Sunday, October 24, 2010

Tuesday October 19, 2010 (letter received October 22)

Buenos Dias Mi Familia!

Wow! I've been out in the field for a week!  I just sent you an email today with some info, so I hope that helps.  Behind me, my companions and district are b-ballin' it up but since my shorts are in the wash I'm writing letters to you!  Hooray!

Sheesh, I'm not sure where to begin.  I'll start with today, and see where I get from there.  I woke up at 4:00AM so we could go to a session at the San Diego Temple.  Elders Custer and Van Leer (my english speaking roommates [It seems that there are missionaries assigned to separately serve spanish and english speaking people in the San Diego mission]) and I went (we can only go once every 3 months and my companions already went.)  It is such a beautiful and amazing temple, I love its design and architecture, and definitely the Spirit there.  I really enjoyed going but as you might guess, I'm kind of tired.  After the temple, my companions and I wrote emails, did a little shopping and washed some dishes.  Living with 4 other college-aged men, the kitchen can get a little messy, so I was trying to cut down on our dirty dishes.  It's a little tough keeping things clean, but I'm trying for it, because having a clean home invites the Spirit.

Like I said before, I've got an airmattress, which is actually pretty nice, and no closet, but I've been fine just using my suitcases, and no one else seems to mind me having my luggage out.  Our apartment is a touch old, but good and gets the job done.  A lot of people here live in apartments, and after a while I'm kind of looking forward to living in one myself at some point!  Kind of fun.  National City is actually separate from San Diego (founded in 1881 or something) and I enjoy it!  Like I said, it's a bit poorer than where we live [Katy] but the people are wonderful.  I've really enjoyed getting to know the members here, and a lot of them help us out with missionary work!  A lot of people travel back and forth from Tijuana, which is pretty cool.  It's super nice too, how the members feed us occasionally!! It's quite delicious, and I get to try some new foods.  Unfortunately I over ate once or twice (had 2 meals back-to-back) but I just need to be grateful and do my best.  The Lord will take care of my needs.

I really like my companions.  Elder Jardine is from Canada and has been out for about a year and a half.  He has a cast (broke his hand on his bike) so we drive a car but it doesn't slow him down.  He's an awesome teacher and loves the people he teaches.  He's taught me a lot about being a missionary.  Actually the mission really works hard to build in us the ability to recognize people's needs and focus on purpose in everything we do.  I'm really grateful that I came here to get to learn so many important skills that I can take with me to Mexico!  I haven't been working on Spanish as much as I've been trying to master the principles behind these skills so I can apply them to my teaching, using what Espanol I learned in the MTC.  Actually I've been able to understand most every conversation I listen to (though it's easy to lose track when I'm tired or distracted) which I feel is the gift of interpretation of tongues, honestly!  Speaking is tough at times (nerves) bit I can communicate.  I need to work on that!  I'm so grateful though for the Spirit helping me with where I'm at already.

So, yeah, Elder Jardine is a greater teacher and trainer.  My other companion is Elder DeBaltzo, from Ohio.  He's been here 2 or 3 months, so he's just a little "older" than me, though he already has a lot of experience and helps me too.  He has great Spanish, so I rely on them to a good amount.  He's pretty similar to me, actually, in lots of things!  So he helps me out with beginner things and stuff like that.  I was blessed to come in on their hard work, and I hope over time I'll get to know them better and be able to work with them better.  They've tried to get to me know me, though, which I really appreciate.  And our district is really friendly.  It's not easy, but they make it a lot better than it could be.  Service and thinking about others is really important.

That's all the background I can think of for now.  The biggest thing this past week was the baptism of Maria Valdez.  She's really nice, in her 60's or so, and has an amazing testimony, mostly gained by herself.  A really nice baptism.  Apparently the mission has been having a lot of success lately; there were 3 others baptized with Maria.  We're still trying to find some more people to teach but that will come eventually.  Just have faith!

With all the work we've done with members, reaching them and visiting and asking for their help, I wonder how the elders in our (Katy) ward are doing?  Maybe you could invite them over!

I'm glad you are all well.  Wish Sam well for me!  And Julia - I hope school's going great for you!  And GOOD LUCK AT UIL AND AREA!!! YOU CAN DO IT!!!


