Saturday, January 7, 2017

A Homecoming and a blessing

Elder Brendan Nicholes returned home from the Canada, Winnipeg mission on January 2, 2017.  This was a wonderful day for our whole family for many reasons.  The first and foremost reason was that we were all able to be at the airport to meet Brendan when he arrived.  The second reason is that we were all together again with our four wonderful children along with our daughter and son in law.  With Brendan's return from his mission, that makes four out of four missionaries from our family.  The next to go will be us, the parents of these four wonderful children.

After literally either flying or waiting in airports all day long, Brendan finally came down the escalator at the Salt Lake Airport along with two other missionaries from the Winnipeg mission.  With three missionaries returning home at the same time, you can imagine the crowds that were gathered at the bottom of the escalator to meet them.  Of course, the first person to welcome Brendan home was his mother. Carrying a big sign that said, "Welcome home you hoser!. We Love You!", she quickly made her way to him so that she could be the first to give Brendan a big welcome home hug. Following Brendan's mother was yours truly and then all three older siblings and spouses.  Needless to say, it was a wonderful reunion at the airport.

Other than the fact that Utah has mountains and Winnipeg doesn't, Brendan's arrival home didn't feel a lot different.  At least as far as the weather was concerned.  Our drive back home from the airport was on snow covered roads and very cold temperatures.  Maybe not as cold as Winnipeg, but cold none the less.  Of course we put in a special order for this weather because we didn't want Brendan to feel too much of a shock when we got home.  This way he could acclimatize gradually. ;)  In reality, Brendan will probably do just fine with his transition from being a full time missionary. 

Being just a little over a week since Christmas, Brendan still was able to come home to some Christmas presents under the tree.  That is one of the great things about having your missionary come home at Christmas time, we get to celebrate Christmas more than once.  Brendan got to open up his Christmas presents at home with his whole family talking and laughing and telling him all about how life in Utah has gone by over the last couple of years. 

Early the next morning, with at least eight inches of newly fallen snow on the ground, we all climbed into our four wheel drive truck and made our way to the Stake Center to meet with the Stake President.  With some additional council from the Stake President and a certificate stating that Brendan had served an honorable mission, the Stake President released Brendan from his full-time service as a missionary.  Spending that time with Brendan, our family and the Stake President, listening to Brendan reflect on his mission, was one of the greatest things every.  Then we spent the rest of the day with our family, talking about missions and basically doing the same thing on the day after Brendan's arrival home, as we did before Brendan left.  I'm not really sure how or why we ended up doing the same things but on the day before Brendan left on his mission, we all went to Nickelcade to play games followed by breakfast the next morning at Kneaders before dropping Brendan off at the MTC.  Well, on the day after Brendan got home, we went to Kneaders for breakfast before spending that evening at Nickelcade playing games again.  I'm not sure we really planned that whole thing out that way, but it makes for a great story and a memory.

With Brendan being our last missionary, I just wanted to say how wonderful it has been over the last eight years to watch our kids receive mission calls, serve our Heavenly Father faithfully as missionaries and watch them grow and mature along the way.  It has been a wonderful blessing for us to have had the opportunity to send four great kids out on missions and have them return home as young men and a young woman.  Their missions have helped them to grow into the great people they are.  In their service, they have introduced many people to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, helped some become members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints and influenced a countless number of others in a positive way.  But just like us all, their service is not done.  There is plenty more to do as returned missionaries, members of this country, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, friends and church members.  My wife and I are very proud of our children for all of there accomplishments as well as the accomplishments they have yet to achieve in life.  Just as we looked forward to welcoming each of them home from their missions, we also look forward to watching them continue to serve our Heavenly Father throughout their lives. 

The blessings of our Heavenly Father are real.  If you have never seen or felt a real blessing in your life, this picture below is our blessing that we share with you.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Last Call...

I know it has only been a couple of weeks since I wrote on this blog about Brendan.  But hey, there were a few times that I went almost two months without writing, so I figure I am just making up for that.  But on to the real news.  We talked to Brendan on his last Christmas call from his mission, just a couple of days ago.  In relation to that, here is kind of a funny story that is sort of about Brendan.  So with Christmas on Sunday this year, we were sitting in one of the pews at church when another family, who also have a missionary serving at this time, came and sat down behind us.  The father of this other missionary is kind of a jokester so he said to Brendan's Mom, "Hey I hear that with this weather, the missionaries from Canada won't be able to call home today".  Brendan's Mom replies, "That's OK, we will just talk to him next week when he gets home.".  I guess that joke kind of backfired, Ha-Ha.

OK, so on to the real missionary news.  Yes, this Christmas was Brendan's last call home.  We were able to talk to him for over an hour and this time the connection was really good (at least from our end).  When we are talking about calling home, we are really talking about skyping home.  That way we not only get to talk to him, we also get to see him as well.  Brendan's sister and her husband were not physically with us, so we skyped them in also.  It was a wonderful thing.  Mostly talking and joking and all of the normal Nicholes family banter.  If you have read any of the missionary blogs from our other kids, they all have a really great sense of humor, so when I say that there was mostly talking and joking, there really was a lot of laughing and humor going on.  We talked about how things have changed around the house while he has been gone. The snow which made for a White Christmas.  What we were doing for Christmas as well as what Brendan was doing that day.  When his homecoming talk would be and what the plans were for the night he gets home.  It was really a lot of fun and with Brendan's last call, that closes out our missionary era as parents, since Brendan is our last.  The next time we have a missionary skype home, it will probably be us calling our kids from somewhere in the world, some day.

