Monday, August 30, 2010

We are SOOOOO busy now!

The ward in Visalia is the 2nd Ward. It was my second area. Bishop Henrickson was the bishop at that time. I may or may not have known anyone with the last name of Sannar. I'll have to look through the stake directory I have and see if it rings any bells. I found out about it yesterday at dinner. It's bizarre. It seems so random, too.

Transfers happened on Wednesday. Elder Nelson is now in the Fresno North Stake and I'm here in Merced, still, with Elder Goodsell. He's from Peoria, AZ, near Phoenix. He's 19, and it's his third transfer. He's 6'3", so he's my second tall companion. There were a couple of really cool coincidences that happened. He has the same pillowcase, for instance. It's the one with Mario on one side and Zelda on the other. His looks newer, but it's the same one. Then I find out that Sister Willardson, a sister from my MTC district, served in his home ward. His mom is a ward missionary and she and her companion were over all the time. Elder Goodsell is just about as opposite as it is possible of Elder Nelson. Where Elder Nelson is quiet, meek, and doesn't speak up too much, Elder Goodsell is loud, boisterous, and is self-proclaimed immature. It's taken getting used to, the big switch, but it's working out. We get along really well and we'll both learn a lot this transfer.

We're going to need to make a push to get to Yosemite this transfer. We really are. Even though it's only his third transfer, my companion has already been. We're much closer here than in Modesto. I'm going to try to get the zone leaders to organize a trip as a zone activity. That would be a good excuse. Next transfer will be our next temple trip. That'll come before I know it.

We had an amazing speaker on Sunday. He is the farm manager for the local raisin farm in Madera. His whole talk was talking about how back in the 30s or something, the prophet decided they needed to invest tithing funds instead of letting it sit in the bank and crash when the market does. I had no idea that the church had so much property, farmed so much, and was so huge financially. They have farms and things that are welfare farms (like the raisin farm, here), but they also have tons of investments and money-making things. They use it all to grow and help others, exponentially. He told several stories about how the church stepped up and donated so much of certain resources at different times. There was one story where there was a country under civil war and genocide and they needed a monstrous amount of powdered milk immediately, to feed 1.6 million (or around that number) refugees and no one could do it sooner than 60 days. The church got it all together and had it donated there in three days time (including travel); all because a year earlier the prophet had told them they needed to build a new powdered milk plant of monstrous capacity. They made that “starving-person slurry stuff” that starving people have to eat. He wrapped it all up with how there is definitely a prophet of God on the earth today. All of his story and the entire talk had me wide awake and it was pretty amazing. I can't believe General Conference is coming up so soon. It happens at the end of this transfer.

This Saturday, we are going to the grape vineyard to do the harvest. Last year, the crop was pathetic. They had a bad frost early in the year and a whole summer of scorching days that killed a lot of it. This year is supposed to be the biggest crop they have ever had. It'll be a lot of fun being out there, again. I'm hoping to get to go again in another couple of weeks to roll the grapes after they have laid out a couple of weeks.

With the new set of Preach My Gospel DVDs and the new missionary program, there will be specialized leadership training. Two days this week and two next week will be taken up for the training. It's for trainers, zone leaders, district leaders, and also (we just found out this morning) it will include the companions of district leaders. With the grapes, church, district meetings, weekly plannings, preparation days, etc, this means there are two solid weeks where we are in practically half-days. There aren't any days for two weeks where we are out proselying the entire day. It'll be interesting. I'm looking forward to going, though. I definitely have a lot of room to grow.

In closing, I finally saw Backwards Man walking backwards. In Merced are the Merced Superheros. There are only a few. Out of all the homeless here in town, some of them have interesting characteristics to them. Zombie Man pushes an empty shopping cart and doesn't bend his knees or elbows as he walks. Beaver Man (who I heard has died some time ago) walked year-round bare chested and looked like he had a fur coat on. Backwards Man walks pretty much everywhere backwards, without looking behind him. I had only seen him walking forwards until a couple days ago. I was pretty excited about that. I'm not going to lie.

Anyway, we have a very full week ahead of us. It's going to be interesting, trying to get as much work done in the little amount of time that we have. It'll be good, though.


Monday, August 23, 2010

I'm staying in Merced.

We got the calls on Saturday, and I'll be staying for at least one transfer. Elder Nelson is going down to Fresno to cover one of the wards and one of the singles wards. I'll be remaining as district leader, here, and the elder that is coming here is Elder...Goodso? I don't know. That's what his name sounds like, and I haven't met any other elders that have met him. It's probably his third or fourth transfer, because he isn't in any of the past Vineyards. The Vineyard is this mission's regular newsletter thing. Unfortunately, they haven't given us any since April. It shows pictures of departing and arriving missionaries with their names, and other blurbs put in by various people in the presidency/staff. It's been so long since we've gotten a new one.

