Sunday, December 13, 2015

Interesting experiences and random thoughts

Here we are in December again and you know what that means.  For the last 7 years we have been skyping with one of our missionaries at Christmas time and this year will be no different.  Except this year Brendan will be the missionary that we will Skype with.  Up until now, Brendan has been the one here at home skyping with one of his siblings serving as a missionary at the time.  Brendan actually skyped us for the first time last Mother's Day so this will be his second Skype home but his first Christmas.  This should be fun.

As usual, Brendan is just loving the missionary work in Winnipeg.  He is still working with the YSA Ward there and loving it.  This is the second YSA Ward that he has worked with.  The first one being in Regina and now again in Winnipeg.  He told us that he wishes that he could somehow mesh the two YSA Wards together because he has seen some great things from having experienced serving in both of them that would make for one exceptional Ward. 

But missionary work also has it down times.  The trick is to turn the negatives in to positives.  Here is one of those down times and how Brendan handled it:
"Next up I learned two things, Pomegranates are so cheap, and delightful. I forgot how much I loved them. But I will tell you who doesn't like them, white clothes. Whether that be white shirts or G's, pomegranate juice might as well be blood. That stuff don't ever come out. And I learned that the hard way. I still have a couple poms left, so I will probably just strip down before I cut them up and eat them. Can't risk any more casualties. But, actually in reality I avoided some casualties, thank you TIDE TO GO!!! Seriously though, that stuff works wonders. You want a scripture reference, Although your white shirt maybe as red as scarlet, dab a little tide to go and it will be as white as snow. Learned this for real this week. #miracles"
Averting a tragedy and turning it into a miracle.  Isn't that just the missionary way?! While we are on the subject of how missionaries deal with certain events and opportunities, Brendan told us about a recent Family Home Evening with the YSA Ward.  This activity included a Zumba class.  But obviously before starting any kind of class, there must be a prayer and a spiritual thought.  Brendan and his companion were assigned the spiritual thought.  Brendan didn't tell us what he had prepared for the spiritual thought, but what he did tell us was this:
"But tonight for FHE we are doing zumba. SOOOO DOWN! With some spiritual throw down of a well prepared spiritual thought that we got assigned and then hitting the floor for some zumba, we are gonna be shaking our booties with a tear in our eye. What more can you ask for?"

Ok, it is time for our monthly Canadian vocabulary lesson from Brendan.  This month the word is "toque".  We were introduced to this new word due to the fact that winter is coming and Winnipeg is getting cold.  Brendan has found his new best friend which will keep him warm though the bitter Canadian cold.  Ear Muffs.  No, the meaning of "toque" is not ear muffs but you are close.  A "toque" is actually Canadian for "beanie" which is all Brendan wore last winter to keep his ears warm.  Last year was OK but this year with ear muffs, Brendan is in heaven. At least his ears are. Not to mention that when he goes to one of his appointments, he won't be taking a beanie off his head and looking like he just rolled out of bed.   The rest of him will probably still be cold especially when it hits -40 in Winnipeg with 40 kph winds. 

Here we go for one of the funniest stories of Brendan's mission.  There are a lot of different ethnicities in Canada.  One of the main groups of people to immigrate to Canada are Nigerian.  Brendan says that they are some of the nicest and kindest people he has met.  Ever since Brendan got to Winnipeg, he has heard about a church called "Redeemed Christian Church of God" where many of the Nigerian people meet on Sundays.  A few weeks ago Brendan and his companion decided to attend this church to meet some of the people and get to know them a little better.  When they showed up at the church, they were the only two white people there.  Then they were immediately ushered to the front from the chapel and given all of the attention and love that the rest of the congregation could give.  Then the pastor of the church asked the two missionaries to stand and invited the entire congregation to come and shake their hands.  All 200 of them!!  Then the gospel choir began to sing and the band played and as Brendan described it, it was like a full on concert.  Anyway, none of that is the funny part of the story.  The people at the church seemed to be very kind and friendly people.  The funny part of the story came later which Brendan didn't even know about. 

Just a few days later I was sitting at home working when I got an email from a strange email address.  Of course, everybody gets email from strange email addresses and normally I would have just deleted it.  But this one had the subject line, "We are glad you came".  When I opened the email it was from the Pastor at the "Redeemed Christian Church of God".  Apparently, Brendan had given them an email address thinking that it was one of his old addresses from before the mission.  As it turned out, it was one of my email addresses that ironically enough, I only use for corresponding with church members and scouting.  The email was very nice, here is what it said:
"Dear Brendan,

Blessings and greetings to you in Jesus name. We were privileged to 
have you as our guest this past Sunday.  We trust that your visit was 
spiritually enriching and that you were warmly received.

As a Church, we are committed to the person of Jesus Christ, and we 
base our teaching upon the revealed word of God.  It is our desire 
that people come to place their trust in Christ to forgive them and 
lead them, and that they grow in their relationship with Him.  We feel 
God is doing extraordinary things among extraordinary people and would 
love to see you be a part of this. Kind regards, ..."

When I told Brendan, in my weekly email, what had happened, he responded back saying that he just about laughed himself to death and that whole story just made his week.  I guess the best part of the story is that there are good kind people everywhere.

If you have known Brendan for very long, you would know that for whatever reason, his mind just goes to random thoughts.  Apparently that even applies to his emails as well.  Here is a random thought from Brendan that you just might find funny.  Especially given that he was a radio DJ through high school:
"Anyways, this week was crazy. Lots of stuff. Well, where to start. I don't know. I give up. I'll talk about what's on my mind. On a mission, your musical taste just dies. Straight up, two weeks in it just dissipates. And all that is left is cheezy EFY songs from the early 2000's. But you want to know what is strange. I TOTALLY DIG IT. haha, you should see me. We get bumpin in the car. EFY 2006 comes on and next thing you know I'm air drumming and singing along to "Power in Purity" like its Bohemian Rhapsody. ITs great. I love it. It will be weird in year or so to go back to listening to my old stuff. It's almost as if my ears are stuck in limbo and maybe some day they will make it to heaven. But for now, I'm sticking with the For Strength of Youth greatest hits 2014."

Brendan has been learning a new skill lately.  They  recently met a man who is deaf and attends one of the nearby Wards.  So now every Monday night this man teaches them sign language.  According to Brendan, he and his companion are getting really good at sign language.  Brendan said that now that he has been learning sign language, he is meeting all kinds of people who are deaf.  The great thing is that now he can more easily communicate with them.  Brendan is even considering asking his mission president if he could be reassigned as an ASL missionary.  I'm guessing that isn't going to happen but hey, if having the ability to at least make a door approach in sign language opens the door (so to speak), then it must have been worth it. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Diversity is the spice of life

After spending a few months in Regina, Brendan is off to the "peg", Winnipeg that is.  He has spent a lot of his time serving in the YSA Wards and as a Zone Leader.  With this transfer to Winnipeg, about the only thing that will change is the place.  Brendan will still be serving in the YSA Wards and will still be a Zone Leader.  One interesting thing however, is that in both Regina and now in Winnipeg, he is serving with two other fellow PGers.  Elder Merrell, Sister Alder and Brendan were all friends at one time or another during high school and now they are serving the Lord in the Winnipeg, Canada mission.      

