Sunday, December 29, 2013

Week #39

Dearest Family,

How the devil are ya?!  You sound to be doing pretty well from all of your letters.  I always love to hear from you.  Before I forget, I just have a few statements of fact that I want to write, which may or may not be directed at specific people:

1. Peter, this one is for you.  First of all, congratulations on learning piano, violin, and being a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir already.  There are a couple of reasons why you need to never give up practicing those things. First, you will regret it if you do give up.  B, You will take blessings away from other people because they will not be able to hear you play, and last, if you want to learn a language, it is easier if  you have an ear for music.  That last one is a theory of my own, but it makes sense.  If you play music, then you train your ear to listen for different tones and it becomes easier to understand people.  And if you sing, it is easier to speak because you understand the different ways that sound moves out of your mouth.  My companion was very musical before his mission and so it was a lot easier for him to learn the language.  Go to work!

2. Showers in Brazil are dangerous.  They are electric.  Who ever thought it was a good idea to have wires dangerously exposed to running water wherein a person would be bathing?

3. Brazilian culture is very relaxed, and everyone wants to feed you.  Rice and beans every day.

This has been a pretty good week.  It went by super fast.  We had a Christmas conference in Ribeirao during the week, which was super good, but ate up most our time.  I did my first street contacts in Portuguese, which was weird and hard and I didn't like it, but it turned out good.  We also made it to the Pol'icia Federal so that I could become legal.  I am now allowed to be here, officially.

We had another miracle this week.  And you know why? Obedience, that's why. We were going to do service one morning, and there's a rule here that we're not supposed to go anywhere without carrying a Book of Mormon in our hand.  We were on the fence because we weren´t in proselyting clothes so no one would even be able to tell, but we decided we had better.  Because we carried the books, a couple of investigators riding by on their motorcycle recognized us, and they might not have seen us without the Book of Mormons.  Miracles!  These investigators, Odair and Debora, had just recently moved, and we had been trying to find them for a while.  They now have a baptismal date and are planning to get married!  We´re pretty stoked.

We had some pretty funny moments this week.  One was with Irmã Renata.  We always have funny moments with her.  Oh, by the way, Elder Rock says hello. Anyways, we were having a lesson with her the other day, and she refuses to pray openly.  We had a lesson that was probably 45 minutes long about how it is important to pray, and then we invited her to say the closing prayer.  she denied. Because she denied again, I felt prompted that maybe I should offer the closing one.  I did, and here is a full transcription of my prayer.

Dear Heavenly Father,
Please help Sister Renata to have the desire to pray.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

They got a kick out of that.  I don´t know a ton of Portuguese, but I know enough that I can crack a joke every so often and help the people warm up to me. Good stuff.

I love you all so much!  Sorry that I am not able to send personal letters as often. We are allowed less time to write here, but I will do the best that I can.

Merry Christmas!  I´ll be Skyping you on Christmas between ten and noon your time.

Love, Jack

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Week #38

Dear Family,

I probably am catching you off guard right now, because last week I wrote at about 5 pm and today I´m writing super early in the morning.  Sorry to keep you on your toes, but that´s kind of the way that it goes here, you do things when you have the time.

So currently I am not in Franca, I´m in Ribeirão Preto.  We are going to be having a Christmas concert here tomorrow, and my companion, Elder Rock, is participating in a Christmas choir, so we´ve just been chilling here since yesterday evening.  I´m gonna pass my P-day here, not really sure what I´m going to do, but it should be fun.

Something that´s pretty funny here is that in a lot of cases there aren´t Portuguese words for American things, so they just use American words.  For example, we might be going to the mall today, and the word for mall here is "shopping".  So literally we are going to "the shopping" today to shop, obviously.

The language is coming along pretty well, too.  I can speak decently well, the hardest thing has been understanding people.  Good heavens, I swear everyone speaks differently here.  There are some people that I can understand with no problem at all, and others where it´s like someone´s southern accent from Florida followed me here and lighted upon some random Brazilian.  It can be super hard.  For example, we have this one lady who we are working with, Irmã Renata, who is super hard to understand.  Missionaries have been working with her for a long time, and she seems to finally be coming around, but it´s going to take some time for me to understand her.  She really nice though, she makes us eat just about every time that we go over there, and the food here is pretty darn good.

I remember that I thought it was a joke when people told me that I was going to eat rice and beans every day, but they weren´t kidding.  I don´t think a single day has passed without me eating rice and beans.  But the food is always good, and the fruits are delectable.  You can literally just be walking down the street and pick some fruit off a tree.  They have a fruit here called acerola, which is about the same size and taste as a cherry, but is shaped like a bell pepper.  All sorts of stuff that you´ve never even heard of that are super good, too.

But they also have a type of food here called lanche.  A lanche is basically like a burger, but way better.  They only put like a small beef patty on it, but then they just load it up with all sorts of meats.  It´s probably the worst thing in the world for you, but food is super inexpensive here, so who could resist!  I attached a picture of us at the house of a recent convert family.  We ate the strangest lasgna ever there.  It had a creamy chicken sauce, almost like a soup, and then was layered with mozzarella cheese and ham.  Dang good.

I´m sorry that my main focus has been on food today.  When people talk about food that´s like the only time that I can understand, so that´s what I felt like talking about today.  Food and the gospel, two things that I can understand in Portuguese.

The culture here is very relaxed and friendly, which is awesome.  I think working in the office for a while in Florida kind of stiffened me up, but now I have a good companion and the people are awesome, so we´re gonna have some fun.

Well, I love you all and hope you have an awesome day!

Jack


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Week #37

Dearest Family,

I´m sorry that it took me so long to write to you! And I´m also sorry that I didn´t call you in the airport.  Things have been nuts here!

So I was sent to my first area, which is Franca, Brazil.  A few facts about it: it has one of the largest shoe manufacturing industries in the world, is a lot more cooler than Ribeirão Preto (temperature wise) and barely anybody speaks English!  It has definitely been an interesting experience up to this point.

My companion is Elder Rock, and he is super cool.  He´s from Colorado and has been on his mission for a little over a year.  He´s American, so he is very understanding of my situation, but he told me that I can already speak pretty well, I just need to learn to understand the different accents that people have here. Everyone has a differrent accent, so that can make things difficult, but all in good time.

Willy Tomaz has been helping me a lot, too.  He is a member here that pretty much chills with for the majority of the day, and he speaks a little English that he learned from the missionary.  I´m beginning to understand him a little bit more, more than I do other people that randomly come and talk to me.

