Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The end of a good run and the start of another

It is time for transfers again.  It is strange how fast six weeks goes by.  The sad news about this transfer is that Alex's companion may be transferred out of Burlington which means that Alex will be getting a new companion.  Alex told us in his last letter that he is really sad to see the end of the "triumphant run" that he and his companion have had.  Alex also said that 4 1/2 months is a really long time for a missionary companionship to be together so they are really grateful that they were able to spend so much time together.  These two missionaries have done a lot of good work over the last few months and have had a really good time doing it.  This is the kind of thing that makes missionary work worth all of the effort that it takes.

From what Alex told us, it seems that two new assistants to the president where also called.  Apparently one of them is also a former high school wrestler as well.  Alex said that he got a call from a missionary friend of his who asked Alex what weight he wrestled in high school.  Alex told him that he wrestled at 152 but now weighs around 170.  It seems that maybe this new assistant to the president might have wanted to setup a little wrestling match on a future P-Day.  Unfortunately, Alex is much bigger than the other missionary which meant that it really wouldn't have been a fair match.  But who knows, there might be some other opportunities for Alex to coach a little more like he did in Wamego.  Being a volunteer coach is a good way to get to know a lot of people in the community.

Alex and his companion spent their last week together trying to teach and work as much as they possibly could.  Alex told us about several of the people that they are currently teaching along with several new people that they have recently met.  Some of them have been very interested in learning more about the LDS church and have been spending quite a bit of time reading the Book of Mormon.  In one of their visits, Alex mentioned that the person that they were teaching had a lot of questions about different things that they had read.  Missionaries love it when people have questions because that just means that the person is very interested in what they are learning and also wanting to learn more.  I mentioned that Alex and his companion had spent time this last week working as well, meaning that they spent time doing more than just tracting and teaching.  Alex told us about a couple that they have been teaching who had recently cut down a huge tree in their yard but had not yet stacked the wood and cleaned up.  So Alex and his companion decided to pitch in and do their part to help this couple clean up their yard.  Later on that day these missionaries also baked a big double layer chocolate cake for the couple since both of their birthdays were coming up soon.  A mission is really all about service in all different ways.

It seems that Alex and his companion have had a small problem that they have had to deal with lately.  Apparently Burlington doesn't see very many new faces in town, especially two young good looking Elders.  Alex said that almost everyday since they arrived in Burlington, there is some kind of incident that happens involving girls between the ages of 13 and 21.  Now before you jump to any conclusions here, what I am talking about are incidents such as a car full of girls driving down the street and then going around the block or flipping a U-turn just so that they can drive past these Elders again.  Alex said that it was really funny when a group of girls drove past them for a second time and had just turned around for a third.  At that point both Alex and his companion quickly shot down an alley just so that they could ditch the girls.  One of the funniest stories that Alex told what when they were in the super market one day and actually saw two girls run into each other at the end of an isle because they were so distracted checking out these two missionaries.  There is nothing to worry about here, Alex said that these incidents happen almost every day and they both think that it is really funny.

Well transfer day finally came and sure enough, Alex's companion did get transferred.  Alex now has a new companion for at least the next six weeks and they are both trying to figure each other out and trying to move forward with their missionary work.  It is sometimes a little hard to get a new companion especially when the last companionship worked so well.  But life as a missionary is always changing and there are always new things to learn from every new experience.

So here is a glimpse into the life of a missionary on a very busy day.  Alex told us that they finally had a baptism the other day, which is really great.  In addition to the family of the young man you was baptized, they also had a lot of people there who are currently interested in learning more about the LDS church.  During the baptism service, Alex had the opportunity to give the talk about the Holy Ghost and what that means.  Then in addition to all of that, Alex said that they had a really crazy Sunday too.  Alex spoke in Sacrament meeting, taught the gospel principles lesson during Sunday School, helped teach the young men during priesthood meeting and then right after church the branch members ask Alex to put together a program to be presented at the senior citizens center.   Alex said that part of the senior citizens program included Alex and a few other boys playing the guitar, singing a song and then teaching a small lesson about faith.  Alex mentioned that one of the young men that participated in the program, gave their little group the name of "Elder Nicholes and the three Nephites".  Then after doing all of that, they went home and help make dinner for the family that they live with and a couple that they have been teaching.  I am sure that when Sunday was over, Alex was very tired but also very satisfied with all that he was able to accomplish.

In addition to all of these events that have happened in the last week, Alex also told us about some really great experiences that they had with some of the other people that they are currently teaching.  Hopefully these kinds of experiences will continue and more good things will happen.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

There is something to be learned in every experience

Things seem to be going well for Alex and his companion.  Alex wrote us last week to tell us that they had one of their best and craziest weeks ever.  Their week included some really great experiences with a few of the people that they are currently teaching as well as one really awkward moment with another person during sacrament meeting. 

