Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A change is in the wind

One thing about missionary work is that you better always be prepared for change.  It seems that change will soon be coming for Alex and his companion.  From what Alex has told us in his last few letters, every year around the time that Kansas University finishes up their winter semester, at least a couple of the missionaries from Lawrence (the home of KU) are transferred out for a few months.  I guess with the so many of the KU students heading home for the summer, this gives some of the missionaries a chance to spread out and serve in some of the smaller areas of the mission.  Well, it appears that Alex and his companion will be doing just that and the really good news here is that they are both being transfered together. 

Of course there is a downside to everything.  But for missionaries, this kind of "downside" means that they must have been doing a really good job.  What I am talking about is the fact that both Alex and his companion are really going to miss Lawrence.  They have both spent the last three months in Lawrence where they basically started from scratch trying to find new people to teach.  Now three months later, they are teaching some really good people and have really grown to love them and the Ward.  At least one of the people that they are currently teching has asked these two missionaries who he can call and convince to let these missionaries stay in Lawrence.  Well we all know that it really doesn't work that way, but sometimes we really wish it could.

These two missionaries have also grown very close to many of the people in their Ward.  In fact in the last couple of letters Alex has referred to one Ward member as his Mom in Lawrence.  I mentioned this before in a previous entry. Since his real mother can't be there with Alex during his mission, as his parents, it is always nice to know that there are good people everywhere that are willing to step in and do whatever they can make our son feel at home.   To put it all in Alex's words:
"Well we had another good week here in fabulous Lawrence, Kansas! I have really grown to love Lawrence, and it is going to be super hard to leave! I really love the [the family we live with], our ward, our area, and all of our investigators. It is weird to think that I have already been here for three months, and I only have 9 days left here! Crazy!!"
Next stop, Burlington Kansas.  Burlington is a fairly small town south of Topeka.  Alex mentioned in his last letter that Burlington has a small branch of the LDS church and that there haven't been missionaries in Burlington since 1993.  From the way that Alex has described Burlington, it seems to be a very small town where everybody knows everybody else.  Alex mentioned that it will be very weird serving in a town that has less total population than his old high school.  I guess Alex and his companion will find out whether all of that is true very soon.  But no matter what happens, I am sure that they will find some very good people in Burlington to teach just as they did in Lawrence.  But until then, there is still work to be done in Lawrence.

So Alex told us all about is new ride.  No, I'm not talking about a car.  I am talking about a missionary's favorite mode of transportation, the bicycle (Note: make sure you re-read that last sentence with a very sarcastic tone ;-).  Yes that is right, Alex now has a new bike.  Well, when I say "new", I guess what I really mean is "new" to him.  It is a vintage Schwinn Sierra.  So I just had to see if I could find this bike somewhere on the internet and this is what I found.

Alex will have to let me know if this is really what his bike looks like.  There are no shocks to smooth the ride and the most interesting thing is that there are no fenders.  I can just see him now, riding down a rain soaked street on a hot and humid summer day.  We all know what happens to the person who is riding a bike in the rain with no fenders, right?  You guessed it, Alex is going to end up with one long dirty wet streak right down the middle of this back.  What's even better, this will all be enhanced by the fact that he will be wearing a nice clean white shirt at the time.  I can already tell that we are going to have to send Alex some extra money so that he can buy a 2 year supply of bleach to cover up the zebra stripe he is going to have.  Anyway, Alex claims that he likes riding this bike more than any other bike he has borrowed so far.  From what Alex told us:

"It is so sick! I think it is from the late seventies or early eighties, but man I can haul on it! I can ride faster on that old bike than I could on the brand new Trek. [My companion]doesn’t like it so much because he had a hard enough time keeping up with me on the Trek, and now on my new Schwinn racer I haul butt! Ha ha."

Speaking of bikes, Alex also told us that he and his companion were a little frustrated with the mileage limit that they have on their car.  So, to try to show that they are obedient and willing to take whatever they are given, they decided to see if they could put more mileage on their bikes in a two week period, than they had allotted to them for the car.  Alex told us they biked over 35 miles around town one day while they were traveling between teaching appointments and visits.  In the end they didn't quite meet their goal of 200 miles a week that they needed, but they biked a ton and loved it! Of course I am sure that this doesn't mean that they wouldn't have rather taken the car if they could have, but as the old saying goes, "When you are given lemons, make lemonade".

Ok, here is another funny story that Alex told us and I just couldn't resist including it in this blog entry.  One of the things that Alex took with him when he left on his mission, was a camel back.  If you don't know what a camel back is, it is a water bladder that you can fill up and wear like a back pack while you are hiking or riding a bike.  There is a small hose that comes out of the top of the pack that you use like a straw to drink the water.  Apparently Alex has really been taking advantage of having his camel back with him whenever they are riding their bikes.  He claims that he must be the most hydrated missionary in the world.  The reason he knows this is because they are constantly having to stop for bathroom breaks.  This has become such a frequent event while they are traveling from one part of town to another, that they now have designated "peeing stops".  One of the stops is at JC Pennys and the other is the local Hy-Vee grocery store. 

Then on top of that, Alex also mentioned that whenever they stop at the Hy-Vee, they also have to make sure that they take advantage of the free blood pressure machine.  Being the health minded athelete that Alex is, knowing his blood pressure, heart rate and weight is just something you do whether you are on a mission or not.  Of course you could apply all of this to the scriptures.
"And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;"
"And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint."  D&C 89:19-20
One last story before we share some pictures with you that Alex sent home recently.  It seems that one of the people that they are teaching is also trying to stop smoking.  So one idea that these missionaries came up with, was trying to substitute a bad habit with a good one.  In this instance, they felt like it would be a good idea to use exercise as a way to overcome smoking.  One thing that Alex used to do in high school was run on the cross-country team.  So naturally Alex's idea went straight to running.  Since the person that they are teaching happens to be female, Alex thought that maybe if this person decided to take the challenge, he could convince a couple of sister missionaries to run the 5k race with her.  Of course the sister missionaries that Alex had in mind had no idea that they were being volunteered to run a 5k race.  I'm sure that the story doesn't end here, so we will just have to wait and see where this ends up in a future blog entry.  Stay tuned.
I promised you a few pictures before we finish up this entry.  Every few months Alex sends home the memory card from his camera.  The memory card usually contains some pictures as well as video of his apartment and some of the activities that the missionaries have been involved with.  This one was no different.

If you know Alex, he doesn't do anything small.  Everything has to be as big as possible.  I guess in this picture he is trying to tell us that he is the king of the world... at least in his own mind. ;-)

That's right... Nicholes, Elder Nicholes
(If you don't get the joke, re-read the above caption with a British accent.
If you still don't get the joke, then maybe it wasn' t that funny in the first place ;-)

I'm thinking that even though Alex says that he loves his new bike, he is really looking to upgrade to this sweet new lawn tractor.  This thing has got to have a top speed of oh say... 5 mph.  Check out the chains on the back tires.  It may not be fast, but he will never end up in a ditch on the side of the road again.

Weilding the sword of truth... What more can I say!!

Ok, there's not really a joke that goes with this picture.  This is actually at the Kansas State High School wrestling tournament.  If you remember back when Alex was in Wamego Kansas, he helped out for a while as a volunteer coach on the Wamego High School wrestling team.  Alex later got permission from his mission president to attend the tournament to support one of the wrestlers who was also a member of the Wamego Branch and a future missionary.

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