Saturday, December 7, 2013

Wild adventures in the Canadian wilderness

It is Christmas time here in Utah which usually means that winter has arrived and everybody is hoping for a white Christmas.  But in Ponoka Canada where Katelyn is serving, winter arrived about six weeks ago and there is no sign of it letting up anytime soon.  Katelyn has sent us several pictures of all of the snow and cold weather that they are getting now.  So just to give you an idea of what a short fall and a long winter is like in Canada, take a look at these pictures.  Also, in one of Katelyn's most recent letters home, she told us a great story about a car, a snow packed road and a couple of moose that you aren't going to want to miss.   But I'll get back to that a little later.


Every week Katelyn writes home and tells us all about how crazy her week has been.  She and her companion have been visiting people in the hospital, working with some of the less active members of the church in the area, helping out with service projects and teaching lessons to people that they have met.  Katelyn told us about a recent experience that they had in Edmonton a few weeks ago. 

Recently they got a call from the Sister missionaries in Edmonton who had been teaching a lady from Korea.  This lady had only moved to Canada a few weeks before and must have been struggling a bit with having to learn English.  Since Katelyn's companion is also from Korea, the Edmonton Sisters wanted Katelyn's companion to help teach this lady just to make sure that she was understanding everything correctly.  So Katelyn and her companion traveled to Edmonton to go on splits with the Edmonton Sisters.  While Katelyn's companion went with one of the Edmonton Sisters to teach in Korean, Katelyn and the other Edmonton Sister went to a dinner appointment with a member family nearby who had invited some of their friends to listen to the missionaries.  After teaching a great lesson to this new family, they went on some other visits and then ended up doing a little tracting just to finish up the evening.  Katelyn and her companion ended up staying in Edmonton that night and then going on exchanges with the Sister Training Leaders the next day.  It turned out that the Ward where the Sister Training Leaders were assigned is also the same Ward as one of Katelyn's friends from Ecuador.  So this gave Katelyn an opportunity to stop by and catch up with one of the girls that Katelyn served with in the orphanages of Cuenca just last year.  Katelyn told us just how much fun it was to see her friend again and to catch up on some memories of their time in Ecuador.

A few weeks ago, Katelyn and her companion spent the day in Lacombe which is a few miles south of Ponoka.  They spent most of the day visiting with some of the elderly sisters in the area which Katelyn said was super fun.  While they were in Lacombe, the young women leaders in the Ward asked if they would stay and help with a young women's activity that they were having.  Apparently this activity was a blind make up/spa night.  I'm not exactly sure what that means but when you see the pictures that Katelyn sent home, they might lead you to believe that maybe it had something to do with doing your makeup with your eyes shut or something like that.  Take a look.

Katelyn's Raggety-Anne look.

Now I said previously that this was a young women's activity yet none of the women in these pictures look like they are part of the young women organization.  Well, since some of the young women didn't have their Mom's there, they invited a few others to help fill in. 

In addition to everything that they have been doing in Ponoka and Lacombe, Katelyn and her companion were also suppose to go back to Red Deer for Stake Conference over the weekend.  This is where the snow comes back into the picture again.  The day that they were supposed to go to Red Deer, it had been snowing so much that the Mission President told them to stay in Ponoka.  Then the next day (Sunday), they were going to try again to make it for the Sunday meetings.  But again there was too much snow.  So they ended up just going to the chapel in Lacombe to see if they could listen to the broadcast there.  Unfortunately, the audio was so bad that after about 30 minutes the Bishop there in Lacombe turned it off and decided to just hold a testimony meeting instead.  Apparently fast and testimony meeting had been cancelled just a couple of weeks earlier due to the snow, so this gave the Ward an opportunity to make up for that.

OK, here is the story that you have all been waiting to hear.  This is the story that I mentioned at the beginning about a car, a snow packed road and a couple of moose.  So this last week Katelyn wrote home and told us about a little adventure that she and her companion had.  It all started out when they drove down to Lacombe for a dinner appointment.  They got to Lacombe a little early so they decided to go and visit a few of the less active members of the Church there.  No one was available at that time of the day so they next decided to drive out to a smaller community called Morningside just to see what was there and maybe do a little tracting.  One their way to Morningside they turned off of the highway where their were a few homes.  They drove past the homes to see if there was anything else.  That was their first mistake.  As it turned out, there really wasn't anything else beyond the few houses that they saw and by this time they were really out in the middle of no where.  So they decided to turn around and go back, but when they did, they made their second mistake.  They underestimated just how soft the snow was on the side of the road and ended up driving their car right in to a ditch.  Obviously with the roads being as bad as they are in those little rural areas, they were really stuck good and not getting out anytime soon.  But the two Sister Missionaries pulled their little red shovel out of the trunk and tried to dig themselves out anyway. 

