"Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life." 2 Nephi 31:20

Friday, August 24, 2012

Letter #8

Dear Friends and Family,
This week has been an interesting one. The Tarbets came in on Monday (The Tarbets are a senior couple--the parents of my sister's husband--for those of you that may not know). It has been really cool to have them here at the MTC at the same time as me. Obviously they have no real blood relation to me, but, to make the explanation easier of how we knew eachother, they are now just my grandparents. Funny story about how that came about actually. On Tuesday, Elder Neil L. Andersen came to speak at the MTC (Member of the Quorum of the Twelve, so it was a big deal). But, earlier that day the Tarbets and I had decided to meet up to take a picture together. Elder Cox and I had been helping with some stuff so we got a little late to choir, and they wouldn't let us in. Needless to say we lost our for sure locked-in seats for the devotional by singing. So, we found the shortest line waiting to get seats and miraculously found seats that were even better than what we usually get. So, we got there, got our seats, but needed to save them somehow while we went to go find the Tarbets. So, we left our suit jackets on our seats to save them for us (you're not supposed to save seats...for others :) ) Anyway, its pretty much common knowledge to always wear your suit coats during the devotionals, just cause. But, it wasn't going to start for another 30 minutes. BYU police told us to put them back on, and instead of giving them the round about story, I told them that I was trying to find my grandparents. He even held the door for Grandma when I found them and we headed outside for a picture. Anyway, all went well there and we heard a great talk from Elder Andersen that was really just 9 points that President Monson would have told us if he were there that night. They're in my journal, so if you want to know them, you'll have to find out later. But one of them was to smile. It sounds doctrinally correct because in Nacho Libre it says the same thing, "Smile and be happy. For today, is a special day." So, from two sources, I have now been continuing my quest of learning to smile. Better.
Smiling wasn't that hard last night when we checked the mail. Why? Because our travel plans came in! I will leave for Mexico on September 3rd, 2012 around 10 am MST. P.S. Don't meet me at the airport. They frown upon that. But, either way, still pretty sweet to know that you are actually headed to the field. I am the travel leader of my group--who I actually met while we were hosting new elders that came in last Wednesday. It turns out that there are 5 Elders in their district heading there and it only took me 8 weeks to find them. They are all in the begginer class for Spanish, so they're language skills as of now are...rough. Anyway, I thought maybe I got assigned as travel leader because my Spanish is better, but its just cause my name is first alphabetically. Oh well. Yesterday two people we met thought I was a native speaker of Spanish, so I guess that means I can't be too atrocious. Or however you spell that in English. One was a native himself, so that was cool. It is sure to be a different language in the field no matter what though.
Oh, and I lost my big toe nail this week. Elder Cox finally had to tear it out with my leatherman because it was hurting me so much. Don't worry, I didn't bleed that much and I already have 3/4 of a toe nail that had already grown beneath it. No medical supplies needed. Just an interesting thing to know.
In terms of other stories from this week, I have two. First of all, I saw another Elder get sent home this week. He was in our Zone and he was truthfully one of my favorite Elders. It was hard to see him leave, and if you can take it in the right heart, I think its safe to say that at that time I felt the closest to the Savior that I ever have. Because I would have done anything I could have to get him to stay. But, in the end, he is gone after being here for 8 weeks. I just hope he can make it back to his mission because I could already see his heart changing for the better. Seeing missionaries leave is honestly the most depressing thing that you can see here. To me at least.
But the next story is of a different nature. And I was not even there for it, but it has still influenced me each day since. It is actually about an experience Elder Milovidov had while he was hosting and he started out by saying that he would never be able to forsake the church because of an example he saw this day. Here Elder Milovidov was standing by his drop off point waiting to welcome a new Elder. Then, a car pulls up, nothing fancy about it, actually quite the contrary, it was a small, beat-up compact car that had some obvious wear to it. Inside are only two people, an Elder and his mother. You could tell that they had very little support from outside sources and that all they really had in the world was each other. Elder Milovidov tried not to notice as they shared their last hug while he unloaded the bags, but he still glanced over. And when he did, he noticed the Elder reach back into the car for something. As the Elder retreived the item, Elder Milovidov looked back at the mother and he said that for a moment it was like they were talking, without saying a word, and that the expression on her face just said to him, "Please take care of my son." Elder Milovidov looked back at the Elder a little confused at what had made this particular departure, such a grand occasion. The item that the Elder had retrieved was a walking stick. All this time Elder Milovidov had no idea that this Elder was blind. He said that he was the most humble person imaginable, that he always allowed people to help him when they noticed, but never complained when they didn't. And that he never complained or mentioned it himself the whole day.
The example of this Elder and his mother is wonderful to me. That they could give up so much, and go through so much to see him progress as a missionary. I'm sorry I'm already 4 minutes over in my email, so I hope it suffices to say that I know that this Church is true, and that the Savior lives today and that is what makes all of our sacrifices worth it.
I love you all,
Elder Andrews