My experience so far has been as Brazilian as possible.  When I got off the plane, we went to President´s house to eat, driving throught downtown Ribeirão.  Here zoning laws don´t exist, so houses borders stores which border houses which border factories and so forth.  It´s kind of weird.  But cool, nonetheless.  When I got to my area by bus, driving through the country and seeing a ton of sugar cane, we were picked by Daniel, a member.  It was legit, he was driving a fusca, which is one of those old bugs that are all over South America and everyone in the US wants.  Traffic laws are basically non-existent here.  Daniel was driving all over the road, and signals and signs are more of suggestions than laws.  It was super fun.

The food is super good, too.  So far I have had rice and beans at every meal with members, but it´s always accompanied with something else.  We tend to eat less here, it´s interesting, you just don´t get hungry as much.
Last night we had a cockroach massacre.  They were everywhere.  We went wild on them with chemicals because one flew out of Elder Rock´s towel onto his face.  We woke up this morning when it was light and swept all of them up, so I´ll send you a picture next week.  

he trash system is different here.  Instead of nice, clean cans, all we do is stack our trash on this little raised pad outside our house.  And then dogs come and eat it.  I´m not even sure if a trash man really exists.

Well, I´m sorry if this seemed rushed, but I´m only allowed an hour to write here, and we´re running a little bit lit. Know that I love all of you and am so grateful for all that you do for me.  I´m super grateful for all of the prayers and blessings you send, and the great pictures, always!  Love your guts!

Sincerely,
Jack

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Week #36

Hey, Family!

I'm just sending a quick letter because we have to go get some stuff taken care of before I fly out today.  I should be able to call y'all in the airport in Atlanta; I'll be there from about 6:30 to 7:30 pm, in Atlanta time.  I think that's 5:30 time for y'all, but you might want to double check.  I'll be calling dad's phone so that everyone can hear.

I love you all!  I'm going to Brazil!

Love,
Jack

Week #35

Dear Family,

We had a pretty solid week this week.  It's funny how as soon as I get close to leaving the work seems to explode.  We had an investigator come to church on Sunday for the first time, and this guy that we found yesterday was practically waiting for us to come because he had been reading in the Book of Mormon and had questions to ask us.  There's all sorts of little miracles every day, and it's crazy to see how much God's hand is in all of this work.  The grace of the Atonement is real, because I find myself doing stuff that I would not be able to do otherwise.

So here's my little tidbit for the week.  Elder Burnett and I were rulers of the office this past weekend.  All of the senior couples were at a conference with some visitors from church headquarters, so Elder Burnett and I dominated.  He was in the back working on editing the video, and I did my thing up at the front, answering phones and taking orders and sending out referrals.  Living the dream.  

But I had a pretty cool series of thoughts the other day.  Sister Mills asked me if I could design a business card for the mission office since we don't have one here.  Since I otherwise would have absolutely nothing to do, I agreed.  I've never been super good with graphic design, but I felt comfortable enough with some of the design work that I did for Cole and for Sandy Amp that I thought that I could do it.  I sat at the computer and it was super hard, I just couldn't get things figured out like I used to, and it didn't flow.  After working on it for a while, it started coming together, but it took quite a while.  I just haven't exercised the visual side of by brain in so long that it's undergoing some super crazy visual atrophy.  My ability to think in visuals has been debilitated by not exercising it through actions on a medium.

So here's my thought: When we have a physical body, we are able to create symbiosis between the way we think, a creative process to create something, and the actual something that is created.   When we create something based upon a thought, that thing reiterates to our mind what we were trying to think in the first place.  It's like plastering your mind on the world so you can see it in clear light.  
Here's another way to look at it.  This is why we needed to leave our Heavenly Father's presence in the pre-mortal existence and gain a body.  In the pre-mortal existence as spiritual entities, the most we could do was try to create in our minds. 

Here's an analogy:  it is like we are sitting in the middle of a room with yellow walls, and then trying to imagine to ourselves that the walls are actually blue.  It's not super hard to do, but as soon as our train of thought changes or we forget, the walls go back to being yellow, because that's how they really are.  But with a body we can physically change the color of the walls, paint them blue, and then our thoughts and reality are aligned, and they speak to each other.  We can only make our thoughts real by acting with physical body.  Faith without works is dead.  

That may have made no sense at all.  I'm still trying to get it all figured out in my brain, but it did help to right it down.  

But yeah, Portuguese!  I'm gonna speak it here pretty soon.  I'm super excited, even though I'm sure I won't understand a thing when I get there.  I've been studying language every day, so I'm sure that will benefit, but we'll see what happens.  
Thanks again for all the birthday wishes and gifts last week.  Happy Birthday, Addie!  You are 24, going on 25, and Calvin is 23, going on 24.  You can probably take care of him.  

Love you so much,
Jack

Week #34

My Dear Family,

MIRACLES!  It's truly a miracle!  This week has been a week of absolute miracles, I say!  It's true!

Miracle #1- Trader Joe's
I'm putting this one first, because it's not as important as my other miracles, but it was just a tender mercy.  Today is P-day, and up until this point I've been trying to figure out how to get more vegetables in my diet so that I don't feel like garbage all week, and lo and behold, A MIRACLE!  We decided to try Trader Joe's for kicks and giggles.  Mind blown.  Can anybody say avocado for 99 cents?  And apples for 39 cents each?  It sounds super dumb, but I was freaking out, I bought so many vegetables, it was fantastic.  I was raving about it to every employee that I saw, and considered going into the grocery store across the street to tell everyone that they were being ravenously cheated.  If there's a Trader Joe's in Utah, try it.  Maybe there won't be the same discrepancy in prices as there was here, but my mind was blown.

Miracle #2
I got my visa!  My travel plans are right here next to me.  I leave here on December 2 at 5:12 pm and then arrive in Riberao Preto the following day at 5:02 pm.  Full 24 hours of jamming in as much Portuguese Book of Mormon reading as I can, only shortly interrupted by two layovers, a dinner, a snack, and a few bathroom breaks.  It's going to be legit.  It will be sad to leave Florida, but the time is now.  A miracle!

Miracle #3
We set a baptismal date with Drake Anderson, aka, Chief Osceola.  He promised us that he would read and pray to find out for himself by November 30 if the Book of Mormon was really true and if it was then he would be baptized!  That would be right before I left, so it would be perfect.  He seems pretty sincere, even though there is some pretty serious flirt-to-convert going on with his girlfriend, but we'll see what happens.  He is a really good guy and very genuine and one of his greatest goals in life is to have a good family well-founded in the teachings of the gospel.  He's totally going to get there.