Since nothing was working and they were still stuck, they decided to call the Elders for help.  Right about then Katelyn looked over her shoulder and saw two big moose.  That is when Katelyn freaked out and made her next mistake.  She had heard that moose can be extremely aggressive and so rather than just getting back in the car for protection, Katelyn started running the other way and shouting back to her companion, RUN!! WE ARE GOING TO DIE!!!  Katelyn's companion just froze right there but at least she had enough sense to try to get back in the car.  Meanwhile Katelyn is still running down the road yelling back at her companion to run.  Right about that time a truck comes driving down the road and it just happens to be one of the members of the Ward in Lacombe.  They didn't have a rope that was heavy enough to pull the car out and the rope they did have just kept breaking each time they tried.  Not too far down the road there were some men working on a gas line working, so they finally drove down and asked them if they could borrow a chain or something to pull the car out of the ditch.  Well, before too much longer, all of the gas workers were there helping to pull the car out as well.  So after all was said and done, this little dinner appointment in Lacombe turned out to be an adventure that involved two young Sister Missionaries, a stuck car in a ditch in the middle of no where, a couple of huge ferocious moose and a group of gas workers donating their time to help out the two stranded missionaries.  If that doesn't make your day, who knows what will!  Check it out.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Big changes and new adventures

 It has been just a few weeks since I last wrote on this blog and in that time there has been some big changes for Katelyn.  The first big change was a transfer.  Katelyn told us that the first tip off that a transfer was coming was when the housing coordinators called and wanted to drop by to see their apartment.  That rarely ever happens unannounced.  Then the assistants to the President called and were asking questions about their car.  From all of that Katelyn and her companion figured that a change was about to happen.  As it turned out, both Katelyn and her companion were transferred to different areas.  Katelyn was transferred a little north to a town called Ponoka.  Her companion was also transferred to another town called Meadow.  Along with the transfer also came a new companion.  Katelyn told us that she has already spent some time getting to know her new companion and is very excited about the change.

 As you can see, the weather is another big change.  Being as far north as Edmonton is, winter comes a little earlier than she is used to.  Katelyn told us that it started snowing a couple of weeks ago and from that point it has been "welcome to winter in Canada".  But just before winter came roaring in, they were able to help out a few more people by raking the leaves in their yards.  One of the last few times that they raked, their whole zone got together to help out.  As they were raking the leaves at one nearby house, the lady came out with her two young sons to help also.  Of course the two little boy just wanted to run and jump in the leaves and Katelyn told us that they just had the best time playing.  Then the lady told Katelyn and her companion that just a few days earlier she had prayed for help because she felt like she just couldn't keep doing everything on her own... then the missionaries showed up.  Isn't it great how the Lord listens to the prayers of those in need?

Ponoka is a small town in between Red Deer which has Katelyn last area and Edmonton.  The Ward that Katelyn and her companion attend isn't actually in Ponoka.  It is several miles away in a different town called Lacomb.  In fact Ponoka was just opened up for missionary work about three months ago.  When Katelyn and her companion arrived in Ponoka, the members there told them just how grateful they are to have missionaries.  Katelyn said that all of the members there have been so nice since they arrived.  With this transfer to Ponoka came another big change for Katelyn.  That change is going from a small Young Single Adult branch to a regular family Ward.  Katelyn told us that there were so few members attending the YSA branch that each week Katelyn and her companion had to take on multiple roles teaching, speaking, etc... just to get through the three hour block.  But now that they are in a regular family Ward, they really appreciate the fact that there is a full Relief Society presidency, Ward missionaries, a mission leader and many other dedicated members of the Ward.

So here are a couple of funny stories that have happened to Katelyn over the past few weeks.  One thing that Katelyn does very well that her brothers needed to work on a little more while they were on their missions, is that Katelyn sends us pictures every week.  Over the past few weeks she has commented on the food they eat and the way they eat it.  Fortunately, the members of the church where they live have been kind enough to invite the missionaries for dinner almost every night.  But for breakfast and lunch Katelyn and her companion are on their own.  So here are a few pictures of their mealtime situations.

