Sunday, June 23, 2013

More and More Mission Tales...

This is a continuation of the last post because the blogger/Mom took a break from blogging to attend the worldwide training meeting for new mission presidents via satellite. I knew that Brae was excited about it because he mentioned it in his email last week, and so it was fun to be a part of something like that, knowing that he was also watching from his corner of the middle of nowhere--the reservation. I came away from the meeting uplifted and inspired to be a part of this great work, even though I cried through most of it! 

Brae let us know the week of June 3 that he would be staying in Cameron for another six weeks. He said that if Elder Booth's visa doesn't come in the the next six weeks he will likely be transferred in mid-July, but if it DOES come he will likely stay on the reservation another twelve weeks. He is loving it there, and so he will be happy either way. He said that they are still allowed time for language study every day, and so he is hoping to become more fluent in the Navajo language. They also found some new people to teach.

He also talked more about the "stinking HOT" weather, saying, "I think I jinxed myself when I got my call and said 'it's warm there'! Oh, the irony!!!" Apparently it has been between 100 and 110 every day.

His email from the week of June 10 began, "HOLY SMOKES! IT'S HOT DOWN HERE!" I laughed when he said that they have a swamp cooler in their trailer that keeps it down to 80 degrees most of the time, so it's "not unbearable". Notice that he didn't say that it was bearable, just that it was "not unbearable"! He said that one day they went up to the mountain to teach some people who were selling jewelry at their bead stands there. It was 98 degrees, and he told Elder Booth, "Wow! It's really cooling off!" and said that it felt awesome to be up there. They had 35 people at church and five new people who have set a baptismal date. He said, "We keep finding new people/families that the Lord has TOTALLY prepared to hear the word. It's crazy. God is doing all of the work and I'm just an instrument in His hands, which I'm happy to be!" 

They also got to see the Grand Canyon with the senior missionaries, Brother and Sister Robertson. Sister Robertson texted me some cute pictures, which I will share at some future time when I become savvy enough to know how to post them on this blog! It was Sister Robertson who told me that Brae and his companion were singing my song "Bless Your Father's Name" for Father's Day, which made me really happy. (The thought of Brae singing anything makes me smile!) It is truly a blessing for Brae to be serving there with Brother and Sister Robertson! He loves them and has learned so much from them. I hope that Becky doesn't mind my sharing an excerpt of a text that she sent me the morning of June 14: "Ya'aah'tee. I wanted you to know what a great missionary you have. It has been awesome watching him grow in the gospel this past 3 1/2 months. He teaches with the spirit. The families love him. He has taught Elder Booth very well. We enjoy being around him and love him also. He is always happy. We are blessed to serve with him." Truthfully, I was having one of those "melt-down-moments", and her text came as a tender mercy for me. I am glad to know that he is growing in the gospel, serving people, and doing well, but the part that made me the happiest was her saying that he is always happy. I am always reminding him to look for the good in every person and every situation, and his happiness is evidence that he is doing just that. And I want to bear testimony that although we will experience difficult moments as part of our mortal journey, we have a Heavenly Father who knows us by name. He loves us and He is there for us. He hears and answers our prayers, often times through ministering angels like Sister Robertson. 

June 17, Elder Beck was really excited that they had taught thirty lessons the previous week, which was a new record! He said, "We're still totally being led to people who are prepared to hear about the gospel. I love being a missionary because you can see the spirit's workings clear as day." He told of singing a duet of my song with Elder Booth and said, "It was really good! I love being able to share my talents with the people here. The Lord gave me everything, so I might as well pay it forward!" As a reprieve from the hot weather, the missionaries had plans to go to Tuba City for P-day for a "Zone Water Fight". He was excited to see several of the elders who went out the same time as he because they all became such "awesome friends". 

Sister Robertson sent this update this morning via email: "Ya'aah'tee. We have a great story for you this week. We were going back to the church early in the morning, and Elder Beck and Elder Booth were closing the gate to the church yard. They said a member of the church who works at the post office 1/2 mile away from the church had a car that would not start. So she jumped on her horse and rode about five miles to the church with her three dogs following her to the post office to work. During work, the Flagstaff pound picked up her dogs and took them fifty-five miles away to Flagstaff. It cost $360 to get them out of the pound! Dedication!!! It's not every day you see a horse tied up on church property. Only happens on the Res.!" In the spirit of the Res., maybe Briana and I should ride our horses to church one of these Sundays. ??? Maybe people would stop to investigate...It could be a great missionary tool...Haha.