Alright, to preface miracles #4-5, I need to give a quick introduction.  Our district leader and one of my favorite missionaries of all time, Elder Musgrave, gave us a challenge in our last district meeting to find a unique way of contacting people and inviting them to come unto Christ and feel a bit closer to him.  I chose to invite people to come participate in our church choir, and Elder Burnett studied up on the stripling warriors as a way of talking about how the gospel blesses families.  We put these together on Sunday in preparation for that evening when we were to go out.  And then we ventured forth.

Miracle #4
I wish that I had a picture to send you of this miracle, but I don't, so I'll try to paint the image in your mind with my words.  So we went to visit Darrel Alfred, a young man who we had only spoken to briefly once before and then had never been able to contact again.  We finally caught him.  He lives with his mom in the Tallahassee Housing Authority, which is one of the nicer groupings of projects in Tallahassee.  When we knocked he opened his door to give me a swift reminder of what he looked like: ridiculously huge fro and a nice little mustache that was thin and crisp just like his bodily frame.  He was wearing this multi-colored shirt with a picture of King Tut's sarcophagus on it.  He couldn't have looked like more of a hippy if he were wearing a tie-dye shirt.  I felt like I was about to evangelize to Jimmy Hendrix.
He told us that he was tied and about to lie down because he had just gotten back from working at Whole Foods, an organic foods place just down the road that he bikes to.  But, a miracle happened.  When we were talking with him, it came to my mind to invite him to come participate in our church Christmas choir.  Even though his response seemed a bit apprehensive at first, we could tell that he was actually considering it.  He had been taught choir in school by a member of our ward, and we told him that that same member would be participating.  We started talking about music, found out he could play guitar, and me, having no reservations about that kind of stuff, I struck like a viper and asked "Wanna play some music for us?"  
Again, he hesitated, but after a second agreed and brought us into his house.  We sat down and he played us a couple songs by The Decemberists which were super cool, he was actually pretty good.  You'd think him being a hippy and all he would say things like chill or cool or whatever hippies say, but his saying was "true".  He said it to everything, and it was way awesome.  
After the music, we started talking about Brandon Flowers, the lead singer of the Killers and how he is a Mormon.  And by some crazy link between that and the Restoration of the gospel, we started teaching him from the Book of Mormon.  Miraculous!  His beliefs were somewhat out there, but we're going to be going back on Wednesday to visit with him and do some gardening.  Stoked.

Miracle #5
After that, we started making out way to the Valentines, a member family that we had planned on seeing that night for no particular reason.  On our way over there, we started coming close to the house of an inactive member who we had tried a few times but to no avail, he was never there.  When we were almost to his house, we decided that we would try him again to see if anything might come of it.  We pulled into the Rolling Hills apartments on John Knox Road and went up to number 131 to see if we could finally contact Dwight Webbe.  We gave it a knock and within ten seconds an elderly African-American gentleman answered the door.  He wasn't Dwight Webb, his name was Johnny Threatts.  Apparently Dwight had moved.  We had a pretty ordinary doorstep conversation, asked him about what he did for a living and if he had a family and all that jazz.  We found out that he had been in the military for a long time and had also contracted out to train different military and police forces around the world.  It was interesting, but we kind of reached an apogee in the conversation.  There was that few seconds of silence that usually ends with us being left on the outside of a closed door.  But all of a sudden he spoke up and said, "Y'all want to come in?"

Yes.  Yes I do.

We came in and started talking with him, and Elder Burnett whipped out the stripling warriors bit.  And it worked PERFECTLY.  We found out that Brother Threatts had retired from his most recent contract in Afghanistan after nearly having been killed by a suicide bomber.  He attributed everything, his life and family, to God and the great blessings from that.  He was one of the most humble men that I have ever met.  Elder Burnett testified like nobody's business and seemed to say exactly what Brother Threatts was feeling.  When things started winding down, we invited him to read and pray about the Book of Mormon.  With eagerness, he avidly said that he would.  He said that we could come back anytime and that he would love to hear more.  We are going back Friday.  Miracles!  God is on our side!

Miracle #6
We finally made it to the Valentines' home, and they just happened to have made a huge turkey and twice as much food as they actually needed.  Miracles are real.  That was some of the best tasting turkey that I have ever had.

That's my splurge for the week.  Thank you all for your fantastic birthday wishes and gifts.  I got my birthday gift, which was delicious, my Christmas gift, which I have not opened, and my hard drive, which I keep protected in a sock.  Being a missionary is great, and I have a ton to learn, especially about my relationship with Jesus Christ.  But those things that I do understand, I am so grateful for.  My testimony of the Atonement is really growing, even when I try to resist it because of pigheadedness.  I love my mission.

Sincerely,
Jack

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Week #33

Dearest Family,

We had a pretty epic P-day today.  We ventured over to Tom Brown Park to do some mountain biking.  We've done it before, and it's super fun, even though I have to do it on my mission bike.  I look like a clown riding on that bike that was made for a missionary about half my size.  But it's still super fun.  We got a touch lost, so we ended up making about a seven-mile loop, but it was still super legit.  

We got a new investigator this week, and he's actually somewhat famous in these parts.  His name is Drake Anderson, and he actually plays Chief Osceola, the FSU mascot who comes into the stadium and throws the spear into the ground.  He was a referral from a member.  We are also going to be working with a less-active member this week who apparently played Jesus is one of the old church videos, so we're going to see if he has it and watch it with him.  And then we have LaiTaras, of course.  That's pretty much our teaching pool right now.  We're having a lot of fun.  And Elder Burnett and I are learning a lot better how to work with each other and be patient with one another, so we've made a lot of progress.

I've been trying something new that I really like that's super simple but makes a big difference.  Every night when i write in my journal I write down five new things that I'm grateful for.
Yeah, I'm sorry that I don't really have much to say this week.  We've just been in the office.  Doing boring but important stuff.  Elder Burnett is editing away on the other computer, so I usually just have to search for ways to fill my time effectively.  That includes writing essays about the best way to do missionary work using social media, organizing missionary choirs, logging all of our potentials in our area book into a digital form, eating some peanut butter M&Ms here and there.  The supply closet is all organized, so that doesn't occupy my time too much anymore.  If you can't tell, I'm kind of disillusioned with office work just about now.  It's time for me to get back out proselyting full time.  At least I want it to be time.  I want to teach.  In Portuguese, preferably.

