Monday, July 29, 2013

Week #21

Well hello Family,

Thanks, Mom, for sending that glasses prescription.  I went and ordered my glasses today: some thick, dark frames that are going to be legit.  Thanks for your help!

So an update on this week.  First of all, I just want to let all of you know that if you were questioning your faith in Mormonism, first of all, stop, and second of all, do not start dabbling in Scientology.  We are currently "teaching" this older man named Randy Whiteman who is a scientologist, and it has really been a strange experience.  So the way scientology came about was that this man, L. Ron Hubbard, decided that he wanted to look at all of the religions of the world and decide what parts of each religion were the best and then combine them into some sort of super-philosophy that was supposed to be all-encompassing, meeting the needs of any individual in any walk of life.  So having spoken with him a little bit, he went on to say how he believes that we are eternal beings who existed before, who will exist after this life, and who have the potential to become like a supreme being.  And the three of us were thinking, "Wow, that's great, because we believe all of that, too."  But here's the rub: Scientology is basically Mormonism without the most important part: Jesus Christ.  Kind of an important element.  We are going to go see him tonight and are going to talk with him about how it is necessary that an Atonement be made for the world, which should be a good conversation.

I don't know if I ever told all of you about this, but a couple of weeks ago the three of us began volunteering at a local ReStore, which is a thrift store associated with the Habitats for Humanity foundation, and that has been a lot of fun.  It's basically like DI, so we find some great stuff in the back.  The things that we find in the back are definitely illuminating as to what kind of culture is practiced in Marianna.  I have never seen so many romance novels in my life, which are basically just old lady porn, fit into a novel version.  Super gross.  But I have found some pretty cool books there that I'm going to send home at some point, probably just before I head off to Brazil.  No visa updates yet, but my MTC companion just got his I think.

We actually are teaching the manager at the ReStore, even though she doesn't know it yet.  We usually work in the back room sorting clothing and home decor and such, and so when Christine is back there with us, we will have good conversations with her and tell her stuff about the church and the Book of Mormon and such.  She asks really good questions, and we hope to more formally teach her at some point, but we will see.  We have her listed as one of our investigators.  It's kind of funny the way that we keep track of our investigators, because we have all these forms that we fill out for each encounter that we have with them.  I bet if people knew that we were keeping such detailed records about them, it would probably be a little bit frightening.  So we just don't tell them.  

I am really enjoying the South, it has been a good time here.  I'm not surprised that the South has been the topic of so many stories and poems because it really is an idyllic place.  One of my favorite things to do is write in my journal how peaceful and laid back and deliberate everything is, but at the same time everything seems to be buzzing.  Life is really simplified down here and it's easier to appreciate the simple things in life.  I am sure that I will come back to visit afterwards.

I don't have too many funny stories to tell you, other than that the other day some old man that we did not recognize pulled up to us in his car and proceeded to tell us that his wife was currently suffering from a debilitating rectal prolapse.  That's about all I've got.

I am glad to hear that everything is going well and I hope that my letter wasn't too long.  Love your guts.



Thursday, July 25, 2013

Week #20


Sorry that my letter was so short last week.  I was a little bit shaken by the news that Erin had passed away, and I wasn't really sure if what I had to say would be very respectful of her memory.  Don't think I'm discouraged, because I am learning a lot and things are going well. And also, I'm sorry that I haven't written very many personal letters to all of you and have kind of just been sending one big blanket letter.  I will start sending some more stuff to each family member.

So, an update for this week.  Life in Marianna is very much different from Valdosta, and is very different from what my expectations were of what it means to be a missionary.  So for the past couple of weeks I have kind of been undergoing an adjustment of expectations.  Here are the deets: we are currently teaching one person regularly and... that's kind of it.  His name is Sam Hurtado, and he doesn't even actually live inside of our area, but goes to school here and has been taught by the missionaries here for a little over a month.  He works at another local church as a camera man.  That's kind of where we are.

I really don't have a ton to tell you all.  The weeks go by pretty quickly because there does not really appear to be any work to be done.  People are pretty set in their ways.  We were talking with a man the other day, and we asked him, "If you were to find out that the Book of Mormon were true and that Joseph Smith was a prophet, would you join the church?"  And he answered, "No, simply because I'm set in my ways and don't want to change."

Last night we came back from visiting with one of the most celestial members I have ever met, Brother Van Willis, and he is just the most fantastic old man with nice big ears and a big nose.  He kind of resembles Mr. Burns because he has some pretty large liver spots on the top of his head, but he's definitely less evil.  We had a super spiritual conversation with him.  So spiritual in fact, that when we got home afterwards, Elder Bochenek was beating on his bongo drum, shirt untucked and unbuttoned, and then tried to post off the wall and left a huge hole in the drywall.  See, our kind of humdrum life gets broken up by encounters with broken walls, tadpoles, rain, frogs, snakes, and driving on dirt roads.  And teasing the sister missionaries because they cry about everything.

Thank you so much for all of your letters!  I really appreciate them and am glad to hear that things are going well.  I love you all!

Elder Jon Hendrik Vawdrey

Week #19 Pictures!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Week #18


I cannot begin to express how happy your letters made me this week.  We had kind of a dud week, but now because of your letters I am going to go out and smash this area with the gospel.  You all are just doing so much it is making me so excited about everything going on and I am just so ready to go out and fill people's lives with gospel truths!  