According to Brendan, there have been several miracles that have taken place in the last few weeks in the Regina area.  The most important of which are the baptisms of two young men who have been taking the lessons from the missionaries for the past couple of months.  Besides the fact that they have chosen to join the church, their names are what makes them unique among new members of the church.  I won't mention their names here but just know that with names like theirs, they were definitely destined to do great things.  The other great miracle, although this one somewhat pales in comparison to the previous miracle, is that Brendan and his companion have too many dinner appointments.  That may not seem like much of a miracle to you, but to a missionary it is a wonderful thing.  Well, at least to Brendan anyway.  He told us that while he was serving in some of the smaller areas, it was difficult to get dinner appointments.  But in the bigger cities and the more established Wards, dinner appointments seem to come a little easier.  Another reason why dinner appointments are so plentiful is because of the time of year.  Unlike the U.S. who celebrate Thanksgiving in November, the Canadians celebrate it in October.  Brendan told us that there have been some nights when they have had two dinner appointments and at least one night when they had three.  In fact Brendan said that during a recent dinner appointment with his Stake President who is from France, there were also two investigators from Nigeria, another man and his wife from Mexico, a young person from Iraq who had spent 9 years in a refugee camp and then the two missionaries from the U.S.  As Brendan would put it, Canada is the real melting pot of North America.  

Have you ever heard a missionary give you the "play by play" rendition of how thing are going?  Well, here is the play by play as given by Elder Nicholes in a recent letter home:

"Well well well, here we are again with another edition of random spattering of typos and broken thoughts somewhere racing in my mind as I watch terrible parenting here at the local library. I'm glad you could join us this evening and I hope you don't enjoy your stay.

But this week was a wiz(ard) I don't know why I added that last part. But anyways, moving on. Lets talk baseball. The Jays are killing it in the Playoffs and Canada is going nuts for it. On to hockey, the jets are off to a good start and the city of Winnipeg is ringing with the chant of GO JETS GO. GO JETS GO. GO JETS GO. I like it. On to Canada Winnipeg P-day activity, volleyball. I spiked the ball into a Sisters face today. I don't think we will be playing volleyball any more..."
 Speaking of play by plays and other funny stories, a couple of weeks ago Brendan told us about his new found love for Asian food and how a white kid from Utah impressed the presiding matron of a local Asian family.  Here is the story because Brendan tells it better:

"Well, I want to start by gloating. Yeah, it was good. In Regina I ate a lot with a member family from Vietnam and they taught me to eat with chopsticks and I started getting really good with them. Well as good as a white kid from Utah can get with chop sticks but that is beside the point. Here is why. Elder Gottenbos and I went to a member's apartment who is from China. And they made us Kimchi. AND SINCE I CAME OUT, I LOVE KIMCHI! I love Asian food so much. Like I never had real authentic Asian food till I came to Canada. Where you go to any Asian restaurant and you know it is the real deal. But anyways back to the point. They asked me if I wanted to use chopsticks or a fork. I said Chopsticks and they said the thing they always say... "you sure?" I said yes. They bring them out reluctantly and I start eating the kimchi with them and then the mom who speaks no english what so ever says something in chinese. I look at her son and he says "she just said that you are really good with chopsticks" BAM SEAL OF APPROVAL. That is all. My ego is at all power."
OK, now that Brendan has impressed the Asians with his crazy chopstick skills, it is on to impressing the East Indians with the game of cricket.  Here is how he did that:

"Moving on to my next gloatworthy thing. We were out walking by the university doing some contacting and there were a bunch of East Indians with these boxes and stuff. When I looked a little closer, they had a cricket stick. I WAS SO DOWN! Every night in Regina I would see these East Indians playing cricket by some apartments and one time we went to go join them but we didn't end up actually playing. They just taught us how to play. And So I wasn't letting this chance go by. I yelled out to them and they immediately invited us to play. AND IT WAS AMAZING! Seriously the funnest game ever. And super good way to contact. Me and Elder Bos made a good team I'll tell you what, he was an incredible baller (pitcher) and I was killing it on the hits and fielding. We ended up beating the other team. It was so fun!! Dreams really do come true."
This month's letters from Brendan just keep getting better and better.  Not only were the baptisms, impressing the chinese family with crazy chopstick skills and then playing a mean game of cricket isn't enough, just wait until you hear what's next.  So Brendan and his companion get a call from the assistants telling them that some visitors from Salt Lake will be coming to the Winnipeg area during the next week.  But these visitors aren't just anybody, no they are the people that actually wrote the "Preach My Gospel" manual.  If you aren't family with the "Preach My Gospel" manual, it is the manual that all of the missionaries throughout the world use when teaching the Gospel to people who are interested in knowing more about the LDS church.  In addition to visiting the area, they want to accompany Brendan and his companion during some teaching appointments to see how the missionaries are using the manual.  The assistants told Brendan that he and his companion needed to have three solid appointments for the next Tuesday night.  If you have ever served a mission, you probably know that many appointments fall through.  So making sure that you have three solid appointments, can be tough.  Brendan told us that this assignment really put the pressure on them to set up appointments.  So they literally just started asking anybody on the street if they were free on Tuesday night.  As it turned out, just asking people if they are free wasn't a half bad contacting approach.  Tuesday night finally came and here is how it went:

"This week was actually pretty great. We had some interesting things happen that made it great. If you read my email last week you would know that we were getting a surprise visit from some people from the mission department of the church and that they were going to go on splits with us. Well, turns out it wasn't just anyone from the mission department. IT WAS THE DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS, and we were in a tri-pan with him all Tuesday night. And I have no idea why I fretted about it, haha, it was the best! He took us out to Applebee's for all you can eat ribs and then we had a couple appointments set up for that evening that he came a long with. And at one point we were going through the Plan of Salvation pamphlet with one of our investigators and Brother Wade starts going through it and giving all this detailed background on things in the pamphlet and that's when I realized, "My investigator is going through the pamphlet with the person who WROTE the pamphlet." Blew my mind. But it was super neat. Later he gave us all the little details on Preach My Gospel and how it is used in all the missions around the world. It was a really a super fun night. Love that guy. We are best friends now. haha"
Over the last few weeks Brendan seems to have talked a lot about the diversity of people who live in Canada.  Just this last week Brendan told us that his teaching pool is currently made up of people from Korea, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, China, India, Mexico, United States and Australian Aborigine.  Brendan is now a connoisseur of authentic Asian food and to our surprise, really likes spicy hot food.  Which is funny because he wouldn't touch the stuff before his mission.  Needless to say, things are going great in the Winnipeg, Canada mission and especially in the YSA Wards where Brendan is serving.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Pre-Apostle encounter

Brendan has had an exciting last few weeks.  I'll start out by relating a story that Brendan told us about last week.  The experience actually happened a few weeks ago but became an even bigger story with the calling of the new Apostles last week during General Conference.

So about a month ago Brendan's mission had a visit from Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Seventy (at that time) who came to tour the Winnipeg, Canada mission.  As part of the mission tour, he visited the Regina area where Brendan is serving has a zone leader.  This, of course, was an exciting event for the missionaries because they all had a chance to meet and be taught by a General Authority.  Last week after Elder Renlund was called to be one of the newest Apostles, I asked Brendan if he had a chance to meet Elder Renlund when he visited the Regina area.  Brendan responded back by refering to his weekly family letter and indicating the he and Elder Renlund were now on a "last name" basis.  So here is the full story about Elder Renlund's visit to the Winnipeg Canada mission.

