ELder Randall in Kansas

Hola everyone…
So yeah, that’s what I’ve been reduced to email subject-wise. Making lame references to classic TV series (well, I guess it was a book series long before it was on TV, but y’know). Hey, at least it makes you think of the theme song, which is very catchy. 🙂 Anyways, it’s been another great week here in Kansas, and since I have a lot to cover (once again, for my sanity’s sake, I made a helpful list of items to discuss in this here email), I think I’ll just jump right into it.

  • So those of you who are in my family may have noticed I had the chance to email Ariel on Friday to let her know I got her letters. The reason I was able to check my email again on Friday was because we were at the library so my companion could email the mission office some information about our car…yeah, let’s back up a bit. (This actually kind of works as a pun with the story…you’ll see in a second. :)) So in case I haven’t mentioned, we have a car from the mission that we get every other week. (We share it with the neighboring missionaries in the Lenexa Ward.) On Tuesday morning, I believe, our car was parked across the street, more or less right across from the Atagis’ driveway. We were both doing studying, and suddenly we hear a little noise…apparently Denise (the lady who was just baptized) backed into our car, and made a sizable dent right above the left front wheel. (See, I told you “back up a bit” worked as a pun. Ba dum cha. :)) Since we were both upstairs and our car was, y’know, parked, we didn’t get in trouble for it, so it’s all good there. We went to get an estimate for the repairs at the Ford dealership this week and…yeah. It ain’t cheap. I joked that it was the most expensive baptism the Church has ever had…and we came up with a way this could all fit into one of those Mastercard commercials (we had just had lunch at Taco Bell): “Car repairs…$1600. Taco Bell lunch…$5. Eternal salvation…priceless.” 🙂
  • Remember how everyone in the ward would always ask me about my mission and where I was going, when I was leaving, etc? I realized yesterday the ward here is doing the same thing…except about my visa. Now that pretty much everyone is aware of my situation (I talked about it when I introduced myself in sacrament meeting the first week), people check up with me about whether I’ve heard any news about my visa or not. Members really care about missionaries (whether in Arizona or Kansas), and it’s really fun to see. By the way, any of you Kingsborough Park Ward members reading this, thank you all for being so awesome. Your support, whether through words or otherwise, is incredibly appreciated. 🙂
  • When we were in the MTC, my last companion, Elder Armijo, whenever he would talk to people, would end the conversation, and then suddenly add: “The Olympics are coming. Be sure to email your family.” Yeah, it was random…but it made me laugh every time. (Especially when he would pop into one of the districts in our zone next door to talk to them about something, and after he had walked out, he then would pop his head in again and say it, then abruptly leave. :)) Anyways…the Olympics are coming. (They begin tonight, I’ve been told.) So I’m emailing my family. 🙂 Be sure to keep me posted on all the cool London-y things that happen (aargh, the opening ceremonies are going to be so good…so many awesome British singers…), whether Michael Phelps (or Ryan Lochte…Ariel, it was fun to see your love for Ryan crop up again in your letter…how many future husbands do you have now? :)) breaks another record, etc.
  • I’ve heard “The Dark Knight Rises” is amazing. (The people at our Saturday dinner appointment had gone to the midnight showing.) What say ye? (I’ve also sadly heard about the horrible shooting that happened at that theater showing it in Colorado. It’s really heartbreaking and scary when those kinds of things happen…my prayers are with all those families.) I was totally done with superhero movies before I left (I didn’t care about “Captain America,” “Green Lantern,” “Thor,” etc.), but then the first two of them in years I actually really wanted to see (“The Avengers” and “The Dark Knight Rises”) both come out after I leave on my mission. Figures. 🙂
  • I feel like this email is very worldly so far. And so is this part. 🙂 As you all know, I’m not very into sports, but I actually have a few sports-related items to comment on, believe it or not. First, Ariel, I’ll be responding to this in greater detail in my letter to you (which I’ll hopefully finish today, if I can wrangle it), but anyways…FEDERER!!!! I am so glad I’m serving my mission in a world where Roger Federer is at his rightful place at #1. It just warms my heart. Also, I’ve discovered on my mission that I really don’t like basketball…whether it be playing it, or talking about it. I know I love the Suns, casually like the Jazz, and hate the Spurs and Lakers, and I know random players’ names (and that Ron Artest/Metta World Peace/whatever his name is an awful dancer, thanks to “Dancing With The Stars” two seasons ago), but yeah…it’s kind of lame. Anyways, I just wanted to let you all know that Steve Nash is now dead to me, because he went to the Lakers. He was such a cool guy. But now that he has left our beloved Suns and gone to the enemy, we shall not speak of him again. 
