Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Developing your talents and other missionary preparations

So to start out with, Elder Scott of the council of the twelve apostles visited with the missionaries a  couple of weeks ago.  Apparently he was assigned to speak at a Stake or regional conference in the Topeka area.  One of the things that the general authorities will do while on assignment is hold special meetings with the missionaries while they are in the area and this conference was no different.  Alex spent most of his letter talking about the meeting with Elder Scott and about the things that were said.  During the meeting Elder Scott allowed the missionaries to ask him any question that they liked.  This was one of Alex's favorite parts of the meeting.  Alex told us that there is a missionary from South America in their mission who primarily works with the spanish speaking people and really doesn't speak much english himself.  During the meeting this spanish missionary got up and asked Elder Scott some questions about his relationship with Jesus Christ.  Of course the questions that the spanish missionary asked were in spanish and Elder Scott was able to translate for the rest of the english speaking missionaries.  But there was one point when the spanish missionary asked Elder Scott a very personal question about Christ and at that point Elder Scott stopped translating and continued listening very intently to the question.  His answer to this missionary's question was very short but yet very powerful.  Of course since Elder Scott was no longer translating, the rest of the english speaking missionaries had no idea what was said or what his answer was.  Finally another missionary stood up and asked Elder Scott if he could finish translating the question and his answer.  Elder Scott proceeded to do so and as Alex described it, everybody's jaw just dropped at the spiritual insight that Elder Scott shared with just his very simple answer.  Not long after that, Elder Scott again bore his testimony about his relationship with the Savior.  Alex told us that it was spirit talking to spirit rather than just words.

Alex told us about a scary experience that they had during Sacrament meeting.  Alex and his companion have been teaching several people lately and some of them have been attending church rather regularly.  Well on Sunday during Sacrament meeting, one of the people that they have been teaching suffered from a seizure during the closing hymn.  Of course things stopped right there and they had to call an ambulance to take this man directly to the hospital.  Alex told us that they were able to go over to the hospital a little later to give him a blessing and that this man is doing Ok now although he is still having some health issues.  That is the type of experience that you don't see everyday unless maybe if you actually work in a hospital emergency room.  But for a missionary, this is the kind of thing that is totally unexpected yet also something that they need to be prepared for spiritually.

Once again Alex started off his latest letter by saying "Well, good things continue to happen here in Manhattan".  Alex and his companion had a really good Thanksgiving which usually means that they ended up enjoying more than just one Thanksgiving dinner.  This is the time of year where if Alex doesn't watch it, he might really get fat.  During the holiday season people really like to have the missionaries over for dinner and sometimes that might mean more than one dinner per night.  Thanksgiving and Christmas always seem to be some of the multiple dinner occasions.  Well, by the time Alex and his companion got done visiting everybody on Thanksgiving, I think they had visited at least three different families, held a church history DVD "movie night" with one of the families and just had a good time all around.

Alex also shared a story about a girl he met at one of the families that they visited during Thanksgiving, who has down syndrome.  For any of you who attended high school with Alex, you will probably remember how Alex spent several months helping out in the seminary class for many of the down syndrome kids.  As a result, there was one special girl that decided that Alex was her boy friend and from then on, that was the way it was going to be.  Alex was always very kind to her and tried his best to make her feel special.  Because of this seminary experience and other similar experiences with these special kids, Alex has always had a soft spot in his heart for them.  This girl who Alex met during Thanksgiving was no different.  Alex told us that she reminded him of his old seminary "girl friend" back in high school.

Alex shared another little tidbit with us as well. I'm sure you all know how much Alex likes sports and also how much he really enjoys wrestling in particular.  Well in Alex's words, here is a realization that he has come to:
"Isn’t it crazy how wrestling has allowed me to share the gospel with people? Legit!  Yesterday in Sunday school we taught a lesson on developing our talents, and it really made me think about how wrestling has been a lot more for me than just a sport. It has helped me to reach out to people and help them. J.R. sent me a really nice letter, and I was only able to meet him because of wrestling. It made me feel really good!"
As has been mentioned several time on this blog, wrestling and his love of other sports has really had an impact on Alex's missionary work.  From coaching at Wamego high school a year ago and developing a very good friendship with one of their wrestlers to using wresting stories in Sacrament meeting talks and even starting up conversations with people just through sports, it has made a difference.

Oh by the way, Alex also told us that he has received some really great letters recently from his friends back home.  He is really sorry that he hasn't been able to write back but please don't let that stop you from sending the occational letter in the future.  Alex has been busier than ever at this time in his mission and if he is able to find a spare moment or two, he will try to write.  So he just wants you all  to know that he is greatful for good friends.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Teaching the gospel in all places and at all times