Alex told us about a small community called Jacobs Creek not too far away from Burlington.  He said that this place is so small that rather than being a town, you might just call it a gathering of houses and trailers.  They originally went to Jacobs Creek to look up a less active member of the church.  I'm not sure what happened with the person that they went to see, but since the town was so small, they decided to just start knocking on a few doors just to meet some of the people.  At first, the idea of tracting in this little town might not have been the best idea.  From what Alex told us, he has never been chased by so many scary dogs in one afternoon.  Then came the worst and scariest experience of all.  Here is how Alex told the story:
"... to top it off I got bit by Satan’s Chihuahua!! We knocked on this one trailer and this Chihuahua bolted out the door and bit my leg! But don’t worry no harm, it was just really funny."
But then, as it always goes with missionary work, after the trials comes the reward.  Alex said that they knocked on the door of a really nice older couple who invited them in to talk.  They all talked for a while and found out that the couple was familiar with the LDS church and had many ties back to Utah.  At some point during the conversation, Alex's companion mentioned that he was interested in fixing cars and would like to be a mechanic.  At that point the older gentleman asked them if they would like to see the completely rebuilt 1971 Chevy Corvette Stingray in his garage.  Of course these missionaries said yes and of course they just had to get some pictures of this really cool car. 
We didn't hear much more about how things ended up with this older couple, but Alex did say that during the rest of the week they were able to find several more people to teach and a few of them were very interested in hearing more about the church.  Hopefully with some of these people, Alex and his companion will be able to continue the work in Burlington and help the branch grow a little more during the time that they have there.  They have also set a small goal for themselves to give out a whole case of Books of Mormon during a six week period.  So far they have placed about 25 books with about 25 more to go.  I guess we will find out in a couple of weeks whether they made their goal or not.
If you remember back when Alex first learned that he would be getting transfered to Burlington, he said that one thing that keeps many of the people employed there is the nuclear power plant.  Well, this week on their P-day, Alex and his companion had the opportunity to take a tour of the power plant.  Apparently the people that they live with have the right connections to give a couple of missionaries the grand tour.  Of course before they could go on the tour, the security people at the power plant had to do a background check on Alex and his companion and as you would expect, they both passed with flying colors.  Alex said that they got to see the whole place except the reactor itself.  That is one area where visitors aren't allowed and probably for very good reason.  Alex said that the whole place just blew his mind.  There were so many valves, pipes, levers, buttons and everything else that you could think of, it was just crazy.  He said that he really learned a lot about how a nuclear power plant works and that it was really cool.  As Alex stated it, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity since there are only 100 nuclear power plants in the whole country and only 3 in the western United States.  Alex even got to see the control room where Homer Simpson sits. ;-)  Anyway he did say that there are lots of radioactivity detectors throughout the plant and that they even had to be scanned for radioactivity before they left.  Luckily the glow around these Elders had nothing to do with being radioactive.

Since this last Monday (P-Day) was also Memorial Day, everything in Burlington was closed so they had a little time to kill before the big power plant tour.  For Alex, that means it is time to work in a little exercise just so that he can stay in shape.  A little exercise for Alex apparently means a 6 mile run.  Thankfully, as Alex put it, his companion was good enough to ride his bike along side Alex as he ran 2 miles to the local track, 2 miles on the track itself and then another 2 miles back home again.  Then somewhere in the middle of all of that, Alex had his companion time him as he ran a mile on the track just to see how his time was holding up to his pre-mission days.  According to Alex, his time was holding up pretty well.  It's a good thing that missionary work keeps him so busy during the rest of the week, otherwise Alex might just pull a "Forrest Gump" and start running until he got tired and who knows when that would be.
Alex is having all kinds of experiences and opportunities as his mission goes on.  Some of the experiences have to do with the people that he is meeting and teaching and other experiences have to do with where he lives and what is going on around him.  One of the things that Alex and his companion have been doing is going out to meet some of the less active members of the Burlington branch.  In addition to the Jacobs Creek experience, Alex said that they went to look up another church member who lived out in the countryside somewhere.  When they got to the turn off that lead up to the member's house, Alex said that the driveway up to the house was full of mud holes.  They really weren't sure if their little Ford Fusion was going to make it through.  So they said a little prayer and then put the pedal to the medal.  Luckily they made it through the mud holes but when they got to the house, they saw the man that they had come to visit staring at them through the front window.  Alex's companion at that point made the comment that maybe they should have prayed instead that this guy wouldn't kill them.  Anyway, the man turned out to be really nice and they ended up having a rather interesting visit, to say the least.
Other experiences include Kansas itself.  Alex mentioned that when he first arrived in Independence Missouri, he wasn't quite sure what he had gotten himself into.  When he arrived there it was late fall and everything looked brown and barren.  That really made him miss the mountains of Utah.  But now that it is spring going into summer, things have really changed.  Alex said that the other day he actually experienced fire flies for the first time.  He described it has looking at a whole field of Christmas lights all lite up and flashing.  He said that Kansas is really a beautiful place in the spring and summer and that he really loves it there.  But he still misses the mountains.
Alex also experienced going to the church services of another demonination.  We didn't get the whole story as to why they were going to another church, only that they had gone with some people that they were teaching.  From how Alex described the experience, it just seemed to be lacking.  The minister talked about Christ during the sermon, but there just didn't seem to be a lot of substance to the whole thing.  He said that the people were nice, but there just wasn't the spirit there that he is used to. 
As they say, there is always something to be learned from every experience.