Week 24; April 25, 2014: Week 2 at the MTC

So last Friday night, me and Elder Tahuri were called to be zone leaders for the entire zone. They basically had us as “zone leaders in training” until Tuesday when the zone leaders we had went to their missions. So two days ago on Wednesday was when we were the “official” zone leaders when the new district of missionaries came in. The MTC experience has been a little overwhelming because they really do plan your schedule down to the minute and they make it very difficult to get stuff done… especially if you’re in a leadership position. Regardless, somehow we’ve been able to work it out and obviously I’m still surviving lol

Easter Sunday was really great. For Sundays at the MTC, they have your zone and the “branch presidency” meet in a room to partake of the sacrament and then a couple missionaries will give a 5-minute talk and the leaders would give a talk. However, this Sunday was different because it was Easter Sunday. We actually didn’t have the sacrament at sacrament meeting. Instead, they waited until we went to the Easter devotional and gathered as all the missionaries and partook of the sacrament in this one big room… with President Uchtdorf in it!

So we got to have President Uchtdorf speak to us on Easter Sunday, which was really cool! We had a really good seat being in the first front 4 rows on the right side of the building, which was pretty cool. He talked a lot about how as missionaries, we need to let the Atonement of Jesus Christ work within us so that we will not fear any man and can work our hardest and not let fear overtake us. He spoke of Peter the apostle and how he was very close to Jesus Christ and then Christ told him that he would deny him three times. Peter would not believe him, but when the moment finally came, fear overtook him and he denied the Christ three times. He left weeping and prayed for forgiveness. When seeing the Resurrected Savior, Peter was a changed man and no longer let fear get the hold of him. He preached the Gospel even until his very death when he was hung upside down on the cross because he did not want to die the same way Christ did. So the main message was that as missionaries, we need to learn to not “fear man” and to speak with everyone we can.

Then starting on Monday, we had what is called “TRC teaching.” Basically, what it is is that it is the chance for us to “teach an investigator.” They have it all scheduled out where we teach an investigator regularly the rest of the time we are at the MTC. They do not tell us if these people are really members acting as nonmembers or not because 1) that’s not the point, and 2) It’s meant to be authentic and show missionaries what it is like to teach. This has easily been the most meaningful part of being in the MTC for me. As you all know, I have not had many teaching opportunities thus far serving in the Gilbert Mission. So as sad as it may be, I have taught more discussions here in the MTC than I have in the mission lol. But it’s been good though. Because it has really given me a chance to stretch myself and really improve as a missionary. Because doing role-plays between missionaries in the field just doesn’t cut it. Especially since most missionaries can’t take constructive criticism, so they don’t like giving it lol. So even when I am learning a lot of the same stuff in the classes that I already know, the TRC appointments have really taught me a lot, so that’s been really good.

Then on Tuesday, we had Elder Oaks speak to us. So within two days, we had General Authorities speak. So that’s been really cool. His talk was more directed to the typical “new missionary in the MTC” stereotype audience I think than anything else. He talked a little bit about different concerns that we have to get over such as playing video games and watching movies and how we’re now on our missions, and yada yada. And then he talked a lot about Preach My Gospel and the doctrines taught in it and how to be a successful missionary and have the spirit with us. One thing I really appreciated in his talk though was that he said that our purpose as missionaries is not just to baptize. We are to invite ALL to come unto Christ. Missionary work is more than just baptizing converts. It is keeping those converts active, re-activating those are not active, and strengthening the testimonies of all around us. We should not ignore an opportunity to help someone just because they are already a member. I really appreciated that because that’s a lot of what the Gilbert Mission is like, at least from my experience. Plus, it was a big refresher from the 9-hour class we had the day previous about how we’re not fulfilling our purpose if we’re not baptizing (ugh…)

So then Wednesday, me, Elder Tahuri, and the Sister Training Leaders gave the little “Welcome to the MTC” talk where we just went over a few things like “getting to know you” exercises and going over certain MTC-specific rules and all that. So that went pretty well. The Sisters in the new district seem super quiet but the Elders in the new district are super fun and energetic, but still excited to work so they’re pretty cool.