Would you call this "eating on the go", "eat and run", "dine and dash", who knows.  But Katelyn said that they end up eating lunch in their car quite often.  They have really gotten good and whipping up a good meal in the front seat of their missionary mobile.  After church on a Sunday, on their way to an appointment, whatever or wherever they happen to be when lunch time comes around, it really doesn't matter.  They are ready for anything.

Now here is a new one.  Eating lunch on a couch in their front yard.  Actually, there is a story behind this picture.  A few weeks back their mission president decided that missionaries should do not need to have a couch in their apartments.  There are actually some very good reasons for that, but that isn't part of the story.  So, being the obedient missionaries that they are, they moved their couch out of the apartment so that they could give it away.  But rather than just throwing the thing out like an old piece of garbage, they decided that they needed to give it a final send off.  So they fixed lunch and ate it on the couch.  Sounds like a great idea to me.  Eating alfresco!

Then there are the zucchini pancakes for breakfast.  This looks almost as good and the portobello mushroom burgers that they made a few months ago for lunch.  And you think that the Elders eat some weird things.  Well I know that you are all just dying for the recipe so here it is.  According to Katelyn you just mix up some zucchini slices with flour, water, salt and onions in a bowl and then fry it.  Katelyn said it was delicious and tastes like pot stickers.  I'm thinking that the jury is still out on that one.

Then there is are changes were thing just don't go so well some days.  Katelyn told us a sad story about some people that she knew.  There was a family back in Red Deer that had a tragic event happen to them.  Katelyn wanted so bad to be there to help comfort the family but since Red Deer was now out of her area, she was unable to go.  Then Katelyn and her companion were driving an older sister home when Katelyn was pulled over for a speeding ticket.  On top of that just a few hours later, she was pulled over again for not wearing a seat belt when she actually was.  But as every missionary knows, with the bad comes the good again.  Not too much longer after that, they were able to help some other people find something that they had lost and also do a little service by helping to clean a house.  Then there was Halloween.  Katelyn and her companion got dressed up and went to one of the nearby member's house to help greet the kids and pass out candy.  Katelyn said that seeing all of the kids and passing out candy was a ton of fun.

So I mentioned earlier that winter has come to Ponoka.  Katelyn told us that it started snowing last Saturday around noon and didn't stop until sometime on Sunday.  In fact it snowed so hard that on Sunday morning one of the members called them and said that church had been cancelled.  According to Katelyn, by the time the storm had passed, it left about two and a half feet of snow.  Just to give you a little idea of what the storm left, here is what it looked like over a 24 hour period.

Here is Katelyn when it first started snowing on Saturday.

That night they had to drive home in the snow from Lacomb.

Here she is the next day trudging through the snow on the way to an appointment.

And finally, here is the little present that the snow plow left behind.

It is funny just how much things can change in just a short time.  Last year at this time Katelyn was in Ecuador where the sun shines for twelve hours everyday and the temperatures are in the 70's.  This year the sun shines for about nine hours a day and the temperatures are headed towards ZERO!

Oh, this doesn't really have anything to do with changes or new adventures, but I just had to share these pictures with you.  I decided to use a third one as the header picture for the blog. They are so clever that I think you will enjoy them.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Great stories of great success from a great mission

It has been almost two weeks since General Conference and Katelyn has written us a couple of times since then.  In her first email home after conference, she told us just how much she loved it.  She had the most amazing week that week.  She told us about some of the lessons that they taught, interviews that they had with the mission president and his wife and of course GENERAL CONFERENCE. 

A few days before general conference weekend, Katelyn's mission president and his wife traveled down to Red Deer to hold interviews with the missionaries in that area.  Katelyn said that he was running about two hours late on interviews but that was OK with her.  The reason why was because it gave Katelyn and her companion more time to spend with the mission president's wife.  They all passed the time just baking cookies and talking.  Katelyn also said that she really likes her mission president.  She said that he is just hilarious and such a teddy bear.  Her mission president reminds her of her grandpa John.  Then on that Saturday and Sunday, which of course was conference weekend, they spent their time with the other missionaries just taking in everything that the general authorities and Prophet had to say.  There was one point during conference when the Tabernacle Choir sang "Called to Serve".  At that moment I told Katelyn's Mom to just imagine Katelyn standing in the chapel with a bunch of other missionaries singing along just as loud as they could.  I told Katelyn what I had said when I wrote to her the next day.  She responded and told me that it was exactly how I described it.  I told her that knowing exactly what she was doing at that moment made us feel like we were right there with her.

