Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Week #10


It is so great to get updates about the greenhouse and everything that is going down in Utah.  That is super awesome about Fong getting baptized.  I always loved that guy.  It just goes to show that the Lord sends you different places for a reason.

Elder Lynch and I had a good experience with that principle the other day.  We were going out to try a potential investigator, who for the last few times has not opened the door for us.  But Elder Lynch felt like we should at least try to stop by, so we did, and guess what.  He didn' t answer.  But thankfully there was an elderly lady working a little bit on here hedges outside of her house, and we were able to go talk with her for a bit.  Her name is Betty Gunter, and the first thing that she began talking about when she found out that we were Mormons was that Travis Alexander trial going on, that neither Elder Lynch or I had heard anything about.  But we had a good conversation with her and were able to come back later that week with one of our great members, Brother Gage.  I don't know if I told you about Brother Gage, but he is this old, single man that has an innumerable amount of cats.  He is super friendly and very helpful.  

So about the appointment.  Betty was expecting us at about 8 pm on a Friday night.  We arrived promptly and it turned out to be the most precious thing ever.  Betty turned out to be the perfect hostess and prepared anything and everything possible in order to make us feel comfortable there.  She had put on this old lady outfit that was intended to be trendy and youthful and had done all of her makeup with bright red lipstick.  When we sat down at the table to teach, she offered us all drinks in nice crystal goblets with an assortment of chilled beverages from which we could choose.  Using some metal tongs, she extracted ice cubes from the freezer and placed them nicely in each of our glasses, and then proceeded to place in front of us some chocolate covered wafers and lemon cookies.  Super precious.

Like I said, she was a fantastic hostess, but most importantly we had a stellar lesson with her.  Betty had met with some sister missionaries in the past, and ultimately was just looking for a church where she could be a part of a family but still maintain some of her individuality.  It was somewhat difficult to decide what we were to teach her; Elder Lynch and I weren't quite sure of her needs and what it was that she most needed to hear.  But after some deliberation we decided upon a bit of an unorthodox lesson, service and charity.  It talks a little bit about service in the fifth lesson, but rarely, if almost never, do missionaries focus this lesson towards a new investigator.  But that is what we were guided to plan for and to teach and it turned out really well.  I felt that Spirit extremely strong, almost as if the Spirit was twisting my heart to get me to say certain things that otherwise I would not have thought to say.  It was spectacular. Sorry that I took up most of my letter talking about Betty, but that lesson was definitely an experience that I will not forget soon.

So a little bit more about Valdosta:  It is not a huge place, downtown is probably about the size of Draper Peaks.  About half of our ward has ties with the military since Moody Air Force Base is so close.  I have really enjoyed it, despite the heat and the biking.  Things are going really well.  The ward is simply fantastic.  Bishop Grant is extremely motivated when it comes to missionary work; it is one of his top priorities as a bishop.  With his help and the support of the auxiliaries in the ward, Elder Lynch and I have just initiated a new system that we call "Member Missionary Nights", wherein we have delegated the responsibility of finding members to come out and teach with us to the auxiliary and quorum presidencies.  So far it is looking like it will be a success and that we will be able to have a member with us for every day of the week. We are only growing in our motivation to serve, and I think that there is great potential here in Valdosta.

Again, thanks for all of the letters that you send.  I am always excited to come read them on P-day.  I love you all and hope things are going well.

Elder Jon Hendrik Vawdrey

Monday, April 22, 2013

Week #9

Querido Familia,

Tanner's dream might just be prophetic, because guess what.  I am no longer in Tallahassee!  I am now serving in the Valdosta, Georgia area, and this entire zone that I am currently in will be changing over to the Macon Georgia Mission in a couple of months!  I could very well be in Tanner's mission if my visa doesn't come by the time that he gets here.  Crazy stuff.

So here's the scuttlebutt.  I had only been in Tallahassee for a couple of weeks, and things were going really well.  Elder Correa and I were beginning to develop a really good relationship, and Elder Swarts was a really helpful senior companion.  However, for some reason I could never figured out, I was kind of under the impression that Elder Swarts didn't really like me.  I have no idea why, but he just wasn't to affable.  Nevertheless, we were beginning to have some success with our investigators, particularly Mignon, of whom I told you about.  But it was not to be. 

We had interviews with our mission president, President Jensen early this week, in which we basically just met with the mission president and talked through things.  So I had my interview with him and I mentioned my concern that I didn't feel Elder Swarts didn't like me and that I had honestly no idea why.  None whatsoever.  President Jensen wasn't quite sure how to approach this, so he just said to endure and try to be loving.  And that is how we ended the interview. But apparently I hit something in him, because he called me back into his office after a couple more interviews and told me that he would be sending me to Valdosta.  There was an elder here who had been having some back problems, and President Jensen wasn't quite sure what to do up until the point that I told him that Elder Swarts and I didn't seem to be too buddy-buddy.  He decided that that elder needed to go home and that he wanted to send me to Valdosta.  I accepted, and the next day I left for Georgia.