Hope everything is going well.  Thanks for all of your pictures and kind notes.

Love,
Jack

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Week #32

Dear Family,

I wrote another poem.  I think I wrote this a couple of weeks ago.  

God sees us better
Than we may now see ourselves
Both inside and out

"A companion? Why?
I know me better than he.
I think my own thoughts."

But "in" is just half
The eternal equation;
We need insight out

No mirrors can be
Used to reflect our actions
Like somebody else

Their eyes reflect us
And we know our own thinking
God's sight comes through both

I see him,
And he sees me.
We see ourselves
As God would see.

I wrote this poem because a thought came to mind one day about the way that God sees us.  We always say that God knows us better than we know ourselves, and I think that I know why.  Not only is he perfectly pure in his judgment, and knows where we're coming from, but at the same time he not only sees us from the inside but also from outside.  He can see how we act from the eyes of another person, whereas we cannot.  So I think that's why it's super important to surround yourself with other people because we can't really become our best selves without someone else letting us know how we appear from the outside.

So we had an interesting week this week.  Especially because of our fast and testimony meeting yesterday.  Good night, it was a sight to behold.  So I told you about LaiTaras Stokes, the black man we've been working with every week for like the past three weeks.  Since we've been meeting with him he's progressively gotten better and better at communicating, but it's still going to take some time to get him to speak clearly in a public group.
So he came to church on Sunday again, and it happened to be fast and testimony meeting.  We're not allowed to drive him, so we had a member bring him to church.  He sat with that family, a few rows in front of us pretty close to the front.  As soon as the first counselor turned the time over for testimonies to go down, LaiTaras stood straight up, preceded only by one person who had also jumped the gun.  Elder Burnett and I waited anxiously for LaiTaras's turn, and then it came.  He stood up and started preaching.  This is how he started: "Belief...(pause)...Belief...(pause)...Belief...(pause)..." and with his last pause I thought he was going to say it again.  After that he went into kind of a spew of words that didn't make sense together, and then he finally started making sense, made a few powerful statements, sang a line from "Amazing Grace" and then went and sat down.  The funny thing is that as soon as he sat down, both Elder Burnett and I had the thought, "I wonder if LaiTaras would dare stand up again."  Well, he did, and my heart dropped into my stomach as soon as he stood up.  That is the first time that I have ever seen someone stand up twice to bear their testimony.  Apparently he had not finished his thoughts, so he walked up their.  Brother Bishop stopped him and spoke with him for a sec, and then let him finish his testimony, which wasn't too crazy, just kind of out of place.  So that's went down, we had the gospel preached to us by a Mormon with a Baptist Preacher attitude.  

That was probably the highlight of the week.  We're going to see LaiTaras again today, and we're hoping at some point to be able to meet with his entire family.  We'll see what happens.

Thanks for all of the pictures of little Penny's baby blessing.  That little kidney bean is super cute, especially in her humongous dress.  That's way cool that that used to be Addie's dress and now little Penny is wearing it.  Super cute.  And Dad, congrats on your colonoscopy, I hope it was an enlightening experience.

Thanks much, you goons.  Keep being awesome!

Sincerely,

Jack

Week #31

Family!

This week has been a good week.  Especially because of yesterday, our Sunday was super boss.  Sister Beal finally came to church, even though she has told us at almost every meeting that we've had with her that she doesn't think that she will ever come back.  Liar!  But yeah, she came, and the LaiTaras Stokes came to all the meetings.  He is doing super well and we are getting a long ways with him, so I'm super happy.

So here's the scuttlebutt.  Within one week my visa went from step one to step four.  So it is technically ready to be picked up, meaning that the church probably will be jumping on that lickety-split.  Judging from my very precise calculations with absolutely no foundation whatsoever, I will probably be going to Brazil in a couple weeks or so.  Super exciting.  I should be staying in the office up until that point, with Elder Burnett as my companion, which should be fun because we are learning to get along really well.  Like I said before, we are both very particular about the way that we like things, and those things happen to just be completely opposite.  Our differences play upon our similarities.  So I almost have to try to be different than him so that I can be closer to him.  Super weird stuff.

So we attended a Marvin Goldstein performance this week, which was super cool.  He is in our stake and invited all of the missionaries in the Tallahassee area to attend one of his concerts at TCC, so we all got to go for free and hear some crazy piano-key magic this past Tuesday.  Something cool about him is that he actually plays on a regular basis at that church up in Brighton Canyon that Grandpa Copier built, and I actually talked to him about it.  It was a super cool performance, and I loved it.  

Hmm...I don't know what to say.  I feel like working in the office I never have anything to write to you all about, simply because it's pretty mundane.  Every so often I'll have some epiphany with some profound truth about something.  One thing that was pretty cool that I found in the Old Testament that I never realized before was how much in talks about baptism and the sacrament symbolically in the Book of Exodus.  Crossing the Red Sea under these huge heaps of water is like passing into the waters of baptism, leaving behind captivity in the land of Egypt and coming out into the promised land.  And then when the Israelites forget who had saved them, God makes sure to remind them by giving them bread and water, the sacrament.  It's all there!

There's not really anything else of too much significance.  Been setting lots of goals and moving steps closer.  I love my mission.  

Sincerely,

Jack









Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Week #30

Dear Family,

Prepare yourself, because I think I've cracked the secrets to the human mind, and by extension, the entire universe.  I do not exaggerate, so if you have heart problems, make sure to take it slowly.  Alright, maybe it's not so fantastic as all that, but I did have some pretty cool insights this week, some of which came from stuff I've been thinking about but it all kind of came together during Conference weekend.

So I had this thought about thoughts, and was thinking about the way we think.  All the companions that I've had so far have been different from one another and approach things differently and I understand a little bit better why.  Ask yourself this question: When I think to myself, what form do my thoughts have?  Are my thoughts more related to science or to art?  Do I think in shapes and colors, or numbers and lines, or words?  For me, I think in words, especially since I've been on my mission.  But Elder Burnett thinks like a movie, with all the elements of sound and visuals.  All of Elder Buchanan's thoughts have numerical values attached to them, and Elder Musgrave doesn't have any colors but thinks in designs.  That's something that I've never really thought before, that people not only see things in a different perspective or have different thoughts but literally the way that they think them is different.