PS Say Hi to Boris for me!

Behind the Scenes....

At the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah.
Along with the letter we received this week from Oliver (more to follow on that,) we got a memory card of photos. Here are a few, including some behind the scenes looks at everyday life during the 2 months of intense language and gospel teaching training.

The laundry room is where the action is on "P-day" - letter writing and email
Dinner at one of the cafeterias - its all you can eat!

8-10 hours of study a day
Everyone is grouped into "districts" based on the language you are learning and which mission you are assigned to .  This is Oliver's district,  in P-day clothes (Oli's on the top bunk in white shirt.)

And now in usual clothes (Oliver is on the right in the red tie, looking relaxed.)
Oliver and his assigned companion in the MTC - Elder Reed - in their short haircuts.  Both are headed to Monterrey.
Oliver and Elder Reed pose in front of the Provo Temple, located across the street from the MTC. 
An unknown MTC buddy 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tuesday October 19, 2010 (email)

HEY everyone! I just got through my first week in the field; wow! Crazy to think that it's been that long, but then again, not so much. A ton has happened in the past week, but the biggest thing is that I'm doing great. I've had a couple struggles, as everyone does, but I'm enjoying my time here and I want to continue working! : D
Let's see, about correspondence... I now have 2 available hours for emailing, so no problem there. I haven't had a chance to write yet today, and I think I'd prefer to keep writing you letters, just because it's more fun and physical (writing emails might actually be faster for me, but maybe not. We'll see). Here's some quick and fast info:

It looks like they only pick up letters from the mission office every Prep Day (Tuesday), so hopefully I'll be getting some mail from you later today.
My companions, like I said before, are Elder Jardine (a 1.5 yr missionary from Canada, with awesome teaching skillz; also the district leader) and Elder DeBaltzo (a 4 month missionary from Ohio with great Spanish and fun to be around)!
I get to write emails every Preparation Day (Tuesday), as well as write letters when I get the chance. My companions apparently like to email at 10 am on P-days (12 your time).
I have to buy my own food and laundry stuff, but I receive funds from the mission for that, and we've actually had several member meals this week!
I've been pretty busy, so I've haven't written in my journal in the past few days. Yikes! Need to get on that!
I don't know of much else to write here, besides that I might send some stuff home when I get a chance (like I mentioned, I think); I'll let you know when I do.

I'm glad to hear you're all doing well, besides Dad's headache; glad to hear you're better! GOOD LUCK JULIA AT UIL!!! I'm super excited for you and hope you go All the Way to STATE! : D And that's fun that Sam gets to come down! How are you doing at A&M, Sam? Did I tell you that ELDER ROSS LITTLE from the CS University Ward is a Zone Leader in my ward?? Cool beans, huh?
Cali is great stuff. It's been cloudy/overcast for the past few days, but the temp is perfect! I caught myself wishing I could go to D-land this morning; I guess it's just that CA atmosphere : D. I'm looking forward to an opportunity for some In-n-Out soon, I hope!

I'll tell ya'll more in my letter, if that's all right. I love you all TONS and BUNCHES and BUNDLES! You mean so much to me, and I've enjoyed even sharing pictures of you with my investigators! I hope and pray things are going well for you! Tell Grandma Tobler and Grandma and Grandpa Hatfield that I love them too! I look forward to receiving your letters, and I'll talk to you soon.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

October 7, 2010 - CALIFORNIA!!!

HOWDY everyone!! How are you all? I received some exciting news yesterday:

I'm being temporarily reassigned to the CALIFORNIA, SAN DIEGO mission, leaving this coming Tuesday!!!

I'm really excited, mostly because I know when and where I'm actually leaving :D I haven't recevied my flight plans yet, but I'll let you all know as soon as I can.

Quick info. Mission address in CA: Name, (mission), 7404 Armstrong Place, San Diego, CA 92111-4912. For later on, Mexico pouch is Name, Mission, POB 30150, SLC UT 84130-0150, and the office is Cerralvo #134, Col. Libertad, 67130 Guadalupe, Nuevo Leon, Mexico.