Then yesterday, I had a very powerful experience. One of the Elder’s wasn’t feeling too well and was still trying to adjust to the new time zone and asked for a blessing of healing and asked me to give the blessing. Now, I’ve been able to have experience using the Melchizedek priesthood and giving blessings in the past, but it’s still been an adjustment for me to realize how to fully recognize when something is the spirit. But when I laid my hands upon his head and recited his name (which was extremely long, by the way), it felt like my mind was just cleared of any other thought. Like, the only thoughts that came to my mind were the words that I should speak… and I wouldn’t think of anything else until I spoke them. It was as if there was just this wave of revelation pouring from me. And when I finished the blessing, it took something out of me for a little bit and I had to adjust my thoughts a little bit. It wasn’t until after that blessing that the Elder told me that I said things that related to past experiences and things that other blessings have said about him. It was such a powerful experience. I was very honored to have had that experience. And my testimony of the Restoration of the priesthood and of its power has increased a bunch. I always knew it was real, but I REALLY know that this is the same power and authority that Christ gave to his Disciples. That same power is present here today… and it is awesome.

So overall, the MTC has been a bit of a mix for me, but overall it has been a positive and a good experience. That being said, I still can’t wait to just get back into the field lol. Anyway, it’s been good.

I hope you guys were able to have a great Easter and a great week as well! Love you all!

Elder Foxx

 

Pictures…

Jacob Baldree, who works at the MTC now and lived with Elder Foxx’s grandparents while serving in Surprise, AZ saw and recognized Elder Foxx.

Jacob Baldree (Elder who lived with my parents)

The District…

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Easter basket from Mom and Dad…

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Elder Foxx, Elder Greenhalgh and Elder Tahuri…

Elder Foxx, Greenhalgh and Tahuri

Week 23; April 18, 2014: Life in the MTC so far

So here I am in the MTC.

So this has been an interesting time so far. Apparently our P-Days are on Friday, so I’m already emailing today as opposed to the typical Monday. And there are so many strict rules in the MTC about not bringing certain bags to certain rooms, so I didn’t get to bring my bag over here which has my camera and journal with the list of email addresses. So right now, I’m only able to write the emails that I remember at the top of my head.

So my assigned MTC companion is Elder Tahuri from New Zealand. Originally, it was just going to be us two but then the third Elder in our MTC District, Elder Greenhalgh’s companion got injured and never showed up. So right now I’m in a Trio with Elder Tahuri and Elder Greenhalgh (pronounced Green-ouch and is from Kansas)

The MTC is very different from the actual mission field itself. You’re sitting in classes almost literally all day. You really barely have any time to do anything. I’m not even joking. I never struggled about having enough time just to be ready for bed on time and then waking up and making it to breakfast on time. The schedule is super tight every day thus far and there’s not a whole lot of time to do certain things such as writing in your journal or anything like that.

The MTC reminds me a lot of EFY (Especially for Youth) in terms of the atmosphere and the kind of teachers we have and the kind of people you are around. The best way I can describe it is that it is like if EFY was mingled with all the missionary rules and tried to emulate the mission organization as best as it can while still being EFY lol. Sooo I can’t really say I feel much like a missionary right now.