It all started out with a missionary zone conference that included all of the missionaries from the cities of Regina and Moose Jaw.  That's right, "Moose Jaw" is the name of one of the cities in Brendan's zone.  Brendan and I have an on going inside joke about Moose Jaw being the place to be.  But that is a story for another day so let's get back to the zone conference.  Brendan started out by telling us that he was asked to conduct the zone conference.  So as the missionary in charge of conducting the meeting, Brendan was obviously sitting on the stand when Elder Renlund came and sat down right beside him and started talking to him.
"He asked me if I was Elder Nicholes. I told him I was, I may have jokingly asked him if he was Elder Renlund but really I was too nervous to remember. haha. But he looks at me and asks me, "is there anything thing you would like to know?" I said No, but is there anything I should know. And he looks me in the eyes and says, Relax. Can I let you in on something, first off, I had told no one that I was nervous about conducting this meeting. Sure, it was my first time ever conducting anything and it was a member of the Seventy. haha, but I had kept that in. And after I shook Elder Renlund and Sister Renlund's hands I hugged President Craig who was next in line and President Craig tells me that Elder Renlund said that Elder Nicholes needs to let his nerves go. I hadn't told no one! Or voiced any concern. But I'll let you in on another thing! You want to know what makes you as unrelaxed as possible!? HAVING A GENERAL AUTHORITY TELL YOU TO RELAX! haha. Anyways it all went really well. I love him a lot! He is an incredible man and I sustain him with all my heart."
Brendan initially told us that the zone meeting went well and despite Brendan being nervous, he was able to conduct the meeting as you would expect.  But then at the bottom of his family letter, he said:
"P.S. I lied about the conducting going well. I got called out by a General Authority as he sat in the audience while I was conducting. I slipped and said that we were going to have a prayer then a song when Elder Renlund goes "We are going to have a prayer first?" I had NO IDEA what he was talking about. I had not noticed that I had messed up and I just stared at him like a deer in the headlights. It was super funny. I was so lost but all was well. We then had a leadership meeting with him and I got to talk to him pretty much one on one for about an hour and a half, so really it was an incredibly neat experience! I love this gospel!!! There was a lot more that happened but its hard to convey through messaging. But anyways there ya go. Love ya!"
Here is another interesting "small world" experience that Brendan had this last week.  Brendan and his companion attended a baptism service in their Ward.  After the baptismal service the Ward Mission Leader asked the missionaries to meet with him for a few minutes.  As often happens, the meeting started out by having everybody introduce themselves.  Of course the missionaries introduced themselves and stated where they were from.  Brendan said that he hates doing that because most of the other missionaries are from various different places throughout North America and the World.  Of course when a missionary is from an interesting place, everybody wants to know about it.  But when a missionary states that he is from Utah, especially from Utah Valley, the response is usually something like "oh that's nice".  But this time was a little different.  When the Ward Mission Leader asked Brendan where he was from and Brendan told him Utah, the mission leader said, "Oh, where abouts?".  Brendan told him the city and the Ward Mission Leader excitedly stated that he had served part of his mission there.  For those from Brendan's home Ward who may be reading this blog, you might remember that for a long time the missionaries live just a couple of houses down from us in a basement apartment.  Well, it turned out that the Ward Mission Leader just happened to have been one of those missionaries.  So here you have Brendan who is now serving in a Ward in Regina, Canada with a Ward Mission Leader who spent several months of his mission, years ago, living just a stones throw from Brendan.  Small world, don't you think?

If I haven't told you before, Brendan is now serving with the YSA Wards.  Due to the fact that the YSA are spread out over several different Wards, a couple of weeks ago Brendan gave us a run down on the Pro's and Con's of working with the YSA. 

Pro #1 - He and his companion get fed a lot.  The way Brendan describes it is that the members feed them like they are "emaciated little street erchins".  It's the best.

Con #1 - They have seven hours of church on each Sunday.  In fact just the week before they had spent from 10 in the morning until 10 at night in church meetings of one kind or another.  It isn't that they dislike being in church, it is about the fact that after sitting on hard benches or chairs for seven hours, your butt gets kind of sore.

Pro #2 - Seeing all of the less active members or investigators come to church.

Con #2 - The missionaries get really weird looks from members when they see the missionaries refuse the sacrament.  It's not that they are really refusing the sacrament, it is that the missionaries have already attended several sacrament meetings that day and have already partaken of the sacrament in an earlier meeting.  But obviously the members don't realize that.

As you can probably tell, Brendan is having a great time on his mission.  He is working hard and enjoying the hard work.  The interesting thing is that he himself is the one comparing Brendan of the pre-mission life to Brendan the missionary.  Every once in a while he will mention how he really enjoys things like General Conference or attending church for seven hours on Sunday (except for the sore butt part).  Then he will point out how weird it is that he actually enjoys those things, because the pre-mission Brendan never would have.  It is interesting how much a mission changes a person.

Here are a few pictures that Brendan sent home recently.  If you went to High School with Brendan, you may recognize another missionary in one of these pictures.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Time to step up and take control

Things are going well for Brendan.  He is still in North Central Regina which he affectionately calls "the hood".  He loves his area and loves the people that he is teaching.  Apparently summer has come to an end in Regina.  Brendan told us that his wool socks are out and on his feet and he doesn't think that they are coming off for a while.  From what we have heard, when the Winnipeg area decides to get cold, it really gets cold.  Brendan spent all of last winter in Minnesota and experienced some cold.  But it appears that he hasn't really experienced cold yet until he spends a winter in Winnipeg or Regina as the case my be.

This past month our whole family spent some time in Canada.  Obviously, Brendan was in Regina, Saskatchewan serving as a missionary and the rest of us were in Edmonton, Alberta.  We were their touring Brendan's sister's mission who returned home from her mission just two days before Brendan went into the MTC.   In Canada there is a Dunkin Donuts like store on every corner called Tim Horton's.  The missionaries like to go there occasionally to get hot chocolate and pastries.  While we were in Edmonton visiting many of the people that our daughter knew and taught, we received this rant from Brendan about Tim Horton's in his weekly email:
"So I don't know what it is like in the rest of Canada, but here in SK, Timmy Hortons has been advertising the socks off of their new creamy chocolate chill. And it looks so good! And so this has been the week of the lunch (aka dropped appointments, for those non missionaries) we were discouraged. So we were so hyped to get our CCC on! Honestly, I think I was just sold on the alliteration. It is so catchy. say it, Creamy Chocolate Chill. Creamy chocolate chill. Well IT'S GARBAGE!! straight up nesquik powder blended with some ice. I'm mad. I HATE TIM HORTON!!!!"
So just to spite Brendan and since we were in Canada, his brother had to stop by Tim Horton's to get a "Creamy Chocolate Chill".  We all gave it a try and it turned out to be one of those things that you either loved or hated.  I was on Brendan's side and didn't really care for it.  However, his brother just couldn't get enough of the CCC.  Everyday thereafter, he had to stop by the nearest Tim Horton's (which was usually on the next street corner) and buy another CCC.  We lost count of how many CCCs Brendan's brother consumed while we were touring around the Alberta area.  But at least we felt like we were somehow sharing a moment with Brendan even though were were hundreds of miles apart.

For Brendan, the disappointment of the Tim Horton's CCC just seemed to continue that week.  Brendan told us that every day they had a bunch of appointments with investigators and were ready to really do a lot of teaching.  But each and every day, all of their appointments fell through.  Then on top of that, Brendan told us that they were targeted in a "hate crime".  Luckily nothing happened to the missionaries personally but someone did key their car rather severely and carved some rather crude and vulgar things into the side of it.  So their day turned from being ready to teach, to having no one to teach and finally spending the day with the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) sorting out the whole car issue.  But just when it seems that all was lost, a miracle happened.  Brendan and his companion were able to meet with one of their investigators and set a baptismal date.  From the way that Brendan put it in his email home, that one appointment made up for the whole day and probably the whole week.