More Mission Tales

Ya'aah'tee'! Elder Beck is having a great mission! I'm thinking that maybe some of the Navajo spirit is rubbing off on his mom, who has been taking her sweet time on the blog posts! (I can just hear Brae calling me to repentance and telling me to get with it!)

The week of April 29, Elder Beck called training a "CRAZY" experience and said that he had to trust in the Lord to make up for his shortcomings. He admitted to realizing that he didn't know as much as he thought about certain details in missionary work, but had help from his district leader and definitely from Heavenly Father. Funny story...As he was driving back to Cameron from Farmington after picking up Elder Booth, he said, "I didn't have GPS, so I was just trying to remember how to get back. Well, we were about an hour out when we passed a sign that said 'Welcome to Colorado'.


So we turned around, said a prayer, and then we made it back to Cameron." (Obviously, he is still somewhat directionally-challenged, but Heavenly Father proved to be better than GPS anyway!)

They had to move back all of their scheduled baptismal dates because the investigators didn't show up at church on Sunday. Brae hated being the "bad-guy" and having to break the news, but said that he gained strength from the words of Paul in the New Testament, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ." It helped him to be more bold and as he put it, "do less sugar-coating with people". He cracked me up when he said that he hoped things were going well for all of us back in the United States, in civilization. (It really is a different world there!)

The week of May 5, things started to get HOT! Brae said that it was 90 by 10:00 a.m. every day and it just got worse from there. He said that the 100-plus-degree heat would turn him into a dried-up piece of jerky by the time he got home! It was also the beginning of snake and lizard season. He enjoyed watching lizards from his study room window, but was freaked out by the fact that the Navajo people regard snakes as sacred and do not kill them. (Brae was taught from an early age to kill snakes before Mom sees them!) He said that if the Navajos find a rattlesnake, they catch it and drop it off somewhere else. 

He had more experiences of having to be the "bad guy" when they had to drop some investigators who were not progressing and keeping their commitments. On a lighter note, he said, "I'm supposedly turning into a real Navajo now, because I point with my head and lips. It's a funny Navajo thing that when they are talking about a place or saying something like 'over there', they point with their lips while they are talking. I am starting to do that without even thinking, so now I just have to master speaking Navajo and get a good tan and I'll be set!"

Mother's Day was the most fabulous day ever because we got to Facetime with Elder Beck for an hour and nineteen minutes! (Thanks to Paul and Becky Robertson for letting the elders use their iPads!) He looked and sounded great! He was trying to teach Briana and me how to say some Navajo words. Let me just say that it was the hardest thing I have ever tried to do! Rather than sounding like words, they were just guttural sounds. I really could not relate phonetically to any of the sounds. Kudos to the elders who master it. I would just have to smile and point with my lips, I guess! 

They taught 24 lessons and found three new investigators. They were really excited about the five baptisms that they had scheduled for the following Saturday, especially considering that there had not been a baptism in the area for eight months. Although they had to move the baptismal dates back, they were grateful that their faith and perseverance was going to finally bear fruit.

On May 20, Elder Beck reported that the baptisms and confirmations all worked out! He said that he was tearing his hair out because the branch president didn't show up and two of the children being baptized came twenty minutes late. It was somewhat stressful for him being the senior companion and it being his first time planning a baptism. Besides that it was great! He was also excited that a former investigator who had left his family and been negatively influenced by a medicine man came to the baptism and to church meetings on Sunday. He said to keep our prayers coming, because the Lord's hand is definitely guiding this work.

This next quote is just the stuff a mom loves to hear! Brae said, "I'm definitely growing a lot more as a missionary now. I've learned a lot in the past few weeks. I'm to the point that I can honestly say the I love the work and this is my life now. My dreams at night are about missionary work, so that must mean I'm more focused or something. Bahaha!" Oh, Brae. :)

Another quote from Brae: "Funny story--So, we are teaching this lady who is doing awesome. She always prays and reads her scriptures, but she just won't come to church no matter what. And we figured out that it is because she won't forgive someone who offended her at church. So being the psychology-major that I am, I committed her this week to write down on paper exactly what happened that offended her, how she felt about it, etc., and then I told her that next week we are going to BURN IT. Then she can let it go! I laughed at myself, because it was a little bit of Brae coming out of Elder Beck. Haha. I'm still me!"