What a blessing.  Georgia is super great.  My companion, Elder Lynch, is ready to get some work done, so I have a feeling that we are going to have some great success here in this mission.  Elder Lynch is from Avondale, Arizona and has been out for about 8 months.  He has been super helpful and tons of fun to work with, so I am super excited to continue working with him until my visa comes (no news yet).  I had my first Sunday here yesterday, and our bishop is super awesome as well; he is extremely focused on using every activity and auxiliary organization as instruments towards missionary work.  Apparently Bishop Grant is known as being one of the best bishops in the mission, so I am exceptionally excited to work with him.

By the way, unorthodox black people names are a real thing.  So far, I have met people names Mayo, Quanyelle, and Tacheryl, and I am sure that I will encounter many more in the weeks to come.  One young man that I met was named Damian, but everyone calls him ET, because he looks like the alien.  Elder Lynch and I met him yesterday along with his friend Bruce, and ET is actually really interested.  He is 20 years old, and loves to try tons of different churches, so we are going to work on him to get him to attend ours on Sunday. We have a lesson with him later this week, so I am hoping for it to be successful.

Spiritual insight of the week:  I remember when I was younger I used to always get confused the stories of Ammon and Limhi and Ammon and Lamoni, simply because the story lines are pretty similar, not to mention the similarity of names and such.  But I am beginning to think that the similarity between the two stories is emphasized on purpose.  I am convinced that Mormon was one of the greatest literary organizers ever, and I think that the stories are written similarly so that the reader will compare them and see why one group was successful and the other not.  Both groups went up into the land of the Lamanites.  Both Ammons were taken bound before the king and then released to help lead the people.  Both groups are converted back unto the Lord and eventually led back to the land of the Nephites. But the thing that Mormon is trying to emphasize is the original purposes of the two groups that went up, that of Zeniff and that of the sons of Mosiah.  The people of Zeniff went up because Zeniff was "over-zealous" and saw the great commercial possibilities that existed in Lehi-Nephi.  But his mind wasn't stayed on the Lord, and his focus on things of the world led the people to sin.  But the sons of Mosiah were focused on bringing souls to Christ, and they ended up with great success.  

It goes to show how important your purposes are.  When you go on a mission, go up with the right goals in mind: to help others come unto Christ.  If you go out to see the world and just do it for the sake of doing it, you will lose important time in your life.

Thank you for all of your letters, and I hope to continue to hear from you.  Pietrus, I will send you a "real letter" during this week, and after you receive it, I expect a prompt reply.

Elder Jon Hendrik Vawdrey

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Week #8


How are things?  Everything is fantastic down here in Florida.  My Spanish is picking up quite well, and the gift of tongues is a real thing. I am not quite sure what I want to talk about.  We have had a lot of good experiences here.  Every day we don't usually get out of the apartment until about one o'clock because since we have a foreign language and I am a new missionary in training, we have two extra hours of study time.  But it is alright because all of the Hispanics that we teach or try to contact are all working until late in the evening anyways.  Hispanics work a lot, which is a good thing, but that actually turns out to be investigators' biggest excuse for not fulfilling commitments.  But as long as we can get people to recognize the importance of this message, I think that we will have great success.

We have one investigator that is great, who our companionship will actually be losing when our area is split, but she is super great.  Her name is Mignon, she is the 75-year-old Cuban woman who is just super funny.  I have only had a couple lessons with her, but she came to church with us yesterday and spent almost the entire day with us at our Branch President's home.  I am glad that I am beginning to pick up on Spanish because she always has the funniest comments.  She gives nicknames to everyone that comes to her home, and since "Vawdrey" is difficult for Hispanics to pronounce, she has decided to call me "Elder Kennedy".  Love it.   She is just a kind lady, and in some ways she reminds me of Grandma Copier, but just a little more exuberant.  Her son Albaro is also speaking with us, and he always has lots of questions to ask.

Still no updates on the visa, but I'm not too worried about it.  I am doing great here.  I forget most of the time that I am going to be going somewhere else at some point.  Elder Correa will probably be happy when I do, because apparently I wake him up every night talking in my sleep.  Spanish, Portuguese, and English, he says.  I will have to get a recording at some point, because I want to know what it sounds like.

Mom, how is the Wallappeeeeeyneeey going?  Are my missionary blessings rolling in?  I was thinking a lot today about how great of a mom you were (and are) because when we were little kids, you would always take us around with you to Gardner Village and to the greenhouse and all of your landscaping jobs.  Even when we were a little bummed out to be there, it was way better than having to go to daycare or just sit at home.  So thanks so much!  That is definitely something that I want to do as a parent: include my children in all that I do.  

