Monday, May 3, 2010

Ready for the big move

This last week marks Alex's first six months as a full-time missionary.  We almost can't believe that six months has passed since that day back in October when we dropped him off at the Mission Training Center (MTC).  In this short time Alex has gained a lot of experiences from being a district leader in the MTC to all of the time spent learning and teaching in Wamego, Platte City and Lawrence.  From the letters that he has sent home, he has enjoyed every minute of his mission so far and we don't expect that to change at all.  Alex has met, taught and learned from so many people in the various areas in which he has served.  He has also had many other opportunities to use his skills from serving up meals at the Salvation Army to being a volunteer wrestling coach at Wamego High School.  Every week we hear about new things that Alex is involved with and new people that he has met.  There just seems to be so many opportunities, that I am sure the next six months will be just as exciting and fruitful as the last six.

Just one little note here.  If you remember in the last post, Alex acquired a new bike which turned out to be a 1980's vintage Schwinn Sierra.  I just happened to find a picture on the internet of what his new bike probably looks like and included the picture in the last entry.  Since then Alex wrote and told us that the picture of the bike is "spot on" except that the handle bars on his bike are a little more goofy looking than the picture.  But there you have it.  If you happen to be reading this blog and also just happen to live in Kansas or Missouri and see an LDS missionary riding down the street, wave at him and tell him that his Mom and Dad say "Hi".

Over the past couple of weeks, Alex and his companion have been getting ready for their move from Lawrence to Burlington KS.  Besides saying goodbye to many of the people that they have met and grown to love, they also needed to make sure that the people that they were teaching, continue to learn and progress in the gospel even after these two missionaries have left the area.  Some of the people that they were teaching, they turned over to the sister missionaries.  Others who have already developed a relationship with members of the Ward, will continue to be visited by those members.  In the end, it is not about the missionary but about the gospel and the testimony that these people gain through the spirit.  Long after these missionaries leave the area or the mission, the spirit that these people felt will hopefully still be with them.

Just before Alex and his companion left Lawrence, Alex conducted his last district meeting as the Lawrence District Leader.  One of the recent changes, at least for this Lawrence district, is that they were allocated new 2010 Chevy Malibu cars to use in their missionary work.  So after their last meeting, they all decided that it would be a good idea to take one last picture of themselves as a district.  Except this time they would all pose in front of their new cars as if they were going to be on the cover of a new (missionary) rap album.  So they lined up the cars and everybody took their positions on and around them.  Alex mentioned that one Elder, who just happens to be a little more on the rounder side, decided that he wanted to pose on the roof of one of the cars.  Well, from what Alex told us, the structural integrity of the roof of this brand new 2010 Chevy Malibu wasn't quite up to the standards required to support this slightly rotund missionary.  Needless to say, this missionary left his mark on the mission that day.  Luckily there was no permanent damage and the picture turned out fantastic.  Just see for yourself.

After Alex sent us this picture, I enhanced it slightly and printed out an 8x10 to post on our refrigerator door.  When Alex's Mom first saw this picture, she couldn't figure out why I had put a picture of a bunch of people posed on cars on our refrigerator door.  Then I told her to look a little more closely.  That's when it dawned on her that her son Alex was front and center in the photo.  Nice job guys.  I'm considering sending this photo to the Chevrolet marketing department.  I'm guessing that with the recent economic trouble that they have had, they could probably use a little help from the missionaries. ;-)

So here is one more funny story from Alex about his companion on their last Sunday at church in Lawrence.  Apparently there is a young family in their Ward who Alex and his companion have come to know.  One day last week, the zone leaders paid Alex and his companion a visit so that they could team up and try to get a little more work done that day.  I've mentioned before just how much Alex has really liked his current companion and apparently one thing that they have in common is their sense of humor especially when it comes to practical jokes.  Well, while Alex's companion was out with one of the zone leaders, this young couple from the Ward just happen to be driving by and saw them.  So to try to play a little joke on the zone leader who wasn't from that Lawrence area, they pulled up to the missionaries and started taking to Alex's companion about all of the new music CD's and DVD's that he had bought.  Alex's companion, playing along with the joke, responded by saying that he and Alex would be over to their house later to check them out a little later.  This, of course, would be a violation of the mission rules and apparently it took the zone leader by surprise hearing about the plan. Of course they finally let the zone leader in on the joke and then went on their way.  However the joke didn't really end there.  Apparently that next Sunday, which was Alex and his companion's last Sunday in the Ward before their transfer, Alex's companion was assigned to speak in Sacrement meeting.  Unfortunately, the printed program had mispelled his name with a "ch" rather than a "ck" at the end of his name.  So when this same Ward member got up to announce the Sacrament meeting program that day, he mentioned how great it was to have these two missionaries in their Ward and purposely mis-pronounced Alex's companion's name according to the way it had been printed.  Then at the same time, over the pulpit, he also told the congregation just how much he enjoyed having these missionaries over to his house to listen to CD's and watch DVD's.  Well, the whole congregation got a good laugh out of that because they all knew just how hard working Alex and his companion are and what good missionaries they had been in their Ward.  It all turned out to be a really good way to leave on their last Sunday in the Lawrence Ward.  They knew that the Ward members had really appreciated all of the work that these two missionaries had done and also knew that it was really going to be hard to leave Lawrence. 

Just as we mentioned in the last blog entry, Alex and his companion were both transferred together to Burlington KS.  Burlington is a small town of around two thousand people with a very small branch of the LDS church. It is also the home to a nuclear power plant.  What I find curious is that Alex asked us a couple of weeks ago at what age a man starts to lose his hair.  We are now wondering if the nuclear power plant might be the reason for this question.  Just kidding, I'm sure not everybody in Burlington glows in the dark. ;-)

Ok seriously now.  From what Alex has said, Burlington seems like a really nice and conservative midwestern small town.  Alex mentioned in his last letter that he and his companion were able to ride their bikes from one end of town to the other without one single person yelling at them or flipping them off.  He told us that it felt really great.  There were even a couple of towns people that waved at these two missionaries in a friendly manner even before they had a chance to greet those people first.  Alex told us that this was a really big change for them, coming from one of the most liberal cities in Kansas to one of the more conservative.  Nothing like a breath of fresh air, even if the air might be a little radio active (ok, just kidding again :-).

Both Alex and his companion are staying with a really nice family from Burlington.  Alex said that they live in a house that is from the very early 1900's and the coolest thing about the house are all of the little tunnels and passage ways that connect all of the rooms.  They spent most of last week getting cleaned up and getting ready for the move, moving and then unpacking in their new place.  They have already been out meeting the people in Burlington and plan to really hit it hard this week.  With the move to Burlington, the mission president also had to put together a new missionary district.  The district is made up of not only Alex and his companion in Burlington, but also several other Elders who are serving in a few of the other nearby towns.  Just like in Lawrence, Alex is the district leader of the this new district.  He told us that they call themselves the CoffeyCan district because they are in Coffey County Kansas.  As much as Alex hated leaving Lawrence and the people that he taught there as well as the members of the Ward, he appears to be very excited to be in Burlington and to see what new opportunities this assignment brings. 

By the way, Mother's day is coming this week which also means that we will be talking to Alex on the phone instead of just through letters.  It will be great to hear his voice and get a little more detail about missionary life and how things are going for him in his new area. 

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