Welp! It's official. I'm an old fart in the mission as of this last Thursday. And boy has it been quite the week. Probably one of the most spiritual past two weeks and I can't imagine what lays ahead for me this next year until I come home. A few big things happened this past week so lets jump right into it shall we?
So like I said in my last email, last Tuesday we were able to go to the temple. And besides feeling absolutely exhausted by the end of last Tuesday, it was just a marvelous day. The new temple video. Still can't get over it. Blew my mind! Anyways! We had our afternoon lessons not show up which we weren't too bummed about so we could actually get things done in a timely manner which actually happened for once. When P-day came to a close we had Stuart (less active coming back to G7) come and pick us up and drive me up to Sunland to go on an exchange with Elders Buchanan and Sio. It was a struggle and hectic trying to plan it all at the last minute but it finally happened and was a great experience. ON the drive up Stuart was telling us how he was going to meet with the Bishop after he dropped me off to figure out what he needed to do to start preparing for a mission! Seriously, I don't know if I'd be more excited for him to go on a mission or baptize someone. Just awesome! anyways we arrived at Sunland (used to be Biker-ville USA. Seriously the 'Hells Angels' originates from Sunland) I was surprised to find Elders Buchanan and Sio still in their p-day clothes even though it was close to 7... long story short they just had a 'busy' day... like we don't all have busy days on p-day! But I kicked their butts into gear and had them call up their Elders quorum president to get some visits going on which was fun. I went with Elder Sio and a Brother Kirkland to visit a few referrals they had received the week previous and we stopped by this guy, Moe Brown, to see if we could start to teach him and his wife (he's a nonmember and she was excommunicated?) Anyways, we found him cooking/grilling outside and so we spoke with him for a good half hour standing in the smoke of his cedar plank cooking (so we went home smelling like cedar, which is better than smelling like missionary). But then we still had some time left after we met back up with Elder Buchanan and the Brother that he went with so we decided to go try by some more less actives which was quite hilarious. I sarcastically suggested trying by this one house that was full blown Halloween décor in the yard and Brother Kirkland agreed and so we all got out (including his daughter) to go try by this house. He knocks on the door and when the lady opens the door he asked "Is Debra there?" and I almost started laughing because we all thought he was just making up a name to try and start a conversation. Turns out he thought he knew who lived there.
Wednesday we planned to switch it up a bit and do something to get Elders Sio and Buchanan to talk to more people (FYI Elder Sio is from Samoa and Elder Buchanan traveled/moved a lot so not quite sure but they are both relatively new). They didn't have much planned so I basically had to plan for them and I decided we'd go bus contacting for most of the morning and then study during the afternoon! It was awesome. After getting ready we went out and it was lightly drizzling and got on a bus headed to Glendale and was already talking to plenty of Armenians. We then decided to head out to Pasadena so we got on a bus there after I got to talk to this one Armenian lady who had just moved here a month prior and she was super sweet and curious about what we did.. then the bus came and I had to go. Boo that. That bus was kinda dead because we were going against traffic. But we got to this main train station in the middle of Pasadena and decided to ride the train back to downtown LA! Thankfully we didn't have to wait long for the train because it was freezing!! It wasn't raining but just super windy. Saved by the train! But the train was very educational! Rule #1, don't sit down on the train next to the window. You'll most likely be sat next to by someone not wanting to talk. Which happened to me. But oh well! We got off in LA and it started to pour and none of us brought an umbrella... oh how great it is to be a missionary in the rain!! We started heading back up to Sunland after we caught a bus and talked to this guy from Cuba at the next stop who was just going off at us talking about who knows what exactly because first, he was drunk, second, he didn't speak that great of English. Funny story though, in the first minute of talking to him, he decided to take off his shirt and sweatshirt to show us his tattoo of him being in the marines and all of his battle wounds. Including a gun shot that went through his neck and out the base of his skull? something like that. It was nuts! But probably my favorite event from riding the bus (besides the one Spanish lady giving me a hard time because I didn't know Spanish and only knew two languages and her singing to me) was when we were on our final bus and I started speaking with this group of Armenians on the bus who were tickled pink that I spoke their language. I seriously was talking to 7-10 different people seated in the first half of the bus who were all asking me questions and talking about me and giving me walnuts. I loved every single minute of it! We went back and studied and then got called by the Spanish elders to do a pass off lesson with a guy who turned out to be Armenian but had lived here for 30+ years. He was solid and super willing to learn about the gospel! I have no idea why the Spanish elders were teaching him but he was practically golden! When I told him we'd invite him to be baptized he even said that he'd be open because he just wants to have a change! His name is Raz from Iran and told me I spoke Armenian like I'm from Russia... he said that is a good thing that I have an accent so I'll take it! We had Spencer Johnson then take us to exchange back at the Duke house where we all eneded up eating there. Total: 7 missionaries and 3 not. It was quite the party! We finished up dinner and Luke picked us up to go out to Caltech to teach Thomas Kwok's friend, Monica who had been coming to church a few times. She grew up in China so no religious background but she is super willing to listen and act upon the message we teach. That was a busy day!