So the craziness of missionary work continues.  Brendan told us last week that it was time for transfers again and he had a feeling that his companion was going to be one of the new assistants to the president in the mission.  Well, his feeling turned out to be true which also meant that Brendan's companion was going to have to leave a few days early for Winnipeg to get started with his new responsibilities.  This left Brendan as the lone zone leaders in the area which meant that he was going to have to take care of transfers by himself.  From what Brendan said, there is a lot more to transfers than just missionaries moving from one place to another.  As the zone leader, he has to keep track of the phones, car keys and answer any questions that the transferring missionaries might have.  He said that it is truly a three day event that he will be doing by himself.  Hey, welcome to missionary work.  Sometimes, if not most of the time, things just don't go the way you planned.

Brendan included a little "Aha" moment in one of his most recent letters home.  This is what he said:
"It's incredible what changes you can make when you spend all day every day trying to be Christ-like. Linda K. Burton had a quote last conference that has changed my life forever. It says "When was the last time you chose to be happy rather than being 'right'." I have taken that to heart and it has made all the difference for me. Me and Elder Joncas were not similar AT ALL. We honestly had no compatibility, yet we became the greatest of friends. Why? Because we were both striving to be like Christ. It's that simple. I love it.  Just thought I would let my family and friends know that. I know you can't imagine a Brendan without imagining him always trying to be right, but I'm pleased to say that I'm changing. And I blame the Atonement. once again. I'm not perfect. I still have sassy remarks come to my head that I have to bite my tongue to keep from escaping, but I'm getting better.  I'm a recovering know-it-all and you can too."

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

In the "hood" and loving it

Not too long ago, actually about six weeks or so, Brendan made the big move across three provinces and two countries from International Falls Minnesota to Kindersley Saskatchewan.  Now just six weeks later, Brendan is on the move again and this time it's not just from one town to another.  He emailed us a couple of weeks ago and told us that he was being transferred from Kindersley to Regina.  Not only that, he was also being made a new Zone Leader in that area.  That is a big responsibility for a missionary who has barely been out six months.  But before I get into more about his new area and new calling, there is a matter of just how he spent his first birthday on his mission.

So this is a great story and fortunately there is some great video to go along with it.  Brendan and his companion were invited to dinner by a Filipino family who are members of the Ward in Kindersley.  Brendan said that the Filipinos make the best food.  So for the most part, his birthday dinner was wonderful.  But there was the matter of the initiation into Filipino culture that Brendan had to go through.  If you have never heard of balut, it is actually a fertilized duck embryo that is boiled and then eaten in the shell.  This was Brendan's special birthday surprise.  Rather than trying to describe the experience, you can see it first hand in this video.

That wasn't the only interesting thing that happened to Brendan around his birthday time.  He also shared with us another story about how the "church" is trying to kill him.  In this case he isn't talking about the members of the church or the doctrine, but instead he is talking about the church building itself.  This is the point where I will let Brendan tell the story:

"The first thing that made this week interesting was the fact that the church is trying to kill me. I don't mean the body of the church or the leaders. I mean the physical tangible phase 2 church building of Kindersley, SK. I was doing some family history work on the computer when I realized that it was time to go. So I stood up promptly from my hardly cushioned typical church chair. And BAM. Imagines of all the wooden corners that have given me pain and stitches through out my life rushed into my head. From the downstairs TV cabinet thing that lacerated my inner ear at a tender age to me tripping and hitting the window seal so gracefully in the upstairs studio. But WHAM none the less, I rammed my head into yet another wooden corner. The bane of my existence struck again. I immediately made a loud grunting noise which wasn't a cuss word. So I'm making good progress. haha. I felt my head and I was gushing blood. So I ran to the bathroom and some how kept my white shirt untouched of red stuff. Quite impressive. But now I have had a week long headache and an indent in my scalp. But hey, hospitals are for wussy's. And I'm not a Canadian citizen so it would have cost an arm and a leg. But all is well that ends well. (seriously there was a lot of blood)."

We didn't get a family letter from Brendan for a couple of weeks after he was transferred to Regina.  But when we did, the subject line read "Ganglords got cha back mmmmhhh".  Apparently,  Brendan is now serving in the inner city area of Regina.  Needless to say, it is the rougher part of down.  Here is another story that Brendan shared with us about his new area:

"We spend quite a lot of time in an area of town called North Central. It is the hood. I love saying that. "Hood" Something I never got to say much in the 801. "hood" But crazy things have happened this week that I really don't feel comfortable telling you guys about. Just know that the hood is a scary place and that really bad things happen to some people that we teach and it really is hard to deal with sometimes. But we were walking down the street the other day and this guy called us over. Medium build covered in tatts. A couple teardrop tatts (mom translation: that means he has killed people) and we talk to him for a while and apparently he is a ganglord here in North Central. He tells us that he has our back and that we don't ever need to be scared in the hood. We have protection. If anything goes down, call him. Its great. I love it!"
That is just the kinds of story that every missionary parent just loves to hear about (re-read that last sentence with a sarcastic tone).  Anyway, we are just grateful that Brendan is being watched over by our Heavenly Father as well.  With that kind of assurance, everything should be great.

Brendan is loving his new area and his new companion.  He said that his companion is one of the hardest working missionaries in the mission.  From the time that Brendan arrived in Regina, it has been non-stop missionary work.  In fact, last week we didn't get an email from him until about 8:30 at night because he and his companion had a full day of service to attend to.  Along with that, Brendan said that they have met a lot of people while out tracting and many of them have been very receptive to the gospel message that the missionaries have to share.  Brendan has told us over and over again just how much he is loving his new area.  They are teaching several new investigators and are hoping to challenge a few for baptism soon.

So here is another great story that Brendan told us about.  While Brendan and his companion were out tracting, they came across a very unique house.  They stopped and knocked on the door and the owner of the house came out to talk with them.  As happens quite often, after talking for a few minutes the owner asked if they could come back some other time.  About that time Brendan smelled something incredible coming from inside the house, so he asked what it was.  The home owner said that he was making soup and asked if they would like some.  You know missionaries, when it comes to food, you don't have to ask them twice.  So they went in, sat down and the home owner gave them each a bowl of soup.  Brendan said that it tasted a little spicy and was really good, so he asked what kind of soup it was.  About that time the man took the lid off of the soup pot and showed them what was cooking inside.  There it was, authentic sheep's head soup made with a full sheep's head boiling in broth and spices inside the pot.  He said that it was kind of creepy but since the soup was so good, he actually wanted some more.

So here is one last story that is soooo Brendan.  He sent us an email with the subject line that said, "Sometimes you cut your own hair. Sometimes you end up with bald spots":

"I did indeed give my self a haircut for the second time since I have been out. The last time I did a really good job. This time it started out well, but... I had finished up and taken a shower to rid my self of sick hair. Then I noticed some hairs in my ridiculous cowlick were a little too long. So I pulled out the clippers and took off the guard cause I was just going to clip the tops off. But as you know, looking in a mirror everything is opposite. Sometimes you forget this when you cut your own hair. This was one of those times. And long story buzzed short (hah hah) I now have a glorious bald spot on the side of my head that is the size of a fifty cent piece. But it is a great lesson in humility and forgetting about what people think. So honestly, in a strange way you can check that one off as a blessing!"

