Thursday, April 14, 2011

Missionary work is the same wherever you are

It has been a while since I last wrote on this blog so I am trying to catch up with all that has been going on.  It is always great to hear from Christopher.  He is getting used to missionary life and is doing really well.  In his last few letters he has talked about the people that he is currently teaching and how well some of them are progressing in the gospel.  There aren’t any firm baptismal dates for any of their investigators yet, but some of them are very close.  Christopher told us how he and his companion recently traveled with one of their investigators up to Palmyra and was able to spend the morning before the first session of General Conference in the Sacred Grove.  He told us all about how special it is to be serving as a missionary in a mission that has so much church history.  Having the opportunity to spend time in a place like this, really helps to life his spirit and allows him to do everything he needs to in order to be a good missionary.
After spending several hours in the Sacred Grove, Christopher along with his companion and the investigator that traveled with them, went to a nearby Stake Center to watch the opening session of conference.  After all of these years growing up and watching conference on TV at home, Christopher told us how much more special and spiritual it was to watch conference as a missionary.  There is just something about being on a mission that magnifies the small things in life that so often are taken for granted.
There have been a couple of events that have happened to Christopher recently that has made life as a missionary a little more interesting.  When Christopher first arrived in the Rochester mission and was assigned to the Batavia branch, he and his companion had to spend some time trying to find a place to live.  As it turned out, the place that they found wasn’t so great.  Christopher told us that they had some “not so neighborly” neighbors that would yell profanity constantly and play blaring music 24-7.  He also said that the smell of cigarette smoke was just constant and overwhelming.  Needless to say, they decided that it was time to find a better place to live.  Luckily they were able to find another apartment that was in the same building complex where the senior couple missionaries live.  Christopher told us how this has made such a big difference not only in their environment but the convenience of having other missionaries around.
Christopher also had a little medical mishap while playing basketball on his P-Day recently.  One of Christopher’s favorite things to do is to play basketball and as a missionary on P-Day, that is one of their primary activities.  Apparently this basketball game wasn’t one of his best.  Christopher told us that while playing basketball, one of the other Elders came down on his hand which bent his thumb backwards to the point where he and those around him heard a loud pop.  At that point they decided that it would probably be a good idea to see a doctor. After seeing the doctor and expecting the worst but hoping for the best, things turned out for the better.  Expecting the doctor to tell him that he had broken a thumb or a wrist, it all turned out to be just a serious sprain.  Other than it being painful and swollen, it looks like Christopher’s basketball pride and his wrist will be OK.
Overall Christopher is doing well even through there are some times where he has some struggles.  Missionary work is not always easy and sometimes there are people that are being taught that just don’t quite follow through in the manner that the missionaries would like even though the people are trying.  Christopher mentioned that the Batavia area is a bit difficult because of the down economy and the affected that it has had on so many lives.  There are very few jobs which also contributes to people being more interested in providing for their basic physical necessities in life rather than the religious ones.  Hopefully things will improve and Christopher, his companion and the other missionaries in the area can do their part to move the gospel forward.
Even though this blog is about Christopher and the many experiences that he will have as a missionary over the next couple of years, there will be a few times when I feel that it is appropriate to talk a little bit about Christopher’s family.  This is one of those time where I would l like to share with you an experience that is very much about a mission, missionaries, Christopher 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 have had in our short time here was a visit to a city on the Ecuador/Columbia boarder called Tulcan.  The reason why this experience is so significant is 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, Christopher and Alex. 
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 Christopher and Alex 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, we will never forget.  Whether we will ever be back, I don’t know. But we will follow in Christopher and Alex’s footsteps and serve as full time senior missionaries one day in the future.