When I say that we had a dud week, I didn't mean that it was fruitless, but rather fruit-lacking because of the bad weather.  There is a hurricane or tropical storm or something developing off of the coast of Florida, so we have been getting some gnarly weather down here.  We only got caught out in a monsoon once or twice; other than that we have had to stay in our apartment because there would be no use in trying to find people to teach as the tropical gods try to flood us out.  When it rains here, it rains.

But it's all chill, because Elder Bochenek, Elder Taylor, and Elder Me were able to spend some good quality bonding time together in the apartment. Spirits have been a little bit low, simply because we pretty much are not teaching anybody at the moment.  The South is hard that way.  Missionary work isn't really hard when it comes to walking and trying to find, but it can take somewhat of a spiritual toll on you when you are just wanting to share a message with someone that will change their lives for the better and pretty much every other door is some sort of pastor.  But there is a reason that I am here in Marianna, whether or not I find someone to teach.  I think that I just need to find peace in the gospel and my personal determination and not so much in the busy-ness of our schedule.

That is something that has been hard for all of us, especially for Elder Bochenek.  Elder Bochenek is awesome; he's from Rexburg, Idaho and is the quintessential manly man.  Before his mission he worked on a farm and in steel construction, and he is just legit.  I'm pretty sure that for the summer when I come back from my mission that I'm going to go fight forest fires or something, because I just need to do something manly right now.  So since Elder Bochenek is used to such a hard-working lifestyle, it has been hard for him that the work is slow.  We all secretly fasted for a hurricane to flatten Marianna so that we could have a service mission and at least help people in some way or another.  The only service that we have been able to really do so far has been to disinfect toys to be sold at a thrift store and wrap cake boards at a local bakery.  I feel super manly.

Elder Taylor is super cool, too.  He is from Thousand Oaks, California, so he lives really close to Los Angeles and is a USC fan.  The way he speaks is so matter-of-fact;  whenever something happens, you can always count on him to immediately restate the occurrence in the most simple yet funny way.  We love that guy.  

The Fourth of July was fun enough.  It was rained out, so no fireworks, but we did go over to Bishop Sims home and have some amazing ribs with his secret barbecue sauce, which was rather enjoyable.  People really like to eat down here.  

No details on the visa as of yet.

Well I suppose that I have written enough for you to chew on.  I will say farewell from here in the panhandle of Florida, where every creature wants to bite, sting, or, by some other method, insert venom into your body.

Elder Jon Hendrik Vawdrey

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Pictures of Elder Vawdrey!!

Week #17


So all of the transfers went smoothly and I am now having a good time here in Marianna.  It is so fantastic, and the people here are amazing.  Marianna pretty much plays into every southern stereotype possible, which makes it so much fun.

One of those stereotypes is that everyone is related.  In the ward there are three big family names: the Sims, the Rooks, and the Gauses. Pretty much everybody in the ward has lived in Marianna for their entire lives, and everybody is part Sims, Rooks, and Gause.  I had my first Sunday meeting there yesterday, and it was really great.  The three of us elders and the two sister missionaries in this area had the chance to speak.  During that meeting our first hymn was the national anthem, and let me tell you, there is nothing like a congregation of southern Mormons singing the national anthem.  There is a huge military culture and history down here, and almost everybody has served in the military at some point.  It sent some gnarly chills down my spine when the whole ward started to belt out that anthem.  If anyone understands what patriotism is, it's the Marianna ward.

We have some fun characters in our ward.  Our ward mission leader, Brother Whittle, is probably the most micromanaging man that I have ever met.  He is this 75-year-old white-haired man that stands perfectly erect, with his hair flatly parted on his head.  The best way that I can describe the way that he speaks is by comparing his voice to Herbert the pervert from  Family Guy: he talks softly  with a bit of a whistle.  I think he is more southern woman than southern man.  To put it in technical terms, he's a goober.  My first Sunday there he tested my retention of the Articles of Faith and gave me an assignment to memorize the sacramental prayers and to report to him promptly next Sunday.  What a goober.

Another fun character is Mark Sims.  Brother Sims looks and speaks almost exactly like John Goodman from O Brother Where Art Thou?, with the white suit and everything.  He is a faithful member of the ward and has a great testimony of the Book of Mormon.  He has two main professions, both of which I would say are very respectable.  His first job is as the local public defender, which he does a great job as.  But his alter ego is The Defender, and every so often he dons his cape and stretchy pants and participates in amateur wrestling.  It was probably one of the coolest things that I've ever heard.

I'm sure that I will have more stories as time goes on.  My new companions are Elder Bochenek and Elder Taylor, and they are so awesome.  They are my first companions in the mission field, other than Elder Correa, that I think that I would be friends with outside of the mission field.  All of the companions that I have served with have been great missionaries, but I really get along with these two elders here.  There is a lot of work to do here in Marianna, because Elder Taylor's last companion that just left was kind of a deadbeat and didn't get any work done.

We taught a couple last night that was super great, Stephanie and Keith, and we have some great hopes for them.  Florida is fantastic!

I hope everything is well with you! Thanks for your letters and I am grateful for  your love. 

Elder Jon Hendrik Vawdrey