Monday, June 27, 2011

Mom has an internet-enabled phone?!?!?!

Mom has an internet-enabled phone? Wow.

Sorry about your technical difficulties. I'm impressed you have so many recourses to try: home computer - work computer - test computer - laptop.

I'm glad Lake Powell was fun. Are you and Mom still awesome slalomers, too, or just Cody and Delaney? How much air can cody catch on the wakeboard? Like two feet? Did Penny go with you?

How long has Mom had internet on her phone?

Have the Lays come to church any time recently? Will they be able to come when I come home? Any hunting escapades they have had recently? New companion info: There's two of them again. This is the sixth time on my mission that I have served in a triple-up.

1st: Elder Malbica, from Vancouver, Washington (Vancouver, not BC, Washington, not DC). He was in my MTC district and came out with me. He's going home a few weeks early, though, so we'll be driving him up to the airport in Cleveland on Wednesday. President came down yesterday to have his departure interview with him. He works on cars.

2nd: Elder Barlow, from Salem, Utah. He's been out for almost a year. He's really cool to work with - very good at teaching and contacting both. I really appreciate his ability to think outside the box and have new ideas to try with investigators or ward members to better fulfill the purpose of missionary work. He went hunting once and shot a duck. He likes football and weight lifting.

Tim didn't come to church today, nor did anybody else - unfortunately we haven't seen nor heard from Tim all week. We did a whole lot of contacting in parks and on the streets and tracting this week, so we've got a couple new potential investigators to start trying to work with. I think I'll just try to sell the bike.
Sorry to hear about Grandma's shoulder - Is she going to be alright? There are going to be a whole lot of jealous hospital or rehab center patrons when you walk in with a multiple dutch oven dinner.

Where is Greg going to school?

As it turns out, Elder Malbica has a cousin in this ward - Bro. Evans. I hadn't met him yet because he is a resident physician and usually doesn't make it to church, but we went over this weekend and had dinner with the family - it reminded me of when I was serving in Cleveland and Elder Pickett's cousin would feed us all the time.

I was talking to Sis. Sorensen the other day and she said a lot of the missionaries who went home last week had trouble getting there - one had his seat on the flight dropped and had to reroute through Dallas - then they didn't have a connection to his hometown from there so he had to spend the night with the Dallas missionaries. Another group got to Chicago and had no flight home - they had to stay the night in a hotel. I'm sure their parents were exquisitely stressed - especially the one whose parents aren't members! Hopefully we won't have any difficulties like that this time around, though.

We had a pretty cool experience the other day when we were contacting at a park - we talked to a guy who was sitting at the waters' edge and fishing, and he opened up about some of the marital and other challenges he is facing in his life right now and how his faith had waned. He was totally taken aback by how upbeat, happy, and genuine we were, and he couldn't stop asking how we ever got to be so happy in life when he was quite the opposite. In essence, he asked us, "men and brethren, what shall (I) do?". Of course we invited him to repent and be baptized. He seemed very sincere and genuine.

We got a return appointment, but unfortunately he wasn't there. His phone sounds like he is out of minutes.

I'm working hard and loving it - missionary work is the best.

Elder Matthew Smith

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Email from 6/21/11

Happy Fathers' Day!

Dear Family,

Congratulations on having a week packed with so much action - especially spiritual action, like going to the temple. Way to go, Peyton! What is the Oquirrh Mountain temple like on the inside, by the way?

I'm always impressed with the dancing prowess of my female siblings (not so much with Cody, though...). I'm sure he's got drum prowess, though.

I didn't know the waves on Utah Lake got high enough to really be dangerous - good thing you realized that discretion is the better part of valor. I'm sure the sprinklers working right was very gratifying, though. What has the weather and temperature been like back home? I saw some sprinklers the other day in Akron and nearly did a double-take. They're pretty rare here.

It's firefly season, too - I don't remember seeing them in Utah either.

I hope Lake Powell is awesome! That is a LOT of water to bring the lake up by a foot per day! How high is it? Is it just the immediate family going to Lake Powell this year or is anybody else going to be accompanying you? I guess you probably won't receive this email until Saturday then.

Awesome about Greg and Mekeli getting the Melchizedek Priesthood - do they have mission calls yet?

Unfortunately no, Tim hasn't come to church yet - we arranged for a member of the church to pick him up on Sunday morning, but he said he had some unexpected issues with his landlord and was unable to come.

