Thursday, March 28, 2013

Paparazzi Pic of Elder Vawdrey!

A paparazzi found Elder Vawdrey! Ha ha just kidding! Our neighbor was dropping of his niece at the MTC and spotted Jack there and snapped a picture of him. Thanks Brock!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Week 5

Dearest Family,
Craziness has been ensuing for the last few days.  I am officially part of the history of this work moving forward.  On Sunday, we had a visit in our sacrament meeting from one of the Mission Presidency, who informed us that our branch had grown to big, and that they had to split it.  That has never happened before.  More additional branches have been added to prepare for new incoming missionaries, but the MTC has never had to split a branch before.  Crazy stuff.  And when they split our branch in half, we lost our Zone Leaders over to the other branch, so Elder Young and I have been given the opportunity to serve as Zone Leaders for our last week here.  Super exciting, but super busy.  It is going to be a great experience and I love being able to welcome all of the new missionaries in. 
So many new missionaries are coming, especially sisters, which is so great.  I think right now the MTC is about 40% sisters, but eventually it is supposed to even out at 50 50.  The work is moving forward so quick.
So far there hasn't been any news about my visa, so we will get our reassignments hopefully tomorrow.  I will let you know where I will be going as soon as I get them, but I am definitely crossing my fingers for some California sunshine.  But it would be pretty delightful to go to New York as well, because I know that they have some Portuguese-speaking missions there.  But wherever, I am just so excited to go teach people.  Teacher our teachers as investigators here is fun, but I am ready to share some gospel with the world.
The language is coming really well.  Eu posso falar Portugues muito bem, mas quando eu chegar em Brasil, sera muito mais dificil.  Forgive the grammar, because I can't do accents on this keyboard.  I am soopsocks excited to be teaching in that language.  Elder Young is doing really well with the language as well, so I hope that at some point I might be able to be his companion in the mission field, after we are both a little more seasoned.  But I am beginning to think, because of the progression of the work, that that may never happen.  Three months into my mission, I might be training brand new missionaries simply because the new missionaries will outnumber the older.
I am almost finished with the Book of Mormon again.  Our branch presidency made the challenge for us to finish while in the MTC, and I am currently in mid 3rd Nephi, so I am on track to finish it up before I leave.  It has been an amazing experience, and I am developing a stronger love for the Book of Mormon.
I am running out of things to say... Every day here seems a lot like the other.  Not in a boring way, though.  You feel the Spirit strongly every day, so it is a rare occasion when one spiritual experience asserts itself more powerfully than another.  I have had a few like that though.  One in particular was in the first couple of weeks since I have been here.  I had been praying about some specific questions for the first couple of weeks and looking for answers.  It was during one of the devotionals that are given, and every single speaker touched on my concerns, and I was able to feel at great peace.  The Spirit was tangible, and I know that I was literally being touched by a power of righteousness that testifies of truth and gives answers.  Perhaps I will tell you some more later, or maybe you can just read them in my journals when I am dead.  One of those.
I am very much excited for all of the flowers to finally come out.  There are some tulips and daffodils that are just about to bloom all over campus, so once they do, I might just have to go sit outside amongst the flowers every once in a while.  Mom, I have to say that I am definitely going to miss your beautiful arrangements of flowers in the front yard, and am really sad that I won't be able to smell the fragrant blossoms on that tree next to the driveway.  Our house always looked the very best in the spring.  When I come home, that will be a welcome sight: coming home to the house as it is just getting ready to bloom in full splendor.  That will be phenomenal. 
I love all of you, and love to hear from you.  I know that being out here is the best thing that I could be doing right now, and love the spiritual atmosphere.  Let's hope that I will carry that with me when I leave to go out into the field.  I want to be able to bring at least a little piece of that into every home that I visit.  Even as Samuel the Lamanite said (paraphrasing) "I experienced such glad tidings by these things, so I have come to share these glad tidings with you." (Helaman Something : something)
Love you,
Elder Jon Hendrik Vawdrey