Not gonna lie, I am struggling being in the MTC, but that’s probably mostly because I’m in such a unique situation. Remember how you guys joked that I could get “homesick for my mission?” Weeeeeeell, that’s kind of what’s happening. I really just want to get back to the mission field or just outside the MTC because it is really stressful. That’s REALLY weird to say. The MTC is more stressful than the mission field. But it’s true, because in the mission field you kind of make up your own schedule and set your own appointments with some exceptions. You get back at the house at 9PM, plan for the day for about half an hour, and then you have an entire hour until you have to get to bed. Then you wake up at 6:30 AM, exercise, and then have an entire hour to prepare for the day and then an hour of studying and an hour of companionship study. You have a lot of time in the mission field to get the little stuff done. Here in the MTC, you simply don’t have that time. You wake up at 6:30 AM and you have to get to the cafeteria (which is in a completely different building) with a whole suit and everything by 7:00 AM. And then you usually don’t get back to your room until about 10:00 – 10:10 PM. It’s stressful. I didn’t think I would be struggling with sleeping at night considering how long I’ve been out in the field, but I’ve been struggling a lot. And I am dead tired during the classes. And as far as the rules go, I knew ahead of time that there would be a few more rules than usual… but the whole “you can’t carry your handbag in the cafeteria or in the main building or in devotionals” rule just seems dumb to me because that’s where you’d carry scriptures, PMG, etc. so when going to devotionals, they force you to carry your scriptures and Preach my Gospel without them being protected within a bag with a bunch of other missionaries. And of course it’s the reason I don’t have my camera or list of email addresses right now. *sigh*

Anyway, On the plus side, I do get along very well with my MTC companions and they definitely went into the mission field with the right reasons and being ready to serve, so that’s been great. They are great!

Anyway, I hope you guys have a great week!

Love,
Elder Foxx

A Mother’s Reflection…

As Skyler finishes his first 5 months in the mission field and now at the MTC, I can’t help but reflect on how far he has come.

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When Skyler was little he was developing at how I would consider a typical child would be developing. Then what seemed to be out of nowhere things started changing. For example his speech totally digressed and he started speaking gibberish. But what was interesting was that his speech became more than gibberish. In fact, we called it “Skyler’s language” because he would repeat things that meant something to him. It just wasn’t “English”.

We were blessed to have him accepted into a special need preschool in addition to doing speech therapy for a period of time. I credit a lot to the preschool because I think without it; he wouldn’t have received the help he needed so desperately at that time. While we were going through these challenges we were also taking Skyler to different doctors as my gut was telling me something was “off”. My Mom sent me articles of Asperger’s syndrome and autism that she had read. After reading them I knew they were totally describing our son. The problem was, the doctors were totally stumped. They would tell us, “yes, something isn’t right, but we aren’t quite sure what it is”. They weren’t quite sure because he seemed really high functioning. As Skyler got older it was easier to see. Things like speech delay, walking on his toes (he still does this as much as we have tried for him not to), pacing back and forth or in circles for hours, quoting entire movies over and over again (after only seeing it once), stemming, all the “typical” things you see with kids with autism.

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In 2nd grade he had a terrific and caring teacher of whom I still am very grateful for, saw all the signs that I pretty much already knew. (Mothers know best right?) After speaking with us, she played an important role in being his advocate in getting his proper diagnosis through the proper channels. He was evaluated again and was diagnosed with autism. We were told that because of his speech delay, he had high functioning autism versus Asperger’s (which is a form of HF autism). Gotta love the spectrum! This diagnosis allowed Skyler to receive the help he needed and received one on one aids at school.

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Skyler didn’t know about his diagnosis until he was 12 years old. It wasn’t that we were ashamed about his diagnosis, not at all. We just didn’t want him to feel that he was limited because of it. We never wanted his diagnosis to be an excuse. However around the age of 12 he started to notice that he were “different” then his peers. He started getting teased and later even bullied. It was at this point that we knew we needed to tell him and explain that this doesn’t change who he is in anyway. He just had some extra challenges and sometimes has to work harder or adapt, unfortunately. But we made it clear that we will not allow his diagnosis to be an excuse for him. That he is capable of doing great things!

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When Skyler was in 8th grade the bullying got to be ridiculous. I was inspired with a thought that Skyler and I needed to present to his entire 8th grade class on autism. What autism was, what it is like from Skyler’s view, how it is in his “world”. We created a script and for an entire day we went from one class to the next and shared this presentation. I can’t tell you what a difference this made. By the end of the day, Skyler had a girl come up to him and apologize for treating him so badly. That alone, made it all worth it. Things began to improve.