Friday, August 17, 2012

Letter #7

Dear Family and Friends,
First off, I just want to say that I am thankful for anything you may have done to help me get to this point in life as well as any support you've shown while I am on my mission. Yesterday, Elder Cox got to visit his brother who had come home from his mission just after Elder Cox came to the MTC. So, consequently, I got to visit with Elder Cox's brother as well. But, I wasn't really engaged in a whole lot so I took more notice of what was going on in the lobby of the MTC. Long story short, while we were sitting there a couple came in. Good looking pair of some missionary's parents--you could tell. They checked in, the mother grabbed a few tissues and they sat down. Nothing too special. But, after long, one of the District Presidents (the big ones that is, the MTC is divided into two large districts) came out to visit them. As soon as the mom saw the District President she just started sobbing. It was truly sad. Anyway, they went back to his office and after a few minutes the father came out with his keys in hand to get the car. Long story short, they were clearly there to pick up their son. Now, it doesn't really matter (to me) whether this missionary's exit was forced or voluntary, because at the end of the day, a missionary went home. You always hear about it happening and stuff like that, but it never truly hit me until it was right in front of my face. The scene was truly heart-wrenching. Anyway, I will be trying my best not to do that to any of you--or myself.
On a lighter note, our district is doing well at soccer during gym time. A little too well actually. Now that we are a bit more experienced and have some time under our belts we tend to play sports a little more relaxed than more. (But still win, so no worries). Point is a lot of kids sometimes just go too hard. This is a story of one of those kids. Pretty much he chased after a ball at full speed that went out of bounds (there are no lines on the field) and passed a kid on our team to go get it. He brought it back in with the same type of wreckless running and was heading for the goal. It is important to note that I play defense in lacrosse and therefore play defense in soccer. Not sure if it's because the techniques transfer sport to sport or if I am just awful at offense, point is, the kid was running straight at me. I guess I thought everyone else had lost there competetive edge when we did, but I was mistaken. I stood in a good defensive stance as a means that he couldn't cross the ball and score, but he treid anyway. He kicked the ball while he was about 5 yards away from me and I deflected it and it went out of bounds again, no big deal. You'd think. But, he was still running full speed and could not stop himself. Long story short, he ran full speed into me while I was completely stationary. What happened? I was still in my same spot, except he was now laying flat on the groune below me. Apparently it looked like I destroyed him, but I was just stationary for those split seconds watching the ball go out of bounds. People made a big uproar because "that's how BYU lacrosse does it", but, it was sad to see this new Elder just laying on the ground. So, its kind of a sad story, but he is completely ok now. I thought I had really hurt him. He said that he thought he was going to die, but accepted the fact because the last thing he saw was the Y on my shirt. So he said he could die happy while seeing something beautiful. All the while I thought he was complimenting my face... Oh well.
Also, as the "example district" now, we realize that everyone here notices what we do. Maybe not the whole MTC, but everyone in our time slot for sure. Whenever we start something, the other Elders catch on quick, good or bad. So, we've started to be more careful about what we do. We are really like the Sons of Mosiah, and have to choose whether we are going to act like them before or after repentance. Self explanatory what is more desired.
Also, in Mission Conference last fast Sunday, President McIff (of the MTC Presidency) used Calvin and Hobbes in his talk in relation to the Book of Mormon. So, Dear Mom and Allyson, I hope you feel bad for making fun of my Calvin and Hobbes talk for all these years. Calvin weeping has so many correlations to Jesus weeping. Geez. Love you. <3
Lastly, I have been thinking a lot about how my actions now effect my future, and consequently, what I should be doing. Careers obviously come up in that subject and I decided that I really wanted to rescue people. I had no idea what that entailed, but today I thought of being a helicopter pilot for a medivac kind of thing. So, since this morning, I find myself thinking a lot about helicopters. Please send me a cool picture of a helicopter that is rescuing someone. Anyway, for now, aren't I rescuing people as a missionary? Isn't that really what this is about? So, I'm quite enjoying the idea of that and the opportunity that I get to help "rescue" people for the next two year. So, that's my charge to you. This week, go find someone you can helprescue. It may seem hard, but you aren't alone in it. I can promise you that.
Elder Caleb Andrews