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Week 4

Dear Family,

I cannot believe that I have already been in the mission field for a month.  If it keeps going at this rate, after 2 years it will feel like I was only away from home for 2 weeks.  But still, the learning and experience is so dense that there is never a moment to be wasted. Things have been going super well for the past week.  We recently receive a new District Leader, Elder Adams.  He is from Aurora, Utah and is one of the friendliest elders that I have ever met.  He is 23 years old, and just recently decided that he wanted to come on a mission.  He is a great missionary, and I am so glad that he is here and is our new district leader. I am continuing in our branch goal to finish the Book of Mormon before we leave the MTC, and I am getting close.  I am almost finished with Alma, and I think that I have gotten more out of this reading of the Book of Mormon than I ever have before.

Ooh, update on my investigators.  I have got a good story.  So we have two investigators, Renato and Taina, and it has been so fun being able to teach them.  But we found out a fun secret about Renato last week, and it made for some interesting instructional maneuvers.  He had hastily moved into our area from Sao Paulo, and we were never sure why he had left so quickly.  We found out.  A specific day we were teaching about the doctrine of Christ, specifically about repentance.  "You can become clean of all of your sins, no matter what!" we said.  And he was really excited.  And this is why.  We found out that the reason that he had fled Sao Paulo in such haste was because he had gotten involved in some dirty dealings, was a "traficante", and had ended up shooting a man three times in the chest.  The man didn't die, but this was the reason why he had left Sao Paulo.  Elder Young and I were unphased.  Number 1: I was the one that understood the majority of what was going on; Elder Young didn't really have any idea.  Number 2: We just wanted a baptism.  "Yeah, Renato, don't worry about those things, you can be clean."  So we ventured on, unperturbed, to invite him to be baptized.  He agreed, and we left feeling good.

Like 6 minutes after, I realized what we had done.  I wasn't really sure what the rules were concerning those that had committed serious sins, but I knew there was something.  So after I explained the situation to Elder Young, we looked it up.  And we found an answer.  Now that I look back on it, it is actually really funny, simply because for everything that you are not supposed to do when someone has committed a serious sin, we did.  We promised that he could be forgiven for all of his sins, we invited him to be baptized, and we set a definite baptismal date, all of which we shouldn't have done.  Good heavens. I am really glad that we had this experience in the MTC though, before it actually counts.  We have had another lesson with Renato since then, and we just straightly told him how things were and then invited him to meet with the mission president.  If things go well with the mission president, he can be baptized. Irmao Pinho, our teacher that is acting as Renato, was having a ball.  This is one of his favorite investigators to act as because it teaches an important lesson.  Renato was one of Irmao Pinho's investigators in Brazil, so when we are finished teaching him he is going to tell us the full story of what happened with him.

We went to the temple today, which is always fun, except I got a little distracted.  One of the temple workers looked like Gene Wilder, so I was thinking about Stir Crazy for a while. We got new roommates!  Elder Young and I are no longer alone, which is probably good, since sometimes we get way too hyper.  But so far it hasn't really slowed us down.  Yesterday, after gym time, we were singing in the showers extremely loud, and then this slowly transferred into our room where we were singing at the top of our lungs.  Elder Rieman and Elder Heward are great roommates, especially since they put up with us. 
Okay, spiritual thought.  The other day, after our Sunday night devotional, we had a film to watch, and I went and saw a talk by Elder Bednar about the Character of Christ.  I think I remember Elder Bednar giving this talk in conference at some point, but this film was of him giving the talk at the MTC.  It was fantastic.  The main idea of the talk was that when we, as natural men, would be inclined to turn inwards and think about ourselves, Christ instead turns outward and looks for opportunities to help others.  It is such a simple concept, but I am thinking that this simple idea is going to change the rest of my mission.  Just for the rest of the following day, when ever I felt that i was turning inward and becoming frustrated and prideful, I would turn outward and try to think of someone else.  This made all the difference.  This doctrine is so important, and I am so happy for the opportunity to be on a mission where literally everything that I do can be for someone else.  This is probably the only time in my life that I can really do that, or at least do that to this large of an extent.  I get to be an instrument in the hands of the Lord. 
I love you all, and wish you luck.  I am praying for you!