Balut before peeling the shell off

There's a tasty morsel right there.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The big move... road trip

This last month has been a month of change for Brendan.  Just a few weeks ago Brendan got the transfer call and was asked to transfer from International Falls Minnesota to Kindersley, Saskatchewan, Canada.  If you look that up on a map or even plot it on Google Maps (map), you will see that it is almost a 14 hour drive and that is if you are going straight there.  Of course the missionaries never go straight there because they have to figure out the logistics so that they always have a companion from one end of the trip to the other.  So for Brendan it was more like an 18 hour trip on the road and staying overnight with some of the other Elders along the way.  As far as the mission boundaries go, Brendan almost went about as far from one end of the mission to the other as he could within the Winnipeg mission.  He covered 3 Canadian provinces and two countries to get there.  Then if you count the fact that part of his area includes a bit of Alberta, you can add yet another province to that list.  He also went from the small town of International Falls to an even smaller town at Kindersley.  There is also one other interesting fact about being in Kindersley.  Brendan is now literally within about an hour's drive from his older sister's mission.

The next bit of change for Brendan, if traveling across half of the country of Canada isn't enough, with the month of July also comes mission president changes.  So Brendan now has a new mission president also.  His new mission president didn't have to come from very far though.  Since they are from Calgary Canada which is one of the neighboring missions of Winnipeg, their move was probably easier than most.  Brendan told us that he finally got to meet his new mission president when they had a zone conference in Saskatoon.  Brendan said that he is very impressed by his new mission president and he has already inspired Brendan to do more scripture memorization.  Here is what Brendan wrote home:
"This week we also welcomed in our new mission president. He and his wife are from Calgary and they are really quite neat. It was quite a neat experience to meet them. They came to Saskatoon and everyone in the Saskatoon zone came and met them. Then they spoke to us for a couple hours and man that guy knows his scriptures. Got me in the mood to continue memorizing. So this week that has been a big focus of mine. Whenever I have a bad thought or really any temptation of any kind, I start reciting scriptures in my head. I already have 5 down in the last two days, so things are going well hey? I'll have to keep it up and me and Chris can battle it off for the family scriptorian award."
So here is the interesting thought I had when Brendan told us that.  He said that he was inspired to do more memorizing and that if ever a bad thought or temptation occurred that he would recite scriptures in his head.  That sounds like a great idea.  Then he said that he had already memorized 5 in the last two days.  So my question is, where are all these temptations coming from that are causing him to memorize scriptures so quickly?  Never mind, Brendan has always been the fact and trivia member of the family.  Memorizing anything whether it is scripture or historical facts, has always been easy for him.

Brendan's new companion in Kindersley was actually one of his companions from the MTC.  So Brendan was pretty excited about the change.  But the downside is that Kindersley is a really small town which means that the teaching pool is pretty small as well.  In fact Brendan told us that they really didn't have anybody that they are currently teaching and are basically starting from scratch.  When he wrote home a couple of weeks ago he said that it had been one of his hardest weeks on his mission.  Mostly due to the fact that they are having to spend all of there time trying to find people to teach and none of their time actually teaching.  In the last week or so they have been able to meet some new people that have been interested in knowing more about the Gospel, but it hasn't been easy.

We received a text from one of the members in Kindersley thanking us for sending our boy to them as a missionary.  They also sent us a couple of pictures of the hard work that they have been doing.  But from the looks of those ribs that Brendan is enjoying, I'm thinking that Brendan got the better end of that deal. :)


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Mother's Day and you know what that means...

Finally, Mother's Day came and that means that our missionary called home.  And you just thought that Mother's Day was just a celebration of the mothers in our lives.  Well, it is and it is also a time when mothers of missionaries get the gift of a phone call.  Brendan called home later in the afternoon.  Actually, he skyped home.  We were able to see him and talk to him at the same time.  All of his brothers and sister were here at home while Brendan was in the little church building where his Branch meets.  We talked to Brendan for a while and he filled us in on some of the details of the things he has been doing and the people that he and his companion have been teaching.  We found out one little tidbit that he hadn't told us about before. 

Several times during the week they either do volunteer work or meet with some of the groups or seniors in the area.  Well, one week several months ago, Brendan and his companion met with a sewing or knitting club and they ended up getting their pictures in the news paper.  A similar thing happened to Brendan's older brother when he was serving as a missionary as well.  At the time Brendan's older brother was volunteering as a wrestling coach at a high school and a local newspaper thought it would be interesting to do a story on a Mormon Missionary wrestling coach.  In Brendan's case, they just happened to be at the library meeting with the local knitting club.  The full article along with pictures can be found online at The Westend Weekly newspaper site.  Here is a link to the knitting article about Brendan so that you don't have to search the whole internet.  Scroll down to the third page to see some great pictures such as the one below and read all about their knitting projects.

Of course during our Mother's Day chat with Brendan, he made a request that we send him a missionary package.  He wanted some practical things like new dress pants and some good conference talk that he can listen too.  But then there were the other requests like Sour Patch Watermelons and Airhead Extremes.  So if anybody reading this would also like to send Brendan a package, it seems like candy is a missionary's best friend.

Well, while we were getting all of the rain in Utah during the month of May, it turned out that it was still snowing in Northern Minnesota along the Canadian border.  I asked Brendan a few weeks ago if he was having a good day and he told me that it was snowing again.  Just before that, they actually had a few days of good weather and Brendan thought that it was time to break out the short sleaved white shirts and summer ties.  Only to be plunged back into winter again with more snow and ice.  I'm sure that summer will come at sometime in the next few weeks.  The bad news is that Brendan is currently in the southern most portion of the Winnipeg Mission.  Just as spring and summer hit International Falls, he will probably get transferred North where it will be cold again.  But hey, it's missionary work.  The weather doesn't matter.

Speaking of bad news.  Brendan told us a story about the car that they have been driving around.  Apparently, the car had been in some kind of accident before Brendan got there so they have been driving the car around without a front grill.  The only car repair place in town was kind of dragging their feet in getting the new part for the car.  5 months seems to be a ridiculous amount of time to have to go before getting something as simple as a front grill.  Anyway, to make matters worse, they went to get in their car the other day and found a brand new dent in the side of the car and no note on the wind shield.  Of course there wasn't much that they could do about it except for this,
"Apparently they must have hit us and just thought we wouldn't even notice because of the rest of our car. Well we noticed and God noticed and that's definitely getting brought up at the judgement bar. I will testify against him."
Brendan and his companion have been doing a lot of teaching over the past few weeks.  They have also been out tracting and had one of the most unique tracting stories every.  Brendan said that not too long ago they were walking down the street when a truck pulled up beside them.  In the truck was an older gentleman who looked a little frail.  The man leaned out of his truck and asked the missionaries if they were the "holy rollers".  Of course Brendan and his companion were a little confused and answered back that they were the Mormon missionaries.  The gentleman then responded, "yeah... the holy rollers" and then asked if the missionaries would pray for him.  At first Brendan and his companion thought that the man was trying to insult them or something.  But after talking with him a little more, they found out that the gentleman had just been diagnosed with cancer and felt himself dying everyday.  He just happened to see the missionaries walking by his house so he hobbled out to his truck and drove down the street just to ask the missionaries to pray for him.  After they talked for a few moments, the man put his truck into reverse, pulled back up the street to his house and left.  I guess that this just goes to show us that there are people in need all over the world.  Sometimes the things that they need are material goods and other times they just need someone to pray for them.

Speaking of interesting missionary experiences.  So a few weeks ago Brendan and his companion got a call from an older gentleman who had been referred to the missionaries from another person that the missionaries had helped out a while back.  The man invited them to his cabin on one of the islands to help him with some work that he needed done.  Needless to say that the volunteer service turned into a teaching experience and a new friendship.  We even received a phone call from this gentleman thanking us for sending our boy out to be a missionary.  Brendan told us that since then, they have been invited back for dinner and more teaching opportunities.  These are the types of experiences that every missionary dreams of.  The type of experience where a missionary can really teach and serve and help make a difference in somebody's life.