Monday, August 13, 2012

Letter #6

I'll start off this week talking about my investigators. First, you need to remember that these things really happened and that these are the stories of the investigators that my teachers had while they were serving their missions. So, this isn't made up, and we aren't put in these situations just to see how we would react, but because this really happens and we need to know how to help the people we are serving.
So, first, we'll start off easy with Ana (Hermana Casares). It is part of the culture in Mexico (and seems to be in all of Southern America as well) that the word sin (pecado) is reserved for strictly bad things such as killing and robbing and such. So she did not understand the need to repent. We found that out when we were teaching her one time. Anyway, last week we were teaching her about the Restoration and Elder Cox and I thought it went well. One of our best in fact. After we walked out of Ana's "house", (the now) Hermana Casares invited us back in to talk about how it went. Keep in mind that this whole conversation is happening in Spanish. First, she tells Elder Cox that he needs to be more confident. There is no power in his words and he won't look her in the eye when he is talking (which is understandable because it is easier to think of what to say without staring into someone's soul). But that she can feel his love for the investigator. Then she proceeded to tell me that at one point in the lesson she wanted to open her door and run out of her "house" because she thought I was going to punch her in the face! (Not exactly what you want to hear when you are supposed to be eminating Christ's love to all). But, she did add that I was very firm in my speech, which I guess now is a compliment. Anyway, it turns out that the whole lesson was pretty much just a Good Cop / Bad Cop routine--missionary style. I thought it worked, but we had some things to work on. So, this week, we met with Ana again and tried to explain the need for repentance, which, by the end of the lesson, she understood perfectly! Elder Cox and I taught the laws of justice and mercy (Alma 42 if you are interested), in Spanish, in 25 minutes. It was pretty amazing. Definitely had some help from the Spirit because after that lesson she said that it was the best lesson that she had ever been taught (and she said that as our teacher, so that is a lot of lessons). So, hopefully we can keep going on that track some more.
Junior, a teenage Bolivian soccer player, had a rough week with us. Not only because he is going on a vacation and we won't meet with him anymore (Hermano Walton left for Bolivia this morning), but also because his brother died of cancer. Definitely rough teaching really anything at that point, but we went over the Plan of Salvation and he was comforted somewhat after that. When Elder Milovidov and Elder Bolanos were teaching him though, they didn't understand Junior had said his brother had DIED, so, after a few moments of silence they simply asked: ", how's soccer?" Lol. I can only imagine how that went. Anyway, we're going to miss Hermano Walton, but he left us a Bolivian flag to hang up in our room to remember him.
Just so you get the idea of what life is actually like here in the MTC, it is pretty much a modern-day monastery. Especially with people walking in two's everywhere and each path crosses and everyone greets everyone else with a humble and quiet hello in who knows what language. Pretty much how I'd imagine it in the movies. I also forgot to say that one day the menu said that they were serving Orange Chicken Salad. And that is just what they did. The plate had lettuce, chicken, and oranges. It was a bit unexpected, but comical nonetheless.
Some funny Spanish mix-ups we have heard so far is one missionary explaining that Joseph Smith went into the Sacred Grove to pray because he was so confused about which church was true. But he mixed up the verb to pray (orar) with the verb to pee (orenar). So, Joseph Smith was so distraught he decided to go into the forest to pee is what ended up being said. Also, someone was talking about the Branch Meeting (reunion de rama) with (reunion de ramera), which would be a meeting of harlots. No big deal.
Last Friday a sister missionary came up to me while I was folding my clothes and said she was sorry, but she could not stop looking at me. At this point Elder Cox and I were...puzzled, to say the least. Turns out, she just stopped at an awkward point in her sentence because the reason was that she was convinced we were on the same flight to the MTC. She just wanted to say hi cause she recognized me even though I wasn't wearing my suit. After talking for a few moments I asked her how long ago the flight was. Two weeks. She must have been mistaken, cause I was just about to start my 6th week here. She apologized for the mix-up. But I was left confused more than ever. I am now not one in a million. My wife will be so disappointed. That is to say, if I even get that far, because yes, every conversation I have had with a sister over the past six weeks has been nothing less than awkward. I feel sorry for the poor girls when I get home.
Which brings us to our next point. They have a missionary TV show? I don't know what to call it. They have episodes though to help us learn how to teach better. Long story short is that I look like one of the missionaries on there and everyone seems to notice. So, I am at least 3 in a million. Its funny because the show reminds me of "The OC", because they always say: "Next time on The District". But, that's a different story. Elder McKinley (in my district) also looks like the companion of the missionary that I look like. So, its odd to walk around with him and have people look at us weird cause they know they recognize us from somewhere.
Did you all read "The Living Christ"? One thing Hermano Walton shared with us was Hebrews 6:4-6. Gives you a whole different perspective on what you do and why you do it.
I wish you all well. Stay safe.
Elder Andrews