Thursday was my official year mark... it was haunting me all day that a year ago I was waking up, going to breakfast at the Original Pancake House and then drove to the MTC. That feels like a different life honestly. But it was a good day. We went to Elder Twelves' district meeting and then went to Taco Bell for lunch. We were supposed to have a Bike safety seminar but it got cancelled so we met up with the Assistants to coordinate efforts in both G2 and G7. Elder Bangerter is such a stud. He started talking about Alma 23:6 and having the members having miracles in them to help us do our work together 'equally yoked'. We had a lesson set up with William that afternoon but he called us and first of all kept apologizing to me personally because when the other Elders went over to teach him while I was on exchanges (oh and came to find out that he had committed himself to read 100 pages of the Book of Mormon by Wednesday's lesson and he did... golden much?) I wasn't there and he thought he had offended me. It was quite precious actually because he said we were like family and how much we meant to him. But then he broke the news that he was going into the hospital that evening to have an appendectomy and wasn't sure when he'd be released. So we promised we'd visit him and teach him at the hospital. So with that falling through, we went out to dinner with the Assistants after our meeting to the Armenian deli we like. Although it was delicious none of us were in the mood to eat as over the course of the meal we learned details of an Elder Page getting hit by a car while riding his bike that late afternoon in Azusa. We knew it wasn't good when we found out he had to be life flighted to the nearby hospital and Sister Becerra was calling and telling the Assistants to have all the missionaries in the mission stop what they were doing to pray for Elder Page. There was nothing we could do so we went on our somber way. To make it worse we had to wait for the bus to come for an hour to delay us visiting William in the Hospital. So when we got there the front desk couldn't find him in the records and after waiting a while until it was almost time to go home they told us that he had either already been released or he had never come in for the procedure... which made us very worried. We still haven't had any calls returned from him and there isn't a way to get into his apartment.. so it was a very somber evening to an already daunting thought that I have been out for a year! to top it off we made a celebratory pizzookie before we went to bed :)
We got to the building and they had put up a display of pictures and momentos of Elder Page as a tribute to him. all 250 of us crammed into the chapel and the meeting was filmed throughout for the Page family. Elder Ostler, Elder Page's companion, spoke first and gave a eulogy of Elder Page. Noting how much love they had in their companionship. reviewing the first moments they met (which I actually witnessed and remember seeing them both back when we picked up Elder Whitney). He spoke of how much of a stud Elder Page was. How different he was because he knew his purpose of him being on the mission was to testify of the plan of salvation because of his father's passing a few years before. He recalled the accident and how he sat by his companion in the Hospital holding his hand through it all. Elder Ostler spoke what Elder Page would have wanted him to say. Telling us that his testimony of the Plan of Salvation would continue to be fulfilled through us as we do our part. Elder Page's favorite hymn was sung. "A poor way faring man of grief", verses 1, 6, and 7. As I sung the 6th verse I couldn't sing any more because of the imagery of the words.
6. In pris'n I saw him next, condemned
To meet a traitor's doom at morn.
The tide of lying tongues I stemmed,
And honored him 'mid shame and scorn.
My friendship's utmost zeal to try,
He asked if I for him would die.
The flesh was weak; my blood ran chill,
But my free spirit cried, "I will!"
7.Then in a moment to my view
The stranger started from disguise.
The tokens in his hands I knew;
The Savior stood before mine eyes.
He spake, and my poor name he named,
"Of me thou hast not been ashamed.
These deeds shall thy memorial be;
Fear not, thou didst them unto me."
It was powerful and very much in memory of this great young man. Sister Becerra then got up to speak and spoke of Empathy. How she felt as she entered into the ER to see Elder Page looking so perfect and at peace and to see his companion, Elder Ostler sitting by his side holding his hand. Being strong for a moment and then breaking down for a few. She said "I did what I thought his Mother would do." As she described her sitting on the other side of him holding his hand and admiring how handsome Elder Page was. Noting his straight nose. His skin. His eyebrows. "Surely that is what his mother would do" as she would stroke his hair. I've never been so touched by how much love I felt for this man that I never knew. Nor for my Mission President and His wife. President Becerra spoke last. Reading Elder Page's first journal entry as he recounted the day he left home and flew to the Mexico MTC. The way he spoke of the experience was almost prophetic. President gave more details about what had happened that day. President had met with Elder Page a mere 2 hours before to interview him. He recalled the blessing that he and Elder Ostler gave at the hospital of release. Not only that. but how Elder Ostler had stood up to the police and paramedics to demand he give his companion at the scene of the accident. There was much said. Too much to tell but we know that "God loveth his children; nevertheless, we do not know the meaning of all things." We need to learn from this great young man. about the level of commitment we need to have, especially here on our missions.
I love you all very much and am very thankful for all your love and support! I just want you to know I am very safe, very much well and very happy. So no need to worry. But please pray for the Page family at this time. They are in need of all the prayers they can at this time. I hope you all have a wonderful week!