Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Putting your training into practice

Alex has had a really great few weeks.  In the last entry we told you about the baptisms that have happened in Burlington lately and how much success these missionaries have had.  Well, this week has been just as exciting.  Alex and his companion have been teaching a relative of one of their recent baptisms and now this person has also decided that they want to become a member of the LDS church as well.  Every time Alex writes to tell us about the people he has been teaching and how they have felt the spirit and decided to become members of the church, Alex end his sentences with multiple exclamation points !!!!!  He has been really excited about the work in Burlington and about the newest members of the church in that branch.

Another big moment or rather, week long series of moments, happened when Alex was able to attend the leadership training classes for missionaries.  The missionaries are being introduced to several new lessons and being taught how to listen and teach by the spirit more.  The way that Alex described it to us was that they were up and attending training classes from 7:30 in the morning each day until 5:00 in the evening.  Alex went on to tell us that he never new that he could actually enjoy 36 hours of church in one week, but he did.  And he loved it.  Alex told us that when he got back from all of the training, the best part was putting everything that he learned into practice and seeing how well it works.

In addition to the week of missionary training, Alex was also able to attend a Stake priesthood meeting in Topeka as well.  He told us just how exciting it was to go to the priesthood meeting because a lot of the people that he met while serving in Lawrence were also there.  He got to see the Bishop from the Ward where he served as well as many of the other leaders from that area.  Then while traveling from Topeka to Olathe for the training classes, they passed through Lawrence so he got a chance to drop by his old stomping grounds and say hi to even more people that he knows.  All in all this week of training and meetings was a very spiritual and fun week for Alex.  Besides all of the training, he got to hang out with many of the other top missionaries in the mission, play a little basketball on his P-day and even buy a "super sick nike k-state shorts at tj maxx for only $15!! Legit!".

There was one last story that Alex told us about that happened to him while he was in Olathe.  One night Alex and several other missionaries had the opportunity to meet and talk with an older gentleman who also happens to be a Pearl Harbor survivor.  This WWII veteran told these missionaries all about his experience at Pearl Harbor and how he was actually standing on the deck of  the USS California as the Japanese fighter planes were attacking.  During the attack this man watched a Japanese Zero fly just above the water in the harbor right directly at the ship that he was standing on.  In fact this plane flew so close that he could see the face of the Japanese pilot that was flying the plane.  This was actually a very rare experience for these missionaries because there are only about 10% of the surviving WWII service men and women still alive today.  And of that 10%, only a small fraction actually served at Pearl Harbor during the attack.  Hearing a story like that from an actual Pearl Harbor survivor is pretty amazing.  Then to top off the night, these Elders were able to lay their hands on the head of this man and give him a priesthood blessing.  I'm sure that this will be one of the mission experiences that Alex will never forget.

The Bishop of our Ward recently visited Independence Missouri and while there, met several of the missionaries.  Of course being Alex's home Ward Bishop, he asked these missionaries if they knew Alex.  It turns out that one of the Sister missionaries that he talked to, had also just returned from the training meetings in Olathe.  We mentioned this to Alex and he told us that this Sister missionary was part of his training group during the week so he got to know her quite well.  Alex told us that she was a really nice girl and probably one of the best sister missionaries in the mission.  It is always fun to hear from people who have come in contact with Alex even if it is kind of an indirect meeting.  There is still a connection there and we are always happy to get any news we can about how Alex is doing.

Transfers are coming up again and like every other transfer, no matter where Alex has been, he really wants to stay where he is and not get transferred.  The reason why is because he really gets attached to the people, the Ward or Branch and the missionary work in the area.  In fact he gets so attached that wherever he is becomes the best place in the mission.  So far Alex has served in four "best places" and I am sure that he will have an opportunity to serve in many more before his time is done.  He loves it in Burlington and really wants to see it continue to grow. 

As always, Alex included some more personal experiences in his letters.  In some of these experiences, Alex talks about the testimonies of the people that he has been teaching and just how much the message that the missionaries have brough, mean to these people.  These kinds of experiences have really made a big impression on Alex in letting him know that where he is and what he is doing right now, is the right place for him to be.

Monday, August 9, 2010

A time and a place for special powers

Transfers came and went and Alex is still in Burlington.  Normally places like Burlington are just temporary missionary assignments during the summer months while KU is out and all of the students have gone home.  But Burlington might become a permanent location for missionaries given the fact that there has been so much success there lately.  Alex actually told us that his mission president emailed him not long ago and told Alex that he may just leave missionaries in Burlington for as long as they are having success.  If you remember back when Alex and his previous companion were sent to Burlington, there hadn't been permanent missionaries assigned there for many years.  Well, maybe with the passing of all that time, the Lord has decided that the Burlington branch just needed to grow a little more and the people there were ready for that to happen.  From what Alex has been telling us, the work is still going very strong in Burlington and he is very excited about many of the people that they are currently teaching.

