Saturday, July 31, 2010

Travels and Meeting Interesting Man

26 July 2010

Dear Dad:

I hope your trip to Missouri is fun and productive. I kind of wish that I was able to go. But that's alright.

I am glad that work is keeping you busy, and I pray that you can continue to find more clients to help keep you busy. Thanks for mailing me the book, I am looking forward to getting it this week.

Not a lot is going on right now. We went up to Salmon and Challis this past week. Well, Elder Meredith and I drove up to Challis for a district meeting. We had to drive through the Arco desert. You want to talk about the land of desolation! That's where "the Sight" is. The Nuclear research center that a ton of people work at. I think it was the place where the first nuclear submarines were tested. It takes about 2 1/2 hours to drive all the way to Challis from Idaho Falls. We left at about 7:15 Tuesday morning to get there by 10:00 for the meeting. Then I stayed with the Challis elders the rest of Tuesday and Wednesday morning. Elder Meredith rode up to Salmon with the Salmon elders. That is an hour north of Challis. Challis is very pretty nestled in a valley. It is extremely secluded from absolutely everything. That whole area (Arco, Challis, and Salmon) are the outskirts of our mission. We drove back to IF in the early afternoon.

So transfers are coming up on Wednesday. This transfer absolutely flew by. I can't believe it has gone so quickly. Probably because of all the crazy stuff that has gone on the last few weeks, we have just been flying all over the place. We actually forgot that transfers were coming and Saturday night Elder Meredith was talking with another elder on the phone and he mentioned that transfers were Wednesday. Then we remembered, and right then President Colton called us. Elder Meredith was asked to train a new elder in Menan. So they will be white-washing that area. It was Elder Meredith's first area and will most likely be his last. He goes home in October.

President Colton hadn't called the elder that is going to be my companion yet, so he wouldn't tell us who it is. I will just have to wait until Wednesday at transfers.

It sounds like you guys are staying way busy also. Everyone is going all over the place. Summer is always a busy time I guess. I hope that you guys all enjoy everything that is going on. I know Mom will really like being with Rachel and Rebecca.

That is way sad about Ryan. I will pray for him that he can do what the Lord wants him to do. That is really good that his whole family has come to church the last couple of weeks. I hope they can stick with it. I know that he can make it back out. I really love that family. They have been such great friends to me. I can't even describe how good they have been to me. I will always remember the Sarver family.

Saturday we met an interesting man named John. He is part of "The True Gnostic Church of Azrael Ondi-Ahman." That just makes me laugh every time I think of that name. He was a member of the Church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and served a mission and was ordained a seventy (we are assuming a stake seventy) about eight months after he got home. He says he was excommunicated for asking too many questions. The last time he went to the temple is in 1993. He says that "we" were (we are not sure who the "we" were) looking to see when the LDS Church wasn't true anymore (they believed it had become corrupted) so they started researching in the library down in Salt Lake. We don't know what happened after that, but now he doesn't even believe in Christ. It is so strange he has some very true dead-on beliefs, but others are just completely wacked. You can see where they took LDS Doctrine and it has become perverted.

Elder Meredith actually met him a year ago, but didn't recognize him right away. He told him then that Azrael Ondi-Ahman was a stake president, but he went into the mountains and talked with God. Then he wrote a book called the "Song of God" and started this church. He gave him then (a year ago) a paper with their beliefs and disbeliefs (their own statements contradict each other). This all started in the 1970s.

Anyways I could tell you all about it, but it was just so crazy. We sat down at a park bench (he was really nice) and he started talking...and talked...and talked... We didn't say really anything, he talked for an hour. We just sat there. I looked into his eyes the entire time, I just felt sad for the guy. His eyes were bright blue with the smallest pin-prick pupils I have ever seen, they darted back and forth the entire time. Rarely would he hold a steady gaze for more than a couple seconds. Every once in a while he would call our doctrine a not very nice word. But we didn't say anything.

After near an hour I told him something like, "John, I can tell you have a sincere desire for eternal life (I think he really does)" He corrected me and said "exaltation." I continued with something like, "There have been some events in your life that you do not want to confront, things that need to change."