We had a really great beginning to last week. We were out with our ward mission leader on Tuesday and nothing was working out. No one was home or would let us in. We decided to try a former investigator that we dropped shortly after I got here, and it turns out it's good that we did. It was that day that she heard the diagnosis from some chronic problems she was having. She had been having a really bad day and we showed up after a few months. It went really well.

I did another baptismal interview. Those are really cool.

The weather has been really nice, lately. It hasn't reached 100 in awhile...I don't think. I think it's supposed to this week, but that's ok. There isn't too much longer where we have hot weather. It was October when the heat broke in Visalia, last year. People here in Merced, however, say that it's usually some time in September that it gets cooler here. It's more north though. Last year was infinitely hotter, though. It was a very wet winter and a very mild summer, this time around. As time always does, it blows my mind that it's in the last third of August. Anyway, things are going well. I hope the same goes for everyone else.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Aaron Celebrates his birthday in Merced.

Happy birthday, Aaron!

Aaron opens a poster of his scriptural hero, Captain Moroni.

Mom is adding this post before receiving this week's email. We got a package today with a picture CD plus a Fresno Mission DVD. We watched all of it and didn't see very much of Aaron. Too bad. The picture CD had a lot of good ones on it though. I'll put some more on the next post along with his email.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Great Baptism and Reunion

My birthday was on Wednesday. Yay... It was fun. For the most part, it was like any other day. I opened my packages the night before because I was going to be on an exchange the night of. We only open letters or packages after our nightly planning, so I would have had to wait, then I would be in someone else's area. Thank you so much, everyone who wrote or sent something. I really appreciate everything. I took plenty of pictures. I'm going to Walgreen’s this afternoon and I'll make a picture CD of everything.

We had our zone conference on Tuesday. The focus of missionary work is changing. It's a good change. It's still Preach My Gospel, but it's a focus less on learning the lessons and giving it, and more on teaching skills; asking questions, teaching people instead of lessons, etc. The new DVDs are great! They aren't these missionaries trying to be as perfect as possible, but they're missionaries being themselves, where you can see the good and the bad and learn from it. Reality TV has entered the church, I guess, but it's really good--entertaining, too.

We went to a Chinese buffet with a member during the week. Most of the stuff was normal. They had a few trays of weird stuff, and other stuff I just didn't have the guts to try. Surprisingly, though, my companion, as soon as he saw the tray of baby octopus, he snagged one. After lots of picking it up and staring at it, he forced himself to pop it in his mouth. For whatever reason, he felt compelled to eat that thing. Personally, I think it would make a great story, to be able to say that I did it, but I have absolutely no remorse that I abstained from such an activity. Bleck!

My exchanges are over. I'm very glad about that. It's too stressful. If I serve as district leader any more, I'm going to make sure I get them done as soon as possible, so they will be over as soon as possible. We get transfer calls on Saturday--again. It's all buzzing by. I only have four transfers left, which is a really weird thought. I usually have ideas as far as what is going to happen to the various missionaries in the district I happen to be in, but I'm usually wrong. This time, I have absolutely no clue what's going to happen--with anyone.

I also did my first baptismal interview. That was an interesting experience. The man has a really rough past and made intense changes to get to where he is. We went to, and taught at, his baptism the next day. It turns out, he is related to the Garza's from the Modesto 5th Ward, my training area. Most of them were there, so it was really cool to see them all and to see how they've changed. Not many of them have changed much, except the kids are now huge. The coolest part of the evening, on Saturday, was when this young couple came running up to me after the baptismal service. Does anyone remember the couple I (assume I) mentioned back in January, who we talked to outside their house? We started talking to him, then, and his wife came out and stood right next to him. We found out that he was a less-active member who had just moved into Modesto. He told me they were related to the Garzas and I was able to tell him that I knew his family. When we had asked where they had just moved from, he described an area in Visalia where they lived (where I had lived about one or two blocks from and could describe everything to them). I got transferred to Modesto 2nd the very next day, but they were taught for a couple weeks more by Elder Daniels and the elder he was training. It turns out that while she had been inside her house, she had gotten a strong spiritual prompting to "Go stand next to your husband." When we invited him on the church tour, he agreed and she asked us, "Well, I'm not a member of your church, but...could I come, too?" :| "Yeah!" They lost contact shortly after teaching them, which was frustrating, due to the fact that it was quite clearly divine intervention that everything worked out to connect us. <--long story, but they were really excited to see me and I got their information and am going to be passing it onto the elders in Atwater (where they moved to back in February) and they want to continue learning. For goodness sakes, it was his brother that was the one that got baptized. That whole experience just blew me away. I can't wait to find out what will happen with them. It was great. I hope everyone has a great week!


