Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The work goes on even if you have to do it alone

Alex has had a exciting last couple of weeks.  On top of it all, he has had one of the more unique experiences a missionary could have.  One of the basic rules of being a missionary from the day they are set apart until the day they are released is to never be without your companion.  Well, Alex has been without a companion for almost a week and a half.  Of course he wasn't really physically alone, but as it turned out, his current companion was called into the office as the new assistant to the President.  This new calling as an assistant required that Alex's companion needed to leave immediantely for the mission office in Independence which left Alex without a companion until the next transfers.  That also left Alex as the only zone leader in Manhattan, juggling two zones and trying to schedule Ward members or other missionary companionships who could be temporary companions so that he wasn't left entirely alone.  Alex told us that it was one of the most stressful weeks of his mission but his Ward members really stepped up to help him out and he even had some help from a Wamego friend. 

When he wrote to us on his P-Day during this time, he told us that he had gone jogging in the morning as part of his daily exercise program.  Being a little confused since he didn't have a companion to go jogging with, we wondered who accompanied him on his run.  He told us that he had talked a couple of other Elders into going with him that morning but not exactly in the way that you would think.  Of course Alex laced up his running shoes for a nice long jog while the other two Elders started up the car engine.  It turned out that both of these other Elders ended up following Alex in the car rather than actually jogging along with him.  In fact it was even worse than that.  As one of the Elders drove the car, the other Elder brought along his pillow and blanket and slept in the back seat the whole time.  Well these two Elders may not have enjoyed the same run along some new dirt roads that Alex found near their appartment, but at least they were good sports to get up early and go with him so that Alex could enjoy a good run on a P-Day.

Alex has really had a good time serving in Manhattan, Kansas.  There are several reasons why he has been enjoying this assignment so much.  One reason is that Manhattan is not too far away from Wamego where he first served almost a year ago.  During that time in Wamego, Alex met a lot of really good people and it has been fun for him to go back there and spend some time as a zone leader.  Alex told us that he recently got to spend the whole day in Wamego with one of the youth in the Branch, as his companion.  This is the same kid that Alex used to wrestle with back when he was a voluteer coach at Wamego High School and also the same kid that spent spring break last year with Alex and his companion in Lawrence.  Anyway, one thing that they were able to do while in Wamego was go back and revisit some of the people that Alex and his former Wamego companion had started to teach.  Alex didn't really go into detail about how any of the visits went, but his said that they visited a lot of people, worked hard and had a really good day.  He also said that the Elders that are currently serving in Wamego are doing well and are close to having a baptism there as well.

Alex wrote us this week and told us that he finally got a new companion after spending almost a week and a half without one.  Alex only got to spend just a few weeks with his first companion in Manhattan and he said that he really learned a lot about missionary work and how to be a good leader.  Alex was really sad to have to lose his companion when he was called to be an assistant because Alex said that they both really got along great together.  But from what Alex said in his last letter, his new companion is going to be just as good and Alex is really excited about it.  In fact Alex told us that a lot of really good missionaries were transferred into his zone including his old MTC companion who is one of the new district leaders. Alex is really looking forward to working with these new Elders for however long he is allowed to serve in Manhattan.  Of course when it comes to new companions, one of Alex's first criteria for determining how well they will get along is how much does the new companion like to exercise.  Of course that isn't the only criteria, but whenever Alex has gotten a new companion, right along with telling us just how good of a missionary and hard working they are, is something like "plus he loves sports and we get along really, really well".  That's Alex, he isn't satisfied working hard doing missionary work during the week, he also needs a companion that is willing to workout hard on P-Day as well.

Despite all of the work that is involved with being a zone leader, the proselyting work is moving forward for Alex and his companion in Manhattan as well.  Alex told us this week that they are planning on a baptism this weekend and that they have also found some new people to teach.  He also went on to tell us a little bit about some of the people that they have recently met and how tough some of their lives have been.  Alex is hoping that as they are able to teach these people some more, that they will be able to feel the spirit, recognize how the gospel could make a difference and really change their lives for the better. 

Here is a bit of a funny story that Alex included in his last letter.  Apparently during the week and a half while Alex was without a companion, the Relief Society President called and ask him if he would come and teach the sisters about faith for a few minutes.  Of course Alex said yes and started to prepare the short lesson while trying to handle everything else that was going on.  Well Sunday came along and Alex attended Relief Society meeting rather than his usual Priesthood meeting.  Alex said that he was a bit nervous because the Ward that he is serving in now is huge which means that the Relief Society room is usually packed.  So he started off the lesson by explaining to the sisters that since he has been on his mission, he has taught every auxiliary organization in a Ward except for the Relief Society.  He got a good laugh out of the sisters when he told them that not only was this the first time that he has taught Relief Society, it was also the first time that he has ever attended a Relief Society meeting in his entire life.  Alex said that the lesson went very well but the funny part of the story was that the following week Alex was invited back to the Relief Society meeting again to talk about the new missionary program and the pass along cards that they use.  So after never having attended or taught a Relief Society meeting ever before in his life, Alex has now taught back to back weeks in the Manhattan Ward.  Of course he joked with the sisters that now he would have to find a new excuse to come back to Relief Society next week.