So here is a bit of a funny story that you will get when you see the pictures below.  A few weeks ago Katelyn's Mom put together a package and sent it to Katelyn.  Well, she finally received it right around the same time as conference weekend.  The package included a letter from a friend of her's and also some souvenirs which he had brought back from a recent trip to Bolivia.  One of the souvenirs was an indian head band which Katelyn is so beautifully sporting in the following picture.  In the next picture of the headband, there is a scripture which I think comes from the lost manuscript pages of the Book of Mormon, or maybe not.  You decide:

Click on the picture to enlarge it if you are unable to read the scripture

Actually, it was Katelyn's clever companion that wrote the scripture.  I had  you going there didn't I.  You really thought that she had found the missing manuscript pages.  ;-)

So it turns out that Canada, being a different country and all, celebrates Thanksgiving just like we do in the United States.  The only difference is that the Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving in October.  So this last Monday was Thanksgiving and Katelyn said that some members of the church in her area invited her and her companion to their house for Thanksgiving dinner.  In fact this family loved having the missionaries over for dinner so much that they invited them for two nights in a row.  Katelyn told us that it felt a little strange celebrating Thanksgiving in October rather than November like we do in the U.S.  But nevertheless, the food is always good and you can never get enough pumpkin pie.

Katelyn told us that because of the Thanksgiving holiday in Canada, they had a very hard time filling their appointment book.  Actually, they weren't very successful at teaching any lessons at all that week.  So with time on their hands, they took a page out of Katelyn's older brother's missionary book and raked leaves for the neighbors.  They had a really good time raking leaves.  Katelyn said that the people were so grateful but they really couldn't believe that these two young missionaries were raking leaves for free.  At one house, the owner actually came out to help them rake leaves.  The whole time that they were working, the owner kept saying, "You guys really don't mind doing this?  You really aren't charging anything?".  They told him that they were just out doing service and there was no charge.  The owner still couldn't quite wrap is head around that idea.

This past week Katelyn and her companion were working on some new ways to find people to teach.  So one of the ideas that they decided to do was to set up a booth at the college in Red Deer with the LDSSA (Latter-day Saints School Association).  Then they had some of the college students that attend the Branch sit with them in the booth as they handed out balloons, cards with candy taped to them and played mormon messages in the background.  Katelyn said that they really had a lot of fun and really had a lot of success as well.  They gave away a lot of Books of Mormon and had some really great gospel conversations with some of the college students that came by.  In fact, they were so successful that they decided that they would set up this booth every week.

This past week in Church both Katelyn and her companion were asked to teach the Sunday School lesson as well as the Relief Society lesson.  On the way to church that day, knowing that they would be teaching during two hours of the three hour block, they joked with each other that maybe the Sacrament Meeting speaker wouldn't show up and they would be asked to speak in that meeting as well.  Fortunately for them, the speaker did show up but someone forgot to bring the sacrament bread.  So Katelyn and her companion went to the freezer in the kitchen and all they could find were some frozen blueberry waffles.  So guess what the congregation had for the sacrament that week?  You got it, they had probably one of the tastiest sacrament services ever.  I guess the moral of this story is that when you are in a bind, blueberry waffles will do.  :)

OK, Katelyn's email home this week was just filled with little gems like the following story.  But rather than retell it to you, I will just let you read it yourself.

"So on Wednesday night at 1 in the morning I hear this chirp chirp.. chirp chirp chirp chirp.. and I am thinking, what in the world is that noise?? So I walk out to our front hall area and it is coming from these boots that my companion had bought recently at Value Village (which is a thrift store). So I'm thinking, oh my.. there are birds living in the shoes she bought! I am freaking out! So I kick the boots and it stops! Then I go back and lay down in bed and not even a couple minutes later I hear it again... I go back and start moving the shoes and the noise continues so it's not in the boots and I am freaking out.  I go in and wake up my companion to come out and help me find this creature that is in our apartment and she comes out and we start tearing apart the front hall area where there is a bunch of random things.  There was an old pair of boots that someone had left in the apartment so my companion grabs the boot by the very top fur part and carefully takes it to the back deck and shuts the door... But nope the chirping remains. So we are going through everything and then all of a sudden a little cricket starts hopping around!! It was a cricket! So my companion grabs the broom and starts jabbing the cricket and it keeps hopping around and I am freaking out.  Then BAM..., she killed it. It was ridiculous."
There you have it.  The perfect missionary story.  What a great couple of weeks!

Here are a few more great pictures from Canada.  Enjoy!