orar = to pray
orinar = to urinate
reunión de rama = Branch Meeting
reunión de ramera = harlot meeting

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Living Christ

As we commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ two millennia ago, we offer our testimony of the reality of His matchless life and the infinite virtue of His great atoning sacrifice. None other has had so profound an influence upon all who have lived and will yet live upon the earth.
He was the Great Jehovah of the Old Testament, the Messiah of the New. Under the direction of His Father, He was the creator of the earth. “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). Though sinless, He was baptized to fulfill all righteousness. He “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38), yet was despised for it. His gospel was a message of peace and goodwill. He entreated all to follow His example. He walked the roads of Palestine, healing the sick, causing the blind to see, and raising the dead. He taught the truths of eternity, the reality of our premortal existence, the purpose of our life on earth, and the potential for the sons and daughters of God in the life to come.
He instituted the sacrament as a reminder of His great atoning sacrifice. He was arrested and condemned on spurious charges, convicted to satisfy a mob, and sentenced to die on Calvary’s cross. He gave His life to atone for the sins of all mankind. His was a great vicarious gift in behalf of all who would ever live upon the earth.
We solemnly testify that His life, which is central to all human history, neither began in Bethlehem nor concluded on Calvary. He was the Firstborn of the Father, the Only Begotten Son in the flesh, the Redeemer of the world.
He rose from the grave to “become the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Corinthians 15:20). As Risen Lord, He visited among those He had loved in life. He also ministered among His “other sheep” (John 10:16) in ancient America. In the modern world, He and His Father appeared to the boy Joseph Smith, ushering in the long-promised “dispensation of the fulness of times” (Ephesians 1:10).
Of the Living Christ, the Prophet Joseph wrote: “His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah, saying:
“I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father” (D&C 110:3–4).
Of Him the Prophet also declared: “And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!
“For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—
“That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God” (D&C 76:22–24).
We declare in words of solemnity that His priesthood and His Church have been restored upon the earth—“built upon the foundation of . . . apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Ephesians 2:20).
We testify that He will someday return to earth. “And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together” (Isaiah 40:5). He will rule as King of Kings and reign as Lord of Lords, and every knee shall bend and every tongue shall speak in worship before Him. Each of us will stand to be judged of Him according to our works and the desires of our hearts.
We bear testimony, as His duly ordained Apostles—that Jesus is the Living Christ, the immortal Son of God. He is the great King Immanuel, who stands today on the right hand of His Father. He is the light, the life, and the hope of the world. His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come. God be thanked for the matchless gift of His divine Son.

