First Christmas

Mom, Dad, and sisters, (early Dec 89)

mission 073We’re out of a slump, though I think Christmas has more to do with it than any effort of ours. I’ve been brought to a realization of just how hard we’re working. This area has, in a matter of months, gone from 4 elders and a car to 2 on less-than-dependable bikes. I shouldn’t say that – I’ve got a good bike. We’ve had a few comments though recently about how hard we’re working compared to past elders here. Not being immodest, just noticing this area hasn’t seen proper elders for a while now. I’m becoming anxious about leaving this area to possible goof-offs. We’ve got quite a few less actives and investigators really trusting us and opening up now. Hopefully, we can get some progress before we leave and they have to start all over.

My comp is babbling about the illogical 12 days: why would lords be leaping?

Got some interesting letters from T this week. She didn’t call it such, but it was a "Dear John" in most respects. What was funny was that I sent a similar letter at the same time and they crossed in the mail – we probably received them about the same day. She’s already changed so much that I don’t feel like I know her anymore. I thought she’d change but… hmmm. Got a great letter the next day, though. The kind I love to get from my good friends. Should be real interesting to see how things turn out. Your next question is do I have any regrets? Of course, but I’m also ever so thankful. She’s done more for me than anyone on earth excepting you and dad.

"T" – if you haven’t guessed yet – was the girl back home that I’d dated longer than anyone. We had parted on the only sensible terms you can part with someone for 2 years. She was obviously free to pursue any other relationships, though we both held out some hope that we’d be available to see if we could pick up where we left off. That actually works out about 5% of the time, but every missionary that leaves and most girls that are left behind think that they’ll be that 5%. I’ll spare you the suspense: we weren’t in the 5% 🙂 But T and I are still in touch. I made sure to let her know what I was doing with this blog, and she is graciously letting me.

I can imagine P would be down. I know how he is with learning a language and he wrote to me and told me of the 15 stitches he got breaking into his flat. K is being tried a bit, too. And these are the guys I thought would have an easy time. I’m anxious to receive a letter from poor C. Korean!!

This is talking about high school buddies who were all serving missions around the world at the same time. My best friend and freshman roommate (P) was in Italy, others were in Korea, Australia, and New Mexico. P was

Am I ever going thru dance withdrawal! The dance songs are still stuck in my head, and I have to do a few jigs and jags when noone’s watching. It’s too much a part of me. For now, I’m being debatably wicked by pacifying my desires with "Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree". Come July, that may be old, though.

The next paragraph talks about "budget" referring to a change in the way LDS congregations are funded. They used to ask for donations at a ward (congregation) level on top of the standard 10% tithe. The change was they did away with the additional "budget" requests and funded wards completely by tithing from headquarters, based on attendance. This had the effect of lowering budgets for wealthy wards and raising them for poorer wards.

Haven’t heard anything about budget. Sounds…. I don’t know. This is a poor ward by comparison but there’s quite a class distinction within it. There’s some very comfortable Americans, some struggling young Americans, a couple well-off English, and a number of downright poor English. We were with a couple families the other night who’s next trip to the grocery store will be quite short if it happens at all. And they were giving each other their last boxes of biscuits (cookies). Next day, they invite us to Boxing day dinner. "Won’t be much, but we’d love to have you." Humbling isn’t the word.

It amazes me how many people have problems with leaders of the church and go inactive ’cause they don’t like the bishop or whatever. Seems few people can separate Church from people. Makes me wonder about home… I’ve also observed that everyone I’ve talked to that’s been excommunicated feels they were wronged or offended in one way or another. Somewhere, somebody is insensitive. Distressing. A lot of that is probably the pride of the offended, but it sounds, I don’t know, funny.

Overall, I’m enjoying the season immensely, though I seem to be fighting the flu epidemic. Not surprised with all the sick people we visit and mud and rain on my shoes, suit, coat… Christmas Conference is this week. We get to see "As You Like It" at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford. It lasts two days and all 235 missionaries in the mission will be there. Should be a blast. I have dinner appointments every day for a week and a half. Didn’t need to do much shopping today. 🙂 yum

Love, Elder Chris

That trip to the theater was fantastic. It was obvious to me just how wealthy our Mission President was when he paid for accommodations and tickets for 250 people. Yikes! Oh, and we all got a copy of Covey’s "7 Habits" as a gift too.