Instead of a snow angel, Katelyn made a leaf angel.

Taking a break after a hard day of service.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Working hard and being guided by the spirit

Katelyn is still working with the Young Single Adult Branch in Red Deer.  The problem that the Branch is having now is that most of the young singles have gone back to school.  That means that there are very few members of the Branch still left in Red Deer.  Katelyn said a few weeks ago that there were only about 18-20 people at church on Sunday which makes it very hard to get much done. Katelyn said that she doesn't know if they can continue to meet as a Branch for much longer because it is so small.  They have no Relief Society presidency, no Sunday School presidency and no Elder's Quorum presidency.  Everybody in the Branch has 3-4 callings and just doing the best that they can.  In fact in Katelyn's letter a week or so ago, she told us about how she and her companion had to teach Elders Quorum.  She said that it was definitely a first and probably a last as well.  Katelyn said that the lesson went great but at the same time it also felt a little strange teaching the guys in Elders Quorum.

Katelyn is also having another problem as well.  But this one is a little different.  Katelyn told us about how nice all of the members are in the other Ward and how they just love to feed the missionaries.  She told us a story about how they went to dinner at one of the member family's home and the Elders were there also.  The family feed them all really well and of course when it came to just how much everybody could eat, the Elders always win.  But that didn't stop Katelyn and her companion from trying.  The Elders would give the Sisters such a hard time about not eating enough that Katelyn just wanted to prove them wrong (Katelyn has that competitive spirit just like her brothers).  But in the end, the Elders won and Katelyn said that she doesn't ever want to see Chinese food again.

Katelyn and her companion have been teaching a lot of lessons.  Some of the lessons are to new investigators and some of them are to members who have been less active.  She tells us over and over again just how much she loves teaching and talking to the people there.  In addition to teaching, they are also doing a lot of service as well.  They have helped decorate and work in the kitchen at a wedding reception.  Helped organize food items and other things for a member that gathers donated items and takes them to people in need. They even helped another Lady who needed help painting her kitchen.  Katelyn said that she really enjoyed painting.  She must get that from her mother.

Katelyn told us a really neat story about one of the members in Red Deer.  Katelyn and her companion were supposed to meet with one of their investigators for a lesson that night but for some reason the investigator didn't show up.  But as Katelyn put it, the Lord really knows what is going on and where they needed to be.  They ended up going with the Elders to the house of a member who was going through some tough things.  This member has had some really rough times over the years and is struggling with the Gospel a bit.  As I have mentioned before, Katelyn spent some time last year serving as a volunteer in Ecuador and it just so happened that this member also has a tie to Ecuador.  Right there Katelyn had something in common and started talking about how she learned so much about the Atonement in Ecuador and what it can do for people who are struggling.  One of the Elders then gave this member a beautiful blessing.  Katelyn said that she knew that she was supposed to be there that evening to share her experiences with this person and that it is times like that that makes everything a mission is about, worth it.

So here is a bit of a funny story.  So Katelyn likes banana's but one day one of the Elders who is from the Congo decided that he needed Katelyn's banana, so he took it and said he would pay her back.  For some reason this Elder gave Katelyn the nick name of "Big Money Nicholes" and it seems to have stuck.  So a few days later Katelyn and her companion were sitting in their car eating some food after church when the Elders texted them and told them to check the fridge in the church kitchen.  So they went to the kitchen and found a white bag that had written on it, "Sister Nicholes (Big Money)".  Inside the bag was a banana and written on the banana as well was "Big Money Nicholes".

Katelyn has been playing the piano again which has really made her Mom happy.  Katelyn took piano lessons for several years when she was little but hasn't played much since then.  But just like her Mom always said, there will be a time when you really need that talent and apparently the time has come.  Katelyn and her companion organized a talent show for the YSA Branch.  Since there really aren't that many members of the Branch, they weren't really sure how well it was going to work out.  But Katelyn told us that it actually went better than she thought it would.  During the talent show Katelyn played "God Be With You Til We Meet Again" and "Praise To The Man".  She said that somebody had taken a video of it and was going to send it to us but we haven't seen it yet.  I'm sure that she did a really good job.

So here is another little tidbit.  Apparently one of the members of the Branch is part of a battle group.  This is a group that meets one a month or so and each member of the group dresses up like a medieval warrior or something like that.  So here is a picture of Katelyn and her companion after they had borrowed some of the swords and shields from the battle group.