Elder Vawdrey

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Week 3

Dear Family,

Just gotta say, after seeing those pictures of Andy, I am not very happy that you decided to get a dog right before I left.  That is the cutest, most fun looking dog, and I am very much jealous.  All I have is Elder Young. I'm just teasing, Elder Young is amazing.  We are still getting along super well, singing Les Miserables and Disney music.  We always have a good time. 

It is crazy how fast things move here.  I am sure I've sad that a thousand times, but it is true.  One week you get here, and then in a blink you are halfway through the MTC.  Some of the older districts are leaving, which is sad to see them go.  But it is good.  Some have even starting getting their visas in time to head out straight for Brazil instead of being reassigned.  But I will be fine with whatever happens.  Honestly, I could see some benefits from teaching in English first, but it might be difficult, because I have yet to give a lesson in English.  All in Portuguese.  It is a beautiful language.

This week was pretty much like any week. Let me update you on Elder Wells from Wellsville, that huge ox.  At one point I was sincerely scared for my life because he was super mad at me.  At it was about something minor, too.  I was getting out of the shower, and he was trying to whip me with his towel, so I ran into my room and shut the door.  And then he wanted me to come out so he could show me his bruised ankle, but I was in the middle of changing, so I told him no.  He started banging on the door, and I thought it would fall down, because that kid is huge.  He is a sensitive guy.  So the next couple of days when he was still mad at me, I was a little afraid.  But then he forgot why he was mad, and then he came into my room and we did some puzzles that I found in a Narnia Hole in my room.

Elder Holland was in our classroom building, or so the rumor says.  I never saw him, but some of the sisters in our zone did.
Our branch presidency is super awesome.  President Hodges went on a mission to New Zealand, so he likes rugby.  Brother Brough always wears that frown that our family does that Jameson can't do, and he blinks incessantly.  Brother Bartholemew is like a leathery bald old man that jokes and laughs like a schoolboy.  And they just recently added a new counselor because we are adding 26 new missionaries to our zone on Wednesday.

I am still safe from breaking anything during basketball, but it is a dangerous game.  Totally worth it though.  Except when the lines are too long, I just step in and destroy in four-square.  Elder Young usually goes running.

Umm, what else.  I see Elder Howell a lot.  His Czech seems to be coming along pretty well.  He's a goofball.

I am running out of things to say.  Which is weird, because I already have a ton of stuff to write in my journals, but it i don't really know what to say to other people.  Especially when I am under a time limit.  But seriously, I write so much in my journals.  I have already filled one of my study journals in the 3 weeks that I have been here.  And then my personal journal is coming along well.  I had to go by some new ones from the bookstore.

We went to the temple today, which is always spectacular.  We get to go every P-day.  I love just being able to go there and empty my mind and feel the Spirit.  I have noticed that the main way that the Spirit speaks to me is through thoughts as I read the Book of Mormon, but when I am at the temple or smelling flowers outside or just sitting, it can be nice to just let your mind go blank and just feel what the Spirit wants you to feel.  The Spirit is super strong here, and I love it.
Sorry that I am not super inspirational.  Maybe you can read my journals at some point, but probably not.
Love you all!
Elder Jon Hendrik Vawdrey

Week 2

Hey Everyone!

Things are going great here at the MTC.  Elder Ballard came and gave a devotional last Tuesday, and we're going to have another one tonight.  Hopefully it will be another General Authority.  Elder Young and I have been doing really well together.  We just went to get him a haircut, and let's just say, i hope I can avoid getting one while I am here.  He looks a little bit like a jarhead, and I don't want to end up in Brazil looking like that.  But things are great.

