can relate to.  Being new missionaries in the Ward, apparently both Alex and his companion were asked to speak in Sacrament meeting.  Of course they accepted and prepared for their talks.  But when it came time to actually speak in the meeting, apparently the person who spoke right before Alex's companion, had pretty well covered the topic.  So right then and there on the stand, Alex's companion pulled a new talk together and spent his time talking to the congregation about the 8th article of faith.
"We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God."
Of course that is one of the shorter articles of faith but it carries a lot of powerful meaning.  According to Alex, his companion did a "way good" job.  "I was way impressed; he just whipped it out of his back pocket.".  Alex went on to talk about proclaiming the gospel.  Given that Alex is a full time missionary, you would probably expect a missionary to touch on this subject.  Alex said that it all went really well.  Besides talking about how important it is to proclaim the gospel and help in doing missionary work, he also told the members of the Ward just how excited he was to be there in Lawrence and how he was looking forward to working with them.  He said that after Sacrament meeting was over, several of the members of the Ward told Alex and his companion just how much they enjoyed their talks and even shared with them a few referrals of people who they thought would be interested is listening to what the missionaries have to say.  Does that sound like a typical missionary experience to you?  It does to me and one that happens time and time again all throughout the world.  Also keep in mind that Alex has only been on his mission for about four months and his companion has only been out for just a few short months longer than Alex.  You know that the Lord is looking over these missionaries and allowing them to do things that they themselves may have thought were too hard to do just a few months ago.  They both have many more of these types of experiences ahead.

At the end of one of Alex's letters he told us another story about one of their P-day antics.  So on their P-day a week or so ago, several of the missionaries decided to go to a local restaurant that serves up some screaming hot Buffalo Wings.  When they got there, they decided to take on the "Blazin Challenge".  For Alex, this isn't the first time that he decided to take on a new challenge, not even with Buffalo Wings.  According to what Alex told us, the challenge was to eat twelve of the restaurants hottest wings in under six minutes.  Like I said, this wasn't Alex's first venture into spicy food.  Before he left on his mission, we used to have contests on how many hot chili peppers we could put into a bowl of top ramen and still make it through the whole bowl.  It got really exciting when we switched to habanero peppers a few times.  Anyway, they met the challenge, conquered it and won their free t-shirts.  Alex got the fastest time out of all of the missionaries and got his picture taken to be put up on the wall.  Of course Alex made sure that he was holding his Book of Mormon when they took the picture.  Forevermore immortalized as the fastest missionary Buffalo Wing eater.  Almost as good as his state wrestling champion title. ;-)

Alex told us this week that they have some really awesome families in their Ward, but they did have one slight problem at church last week.  You have probably heard about all of the snow storms that have been hitting the mid-west and east coast lately.  Well, I guess one of these storms must have hit last week which caused church to be canceled.  The only problem was, nobody told the missionaries.  There they both were sitting on the front row in the chapel five minutes before the meetings were suppose to start and not another soul in the building.  Oh well, sounds like they were blessed with a great opportunity to sit and ponder the gospel in the quite solitude of the chapel.  I think that many of us would love to spend a quite moment like that in the chapel especially after one of those noisy weeks with all of the restless kids and crying babies.

Remember back in some of the earlier blog entries when Alex first arrived in his mission, he was assigned to Wamego Kansas and spent six weeks there teaching a lot of people and also working with the wrestling team at the local high school.  Well it has been almost two months since Alex was in Wamego but he still gets news from the members of the branch there about what has been going on.  One of the most exciting things that Alex reported to us in his last letter, was from Wamego.  It looks like one of the wrestlers that Alex worked with and is also a member of the LDS church, will be competing this week for a state wrestling title.  From what Alex has told us, this wrestler has been doing really well during the season, is currently ranked third in the state and has only lost one match all season.  Alex is really excited for this kid because Alex knows exactly what it is like to win a title like that.  Alex also wrote a letter to one of his former team mates who is still wrestling for the local high school here and also recently won a state title.  One of the things that Alex told him was that a sport like wrestling really teaches a kid how to work hard and that wrestlers make some of the best missionaries.  To all of you who have wrestled and served a mission, you know what Alex is talking about.  To all of you who are wrestlers and thinking about a mission, apply everything that you have learned in wrestling to a new challenge as a missionary.