So here are a couple of funny stories.  If you haven't realized this before, Canada is a very diverse country.  If you thought that the U.S. was a melting pot for world cultures, you have never been to Canada.  Most of the people that Brendan teaches are not originally from Canada.  Many are from various African countries, others from the Philippines and a lot from Asian countries.  So Brendan has really developed a taste for Asian food.  Some of the Asian members in the area take them out to real Asian restaurants for dinner.  I mean, restaurants where if you don't speak the language, you don't order your food and that has been the case for Brendan and his companion.  What this means is that the Asian people who are hosting you, end up ordering for you as well.  Here is the problem with that, according to Brendan:

"When you let the Chinese people order, you get a whole new world of food options you never thought existed. This week alone I have eaten everything from pig intestine to coagulated pig blood. With a little raw everything in between. But I am not complaining. To tell you the truth, I loved the blood and the intestine was not bad. Also we all ate peppers that came straight from you know where! ha-ha, I took it like a champ the best I could. But my companion and our member friend were flowing out their noses and eyes. Too fun. Anyways, I guess I'm Chinese now. "

The next story we will only be able to set up for now.  Only because it hasn't happened yet, but will.  For Brendan's final P-day in the mission, he and a few other missionaries got permission to enter a basketball tournament.  The last thing that Brendan told us about this tournament was that it was going to be his greatest P-day ever and that if he emailed home on his last P-day, it would be a picture of a bunch of tall white guys standing on the podium in their white shirts, ties and name tags.  We will get the rest of this story next week after Brendan gets home.  Or you can ask him about it the next time you see him.

 Brendan's companion after eating some very spicey chinese food.

Christmas is coming

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The time is short and going fast

There are hazards to being a missionary.  Things like deciding that you should help clean up some trash that somebody left behind, which requires you to scale a wall.  That wouldn't be so bad under normal circumstances except for a missionary who is usually dressed in a white shirt and tie with dress shoes.  Not the best climbing gear.  In Brendan's case he ended up slipping off the wall and hurting his foot.  He thought it might be broken, be since we haven't heard anything more about it in the last few weeks, we are just assuming the best.  Then after hurting his foot, he writes home and tells us about how he has strict instructions to stay off it for a few days.  But then the next sentence goes like this:

"Still hurts and playing floor hockey on it was not the best idea. But when you are a true Canadian and some one hands you a stick are you just going to let it pass? No.  No you're not."
To top that off, his next email a week later starts out like this, "I don't have a lot of time this week. Plus my hands hurt from playing too much four square.".  Good thing he has the Lord's work to do.  Otherwise he would just be a crumpled up mess from all of his P-Day activities.

Speaking of the Lord's work, Brendan is really working hard towards finishing his mission up well.  Each week he is telling us about the people that he and his companion are teaching and how they have set baptismal dates for them.  Just a week or so ago, they were able to follow through with one of the baptismal dates that they had set and they are expecting another one right after Christmas.  In fact there is a great story about the baptism that is coming up.  Originally the baptism was set for January 10th and unfortunately for Brendan, he would be home by then and obviously unable to attend.  Then just a few days ago Brendan got a call asking if the baptismal date could be moved up.  Brendan told us just how happy and excited he was to be able to literally finish off his mission with a baptism.  Not only that, but to also know that their investigator was willing to make a change in their life and to move forward.  What a great blessing.

Winnipeg is getting a new temple.  That announcement was made during General Conference a year or so ago.  The big new lately is that now they have a date for the ground breaking and that date is December 3rd.  In an email that Brendan sent, he told us about how he and his companion were literally the only two missionaries in the whole Winnipeg mission that were invited to attend the ground breaking ceremony.  The reason why is because there were a few of the members in the area who are deaf and Brendan, now that he has learned sign language, was invited to be one of the translators.  

So December 3rd came and Brendan told us about how the ground breaking went.  First of all, there was a bit of a problem with the visa papers of the General Authority who was supposed to be there to preside over the ceremony.  So instead, the Executive Director of the Temple Department had to pinch hit.  But other than that, it all went as planned.  As it turned out, Brendan didn't quite have the sign language translating responsibilities that he thought he was going to have, but he still got to do some translating during the meeting.  His picture even made it in the Mormon Newsroom.  

He wasn't actually signing at the time the picture was taken, but hey, he is ready to move those hands as soon as he is needed.  Then there were the golden shovels.  You can actually see them sitting up against the wall at the front of the chapel.  But Brendan was able to get his hands on them for at least as long as it took to take this picture.

The weather in Winnipeg is cold, to say the least.  Brendan arrived in Winnipeg almost two years ago, in the cold and he will leave in the cold as well.  In his latest email, he described the current winter cold front like this:

"Its finally getting cold out here. Like it has been in the -30's pretty much all week with the wind chill. And it feels like it is eating away your skin. Its crazy. You don't know cold until you have felt Winnipeg cold. Blows my mind everyday that people live here... and they like it. haha, jk jk. I love it here with all my heart!! But jeez man, I mean there are warmer places out there. But GO JETS GO! haha, Its funny to watch all the first year immigrants and see them look like they are walking around in the arctic. Honestly. Its great. I will take some pics. They look like the Michelin Man"

When Brendan gets home in just a few weeks, he is going to feel like he just took a trip to somewhere tropical.

This is the wall he fell off of.