 Things have been going great for Katelyn in Red Deer.  She is loving what she is doing and every week she tells us great stories about the members of the Ward and Branch.  She has also told us some great stories about some of the people that they have met while they have been out tracting.  Stories about how the Lord guides them to a specific neighborhoods and how there is always one house where someone is just waiting for them to come.  Katelyn has only been out for a couple of months now but she has already had some great experiences and I'm sure that she will have many more in the months to come.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Mission experiences are pouring in

Katelyn finally made it to Canada.  Her flight took her through Minnesota which is kind of a round about way of getting there.  Especially, given the fact that Edmonton, Canada is almost due north of Salt Lake City.  We received a letter from her mission President a few weeks later just telling us how grateful they are to have Katelyn in their mission and how well she is doing.  The mission President also included a picture of Katelyn with he and his wife.

Katelyn told us in her first email home that it was weird to think that she is in a different country. Other than the fact that there are no mountains and the people really do say "eh" a lot, things aren't really that much different.  She arrived in the mission on a Tuesday and the next day was mission transfers.  Katelyn has been assigned to serve in Red Deer which is a couple of hours south of Edmonton.  She and her companion will be working with the Young Single Adults in the area.  From what Katelyn told us, they will be spending most of their time working with the less active and other members of the Branch.  She told us that working with the YSA Branch is great for a lot of reasons.  One of those reasons is that they have 3-4 dinner appointments per week as well as the opportunity to attend and help out with the YSA activities.  Of course the others reasons include all of the great people in the Branch that she is serving with.

Over and over again Katelyn has told us just how much she loves being a missionary.  She is still trying to get used to teaching and tracting and everything else that goes on in the mission field, but she loves it. She has wasted no time in getting right into the work.  Katelyn has told us about meeting with the Branch President, teaching lessons to some of the less active members of the Branch, sharing the gospel while tracting and even having to give her first Sacrament meeting talk as a missionary.  She said that giving a talk in Sacrament meeting was not quite what she was used to.  Since there are only about 30-40 members of the Branch, looking out at the audience was more like teaching a Gospel Doctrine class than it was speaking in a Sacrament meeting.  Tracting has been a little rough though.  Katelyn said that they get rejected a lot as well as running into some rude people who think it is appropriate to yell at the missionaries.

Not too long ago Katelyn was on an exchange with a sister missionary that was serving in a nearby city.  One of their investigators canceled on them at the last minute so they both decided to go tracting.  While tracting, they ran into a lot of houses where nobody was home and others that really weren't interested.  Then they ran into one man who told them that he already knew about the Mormons and what they believed.  So out of curiosity, Katelyn and her companion asked him to explain what he knew.  He proceeded to tell them all about how Mormons worship Joseph Smith, how all of the men have multiple wives and even about members of the church digging up the bodies of dead people so that they could baptize the bones.  Of course none of that is true.  So they left the man with some truthful information and told him that if he really wanted to know more, they would be willing to teach him.  We'll see if anything comes of that.

Then Katelyn told us about the hardest day that she has had so far.  They met a another man who was sitting on his porch and began talking with him.  He immediately told the sisters that he was an atheist and wanted nothing to do with religion.  As the conversation went on, Katelyn said that everything just felt terrible.  Finally, the man's wife came out and told them to leave along with some other choice words.  As Katelyn and her companion left and started walking back to their car, Katelyn just felt overwhelmed by the worst feeling.  This man believed that there was nothing to this life.  We live, we die and that's it.  Katelyn just kept thinking about all of the little children that she served in the Ecuadorian orphanages and the trials that they had in their little lives.  She just knew that the Lord loved these little kids and that there would be purpose to their life.  All would be made right for them through the atonement.  She just felt bad for this man because she wanted him to understand this concept and knew that he didn't want to accept it.  So before they went any further, both Katelyn and her companion walked across the street to a park and said a prayer.  Of course this is just the first of probably many experiences both good and bad that Katelyn will have on her mission.  The great thing about a mission is that when it is all over and the missionary returns home, they will remember all of the great experiences and forget about the bad ones.

Speaking of great experiences, Katelyn latest email home was filled with wonderful stories.  She told us all about how she and her companion were able to travel to Edmonton for a conference with a General Authority of the church.  She said that the General Authority gave a wonderful talk that was filled with inspirational stories.  Then they were able to go through an endowment session in the temple in Edmonton and just how wonderful it was to be in the temple again.