Here are a few pictures that Brendan has sent home recently.  Transfers are coming up in the next week or so and Brendan has a feeling that he may be heading north to Canada finally.  I guess we will see what happens.

Doing a little volunteer service work

International Falls is the home of a large paper mill so obviously they need a lot of wood.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Serving and learning

Brendan's second transfer day finally came and the big news is that Brendan will be staying in International Falls, MN.  Actually that isn't the big news because that is really no news at all.  The big news is that Brendan is finally out of training.  As of this transfer, Brendan has been on his mission for three months.  According to the Winnipeg mission training manual (actually we don't know if there is a real manual), after three months a trainee graduates to becoming a full fledged missionary.  Brendan will now be able to spread his wings and fly..., or at least tract and teach and do all of the same things he was doing last week.  But, Brendan was really excited that he is no longer in training.  But there was more news that just that.  Previously in International Falls there was one set of Elders and one set of Sisters to cover the city.  As of this transfer Brendan's companion will be moving to another area and the Sisters are being reassigned somewhere else.  As Brendan put it,
"They are also closing down I falls for the Sisters. So now I'm going to be the only survivor. Everyone else got kicked off the island. So this should be interesting. The good thing is that we are going to have so much to do! We get all of the Sister's I's and less actives and also our own and the turnover shouldn't be too hard! But it is a little daunting. I'm excited though!"
Then after that news, Brendan heard that his new companion has a guitar.  Brendan has been dying to play the guitar ever since he left for his mission back in January.  But with the good news comes the bad.  As it turned out, Brendan's new companion wasn't able to bring the guitar with him so I guess he will just have to wait a little longer for that miracle to happen.

Brendan and his companion have a new goal in mind.  They want to be able to provide some service for some of the other denominations in their area.  They call it the Ammon project.  Recently Brendan and his companion were out knocking on some doors when they came across someone who is very active in one of the other churches in the area.  After talking for a few minutes, the person at the door made it very clear that they weren't interested in knowing any more about the LDS church.  So the Elders asked if there was anything that they could do in terms of service to help this person out.  The person indicated that in about a month or so they could use some help raking the lawn and sprucing up the yard.  Well a month went by and Brendan and his companion decided to get dressed in their work clothes, grab their rakes and head back to this person's house to do a little service.  When they showed up and started raking the yard, the home owner was stunned by the fact that not only did they remember to return in a month, but that they were actually there doing the work.  What was even more exciting is that after the Elders got to know this person a little better, the Elders found them to be very nice and the person even invited the Elders back some afternoon for lunch.  Later on Brendan and his companion stopped by one of the other denominations to talk to the minister to see if they could be of any service to their church or members.  Brendan said that as they talked, they had to keep diffusing the situation and bring the conversation back to how the missionaries could be of service to them.  In the end, there wasn't much in the way of service that the missionaries would be allowed to do.  But as Brendan told us, they certainly weren't going to stop there.  They were going to keep offering to serve them until their offer is accepted.

Speaking of other denominations, Brendan told us about how he recently went to Warroad, MN to go on some exchanges with the Elders that are assigned to that area.  Brendan went on exchanges with another Elder who is from Manti, Ut and as Brendan described him, he is a real cowboy.  This Elder was completely different from Brendan but they both had the greatest time working together.  Brendan said that they went by the local Catholic Church to talk to the Father who is in charge there.  Sorry Noah, Simeon and Connor, according to Brendan, he now has a new best friend.  Here is what Brendan said,
"We traveled to Warroad and went to the Catholic church and talked to the Father there. Man, I think I met my new best friend. Father Oggie is my new best friend. Like throw Noah and Simeon and Connor out the window. haha, Oggie is the man. He gave us a tour of the church and showed us all the symbolism and we talked a lot about our beliefs. He was super interested in temples and temple work. Seriously, it was so good."
So to finish up this blog entry I would like to let Brendan do it in his own words.  This was a paragraph that he wrote in his last email home just after his trainer was transferred as well as the Sisters in the area and Brendan was left to introduce his new companion to International Falls and the work that was left to be done.  This is the kind of thing that every parent loves to hear in a letter home from their missionary.  Over to you Brendan,
"But taking over this area has been a bit of a task. I don't really feel adequate for the job, but I'm trying my best to rely on the Spirit to help me out. This whole mission thing has been so great so far. I love it a lot and I'm loving it more everyday. There are some rough moments when I sinfully reminisce about disco skating or working at the office but those get kicked out pretty quick and I get back to work. This area is so great and my charity for Gods children has grown so much I can't really describe it. I haven't felt this much love for people ever. Like I love getting heckled and chirped by people. Cause all I think is "someday I'll get you, we do baptisms dead or alive sucka. There is no getting out of this one" I love it out here. I'm also learning so much.  Few things do I love more than personal study. I remember the weeks prior to leaving I was thinking about how I was going to have to study allll the time and dreading it. How dumb am I? It's the best. I sometimes want to spend all day just reading the good word. It makes me so happy! One of the best things I have learned out here is that the learning lifestyle I have out here doesn't have to leave when I take off the tag in two years. The thing that is making me change and grow so much isn't the tag or the white shirt, its my habits and my constant relying on the Lord. And that gets to get carried with me for the rest of my life. How great is that?"


Monday, April 6, 2015

Walking on water and fishing for souls

So Brendan is doing great and he is still in International Falls Minnesota.  In fact he and his companion actually had a baptism a few weeks ago.  The hard work is paying off and Brendan loves it.  A few weeks ago Brendan told us about some of the things that they have been doing in their branch.  They have started holding some different activities for not only the youth in the branch but also the older members as well.  They have been doing everything from Sunday evening board games to Monday night family home evenings and they even somehow worked out a way to get free bowling on Tuesday nights.  So with all of that, they are really building some branch unity and have also created and environment where they can easily bring investigators to mingle with the members of the branch.  One of the other activities that they have been participating in with the branch is doing a little family history.  Brendan wrote home a couple of weeks ago and told us that after looking back through his ancestors on, he came across a story about one of his great-great-great-great grandparents and why we have the 'e' in Nicholes.  It turns out that Brendan's ancestors used to spell our last name like many others, "Nichols" without the 'e'.  But due to the crackdown on polygamy during the late 1800's, one of our ancestors decided to add the 'e' to Nicholes so that he could legally say that Josiah "Nichols" didn't live there when the authorities came looking.  So apparently polygamy is the reason for the 'e' in our last name. 

Brendan and his companion have had some weeks where they weren't able to do a lot of teaching mainly due to things just falling through.  And then there are other weeks where they just have all kinds of lessons.  Brendan told us about a couple of new people that they have been teaching that just really seem to embrace everything that these missionaries are teaching them.  In fact Brendan said that at one point during one of their lessons, the thought crossed his mind that the lesson was going so well and the person that they were teaching was asking all of the right questions, maybe this person was really someone that they sent out from Salt Lake to test the missionaries.  Kind of like what they do in the MTC to help teach missionaries how to teach.  The MTC invites members of the church to pretend like they are investigators so that the missionaries can practice teaching.  It is always nice to be teaching someone that just wants to learn and just enjoys hearing about the gospel and what it can do for them.  Obviously, the person that they were teaching was not sent there from Salt Lake, which makes the whole thing even better.  Hopefully, things will continue to go well and they will decide to be baptized and become members of the church.  Then on top of that Brendan was telling us about another thing that happened while they were just walking down the street.  Brendan said that while they were walking through a trailer park trying to find someone that had taken the missionary lessons previously, a truck drove by and Brendan waved at them just to be nice.  Before they knew it, the truck turned around, the driver rolled down his window and asked Brendan and his companion if they were Mormon missionaries.  Of course the answer was yes and a discussion about who they were and what they were all about, started up.  Needless to say, these missionaries were in the right place at the right time to meet someone who was interested in knowing more about the church. 