I don't have much to say, other than I love you!  I write in my journal everyday, so when I get back I will be able to share some more stories.  

Love your guts, and hope to hear from you all!

Elder Jon Hendrik Vawdrey

Monday, April 8, 2013

Week #7

Dearest Family,

Pictures! For you!   I am sorry that it took me so long to respond to you.  It has been crazy getting everything taken care of, but I am finally here in Tallahassee where I am supposed to be, and I am loving it.  Let me share my little experience that I had in the airport.  So our call time to the travel office on the day that we were to leave was at 8 am, which is when we were to catch a shuttle on the airport for our flight.  Guess when our flight left.  11:59 pm that day.  We were sitting in the airport for 15 hours, and it was jsut fantastic.  We got a lot of studying in, many LDS families took pity on us and offered to buy us lunch and just talked with us forever.  It was a bit of a long day, but I am convinced that we were supposed to be there for a reason.  We were sitting at our table, studying our language and gospel materials quite studiously, when an elderly lady came up to ask and just started to speak to us in Portuguese.  Honestly, I am convinced that we were there for a reason, because she just needed help to call her daughter on the phone, and I can imagine how frustrating it might be to be surrounded by people who don't understand what you are trying to ask.  I am not sure what it was that prompted the woman to come speak with us, but we were there and able to help her.  Her daughter soon arrived, and though the encounter was quick, I was so happy for the opportunity to serve. 

Speaking of speaking Portuguese, do you want to hear something fantastic?  And that was not sarcastic, this is actually turning out to be one of the coolest things about my mission so far.  So when we first got here, we were assigned to our areas in the mission by President Jensen (I will tell you about him later).  So we are getting our assignments to go out and about in Florida, Alabama, and Georgia, and guess where I get called to: The Liahona Branch.  Spanish Speaking.  I have been studying Portuguese for six weeks, and then I get called to a Spanish speaking branch.  There aren't any Portuguese speakers around here, but I at least assumed that I would be speaking and teaching in English.  Nope.  Espan-yol. 

I have included a picture of what my study materials look like.  I currently have three sets of scriptures and three Preach My Gospels, one set for each language.  I don't really use the English ones though.  My morning personal study is done in Portuguese, I pray in Portuguese, and so on.  But all my language study is devoted to Spanish.  Crazy, huh?!  I am not sure if I will be able to speak Spanish fluently, because I am not sure how long that I am going to be here, but my goal is to at least be able to understand what people are speaking to me and be able to respond.  Not gonna lie, it was extremely hard the first couple days, but I am basically just relying on the Lord for everything, and it is going fine.  Like I said, I don't know if I will ever speak Spanish fluently, but the Lord knows what is going to happen, so I am just going to do everything that I can to get there.  If I don't, he knows what is best. 

So about my mission president and his wife, President and Sister Jensen.  When we arrived at the mission home, I seriously felt like I was stepping into Forrest Gump.  It was crazy.  Super nice home, we spent our first night there.  It was me, a few friends from my MTC district including Elder Young and good old Elder Beckstrom.  I am going to send Tanner a letter, but just so you know as well, the mission that Tanner is going to actually borders my current one, and the area that Josh is in is directly next to Tanner's mission.  They are actually going to move Elder Beckstrom's area from my mission to Tanner's, so if Elder Beckstrom is there long enough, he will get to move into the Macom Georgia Mission.  Super exciting.

My companions are great.  I am in a trio because I am a visa-waiter, so that when I leave they will still have a full companionship.  Elder Correa was born in Mexico, and doesn't speak a ton of English, but he lived in Ocala, Florida for part of his life.  Elder Swarts is from Draper, Utah!  He lives in Steeplechase, and has been here for about 21 months.  Super crazy how small the world is.  He actually dated Lauren Sonntag, but...not anymore.  There is actually a pretty funny story behind that, which I will have to tell you when I have less things to talk about. 

I didn't realize when I was coming into Florida that there would be so many trees!  I am basically living in a swamp, and I freaking love it.  Some of the nicer homes here have grass, but mostly people let whatever they want just grow in their yards.  People's backyards just look like backcrounty, with big trees and lots of green.  Its a great place to be. 

I have already written a lot, and don't want you to get sick of reading, so I will stop there.  I will give you some details about some of our investigators soon.
Love you all, and it is always great to hear from you!

Elder Jon Hendrik Vawdrey

Other pictures Elder Vawdrey sent:

Monday, April 1, 2013

Picture of Elder Vawdrey at the MTC

Here's another fun pic of Elder Vawdrey a neighbor snapped while dropping off her sister at the MTC! Thanks for sharing Emily! He looks so happy!