Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Messing with the greenies

This is going to sound like a broken record but every time Alex writes home, the underlying theme of the letter is telling us just how busy he is.  To give you an idea, this last week he sent a short little email explaining that as he was trying to find time to write us, he was also typing up the mailing lists, working out the transfer rosters, figuring out the bus schedules for transfers, sending out emails to all of the Stake Presidents notifying them of the missionary transfers and typing up the leadership call list for the mission president.  Apparently he and his companion had been in the mission office all day finishing up all of these last minute tasks before transfer notices go out in a day or so.  In all of that emailing and scheduling, the one thing that Alex didn't get finished was sending out his weekly family letter to us.  Well, we finally did receive his letter, but it wasn't until the next day.  He had to get permission from his mission president to write home on Tuesday rather than Monday because he had run out of time the day before.  I guess that is just how it goes.  We will have the rest of our lives to talk to him, but Alex only has a few more months as a full time missionary.  So making the most of it is obviously the top priority.

 Alex's last couple of letters, once we finally got them, were filled with some great stories.  I will try to retell some of them here and hopefully I will be able to capture the same spirit in which they were originally told to us by Alex.  One of the first stories that Alex told us really pointed out just how far he has come in the last year and a half.  One of the traditions that the mission president's wife has at each of the zone leader's conferences is to randomly pick a couple of missionaries to give a five minute talk on the spot.  This was a tradition that was started back when the mission president and his wife first entered the Independence Missouri mission almost three years ago.  The five minute talk is meant to prepare the missionaries for times when they are called on by a Bishop or Stake President to stand up in Sacrament Meeting or some other meeting and speak with no notice before hand.  The idea is to  stand up, quote a scripture, thank the Ward and bear pure testimony.  The reason why this is significant is because back when Alex was first made a zone leader almost a year ago, he used to get really nervous during each of the zone leader conferences wondering if it was going to be his turn to give a five minute talk.  Now step forward almost a year.  Alex is now an assistant to the president and as part of his responsibilities at each zone leader's conference, he is expected to lead two different training segments, conduct the meeting, prepare for and clean up after the whole thing.  After handling and completing all of those responsibilities, a five minute talk seems like a very insignificant cake walk in comparison. 

Another story that Alex related to us in one of his recent letters was really about another missionary who had struggled a bit but is now really starting to shine.  It started at a district meeting up in Platte City Missouri.  The district leader in that area was conducting a meeting and doing a very good job.  But for a missionary, something seemed out of place.  During the after meeting review that the assistants hold with each district leader individually, Alex mentioned to this Elder that his mis-matched suit and pants didn't really look appropriate for a missionary.  As it turned out, this Elder didn't really have a lot of resources when it came to outfitting himself for a mission and so he was doing the best he could.  After hearing that, Alex and his companion decided that they would pool half of their monthly allotment to try to help this Elder purchase some new clothes.  As they were preparing to pool their money, they talked to the mission president's wife and found out that the mission actually had a fund to cover just this very thing.  So the next time that this Elder and his companion were in Independence for interviews, Alex and his companion grabbed the Elder and took him down to a local discount clothing store where they proceeded to set this Elder up with three new suits and some killer ties all for under $200.  According to Alex, this has made a real difference in this missionaries attitude and life.  Sometimes just the simplest changes can make all the difference.

Alex also included a story about one of their favorite investigator families.  Unfortunately, this story goes more to show that their are ups and downs as a missionary and this story was one of the downs.  Without going into all of the details, Alex told us that they had really made a lot of good progress with this family but for some reason, the parents just couldn't quite get past a few issues that they had with the Church.  As a result, things kind of came to an end as far as teaching goes even though Alex still feels that they are some of the finest people that he has meet.  At the very least, the seed has been sown.  Maybe someday another set of missionaries will be there to help that seed grow and complete what Alex and his companion had started.

Finally, this story has to be one of the funniest stories that Alex has ever shared with us.  It is all about messing with the greenies.  One of the many highlights of being an AP is when the new missionaries arrive in the mission, every six weeks.  The APs along with the mission president have the great opportunity of meeting these new missionaries at the airport and helping them get adjusted to their new life as full time missionaries.  Well, maybe the words "helping them get adjusted" is a bit of an over statement especially when it comes to seasoned APs and new greenies.  Alex told us that he and his companion had a little bit of fun with the new missionaries as they were helping them get all of their luggage loaded into the trailer at the airport.  Here is how the story went.  Picture this, a bunch of brand spankin new missionaries have just arrived at the airport in Independence and have just meet the mission president and the APs.  They are all standing around the trailer as Alex and his companion are helping them load their luggage.  As they are loading the luggage and knowing that all of these new missionaries are still a little shell shocked, Alex and his companion start up a little bit of a gospel conversation.  Alex says to his companion,   "Hey Elder, what would your interpretation be of Lamentations chapter 4 versus Romans chapter 15?".  His companion responds, "Well I would have to refer you back to Romans chapter 3 to answer that question".  Of course this little scriptorian discussion was all totally made up, but looking around at the faces of these newest missionaries, they were thinking that maybe they missed something during their training in the MTC.  Alex said that their jaws were dropping all over the ground in awe.  Then one of the greenies pipes up and asks, "Elders, how long have you been out?".  Of course continuing in the vein of messing with the greenies, Alex responds, "Oh, about 5 months".  Oh what a story, I'm sure there will be some repenting to do Elders. :-)