I went into the MTC as excited as I could be. I had been looking forward to this point of my life for a long time. I didn't have to learn a language, I could just hit the ground running and never stop. Boy was I in for a big surprise, and it may not be the one you are thinking.
I felt like the MTC was a big step down, not up. The MTC itself was great and amazingly spiritual, but I had never associated with such immature people in my life. I was shocked at many of the kids and their attitudes and work ethics. Luckily, the majority were great and I had a wonderful time. I agreed with the saying, the church must be true or 19 year old kids would have ruined it a long time ago. A lot of people say they hate the MTC, but I thought it was great, I was also only there for 3 weeks. You got all the food you could want, you got to study the scriptures, meet new people and it was such a spiritual high.
My favorite part was the music though. I also able to take part in the MTC choir, but also just singing with my group. I also wrote a little song for my companion, that he loved. Elder Loertscher, Elder Loertscher, it's time to get out of bed! It may have only been three weeks, but I was with those people all day and our friendships will last forever.
Finally I got to fly to Seattle and meet my first companion. His name was Elder Haynie and we were serving in the Issaquah 3rd ward. They had just had like six baptisms the week before I got there. Needless to say, they weren't really thrilled when they heard one of their missionaries was being transferred. Luckily, they quickly took a liking to me as well. Unfortunately, after all of their hard work, we really didn't have anyone left to teach.
We tracted a ton! I think in the six months I was there only one person let us in at the time we knocked on their door, and he was a scary anti guy. The only light in his house was a candle, and he sat on the couch with his guitar and I was scared he was going to blow it out and hit us over the head with his guitar or something. He didn't, but at least I got in a door!
My first day tracting we had knocked for hours with not a single person answering. Finally we walked up a driveway and I saw they were home, he had a video camera out. In my mind I thought, how cool will this be when we baptize him and he has the time he met us on film. He opened the door, took a picture with his video camera, while continuing to record us. He then yelled at us and said that he told us to take us off his list and that he was calling our boss. That he had told us never to come to his house again. So much for showing that video at his baptism...
Finally I was able to meet the Hansens. Barry and Anne were two amazing people. Barry was a member, but Anne was not. She was interested, so she decided that we could meet for half an hour every other week. (Imagine how hard it was to find time when investigators weren't interested). We tried to have as much contact as possible, but sometimes she was so busy with work that even these meetings had to be postponed. We always had a fun time talking to Barry whenever we dropped by, even though he spent his whole time trying to embarrass me. Barry did a good job of letting it be her decision as to how far she wanted to go and to let her ask questions. He never forced anything on her or put any pressure for her to do anything. It was a slow process, but one that was progressing and that had come a long way.
Then it was time for me to be transferred. I had served in this area for 6 months. I was sad to go, and hoped that things would continue to progress in this wonderful ward, especially for the Hansens. My new area was in Auburn, with Elder Humpherys. Here we served in 2 wards. The Green River Ward, which included the Marshallese unit, and the Korean Branch.
The Marshallese are the people from the Marshall Islands. Being assigned to work with them and also the Korean Branch were great experiences. All 3 cultures I was dealing with were all very very different. I gained a lot of weight in this area. The Marshallese fed us whenever we went to their homes. We tried to pick the most odd times, but they always had something ready. Then we would have a dinner appointment at night, then we usually had a Marshallese appointment in the evening, and they would feed us too. They also expected you to eat a lot. Not only that, but a guy from our ward worked at Pizza hut, and if they ever had any left over pizzas he would drop them off at our place.
I loved my time in Auburn. Auburn Love! We were a tight knit group and we had a lot of fun. We also kept busy and I was able to start seeing some success. When transfers came after four months I was surprised to hear that we were both being transferred. I would have liked to have seen at least one of us stay behind to help explain the cultures and be someone that the Marshallese knew and trusted, but I figured it must be the right thing.
I then got moved up to Bellevue. It was a really nice area. Ichiro, who plays for the Mariners, lived in that area, he lived next door to a member. Another member in our ward basically lived in a museum, I was always scared to go over there. They owned the worlds largest egg, it was pretty sweet. One of the members of our ward was the President or one of those big guys of T-Mobile. I remember for Christmas he got a life size poster of Catherine Zeta Jones and had her sign and write a message on it as a gag gift for another guy in our ward to give away.