On May 27, Elder Beck wrote, "Happy Memorial Day! I'm not dead, but I hope you remembered me! Haha! Just look at my attempt at a joke!" He was happy to have had a zone meeting with his mission president and stake president. The main thing he learned was to find joy in the journey. Brae is really good at looking for the good in every person and every situation. He said, "I think everything on a mission is magnified: the good times are amazing, and the hard times are really hard. Luckily I am enjoying all of it." Then he went on to tell me that although they were disappointed at not having very many people at church that week, a sister who had not come in years was there. He said, "There's always the glimmer of a miracle, even in a tough situation."

They had a "pick-up fast" on Saturday, where their whole zone didn't use vehicles for a day. He and Elder Booth started out by hitching rides with the senior missionaries (Paul and Becky Robertson), and then after a while, just started walking. Here are the words every mom does not want to hear, "Drumroll please...we hitch-hiked! I never thought I would be saying those words! Five people honked at us, and one lady actually stopped, but in the end the senior missionaries just picked us up again. It was an adventure though! It was 90+ degrees and we walked about five miles." All I have to say about that is that I am grateful he has Heavenly Father's protection, and I am thankful for the senior missionaries!


Sunday, April 28, 2013

From Trainee to Trainer

The week of April 15 was, according to Brae, "an awesome week" because they broke a lot of records and got a lot done! They taught 21 lessons in a week (the previous high was 18), and they still got two new investigators after getting twelve last week. He said, "I'm stoked about the work here and am starting to feel like I am actually making a difference in people's lives. I love it! I went on an exchange with our district leader, Elder Gwilliam on Wednesday, and it was fun. I got to take the reins in Cameron again. We started the day by picking rock for a garden and then helping an elderly lady move all of the stuff out of her house so they could redo the floors. She was so thankful. It was awesome! Side note about her and her husband: They probably attend church more than anyone in the branch, and they have strong testimonies. They were both converts over fifty years ago, and he told us this story of how he was reading the Book of Mormon to know if it was true and wasn't getting an answer. So one day, he went up to Gray Mountain (in our area) and was reading the Book of Mormon there. He heard all of this fighting going on around him: lots of yelling, weapons clashing and noises like that, and he was scared! He looked around but couldn't see anything but his Book of Mormon. So he closed the book and all of the war noises stopped. When he opened his scriptures again he realized that he was reading in Alma during the wars between the Nephites and the Lamanites, and he realized that he had actually HEARD what was happening in the scriptures. I thought that was a sweet story! The rest of my day with Elder Gwilliam was pretty normal...nothing exciting until we challenged a family to be baptized and they accepted! It was really cool because I was totally led by the spirit to know what to teach them, because my plans changed mid-lesson to exactly what they needed to hear. The lesson turned out to be about faith. We read Alma 32 and it was awesome!"

As a reward for meeting all of their recent goals, Elder Beck and Elder Tolman got spend a day in Tuba City with the zone leaders. They bought native American flutes at a flea market. Brae said that they were playing them constantly, which was true, knowing Brae! Sister Robertson emailed me several pictures that week, one of which was Brae playing his flute. Some things never change! And good boy that he is, he sent me some beautiful Indian turquoise for my birthday too! 

They were excited Sunday to have 53 people at church, which was the most since Brae has been in Cameron. The LDS Family Services missionary couple gave a presentation to kick off the addiction recovery program. They had eight people come to piano lessons on Saturday, and Brae said, "I didn't think teaching people to play the piano would be so hard! Especially on a group basis. It was interesting...haha!" Elder Tolman was able to help, but Brae said that it was likely that he would be transferred in a few days. He was really hoping to become a trainer for a new elder if that happened. He said, "There are only five new elders entering the mission this transfer, but I can always hope!"

And while his dad, uncles, and friends were stressing over beets freezing at home, he was enjoying the 80 degree weather with wind that he described as "CRAZY".

They have two people planning to be baptized on May 4, three on May 11, and five investigators who are close to setting a date. They feel extremely excited and blessed because in the past nine months there have only been two baptisms in the area.