Ever since Alex became a zone leader, "busy" seems to be one of the main topics each week.  Not that all missionaries aren't very busy all the time, but on top of an already busy missionary life, Alex and his companion have even had to resort to scheduling appointments on their P-day just to keep up.  A couple of weeks ago Alex wrote us and said that they had traveled more in one week than ever before.  Here is how he described just one day in a whole week of meetings, exchanges and conferences:
"But Thursday was an absolute nightmare! We had to drive to Wamego to switch back from exchanges early in the morning. Then we made a quick stop in Junction city on our way down to Salina for their district meeting. We got to Salina and had a great meeting down there. We had to drive all the way home from Salina, and then that night we had to turn around and drive clear down to Wichita for our leadership conference that was on Friday! Just on Thursday alone we drove over 400 miles!!!"
All of their hard work seems to be paying off and from what Alex has told us, many of the people that they are teaching have already decided that being baptised and becoming a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the right thing to do.  Over the next several weeks, Alex told us that he and his companion have about six baptisms scheduled.  Of course a lot can happen in just a few weeks for a missionary but they have been working hard and doing everything that they can to bless the lives of those that they are serving.  Alex just keeps telling us just how great all of the people are that they are teaching.  He loves going to their homes, talking with them, teaching them the gospel and getting to know each one them better.

So here is a rather interesting story that Alex told us.  This story actually spans over the last couple of letters that he wrote.  Alex starts out by telling us that he and his companion actually attended mass at the local Catholic church.  How this all came about was that one of the favorite activities for the missionaries around Manhattan is to play ultimate Frisbee for a couple hours on their P-day.  Well it so happened that while playing ultimate Frisbee, the missionaries came in contact with someone who is a very good member of the Catholic church.  While talking with this person, he invited Alex and his companion to come on over and take a look around his church building.  Alex and his companion thought that since they regularly invite people to take a tour of the LDS church buildings, this would be a good opportunity for them to do the same at a Catholic church.   Of course in return this good man also agreed to accompany the missionaries on a tour of an LDS church building as well.  As it turned out, Alex and his companion also ended up attending mass at the Catholic church and agreed to come back the next week and teach a class to some of the church members there.

So the next week Alex and his companion went back to the Catholic church just as mass was ending so that they could teach the class that they had agreed to.  Except this week there was a different Priest in charge whom they hadn't meet before.  As they walked into the lobby of the church, they immediately ran into the Catholic Priest who was obviously dressed in his normal Sunday robes.  The Priest walked up to Alex and his companion, looked down at their name tags and told them “looks like you boys are at the wrong church!”.  Alex said that the Priest had a pretty good sense of humor and that they all got a good laugh out of it.  Then just to top it off, as the Priest was walking away he commented to one of the other parishioners "I'll bet they are going to convert".  Alex told us that it was obvious that he was being sarcastic and that the whole experience was pretty funny. 

Alex went on to tell us about the class that they taught while they were visiting the Catholic church.  He said that there weren't very many people who stuck around for their Sunday school class but there were a few.  Alex told us that it was kind of hard to teach the class for obvious reasons.  Walking into another denomination and basically telling them that what they believed isn't the whole truth, kind of puts you in a confrontational position.  But Alex and his companion were very sensitive to that fact and really tried to be as non-confrontational as possible.  During the class Alex told us that the people who attended,were very courteous except for one man who wanted to bible bash a little.  Of course the missionaries tried the best that they could be resolve his issues with a few scriptures and after that Alex said that the rest of the class went very well.  Who knows what will come from this experience but Alex said that at the very least, it taught him a lot about what their investigators must be feeling when they attend the LDS church meetings for the first time.  Through this experience, Alex can now be much more sensitive to their investigator's feeling and help them to feel more comfortable.

Of course, later on that same Sunday Alex and his companion also attended their own church meetings at their Ward building.  Alex told us that it felt wonderful to be back at church that day and it was even more exciting because not only were they at church, they also had many of the people that they are currently teaching, attending church with them.  Things seem to be going very well for Alex right now.  Of course there are always ups and downs and Alex has also included a few of the downs in his letters as well.  But he is very excited about everything that is happening right now and every day and every week just seems to bring more stories and new experiences.

Oh one last funny story.  Through Alex's studies he seemed to have run across an interesting verse.  In Alma 56:27 Alex claims that the scriptures are telling us that we should be sending him more packages more often.  Looking up the scripture it says:
"And now it came to pass in the second month of this year, there was brought unto us many provisions from the fathers of those my two thousand sons. " Alma 56:27
Of course this scripture is talking about the 2000 stripling warriors and the provisions that their families sent to them while they marched with the armies of Helaman.  Alex being a missionary is like being one of the stripling warriors and I guess that since we are his parents, we need to make sure that provisions are sent to him regularly to help sustain him in the Lord's work.  Funny thing is, his Mother just sent him a package the week before.  So if any of you who are reading this feel that you would like to help re-provision a missionary, the address to the mission home where you too can send provisions is at the top of this blog.  Thanks in advance. :-)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

One down, one to go

Alex started out his letter a couple of weeks ago by saying that the previous week had been the best week ever.  It seems like we hear that every week.  Can you imagine having your best week ever, every week?  Most people can't even imagine a life like that.  Alex is apparently living it now on his mission. 

