Thursday, January 26, 2012

Getting stuck and working through it

After about five months in Buffalo, Christopher has been transferred to a small town called Arcade.  Christopher really enjoyed serving in Buffalo and he and his companion were doing really well there.  But his companion was called to help train a new Spanish speaking Elder.  When I say Spanish speaking, apparently this new Elder only speaks Spanish.  For that reason, the mission President needed a Spanish speaking trainer and Christopher's former companion filled the need.  Christopher told us that even though Arcade is a very small town, he really likes it there and also really likes his new companion.  The only problem is that his new companion goes home at the end of the transfer so they will only serve together for about six weeks.  This will be Christopher's fourth companion in four transfers. 

The other big news besides the transfer is that Christopher finally has a car.  For the past year he has served in areas where their only mode of transportation was by foot.  The interesting thing about this car is that it is actually a truck.  But not just any old truck, it is a 4x4 truck.  Christopher said that this is really fortunate especially due to the fact that this area of New York gets a lot of snow during this time of year.  When you combine that with the fact that there are a lot of country roads that they have to travel from time to time, a 4x4 truck will really come in handy.  Speaking of snow, it sounds like not a lot of snow has fallen so far this year.  Christopher told us that they got a little bit of snow a few weeks ago but since then it had warmed up and turned into mud.  I guess the 4x4 truck will probably do well in the mud also.   Then again, maybe not.

In a recent letter about a week ago, Christopher said that he and his companion teamed up with some kids from their branch on exchanges.  That day it just happened to snow quite a bit and the branch member that Christopher teamed up with, was driving.  They were both headed down one of the country roads outside of town when this kid from the Branch who was driving, turned to point out a "Dead End" sign.  Before they knew it, they were off the road and into a ditch.  Apparently the car was stuck so deep off the side of the road that there was no way that they were going to get it out without some help.  Both Christopher and the Branch member decided that it would be best to try to walk back to a house that they had seen.  It turned out to be about a two mile walk before they finally arrived at the house where they were able to ask for some help.  Luckily the owner of the house had a big enough truck to pull them out of the ditch and send them on their way.  Then to cap all of that off, Christopher went on an exchange with these same kids from the branch about a week later.  There must be some bad luck going on here or maybe there is some kind of lesson to be learned, but here they were a week later stuck in a ditch again on an unplowed snowy road.  This time they were in the 4x4 truck which was having problems staying in 4-wheel drive.  After several attempts to travel down the country road in a truck whose 4-wheel drive capability was in question, they finally gave up, turned around and went home. 

Christopher told us that there are some real advantages to living out in the country.  Some of those advantages include good food and a lot of it.  What he meant by that is that many of the members of the branch live on farms with chickens, pigs and maple trees.  Christopher said that the members have given them a ton of free eggs, bacon and a load of maple syrup.  In fact he told us that next month they are going with one of their investigators to tap 400 maple tree.  That sounds like a once in a life time opportunity for Christopher, who comes from an area of the country where those kinds of maple trees just don't exist.

Christopher has told us several times over the past couple of weeks that he really likes it in his new area in Arcade.  In fact he told us that he has become a real hit with the ladies in the area.  Well, at least with the ladies under the age of eight years old. Apparently several mothers of these young ladies have told Christopher that their daughters have a crush on him.  In fact one of the little girls herself told Christopher that right to his face.  Christopher said that one night he and his companion were at this girl's house eating dinner with her family.  After dinner Christopher and his companion presented a little lesson to the family and then played a game of hangman.  Throughout the night this little girl would make sure that she got the seat right next to Christopher.  Then during the game of hangman this little girl started edging closer and closer until at one point Christopher could feel this little hand on his shoulder.  He then quickly glanced over at this little girl, caught her eye and immediately she pulled her arm way as if she were shy and a little embarrassed.  According to Christopher, this little girl is anything but shy.  Christopher got a good laugh out of this and figures that this probably won't be the last time this little girl makes a move. 