This week Alex will be attending a series of mission leadership meeting in Olathe KS.  Since Alex is a district leader, he has been given the opportunity to attend these training meetings and take back what he has learned to all of the other missionaries in his district.  Alex told us that this training is actually part of a world wide missionary training and that they will be introduced to 8 new lessons.  Alex has been really excited about attending this training for several reasons.  First of all he just wants to learn more about how to do missionary work better.  Second, it gives him a chance to talk with many of the other missionaries in the mission to see what they have been doing.  Finally, it gives him a chance to reunite with some former companions and just reminisce about the good ole days (of course since Alex has only be out for less than a year, the good ole days could be a recent as last week ;-).  Anyway, I am sure that he will have a lot to tell us about next week when he gets back to Burlington.

In this week's letter Alex told us all about some funny experiences that has happened to him over the last couple of weeks.  So I thought that I would try to recount the stories here.  The first one he told us was all about a dinner appointment that he and his companion went to with the family of one of their recent converts.  As Alex told it, they were trying to cook a turkey in a oil-less fryer but things just weren't going as well as they hoped.  So to try to compensate for an under cooked turkey, they ended up going to a local restaurant.  While perusing the menu, Alex noticed that the restaurant happened to be serving up a dish which is normally everybody's favorite, Mountain Oysters.  Here in Utah they usually call them Rocky Mountain Oysters.  Well if you aren't familiar with what a Rocky Mountain Oyster is, just follow this link to find out(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rocky_Mountain_oysters ).  Anyway, it's just like Alex to throw up a challenge, he told the people that he was with that if he ordered them and ate one, they needed to do the same.  Well it just so happened that they took Alex up on that challenge.  Alex downed the first one and actually kind of liked it.  So to keep up with the challenge, everybody else ended up trying them too.  Alex told us that he got some good pictures of them eating these delectable cuts of choice steer parts and they all had a really good time.

Apparently this last week as been filled will service projects.  During the week they helped a new church member line their driveway with rail road ties, helped another neighbor tear down a ceiling in an old house and knocked down a wall so that they could replace it with new sheet rock.  Of course Alex has to always find a game or challenge in everything.  So while they were knocking down the wall, Alex bet the others that were there that he could punch a hole right through the wall.  If I haven't mentioned this before, Alex is no stranger to breaking things with his bare hands.  For a number of years Alex took taekwondo lessons at a local dojo and when it came time for his black belt test, he had to break five different boards using only his hands and feet.  Well it has been a long time since those days of being a taekwondo black belt so to make things a little easier, he tried to make sure that where he was going to hit the wall, there were no studs behind it.  Almost needless to say, he had a little trouble punching through the wall and it really hurt his hand.  Well Mr. Genius might have figured out that there were no studs behind the wall that he was about to punch through, but he failed to check for the cabinet that just happened to be built into the other side of the wall.  As I was reading this story, I was just imagining that Alex was going to tell us that the next thing he did was go to the emergency room with a broken hand, but as it turned out, he just has some very sore and scabby knuckles.  I would say that he probably learned his lesson and he won't be doing that again, but then he probably will.

Alex goes on to tell us more about this construction service project that they were involved with.  Apparently the person that owns the house is about 6'3.  Alex's current companion is also about 6'3.  Alex, on the other hand is only about 5'9.  So as they were working on the demolition and reconstruction of this wall, Alex had a harder time reaching the taller parts.  So Mr. Genius kicked in again and he decided that the only way to reach higher was to pile up bit of wall debris and then stand on the pile.  Alex told us that they got some pretty funny pictures of him trying to compensate for the short genes that he inherited from his grandparents.

Finally one of the funniest stories that Alex told us was about a little boy whose parents Alex and his companion have been teaching recently.  As it turns out, this little boy really likes a cartoon called Naruto.  I have never actually seen this cartoon but Alex told us that it is all about a boy called Naruto that has special powers by making hand signals that activates the Jutsu (not sure what that is but I'm sure if you are a kid, it is really cool).  Anyway, whenever Alex goes to visit this family, he and this little boy always play fight and use their special hand signals to activate the Jutsu.  Well this family came to church last week and of course so did this little boy.  When Alex saw this boy in the hallway, Alex immediately started playing and held up his fingers in one of the Jutsu signals.   When this little boy say Alex do this, in true reverent fashion, he told Alex "hey, No Jutsu's in the church!!!".  Apparently before they got to church, this little boys father taught him what it means to be reverent in church.  Alex said that it was one of the funniest things that he had ever heard.  It looks like Alex got put in his place by a 3 year old. :-)