My Portuguese is going well.  Eu posso falar muito bem,  e um dos meus professores foi pleased.  Irmao Pinho is really cool.  Did I tell you about how I was teaching a practice investigator last week?  That was Amadeo, and when we finished teaching him we found out that he was going to be our second teacher.  Irma Ricks is really cool as well, but completely different from Irmao Pinho.  We had our first practice lesson with her, and it was probably one of the scariest things I've ever done.  She was Evangelical, and was telling us about how she only believes in the Bible and that she doesn't think anything can be added to it.  I tried to reference the scripture in Ezekiel 16-17, but my scriptures were in Portuguese, and I forgot the verse number.  I ended up just guessing that it was 11-12, which is about bones coming together and forming a body again.  And since I didn't understand her when she read it, I just went on with my explanation.  She looked so confused.  Elder Young and I came out scared out of our minds, but I think that it was really helpful, and when I get to my mission, I hope that I'll be able to speak with power to every Evangelical that I meet.  My friend, Elder Gannaway, shared this quote with me: "If you want to baptize a few people, talk to a few people.  If you want to baptize a lot, talk to a lot.  If you want to baptize everybody, talk to everybody.

I've been taking a lot of notes in my study journal, and making a good effort to write in my daily journal.  I had to go get a new study journal because the one that i bought is already full.  Getting my share of the Spirit.
Once again, I have to tell you that basquete (basketball) is one of the best times of day.  I play every day, and so far I haven't gotten hurt.  One kid tore his ACL playing yesterday, and an elder in my district dislocated his shoulder when he fell playing four square.  The elder that tore his ACL is Elder Wells, the ox of a missionary that I told you about before.  He is awesome, and I hope he gets better,   He's going to Cabo Verde, off the coast of Africa, and he told me this saying that his friend wrote to him: Roses are red, violets are blue, there are lots of whites in Africa, and now one white dude.  Seriously though, he is going to stand out like a sore thumb: 6' 3" and 260 plbs of white man.

They have this thing at the MTC in the residence halls where departing missionaries will leave behind treasures in their rooms.  They leave them in places called Narnia holes, such as air vents or behind outlets; it's pretty gnarly.  So Elder Young and i started a new one.  We found this notebook in a drawer in our room that was empty with a sparkly gold cover, so we titled it the Lost 116 pages of Nephi, and we each wrote a short little note in it.  We're going to leave it behind and hope that it continues on and many more people write in it.  But only on P Day, of course.

At this point, Elder Young and I have the room to ourselves, but that will probably change tomorrow.  They put more mattresses in our room on the bunkbeds, so we could get up to four new elders into our room.  Which would be both good and bad.  It's kind of nice that Elder Young can talk late into the night, which we might not feel so comfortable doing with new elders.  But who knows, maybe they will be awesome.
Oh, I found out some stuff about Brazil.  Brother Pinho is Brazilian, so he told us about it.  Apparently Riberao Preto is the best mission when it comes to buying things inexpensively and just being able to find products in general.  He says that no where else than the state of Sao Paulo do they have things like cottage or cream cheese, but they have it there.  I was pleased.  In Brazil, you don't knock on doors.  Instead you stand outside someone's gate until clap until they acknowledge you and welcome you in.  If you want to get a drink of water or get out of the rain, you can go to just about anyone's house and ask to come in, and then they'll invite you in and offer you food and a seat.  We were telling some yo mama jokes during class, and Brother Pinho told us to never tell them in Brazil.  People will instantly dislike you.  According to him, the priority of respect is first mothers and then God.  It sounds like such a fun place.

It's looking like our visas won't come by the time the 6 weeks is up, so we will probably be reassigned for a while.  Which is fine.  It'll be nice to practice teaching in English first.  Practice bringing the Spirit to those Evangelicals, so when I get back to USC I can go convert those fools that railled on me for being a Mormon. 
Hey, I guessed on Addie and Ellie's emails, so if they're not correct, please send them to me.
I am learning a ton, and a ton of my questions have been answered throught the Spirit.  I love being on a misssion.

Hope to here from you guys some more!
With love,
Elder Vawdrey

Elder Vawdrey's First Email!