Layer #2- The way we think is not always the way that we communicate.  Thinking and communicating are completely different things.  For example, an individual might think completely in images, but not be able to illustrate in the least, so must communicate their images with words.  Imagine how much information is lost in the translation!  Trying to send an image through an entirely different communicative medium.  It's madness!  The way that the think and the way that we communicate are completely different.  The information may not always directly correlate to its presentation.

Third Tier- Reception of the information.  If it weren't already bad enough that we had already lost so much information, you have to add into the formula the person receiving the information.  Imagine trying to explain chemistry using words to someone that thinks in shapes.  If you do not understand the way that an individual absorbs knowledge, it would be like speaking German to a Bushman.  

Now of course, no one thinks in only one way; the mind is terribly complex and has the capability of absorbing and retaining information by various means.  But it is my personal opinion that each person either has one dominant way of thinking or at least their own perfectly unique combination of multiple ways.  A person that can understand another's way of thinking and then either adjust his idea formulation or the way in which he communicates to meet their needs can have the most meaningful influence on that latter individual.  Making the connection between formulation, communication, and reception makes all the difference.  This can only come by the power of the Holy Ghost.  The gift of discernment is real!  That's exactly what it is, knowing with what people are struggling and how they perceive it.  

Super nuts, huh?  I hope it made sense, but this is a realization that I had this week that sometimes things that in word form sound perfectly clear in my head may or may not easily translate into the images of Elder Burnett's mind.  And vice versa.  But if you learn to think in all modes, as our Heavenly Father does, who sees both how we think on the inside and the way we act on the outside, and understands the information that was lost in translation, we can more fully learn to love everyone around us.  

Conference was super good this weekend.  I can't wait to go over the talks again and review them, because I know there is still a lot to be gleaned from them.  I'm not sure which one was my favorite over all, I need to go back and review.  I definitely felt the Spirit and was super excited to hear what the prophets and apostles had to say.  There were some throw down talks, especially Elder Oaks and Elder Christofferson.  

Well, there weren't really any events other than conference that stood out this week.  We did get one of our videos finished, and have plenty more that are currently being edited.  You can take a look at this first one, it was from when we went down and picked up trash in Crawfordville.  

Enjoy,
Love yall,
Sincerely,

Jack  










Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Week #29

Family,

Sorry that my letter is coming in so late.  Our P-day was a little bit skiwompus today.  We filmed with a lady from the service project that we did this weekend.  But I'm jumping ahead of myself, and I need to tell you a bit more about this week.

The highlight of this week was probably our service project that we had down in Crawfordville, which is about 30 miles south of Tallahassee.  Elders Murdoch and Shepherd, the elders down there, organized this service project for both of the Tallahassee Zones to help with the Keep Wakulla County Beautiful Coastal Cleanup.  It was super fun, basically what we did was we walked along the salty marshlands and picked up trash along the way.  I found a car drive line and we found a ton of beer bottles.  It was pretty fun because we got to venture into the underbrush a bit and pick up all sorts of stuff along the way.

It turned out to be pretty sketch though, because we saw a few snakes, all of which were poisonous. We saw two cottonmouths, pretty good size, and I almost got bitten by a little baby rattlesnake.  I reached down to pick up a piece of trash and then saw it slither a bit, so I jumped away and then looked back on it.  It was so small that it's rattle only sounded like any old southern bug buzzing away, so it's good that it was more scared of me than I was of it.  That definitely would have ruined my day, so I was a bit more wary of where I was walking and picking stuff up.  We got a lot of it on footage, so I'm sure you'll see it at some point.

Other than that we have been pretty much just been filming.  Transfers were this week, so we traveled around with all of the other missionaries and got some good footage.  I saw some old friends in different areas and made it all the way out to Pensacola for the first time, which was pretty exciting.  Transfers were nuts because we got 36 new missionaries into our mission, which is the equivalent of an entire zone.  And that's going to happen again next transfer.  Super nuts.  During the entire thing Elder Burnett was doing most of the filming, which I was a bit frustrated about, but it's all good because I'm not very good at it anyway.

I was a little bit frustrated this week because I haven't felt like I haven't been contributing much and the video is coming along slowly, but things are going to work out.  We are going to begin editing this week since the new computer finally arrived.  Elder Burnett will probably be doing most of the editing, and I'll be throwing in my two cents every so often, but like I said, that's alright.  Something that I've noticed about myself is that I'm very much a conceptual thinker, but when it comes down to the actual process of doing things it takes a bit for me to get into it.  Maybe it's a blessing or a curse, because I feel like a nefarious planner;  I love to just think and think and expand on an idea until it's completely exhausted and there is nothing left to do but to get it done.  Because of this I'm still leaning towards going into marketing, which I think I would be really successful at.

I actually have a new idea that I want to start implementing while Elder Burnett works on editing the film.  This is an idea that I haven't proposed to President yet, but I have thought about it quite a bit and I think that it will be successful.  There's all sorts of talk about the missionaries getting Facebooks, and also we have been working on these videos and collecting media, and there are ward and stake activities throughout Florida, and there are tons of resources online (Mormon.org and lds.org) that the Church has published in order to bring people to a greater understanding of who Jesus Christ is and how this is literally his church.  And all these things are great in and of themselves.  But a thought that I had was that perhaps, specifically for our mission, we could create a blog that links all of these things together, so that if an individual interacted with a missionary digitally, or found a ward event on a member-friend's Facebook, any of these things would lead that individual into the huge web of the Florida Tallahassee Mission and the missionaries in it and the things that they stand for and the doctrines that they teach.  That was a really long sentence, but I'm really excited about it.  Missionary work in the 21st century.

You want to hear the most ironic thing ever?  The hardest thing about having Elder Burnett as my companion is that he is too much like me.  We are both very particular in the way that we like things, and for some reason those things don't seem to align with each other.  I particularly like to be as low maintenance as possible, just chilling when there's time and not stressing out too much.  Elder Burnett is very high maintenance and isn't afraid to tell you that the food that you eat is going to kill you after you just spent thirty minutes preparing it.  It bugs the crap out of me because there are things in him that bother me and then I look at myself and realize that I do the exact same thing and I want to just slap myself and him simultaneously.  I don't like it.  It's probably the best thing for me, because I prayed for the Lord at some point to point out my weaknesses, but he's doing it in a way that I had not expected.  When they say the Lord answers prayers through other people, he means it.  

Well, that's about all that I've got for ya.  Hope I didn't bore your ears off.

Bye,

Jack

Week #28

Hey, I wrote a poem.  Here ya go:

Some people like to judge success
By how far in front of others they can get
But I'm willing to bet
That distance doesn't equal happiness.

