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.