Monday, September 20, 2010

A mission is busy, busy, busy...

"Busy" seems to be the key word for the past few weeks and that is what Alex has been experiencing since his transfer to Manhattan, Kansas and his new assignment as a zone leader.  For the past couple of weeks he has only had a limited amount of time to even write home.  Even on his P-day he has been busy taking care of all of the things that needed to be done.  Alex gave us the rundown of how his first week went...
"Ok so here goes for this week! So wow I don’t think I have ever had so many meetings in my life! It is usually not this bad but this week was just a freak accident. On Monday night we had to leave to Independence so we could be at zone leader council on Tuesday. So that took up most of Tuesday and we didn’t get back until that evening. On Wednesday we had district meeting for the Manhattan district and that took up a good chunk of our day, and after that we had to drive out to Junction city to help move the sisters out of an old apartment. On Thursday we had to drive an hour and a half to Salina for their district meeting and of course we always have lunch after and then the drive home so that took up a huge chunk of Thursday. That night we had to drive down to Wichita so we could go to a leadership conference down there and that took up the entire day of Friday. So of this whole last week we only got one day to proselyte…lame!!! But the meetings were all really good and I have been learning a ton!"
And that didn't even take into account the time spent organizing the vehicle situation for the entire zone, meeting with the Stake President and High Councilors and then anything else that just happens to pop up.  But the one thing that he did say at the end of all of the craziness is that he has never had more fun on his mission as he is having right now.  Through all of the busy times, one thing that Alex is learning is how to organize better so that he is able to take care of all of his new responsibilities.  He told us in his last letter that he is having to simplify some things in his life so that he can spent more time focusing on his mission and serving the Lord.  He told us that this mission experience is really a once in a lifetime thing and now is the time to make sure that he serves as a missionary 100% of the time so that he has no regrets when his two years as a full time missionary are done.  When we read this, it really showed us the maturity level that Alex is achieving in the decisions that he is making at this time of his life.

Well Alex reached another milestone in his life this last week.  He is no longer a teenager.  That's right, Alex is now a 20-something (minus the "something").  He didn't really tell anybody that it was his birthday because he didn't want anybody to make a big deal out of it.  So if you happen to live somewhere in Manhattan Kansas or the surrounding area and just happen to know an Elder Nicholes, well guess what, Alex had a birthday and he is now 20 years old.  So wish him a "Happy Birthday" the next time that you see him, especially from his parents and family.

Even though Alex didn't really tell anybody about his birthday, he told us that it was a really great day for him.  First of all, he and his companion were able to baptize a woman that they and the Elders who were there before Alex, had been teaching.  So for a missionary, having a baptism on your birthday is probably one of the best ways to celebrate it.  Alex told us that the baptism went really well and that there were a lot of the Ward members in attendance.  He said that the Ward where he is currently serving is very missionary minded which really helps to make the missionary work there a lot better. 

As it turned out, there were a few other people who somehow found out about Alex's birthday.  Alex told us that while he and his companion were filling the baptismal font before the service, he got a phone call.  When he answered the phone, the next thing he heard on the other end was a bunch of people singing "Happy Birthday".  At first he wasn't quite sure who it was and then he figured out that it was a group of his favorite people from the Lawrence 2nd Ward where he had served for several months last winter.  Alex told us that it was really great to hear from them and that it was probably one of the best birthday presents that a missionary could receive.  He still isn't quite sure how they tracked him down and got his phone number, but he is really glad that they did. 

This week Alex gave us a little more information about what they are doing as volunteers in the community.  If you remember in some of the past blog entries, Alex has talked about being a volunteer wrestling coach, raking leaves in the neighbors' yards, helping out at the community centers and various other volunteer services.  But this one kind of took us by surprise.  Alex told us that they have been doing volunteer work at the Sunset Zoo every Tuesday.  He went on to tell us all about how wild it is to be sweeping the sidewalks right next to a bunch of crazy Snow Leopard cubs.  He talked about how cool it was to be working next to the sloth bear exhibit and to see a big sloth bear hanging from a tree about 40 feet in the air, eating leaves.  I'm sure that the next time that Alex sends home his memory card from his camera, we will probably see a bunch of pictures of all of the wild animals from the zoo.  Maybe there will be a few pictures of him at the zoo and hopefully he will be standing on the outside of the animal cages. ;-)

