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.


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!


Elder Jon Hendrik Vawdrey

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Week #22


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,
Elder Jon Hendrik Vawdrey