Needless to say tracting was not very successful here. It was nearly impossible to find anyone home, maybe someone doing yard work or landscaping, but not an actual person that lived there. So I decided to try and be creative and work with the members. We came up with all kinds of quotes, lessons, excuses to get in as many members homes as we could. We tried to do it the right way, and not become annoying or be over there more than what was appropriate, but we did what we could. We did not do a perfect job at this, but we tried really hard and brought members with us to any lessons that we did have. It did not show any more results than knocking on doors. I like to hope at least it got missionary work in their minds and brought the spirit and gospel into their homes a little more than it would have.
During this time I got a brand new missionary, Elder Moultrie. We had a great time together and tried to work really hard. We talked about a lot of things, but I mentioned the Hansens to him a few times, and said that if I could have any one thing, it would be to see Anne get baptized. Sadly, transfer time came again.
Not only was I being transferred, but I was being made a Zone Leader. I had 9 months left and would end up spending them all in Federal Way. They just couldn't get rid of me for some reason. I started out with one ward, after 3 months I got a new companion Elder Bunker. Along with him we also were assigned the Singles ward along with our other one. Then the next transfer we got assigned a third ward. Only one other companionship in our zone had more than one ward.
During this time we started a new Zone Leader meeting, other than what we had normally done. Each companionship in the mission was supposed to come up with people they were working with that just weren't progressing. We as zone leaders then took this information and we talked about it. Sometimes other zone leaders would have good information that we didn't know, either they had served there themselves or talked to missionaries that had. This would help us know what directions to take, what members could help, things to avoid, and patterns to see. We discovered that many had similar problems and we tried to think of general things to help overcome some problems.
We only did this once or twice, because we saw a lot of patterns and it really gave us great direction. But at one of these they mentioned the Hansens and how they didn't seem to be progressing and were not taking the lessons anymore. I was able to tell them how busy she was and how their pace may not be the same as what most missionaries would like, but that she will progress if you let her and aren't overbearing. The mission president gave me special permission to go back to that area one day and to be there for a lesson.
The missionaries there didn't like the idea when they heard it, they didn't understand. They took it as some zone leader is going to come and do what they can't. So it didn't happen, until the next transfer when Elder Moultrie got transferred there. He would have done anything to see me anyway, so I was able to go with him and his companion to a lesson at the Hansens. She didn't have a lot of time that day, but allowed us to come since I was going to be there. I don't think I did or said anything great, but she decided to keep studying the Book of Mormon and the missionaries kept going over and working with her.
She ended up deciding to get baptized. When I heard I was so excited, I wished that I would be able to be there to witness it, but it wasn't my area. Then I got a call from Elder Moultrie. He told me that she had asked that I baptize her. He told her that we weren't allowed to leave our areas, but that he would talk to the president. So they talked to him and he decided that since I didn't ask and that it was coming from the member that he would give me permission. They kept it as a secret from her until I showed up at the baptism. It was one of the highlights of my life.
I was able to be there for a part of the process with other people, and may have meant something to them, but I felt like I was sent on my mission for them. Or maybe they were sent there for me. I learned a lot from them and was so glad to see the entire process through. After my mission Elder Moultrie and I drove up to see them sealed in the temple, which was another miracle in of itself.
I was in the middle of student teaching and I could not miss any days. But the day they planned it happened to be a break at the school I was assigned to. It was not a college break, just for the elementary school. If it had been any other time I would not have been ale to go. Just another tender mercy.
Anyway, back to the mission and to Federal Way with Elder Bunker. We kept busy with our three wards, being zone leaders, going on exchanges, and working with a very large zone. Somehow with all of this going on it was the most productive time of my mission. We had baptisms in each of our wards and I never worked so hard in all my life. We stopped having dinner appointments, they were a complete waste of time. We woke up an extra half hour early on a regular basis and would go and run 3-4 miles. It was great, we found a good balance between the two of us, although it took a month or two, and pushed each other to greater heights each day. We served together for six months. I would have stayed another six with him, but they told me I had to go home.
It was a great and terrible day. I felt like I had done my best, I was worn out, but it was the greatest thing I have ever had the opportunity to be a part of. I loved my mission, and hope to go on more when I am older.
Sorry, I got a little photo happy. I actually narrowed it down quite a bit.