Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Another Letter from David

Here's a slightly edited version of David's letter from today!

So cool story really fast. The computers still don't work very well, and I only have half an hour to write, so I created a list of all the things I wanted to say in this. Then I left it in my room, so I still kind of have to wing it. Sorry if I don't answer some of the questions you gave me.

The whole experience so far has been fantastic. For some reason most of you wanted to know about the food, which is funny. It's actually not that bad most of the time. Sometimes you'll get a pile of mashed potatos that tastes much more like powdered milk, but nothing too bad.

I sleep from 10:30 to 6:30 every night, which is eight hours of sleep. That's far more than I've gotten in a single night of sleep for a long time, so it's not that hard waking up. Almost every morning I'm awake before the alarms (we have 4 that go off simultaneously). However, the work here is exhausting, and every night I'm more than willing to go to bed as soon as possible. That's one thing I didn't realize. It is literally work 24/7. The only breaks are meals. Crazy how little prepared for it I was, but the Lord has been helping me to be able to work as hard as I can.

The language is still coming along quite well. My comp and I have about an hour picked out of every day where we are not allowed to speak english, and so far it's been fairly easy. Elder Dewey also just last night taught us a lesson in Spanish, us pretending to be investigators. His and his companion's Spanish was a little bit slower than ours, but he's in the beginner level, so he's come a long long way. I'm excited for everyone to start arriving at the MTC, too. I'll keep an eye out for Kyle's friend, and I'm sure I'll see her around, but I'm most excited for Jason. It's always funny to see all of the new guys come in with their orange dots. We can almost forget that was us just two weeks ago.. We call the incoming Elders "Chapuseros", which is spanish for "novices" I think, but we use it more as slang, like noobs.

It's strange to have P-days, because we can wear jeans, which are actually much less comfortable than church clothes. The shirt and tie is a little much, but my suit pants are much preferred to jeans. Of course, shorts and a t-shirt are even more preferred, but we can only wear that during gym. I've been playing soccer for most of my gym time, and gotten pretty good at it. Not fantastic, by any means, but I'm still better than the majority of the people there. For some reason a lot of little squirly guys who are scared out of their minds every time they have to tackle someone with the ball like to play. I even tried goalie last time, and wasn't scored on. Crazy fun.

Oh yeah, letters. Sorry about last week. I kind of feel like that whole Moroni/Pahoran thing, but it was nice to start to hear from you all again. I was going to count all the mail I got last week, but I forgot. Just as an indicator, though, last night I picked up the accumulative mail for the weekend (the mail room closes before Dear Elders come in on saturday, and no mail sunday) and I had two letters and twelve dear elders, most of which have two or more letters on them. They just print on the same paper as one continuous thing. Also, I got the two packages that the family and Julie sent, and I've very much appreciated them. However, there's so much junk food in there I don't know what to do with it. My roommates have all gotten similar packages, and we seriously have just been giving some of it away because there's no way.

I've also been working out a bunch, using some pushup bars to get better pushups, and done a bunch of pullups and dips. My arms are going to be beastly, let me tell you. I max myself out on all three excercises for three sets at least four nights a week, usually five or six. My reps have already gone way up. Basically I'm ripped. Or will be if I don't wimp out. Which I probably will.

Okay, only about ten minutes left, so let's get to the spiritual stuff. I really, really wish I could send you all my notes or just teach you some of the doctrines I've learned here. It's so fantastic. I've gotten so much inspiration here it's ridiculous. I'm also feeling the spirit in ways I didn't think I could before. Not that I didn't have it before, I'm just noticing it. If you can possibly look up a talk Elder Bednar gave at the MTC in June 2009, do it. He answers the question "How can I be sure it's the spirit prompting me, and not my own thoughts" absolutely perfectly. That's probably the most useful thing I've been taught since I've gotten here. If you can't find it, I'll try to summarize it in my next email. Another one you might want to check for is one given ten years or so ago by Elder Holland, again at the MTC. I think it's called "The Miracle of the Mission", and it's changed the way I've looked at my time here. This is the best time of my life, and I want to make sure that none of my shortcomings keep me from finding anyone who needs to hear this message. I know that this is the most important work I could possibly be doing, and so does everyone else here. The best part is, that knowledge is almost palpable. You can just feel that everyone is striving to become the kind of person they need to be to teach with the spirit. It's like everyone here is instantly more mature. Not actually mature, yet, but more so..

Dang it, I forgot to congratulate everyone on babies.. Congrats everyone!

Anyway, I have a challenge for all of you. I did this in my Book of Mormon class last semester, and it was awesome. Read through the book of Enos (1 chapter, don't worry) and analyze the steps Enos takes in praying. Really study it, and then set aside a time to actually pray as he did. Also, try and do it for at least fifteen minutes. I promise you all that as you do this sincerely, you will feel God's love for you and be closer to him. As you pray longer, you tend to really think about what you ask for and what you are grateful for, and there's no better way to feel his spirit. When I did this at BYU I went more than 45 minutes, just because of how it felt. So there you go. That's my challenge.