Monday, August 9, 2010

I'm turning 25 this week. Weird!

I had a couple of exchanges this past week. It's a strange thing, really. It's odd being out of my area for so long. The zone activity last Monday ate up the entire preparation day, but was fun. It had no structure, but that's the usual for those.

It'll be six months from today that I get on the plane to St. Louis. That's always a weird thought. It doesn't absorb my whole thoughts, but it's strange that the date comes so close.

Tomorrow is our zone conference. It's been a couple of months since we've had one of those, so I'm looking forward to that.

Wednesday will be my 25th birthday. It'll pretty much be a normal day, as well. I may buy myself a cake or something, but we'll see. For the most part it'll be like any other day. A few people know it's my birthday, but I've kept it mostly quiet. It'll be a good day, too.

I'll be going on my last exchange on Thursday; then I won't have to do any more until next transfer. We'll be getting transfer calls a week from Saturday. I'm short on time, as always, but it's been great hearing from everyone, and I hope you're still doing great!


Monday, August 2, 2010

My 18-Month Mark

I hit my 18-month mark on Wednesday. How weird is that! In answer, pretty weird. I'm still determined never to say "Oh, a little over a year," when someone asks me how long I've been out, but it's getting tiresome with everyone following up with, "Oh! You're almost done, then. How exciting!" Gah! I'm not the type to be like "No...I want to be on my mission forever! I can't go back to the real world!", but still. I have another six months to work and do what I can. That's not almost done at all. Anyway, the week has been well.

I went on an exchange with one of the elders in my district on Wednesday, and I'll be going on two more this week. I really don't mind them at all. I like not having to do several nights of nightly planning. I've never been much good at planning out the next day's activities. I've gotten much better, but I prefer watching as someone else does it, with me taking care of whatever I need to get done. Elder Nelson was sick for parts of a couple days this week. He's alright now, but it did give me a little bit of time to get the apartment cleaned and in some kind of order. It looks much nicer and I can find things, now.

We're doing a zone activity, this afternoon, where we're playing volleyball. I like volleyball better than dodge ball. It isn't likely to hurt as much. I don't mind getting hit as much as how much my whole body, along with my throwing arm hurts, hurling kickballs at one another. Volleyball should be good.

How is the weather back home? It's been in the 90/100s lately. I really hardly ever feel it anymore. It's not nearly as bad in Merced as it was in Visalia. I'm not nearly as whiny of a person as I was a year ago, either. (Notice I say 'not nearly as whiny.' I'm still whiny, but not as bad.) Elder Nelson is also getting used to it, as much as he hates to admit it. It's mostly only when it's really hot that he'll make comment about it.

I had a dream last night that one of the companionships in my district told me that they had 8 investigators with a baptismal date because they just set it up with a family of 7, in addition to the one they had. I'm hoping that was some kind of premonition, but I'm guessing it's wishful thinking. It'd be great, though. The mission has a goal of 200 baptized for the month of August. It's pretty much what we need to get on track for 1200 in the year. Last year in August...I don't remember what the total was, but I think it was like 120 or something. It was more than the mission had ever seen before--until this past December. Anyway, this coming up week should be great. I hope, as always, that you are all doing well, also. Bye


Post from July 26, 2010

I just met someone at Walmart that is from Sullivan, MO. They are doing a cross-country trip in a car with three small kids. It's always interesting when I meet someone who knows where Salem is.

It was a really good week. District meeting went really well. I got long-winded and preachy, but it was needed. Tomorrow's will be really good, too. Last preparation day, after I got back to the apartment, was pretty much all preparing everything for it. Today shouldn't need too much preparation. I started ironing my shirts before we were picked up, though, because they didn't dry all the way. I'll have to finish that up when I get back. Apart from that, today will be mostly about cleaning.

They had a stake Pioneer Day activity at the church on Saturday night. The kids all put on this elaborate play called "I, Nephi", then they played a lot of pioneer games in the softball field and square dancing. Myself and my companion staked out a spot next to the watermelon. They had 25 of them. There were some left over, so they gave all the missionary companionships one and I put our's in my backpack. It was bulging to the brim, just about.

We had some good lessons with some of our investigators and they are starting to make some progress. August starts this week. I still can't quite figure out why time going quickly is so surprising.It sounds like some of you are going to be having a very busy week. I hope all goes well!