April 22, Brae said, "Big news! Saturday I found out that I'm staying in Cameron and I am going to be a trainer! I'm thoroughly stoked! Today I'm heading to Farmington to spend the night with the AP's and then tomorrow morning I will meet my trainee! The sad part is that Elder Tolman is leaving. He is heading to Chinle, Arizona, or "Deep Res." as they call it. This past week was really good. We had 50 people at church, which was awesome for Elder Tolman before he left. We had a little potluck after church for him, and it was awesome too. Elder Tolman finally drove me over Gray Mountain, which is a tradition passed on from the first Cameron elders. This week we taught...drum roll please...27 lessons!"

April 23, Brae said, "Wow! What a day! Last night I stayed in Farmington with the AP's and it was really fun. This morning was the training meeting where we were trained on how to train! Then they had us all in one room where they would call a trainer up, have him/her explain about their area, and then President Batt would call up the person they would be training. I had a feeling when I was in the room with everyone that I would be training Elder Booth, but I kinda just brushed it aside. Little did I know, I'm training him! It's crazy because he felt like he would be with me too. President Batt is a very inspired man. Elder Booth is awesome. He's from West Jordan, Utah, and did track/cross country in high school and madrigal choir. He also...drum roll please...has played the piano since he was little! Woo hoo! We have been getting along really well, and I'm so stoked to be training him. He's actually called to serve in Brazil, but he's waiting for his visa, so he's serving here until it comes. It's sweet because we get to have language study for an hour every day. I know without a doubt that he's supposed to be serving here in Cameron, and he knows it too." 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Time is Flying!

Ya'ah'teh! For the week of March 11, Brae said, "One of the biggest hassles this week is with the time change! Arizona doesn't observe Daylight Savings Time, but the reservation does. However, Cameron is a border town, and half of the kids go to Flagstaff to school (standard time), and the other half to to Tuba City (savings time). So half of the people are on one, and half are on the other! We are going off of standard Arizona time ( so no daylight savings) because that's what our church goes off of, but our district meetings, etc., are on savings time, so it's just very confusing! More confusing than it needs to be! Haha!" He was worried that their appointments for the week would be all messed up, but it must have worked out, because he didn't mention the time issue again. All I can say is that time is flying!

Elder Beck and Elder Tolman's companionship survived transfers, a fact that they were happy about because they have been making great progress. Brae has been learning more Navajo words, just picking them up as he goes, because there is no time to study the language. He enlightened us on some more interesting Navajo traditions. For instance, they cannot cut a baby's hair until they can talk. They also believe the baby will have the personality of the person who makes them laugh for the first time. That person is responsible for throwing a "First Laugh" party for the baby. He says that birthday celebrations and baby showers are a very big thing. Another superstition requires people to burn their hair after it is trimmed because there are people who will take it and use it to perform voodoo rituals. There are many medicine men that people visit to be healed. Brae says, "It is very sketchy!" Many people believe in "skinwalkers": people who shapeshift into animals like coyotes, dogs, and wolves at night. Apparently someone has to kill a loved one to become a skinwalker and sell their soul. There is a ghost that lives at a hotel that is also the residence of three of their investigators. Seriously?!! Brae says,"It is hard to convince people to forsake their traditions, because it is so ingrained in their culture. But it's like it says in the Book of Mormon: they must forsake the false traditions of their fathers. And the REAL traditions of their fathers are in the Book of Mormon."

Brae has been very concerned about a particular family, consisting of parents and two children. The mother,  is one of the strongest members in the branch, and the father is a recent convert. Just as the father was preparing to be able to baptize one of the young sons this month, Satan went to work thwarting those plans. Apparently the paternal grand father is a medicine man. Elder Tolman was strongly warned by many of the members on the reservation when this family's father was baptized, that his family would "do voodoo on him". He went from wanting to baptize his son and preparing for the blessings of the temple to telling his wife that the church was all a big lie and leaving the family to work in another town. The missionaries have been praying for this family to be shielded from the influences of Satan, and Brae asked me to keep their names on the prayer roll at the temple as an added protection. He told me many stories of events that have happened with members on the reservation which are not appropriate for me to share in this blog, but that were very frightening to me. Brae's quote sums it up pretty well: "You wouldn't believe Satan's power on the reservation. It is CRAZY. Sometimes you can just feel the darkness here. These voodoo people have power, and I just don't understand it. I never thought Satan had so much power until I got here. Crazy stuff. How do you get people who have been healed by medicine men believe that it was priestcraft?" That gives you a little bit of an idea of the issues these young elders are facing every day! It is real. And it could be scary. But they are valiant. They have strong testimonies of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They are his representatives. They are guided by the spirit. It reminds me of something Elder Holland said: "In the gospel of Jesus Christ, you have help from both sides of the veil., and you must never forget that. When disappointment and discouragement remember and never forget that if our eyes could be opened we would see horses and chariots of fire as far as the eye can see riding at reckless speed to come to our protection."  As a mother, I have no doubt that these young missionaries have that kind of protection! And regarding the war with Satan, we all know who will win in the end.