Okay, only two minutes left. I hope you've all enjoyed Toy Story 3, and you all have been doing well. It's so great to get letters about any random thing. I hear Steven's doing well with baseball, but he needs to learn what to do after bunting. Here's a hint I learned: RUN. Ha ha sorry I didn't get to everything I was going to, but I'm going to definitely try to outline it next week. Also, I can't upload pictures until I'm in the field. Sorry! But I'm taking a lot.

Love you all!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Finally, we hear from David

Yes, finally we hear from David, and it turns out we’ve been neglectful.  I guess we didn’t realize what we were supposed to be doing or how we could communicate with David.  Now we’re learning (oops!).

So, Tuesday appears to be his preparation day, so that’s when we’re likely to have emails from him.  Here’s the majority of his first email, edited to remove the computer stuttering…. No pictures, yet.

I seriously doubt I have time to write all of this, so sorry if it doesn't look pretty. We have 30 minutes of email checking time on P Days, and not a second more. On that note, if you would all use DearElder.com to write me, then I'd have all 30 minutes to write. It works just like email, but on our end they print it out and put it in my mailbox. It's free, same-day, and gives me more time to write.

Also, all of you should write me. My companion, up until today, had gotten seven letters and five packages, and I've only gotten two letters. From Sarah. That's sad. And then of course he just got five more letters today alone. You've got to step it up.

The MTC is great.  Our schedule is literally sleep, eat, and go to class. Every waking moment is spent learning the gospel, how to teach, and the language. My companion, Elder Millett, is a fantastic guy. He is a hard worker, has a great testimony, and we get along really well. In fact, we've had several teachers comment on how close we're becoming so fast.

The language is coming along very nicely. We're expected to speak almost exclusively Spanish throughout the day, and almost all of our classes are in Spanish. I've gotten to the point where I can easily talk for hours at a time in Spanish with mi companiero, and I've even been thinking a lot in Spanish. Not exclusively, but some phrases just come out that way in my head. There were even one or two times that I would be talking in English and say something in Spanish accidentally. Mostly it was simple, like I'd be talking to someone and say something like "yes, pero…"

I guess I should also mention that I was called as the district leader, so I'm in charge of eight elders and two sisters (all of whom receive way more mail than me...hint hint). They're all great, and we have an awesome time. Even when we're joking I can feel the spirit, and trust me, we joke a lot. Mostly in Spanish, too, since everything is funnier in Spanish.

In the few days I've been here, I've memorized the first vision, the purpose of our mission, three or four scriptures, how to bear my testimony, and a good portion of how to teach the first lesson, all in Espanol. I've also been praying six or seven times a day in Spanish since the day I got here, and I've actually become quite proficient at it. We're in the intermediate class, though. Beginners don't get immersed like this. But it's funny to meet the beginners who have been here for nine weeks already. They speak as well as I do now, mostly, so we'll have to see how good I can get.

I also ran into Elder Dewey and Elder Ennis, and they're both doing very well. I'm really looking forward to the other guys getting here. It's so much fun to run into people I know from before.

Let's see.... What else? I've gotten the chance to do some calls at the referrals center, but both times someone actually picked up, they hung up on me. Elder Roach, one Elder in our district, sent the missionaries to someone's house on his second try, but nothing since then. We love going there, though.

I am personally holding it against all of you if you're keeping news from me, Lindsay. Or any of you, of course, but Dad kind of hinted at stuff. 

I'm keeping a journal, which is good, I guess.  And I'm filling up something like four pages a day in a different notebook of just my thoughts and impressions.

This is such an incredible place. I don't know if you got my other letter yet, but from day one I've been able to see why missionaries don't want to go home. I still feel homesick from time to time, but a Sister shared a scripture with me that helps a lot when I do.  It's in D&C 31:5-6, and basically to me means that the Lord is watching over my life at home, and it will all be fine when I get back. This is where I'm supposed to be, and I plan on working as hard as I can while I'm out here.

Thanks for all your love and support, and for all of the letters that had better be coming :).

By the way, getting the mail for our district, which is my job, is sometimes what I look forward to most. But then it's depressing, because I got a whole lot of nothing. But it's all good. Write me! And I'll send pictures next week if I can figure out how.

I love you all, and remember that I appreciate all of your love and support, and expect to see you all soon, when I return in glory.

--Elder E. David Arrington

Thursday, June 17, 2010

It's all about David

DSCN0667 This is the Arrington Family blog for missionaries. For now, this is just about David (isn't it always about David?), but since we expect others to go on missions including Michael and Steven, and eventually Regan and me, we might as well have a common place for the missionary updates.