  • Yeah, I know very little about sports. So…you all need to sit down before reading this next part. (Yep, it’s about what I’ve had to eat this week.) I had a milestone on Friday…but first, a story. So early Friday afternoon, Elder Leighton was calling our dinner appointment, the Cottrells, to check what time would be good for us to come. He was on the phone with Sis. Cottrell, right next to me, and I guess she asked if we had any food preferences/allergies…and all of a sudden, Elder Leighton goes, “No, I think we’re all good…actually, my companion is allergic to fruit.” (Elder Randall did NOT approve this message.) I was feeling really bad, because now our dinner appointment thought I had a fruit allergy…but Sister Cottrell mid-dinner (after I made Elder Leighton confess) that she knew Elder Leighton was joking, and just played along. (Plus, I was drinking lemonade, and not having an allergic reaction or anything, so she had to have known I wasn’t allergic anyhow. :)) They had some strawberries out on the table just as a little side dish, and Elder Leighton suggested they try one of his favorites, strawberries dipped in sour cream and brown sugar, so they got some sour cream and brown sugar (actually, it was this Japanese brown sugar-like stuff…I can’t remember the name) out, and everyone liked it. I was looking at the strawberries…and decided, what the heck, I might as well try one and see what it was like, since as we all were aware, I’m not allergic to fruit after all. 🙂 I dipped it in sour cream and that brown sugar-y stuff…and I liked it. I ate a strawberry…and it was enjoyable. See, Mom and Dad…I didn’t need to go to the Orient to try new foods…Kansas works out just fine. 🙂
  • Other food-related tidbits: They have this awesome milk company here called Shatto. It’s a local farm (family-owned, I believe), and they carry their milk in certain stores, it’s fresh, they make different flavors (in addition to the normal white milk and chocolate, they have root beer, orange dream, banana, strawberry, coffee, and cotton candy…plus eggnog around the holidays), and it’s AWESOME. Like it makes milk even more unspeakably delicious and fun to drink. This past week we got whole milk (P.S.: whenever there’s been a chance to drink whole milk on my mission so far…for example, they didn’t have it in the MTC, but when we went to the temple for breakfast, I always got whole milk since they had it…I’ve jumped at the chance to, since I’ve always wished we bought whole milk instead of lame 1% or 2%…I did the same pretty much my whole year at BYU, too), root beer, and chocolate, and it was the best decision ever. When you buy Shatto milk, you pay for the milk and a deposit for the bottles (they’re glass). You can either keep the bottle and use it for whatever (we put Kool-Aid in one of them), but if you rinse them out and bring them back to the store, you get your deposit back (so they can eventually reuse the bottles), which is very nice. Basically, after my mission, we may need to make weekly trips to Kansas for milk… 🙂
  • Also last week, I got Blue Bell ice cream for the first time (my last companion, who’s from Texas where Blue Bell is from, always raved about it and how it’s the best ice cream ever, and no other brand can compare), and it was this awesome flavor that we all really loved (we all sat down one evening…except for Tui, since apparently he’s not a big ice cream fan…and all had a bunch of ice cream) called Christmas Cookies In July. You guys have to get it (I remember they carry Blue Bell at Walmart…since it’s a feature flavor they probably have it somewhere around)…it is SO good. Trust me. 🙂
  • Like I mentioned last week, I’m an English-speaking missionary here, but also like I mentioned last week, I’m getting some opportunities to use my Spanish, which is great. This week, at one of our dinner appointments, the wife grew up in Uruguay, and was fluent in Spanish, so we talked a little about South America and all that, and then after we gave our spiritual message, she suggested I pray in Spanish. It’s been a while since I have, so I was a tiny bit rusty, but it went really well. She said afterwards it was a beautiful prayer, which was nice. Then yesterday at church, a lady from the other ward (Lenexa) that meets at our building, who speaks Spanish, somehow had heard that I was a Spanish-speaking missionary, and that my mom was from Ecuador, and so she talked to me in Spanish, asking me what part of Ecuador my mom was from, where I was going, etc. It’s been a while since I’ve talked to a legit Spanish-speaker, so I had to have her repeat a few things, but it also went very well. (I believe she’s from Bolivia, by the way, but don’t quote me on that.)
