Monday, April 25, 2011

Beyblade, not just a sport for kids

Finally, after several months of talking about a temple trip, it happened.  The Missouri, Independence mission does not have a temple within the mission boundaries so the missionaries, on special occasions, are given permission to go to the Omaha, Nebraska Winter Quarters temple.  The Winter Quarters temple is one of the smaller temples.  Alex described it as being about the size of a large house.  Alex accompanied several members of his Ward along with about 20 youth on this temple trip.  He also had the pleasure of going with a few of the people that have recently joined the church in the Manhattan area.  This was their first time attending an LDS temple. 

This temple trip was all about baptisms for the dead.  Since the Winter Quarters temple is one of the smaller ones, Alex as well as the others who traveled from Manhattan, were responsible for staffing the entire baptismal font area.  Along with the 20 or so youth that went with them, they didn't have any trouble filling the whole area.  Alex told us that when he got there, he recognized many of the temple workers from the time that he spent in the Lawrence 2nd Ward in Lawrence, Kansas last year.  He said that it was really nice to see them and know that they were all there in the temple together.  Alex spent most of the time on this temple trip as a witness during the baptisms.  However, at one point he was able to perform a confirmation along side of the baptism font for one of the recent converts that some of the sister missionaries from his mission, had brought with them.  Overall, Alex said that the temple trip was a really good experience and that he was really glad to have had the opportunity to go.

Church tours still seems to be the way to go when doing missionary work in the Missouri, Independence mission.  Almost every week Alex is telling us about the people that they have taken on a tour of the Church building itself.  Once they reach the baptismal font in the Church, the spirit is usually pretty strong and the common response from the people on the tour is that the feel a feeling that they have never felt before.  Something that just makes them want to stay in that spot and never leave.  The past few weeks have been no different.  Alex has told us about several people who have taken a tour of the Church building.  Without fail, the same spirit is there and the people respond in much the same way.  I'm not sure if Church tours are a common thing in other missions, but is sure seems to work for Alex and the other missionaries in his area.

OK, so here are a couple of stories that Alex included in his last letter that were really good blogging material.  Everybody who knows Alex, knows that he is just hungry for any kind of sport, especially if it has something to do with wrestling or running.  So while Alex and his companion were out tracting the other day, they ran across a house where the garage door was open.  When they looked in the garage, they noticed that there was a picture on the wall of the Olympic rings.  At that point Alex made the comment to his companion that maybe the person who lived their was some kind of Olympic athlete.  As it turned out, he was right.  This just happened to be the house of one of the more famous decathletes of all time.  Also living in the house were several other Olympic hopefuls who are very likely to be part of the 2012 Olympics.  On top of that, when Alex and his companion approached them and asked if they would like to hear the missionary lessons, they agreed and were taught the first lesson right there.  Of course they also left them with a few Books of Mormon and an appointment to come back and teach them more.  Alex doesn't really know where all of this will end up, but for him, it was like a dream come true.  Not only did he get to meet some Olympic athletes, he also got to teach them the gospel.  If nothing else comes of this meeting, at least while Alex is watching the Olympics next year on TV, he can say that he taught the gospel to the athletes who are on the track right then running in the Olympics. 

The second story that Alex told us was pretty funny and in the end, is just all Alex.  Alex has always really liked little kids.  In fact when in comes down to it, in many ways Alex is just a bigger little kid.  This story just shows how big of a little kid Alex really is.  Quite often when Alex and his companion go to a teaching appointment, they will take along with them, one of the members of the Ward.  After one of their teaching appointments where they were accompanied by a Ward member, they decided to drop in on the Ward members family afterwards.  As Alex walked in the house, he asked the Mom if they could drop off a bag of candy for their daughter since it was her birthday.  While they were there, they noticed that the two boys in the family were playing "beyblade".  OK, for any of you like us who don't have little kids any more, beyblade is probably not what it first sounds like.  When I first heard this, I had visions of two little kids fighting it out in their living room with some kind of Japanese swords or something.  Well, after looking up beyblade on the Internet, I found out that it is all about spinning up a couple of over-sized tops in a small arena and allowing these tops to bump each other until one of them topples over.  Well, you wouldn't really expect a twenty year old missionary to know much about a beyblade either, but when Alex found out that the boys were playing, he told them to hold on for a second while he ran back out to the car.  A few minutes later, in walks Alex with his brand new beyblade that he had just recently purchased.  Everybody thought that Alex was just joking so when they saw him come back with this toy, they all busted up laughing.  Alex didn't tell us how the actual beyblade competition went, but I'm guessing that there is a little lesson to be learned here.  If you make friends with the kids, the parents are going to love you.  That can open a lot of doors for missionary work.

Well as always, there are plenty of stories about all the people that Alex and his companion are currently teaching.  Great stories about people coming to Church for the first time.  Stories about baptismal commitments and stories about how the missionaries are helping to change people lives.  If you would like to hear more about all of the great things that are going on in the Independence Missouri mission, just ask and we will be glad to share them with you.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Missionary work is a family afair

We received word from Alex last week that transfers came and went and guess what… he is still in Manhattan. I mentioned before on this blog that Manhattan has been one of Alex’s favorite places to serve. Since he has been there for about seven months now, he was guessing that this would be the transfer when he would go. He told us that the last week leading up to transfers was kind of nerve racking. Alex told us that on the night that the assistants were supposed call, he was very nervous because he just knew that he was going to be transferred out. Then when the assistants finally did call, it was just Alex’s luck that he happened to be in the bathroom at the time. When the phone rang, Alex rushed out of the bathroom, hopefully dressed, so that he could hear what was going to happen. When Alex heard that he was going to be staying in Manhattan and not only that but he would be staying with his current companion, he was super excited. Of course as many things go on a mission, the Lord needs you where he needs you and apparently the Lord still needs Alex in Manhattan.