Hmmm, I'm not really sure what else to write.  This week has pretty darn monotonous.  Actually, not really monotonous.  The best way I can describe it is like making a smoothie, made throughout the course of an entire week. You throw in your berries, which are sweet and good but when blended up they can't really stand alone.  Throw in a banana to thicken it up, to the point where everything kind of runs slowly and you can't really even tell that the blender is mixing except for the ugly noise that it's making.  Then you have to pour in some milk because it's too thick, and you kind of get a steady flow of things.  And then it's time to throw in the ice, which you would sooner not do, but you have to.  You put the ice in, and at first it doesn't change anything, until it slides down to the bottom and wacks the blade, making the entire liquid jump and making your ears hurt.  If you're not careful, the top comes loose and spews smoothie everywhere, but if you keep a lid on it, it stays nicely confined in its little pitcher.  And then, when the time comes, you can take off the lid and pour it out and savor it's deliciousness.  That's what a mission feels like.

Forgive me for speaking in parables.  If there were real words to describe what a mission is like, I'm not really sure what they are.  Hopefully my smoothie analogy made sense.

Pretty much the entire week was spent making plans for these films that we are going to make.  We begin filming this week after the long and arduous process that Elder Burnett terms "pre-production".  He's very professional.  That step of the process is super important though, so hopefully it gives us a smooth filming schedule for this and the upcoming week.  My guess will be not, simply because nothing good ever comes easy.  There have definitely been some frustrating moments, but it all seems to work out for the most part.  For real, this project we're working on must be inspired, because it's a miracle that this film is being developed by four natural men who have very different personalities and idiosyncrasies.  I think the hardest thing about my mission so far has been developing really good relationships with the people that it is most vital that you do so.  I've always done pretty well in social situations where I only have to spend a short period of time with people, but it's surprising how hard it can be to love someone when you live with them.  I'm definitely going to need to get that one worked out.

We had a really good visit with the Harris family this week.  Brother Harris played basketball all  over the world, so he told us stories about playing in Colombia, Australia, Syria, and some other places, which is super cool.  They have a legit family and are working to get to the temple, so I'm super excited for them.  We also visited with Brother Rod Gorby, a single member who is a recent convert and an organ-playing genius.  It's always fun to go to his house and listen to him play the organ with the scent of burnt veggie-burgers in the air.  He's a great guy and really loves the church.

Well, that's all I got.  I'll be sure to send you the video when we're done, but it might be kind of a while. Patience.

Sincerely,
Elder Jon Hendrik Vawdrey



Week #27

Dear Fam,

What the devil, I'm an Uncle!  With a capitol "U"!  I can already sense the imaginary, self-bestowed responsibilities descending upon me.  Being an uncle is the best!  Thanks for all the pictures of little baby Penny, she was super cute and looks just like Calvin.  And I can't wait for when her hair turns a fiery red.  Maybe Addie will give her a perm like she had when she was little.  We'll have a little Annie and Cal can be Daddy Warbucks.

So this week has been nnnuuts.  We were filming some more for this project that we were working on, which is pretty much taking up all of our time.  Elder Buchanan and Jolley moved into their own apartment, so it's just me and good old Elder Burnett living large.  We've had some struggles, since we both still have a ton to learn, but I know it's going to turn out for the best in the end.  

Like I said we did a lot of filming this week, including interviews, scene shooting, and the best one of all, filming a Joseph Smith Presentation in Fort Walton Beach.  Fort Walton Beach is like 3 hours from Tallahassee, so we traveled out there Saturday evening and attended their rehearsal.  It was boss, I got the shivers all over.  President Smith had really wanted us to film this performance since their were quite a few missionaries involved, but there was some issues because the performance was being done in the chapel and normally you're not allowed to film in a chapel.  We mentioned this to President before we traveled there, but he wasn't able to get it taken care of by the time we got there.  So there was a bit of a hubbub about whether or not we would be able to film anything.  President Smith ended up getting special permission from the area seventy, Elder Munns, allowing us to film the presentation.  

So we stayed that Saturday night and the next day we just attended church there and enjoyed the day with the Fort Walton elders.  We filmed at the end of the night and it turned out super good, but it was so late by the time we left that we didn't get back to Tallahassee until 12:30 pm.  So I'm a bit tired.  Earlier this week we also had to wake up at 5 am to go film some elders doing their morning routine, and then we filmed some sisters making breakfast and such.  It's a good thing that Elder Burnett knows a lot actual filming, because I guess my knowledge of it is more conceptual.  It's working out really well.

We also got to help out with a Family History Booth at the FSU game this weekend, which was really cool.  I think by the end of the day we had received about 30 nonmember referrals for missionaries to come back and talk with them.  Super legit.  

Well, I don't have too much more to tell you all.  Thanks for your letters and all the pictures of little baby Penny.  So Cute!  I'm so excited for you, Addie and Cal, you are going to be great parents.  That little fiery angel is going to be so spoiled.

Sincerely,

Elder Jon Hendrik Vawdrey

Elder Vawdrey's new niece Penny


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Week #26

Dear Familius,

Good heavens!  I am so excited to be writing you right now!  I'm sorry that my letter was poopy last week; I felt a little poopy, but I'm doing way better now.  

So here's the scuttlebutt.  Still in Florida, still doing some film stuff, still slowly learning a ton about myself, and currently conditioning myself to my new companion.  I'm not sure if I mentioned him last week, but Elder Burnett joined our companionship last week.  We are now in a quad-panionship, which is super epic, except for getting ready in the morning with one bathroom.  We manage pretty well though.

Here are the deets on Elder Burnett.  We're very much alike, but still super different.  We both like film and such, but he's still making plans to go into film, whereas I am not.  It's kind of weirdly deja-vu, because since we're so similar, and he's been out a couple of months less than me, I can look at where he is and realize, "Whoa, I was there at one point and have come a long way."  It can be pretty funny; for example, he doesn't really like it when I sing secular music, but he doesn't want to say it outright, so he just starts whistling hymns.  I usually sing louder, because I'm hoping that he'll lighten up at some point.
 That's nothing on him, there's a bunch of stuff that you learn on a mission but it just comes with time.  I think one of the hardest lessons that I'm still trying to learn is to be comfortable and confident with myself and my own relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ despite the company that I find myself in.  I've noticed that when I'm around negative people, I kind of just go into defense mode, and you can't really love someone if you're trying to point out their problems and justify yourself.  I just want to be comfortable with who I am and speak boldly about how I feel to everybody.