The highlight of the week of March 18 was the arrival of Paul and Becky Robertson, couple missionaries from Paul, Idaho. Brae said, "They are the absolute best people! I just love them! They are always feeding us and talking to us. For Sunday dinner, we had roast and potatoes! It was DIVINE!  They are SO excited about the work, and are going to be great missionaries! They are mostly over the gardening project, which is where the church helps people plant gardens and become self-sufficient." He also said that he had to drive to Flagstaff, Arizona, to pick up their new zone leader, and that a guy at Taco Bell whose wife grew up in Burley bought their lunch. Small world. Good people--people whose names Brae hardly ever tells me! (I have been getting after him for that!) He said that they taught eighteen lessons, which was the most they had ever done in a week. He said, "We could easily teach more if we had fewer people who forgot or ditched out on appointments. Navajos don't like to plan ahead or follow a schedule." He is teaching a beginning piano class at the church on Saturdays and helping the branch president start an addiction recovery program meeting in Cameron, hopefully by the end of April. He says he doesn't know how successful it will be because people have to know that they have a problem to seek help, but they are going to give them that opportunity. He also told me that the church has surveyed the people on the reservation to find out how many have been abused. He asks, "Guess what percentage of girls under eighteen have been victims of molestation or incest? 100%. I didn't believe it. And for boys it is 75%. We live in a sick world. There is definitely a lot of work to do."

Time is still flying! The week of March 25, Brae was sick for most of the week with terrible allergies. Thanks to a visit to the doctor, a steroid shot, and TLC from Sister Robertson, he is feeling better. He said, "We really got going with the garden project this week. The Tuba City stake started the garden project three or four years ago to help people on the reservation become self-sufficient. The church provides fencing, fertilizer, a drip irrigation system, and seeds, and then senior couple missionaries help teach them how to garden. Anyone is welcome to participate, and it has helped open a ton of doors! This week we have been helping the Robertsons take the rototiller around to people. We aren't allowed to run it because of liabilities, but we fertilize and do other things. We helped a lady pull out a dead tree. The garden project is really awesome, and I guess there have been articles in the Ensign about it. It has grown into a world-wide thing that the church does. And it all started here in Tuba City. In Cameron, we have about thirty gardens, which will keep the Robertsons and us busy." Brae also said that he learned that his mission is the second largest senior couple mission, next to Nauvoo, mostly because of the garden project. He says he has been thinking about how awesome it would be for some couples from Burley to come and serve there. Most of the senior couples go for six months over the summer. So there you go, senior couple blog readers. Brae is calling....

They had stake conference, which was really good, but not very well-attended. Brae said that there were more people at his farewell. They did have some investigators come. They are working with many who are trying to find their way back. They experienced disappointment this week, when an eighteen-year-old young woman's baptism had to be postponed because she had not kept the Word of Wisdom. They are hoping to baptize her two brothers as well.

On April Fool's Day, Brae said, "I've had an interesting day so far! This morning we went out to this lady's house where they are having a cultural exchange with a bunch of Mongolian people. Navajos and Mongolians are "cousins" apparently, and so these Mongolians are all staying here for a week to learn about Navajo culture. We helped butcher a sheep this morning, which was pleasant! I got to take the intestines and squeeze the chant (poop) out of them! Then they made this Navajo specialty with the intestines wrapped around pieces of fat. It's called ach'ee." Thankfully, Brae said he didn't have to try it because it was not done yet, but he ate a lot of mutton, frybread, and drybread, and it was all really good.