OK, so here is kind of a funny story.  Brendan has a sister that just returned from a mission in Canada as well.  Not the same mission as Brendan, but not too far away.  Anyway, for some reason Brendan seems to think that it is his duty to make sure that his sister gets set up with good returned missionaries to date.  So far he has given her number to one of his MTC teachers and now we just learned that he also have her number to two other missionaries that will be returning home soon.  We aren't sure why Brendan thinks that his sister is going to date all of these returned missionaries but he keeps referring them to her anyway.  In fact, he even tried to set up his older brother on a date with another returned Sister missionary from the MTC.  Who know, maybe one of them might work out.  But I think his sister is doing just fine without his help. 

Then there is the cross over from both Brendan's mission and his sister's mission.  When Brendan got his mission call last fall and his sister was still serving as a missionary in Canada, she knew several missionaries from the Winnipeg area that told her what Brendan could expect.  Then just recently Brendan told us about an Elder who is serving in his area that is from one of the towns where Brendan's sister served and had attended several YSA activities while she was serving there.  It is just interesting how small of a world it is when it comes to missionaries.  In fact both Brendan and his sister have met missionaries and members from the mission where their older brother served as well.  What a great thing it is to be part of a world wide church where people you meet can turn out to be friends you already know.

Brendan told us a really funny story last week.  So every Thursday morning they go and do some volunteer work at a local thrift store.  They mostly work with a bunch of really sweet older ladies.  Brendan said that there is one lady in particular who had worked as the head lady over the store quite a while and was retiring that week.   So to celebrate, the other women were holding a retirement party for her.  After Brendan and his companion finished cleaning up the store, they decided to drop in on the party to say goodbye.  As Brendan was saying goodbye, this older lady reached out to give him a hug.  Here is how Brendan tells the story,
"But as we were saying good bye she reached in to hug me, and I straight dodged her hug Matrix style. SOOOOO AWKWARD! but kind of impressive at the same time. I just stuck out my hand after and was like "call me up in two years and I'll give you a hug, but for now a handshake will have to do."  "

Of course this last week was General Conference and it was obviously the first General Conference weekend that Brendan has spent as a missionary.  It was also the first General Conference where Brendan actually listened to all five sessions rather than falling asleep in front of the TV while pretending to listen.  From the sound of his last email home, it was a real eye opening experience for him (kind of a pun intended).  Brendan told us that he really loved listening to conference and really enjoyed it when the speakers would reference missionaries in their talks.  He liked that because now that he is a missionary, he knew that the speaker was really talking directly to him.  The way that Brendan put it,
"I was on a spirit high all weekend! It is such a neat experience to be on a mission and watch conference. Like every time they say "I'm going to direct my message toward missionaries" I'm like HEY THAT'S ME!! and it is a little weird that that is finally super applicable to me. Like sometimes I forget that I'm on a mission. It just kind of feels like my life now. It's weird to finally realize that I'm one of the goofy kids with a black tag walking around sharing the good word of the restoration. I LOVE IT!"

Alright, one last story that Brendan told us about in his latest email.  So obviously Brendan is serving in a very cold place right on the U.S and Canadian border.  This time of year all of the lakes freeze over and on many of the lakes there are islands.  Some of the people that they are teaching actually live on one of the islands and the only way to get to where they live during the winter is to actually walk on water.  Well, frozen water that is.  Recently they met a neighbor of one of the members in the branch.  This neighbor happened to be a fishing guide and offered to take the missionaries out ice fishing.  So on their P-day they all decide to take a little trip out on the ice.  When Brendan finally wrote home, he told us about his big catch of the day.  He caught a 22 inch Eel Pout which really kind of looks like a cross between an eel and a fish.  Yeah, yeah an eel is a fish but you know what I mean.  Once we heard about that, we told Brendan that he had so send home some pictures.  Needless to say, they all had a great time and hopefully they will also get some new people to teach from the whole experience.

One other little note.  This last week Brendan and several other missionaries in the area headed up to Winnipeg for a zone conference.  They actually ended up spending a couple of days there due to the timing of the conference and how long it takes to drive there and back.  If you remember back when Brendan first arrived in his mission, he only spent about 24 hours in Canada before being sent right back to the U.S. to serve in International Falls, Minnesota.  Well, counting those 24 hours and the 48 hours in Winnipeg for the zone conference, Brendan has now logged a total of 72 hours in Canada even though he is serving in the Winnipeg, Canada mission.  We're sure that that will change over the next couple of years.  But it is funny to think about now.

Here is Brendan and some of his companions enjoying the cold Minnesota weather.


Brendan's personal best at bowling.  We may never see this kind of score again.

Posing with a real northern sled dog. 

This is the greatest place on earth.  It will be even better when it warms up.

Got to love a frozen lake. 

Say hi to my little ice fishing friend.  Too bad you will be dinner tonight. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Back in the USA

So here is an interesting fact about a missionary who has been assigned to a mission outside of the U.S.  Brendan spent a total of 24 hours in Canada.  Then he was shipped back to the U.S.  Ok, before you go speculating on what that really means, I will tell you.  So the day finally came for Brendan and his companions to leave the MTC and head to the Great White North.  We got a call from him while he was at the airport.  It was the same old Brendan on the phone but with a new missionary attitude.  Then the next Monday rolled around and we finally got our first email from Brendan.  Thinking that he would be emailing from somewhere in Canada, we were a little surprised to find out that he was emailing from International Falls Minnesota. 

When Brendan first got his mission call and we were looking at the map of his mission, we noticed that the Winnipeg mission took in one tiny slice of the north end of Minnesota.  Well, that is where Brendan ended up for his first transfer.  He told us that after they got off the plane in Winnipeg, they went to the mission home, met the Assistants to the President and also the Mission President and his Wife.  Then after spending time doing the normal orientation stuff and spending the night in the mission home, he finally got to meet his new companion.  Then it was off to Minnesota and back in the good old USA.  Oh and BTW, Brendan's new companion is taller than Brendan.  So somewhere just off the border of Minnesota and Canada are two 6 foot something Elders walking around and preaching the Gospel.  If you read this and happen to see them, say hi from his family.

Brendan says that he has learned a lot in just the few short weeks that he has been out.  And he is still learning.  That is a good thing.  The learning should never stop.  Here is what Brendan had to say about it:

"I'm seriously learning so much. It's been really hard and tiring and the whole bit. But I'm loving it. Sometimes it doesn't feel like I'm loving it during the middle of the day but every night I get done and I'm so happy for the opportunity that I have to be out here and offering people their salvation. That is so insane to me, that me, the immature lurpey know it all 18 year old is trusted enough by the Lord to go out and teach his restored gospel. I've taken 3rd Nephi 5:13 to heart. I AM A DISCIPLE OF JESUS CHRIST!! As hard as it is and as hard as I know it is going to be, I'm ready. I'm changing lives and in return changing my own."
So the funny missionary stories are already starting to come in.  In Brendan's first couple of weeks out in Minnesota, he has already driven on an ice road.  It turns out that Brendan and his companion ended up meeting with some people who are investigating the church.  The problem was that they were out on the ice on Rainy Lake.  So they drove on an ice road to get there and taught a lesson in an ice trailer.  Brendan also told us about a unique tracting encounter that they had.  He said that he and his companion were out tracting one day when they knocked on a door.  Brendan said that a man opened the door and had a baseball sized wad of chew in his lip.  Brendan started out by telling the man that they were missionaries and asked if he would be interested in knowing more about the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The man's reply was, "So like... fill out some paperwork".  Brendan was stumped by the man's reply and didn't know how to respond, so he just said "no".  The man said OK and shut the door.  I'm guessing that they won't be going back for a follow up.