Finally Alex mentioned a pattern that he has noticed lately about the Wards where he has been serving.  For whatever reason, Alex seems to be drawn to the 2nd Ward no matter where he goes.  In Lawrence he served in the Lawrence 2nd Ward.  Now that he is in Manhattan, he is serving in the Manhattan 2nd Ward.  All of this doesn't seem to be that significant especially when you consider all of the places he has served and will serve, until you consider that he came from the Battle Creek 2nd Ward too.  For some reason, the 2nd Ward just seems to be the right place to be for Alex.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Big news, read all about it

Alex sent us some big news this week.  If you remember from the last entry, Alex told us that transfers were coming up soon.  Well this last week was transfer week and the big news is that Alex was transferred out of Burlington. Alex has been serving in Burlington since last April when he and his companion at the time were sent there to serve as the first missionaries in Burlington for quite some time.  Well this week Alex was transferred to Manhattan Kansas which is the home of Kansas State University.  So after spending several months in Lawrence Kansas near Kansas University, now he is in back in a college town, only this time it is Kansas State.

On top of that news, there is more big news this week.  Not only was Alex transferred to Manhattan, he was  also assigned to be the zone leader over the Salina zone.  This is all new territory for Alex not only figuratively but physically as well.  Manhattan isn't like Burlington which was only about 16 blocks wide.  No, Manhattan is much bigger than that and Alex told us that it will take him a couple of weeks to learn his way around.  He told us in his last letter that he spent almost everyday this last week in one kind of zone leadership meeting or another.  In fact we waited around all day to hear from him and when we finally did, it was because he has spent all day in a zone leader training meeting in Independence.  He will be splitting with a lot of the missionaries in his zone and spending time supervising, teaching, training and reporting back.

Alex told us that he is very excited about this transfer for several reasons.  That's not to say that he wasn't sad to be leaving Burlington.  He had grown very close to not only the new members of the church there that he helped to teach and baptize, but also to every member of the branch and especially the family that he lived with there.  He had a lot of success in Burlington and I am sure that he will never forget his time there.  But with a transfer comes new challenges and new experiences.  Being in Manhattan, Alex is very close to his first area, Wamego.  As a matter of fact, he told us that he would be going on exchanges with the Wamego Elders soon and has a dinner appointment with one of the families of the Wamego branch that he grew close to while serving there.  Alex is also very excited to be back in a university environment and a larger city.  He is excited to be paired up with his new companion who is also a zone leader as well.  Alex told us that he has been very impressed by his new companion and feels like he is being trained all over again.  He told us that there is so much that he doesn't know and now with his new responsibilities and new companion, he is learning a lot which will carry him through the second half of his mission. 

Alex didn't have time to fill us in on much of what he has been doing this week or about his new companion.  Only to say they he and his companion are very much alike.  They both like to eat healthy, get up early in the morning to go running and his new companion is another California Elder.

Before Alex left Burlington he had a little work to finish up.  One of the last things he did before he left was to speak in church.  Alex told us that he felt like he needed to ask the branch president if he could speak during the next Sacrament meeting.  But before he had a chance to ask, he and his companion were having dinner at one of the branch councilor's houses and the councilor asked Alex to speak on the following Sunday.  In addition to Alex, his companion would also speak as well as one of the new members of the church.  Alex told us in his letter that he felt like his talk went very well.  He didn't know at the time that he would be getting transferred out of Burlington and that would be his last opportunity to speak in the branch.  But what a good way to end a long and successful run in the Burlington branch.

Alex told us a funny story about what happy during a primary sharing time recently.  Well after Alex spoke in Sacrament meeting, we and his companion were asked to help out teaching the primary kids during sharing time.  After he finished talking with the kids and teaching them the sharing time lesson, Alex and his companion decided to stay for the rest of the meeting.  I'm not sure if Alex has been working his companion too hard or what, but for whatever reason his companion fell asleep during the rest of the meeting.  Now I could understand falling asleep during a High Priest group meeting, but for any of you who have ever taught primary children, during sharing time there is a lot of singing and activity going on.  This level of noise would make it very hard to even rest your eyes let alone fall asleep.  Anyway at the end of the meeting one of the primary leaders came over to talk to this very tired Elder and told him that she usually gives out stickers to those who participate.  She advised this Elder that he would not be receiving a sticker this week and that she would have to get in touch with his mother about it.  They all laughed about it and I am sure that this Elder won't be falling asleep during sharing time again.  I suspect that getting a sticker for participating in primary is probably one of the most significant honors that one could receive.  A little advice to anybody who is thinking about falling asleep in primary, don't mess with the primary leadership.  These ladies really know their stuff.