Hello Family!!! Happy 2011!!!
Well, I'm having some good times and long days serving with my new companions, Elders Farmer and Jensen. As it turns out, I will actually be serving with Elder Farmer for the next transfer. Elder Jensen will be serving in the next ward over from us. You may remember reading about Elder Farmer from my emails 17 months or so ago - he was in my MTC district and I also served around him in Toledo for a while. I'm really excited to serve with him - he's a great missionary and a great friend.
So we just had departure meeting a couple hours ago - where the departing missionaries have dinner at the mission home and then have a testimony meeting and interview with President Sorensen. It caused me to reflect on my mission so far and think forward (in a totally non-trunky way) to the end of my mission. I don't envy those missionaries who have to go home now, but I am pretty excited to return and report to the Lord in the School of the Prophets about my mission, and to have my departure interview with President. I have no doubt that those will be incredibly motivating and spiritual experiences. Tomorrow we will drive them to the airport to see them off, then head back to the mission home for trainers' meeting. Tuesday we'll pick up the new arrivals from the airport and spend the day with them going to Kirtland, having interviews, practicing missionary work with them, etc. Then Wednesday we'll have transfer meeting.
Elder Farmer and I are really excited to get to work the North Olmsted ward. Up 'til now, the APs have been covering two wards: Lakewood and N. Olmsted. Now the areas are getting split to have one companionship per ward. The members in the N. Olmsted ward are really excited to have a set of missionaries dedicated to their ward - N. Olmsted was kind of getting the shaft - most of their work was done in Lakewood. That kind of leaves us with a dead area to resurrect, but we're OK with that - we'll get it going again.
So it's a lot of fun to be an AP! There are lots of perks, like hanging around with President Sorensen a lot, going to cool things like departures, arrivals, trainers meeting, and transfer meeting, seeing how the mission really works, and of course, having a mug with "AP Smith" written on it.
There are also some antiperks - like having a lot of extra responsibilities that keep us up all night. I don't think I've got to bed on time once since I got transferred, and we've also had to get up earlier than usual for different reasons. We also have to deal with all the stupid stuff that goes on in the mission - like disobedience, laziness, or open rebellion. I never knew before just how much disobedience went on amongst missionaries. Thanks, Mom and Dad, for teaching me the more excellent way and how to work hard. Apparently some of the missionaries out here never learned that skill. Also we don't have as much time to work in our area as other missionaries do because of having extra responsibilities.
Being an assistant has definitely opened my eyes to how things really work in the mission. Thursday we got to join with President Sorensen in figuring out where everybody is going to go at transfers. We would discuss each missionary and who they would work well with, study it out in our minds, and make decisions based on our foreknowledge and the promptings of the Spirit. It was an intensely spiritual process - probably one of the coolest 7 hour meetings I've ever gone to. Sometimes we would think we had something figured out, but then the Spirit would say otherwise, despite what we thought. However, once we followed His guidance and made the right changes, we definitely received confirmation that we had made the right choice. In discussing who should go where, I never really understood before how much disruption one disobedient missionary caused to the rest of the mission. We had to think long and hard about several of the missionaries to make sure that they had a companion who was strong enough to help and not be 'ruined' by the missionary's disobedience or laziness. We ended up having to assign a lot of the good elders as 'babysitters' for the bad elders.
Anyways, I'm not sure if I'll be able to email again this week or not, what with having things to arrange for transfers. If you send an email I'll probably recieve it, though. We end up having to come into the office a lot. I may end up emailing on sunday nights a few more times as well, just for a heads-up.
Mom & Dad, I can't express enough my gratitude for the immense blessing of being raised in a righteous home and having your support in all my righteous endeavors. So many children and young adults we come in contact with out here are so bright and good, but are held back from their full potential by home and family circumstances that could be improved and resolved through the faithful application of gospel principles in the home. You are truly the best parents I could have picked, and I have more love and respect for you than anyone else in the world. Thank you for giving me, by the consistent righteous choices you've made and example you've been, the life I enjoy today.
Delaney, Cody, and Peyton, I love you too. You're great and I admire your faithfulness and devotion to Christlike living. I pray for you specifically and daily (you too, Mom & Dad) and have complete confidence that you are appreciating and taking advantage of all the blessings that come to you from living in a home led by the Christlike examples of perfect parents.
Elder Matthew Smith