  • The other day, we were out visiting some less-active members, and we had a nice conversation with a nonmember husband of a lady who hasn’t been to church in a while. He was very friendly, we talked about where we were from, where he was from, a little about his religious background, all that. Two fun things: When he found out I was going to Peru, that reminded him of Paddington Bear, who had his own show years ago, apparently, that his kids used to watch. (I know I’ve heard of Paddington Bear, but I don’t know exactly what he looks like. I always get him confused with Corduroy, that other well-known stuffed bear, for some reason.) I guess Paddington Bear had an English/Australian accent, but whenever people would ask where he was from, he would tell them he was from “darkest Peru.” (He also told us this was a million-dollar question once on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?”, and the other choices were of course England, Australia, and New Zealand. The contestant had a few of her lifelines left, and eventually sussed it out.) So I might meet Paddington Bear’s family on my mission…provided I go to darkest Peru, not just normal Peru. 🙂 Also, apparently his wife (who grew up in New Zealand) is cousins with Sid Going, one of the most famous rugby players of all time. (I actually didn’t really know who he was until a few weeks ago, when at the MTC we watched a really cool Mormon Message about his story…he was a rising star and contracted to play for the All-Blacks, New Zealand’s premier rugby team, but he then decided to serve a mission…everyone thought he was crazy, but he still went, had a wonderful mission, came back, and became a rugby legend…you should look it up on LDS.org or something, it’s a very inspiring video.) So that’s pretty awesome.
  • I should have told you this beforehand so you could have watched it (they might show it on BYU TV sometime?), but Katherine Jenkins sang with MoTab for their Pioneer Day concert this weekend. I wish I could have seen it somehow, because MoTab is amazing, and also because Katherine Jenkins is terrific (she’s a great dancer, as a few of you saw on “Dancing With The Stars,” she’s a wonderful singer, and she’s absolutely beautiful too). Anyways, I guess you could have watched it online until yesterday…it might be still on there somehow. If not, look out for it on the BYU channel. (The press release mentioned how “she may be best known in the U.S. for her appearance on the 14th season of ‘Dancing With The Stars'”…that’s pretty cool how the Church mentioned that. :)) P.S., I haven’t really heard much of her music, but since she’s a classical crossover artist, she probably has some missionary-appropriate songs (hymns, classical stuff, etc.). Ariel, maybe you could check that out for me sometime. (In between listening to Jonsi songs. Which I have TONS of on my computer, thank you very much. I will talk of this more in my letter… :))
  • Two Captain Obvious moments I had this week: I was checking with my companion about how printing at the library works, and I actually asked him: “Can you print from the computers?” (Yeah…maybe it’s for the best they don’t let missionaries use technology too often. :)) A few days after, we were talking about going to play football with the elders’ quorum later in the week, and I asked, “Are they playing on a field?” (I was not being sarcastic…my brain just fails at life sometimes. :))
  • Livi, I got your letter! It made my day, and I’ll be writing to you and Nate (and yes, with separate letters, as I promised) very soon. 🙂 By the way, I heard nothing about you having to go to the hospital…I’d kind of like a bit more info on that, but it seems like you’re much better now, so that’s good.