One last thing, you might also remember that during Christmas just before Alex left Wamego, Alex, his companion and several other young men from the ward (including the afore mentioned wrestler), sang some Christmas songs at the branch Christmas party.  Well apparently the word never made it from Wamego to Lawrence about just how well the missionaries sing, because they have been asked to sing again in a few weeks at a Ward fireside.  We'll have to see how well it goes this time around.  I'm sure they will do great. 

I just have to share one last quote from Alex's last letter:
"Lawrence is a blast! This is definitely the most fun I have had on my mission! My companion is awesome, the work is moving forward (slowly but surely), and Lawrence is a way fun place to be!"

It doesn't get better than that.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Three for three...

Three for three, that is the number of months that Alex has been on his mission and it is also the number of times that he has been transferred. Yes, Alex got transferred again last week. He is now in Lawrence, Kansas not far from the University of Kansas. We aren't really sure why he has been moved around so much in his first few months, but with each move he seems to be getting more and more into the work. This wasn't just a normal transfer, by the way. The reason why I say that is because in a normal transfer, usually a missionary is paired up with a companion that has been in that area for at least the previous six weeks. This time, as Alex called it, this was a double transfer. In other words, both of the missionaries that were there before were transferred out and Alex and his new companion were sent in to take their place.

Alex said that he really had a hard time leaving Platte City just like he did when he left Wamego. He and his companion had done so much work and things had really started to reach the tipping point with the people that they were teaching. Alex said it best in his letter so I will quote it here rather than try to paraphrase it. In his letter he is talking about why he thinks that he has been moved around so much already:

"I work hard so I will get moved a lot and I won’t be able to see the fruits of my labor. ... I know that the people I have been teaching are getting baptized, but it doesn’t matter whether I am the one getting “credit” for it or not. As long as people are getting baptized, and I am able to get the work cranking everywhere I go. Honestly I really don’t care if I get the “credit” for baptizing a single person on my mission. As long as I can help the work go forward and lay a ground work for people, I am completely content with that. I know that our purpose is to baptize people, but people will get baptized because of my efforts.
It is weird to see because as soon as I left Wamego people starting getting baptized there and the same thing is happening in Platte City. It is so cool to see! I feel kind of like Jonny Appleseed ha ha. I just plant the seeds and move on, never looking back. I love it!! Sorry I hope that it all made sense; because it makes sense in my head. It is just weird trying to write it all down. Man I am so excited about this transfer! "
That is the way it should be. The Lord knows where he needs his missionaries and he will make sure that they get to where they are needed. Even if that missionary never gets to see the fruits that come from the seeds that were planted. The most important thing is that there are fruits.

So another interesting story to tell here and it goes back to something I mentioned in a previous entry. Remember how I said that for some reason, no matter where Alex is, he seems to find some tie back to Utah. Well, Alex has only been in Lawrence for less than a week and he has already run across a tie back to Utah yet again. As it turns out, Alex and his companion happen to run into an ex-NBA basketball player who now lives there. Things didn't really go very well with the meeting but when Alex told us the story, it just so happens that I used to work with the brother of this same basketball player at a previous job. I wrote Alex back and told him how he probably didn't know it at the time but he had actually also met this basketball player's brother back when Alex was a young scout and we were at a nearby scout camp. Yet again, funny how small the world gets sometimes.

Well this entry is a little shorter than some of the others, but then it has only been a week since the last time I wrote on this blog. Since so much had happened to Alex this week, I felt that we just needed to write it all written down and share it with all of those who are actually reading this blog. Things are going great for Alex even though he and his companions have had to almost start from scratch with each transfer. We just can't wait every week to hear more about the things that are going on in the Independence Missouri mission.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Change is just part of being a missionary...

There are many ups and downs when you are serving as a missionary. It just comes with the territory. Sometimes things fall through with the people that you are teaching and other times there might be issues with your companion that need to be worked out. But all of those things just provide opportunities for growth and Alex is finding that out. Apparently Alex and his companion, for whatever reason, decided that it was time to move to a different appartment. So they spent this last P-day packing things up so that they could move. You would think that for a missionary, packing and moving wouldn't be that hard since they are used to moving from place to place. But Alex mentioned that moving everything from one house to another was a bigger job than they expected. He also mentioned that he enjoyed living where they were, but who knows, sometimes new opportunities come with new territory.