Letter #5

Family and Friends,
So, this week has been interesting. To start out, I'll tell you a story. Wednesday (two days ago), Elder Cox got called out of class, and consequently I did too. The following is a passage from my journal, so that you get all the emotion and all of this story:
"...we got called to room A104 in 1M during class. So, we headed over there, only to find out that is was the office of the MTC President--President Gordon B. Brown. Long story short, one of Elder Cox's friends wants to get baptized, but wants to wait for Elder Cox to get home so he can be the one to do it. So, we were just talking about how to approach the situation... But, the President kept me behind for a moment. He asked me where I was from; so of course we got to talking about the tragedy that is Penn State and Joe Paterno. Then, after complimenting my "Italian Curls", he told me to get a haircut." Whoops. "He mentioned that there were many ethnic groups in the area around the university. (Wearing white shirts every day really accentuates my darker olive skin tone.) After that I told him I was in fact, of English descent, and after remembering my name was 'Elder Andrews' he agreed I was English. After a bit more discussion he thought that I had attended Penn State and was a football player for them. And then he asked me if I was a convert." I was amazed that he got virtually every aspect of my life wrong. Anyway, I'm getting my haircut on Monday (so don't worry, Mom). Its the Italian side of our family that you need to thank that my hair grows so fast. It was an awkward encounter, but the MTC President is a good guy.
Also, you should be please to know (I know I was) that we have stopped talking about Math at our meals. We have now converted to Starcraft. Starcraft sounds even cooler when you talk about it in Spanish too. So, yeah.
Another interesting thing that happens here in the MTC is that when you are showering, all of a sudden you remember nothing about music except Hymns. You can't sing pop culture music because you simply can't remember the songs, and if you can, you can't remember the words. But, I have been able to fight it a little bit and our District has been harmonizing to music we remember from Anastasia. Unfortunately, our tone-deafness from singing in Spanish carries over now when we try to sing in English.
One of the hardest things at this stage in your stay at the MTC is forgetting a word in Spanish and English. It has happened to me a few times and it can get pretty rough. But, we find ways to get around these little obstacles. Another thing that keeps popping up in my head is the (kind of peaceful but triumphant) music of the movie Pearl Habor. Which reminds me that I love the name 'Evelyn'. So, dearest siblings, I will be really mad at you if you name any of your kids Evelyn. Dibs.
Anyway, on the more spiritual side of things, I have two investigators right now, Ana and Junior. (They are really our teachers). Junior's brother has cancer, so we are trying to help him cope with that and find purpose in his life and Ana is a single mother of two young kids (these people really exist, but they are from our Teachers' missions). So, Junior (Hermano Walton) never smiles and just stares off into space lately. So, I took him some Tootsie Rolls and he smiled for the first time. Also, Hermana Casares had he first Tootsie Roll yesterday (she was born in Mexico), so thank you for your help, Mother.
Your challenge this week comes from a challenge I got too. But yours will be much more simple. This week, please read The Living Christ. I received a letter from my mission president telling me to memorize it, and I'm about halfway done (almost). But, I've always thought of Jesus as a great example and obviously all the normal things you would think about Jesus. But, after reading The Living Christ, there is no question in my mind that Jesus is the Christ, that he suffered for our sins that we might be able to return to live with our Heavenly Father again. Jesus is our Redeemer and He lives!
Take care and know that I love you all,
Elder Caleb Andrews
P.S. If you want to share your thoughts and feelings about The Living Christ, that'd be cool too.


Hermano = brother
Hermana = sister