Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Short time in the MTC and off to Rochester

It was a quick 2 and a half weeks in the MTC and Christopher is now in Rochester, New York.  We finally got a letter from him after he had been at the MTC for about a week and a half.  Not a really long letter, but then Christopher isn't much for long letters anyway.  He told us that for the first few days in the MTC, he didn't really know how he was going to handle the next two years.  But after the shock of entering the MTC wore off, things got much better and he really started to enjoy his time there.  From what Christopher said, he and his companion really worked well together and were able to accomplish a lot in the short time that they were there.  Christopher mentioned in his letter that it was kind of weird to be around a bunch of missionaries that were several years younger than him.  But that is just something that you have to get used to and I am sure that after a while, it didn't really matter anymore.

We really only heard from Christopher twice while he was in the MTC.  His second letter really wasn't much longer than the first but then he really didn't have a lot of time to write due to everything else going on.  He told us again in his second letter that things in the MTC just kept getting better and better.  But at the same time he was really excited to leave the MTC and get out to Rochester.  Christopher commented that all of the experience that he has gained over the last several years in the various jobs that he has held, has really come in handy in his preparation to be a missionary.  But he still felt like there is still a lot more that he can learn about the scriptures and the gospel.  Actually, that is feeling that will never go away and is a true statement for everybody.  Learning the scriptures and gospel principles is an on going process that doesn't end with just missionary work. 

Christopher left the MTC last Monday on a fairly early morning flight.  He was able to call home and talk to us for a few minutes before he had to board his flight.  There really wasn't much time to talk a lot but it was good to hear his voice.  He was very excited to be heading out to Rochester and get started on doing actual missionary work.  Christopher may not know this, but later on that evening we got a call from the mission President's wife.  She called to tell us that Christopher had arrived safely and just wanted to let us know that all was going well.  The mission President's wife talked to Christopher's Mom for a little while all about Christopher and what his talents are.  Of course his Mom talked all about Christopher's musical abilities and let her know that doing missionary work through music might be one way that Christopher can share his talents.

We are really looking forward to hearing from Christopher on a regular basis and learning all about the wonderful experiences that he is having.  We are excited to hear about his first assignment, companion and everything else that could happen during his first week.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A whirlwind mission call

Elder Christopher Nicholes entered the MTC on January 5th 2011.  That statement sounds rather normal for any missionary called to serve an LDS mission, right?  However this time it was anything but normal and here is the reason why.  Christopher actually received his mission call only three weeks earlier, which if you do the math, just happened to be about a week and a half before Christmas.  So combining the usual hectic pace of the holiday season with the stress of getting a missionary out the door, you can already see just how out of the ordinary Christopher's mission call was. 

This all started about a week and a half or so after Christopher turned in his mission papers.  Of course as the next Wednesday rolled around, which is normally when you would expect a big brown envelope in the mail, we got a phone call instead.  Our Stake President was on the other end of the phone call and after a few common pleasantries, asked the question, "could your son be ready to leave on his mission by January 5th?".  Given that the date that day was the 15th of December, you can imagine the rush of emotion and urgency that suddenly came across his mother.  The answer to that question was of course "Yes".  The Stake President then informed Christopher's mother that he was not at liberty to say where Christopher was being called but he could say that Christopher would be serving under one of the finest mission presidents among all of missions of the church.  [Just a small side note at this point, if you are wondering who that is, just go look up the New York, Rochester mission and see for yourself.  If you have lived around Utah Valley for any amount of time, you have probably heard of Christopher's mission president.  And if you haven't, I am sure that somebody you know has and they will go on and on telling you just what a great man he is.  At least that has been our experience.]

After finally picking herself up off the floor and giving herself a little time to recover from the bomb shell that had just gone off, Christopher's mother immediately called Christopher to let him know what had just happened.  Not knowing when the big brown envelope would actually arrive, we certainly hoped that it wouldn't be long and it wasn't.  The very next day Christopher's mother was driving down the street when she happened to see the mailman driving up the street in the opposite direction.  Just on a hunch she stopped and began to ask the mailman if he had anything...  But before she could get the words out of her mouth, the mailman pulled out a big envelope and handed it to her.  Again, she immediately called Christopher to tell him what was going on for a second time.

Later that night, which was the earliest that everybody could get together, Christopher came over to the house with his grandparents and several of his friends.  Keep in mind that up to this point Christopher still hadn't actually opened his mission call and because of that, his mother started asking everybody where they thought Christopher would be going.  Everybody made their guesses and surprisingly enough both his mother and one of this friends picked the same place.  Christopher opened the envelope, pulled out the letter and began to read it silently at first.  Then when he got to the point where it stated exactly where he would be serving, it read, "New York, Rochester Mission" which was exactly where both his mother and his friend had guessed.  This was one of the few times that we have ever seen Christopher cry.  At least one of the few times after having outgrown the "terrible two's".  Once Christopher had let things sink in for just a few minutes, he finally commented that this was the perfect mission for him.  He couldn't think of anywhere else that he would rather be serving.  Remember how I told you that either you or somebody you know would know Christopher's mission president?  Well as soon as Christopher announced to everyone who his mission president would be, his friend who also happened to be the same friend that guess right, immediately jumped to his feet in total surprise and started telling everybody in the room all about this mission president and just how wonderful he is.  Ever since then, every time we tell anybody who the mission president is, we have gotten the exact same reaction. 

The next few weeks flew by quickly.  There was still a lot of Christmas shopping to do, a lot of missionary clothes shopping to do and a lot of loose ends to tie up before Christopher would be ready to go.  Just to give you an idea of how quickly time flew by, that very next Sunday Christopher stood up at the pulpit in Sacrament meeting to announce his mission call.  The following Sunday he stood at the pulpit again to give his farewell talk and just over a week after that, all of the shopping was done, the most critical loose ends were tied up and Christopher entered the MTC.

When the day finally arrived for Christopher to enter the MTC, he was still running around trying to make sure that everything was in place and ready to go.  He had asked his mother the night before if it would be OK for him to invite some of his friends over for breakfast before going to the MTC.  Of course she said yes and that morning several of the friends and roommates dropped by the house.  Most of Christopher's friends had already served and returned home from their missions so they were all talking about their mission experiences during breakfast that morning.  It was great to hear all of the stories mixed in with many of the other experiences that they had all shared together since then.  Finally after spending time talking and laughing, they all said their goodbyes and Christopher was back to running through the last minute checklist. 

One of the things that still needed to be checked off the list was selling his nice car that he had bought almost a year earlier.  Of course that wasn't going to happen before he left but when it came time to actually load up his luggage and go to the MTC, it worked out that his car was the one we took.  Christopher has always loved driving nice cars and it was just like him to be able to drive his car for one last time as he drove himself to the MTC.  That last statement almost sounds like we sent him off by himself, but that was obviously not the case.  No, we were all right there with him in the car but yes, he did drive himself to the MTC.  From where we live, it isn't a very long drive and when we finally arrived, we pulled in the parking lot, parked and all got out to take a few pictures and say our goodbyes.  It was a nice sunny day but still a little code with snow on the ground all round where we parked.  After a few minutes of snapping pictures and talking, we all got back in his car, drove across the street to the MTC, parked again at the curb, unloaded his luggage and gave him one last big hug that would have to last for the next two years.

So this is where it all begins.  Hopefully over the next two years, we will be able to share through this blog, all of the wonderful experiences that Christopher is guaranteed to have.  This is just our way of not only being part of Christopher's mission, but allowing all of you to be part of it as well.