I also received the package from Amazon yesterday [CD player and plug in speaker]; THANK YOU so much! I'm really excited to listen to all those CDs once I get to Cali. It's a bummer though, because the speaker doesn't fit into the CD player! I'll have to find something to use in CA, I guess. I really appreciate it, though!

Sadly, my watch is also starting to die. I replaced the battery about a month ago, and now it's slowed down a ton and occasionally ticks backwards. I guess I can wait until I get to California to buy a new watch; what do you think?

And Mom, thanks a ton for the band bag! I look forward to receiveing it. I've really enjoyed the banana bread you sent (and everyone else in my district sends their heartfelt thanks as well! : D), and I really appreciate you sending those things to me. I'm not sure what they'll do with the sweater, but I can ask at the mailroom and let you know later; I think they'll just forward it to me.

My companion is going to Anaheim, and the other two Mexican missionaries are going to Arcadia (just north of LA). I'm really excited too!

I got your letters from Sunday today! Thanks soo much; I love you all too and really appreciate your testimonies, prayers, and support.

And thank you so much for your love and support! I say along the lines of Elder Holland's talk last Saturday: THANK YOU SO MUCH for everything you do! I could not be here without you, and I am so grateful. I love you all so much! I'm so excited to be leaving soon, and I look forward to perhaps calling you in the airport!!!! : D

Love muchly,

PS Hey Mom! My fellow district member and friend Elder Phillips is apparently friends with the Owner of Duncan Donuts! He gave me a chocolate one, and it was delicious. I thought of you! : D (Hope you don't mind me telling you and not giving you one)

PSPS Dad! Thanks for the JK Rowling talk; it was really interesting and thought provoking. AND CONGRATS on your 81!! That's totally awesome!

PSPSPSPSPSPS OK! Look forward to perhaps another email later today and definitely a letter! Love you all bunches!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

September 9, 2010

Excerpts from Oliver's latest letter:

Howdy Family! Here comes another P-day at the MTC. The weeks go past like days and I've already been here a month! Wow! Pretty soon I'll be hitting the halfway mark, which I'm excited about. I'm really ready to get out there, except I need more Spanish...

Most everything is the same. I'm working on the language, though it's hard for me to speak it more. I just need to renew my efforts. I want to learn more and become fluent, it just takes hard work and patience. I'm also loving learning more about the gospel and teaching with my companion, Elder Reed.

On a more somber note, someone in our district (a guy from Las Vegas) got the flu! It's really a big deal here, and he was put in to quarantine for 2 days and the clinic gave everyone else (10 of us) boxes of tamiflu pills as a preventive measure. The church really does not want a flu outbreak. I myself am feeling fine and healthy; I just need to take one pill each day. I'll keep you updated, but most everything is fine now (except for the sick elder - hope he gets well!)

Some more elders from our zone are leaving next week for Mexico. It's exciting but I'll miss them! They're very cool and fun guys. They've also given Elder Reed and I some wonderful advice on studying and teaching.

We had a great Devotional Meeting this past week from Lowell Snow of the Second Quorum of the 70. I sang in the choir for it, which was mucho fun! I look forward to doing it more. Anyway, he talked about "choice". Like, how have the choices we have made led us to where we are now? What have I learned about myself as a result of my choices? What have I learned about God? What choices will I make in the future? A really though-provoking talk; I really liked it. He also talked about a couple of other important things - like the essential importance of charity and the power of the scriptures.

So I think that's about it for this week. Sorry the letter isn't that long, but I do love you all and miss you bunches. I'm excited to be here and can't wait to get to Mexico - 5 more weeks!


Monday, September 6, 2010

September 2, 2010

Excerpts from Oliver's letter of September 2, 2010:

Hello! How are you all? I'm doing marvelous! I went to an awesome session at the Provo Temple just this morning and ate a delectable breakfast in the cafeteria there. Honestly, temple food is better than MTC food so I enjoy it while I can.

Let's see - current status: 146 pounds, 6 feet height (I think), wearing blue suit with red tie, one jammed ring finger from goalie-ing in soccer yesterday. Happy and feeling fine! Like I said in my last letter, time has sped up considerably, and I'm enjoying my time here, with a couple tough times when I'm tired or whatnot. The spirit is great here though, and I'm starting to really feel like a missionary!