They were excited on Easter Sunday to have over forty people at church! Brae gave a talk on the atonement and played "I Stand All Amazed" on the piano. They set a baptismal date of May 4  for two kids who have been coming to church with their grandma. (Notice that he didn't tell me their actual NAMES again, so on the prayer roll at the temple I wrote, "The two kids who want to be baptized May 4 on the reservation in Cameron." I am sure Heavenly Father knows them, but seriously, Brae....NAMES!)

They did a lot of gardening this week and didn't teach as many lessons as they hoped. When they got back to their trailer Saturday evening, they found a note on their door which started them on a scavenger hunt prepared for them by the Robertsons. (I seriously want to hug them!) He said, "It was really fun! They are always spoiling us and giving us lots of goodies." He also shared, "Funny story...we went and visited this less-active guy yesterday. His granddaughter gave me an Easter egg and then he wanted to give Elder Tolman one too. This little neighbor boy was walking by with his Easter basket, and Elder Tolman asked if he could have an egg. The boy said, 'No,' because they were from his house. Then the less-active guy yelled, 'It's for the Lord! He rose today!' and he stole an egg out of the kid's basket and gave it to Elder Tolman. We thought it was really funny. So now we still have that egg and we call it 'The Lord's Egg'.

April 8 Brae said, "What a week! My allergies have mostly cleared up thanks to Zyrtec and that lovely steroid shot! Tuesday I did an exchange with one of our zone leaders, and it was an amazing experience! Elder Ward came here to Cameron and I got to take him around to teach people. The beginning of the day we moved a fence for a seventy-nine-year-old lady who likes to butcher sheep. Then we started visiting people and NOBODY was home! Then we were driving on the road, and a thought came into my mind to have Elder Ward look over his shoulder and see if this lady's pickup was home, and it was. We turned around and went and visited her, along with her two kids. We were totally led by the spirit to be there. They had just lost their grandpa and were having a really hard time with it. Elder Ward was prompted to have each of us kneel and offer a prayer. I could practically taste the spirit in that room! It was amazing! That day we taught four lessons and got five new investigators! A few weeks ago, our zone leaders gave us the goal to double our investigators in the next four weeks. The previous four weeks, we had gotten nine, and we thought it was impossible to get eighteen in the following four weeks. But the spirit totally led us to find people! Yesterday was the end of our four weeks, and we had nineteen new investigators! We and the zone leaders were the only ones that made the goal! I was so happy! When you prayerfully set goals in your life, the Lord will help you achieve them!"

They had zone conference, during which Brae played the Sally Deford "Come Thou Fount" on the violin, accompanied by Sister Batt on the piano. He was really strengthened and uplifted by zone conference as well as all ten hours of General Conference. He loved Elder Uchtdorf's and Elder Holland's talks the most. He was feeling pretty great after the spiritual feast of a week! On a lighter note, he mentioned that he did Insanity: Insane Abs, which "almost killed" him. Haha! He is happy that it is no longer suit jacket season, so he has three pairs of pants from which to choose instead of two. He asked for more ties and said, "P.S. I like color and I am no longer afraid of paisley." Wow. If he has already overcome the fear of paisley, there is great hope for him when the tarantulas and scorpions come out of hiding!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

March 4, 2013

Elder Beck and Elder Tolman have had a great week! They have three brand-new families they are teaching, and they were ecstatic to have eight investigators at church last Sunday! They are teaching a family with three children who are planning to be baptized soon, which is a rare phenomenon in this mission. Much of the work involves working with inactive members, and it takes a long time, if ever, for the missionaries to see the fruits of their labors. Brae has always been one who has had big things to show for his accomplishments--awards, scholarships, accolades, etc. The challenge on the reservation is that there really aren't any physical signs of success. He says that in a lot of places, baptisms would be a sign of success, but here it is just not like that! He says, "That's why we have to just plant the seed. And in the next life, we'll see how each lesson, spiritual experience, or smile we shared affected someone. Missionary work is hard! But it's also the most important thing in the world. Again, that's why I have to trust in the Lord in everything I do."