"Really, what are those?"

"I don't know. But you need to repent."

He then said a few things and I said something else. He then cut me off and said, "I know where you are going with this. You are going to bear your testimony, that's a cop-out." He then continued to try to speak.

I said, "Hold on, John (at this point he began to look scared). I represent God. I do not appreciate that. For nearly an hour we have listened to you and we have not said one negative thing about you or what you believe."

"I haven't said anything bad to you."

"Yes you have."

"What did I say?"

"You told me my testimony is a cop-out."

"Oh, I did say that, didn't I."

"Yes you did. And don't you ever say that again."

Elder Meredith then went on to testify and reminded him about meeting once before and some of the things Elder Meredith told him a year ago to think about. We told him we had to leave. He was surprised that we had stayed that long. (He had talked at us from 4:00 to 5:00, and we had something at 5.) He tried to keep talking, but we just stood up and told him we had to leave.

I have met a few interesting people like that on the mission, but John has got them beat a thousand times over. People can say whatever they want, but when they begin to attack like he did--it's over, and I will have none of that. Elder Meredith told me later he thought I was going to throw the table over on John. I keep my cool, remember that I represent Jesus Christ and speak with His authority. All power in heaven and earth is given to Christ, and we need to speak in His authority.

I thought the whole thing was kind of fun. Definitely a mission story I will remember.

I know that was a long one, but it was a good experience.

I will continue to pray for you.

Elder Call

Monday, July 19, 2010

Missionaries' World Flipped Upside Down

19 July 2010

Dear Dad,

I enjoyed reading your email this week. I can just imagine you, John, and Bro. Wright pulling up a pump! That would be a huge job. I can't believe you did that. I am glad that it was just a small problem and the three of you were able to fix it.

Speaking of John, has he grown very much?

Just send the money or suits whenever you can and don't worry about it too much. Things always work out, especially as a missionary. I'm excited to see what your book is like. That would be fun to look through.

I am really enjoying my new area. We are teaching a couple of families, although we could be teaching more. But people here in this stake seem to care a bit more about missionary work.

In my last area we went to a ward mission leader and asked him about the 15 names (that is a program that the Missionary Department asked us to do in November 2008) in his ward. He had them, but as far as we could tell no one had been invited to take missionary lessons (which is the whole point of the program).

So, on Saturday when Elder Meredith said we needed to go talk to a WML about the 15 names, I admit I was worried. But the brother was so kind, willing to listen, and thankful.

He said, "Thank you, elders, for coming and telling me this. I didn't know we were supposed to invite these people to take lessons. Now I know. Thank you so much."

In short, he was humble. I'm not the most humble guy on earth--I have learned a lot about humility on the mission--but I sure appreciate it when others are humble.

We had this three-day meeting in Pocatello this week. That was way cool. I will have to write home about it. But as our mission president said, "This [the simplified curriculum framework] is bringing Preach My Gospel to life." "It is unlocking Preach My Gospel." There are 8 lessons that the missionaries are taught. They are about being better missionaries. We were taught 5 of them while there. We will have a similar meeting in August but for only 2 days. We, as leaders in the mission, now have to go out and teach this to the rest of the mission. Basically our world as missionaries was just flipped upside down this past week. Everything is changing--from the way we teach to district meetings to interviews to zone conferences. It will be good. Rumor on the street (and this is strictly rumor, I have no idea if it is true) is that while we (the 50 or so leaders) were working with other missionaries in the Pocatello area Tuesday and Wednesday night, that 40 new baptism dates were set. I don't know if it was that many, but in one appointment we set a date. Elder Hernandez and his companions in American Falls set 4 in one night. So regardless of how many were set, a lot of people committed. This is changing everything and I am so stoked for it!