I think I'll tell you a bit more about me at the MTC. The daily schedule is mostly the same: wake up at 6, prep, breakfast @ 7:30, personal study for 4-ish hours (a bit of a marathon), lunch at 12, gym out at the athletic field for an hour, quick rinse, class, dinner at 5, more class, planing @ 9, prep, bed at 10:30. Some exceptions include Large Group Meetings, Devotionals (on Tuesdays, and are super awesome - last time we heard from Richard Hinckley of the 70, Pres. Hinckley's son) Teaching Resource Center (Wednesdays) for role plays and Spanish tasks, and of course, Sundays (which have the usual Sunday meetings and a fireside) and P-days. The majority os the same but the little details are always different! Like what I learned on day (importance of listening to the Spirit) to meals (french dip sandwiches for instance) and other stuff.

Gym is fun! There's lots of stuff to do. I've played beach volleyball, jogged, thrown a frisbee around (no ultimate however) and recently I've played soccer (futbol.) Soccer is a lot like ultimate in some respects and its fund to play (kicking, running, cheering on teammates.) I had some knee trouble about a week ago (pain while running) but I've tried to stretch and warm up before getting into it and now I'm pain-free! My only beef with gym is that its smack-dab in the middle of the day and showering and stuff is a hassle. Oh well!

Obedience is a big deal here, but I don't mind. I've had several lessons/talks about how important it is to bring the Spirit and power to you teaching, so I'm striving for that. Sometimes its kind of tough because I always feel like I'm learning and I don't quite have it yet. I'm still pretty new to this though, so I just need to have patience (which is my Christlike attribute of the week) and keep up the hard work.

I'm really liking my companions. A lot of times someone starts whistling or singing a song from some musical and other people join in! There's even some people who have heard of "Newsies" - WOW! I enjoy singing Disney songs or West Side Story with people especially one of my friends, Elder Rowley.

Well that's it for now - It's almost time for laundry and you know how I feel about that :(
I love you all so much! Your letters always make my day. Keep on being awesome and good luck with everything.

Much love,

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

August 26, 2010

Hola! How is everyone in the Lone Star State? It's crazy to think I've been here 2 weeks already; in some respects it feels like forever, in others like no time at all.

I've been hard at work learning to teach and learning Spanish. My Spanish is coming along well? Last Thursday my district decided to only speak Spanish everywhere; it freaked me out a little bit, because I didn't feel I knew enough to express myself, but its turned out OK. Unfortunately we don't speak it all the time, but it's a good to work towards. I have been praying to speak Spanish, and I've been enjoying it more, because of that, I think.

My teaching has greatly improved, as well. I've learned how to begin teaching, how to talk about the Apostasy, the importance of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith. I've even memorized the First Vision in English and Spanish!

What else happened this week? What's fun is that I met two friends from EFY here! It's amazing that we recognized each other, since we haven't seen each other for 3 years or so.

Hey Sam! A super intense thing happened. I was out practicing contacts (telling random missionaries about the gospel in Spanish) when I "contacted" a certain Elder Stosich, who told me he lives in Idaho Falls. Amazingly, he is former President Gary Marshall's nephew! So crazy! I talked to him a bit about how i knew his uncle, our stay last year and everything. Wild, huh?

Whoa! I'm kind of tired. I've had lots of good meetings and lessons in class. One of my teachers, Bro. Toone, gave some amazing lessons and shared some great insights. He won't be here for about a week and a half, though, because he's getting married today!

Probably the pinnacle of the week so far was the Tuesday night devotional. We all waited outside the gym (where the meeting was to be held) for half an hour or more, but it was worth it: Elder Jeffrey Holland came to speak to us! How cool to hear an apostle in person! It was quite an eye-opener of a talk, very good. he was almost really forceful, but he made many good points and I wanted to try harder! I could write more about it later if you'd like.

Well everyone, I wish I had more to write about, but I'm feeling tired. I've had a great week at the MTC, had amazing experiences, and I'm looking forward to my next lesson or meeting. I'm even more excited to get out there in Mexico and teach people! I love you all a lot. Next week I'll try to write earlier so I'm not so tired. I love you, hope to hear from you all soon. I'll talk to you next week!