Elder Beck has been experiencing a little bit of homesickness recently, and so all of your letters are very much appreciated, as well as packages and treats! He says he misses his music, friends, and just lifestyle in general, in that order. I am sure he meant to say that he misses his mom first, but somehow he didn't mention that! He is really excited for his best friend, Aaron Price, to get his mission call. (Argentina, apparently, but Briana called dibs on telling him in tomorrow's email!) He did say that he is trusting in the Lord, and that he knows that this experience is going to help him for the rest of his life.

They had Zone Training last week, which was very uplifting and inspiring for Brae and his companion. They were excited because the zone leaders took them aside and praised them for being the best examples in their zone, despite being the youngest companionship. (Both of them graduated from high school in 2012, and Elder Tolman has only been out a few months longer than Brae.) The zone leaders pointed out that many good leaders lead from behind, and they recognized that Elders Beck and Tolman are attentive and diligent in striving to become better missionaries. Brae said, "It was just nice to have them notice and appreciate our efforts."

I was really dreading having to break the news to him about Melody's death because she has been such a HUGE part of our family. This was his comment:
"I'm sad to hear that the Big White Beast has departed this life, but I know that now she is eating endless amounts of butter, pizzas, tractor seats, and more. It makes me think of how things really are going to be different when I get back. But I know that I am where I am supposed to be, and now I have a guardian watchdog angel."

I went on a vacation to the Cayman Islands a couple of weeks ago with my brother, Shane, and his family. We visited the town "Hell" while we were there, because often does one literally get to go to "Hell"? We sent Brae a postcard from there, and he said, "You should have seen Elder Tolman's face when I got your postcard....Haha! Priceless!" He also said that the missionaries in his district were going to visit Monument Valley on p-day last week, and they were all excited about that. He said that he is getting to the point that he needs a haircut, and is dreading that day. Why? In his own words, "Cutting my own hair will be an interesting experience!" Oh dear! I will add that to the list of things I should have taught him before he left! At least I know that he will really appreciate my great haircuts when he gets home! :)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Happy Birthday, Elder Beck! Brae turned nineteen on February 19! His greeting to us on February 25 began with, "Aye, aye, aye", another Brae-ism. He appreciated all of the birthday wishes from family and friends, and particularly the packages from home, Grandma Jo, and Emily Baldwin. (Btw...I love you, Emily! You are such an awesome friend!) He was ecstatic to have received his violin! And as a bonafide Suzuki mom for the last fifteen years, I am thrilled that President Batt has allowed him to have his violin on his mission. It will be interesting to note how he will use his music to invite the spirit into the lives of those he teaches. I personally could not imagine Brae sharing the gospel without using music, because it is such an integral part of who he is. 

Brae said that things have been good in Cameron, but that it has been REALLY windy. Considering how much the wind blows here, that must be pretty intense wind! He says that it is so dusty that keeping his suits clean is a near impossibility. He asked his mom lots of laundry questions because he doesn't particularly want to wear red-dirt-colored pants for the rest of his mission! They are doing a lot of service chopping and delivering wood, herding sheep, and tilling gardens.

Elder Beck wrote, "The other day, we were helping a lady herd her sheep. I saw one in the distance that got left behind, and part of me just thought, 'Oh, it sees the others. It will eventually work its way over to the rest.' But then I thought about how Jesus went out after the lost sheep and I figured we couldn't just leave it! So Elder Tolman went back and found that it had just given birth to a baby lamb! If we hadn't gone back the lamb probably would have died, because it was FREEZING that day. What do you know? A real life parable!" As a mom, I have thought a lot about that parable. How often, by going after the lost sheep and saving one soul, do we rescue a child, or a family? Definitely food for thought. 

I quote Brae again, "It is very frustrating when people don't want to hear our message or do their part to improve their lives. Sometimes I just want to shake people and say, 'DO YOU WANT TO LIVE FOR ETERNITY IN MISERY???!!!' He told about teaching a man whose family has all been baptized, but who has not because he will not give up tobacco. Brae is getting a glimpse of how Heavenly Father might feel at times in giving us agency. He said that they have watched the old family home evening video "The Touch of the Master's Hand" multiple times with people. He said, "I forgot how much I love that video--how all of us are like battered old violins, but the Master can see our great worth underneath, and He can make us perfect again. It's such a great video!"