Transfers is tomorrow and Elder Yukish is leaving. So is Elder Gullerud, my former companion who was serving in our sister area in the ward. I'll be excited to let you know all about my new companion, though.

So, do you think I should pay to ship my bike home (costs about $150, I guess) when I go home, or have a member try to sell it on craigslist or something like that?

Elder Matthew Smith

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Email from June 13th

Hello Family,

No, we didn't get a new replacement for our 3rd companion - it's just me and Elder Yukish now.

I'm really excited that Peyton has her first temple recommend! It will be amazing for her to be able to go and do baptisms for the dead in the temple! My temple recommend expires next month and I'll have to get a temporary one from President Sorensen.

Good job not throwing up at your marathon, Dad.

I'm glad that doctoring the horses was less injurious this year, and that Cody has mastered the racing start and flip turn.

What's been going on with us: we're mostly tracting right now. We haven't been able to find any new investigators that have gone anywhere really, but we were able to set a baptismal date with one of our investigators, Timothy (the one from Arizona). He's committed to baptism on July 16th. He has a lot of changes he needs to make in his life to prepare for that point, including giving up smoking and alcoholism, but he understands the requirements and seems willing to change. We're also teaching a part-member family (kind of: the parents used to be members but had their names removed after being offended. Their eleven-year-old son was never baptized), but they seem to be gradually losing interest. The father still has a pretty good testimony, but the mother doesn't really anymore. It seems like she doesn't really want to feel the spirit, though, so she doesn't.

We do a pretty good mix of biking and driving. It's probably about evenly split between the days that we bike and the days that we drive.

We have a pretty good ward, with a lot of very supportive members. It seems like there's plenty of members trying to share the gospel, but not having too much success. There have been a couple members who have talked about the gospel with others and are working themselves up to referring their friends, but none that have really come through yet. There seem to be a lot of members who are willing to come with us to teaching appointments, and we take them out with us a lot, but we aren't really utilizing the full potential there because of lack of investigators to teach. We take active members with us pretty often to teach less active members as well.

I'll probably be here the rest of my mission, yes. That was the plan when I came here, at least. Transfers is next week, so we'll know for sure then. (Because of transfers, I probably won't be able to email until Tuesday). I expect that I will stay in this area for my last transfer and Elder Yukish will be transferred, giving me a new companion.

It's great working with Elder Yukish - he's very easy to get along with and a lot of fun to be around. I really appreciate that he knows how to have fun being a missionary and still work hard all day. He's a good teacher and is able to connect to people on a personal level very well.

Sorry for 'starving' you of information on the work! It just seems like you wouldn't really want to hear about the people we are teaching who never show up for their appointments, or who don't keep any of the commitments we leave, or who aren't making any progress towards being baptized or reactivated. (or course, if people fall into those categories, we generally don't teach them for very long anyways.)

Sorry about the lack of pictures, too. My camera broke, and I've never gotten around to getting a new one. (I guess it's not totally broke, it just has 'issues' - sometimes the buttons don't work, sometimes it runs out of batteries the same day you put new ones in, sometimes it won't focus, etc.) I don't think I even unpacked it when I moved from Sandusky to N. Olmsted.

LoveYMNB, Elder Matthew Smith

Monday, June 6, 2011

Email from 6/6/11

Hello Family,

No near-death experiences this week, thankfully!

Any of us would have loved to shoot the 2nd groundhog, but the missionary handbook says we shouldn't handle firearms. Your cruise sounds like a blast - especially the ancient Nephite and Lamanite references found among the ruins. That sounds like a ton of fun to learn about. I'll bet your class was spellbound. Do I know Elise or AJ's spouses? That is exciting news to hear! The guy from Arizona's name is Timothy. We haven't taught him this week because he was gone on a camping trip. Elder Quarnberg went home on Saturday for medical reasons. He may be able to return and finish the last 3 or 4 months of his mission, depending on how his treatment goes.

Brother Schroth from North Olmsted was baptized on Saturday! Since we had already driven up to Cleveland that day to take Elder Quarnberg to the airport, we just stuck around and worked with some of the elders in that area for most of the day until the baptism. He was baptized by his son. The line-up of people who spoke at (and attended) his baptism was something like "who's who in the Cleveland Stake". Seeing him baptized was an amazingly fulfilling experience for me, and I can't imagine what it must have been like for him, Sister Schroth, his son and his son's wife, his home-teacher of many years, (the stake president), and many others from the ward and stake who have known and befriended Bro. Schroth and waited almost 40 years for this event. No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing.