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Skyler made great strides in high school. Since he was little he had a talent for computer animation and video. He joined Broadcast Technology and was a great asset to their team. By his senior year he was awarded the “Skyler Foxx Dedication Program Award” An award that was dedicated in his name and was to be awarded each year to a deserving student.

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Skyler participated in Boy Scouts of America. This was a challenge for him both socially and physically. Despite those challenges and with some encouragement from his Dad and fantastic scout leaders, he has always stepped up and earned his advancements. Boy Scouts has definitely been a learning and growing experience for him. Skyler’s Eagle project was a video he filmed, produced and edited (in addition to recruiting friends to help) called “I can accomplish Great Things”. You can find it on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GXcpKRiszc One thing that I love about this project is that as long as it is viewed and shared it continues to be a blessing to others. (Please share!) Skyler also earned his Duty to God award. Duty to God is similar to getting your Eagle but in line with spiritual strength and priesthood duties.

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After graduating from high school, he started attending Estrella Mountain Community College for a semester and then transferred to an online program called Pathways, through BYU-I. During the time he was taking his classes, he was also working full time doing video editing with a company and was able to work at home. Because of this job he was able to fund most of his mission.

Skyler always wanted to serve a mission. I remember when he received his diagnosis; I asked my Dad if he thought he would be able to serve a mission. One thing I have noticed with Skyler is that throughout all his life despite all the challenges that have been placed upon him, he has always come out of them on top, ready for the next one. He has learned that there will always be challenges that come our way; we just need to do our best and make ourselves better because of them.

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Elder Foxx has been a shining example to me. When he received his mini-mission call it was a surprise for all of us. We had never heard nor known anyone who has served a mini-mission. And to be honest the process has been a challenge on our family. (A whole other story) But Skyler has had the faith that everything would turn out the way it was supposed to. All that was important to him was that he was serving the Lord and to serve a full time mission. He has been serving for 5 months now and in just those 5 months I have seen such a growth. He has already blessed the lives of many and will bless many more. We have been witnesses of the blessings he has received directly from his Heavenly Father. I can testify that some of the challenges we were experiencing months prior are now blessings that I am cherishing. (Funny how that works.)

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You look at Elder Foxx now and most would have no idea of his diagnosis let alone his challenges. He has come a long way from the little boy I used to wrestle during church wondering why I was even there, to wearing a nametag as a representative of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. As he continues to serve in Gilbert and receives more training in the MTC, I have no doubt that he will continue to do great things and bless the lives of many more!

April 16, 2014: Heading to the MTC

Last night Elder Foxx was set apart for the Arizona Gilbert Mission (again) as a full time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Afterwards we went to Red Lobster.

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Then we left the next morning at 5:45am to take him to the Phoenix airport so he can report to the MTC. We ran into a couple other missionaries heading to the MTC as well. One was going to serve in Portugal and another in New York.

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Our wonderful cousin, Mary Ellen Watterson and her husband, Michael were there to meet him at the SLC airport to take him to the MTC.

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But first they made a special stop (one of our favorite places in Utah!)

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Arriving at the MTC

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Quick goodbye’s… (Thank you Watterson’s for getting Elder Foxx to the MTC!)

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Week 22: April 14, 2014: Really Good Week

So this week was good. On Monday for P-Day, we celebrated Elder Baker’s birthday by going to Coldstone and then playing with Nerf Guns at the Cultural Hall at the church building. So that was loads of fun!

We have mostly spent the week just teaching the members of the wards the Missionary Lessons. In the Santa Rita ward, we have this system set up where our ward mission leader sets up appointments for us to visit members that he thinks would benefit from hearing the lessons again or just benefit from having missionaries over and then we would come and teach them all the lessons each week starting from the Restoration of the Gospel.