There is one small interesting fact about this transfer however. The fact that Alex’s companion is also staying in Manhattan makes the next transfer a little interesting. The reason why is because Alex’s companion will complete his mission at the end of this transfer and will be heading home. This might mean that Alex could be in Manhattan even longer or who knows what. Again, the Lord needs missionaries where he needs them. Of course Alex wouldn’t mind staying in Manhattan even longer, but it will be interesting to see what happens over the next few months.

In both of Alex’s last couple of letters, he has told us about all of the great events coming up in the next few weeks. They have been teaching some people that have really come a long way and have made a lot of changes in their life. Alex said that it has been really exciting to see all of the changes and to also have them come to the Stake center to watch general conference. After attending the general conference broadcasts, the new investigators told Alex that they really learned a lot and enjoyed the talks that were given and had set a date for baptism. In Alex’s last letter home this week, he told us all about the baptism and how it was the most exciting news of the week. Normally Alex tries to have one of the Ward members perform the baptism but this new member had specially requested that Alex perform the baptism and that his companion perform the confirmation. This was a very special experience for Alex and something that I am sure, he will never forget.

Alex actually has a temple trip coming up in the next week. He wasn’t really sure how many of the newest members of the Ward would be able to make the trip. However, this week Alex told us that several of the people who have recently joined the Church are also planning on making the trip to the Winter Quarters temple. This will be the first time that Alex has had a chance to attend the temple since he left the MTC almost 18 months ago. He is very excited for this trip and I am sure that we will hear all about it next week.

Since we are on the subject of the temple, the temple has been something very special to Alex for a long time. Alex mentioned in his most recent letter home that there was one point during general conference when President Monson was talking about baptisms for the dead and how the youth have the opportunity to go to the temple to help with this work. Alex told us that this talked reminded him of the time back in high school when he and several of his friends would get up early in the morning before school, just so they could attend the temple and perform baptisms for the dead. Those were some very special times that he has never forgotten and probably never will.

According to everything that Alex has told us, things are going really well in Manhattan as well as throughout his whole mission. Alex was able to meet up with his old Lawrence and Burlington companion during transfers a little while ago and catch up on what each of them have been doing. Alex told us that it has been amazing how fast time has gone by. It was just a year again when Alex and his former companion were being double transferred out of Lawrence to Burlington. Those were some great times with some great successes. Speaking of successes, Alex says that they have some more baptisms coming up and that they have finally been able to build up their teaching pool and are teaching some really great people as well.

I haven’t done this very often in this blog mainly because this blog is supposed to be all about what Alex is doing on his mission rather than about us or his family. But I would like to share with you an experience that is very much about a mission, missionaries, Alex and his family. I am currently writing this blog entry as I sit in the mission home in Quito, Ecuador. This is significant because I served my mission in Guayaquil, Ecuador thirty years ago. My wife and I are here because my wife’s cousin and her husband are mission presidents in the Quito, Ecuador mission. This experience being here in Ecuador, has brought back so many memories of my mission and being a missionary. In our short time here my wife and I have been able to see missionary work take place from a mission president’s perspective. One of the most significant experiences that we had in our short time here was a visit to a city on the Ecuador/Columbia boarder called Tulcan. The reason why this experience was so significant was because of what happened on Saturday night just after we arrived. This experience allowed both my wife and I to participate in missionary work in exactly the same way as both of our missionary sons, Alex and Christopher.

We traveled to Tulcan with the mission president and his family to attend a district conference in the small Tulcan branch. Saturday evening before the conference, several of the branch leaders in Tulcan including both the Priesthood as well as the Relief Society, paired up to go out and visit some of the less active members of the church to invite them back. I had the privilege of going with one of the counselors in the branch presidency as well as the district president. We traveled to a very humble home of one of the members, not too far from the small chapel in the city. There we met with a less active member of the church where I was invited to share some of my missionary experiences as well as give the prayer before we left. This was a very special experience for me for several reasons. Those reasons include being back among the people who I had served thirty years ago, using my Spanish language which I still remember and because this is exactly the same experience that both our sons Alex and Christopher share with us in their letters home each week.

My wife had a very similar experience that evening in Tulcan as well. She accompanied several of the Relief Society sisters on visits and was able to experience what missionary work is like as a full time missionary. Since she was not able to serve as a full time missionary when she was younger this has been a new and very exciting experience for her. Even though she does not speak Spanish, she was able to understand and feel the spirit that was present in each of her visits. She was even asked to give a prayer, in English, several times during the two days that we were there. For us, this whole trip to Ecuador has been all about missionary work even though we are not currently called as full time missionaries. It has been an experience that has brought us very close to our missionary sons even though we are thousands of miles apart. Our time here in Ecuador, we will never forget. Whether we will ever be back, I don’t know. But we will follow in Alex and Christopher’s footsteps and serve as full time senior missionaries one day in the future.