We had a moderately slow week - we've found a couple of people who we taught once or twice and then they've lost interest, but nobody really solid that is new. However, there have been a couple of members of the ward who've had missionary experiences in the past week or two with neighbors, friends, or other acquaintances. While these interactions didn't result in invitations to be taught, they laid the foundation for interest in the restored gospel and hopefully will soon result in these individuals actively investigating.

Too bad about the bunny.

Are you running a marathon sometime soon, Dad? How long do you have to work off all those 2nd main courses or 2nd desserts?

Thanks for checking on the school stuff.

Elder Matthew "Matty" Smith

Tornados and shootings ... a dinner to die for...‏

Dear Siblings,

I'll bet Mom will love this email...

Junk food and frozen dinners, huh? Sounds pretty much like a missionary diet. (except for the times when the members invite us to dinner, which is generally delicious, and sometimes even ... to die for...

So guess what? There was a tornado that touched down in our area this week! It was awesome! The sky was all inky-green-black, the rain, thunder, and lightning came down in torrents, the tornado warning sirens went off and everything! It was intense! I didn't see the tornado, though, which is probably a good thing. I thought I was going to die, though. A member was driving us home from a teaching appointment to our apartment during the terrible tempests that day. We got soaked to the bone running the 20 feet from the house we were in to his car. The windshield wipers were nowhere near keeping up with the deluge of water coming down from the ominous obscurity of the clouds. The visibility was terrible. As we were driving, the windows started to fog up. I asked if his defroster was on and he assured me that it was. It most assuredly wasn't, so I turned it on for him when he wasn't looking. By that time, he was using his hand to wipe portholes in the windshield (which quickly fogged up again) to see as we raced down the road. As I did my best to peer through the mostly opaque windshield, a parked car zoomed by us, inches from the side of our car, that I hadn't been able to see until moments before we passed it. Later, as we were stopped at an intersection, I looked out the passenger window and saw a double yellow line - we were on the wrong side of the road. I think he must have been driving by Faith and not by sight or something, because we got home safely.

We also witnessed two shootings this week! It was a double homicide (or, more appropriately, a double pesticide). We were at dinner with a member family, eating around their dining room table, which had windows and a glass door to their backyard. As we ate, on of the teenage children cried out, "There he is, Dad!", pointing to someone walking through their backyard, heading for the vegetable patch. The father jumped up from the table and ran upstairs, quickly returning with a .22 rifle. He opened the glass door just a crack, took careful and steady aim, and fired, hitting the target in the middle of his body. The culprit fell to the ground, writhing. The father then walked outside and shot him again from point blank range, finishing the deed. The victim was a big, fat groundhog that had been plagueing the family all fall and winter long, digging holes in the yard and under their deck, and being a general nuisance. They had been waiting for an opportune moment like this for some time. You can doubtless imagine how excited they were when another groundhog was sighted and shot only minutes later. What was really funny about it was that, after the first one was killed, the mother of the family we were eating with was protesting how gross it was and how it wasn't appropriate to be shooting animals while the missionaries were over for dinner, but when the second groundhog came out of hiding, she was the first one to say, "Quick! Go get some more ammo!".

The shooting was on Sunday afternoon, so when Sunday night came around and it was time to call the zone leaders to tell them about our statistics that week, I dressed up the story something like this:

"Hi Elder Bills, we may have to be quick with our numbers tonight - I'm waiting for President to call me back - he said he'd probably call at about 9:30 once he gets off the phone with the police. We actually witnessed a shooting in our area today, but I can't really talk about it right now...

He took it hook, line, and sinker. I told him the grisly truth eventually, though.

So, did anything exciting happen back home this week?
What's going on in San Rafael? Rafting? Your swim meet sounds exciting - I'm prettyy impressed that you can swim a 200 free. What did you do for memorial day?
So now that you have no more math homework or calculus flashcards, what comes next in your life, Delaney? Just start studying for next year? Yes, we try to take the youth out with us as much as we can. We regularly go on splits with the priests, but we can't really take young women teaching with us. Sister missionaries take the mia maids out with them all the time, though.

We've started teaching a couple new people, including a guy who moved from Arizona and had investigated the church a little bit there and gone to church a few times. Nobody came to church this week, though. You know that if Peyton gets a bunny for her birthday, it is going to be the butt of all the "target" and "lets go rabbit hunting" jokes instead of marshmallow, right?


Elder Matthew Smith