There is one elder in this mission who is just like that, and I look up to him so much.  His name is Elder Musgrave, from Centerville, Utah, and the thing that I love about him is that no matter who you are or what your opinions are, and no matter how little time you spend with him, you feel better about yourself after having spoken with him.   That's the kind of person that I want to be.  It's not too hard when you're around people that you love, but I want to learn to do it for people that I don't necessarily love.  Or maybe you just have to love everyone.  Idunno, like I said, I've got a ways to go.  


We have been working on the video project a lot more.  I am getting super excited about it.  During our zone conference this week, President Smith was talking about more unconventional ways to reach out and do missionary work, such as family history and using technology and such.  It was so exciting I started shaking.  Elder Burnett and I actually went and visited with President and Sister Smith afterwards and laid out all of our ideas for them, and they were excited too.  Everyone's excited!

Elder Burnett has way more experience in film than I do, so I'm super grateful that he is here.  He is having all of his filming equipment shipped out here from Idaho and it should show up in the middle of this week hopefully.  We've been bouncing ideas back and forth, scripting, storyboarding, and all that junk.  We make a good team because I don't really have the expertise to nail down the process of what needs to be done in order to complete a production (which he does have), but I love to imagine and talk about that kind of stuff.  I will definitely send a finished copy as soon as possible.  It should probably be done in about a month, for the big introductory video.

I don't have too many events to share with you all.  I have decided that I want to learn how to play the piano.  Amen.

All of you are fantastic, and I'm so grateful to hear from you.  Living it up at the Brighton Chalets must be super fun.  The stake president mentioned in stake conference the chapel that Grandpa Copier built up by the chalets, so I went and talked to him about it afterwards.  President Burton visited that chapel when Martin Goldstein was playing the piano there, who, by the way, is also in our stake.  

See ya at some point,
Elder Jon Hendrik Vawdrey


PS: I was reading in my journal the other day, and I kind of sounded like a noob.  I'm sorry if I ever subjected y'all to that, please don't hold it against me.



JV3

Week #25

Family!
It's been good to hear from you and I hope that everything is going well.  From what I can tell it has been super busy and you all have a ton or stuff to do, So I hope you don't go crazy.  

We've been having a good time here.  We just got another companion, Elder Burnett, so we're currently rocking a quad-panionship.  It's pretty crazy since we only have one bedroom and bathroom, but we're doing alright.  Elder Buchanan and Elder Jolley are going to be travelling this week to work on housing for new missionaries, and Elder Burnett and I are going to stay here and work on the video.

I am super glad that Elder Burnett came, because we quickly found that we were basically twins.  We have very similar tastes and get along really well, so we'll have some fun for the rest of this transfer.  I'll send a picture at some point; he's a boss.

Because our quad-panionship has been designated as being office elders, we haven't been able to teach too much, but since there are four of us now we can kind of split up the office work and have half of us go out at a time.  Yesterday Elder Burnett and I went out to find a less-active family that had not been contacted for a while to see what the deal was.  When we went the family invited us in and we were able to eat dinner with them.  It was super good; the first time I've ever had smoked herring and grits.  They don't have grits out west, so I'll have to send some to you, because they're super good.  

I'm sorry that I don't have a ton to report, we've just been working on the video, making preparations for when Elder Burnett's equipment shows up.  He is a lot more involved in film than I am, so he sent home for his camera and some of his stuff and we're going to have some real fun.  When we finish the video, I'm sure that y'all will be able to watch it.

Love you so much,

Jack

Saturday, August 24, 2013

More Pictures!






Week #24

Dear Family,

We began filming the video this week, and I am pretty freaking stoked.  Since we are going to be filming hopefully every missionary in the mission, we get to travel to different places and film the areas and interview the missionaries in them.  It's been way fun so far; we spent the night in Crestview and interviewed in Fort Walton, and everyone's testimony is so great.  I've gotten a few shifty looks from the other missionaries when we start to explain what we're doing (we're still not exactly sure), but I've been getting shifty looks my entire life, so it's not really anything different.  We won't be travelling a ton this week, but next week we go to Mobile and Pascagoula.  Hopefully we can stop along the way and get some footage of the legendary white sands beaches that everyone down here talks about.   

Our apartment is nice and cozy with the three of us, but it would probably be more comfortable if it were a touch bigger.  We have to use a bunk bed to have enough space, and Elder Buchanan hit is back on the moving ceiling fan while getting into bed last night, and then in the morning nailed his forehead with that same fan when he was getting out.  Needless to say, we're a little cramped, but we have a great companionship.  Elder Buchanan was a competitive road-cyclist, so he is very much health conscious and makes sure that we eat well.  We eat pasta pretty much everyday, with a salad or something and munch on some carrots.  It's good because otherwise I would probably gain a lot of weight, being either sitting in the office for the majority of the day or driving in a car eating fast food.  Gotta keep my weight down, some elders here gain like 30 pounds, which is not what I'm planning on.

So I've got some interesting insight for all of you.  It's crazy how funny the world is when you take a minute to just observe things.  So one of my companions has been having some issues, in a urological sense you might say. We went to the urologist the other day, and it was just so funny to sit back and watch the different types of people that came in.  We had a to come back a couple of times that day, so I saw just about every type of people coming in.  And the thing about a urological clinic that's so funny is that it's a leveling ground.  No matter how rich or poor or white or black or angry or happy or classy you are, as soon as you walk into that clinic up to that desk asking for an appointment, everyone knows with certainty that you have a problem that you would rather not talk about.  Except for the old people, they love talking about it.  For them the urologist is some sort of club, because there are so many old people there.  They walk up to the front desk and now all of the secretaries by name.  It was super funny to just sit there and watch.

Well, I hope my letter put a twinkle in your eye and a song in your heart, and maybe a grin on your face and a virtuous thought in your head.  Just don't get hung up on the fact that the longest paragraph in my entire letter was talking about a trip to the urologist.  I promise, my mental capacities are very much devoted to the work.  We're just not really teaching since our time is spent on filming and planning and moving elders, and finding apartments was just added to the list.  It's solid.

I love you all.  I can't believe school is starting again.  Time goes by super fast.

Sincerely,

Elder Jon Hendrik Vawdrey

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

New Pictures!












Week #23

Dear Family,

So I have quite an update for you.  I told you last week that I was going to be transferred back to Tallahassee, and I thought that I would be having a pretty traditional 6 weeks of missionary magic, but not at all.  I was informed by Elder Buchanan that I would be an office elder, which sounded kind of lame at first.  I've never really been one to answer phones and fill out forms; not really my cup of tea.  But, all my negative speculation was wasted, because I found out that President Smith had a boss of a project in mind for us.

