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.

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