I pray for your work and the move to Missouri every night. I hope that it will work out. I think it would be neat to live in the Far West area. I will pray that the house sells. I know that whatever happens, it is the will of the Lord. We were taught something in this meeting about faith. It is imagining what the outcome is. Creating it in our minds first. That is the spiritual creation. Then we go about creating it, doing what is necessary. That is the physical creation. I thought that was an insightful perspective of faith. I need to work on doing that. (See Alma 5:15-21)

This mission is a very unique mission (I am sure that Provo is similar). I think that every missionary knows someone that is at BYU-I or will be, or has been, or lives in the mission. I also love it when I meet missionaries that were at BYU-I when they got there mission calls. Or elders that were in the mission that we see around--because they are at BYU-I. It is also funny when an elder has an ex-girlfriend at BYU-I, or a girlfriend at BYU-I who isn't really waiting, because he is here, but she kind of is too. It just makes for funny experiences. Or when elders guy friends/brothers are here also and "accidentally" run into each other. But it is really strange when you do run into someone, like Christina, in those spots where you don't expect to see them. You would think that with me hanging out in Rexburg every single p-day for 6 months straight, that I would run into someone from our stake. But then while eating at Famous Dave's in IF, one of the waitresses is someone I know. Weird.

The Webbs and the Burninghams are way cool people. Two families in the ward that I really liked. I am jealous that I never got Brother Burningham as my seminary teacher-he was way cool. Sister Evans was neat also.

I will never forget one 4th of July party we had at our house. At least I think these two things happened the same day (they were both the 4th of July, maybe different years). I was sitting there talking with Brother Burningham about playing basketball or something with us. He had that job with a bad work schedule, but he had just gotten a new one. He was saying something like, "Ya, with my new boss things should be better. It is a great place to work. It is a good job."

"Oh, that's good you got a new job. Who do you work for now?" I asked.

He looked at me with a really confused look on his face and said, "I work for your dad."

"You do?! I didn't know that." It was pretty funny.

Then when the Webbs moved in you invited them over for the 4th of July. Allyson was sitting across from me out back, not really doing anything or talking with anyone. She had these big sun glasses on and a cold attitude. So I thought I would be nice and talk with her. She would hardly give me the time of day, and only say "yes" or "no." After a minute or two of that I thought, "OK then. Never mind, I'll leave you alone."

She warmed up over the years though. Just not in the best of moods from being a new-move-in. I probably wasn't either.

Right now I think Dan is really the only good friend I have at BYU, so that would be a ton of fun if Allyson went there also. It seems like everyone always comes up here to BYU-I.

Elder Call

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"The Winds of Change are HOWLING"

Note: I mentioned to Elder Call that we have a new missionary in the Beloit Ward who thinks he remembers meeting Elder Call in the MTC. . .

12 July 2010

Dear Dad:

Things are going steadily here. It hasn't really slowed down, all the hectic stuff. But it will eventually.

There is a new thing called the "Simplified Curriculum Framework" that is coming out for missionaries. It basically seems like it is a new way to teach missionaries how to teach with more focus on certain aspects. It doesn't replace "Preach My Gospel." So all of the leaders in the mission and some sisters in the mission are having a massive three-day training in Pocatello. It starts at 8:00 AM tomorrow morning and goes until Thursday at about 4:00 PM. They are going to be teaching us during the day time and then in the evening we are going to split up with elders in the Pocatello area and go implement what we learned. Then we assume we are going to come back and teach it to all those in our zones and districts.

We had interviews with President Colton last week (I attended two of those this transfer because of the ET) and he told Elder Meredith and me that "the winds of change are HOWLING around us!" Based on other things he has mentioned it sounds like everything is going to change. We are not going to have zone conference every transfer anymore. That is sad. So I will learn more about all of this in the next few days and will tell you more next week.

I am really glad that your work is going so well. I don't know how you do it and run your own business. It's pretty cool. What kind of feature would you write for Mormon Times? I'm excited to see a copy of your book if you are able to send me one.

I don't remember Elder Brander/Brader. I could have met him, I met several elders that were coming to one of the Chicago missions. (I hear they are now combined.) I remember meeting about 4 or so at the airport as I was getting ready to fly to Salt Lake. They were going to Chicago North. I also met an Elder Hill from Pocatello that was going to Chicago South.

I will keep you updated on everything that is going on here. Thank you for your emails.