Speaking of opportunities, in the last blog entry I mentioned how Alex has had opportunities to exercise his priesthood through giving blessings. One of those opportunities involved a young man in his ward that had recently been in a car accident. Well the good news here is that this young man is recovering nicely but has still been in a lot of pain. So to cheer this young man up, Alex and his companion decided to visit him and bring him some gifts. Alex described these gifts to us as,

"... a pink suit coat with gold buttons, a clone trooper helmet, and the ugliest sweater you have ever seen!"
They even decided to sing to this young man a song entitled "I'll be your hero" by Julio Iglesias. For some reason Alex has decided that singing is his new talent. Singing seems to come up a lot in several of his last few letters. I'm not sure why singing seems to be at the center of several of his stories, like singing on the doorstep as they are tracting, singing at the Ward Christmas party, singing to a young man who needs some cheering up or singing on the video that he sent home to us. But it seems to be working for him so I say, "if it ain't broke don't fix it". Well maybe that wasn't the best way to put it. As far as something being "broke", if you heard his singing you would understand. ;-) Anyway, getting back to the story that I started with. Apparently their gifts and singing must have worked because Alex ended the story with "it was so funny!!!!". Did you catch that? Count them. Four exclamation marks!!!! It must have been hilarious (in more ways than one).

Alex said that the work as been going really well. They have been teaching over 20 people recently and several of them decided to come to church a couple of weeks ago. In his letter he said,

"But you have to remember who is really doing the work, and who is really in charge. Alma 26:12:
Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever.
So the lord is definitely blessing us right now, so we just need to keep doing the right things and working hard."
Alex had another interesting new experience that he has never had before. Teaching "Sharing Time" in primary. His mother knows this experience very well, but it was all new to Alex. He didn't really go into detail about what they taught the kids, I'm sure it had something to do with missionary work, but in his letter to us he asked his Mom how she did it all of those years. Apparently the senior primary had a few problems that week. But I'm sure it all went well even with some disruptions from the senior primary. The kids probably really enjoyed having the missionaries come and teach them during sharing time. Just another one of those little experiences that will prove to be valuable later in life.

Here is a story that just goes to show you just how small the world is and who you might meet one day. Last summer before Alex left on his mission and even before he had received his mission call, he spent his time working and earning money for his mission. He became really good friends with his boss at work and many times his boss would tell Alex stories about his family back in Missouri. Well guess what Alex just discovered? The same people that he had heard stories about all summer long, are actually some of the very same people that he is now working with in the Ward where he is serving. It seems that no matter where Alex goes, he seems to find some connection with the people he meets that tie him back to Utah. Small world don't you think? Or was his mission call to Missouri and Kansas not really a coincidence? I think you know the answer to that one. :-)

I'll finish off this entry with an addition to one of the stories that Alex told in the last blog entry. Remember the story about the seven giggling girls that greeted the missionaries at the door while Alex and his companion were out tracking? Well apparently those weren't the only giggling girls that they encountered in the last couple of weeks. So here is the story. A week or so ago the Young Women's organization invited the missionaries to teach the beehives a lesson during their weekly activity night. So as good missionaries should, they showed up prepared and started teaching this group of young girls. Sometime during the lesson, the beehive leader stepped out of the room to go and talk to the older girls in a different class. When she walked into the room where the older girls were, they started complaining and asking why they hadn't been invited to class where the missionaries were teaching. The young women's leader was a little surprised by the girls' complaints and asked them why they would want to meet with the younger beehives. They have never expressed an interest in being with the beehives before. Well apparently the young women's leader misunderstood the older girls' complaints. You see, it wasn't because of the beehives that they wanted to be in the other class room. ;-) Alex finished up the story by saying, "So I guess we are causing a minor stir amongst the young women, oh man that is too funny."

Well it has been couple of full weeks for Alex and his companion. Alex mentioned that this week is transfers again and that they will find out within the next couple of days whether he or his companion will be off to a new place or if they will be able to continue the work that they started.