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Thursday August 19, 2010 - First Letter!

Excerpts from 8/19/2010 letter -
"HELLO! I'm so super excited to finally be able to write you all! So much has happened in the past week + one day that I expect this letter to be quite long. First things first, I just need to tell you all that I'm alright. I was not ready for the shock of the first day, here's a metaphor: I was dropped into the middle of an ice cold lake, floundering about, missing you guys & anxious and all sorts of bad. I couldn't even eat very much. HOWEVER, I have since escaped from that lake-y anxiousness and have warmed up by the fire. The MTC is wunderbahr (wonderful.) The Spirit is so strong and almost always present, my teachers are great and I'm learning so much.

Sheesh! So much to write! I live in the Dan Jones residence hall with my two companeros, Elder Chris Reed and Elder Leonard Snyder. Elder Reed is from Memphis TN, talks with his hands, and likes flip-flops (which we can't wear outside the dorm/residence hall, unfortunately.) He's kind of my build. Elder Snyder, however, is a beast, er, muscular guy! Born and raised in St. George (just off of Main Street) he's a 2-time football all-stater, wrestler of similar renown, though he lost a football scholarship with a bad knee injury. he's pretty funny, has a girlfriend, and did roofing and insulation before his mission. Both of my companions have been a great help, as they have had more experience than I with teaching and Spanish which I am grateful for.

I have also seen pretty much ALL of the MTC Katy clan! Mike Johnson I saw the first day I was here (he just left for St. George Spanish) and I saw him a few times after that along with his brother Matt, who still has a few weeks to go. I didn't, however, find Chris Frame for the longest time until a chance and joyful meeting at gym last Thursday. He's got about a week left.

Spanish is coming along quite well. Though this may sound odd outside of the MTC, I believe the gift of tongues is all throughout this place! I can pray, meet someone, talk a little about our message, and share a testimony, all in Spanish. It's still somewhat basic, but I'm really impressed how far I've come in only one week! Another neat consequence of being here is that alot of my German is coming back! I haven't used it since CRHS junior year but now I have words and phrases coming to mind. Really neat.

Its kind of hard sometimes to walk the hallways and see pictures of people all over the world, or read other missionaries nametags and read Mandarin, Japanese, German, Greek, Russian, Dutch and I kind of wish I was there. However, the Lord called me to Mexico for a reason, and to go there, I need to learn Spanish. I'm liking it and am excited.

By the way, I love being in Utah! The mountains are awesome and the temperature is just right. I'm trying to adjust t the dryness - its not too bad. My nose is stuffed up/running right now but I don't think its a cold.

We are quite busy. Every hour from 6:30am to 10:30pm is fulled (and planned to be that way!) with personal study, class, and meals and gym. Personal study is kind of tough, as I have to take my own initiative on what to study and how. There is a weekly task assignment we do each week called TRC, where we have to communicate in Spanish and teach lessons by role play (there's a TON of role play in the MTC) so can study for that.

Thanks so much for your letters. They're a real source of strength to me! I'm really grateful too for my photo albums. I'm grateful for all the love I have, especially for all of you. Please tell my grandparents and relatives I love them and appreciate their notes greatly. I'm already excited for my next letter!

I wish I could write more by my hand has had enough. Love you again, and God be with you!


Friday, August 20, 2010

Oliver's Mission

Well this is the first installment. Oliver entered the Missionary Training Center (or "MTC") on the campus of Brigham Young University in Provo,
Utah on August 11, 2010, to study Spanish and get missionary training. He'll be there for 9 weeks before leaving to Monterrey, Mexico, where he'll serve until August 2012.

Oliver has a "day off" once a week (also known as Prep Day or "P-day") when he does laundry, exercises, etc., and writes us back home. Missionaries aren't able to telephone home (except on Christmas and Mother's Day each year) so letters or email is the only way to communicate. And, even though email is available to missionaries in the MTC, Oli prefers to write good old fashioned letters. So, in order for his friends and family to keep up on what he's up to, we're setting up this blog. Each week (or thereabouts) we'll add excerpts from his letters and post any photos he sends along.

We're anxiously awaiting Oli's first official communique, expected any day. Stay tuned!