  • I have another fun story from Brother Hennefer (you’ll remember him from last week’s email) this week…we talked to him after church for a little bit, and I thought this was a good one. (I may have to make this a weekly feature pretty soon. :)) So while he was on his mission, Elder L. Tom Perry visited their mission home…he was in town (Boston area) for some medical treatments for his wife. Brother Hennefer had a guitar with him, and Elder Perry and him had the following conversation:
    • Elder Perry: “Elder, can you play any hymns on that guitar?” Brother Hennefer: “No, sir.” Elder Perry: “Can you play any Primary songs?” Bro. Hennefer: “No, sir.” Elder Perry: “Well, what can you play?” Bro. Hennefer: “Well, I know some Bob Dylan.” Elder Perry: “Oh…hey, do you know ‘All Along The Watchtower’?” (Brother Hennefer then played it for him. Hmmm…I wonder if any of the Apostles like Arcade Fire… :))
  • A few things to check with you guys about, as usual: Let me know when you’ve gotten the stuff from the MTC that I had someone in my old MTC zone send home. (I emailed him about it to check, but as is the case with almost every other email I’ve sent, I received no response.) I don’t really need all of it sent out here…the extra copy of “Preach My Gospel” in English you guys can just keep (I have my own copy here…I just kept that one because I had written a bit in it, and for sentimental value, since I used it at BYU and in mission prep class), and I’m doing well on hangers right now (I bought some at Walmart a week or two ago), so no worries about sending those either…and none of the items are terribly urgent for the time being (hence the reason I left it all at the MTC), so if you can’t send it for a while, no problem. Besides that, I think I’m good…I do have something to check with you all about sheet music, but I think I’ll send a little separate email about that in a second. (Like I mentioned last week, be sure to send my patriarchal blessing whenever you can.)

Two really cool insights I had this week from my personal scripture reading, and also from our companionship study. I’ve been reading in 1 and 2 Nephi, and in 2 Nephi 1, it’s the part where Lehi is giving his last words to his sons, and in this particular chapter, he’s urging Laman & Lemuel to turn it all around, and be righteous and blessed. (You can really see his immense love & charity for his sons in this chapter…he really, truly cared about them, even after all they had done, and wanted the absolute best for them.) In verses 24 through 27, he exhorts them to stop rebelling against their brother, and talks about how they’ve been saved and blessed because of Nephi’s diligence, and because they left Jerusalem in the first place. He also mentions how Nephi isn’t just telling them things for his health…he’s always spoken by the Spirit. Here’s what I wrote in my study journal about it: “We’re all like Laman and Lemuel sometimes. We don’t listen, we don’t realize what our leaders, parents, even what God says helps us, guides us, and makes our lives better. We don’t see all the blessings we’ve already received–we’re just looking at what we want and what we think is best for us. We whine because it’s too hard. We say that they don’t know what they’re talking about. And every time–we’re wrong. It hurts us. We need to recognize the Spirit, and diligently follow its promptings and counsel. Hearken unto the Lord–and we’ll always be blessed.” I know that I’ve had times where I’ve been very Laman and Lemuel-like…they may be, as Sheri Dew put it so very well in her fireside a few weeks ago at the MTC, “little pills,” but we’re all little pills at times. We all just need to work to make those Laman and Lemuel moments smaller and smaller…and our Nephi-like moments bigger and bigger.

