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.