On Thursday, I was on exchanges with Elder Yates (zone leader) and I led out the area. A lot of what we were doing that day was street contacting and tracting, which didn’t really go too well. I think someone told us that it reached 100 on Thursday… well, that would make sense because it was very warm. And Elder Yates hasn’t ridden his bike in over 8 months and hasn’t been drinking enough water. So when we got home during lunch hour, he was just out of it. It is now definitely getting to that time where we’ll have to start just asking every one we come in contact with for water. (and in case anyone is wondering, we are not allowed to have camelbacks since we’re not allowed to have backpacks)

Friday was good because we were able to teach this semi less-active family that we have been trying to contact ever since I’ve been here. We taught them the Restoration of the Gospel and we had Ammon Florez (going to serve a mission in Washington in a month) come with us so he can get good practice for teaching and better prepare for serving the mission. It went really well.

Then Saturday was a busy day. From 9AM to 4PM, a good 5-7 zones in the mission (almost all of them) went to help out and do service for the Special Olympics they were having down in Higley High School (Olympics for special needs kids.) We didn’t really know what we were there to do and I think there were way too many missionaries because a lot of us didn’t have a whole lot to do. Most of the time, we would just be there walking around until someone asked us to do something. Half the time, we were just an audience for the kids lol. But still, it was good and it was good to give encouragement to all the kids that were there. Although I didn’t have any sunscreen on. I didn’t burn too bad, I didn’t even really feel hot that day… but being out in the sun that long wasn’t good.

The next thing we did on Saturday requires a little bit of backstory… About a month ago, Elder Bailey and I went tracting asking people if they needed service. We tracted into the next-door neighbor of the Gissel’s. You could tell the guy was very religious because he had a cross spray-painted on his truck. We knock on the door and a guy named Earl answers the door and we ask for service. He says, “Yeah, you can dig my trampoline pit in the backyard.” We said we’d do it and he responds, “Nah, I’m just kidding guys.” But we were persistent until finally he let us do it and said that he’d be doing it in about a month.

So on Saturday, from 6PM to 8:30 PM we had the entire zone (minus the zone leaders) come over and help dig this trampoline pit that is meant to be 15 ft around and 3 ft deep. We all start with pics and shovels and weren’t making much progress. We got working to about an hour and we got in about half a foot. Then Elder Bailey and Elder Schulte split off and borrowed a jackhammer from Brother Cox. Progress went by MUCH faster! We had Elder Olkjer with the jackhammer digging into the ground while the rest of us dug out the softened dirt and made a big pile. By 8:30 PM, we all had to leave and we got 2 and a half ft deep. So we ended up getting most of it done, which is crazy! We got home dead tired, but we all felt so accomplished that day.

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So yeah, this was a really good week. It’s weird that I’m going to be heading to the MTC in just a couple days. I’m gonna be missing this area. I’m pretty sure that when I come back from the MTC they’ll transfer me to a different area with a different companion, so I have pretty much been saying the goodbye’s yesterday. I’ll definitely miss it.

Anyway, hope you guys have a great week!

Love,
Elder Foxx

Dinner with the Watson and Blackburn families last night…

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Week 21; April 7, 2014: Worst and Best Days of My Mission

The first good majority of the week was very, very difficult. Probably the most difficult point of my mission to be honest.

From Tuesday-Wednesday, I was on exchanges and was in a different area. And the entire time, the Elder I was with wanted us to visit a bunch of former-investigators and talk to nonmembers in general. We didn’t really make any contact with members at all during this exchange. And the thing about former-investigators is that they’re “former” for a reason. And there are usually two types of “formers.” Ones who will be extremely rude to you and tell you to leave or ones who will be nice and say that they’re just no longer interested. Regardless, the chances of getting to teach or even talk to them are slim. So you can probably imagine how the day went. We bike around and literally every single person we talked to was being extremely rude and there were a few who flat-out threatened to kill us if we wouldn’t leave… it was bad. And then we had one person who did answer the door and she was nice, but the conversation got too deep and too long. The Elder I was with is very awkward and will often ask questions that appear out of nowhere. And then these questions tend to lead to very complicated answers (this girl didn’t believe in God or anything and is all about science and doesn’t believe there is any “proof” there is a God). Long story short, the conversation became an overly-deep-doctrine conversation that ended up lasting over an hour and a half with us just talking to this girl outside her door step. It was bad. And I was trying to end it long before it got to the point of where it got by simply bearing my testimony and then ending it off of that. But each time I try to end it there, the Elder I was with asks a question that ends up taking the conversation to a whole other level. By the end of the conversation, everyone was frustrated and the spirit was just not there. I felt absolutely horrible. I did not feel the spirit at all during this exchange.