Brendan is learning a lot about life outside of Utah Valley.  He told us a little bit about International Falls and how hard of a life many people have who live there.  Their branch only as about 40 members and they have an average attendance each week of about 20.  That is very different from the Ward that Brendan grew up in.  But he has ready met some great people who are interested in knowing more about the gospel.  Some who haven't been to church in a long time and others who are just learning about the church for the first time.  Brendan is also learning about how to deal with the extreme cold.  On one P-day when we emailed home, he said that it was about -20 outside with the wind blowing very hard.  Brendan said that when it gets that cold, it actually hurts to breath.  One night they got a call from a member in the branch whose well pump had frozen.  They spent quite a while out in -35 degree weather helping to fix the pump.  Brendan said that he had never been so cold in his entire life.

So here is a funny story that Brendan told us.  He said that he has been working on humility lately because he felt that he has a huge pride and stubbornness problem.  As a result of working on this, Brendan said that he has just been so happy that he is smiling all of the time.  He told us that there is an older lady that lives in the apartment below them that they see every once in a while.  Brendan said that she is just the sweetest old lady ever.  So the other day he decided to knock on her door to say hi.  She opened the door and said, "You have looked so happy the last couple of days... Are you in love?"  Brendan said that he lost it right there and just had to laugh.  He told her that he was in love with life, that's all.

From what we understood from Brendan's email, apparently the Sisters had two nice couches in their apartment and the Elders just had junk.  So the Sisters were nice enough to drop off one of the couches along with some treats so that the Elders wouldn't have to suffer any more without a couch.  And I thought that the extreme cold was enough suffering.  No couch too??

Not sure where Brendan found this truck or who it belongs to, but it has a great name.

Smokey the Bear in Minnesota.  It looks like a pair of ice skates that he is holding.  I didn't know that Smokey ice skated.  Apparently he does.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

It's transfer day

Elder Brendan Nicholes entered the MTC on January 21, 2015.  He is the fourth missionary from our family and shares a unique story with his older sister who also served a mission.  Both Brendan and his older sister were called to serve in Canada.  Brendan was called to the Winnipeg mission and his older sister was called to the Edmonton mission.  Both of these missions cover a rather large portion of Canada and they also share a border.  But that is only where their missionary story begins. 

Brendan's older sister started her mission just 18 months ago.  If you do the math, that means that she was due to return home at about the same time that Brendan was supposed to enter the MTC.  Unfortunately, the original dates of his sister's return from the Edmonton mission and Brendan's departure for the MTC had them missing each other by 10 days.  However, when we talked to Brendan's sister at Christmas time, she really wanted to be home so that she could be with Brendan at the time when he was set apart as a full time missionary.  Things worked out and Brendan's sister was able to move her release date up.  As it turned out, she would return home on the Monday before Brendan would enter the MTC.  This gave our whole family one full day to spend together.  The timing also worked out so that both Brendan and his sister would be set apart and released as full time missionaries on the same day at the same time.  To celebrate this event, Brendan's mother came up with a unique poster that hung outside of our house during this special time for our family.  The poster said "It's Transfer Day!".  Our family was literally exchanging one Canadian called missionary for another.

The night before Brendan was to enter the MTC, we all visited with the 1st Councilor in our Stake Presidency at his office.  That night in the same meeting, Brendan was set apart is a full time missionary to serve in the Winnipeg, Canada mission and Brendan's sister was released as a full time missionary from the Edmonton, Canada mission.  The next day, Brendan entered the MTC with all of the usual fanfare, which if you have ever dropped off a missionary at the MTC, it is literally pulling up to the curb, saying some quick goodbye's and off they go for the next 2 years.  With Brendan it was no different.  However, we did go out for lunch before with our whole family and spent a little bit of time taking some final family pictures across the street from the MTC.

It was a little over a week later that we finally received an email from Brendan.  Brendan was assigned to a trio of Elders.  Both he and one of the other missionaries in the trio were called to be the Zone Leaders while they were at the MTC.  The other Elder in their trio was called to be the District Leader.  As Brendan put it, they were the "Power Companionship".  I'm not sure what power they really had during their 2 weeks in the MTC but they did have some responsibility for the other missionaries in their zone and district. 

Brendan told us that his experience in the MTC was like being on a roller coaster.  They were constantly on either highs or lows emotionally.  There really wasn't much in between.  He told us about one of the teaching experiences that they had.  Needless to say, it didn't go very well.  Brendan said that they rambled on a lot and the spirit just wasn't there.  But fortunately, that was the worst of the experiences.  Brendan said that as their time went on, their teaching experiences got much better.  Along with that, he said that they have been memorizing a scripture a day as a companionship.  Brendan also said that time goes by very slow but very fast at the same time.  He had only been in the MTC for a week but it felt to him like it had been six weeks.  With everything that a missionary has to learn in such a short time, you can imagine why he would say that.  The MTC can be rather intense.

Finally the day came that Brendan would fly out to Winnipeg.  We kept asking Brendan what his flight plans were so that we would know when to expect him to call home from the airport.  He never really gave us any plans but we knew which day he would be leaving.  Later that morning I got a call from Brendan as he was waiting at the airport to board his flight.  If you know Brendan very well, one thing that he likes to do is keep up on current events.  Being in the MTC for the previous two weeks, kind of left him without this type of information.  So one of the first questions that he asked was about some of the current events that he had seen on the TV monitors at the airport.  We also talked a lot about some of his experiences in the MTC.  Everything from his teaching and learning experiences to filling out the evaluation forms for his MTC teachers (a Sister and Elder) and in the box where it asks for information about what the teachers could do better, Brendan asked them to please date his older brother and sister.  They must have been some very impressive MTC teachers. :)

Another funny little story about Brendan during his time in the MTC actually started before he left.  The missionary suits that he bought before he left on his mission were tailored leaving the pants very baggy. Wearing baggy pants really wasn't Brendan's style and the day that he left, his older brothers teased him about how the wind would catch his baggy pants and blow him away.  So while he was in the MTC, he went to the MTC tailors to see if they would take his pants in a bit.  He was a little frustrated to find out that the MTC tailors didn't think that fixing baggy pants was important enough for them to do, and they were probably right.  The ironic thing is that once he hits Winnipeg and starts to experience the extreme cold temperatures there, he may be glad that his pants are a little baggy because he will probably be wearing several layers of thermal underwear underneath those baggy pants.  With those extra layers, he may be grateful for the extra room.

Later that day we received an email from the Winnipeg, Canada mission office telling us that Brendan had arrived safely and they were taking good care of him.  With Brendan's sister having just returned from a Canadian mission, she was describing to us exactly what Brendan's first day in the mission would be like.  The orientations, meetings, interviews with the mission president and then being assigned is first real companion the next day. We are looking forward to hearing from Brendan on his first P-day in Canada.  I'm sure that their will be lots more stories to tell.

Over the next 2 years we will try to update this blog as often as we can.  Knowing Brendan and the kind of kid that he is, we are sure that their will be a lot of great stories to tell.  We will try to share as many of those stories as we can on this blog.

Brendan with his district and zone companions

Finally getting a little bit of love from his family at home in the way of packages.