He was excited to have a few more people at church this week, and said it motivated them to keep working. One of the problems they have is that people hold grudges and don't let go of their grievances. If they don't like someone who goes to church, then they will not go themselves. Interestingly, the Navajo language does not have words for "forgive" or "sorry". It blew Brae's mind when he learned that fact, but it also gave him a deeper understanding of why it is in their culture to condemn people for life and never forgive or let go. Brae said, "No wonder the Navajo translation of the Book of Mormon is only certain exerpts! It is so sad to me. At least I know that there is forgiveness for all through the Atonement if we just use it in our lives."

And the Navajo tradition of the week is: All of the doors, probably 90% there, open to the east because they pray to the East in their culture. Interesting stuff. "Keep praying for me! I need as much help as I can get!" 
February 18, 2013

Elder Beck greeted his family with, "Hola". He said that everything is going well so far! People there are SUPER into talking about "spiritual"/other-side-of-the-veil type things. The members are really into dreams and experiences where people died and came back with memories from the spirit world. The branch president gave a talk about how little children can see through the veil a lot of the time. Brae said, "Interesting...haha!" 

He went on an exchange with Elder Hunsaker from Wellsville, Utah, who only has four months left. They were in Tuba City where they shop and have their district meetings. He said that it is still not very big and the grocery stuff is way over-priced. In Tuba City, he met a Hopi guy who is a recovering meth addict who is studying to be an addictions counselor. His reason for meeting with the missionaries was to learn how he could help Mormon people. He claimed to be an atheist. But he told the missionaries that he is always able to open books, point his finger, and find exactly what he needs in the book. He did it while Brae and his companion were there! He opened the Book of Mormon and pointed, and it was this chapter in Alma that totally answered all of his questions. Brae said, "The Spirit is right in front of his face and he doesn't see it!"  (That sounds like Divine Guidance to me...just saying...) Their meeting with him went so well that he finally invited the missionaries to his home. He also agreed to learn about Jesus Christ, which he had refused to do up to that point. Brae said, "I suspect that in his studying the gospel to help others, he's really going to help himself more than he knows!"

Brae feels strongly that he has come into contact with some families there that he is meant to be in Cameron to help. The few active members are really great, but they actually work every day, so it is hard to get very many appointments with members present! He is blown away by the humble circumstances in which they live. Many families live in single wide trailers with more than ten people. They don't have running water, propane, or electricity. Many houses have two Rubbermaid containers for a sink and a camp stove on a table in the kitchen, if they even have a kitchen. Hooghans are even smaller because the whole house is one room. Most people have outhouses. He says the food is really good, particularly frybread. 

I am quoting Elder Beck for this next part, because it is so Brae! He said, "Apparently there are TARANTULAS and SCORPIONS here during the summer, and I about fainted when they told me!!! Pray that they will stay away from me! I decided that I might have exaggerated a BIT about nights here. I think I'm just psyched out because it is SO dark! Although the stars are the most beautiful sight I've ever seen here! When times are the darkest, it is easy to let the darkness overtake you, but those times are also when you can see the billions of small rays of light in your life that were previously hidden. You can quote me on that. (Pretty General Authority status, right?") It is definitely not easy here. We've been having a hard time finding new people to teach. We've started tracting, which is about the scariest thing I've ever done! People have yelled and argued with us, and some houses are just scary as heck to even approach! Saturday, we had this awesome experience where we were searching for the house of someone who had been referred to us, and we knew roughly where it was. (Nobody has addresses here, which is a pain.) We thought it might be this one house, but then we decided it wasn't, so we just drove by. Then both of us felt prompted to go back, so we did. We knocked on the door, and although we didn't find our referral, we were invited in by a nice lady and her two kids. Her husband and another daughter were not there. They told us how they had met with the missionaries where they used to live, and they loved it. None of their family has been baptized."

When they told Brae and Elder Tolman of their many struggles, Brae told them that their paths were meant to cross that day. He shared Joshua 1:9 with them. "Have I not commanded thee? Be strong and of good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed; for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest." He said that it was AWESOME for them and that he could write a book about the whole experience, "Elder Tolman and I just sat in awe at how the spirit led us there and prepared them. We sat in the pickup at their house afterwards, just thanking Heavenly Father!" 

And as the missionary mom, I must add my own witness that Heavenly Father is mindful of us. He knows each one of us by name, and he truly is with us. I think he will even keep the tarantulas and scorpions away if we pray hard enough! <3