Next is a separate Christmas Card I sent home. We had a family tradition of putting notes in each other’s stockings that said something nice about each member of the family…

All at home,

You know that even though I love it here, I still miss you all terribly. I love our family traditions. Here are my stocking notes: Mom – thank you for all you’ve taught me, without your common-sense lessons, I’d be clueless. But thanks most of all for listening with an open mind to the missionaries of 20 years ago. Dad – your example to me has been one of inspiration. Your hard work makes my burdens seem lighter, and I find it much more enjoyable to "get to it." I love you. Sis – Though you are perhaps the most different from me in the family, you have taught me much. Your spirituality keeps me in check. Be proud of it, hold on to it – it will save you in time of trial. Sis #2 – Your Christ-like love touches me. Especially when I get your beautiful pictures. I hang them up next to my pictures of Christ.

I love you all and dedicate my next baptism to you – for all you’ve done for me. Your efforts are now blessing the lives of all those people I teach. I know, if they could, they would thank you too. Hope you are all well for Christmas. Drink lots of egg nog and watch "It’s a Wonderful Life" for me.

All my love, Elder Chris

To the whole family, (12/27/89)

Boy am I stuffed! One dinner appointment every day for a week and a half! The fridge is packed. If I look at another mince pie, I’ll throw up. Elder B already has. He got sick last night. Hope this isn’t another round of the flu.

Had a great Christmas and am eager to get back to "normal" proselyting. We were told to change our focus because people get put off if you go around and "bug" them right near Christmas. Now, however, President wants us to concentrate and do some heavy-duty finding. We have a plan for the members that we hope to get established in January. We want to hold a MTC (Member Training Center) and teach them (especially the stake missionaries) how to find, how to place a Book of Mormon, how to teach someone a little bit about the gospel. If we can get the members excited and unified, they’ll be much more likely to do the work and baptisms would double. Our plan has me all excited – I really believe we can get some great things accomplished with it.

mission 034Loved the Christmas notes. I think I’m going to frame Emily’s "I hope the people are nice to you" note. Struck me as funny for some reason… Well, at least I got the bike back. Glad we can keep that tradition up at long distance. Wish the phone call had been more clear, there was so much to talk about. Maybe next time I’ll have a phone in my flat and you can call me so that you can try and get a better connection. My land lady calls the States and she says you just get lucky with the quality of your connection. She said you can talk to the operator and get on a different line to get a better connection, or something like that.

As I was saying on the phone, it’s hard to get across everything that’s happening. I have a hard enough time keeping myself informed. My perspectives are changing on so many things. Like my cliched life, for example. I find myself falling into so many [cliches] these days: the Dear John, the missionary traps of "wasting out", "frogs", etc. etc. And you know how I hate cliches. Thing is, though, if 2 people are brought up in similar circumstances with similar values, they will lead similar lives. Details will differ, but major decisions are going to be made in similar ways. And because nobody like to be classified/categorized, we make them into cliches and poke fun at them, pretending we’re not really like "them." People are strange.

"Wasting out" = being a slacker. "Frogs" = a term for girls that flirt with missionaries (relates to the story about putting frogs in lukewarm water and slowly turning the heat up – they cook rather than jump out).

Next is a discussion of Signs of the Times. With all the world-changing events that occurred during my mission (collapse of Soviet Union, first Gulf War), the "end times" prophecies were very much on our minds. This is the start of that awareness…

I’d be very interested to hear what people are saying about the implications of all these goings-on in Eastern Europe. To me, this is too significant and extraordinary to be just a sign of change. I’d be interested to find something about this in the scriptures. Not generally, specifically. We got a message the other day to "phone President before tomorrow." It ended up being nothing of consequence, but it had us freaked out. What was it? Emergency transfer or World War 3? The missionaries being called home is one of the first signs of the imminent Second Coming. The prophesied events following that one can all take place in a 6-month period. And there are supposed to be 3 or 4 missionary "phases" before the Second Coming, the first one ending with the onset of WW3. Every nation doesn’t necessarily have to be open and being taught before WW3 because they could open in the other "phases." Scary stuff. The joke saying around here is (to someone who has a ways to go in their mission): "Boy, the Second Coming will be here before you get home."

Oops. I think it is the flu. I’ve just started with the other end. Joy. Why do we do this to ourselves at Christmas? Oof. Better go and get some sleep. Thanks for everything. I love you all.

Love, Elder Chris

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