We are making a mission video!  President Smith was reading through bios and talking with the assistants and found out that I had had some experience in filming and editing, so that's why they assigned me hear in Tallahassee as an office elder.  The work that we are going to be doing this transfer is going to be a bit more nontraditional missionary work.  We will be travelling all over the panhandle of Florida, filming different landscapes and interviewing missionaries, and then will spend the rest of the time compiling all of the media that we have collected into one super legit video to represent what it is like serving as a missionary in the Florida Tallahassee mission.  It's going to be gnarly, and I'm so stoked. 

I am a little bit sad that we won't be doing a lot of teaching, simply because our time will be absorbed into this project.  The video is meant to inspire new missionaries coming into this mission and will be sent off with those going home.  Some segments might also be used in local wards, events, Facebook and such to show what it is like to be a missionary and a Mormon in Florida.  So even though we are not directly teaching the people, we're hoping to connect with a lot of different groups and get them interested. 

Crazy, huh?  I never thought that I would be doing this on my mission, but it's going to be super fun.

I'm still learning a lot about the gospel, which is the best.  It's kind of funny how the more you study, the more you know, but you feel like you know less in comparison to how much information is out there in the world.  There's a lot to learn, especially in Preach My Gospel, which is super simple, but is completely applicable beyond the boundaries of missionary work, at least I would say.  Look at the last half of the manual and you'll see how.  Mom, PMG is probably way applicable to any teaching job that you might get, and Dad, PMG talks a ton about planning and dealing with people and such.  It's probably stuff that the two of you have already figured out, but it's definitely something to look at.  I'm seeing more and more how much what I am learning in the field extends beyond to what I want to do in the future, and I'm loving it. 

I can't believe that Addie is going to have her baby soon!  Please send me a ton of pictures of little baby Penny so I can see Addie's posterity.

You all are the best!  Thanks for the letters, and I hope you are doing well!

Sincerely,

Elder Jon Hendrik Vawdrey

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Week #22

Familius,

So I checked my visa status.  Hasn't changed.  I think I'm just gonna chill in Florida for a while.  Whatevs.

So I think one of the most interesting parts of my week this week was going on trade offs up to Bainbridge, Georgia with good old Elder Kapp and Elder Lovell, which was definitely an experience.  It was definitely a day to remember.  Elder Kapp is somewhat of a larger kid who (not to sound rude) is kind of a mama's boy.  I think the highlight of the entire exchange was when he looked at me right before we started companionship study and said, "Ugh, I've been throwing up in my mouth ever since we started personal study."  I was grateful that he kept me informed.  I'll include a picture of him for you, and you can judge for yourself.

Elder Lovell is super legit, I really like him.  He is partially blind; I think his condition is equivalent to tunnel vision, but he is really an awesome missionary.  I look up to him a lot because he is really excited to be serving and is especially grateful to be doing so because he was not sure if he ever would be able to.  He's a boss and I really admire him.  

We found out about transfers today, and I will be moving to Tallahassee again.  This time it will be English-speaking, with Elder Buchanan and Elder Jolly.  We'll see how that goes down.  

So, there are definitely some characters here in Marianna, and I think one of my favorites was Lorenzo Johnson.  So you'd think that in a church ward in the South that there would be more black people.  Not really.  Lorenzo Johnson is the only black member, at least that I know of.  He was baptized about 25 years ago and attends sacrament every so often.  Basically, he is like James Earl Jones talking about the Bible; he has to be inspired by the Spirit of God, because he will randomly call us up when the three of us happen to feel down about the work, and then just show up at our house and blow our minds with the scriptures.  We count it as a less-active lesson, but we pretty much just sit there and let him inject gospel knowledge into our brains.

Miss June Laramore is another one of my favorites.  I don't remember if I told you about her, but she was a lady that we knocked on her door two times and kept telling us to come back, and we would, never knowing her name.  We were about to give up on her, but then she finally let us in and we found out that she was related to almost half the ward.  So we've been visiting with her a little bit here and there, even though we haven't been able to teach her yet.  The last time we went over, one of her sisters, Jane, was visiting, and they are crazy together.  I'm convinced that this is how Addie and Ellie are going to be when they are older: loving each other, but giving each other the hardest time.  Addie will be Jane, a little bit more on the eccentric side, and Ellie will be June, who takes the teasing defensively but loves it.  It was a fun time.  June showed us her night stick that she carries around when she goes walking and told us a lot about her family. 

We had a super awesome experience the other day.  We were out tracting on Saturday, trying to invite someone to teach so that we could avoid the rain before it hit.  We were "tracting by the Spirit", meaning that we were knocking on doors that didn't look like they were running a narcotics market in the backyard.  We knocked on this white, cinder block house with a blue roof, not thinking anything of it, and Reverend James Turner answers the door.  We talked to him for a bit, and he was really friendly, but was on the verge of banishing us back to our stroll around the block when God decided to make a move.  When it rains in Florida, it is like God emptying his tub water, it rains so much.  Reverend Turner had us come squeeze under the porch at first, trying to keep us out of the rain while at the same time avoiding letting us in, but eventually he invited us into his home.  We sat down at his table and from there forward had a stellar discussion with him.  He told us not to be discouraged because we were planting seeds and that in the long run people would be greatly affected by what we had to offer.  I don't know if it will end up going anywhere, but we were able to dispel some anti-Mormon myths.  Before we left, we all held hands and said a prayer, and Reverend Turner made a special petition to the Lord that I would have success in Brazil.  Super fun.  

I leave Marianna on Wednesday, but I'm gonna have some great memories.  Stuff like eating green chicken calzones with Mr. Mike the bomb defuser and his toothless sister Dee and Elder Bochenek telling us scary stories before we go to bed so that I'm freaking out when it's time to sleep.  Oh, and I can't forget Cat-Piss Mark and Ringworm Belinda.  I think that the people that I will miss most of all will be my two companions, who have just been awesome.  Elder Taylor and I are going to live it up when I get back to school in California.  I don't know if I'll ever see Elder Bochenek ever again; maybe if the stars align just right, but he is one of my favorite human beings ever.  I have learned a ton from the two of them, probably more so than any of my other companions.  They helped me to not be a square.  

I hope my letter made you chuckle,
Sincerely,
Elder Jon Hendrik Vawdrey