As you may have heard, David is called to serve in the El Salvador San Salvador West/Belize mission entering the MTC on June 16th.

The countdown to the mission has been stressful. Regan has gone over his packing list dozens of times. Maybe hundreds of times. We've purchased just about everything he could need and then some. This week it was all spread out in the bonus room so Regan could, well, check out the checklist. Finally everything was there, except his watch. We got him a new watch for Christmas just for his mission. He had it at school, but now it's gone. More stress.

DSCN0974 DSCN0879
This last Monday night we decided to go to an El Salvadorian restaurant to eat dinner. We drove all the way over to SE Portland just to find out the restaurant was closed. We went to Applebee's instead. Everyone was there. Well, Regan and I, Michael, Steven, David, and of course Sarah who has been spending a lot of time at our home lately--at least when David is there. Typically, David had the shrimp parmesan steak, of which he at about a fourth. Missionaries have a reputation for being big eaters. David isn't one of those. He normally has more boxed-up food in the fridge than anyone. My task: To get to the leftover shrimp steak before David does.

On Tuesday Regan and David spent the day mostly packing. Reviewing the list, and packing. David took his final stats test (not a moment too soon) and went to lunch with a friend. The shrimp steak is still available! As we approached dinnertime, the bags were packed, but David still needed to watch 90 minutes of MTC preview video before being set apart. We started that 2-hours before the scheduled appt with the Stake President.

DSCN0983 The setting apart was a wonderful event. In addition to President Fotheringham, the same crew that was at Applebee's was there to witness. DSCN0984President Fotheringham had great things to say and gave David a great blessing. I got to participate in the setting apart. We all felt spiritually uplifted. David is officially a missionary! Following the setting apart, David gave hugs to everyone--except Sarah of course. She got a "firm handshake." "Well, see you in two years." Now I'm David's companion until he gets on the plane tomorrow.

Following the setting apart we went to DSCN0988 Fred Meyer to buy David another watch. We never found the other one. When we got home, David and I walked over to Adam's house to say goodbye, and then back home. There, David asked me to give him a father's blessing. I don't know that I can express what that meant to me. He had just received the most beautiful blessing from President Fotheringham, but still David wanted a blessing from his dad. I think about all the responsibilities over all the years to demonstrate faith, diligence, uprightness, and a willingness to use the Priesthood, and here was another opportunity. DSCN0989What a great expression of love. Just his asking was more of an expression of love than anything. I gave him a blessing. I hope it will not be the last.

We all got to bed a little after 11:00. Regan had to review the list and fuss with the suitcases for a few more minutes before we all went to sleep.

The alarm went off at 3:45am. Regan and I got up and dressed then woke David up. This is the day. After reviewing the packing list a couple more times and packing the final items into his suitcases, we had prayer together then packed up the car and left.

DSCN0996 Upon arriving at the airport, things got more stressful, not less. It turns out that David's flight was cancelled. Delayed Flight Figures. He was scheduled on the 7:15am flight, but it wasn't going anywhere. Delta Airlines rebooked him on the delayed 6:00am flight that was now schedule to depart at 10:00am.
DSCN1004 We sat around the airport for something like three hours doing absolutely nothing until 9:00. Finally at 9:00 it was time. DSCN1010 We walked David to security, gave him hugs, and gave him hugs again. And again. Then he was off. We watched him go through security and then head to the gate. With that, he was gone.

DSCN1015 But the story doesn't end there. On the way home, Michael checked the flight status. David's flight was now delayed until 11:00. Since he didn't have a cell phone , we couldn't contact him and he couldn't contact us, so we just went home. Regan went to work, the boys went to school. I continued to track the status of the flight until it finally left at 11:25am. David was scheduled to be in the MTC by 12:45, but by my calculations, it would be at least 3:30 or 4:00 before he arrived. There seemed to be nothing I could do about it, so I went to the fridge, pulled out David's shrimp parmesan steak and heated it up. Yum.

DSCN2000 Emily, Dave and their kids patiently waited then picked David up at the airport. David grabbed his luggage, and while hooking them together, discovered his watch--the original one he lost--in the pocket of the suitcase. Mystery solved! Of course now he has two watches....Regan says that means he has more time. Emily took the obligatory MTC photo shots of David and then dropped him off officially. Emily's daughter's seemed to sense the impact of his departure and were sad to see him go.DSCN2008

Now he is somewhere in the depths of the MTC. We've not heard anything yet from him, and since we really don't know the communications process, we're not sure how long it will be before we hear. At this point, I can assume that no news is good news, right? We're confident he's doing great!

In the future, I hope to mostly post reports from David as we hear things. I expect that it won't be my writing mostly, it will be his. That way, we'll all get to keep up on what he's doing and the progress he's making. It's great to have a missionary in the field!