Dearest Poppy and Moedur,

I am sorry that you haven't heard from me yet, but prepare to be pleasantly surprised.  Including this email, you will probably be getting three letters in the next few days. I am sorry that  I didn't write sooner, but today is my P-day.  I have been adjusting, getting used to the time schedule to make sure that I am obeying with exactness.
So, I suppose I'll give you an overview of what is going on here, since you haven't received any of my letters yet.
My companion is Elder Young.  He's from Layton and was a student body officer at his high school.  He has been involved in theater stuff for most of his life from what I understand, so there have been some conversations concerning that.  He's just a little guy, and we get along really well. 
Our first week in, with only a couple of days of experience, our teacher, Irma Ricks, had us teach an "investigator" completely in Portuguese.  I really enjoy how we're just jumping immediately into the work; it has helped me to pick things up quickly.  Meu Portugues e muito bom.  The first words that we learned here were "Tudo bem", which essentially means anything that you want it to.  The pronunciation of words is so much fun, and it makes the language somewhat difficult but very fun to speak.
Like I said, we've been teaching this investigator named Amadeo.  I think at some point he is going to be our teacher, but for now he is our practice investigator.  So far we have taught him about prayer, the Restoration, and the Book of Mormon.  It is surprising how quickly I can pick up the language.  Spanish has helped a lot, and even though some Spanish words that aren't Portuguese slip into my lessons, Amadeo is really helpful. 
Other than study time, probably the best time of day is gym time.  Basquete (Basketball) is the ish at the MTC.  It is so fun.  There is one elder in my zone, Elder Wells from Wellsville, and this kid is an ox.  He has worked on a farm his whole life, and weighs about 260 lbs.   And we are the power duo whenever we play basketball.  Which means that whenever I miss my shots, he takes up all the space under the basket and just keeps rebounding until it goes in.  We've developed quite the brotherly relationship.  He told me today that he drinks milk that comes directly from the cow, and his favorite words in Portuguese are "Tenho fome".  It's great fun.
Our previous Zone Leaders left yesterday.  They were supposed to go to Joao Pessoa and Rasife, Brazil, I think, but for now they have been reassigned to St. Louis.  They are really excited, and I can see why.  They have the chance to teach in English and develop a dynamic there, and then transfer that over into Portuguese.   They are awesome, and I was always amazed at the fact that they are my age.
What else... So far I have seen Elder Howell, Elder Taylor Larsen, Elder Spencer Crithfield, Elder Jay Mortimer.  I saw Elder Larsen for the first time this morning, 15 minutes before he was leaving to the airport to fly to Washington.  It was a good stroke of luck.  We had the chance to go the temple today, which was cool because we went as a district.  We have 13 elders in our district, all going to Brazil.  In district 54A, the other district that came in the same time, most are going to Cabo Verde, but a couple of them are going to Brazil.  Others in our zone are going to Mozambique and Angola, Portuguese speaking.
We have a good branch president, Presidente Hodges.  A couple of days in, his wife, Sister Hodges gave us the locking your heart talk.  The only allowed contact between a boy and a girl is a two-pump handshake; no lingering or daudling, just two pumps and step away.  All the leaders here take it extremely seriously, which is nice.  I am glad that the girls are here to actually serve missions, and I have yet to see a girl who was being flirtatious with an elder, which is fantastic.  You know how I feel about flirtatious girls. 
I'm trying to take a lot of pictures, but I don't really carry my camera around.  I've gotten a few good ones, and I've made some good friends.  Elder Gannoway is our district leader, and he is a great example to all of us.  He keeps us on course, is always looking for opportunities to study and learn more, and truly is a consecrated missionary.  He is giving everything that he has for this mission, and I hope that I can follow in his footsteps. 
We have a devotional tonight, and I think a general authority is coming, which I am really excited for.  But it's a bout time for me to go.  I hope my long spiel has eased some of your pain, because I love being able to hear from you guys at night.  Your letters are the best. 
Love you so much!
Elder Vawdrey