Alex told us all about a baptism that they just performed a couple of weeks ago.  Fortunately for these missionaries, they have some really good people in their Ward who really love to help out with the missionary work.  A brother in their Ward who together with his wife, played a big part in fellowshipping the person who was being baptized, was asked to perform the baptism.  From what Alex told us, the name of the person who was baptized was kind of hard to pronounce.   So in order to make sure that the name was pronunced correctly during the baptismal prayer, Alex wrote down her name with all of accents and pronunciations on the back of a pass along card and taped it to the front of the baptismal font.  Alex told us that the baptismal service went off without a hitch and said that everybody felt the spirit.  The next day (Sunday), Alex was asked to perform the confirmation during Sacrament meeting.  You would think that since Alex has been out for a year now, performing a confirmation wouldn't be a big deal.  But Alex told us that he was really nervous mainly because now it was his turn to make sure that he pronounced her name correctly.  This time there was no pass along card with the proper pronunciation taped to the front of anything, so he spent most of the morning before Sacrament meeting practicing the pronunciation to make sure that everything would go as smoothly as possible.  He told us that at one point before the meeting, he was so nervous that it felt like the same nervousness he used to feel right before a big wrestling match.  Well being nervous must really suit him because he wrestled very well in high school and he told us that the confirmation went very well in church. 

I mentioned that Alex has been out on his mission for a year now.  He just past his year mark about a week and a half ago, if you can believe that.  Just as a personal note: when you send your son out on a mission and you go through the experience of dropping him off at the MTC, that goodbye moment on the curb can be really rough.  Knowing that there are two long years ahead before you will see him again, seems like forever.  This last year seemed to fly by.  Now instead of two long years ahead, there is only one more to go.  Right now even one year still seems like a long time, but given that the last one went by so quickly, I'm sure that the next one will as well. 

During this last year, Alex has had a lot of great experiences.  Some much better than others and some that were really tough to get through.  I won't go into any of them again here because you can just read back through the previous blog posts to review many of those experiences.  There are many experiences that Alex has told us about in his letters that we haven't talked about on this blog.  The reason why is because the experiences just seemed to personal to be published in a public forum.  But like I have mentioned before, if you want to hear more about these experiences, just come on over to the house and we will be glad to fill you in on more of the details.

For the last couple of weeks and probably even longer than that, Alex has been telling us all about a new missionary program that they have been using.  It probably really isn't that new, but it is something that they have been doing lately and has proven to be a turning point for many people that the missionaries are teaching.  The program that they have been using is really kind of like going on a church tour at Temple Square or any other church visitor's center.  Except, rather than going through an actual visitor's center, the missionaries introduce people to the church by showing them around the church building itself.  From what Alex has said, it allows some of the people that they are teaching to really see what the church building itself is like without having to feel nervous around all of the other church members who might be there during a regular Sunday meeting.  It also allows them to feel the spirit that is always present in a church building.  Alex has shared several great stories about the experiences that he and his companion have had while introducing new investigators to the church through one of these tours.  During one of these tours, Alex told us that the person that they were teaching asked them if the building had an extra room that they could rent because it felt so peaceful just being there.  Of course they were just kidding about wanting to rent a room, but they very serious about the peaceful feeling.  According to Alex, these "Intoduction to the Church" tours are probably one of the best teaching tools that they have.  Introducing somebody to the church in this way, really makes a big difference in the way that people feel about the church, its teachings and especially about attending a regular Sunday meeting and being baptized.

Alex told us a interesting yet funny story that happened this last week.  While he and his companion were out tracting, they tracted into a girl who claimed to be a "Campus Crusader for Christ".  If you remember, Manhattan KS is the home of Kansas State University.  Anyway they were invited in and taught the first lesson to her and a friend.  Alex said that she seemed interested in what they had to say but seemed to just want to ask a lot of questions more than listen to what was being taught.  Later, Alex and his companion were invited back to teach them again.  But in the back of their minds they kind of knew where this next teaching appointment was heading.  During the next appointment this girl told them that she wanted to share some of the things that she had been studying lately.  Alex and his companion knew at that point that this would probably lead to a bible bashing session so instead of engaging in that, they just sat quietly and listened.  At one point she wanted to read some scriptures from the New Testament and asked Alex if she could borrow his bible.  Of course Alex said yes and she went on flipping through the pages of the New Testament and reading scriptures.  Then when she had finally gotten through everything that she wanted to say, she turned to Alex and his companion and asked them if they would read the bible, pray about it in order to find out if it was true.  Like these missionaries have never heard a request like before.  The funny part about this story is that while she was flipping through the bible that she had borrowed from Alex, she apparently didn't notice all of the underlined scriptures in various rainbow colors that were a result of all of the reading and studying that Alex had already done.  I guess it didn't really dawn on her that if the missionaries really had a problem with the truthfulness of the bible, why did they carry one around, study it constantly and teach from it regularly.  Interesting in sort of a funny way.

Alex told us that he has a pretty crazy week coming up.  He said that they have a lot of zone meetings, a leadership conference and some traveling to do over the next few days.  In fact things were so busy that he told us that they even had teaching appointments set up on their P-day just because that was the only time they had. Things seem to be busier than ever but he feels like that are being blessed a ton in everything that they do.