Elder Call

Monday, July 5, 2010

Emergency Transfer to Taylor Mountain Stake

5 July 2010

Dear Dad,

I can't believe the 4th of July has come and gone already! I remember last year watching the fireworks down in Pocatello, having not even been out six months yet. I was thinking that this time next year I will have nearly been out 18 months. I can't believe how quick time goes by.

We had p-day time on Saturday to go watch the fireworks. I don't know about back home but the major firework display was put on on Saturday night because the man that does it is LDS. People have said that it is the largest fireworks show west of the Mississippi. I don't know if that is true or not, but they were pretty spectacular. Every year they have about 100,000 people from around the area come down to the river and watch. We could do p-day stuff from 6:00-11:00 PM.

On Wednesday afternoon at 4:26 we had just gotten back from doing some service for a ward mission leader and Elder Duffin was about to get into the shower when President Colton called.

"Hello, this is Elder Call."

"Elder Call, this is President Colton. How are you?"

"Good, president, how are you?"

"Good. Are you light on your feet?"

"Sure. What does that mean?"

"Are you ready to move at a moment's notice?"
(At this point I was thinking some one needed our help. Some missionaries were in trouble or something.)

"Yes, what do you need us to do, President?"

He then went on to explain that an elder's father had passed away and he needed to go home.

"As a result of that, Elder Call, we need to move a few companionships around. We are going to move you over to Taylor Mountain Stake to take Elder Semanski's spot. You will be companions with Elder Meredith...can you do that Elder Call?"

"Yes. Are you sure president?"

With a chuckle in his voice, "Yes Elder Call, we're sure."

So I got emergency transferred again. I found out Wednesday at 4:30 and I needed to be at the transfer site Thursday morning at 7:50 AM. So very little time to pack or say goodbyes. I started to get some stuff thrown in suit cases took a shower, then had dinner. Had two appointments one at 6:00 and one at 7:00. Each lasted about an hour. Then said some goodbyes. Stopped to help a young family load up a trailer because they had to move back into their home in Rigby. Randi and Bro. Vaalemoen weren't home. So I called and left messages for them. Stayed up until about midnight packing and was gone before I even really knew what was happening.

The Taylor Mountain stake is just next door, but we only cover 4 wards (half the stake). Elder Meredith is a way cool guy from North Carolina. He has been out 20 months. He is a way good missionary.

I told Elder Lacey when I first got with him that I didn't feel like Idaho Falls South would be a very long area for me. I never really felt comfortable there. I was there for two transfers and two weeks (14 weeks). That is very short. Especially since they say we are going to stay in areas for six to nine months.

So, needless to say, it has been a very exciting week here. I was with Elder Duffin for only two weeks, but I miss that guy so much. He was one of the best companions I have ever had. I am sad that we were only together for two weeks.

I am glad that you're work is going so well. Rebecca wrote in a letter a couple of months ago that money doesn't bring happiness, but it does bring peace of mind. That sounds like something either you or she would say.

I know that you and Mom will do whatever the Spirit directs you to do. I trust in that. Things will work out no matter where you are or where you need to go. (Missouri sounds much better than Texas.) It would be cool to live in the Far West area. I know what it is like to have the Spirit tell you what to do--maybe one day I will learn to listen. There have been several times on the mission when I knew a major event was going to happen. Didn't really know what or why or when--then it happens, the Spirit reconfirms what it taught before and you go on and do what is right.

Elder Call

P.S. There was a Brother Moncur in IF South that is a couple of years younger than Grandma Call. He says he grew up next door (or maybe it was down the road) to Grandma Call's family, the Etsel Wheeler family, out in Ririe. He says he remembers the family had a lot of tragedies in their lives, with children dieing etc. But he remembers Myra Fay Morgan Wheeler as a woman full of compassion. I said that was nice to say. But he was very serious and said, "No. She was a great woman with lots of compassion." His mother was always sick and in bed when he was a child. He said that whenever Sister Wheeler would walk into town she would stop take care of his mother and visit with her. He says hello to Grandma Call. I wish I could remember his first name. He works at the Temple Visitor's Center.