Interesting how the worst days of my mission proceed the best day of my mission thus far.

Friday, I got to go through the Temple for the very first time to get endowed. I chose to go through the Gilbert Temple since that is the Temple that my first three transfers of my mission have been building up to, so it just seemed fitting. It was interesting going through the Temple for the first time. There’s not a whole lot you can do to truly prepare for it, but I was always given the advice to not worry about memorizing anything or the things that would happen, but just to enjoy feeling the spirit. So that’s what I did. It was great seeing my family, both my actual family and my mission family there in the temple with me. When we entered the celestial room, I had never felt the spirit so strongly before in my life. It was very powerful and I could feel the love that my families and friends had for me as well as my Heavenly Father.

Then on Friday night when we got home and we were getting ready to head out, Elder Bailey told me that he had a feeling that we should stop by sister Gissell. So just as we are about ready to leave, sister Gissell calls us and says that her next-door neighbor is shoveling a giant pile of gravel over to the backyard if we had time to help. So we did just that. We were not able to spend a whole lot of time because we had an appointment about 30 minutes after we got there, but we were able to get a good amount of the gravel shoveled. So that was really cool. Then after the appointment, we bike around and we see brother Nelson standing outside and this big truck of sod (grass) comes by and we find out that he is laying out sod in his backyard that next morning. So we set up a time to help him at 7AM.

Saturday and Sunday was of course General Conference. We got to see all of them, but we missed the first 70% of the 9AM session on Saturday because we were doing service by laying sod on a dirt field for grass. We were surprisingly able to get it done fairly quickly because we were able to bike home by 9AM, shower, get dressed, and then head to the stake center to watch conference. I was a little disappointed to miss a big chunk of the 9AM Saturday session, but we were out there doing work and ultimately that was what was important. Plus, it’ll be in the Ensign soon enough (probably while I’m at the MTC, now that I think about it)

This was a really good General Conference. There were lots of great talks given. My favorite session was probably the Priesthood Session and I really liked the talk by President Eyring about have traits of a “Priesthood hero” and being a good model. And President Monson gave a really talk on being courageous in the Sunday 9AM session and how we must always show courage and stand up for what we believe in no matter what may happen. Those were a few highlights that I can think of at the top of my head, but the whole conference was great.

So yeah, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were really great days. It’s interesting how the week turns around like that because the Tuesday and Wednesday before were so hard and I felt so horrible. It’s hard to believe I’ll be going to the MTC next week. That’s gonna be weird.

Anyway, hope you all have a great week! Love you all!

Love,
Elder Foxx

Friday, April 4, 2014: Going to the Temple

This morning was a special day with Elder Foxx as he was going through the temple for the first time. It was extra special because he was able to go through the Gilbert temple which is the temple he has been sharing and inviting members and investigators to attend the open house just months prior. And to make it even MORE special not only was his family and a close family friend able to attend but his mission zone and ward members from areas he had served in was able to attend. I can’t even express how special this day was for all of us. We heard over and over how much Elder Foxx is loved.

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Coming soon! Elder Foxx leaves for the MTC on the 16th.

Side note: Elder Foxx has not come home at all. He has continued his mission service since he has gotten his full time call. Rick and I have had to go up to Gilbert to attend to his needs of what needs to be done before he leaves for the MTC. Last Saturday was spent on getting his temple clothes, buying a new suit and larger satchel, buying a new suitcase, etc… In his last letter he commented how weird it feels when he is not with his companion. We agree, that is the best place for him to be- with his companion in his mission serving. His time in Gilbert during his ‘mini mission’ will go towards his full time served when he returns to Gilbert after the MTC. He loves it there in Gilbert and is happy to continue to serve there when he returns from his MTC training.