Then after returning to Red Deer, the experiences didn't stop.  Katelyn and her companion went out tracting again and Katelyn said that it was pretty rough.  They were rejected over and over again and were about to give up for the night.  When they got back to their car, Katelyn said that she just felt like they weren't done for the night.  There was still someone around there that they needed to meet.  She decided that they would drive through some of the neighborhoods until they felt prompted to stop.  So they drove around for about fifteen minutes when Katelyn felt that it was time to stop and try again.  No luck.  House after house, no one was home.  It was getting close to nine o'clock at night so again, they felt like they needed to head home.  As they walked back to their car, they noticed that there was a light on at the house across the street from where they parked.  Katelyn and her companion saw the light and decided to try just one more house.  When they knocked on the door, a lady answered and began talking with them.  They talked for about twenty minutes about the gospel and how it is centered around the family.  When they had finished talking, they left the lady with some pamphlets and an appointment to return.  At this point Katelyn was just amazed that even though it was literally the last door that they knocked on, the Lord knew where they needed to go and lead them right to the house.

Katelyn sent home a few pictures of her and some of the companions that she has been serving with.

As Katelyn explained it to us, this is one of their great meals that they fixed for themselves one night.  Basically, it is a portebello mushroom burger.   No meat, just mushroom.  Katelyn said that it tasted a lot better than it looked.  In fact it tasted really good.

This is a picture of Katelyn and one of the other sisters that she served with during exchanges.

If you weren't aware of this already, most of the bananas that we consume in the U.S. are from the country of Ecuador.  I'm sure that this banana that Katelyn is holding was from Ecuador also.  It probably just made her think about her time serving in the orphanages there.  The fact that the banana is a bit over ripened, probably just reminded her about just how far away Ecuador is from Canada.

More mission companions.  It is great to serve with such wonderful sisters.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Great experiences in the MTC

Katelyn's time in the MTC was short. Just ten days.  But everyday was filled with intense gospel study, devotionals, training and spiritual experiences.  On Katelyn's next P-day in the MTC, she was so excited to email us and tell us what she had been doing.  She started off her email by telling us about a great opportunity and experience that she had during the week.  The Sunday after she entered the MTC, her Branch President called her into the office and asked her if she would accept the calling to be the Sister Training Leader for the zone.  If you aren't familiar with the calling of Sister Training Leader, it is similar to an Elder being called as a Zone Leader except Katelyn's call is over the sisters.  Part of her responsibilities would be to visit with each of the sisters in the zone each night to find out how they are doing and if there is anything that they need help with.  She would also take part in the new missionary orientation on the next Wednesday.  Here she had only been a missionary for a week herself and one week later she was helping to train the missionaries that were just entering the MTC that day.  Katelyn told us just how great this experience has been for her.  Even though the calling was only for a short time during her training in the MTC, it was an experience that she will never forget.

With so many missionaries entering the MTC, the Church has not been able to fit everybody in the main MTC campus across from the Provo Temple.  Katelyn was one of the new missionaries who has spent most of her time at the extended campus in the Wyview apartments.  The missionaries that stay in the apartments, live there, eat their meals there and attend classes in the neighboring apartment complex.  Unfortunately the food on the extended campus is not quite the same.  Everyday they have had basically the same thing for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Katelyn said that for breakfast they would eat bagels and cereal.  Then for lunch they would have prepackaged sandwiches and a salad and for dinner they had canned vegetables and some kind of mystery meat.  However, for their in-field training meeting one day they were able to go to the main MTC campus and according to Katelyn, the food there was like gourmet meals.  She told us that they were amazed at all of the variety.  But the best thing was the fresh fruit.  She was grateful that she only had ten days at the extended campus and doesn't know how some of the missionaries that are learning another language make it for several weeks.

On the Tuesday after Katelyn entered the MTC, all of the missionaries attended a devotional at the BYU Marriot Center.  Katelyn said the the devotional was great but she had been thinking about her family all day and was feeling a little home sick.  That same night Katelyn's little brother decided that he would crash one of the EFY dances since he had such a good time at EFY just the month before.  OK, so crashing an EFY dance when you aren't really at EFY wasn't the best choice but at the same time, there was a blessing in all of this.  As Katelyn told us, she was feeling a little down that day and a bit homesick.  Then after the devotional, she and a whole group of missionaries exited the Marriot Center and started walking back towards the Wyview campus.  As they stopped at the crosswalk, her little brother just happened to be making a right-hand turn heading into the BYU campus.  He spotted Katelyn standing at the crosswalk and leaned out of the window yelling her name.  At first she didn't respond because he kept calling, "Katelyn, Katelyn".  Finally he yelled out, "Sister Nicholes" and she turned immediately.  They both saw each other and yelled back and forth, "I love you, I love you".  We heard the story that night when her little brother returned home.  When Katelyn emailed us a few days later, she told us all about the story as well and said that seeing her little brother was just what she needed that day.  Seeing him picked up her spirits and allowed her to refocus on being a missionary rather than feeling homesick.  In her words she said, "...seeing him made my day!  It was definitely not an accident."