In companion study this week, we read the story of Ammon in Alma 18, and there were some cool things that stood out to me that hadn’t before. (Side note: We talked about the story last week, too, in our Gospel Principles class with Denise & Tui, and our ward mission leader, Brother Palmer, had a whole series of puns based on the part where Ammon cuts off all the Lamanites’ arms: “So Ammon disarmed them, and one of the other servants put all the arms in a handbag. Ammon said, ‘Let me give you a hand with that,” and they brought them to King Lamoni. King Lamoni said, ‘That’s gross…take them to the armory.” Right after our Gospel Principles class, in Elders’ Quorum the teacher mentioned Ammon, and we all had to keep ourselves from laughing… :)) Ammon really trusts in the Spirit when he’s talking to King Lamoni…he discerned, he asked really inspired questions, and figured out exactly what King Lamoni needed to hear. (In this case, it was everything…I’d never really noticed before that Ammon pretty much covers Lessons 1 through a billion.) We also thought…Ammon had to have had all that gospel knowledge down very well to be able to explain it. That kind of goes back to something we learned in the MTC…the Spirit will let us know what to say if we trust in it, but first it has to have something in our head to draw from…that’s why we have studies every day, and have to really learn the doctrine. Because Ammon was incredibly well-versed in the doctrine, he was able to expound tons of things to King Lamoni, by the Spirit. Something else I thought of, that also kind of comes from the MTC, is that we have to have the right ingredients, in the right balance. Our studies here have to be focused on our investigators, and on teaching, so we can best help them. Our lessons are kind of like dishes…we gather the ingredients and provide the kitchen, and the Spirit is kind of like the chef. If we study to our investigators’ needs, when we’re in a lesson, the Spirit can get exactly what it needs, and the lesson will go well. If we didn’t prepare properly, the Spirit won’t be able to make a good dish…it’s all burnt and tastes bad. Our lesson won’t go well. This kind of applies beyond missionary work…really, in anything we do. (Hopefully my little analogy made sense? :))

One more experience I had this week…so we’ve had a good amount of opportunities to find, go out tracting, share our message with people, but this week, we got the chance to finally teach a nonmember a somewhat formal lesson. A few weeks ago, we visited the home of a less-active member in the ward, and discovered the situation in her house is a very complicated one…she’s planning to divorce her husband, who’s currently deployed, and she lives with her boyfriend and another male roommate. Last visit, we talked with that roommate a little about the Church, and he seemed very open…but also a little wary. He’s grown up with a strong religious background, but he’s felt kind of betrayed by different churches…there’s been times in his life where he’s really needed help, and every time, the church he was attending gave him the cold shoulder, and he really felt that they weren’t very genuine. This visit, we talked with him a little bit more about that, and Elder Leighton kind of casually segued into teaching the first lesson, about the Restoration, and we both talked to him at length about it. He was really receptive, and he seemed interested in learning more (Elder Leighton mentioned the Plan of Salvation, which is the next lesson, and he asked if we could talk about it right then and there, which was amazing, but since it was late we said we’d cover it next visit), and we gave him a Book of Mormon and a pamphlet to read. The atmosphere was a bit unconventional (there were some distractions in the background, for sure, and one of their dogs is a huge boxer/Great Dane mix and kept going all over the place…last visit, he actually climbed on Elder Leighton’s back), but I really felt the presence of the Spirit there. I mentioned something in my letter back to you, Ariel, that I’ve seen to be very true…you can find the Spirit in the oddest places. All you have to do is seek it…and if you’re ready to receive it (both physically and spiritually), it will come. You also never know where you’ll find investigators or people that want to hear the Gospel…based on the last visit, we didn’t quite expect things to play out as they did this visit, but as is often the case, things often turn out differently than we expect. Heavenly Father likes to keep us on our toes. 🙂

Anyways, I better wrap this email up. I love you all, and like I often say in my emails, I’m incredibly grateful for all you do. This mission is a wonderful thing, and as I’ve said before, you all have helped make it even more wonderful. I know this Church is true…my testimony of that is being strengthened every day. I’m very happy to have the chance to share that testimony…every day. There’s really nothing like it. 🙂

Con mucho amor,
Elder Randall

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