Saturday, July 30, 2011

Summer heat and new opportunities

   It seems like these blog entries are getting fewer and farther between.  Basically they have and that is mostly due to the fact that we don't hear from Alex as much as we used to anymore.  He has been so busy over that last few months, that he rarely gets a chance to write home.  This last month has been especially busy due to the transition from one mission president to another.  The month of July is usually when a certain number of mission presidents complete their missions and turn the reins over to a new mission president.   This was the case in Alex's mission. 
   When the previous mission president returns home and a new mission president takes over, it is a unique opportunity for both the missionary and the parents.  With Alex serving as an assistant to the president, he and his companion automatically become part of the transition plan for the new mission president.  This last month Alex and his companion have been traveling the mission and conducting zone conferences with the new mission president and his family.  However, that isn't the only new opportunity that has come from the changing of the guard.  We, as the parents of a missionary, had the great opportunity to attend the Sacrament meeting in which Alex's returning mission president and his wife, spoke.  This was a great opportunity where we were finally able to meet the mission president under whom Alex has been serving for almost two years.
    It was a wonderful day and a great experience for us when we were able to attend the homecoming Sacrament meeting in which Alex's former mission president spoke.  The church building was literally pack with Ward members, friends and former missionaries.  In fact at one point during Sister Van Komen's talk, she asked all of the former missionaries in the audience to stand.  The number of people who stood up at that point had to be about half of the people in the audience.  Keep in mind that the number of people in attendance that day spilled out of the chapel and into the cultural hall.  Judging from the number of people, it looked more like a Stake conference than a normal Sacrament meeting.  There were a lot of former Sister missionaries as well has senior couples who served in the visitor centers and in other capacities.  There were also a lot of young men who served in the Independence Missouri mission as proselyting missionaries just like Alex.  There obviously wasn't a lot of time, but we had the opportunity to briefly speak with President Van Komen right before the meeting started and to hear some wonderful comments from him about Alex.  Following the meeting we also had the chance to speak with Sister Van Komen as well.  As we stepped up to greet her, I introduced myself as Alex's Dad.  That was all it took.  Sister Van Komen just started talking all about Alex and all of the wonderful things that he has done as a missionary in the Independence Missouri mission.  It was so great to hear directly from her knowing that she and her husband have been such a big part of Alex's life over the last year and a half.
    I mentioned that Alex and his companion have been traveling the mission visiting every zone with their new mission president and conducting training meetings.  At one point just a few weeks ago, Alex contacted us and wanted to know more about my mission and the people that I had taught.  He wanted to use these stories as part of the training that he was conducting during the zones conferences.  Both Alex has well as his companion have had the opportunity to get to know personally some of the people their fathers taught while serving mission many years ago.  They wanted to draw on some of those stories to help train current missionaries to love their missions and to take advantage of every opportunity.  Alex told us that the training sessions have gone really well.  On top of all of the training, Alex and his companion have also been going on splits with each of the zone leaders following the each of the zone conferences that they conduct.  This has made for some very long days full of hard work and a lot of spiritual promptings.  This kind of work has left these two young missionaries very tired but at the same time, very excited to get up the next day and do it all over again.
    In Alex's latest letter home he again told us all about how crazy life has been.  Alex told us all about some of the recent zone leader splits that he has been a part of and some of the miracles that he experienced.  I won't go into detail here but one of the stories was all about meeting someone that was just waiting for the missionaries to knock on their door.  It was one of those kinds of stories where a missionary is prompted to go somewhere or talk to someone that he normally wouldn't have.  The end result was an opportunity and an experience which neither Alex nor the zone leader that accompanied him that night, will never forget.
   One of the funnier stories this week was Alex telling us how much he likes the heat.  Summer time in the Midwest can be very hot.  Apparently they have had a few days where the temperatures have been over a hundred degrees.  For most people as well as for missionaries, this is a sign that it might be a good idea to go inside where there is some air conditioning.  For Alex, it is the opposite.  The only explanation that Alex could give us for wanting to be out in the heat is that he loves to sweat.  With all of the running and wrestling that he has done over the years, Alex is very used to sweating a lot and for whatever reason, he really enjoys it.  If you think that is a little strange, well then you probably don't know Alex very well.  Anyway, according to Alex, the hot weather also provides him with a great line for getting a conversation going.  All he needs to say is "Wow, we sure are having some beautiful weather, huh?".  After that comment, most people look at him with an "Are you nuts?" kind of look in their eye and wondering what he is talking about.  Right there the conversation starts and Alex is off and running.  Soon the conversation transitions into a gospel topic and before the person even knows it, they are hearing all about the gospel and message that the missionaries have to offer.  Who would have ever thought that talking about the weather would be a great way to start a gospel discussion. Humm??? ;-)

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