Time is really starting to fly by for Christopher.  He told us that he and his companion have been teaching a lot of lessons and just working hard as missionaries.  He recently sent us sever pictures of some of the people who he had been teaching and have been baptized.  He said that the days just all seem to merge together and that sometimes it is hard to remember everything that has happened over the past week because it is just filled with so many different experiences every day.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Christmas is even better when a missionary calls home

The holiday season is here again and it is great to hear from our missionary at Christmas time.  Last year at this time Christopher was at home getting ready to enter the MTC while his younger brother was calling home on Christmas day from his mission.  This year the tables are turned.  Christopher's younger brother is now back from his mission and talking to Christopher from home.  Anyway, this is the second time that Christopher has been able to call home since he left a year ago.  The last time Christopher called home was on Mother's Day about six months ago.  On Christmas day Christopher called us just as we were getting home from our Sunday church meetings.  It was really good to hear from him and to talk to him for a while.  He told us a few stories that I won't be able to share on the blog but in addition to that, he also just let us know how he has been doing.  We didn't know this before but is current companion is one of the Spanish speaking Elders in his mission.  I asked Christopher if they teach many Spanish speaking people and he said that they do occasionally.  Christopher told us that he will probably be getting a new companion in he next week or so because his current companion has been assigned to train a new Spanish speaking missionary.  We haven't heard yet where Christopher will be transferred to, but we expect to find out on his next P-Day.

Christopher told us that Thanksgiving went really well for him.  They were invited for Thanksgiving dinner by several different families but since they don't have a car, getting from one place to another can be kind of difficult.  So rather than trying to travel around from place to place, they ended up spending most of Thanksgiving with one family.  As a result, Thanksgiving turned out to be one of Christopher's greatest teaching experiences.  Christopher told us that he and his companion went to dinner with the family of a recent convert to the church who lives in their Ward.  Most of this member's relatives aren't members of the church which provided Christopher and his companion with a great teaching opportunity. 

Having several LDS missionaries show up at a family Thanksgiving dinner must have felt a little awkward.  Luckily for Christopher, he noticed that there were several musical instruments laying around.  According to Christopher, all of the instruments were one's that he could play.  Christopher started out playing the ukulele for a bit and them moved on to the banjo, piano and finally the guitar.  He taught his companion to play a part of a song on the ukulele and then taught another missionary a small part on the piano.  At that point they were able to put together an ad-hoc little band to kind of break the ice with all of the family members who had never really had much contact with LDS missionaries before. After this little impromptu concert, the conversation obviously turned to music.  As the night went on, eventually the conversation transitioned from music to missionary work and the gospel.  Not a big surprise for those who are members of the LDS church since music and the gospel basically go hand-in-hand.  There were quite a number of people listening in on this discussion for a while and Christopher said that he suddenly found himself teaching these family members all about the restoration and answering many of their questions.  Before the night was over, Christopher said that he found himself bearing one of the most sincere testimonies that he has ever given on his mission.  We haven't heard if anything more came out of this experience, but one thing is sure, it had a great impact on Christopher.

For exercise, Christopher and his companion like to play basketball.  They routinely get up early most mornings, run down to the church and shoot around in the gym for an hour.  Since there is only two of them, they have a certain drill that they like to run.  Christopher tried to explain the drill but I don't really get it.  It seems to work for them and they have a good time getting some exercise in the morning.  Speaking of basketball.  Christopher told us a good story during our Christmas day phone call.  Apparently there is an Elder in their mission whose forearms aren't completely developed.  Every once in a while several of the missionaries get together for a little 3-point shooting contest and this includes the missionary who is missing part of his arms. At one point this missionary stepped up and wanted to challenge another Elder in the contest.  One of the other Elders agreed and the contest began.  Christopher didn't give us all of the details about how it went but the result was that the Elder with no arms ended up beating the other missionary.  Christopher said that the funny part of the story is that now the mission President won't let the losing missionary forget that he lost a basketball 3-point contest to a kid with no arms.  That just goes to show you, if you want it bad enough, there is always a way.    

A few weeks back Christopher said that he attended a zone conference in Rochester.  That evening after the conference, several of the out-of-town missionaries stayed overnight at the mission home.  After the other missionaries had gone to bed, Christopher stayed up and took the opportunity to sit down with his mission President and have a good conversation for a couple of hours.  Christopher didn't really go into detail about the conversation that they had, but he did say just how great his mission President is and how much he respects and admires him.  Christopher feels that he has really been blessed to be called to the Rochester mission and to have President Christiansen has is mission president.

Christopher told us about one small experience that he had just a few weeks ago.  One morning he and his companion decided that for their companionship study, they would spend their time studying more about priesthood authority.  The thing that they didn't know at that time was that later on in the day they would be using everything that they studied to answer several questions from one of their investigators.  Christopher felt that both he and his companion were lead to exactly what they needed so that they would be prepared at the right time to provide answers to questions that the might not have otherwise been able to answer.  For Christopher, this was just another one of the small miracles that happens while serving a mission.