Oh one last note, to the Hinds family, Alex says that you are one of his favorite families.  But then I am sure Alex says that to everybody.  ;-)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The people you know and the stories that never end

A while back I commented about how Alex always seems to find connections between people he meets on his mission and people he knows back home.  Well this story just goes to show that the world is small and the Lord works in mysterious ways. 

So Alex told us a story in one of his letters a couple of weeks ago about how he and his companion were out tracking one day.  They were walking through a trailer park when Alex spotted a couple of cars with Utah license plates.  He really wanted to go and knock on the door of the car owner right then, but they were in a hurry for some reason and had to get going.  A few days later, Alex and his companion were back in the same trailer park and sure enough, so were the cars with the Utah plates.  This time they weren't in quite a rush so they decided to meet these people and hopefully catch up on a little home town news.  Sure enough the car owners were from Utah and one of them was about the same age as Alex. During their conversation they started comparing high schools and people they knew.  Soon they discovered that even though their former high schools weren't anywhere near each other, they still had friends in common.  It turned out that this person actually went to high school with one of Alex's old wrestling buddies.  The more they talked, the more they discovered common acquaintances that weren't even from their respective high schools. 

So here is the most interesting part of the story.  As part of the missionary duties, Alex and his companion commonly attend some of the leadership meetings on Sunday mornings.  Attending these meetings gives the missionaries an opportunity to report to the Bishop about the people that they had met during the week.  Even before Alex was able to report on the people from Utah, the Bishop of the Ward spoke up and said that he had received a call from a concerned parent in Utah who's adult child had just moved to their area.  As it turned out the people that Alex and his companion had met and the person that the Bishop was talking about were the same people.  Alex mentioned in his letter that there was still some work to be done in that home and was very excited that the people had invited these missionaries back anytime they wish.

There is another story that just keeps weaving its way in and out of Alex's whole mission experience.  This one has to do with a young man that Alex met during his first assignment in Wamego Kansas.  You probably remember from a previous blog entry how Alex had the opportunity for a while to be a volunteer coach for the wrestling team at the local high school.  During this time he got to know a young man who was a member of the wrestling team in Wamego as well as a member of the church.  After Alex was transferred from Wamego, the friendship between Alex and the young man continued.  There were times while Alex was assigned to serve in Lawrence, when this young man came to visit the missionaries just to help them out.  Now that Alex is back in Manhattan, which isn't far from Wamego, he now has a chance to return the favor and help this same young man in preparing to go on a mission himself.  

Alex told us a story about how he and his companion were in a nearby city working with one of the districts that Alex is in charge of as a zone leader.  During this time the mission president was also there conducting missionary interviews.  Alex thought it would be a good idea to invite this same young man to the interviews so that he could get the chance to meet with the mission president.  Of course at the time, this young man wasn't aware that the mission president was going to be there.  Once the young man arrived, Alex and his companion ushered him into the Relief Society room where the mission president and his wife were waiting.  Alex told us that once the whole thing was over, the young man had had the chance to talk with the mission president for a while and take part in helping to teach some of the other missionaries about the new teaching lessons that were recently introduced.  Alex told us that this whole experience seemed to really touch this young man and get him excited to serve a mission as well.  I'm sure that this won't be the last that we hear stories about this young man.  For whatever reason, this will probably be a recurring event throughout Alex's entire mission.

So apparently Alex has a problem that just recently came up.  The good news about this problem is that it is one of those kinds of problems that you generally wish for.  Alex told us that they have been teaching several Samoan people lately and they love to have the missionaries over on the weekends to teach them.  Usually after the missionary lesson, these good people also like to feed the missionaries.  Most of the Samoan people that I know really enjoy good food and good company and I am sure that these people are no different.  The problem that Alex has is that dinner is usually a little later at night that they are used to.  According to Alex, eating that late at night especially after having eaten earlier in the day, just helps to put the weight on.  You would think that with all of the running around that these missionaries do all day long, burning off a few extra calories wouldn't be a problem.  But if you knew Alex, he is a bit of a health nut (unlike his old man) and tries very hard to stay in shape.  But what a problem to have!  Great people who are excited to learn about the gospel, good food and good company with whom to enjoy it.  Wouldn't we all like to have that problem? :-)

In Alex's last letter he talked a lot about how busy he and his companion are in taking care of all of the zone leader responsibilities in addition to trying to get in some actual proselyting time.  Much of his letter talked about attending the various meetings that they have and just how fast the time is flying by.  Once he got to the end of his letter, he probably decided that most of what he talked about was just the day to day life of a missionary and his last week really wasn't full of a lot of new and exciting stuff.  So to end off his letter, this is what he told us:
"So yeah that is pretty much it for this week, sorry I can't think of anything too cool, I ran over a possum yesterday…that was kind of cool ha ha. So I love you all so much and I hope things are going well!!!

Love, me!"
We don't know the exact condition of the possum at this time, but we are all now fasting and praying that the possum pulls through.  ;-)