The day finally came for Katelyn to leave the MTC and fly out to Edmonton, Canada.  She and the other missionaries that were going to Canada had to catch a 6:00 am flight so they had to be up by about 2:30 am to get ready to leave.  She gave us a quick call from the Salt Lake airport and then called again a few hours later from Minnesota during a layover.  Again she told us just how wonderful her MTC experience was despite the bad food.  We know that we will be receiving weekly emails from her on her P-day but we just can't wait to talk with her again on the phone at Christmas time.  We are so proud of her and all that she has done so far and we know that she will do great things in Canada as well.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Being prepared to serve a mission

Sister Katelyn Nicholes entered the MTC on July 17, 2013 after receiving her mission call just two months ago.  Katelyn is the third missionary in her family following in the foot steps of her two older brothers.  But she is the first to receive a call outside of the United States.

Katelyn's desire to serve a full-time mission came about while she was a volunteer worker in several orphanages in Cuenca Ecuador less than a year ago.  She fell in love with the children of Ecuador and with serving others.  From that time on, she knew that she needed to continue serving but thought that she would have to wait for more than a year before she would be eligible to serve as a full-time missionary.  But as most of you already know, a miracle happened in October of 2012 with the age change for both Elders and Sisters which allowed her to return home from Ecuador and prepare to leave on a mission.  Of course with her experience in South America, we all expected that her mission call would take her south again.  But on the day that her mission call came, it wasn't south into a warmer climate that she was going, but north to the city of Edmonton Alberta Canada.

With Katelyn's experiences in the orphanages of Cuenca Ecuador as well as a life time of serving and preparing, she is probably more prepared to be a missionary than anyone we know including her older brothers.  On the morning that she entered the MTC in Provo, Utah, I sat down with her to give her a little advice as she finished packing her suit cases to leave.  As I started to tell her some of the same things that I told her brothers on the day that they entered the MTC, I knew that she already knew everything I had to say.  She knew about the good times and hard times ahead.  She knew about the differing personalities of the people she would meet as well as companions that she would have.  She knew about living away from home in a different country and she knew about teaching the gospel and loving the people.  She knew all of this because she had already experienced most of it in Ecuador.

Well the day finally came for her to leave but the week leading up to this day was anything but normal.  You would expect that she would have spent that time saying goodbye to friends but that wasn't what Katelyn wanted to do.  In fact Katelyn spent the week touring her older Brother's mission in western New York.  She had the unique opportunity to travel around the Rochester, New York mission with her older brother as well as the rest of her family.  She spent time meeting the people that her brother had taught and baptized.  She spent time wandering through the Sacred Grove and thinking about her own mission experiences ahead.  She spent time in the Palmyra temple reviewing her farewell talk that she would give just twelve hours after arriving home from New York.  And she spent time with her family attending the Hill Cumorah Pageant and feeling the spirit in this sacred area.  While traveling around her brother's mission, Katelyn commented several times that there is no where she would rather spend the last week before her mission than right in the heart of where the restoration of the church happened.

We heard from Katelyn just a couple of days after she entered the MTC.  It turned out that her P-Day while in the MTC is on Fridays so she had an opportunity to write home.  Her letter home was filled with gratitude and excitement.  She told us all about how they wasted no time getting right into orientation, classes and teaching.  She got to meet her new companion, her new MTC district and her new Branch President.  She said that all of the Elders in her district were going to Edmonton along with her but the other Sisters in the district were going to Idaho. She had her first interview with her Branch President and said that he is a great man and loves the Gospel.  They talked about her experiences before her mission and Katelyn told him about Ecuador and also about her time working as an aide in the special needs program at a local high school.  Katelyn said that she is so grateful that the Lord lead her in the direction that she has gone and knows that those experiences helped to get her on a mission.

Over the next 18 months we will try to update this blog as often as we can.  We are so grateful that Katelyn has chosen to serve a mission and we know that she will be a great missionary.  There will be a lot of great experiences ahead for Katelyn and we will try to share as many of those experiences as we can.