As I write this, Sister Topham has Music and the Spoken Word on, and MoTab is singing "76 Trombones" from Music Man. It just put me in the best mood ever! haha! I keep thinking of Sammy playing Harold Hill. He better get an opportunity to play Harold Hill again, only in high school. He'd do so well!
Anyway, this week was alright. New years was a lot of fun. We had to wake up at 3:45 AM and take the elders to the airport. I crawled back into bed and slept for a bit after that. haha. We played basketball with the district at the church. I got elbowed in the jaw once and punched in the face twice. We filmed our basketball game and so we got it on camera. We loaded up the video on one of the family history computers and watched me getting elbowed in slow motion as Elder Nelson went for a lay up. It was pretty epic. I was okay though. No blood, no lost teeth, no black eyes! After we showered and got changed we went over to the Kraft family's house and we played Suspend and Egyptian War. They're a great family. You'd really like them. They offered to feed us that night for New Year's Eve but all missionaries had to be in by 6 PM, so kind of a bummer. We went to Giant Eagle (the grocery store out here) and bought some chicken breasts and sparkling cider and stuff. We came home and cooked them up and stuff. Elder Bartlett was exhausted and went to bed early. Its so funny to be able to look at him and see where I was two transfers ago. I've definitely grown into the calling and I can handle it now. I had some time to myself to read, journal, and reflect and stuff. I got really homesick when we were at the grocery store and I was standing by the eggs - don't ask me why. Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, General Conference - no problem. No homesickness, nothing. But I get really homesick on obscure days, like New Year's Eve and my Birthday. haha. I didn't get homesick last year on New Year's Eve, though. Oh well! I can honestly say I've only gotten home sick twice so far in a year and a half. I've been tough!
Tuesday morning we had transfer board with President from 10 AM to 3 PM. It was a long process. We had to set things up so that we had 23 people in place to train for next transfer. We weren't even close to having it where it should be by the end of the meeting. We all needed a mental break. So President and Sister Topham took us to Red Robin with the gift card you gave them. Thanks mom! haha. When we were there, President ordered the chicken salad. The waitress brought it out and he said, "WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR SALAD?!" The waitress looked really scared, like something was wrong. She said, "I dunno.... is something wrong with it?" He said, "Well, no. It's just half the size of the salad I ordered the last time I came here!" (You have to know President. He's really picky at restaurants. It's really hilarious to watch.) The poor girl told him that the salad portion was the exact same size, they had just changed plates. He said, "Well, okay. We will see if that's true after I'm done eating it." It was so funny! After we ate, as we were driving back to the mission home, Elder Bartlett said, "So... how was the salad, President?" He said, "It was good....................................And yes, I'm full." We've been teasing him about it all week!
Nick and Jess had us over after that and we had a lesson about Mark 4, the parable of the Sower. Nick and Jess are getting so good at understanding the scriptures! Nick had a lot of personal insights. At the end of the lesson we taught the importance of sowing the seed no matter what time, what person, or what condition their soil is in. Nick offered to share the gospel with one of his friends and invite him to church! It was pretty cool. At the end of the lesson he asked, "So, really quick. What's up with this 'hard heart' and 'soft heart' thing? Which one is good and which one is bad? Are they both bad?" I had a lightbulb go on in my head. Last year, Sister Wood sent me two things of Play-Doh for Christmas. She told me to let one sit out and get really hard but to keep the other one soft. For the last year I haven't had a single opportunity to use the Play-Doh. I reached into my backpack and realized I lost the soft play-doh, but it was okay. I pulled out this really nasty hard black lump and handed it to Nick. I said, "Sculpt a heart out of that play doh." He couldn't do it. It just broke apart in his hands. "Which one is better. A soft heart or a hard one?" He said, "OH! Now I get it! God wants us to be moldable. If we're prideful, he can't do anything with us. Gotcha." IT WAS PERFECT! Nick and Jess got a kick out if it and it taught him in a profound way. Elder Bartlett, afterwards, said, "What the heck? Why do you carry around hard play-doh in your back pack? That was the most random and epic thing I've ever seen!" Give a shout out to Sister Wood for me!
That night we met with Tori and TJ and watched Prophet of the Restoration. We watched the mormon.org version of it which isn't nearly as good as the theatrical cut. It's more like a poorly done documentary than a movie. It bored them to tears and we were really disappointed with how it went. We would've watched the real movie, but I lent it to Jose and didn't have it with me. Darn!
Wednesday we had district meeting. It was our last district meeting before transfers and so we took a bunch of pictures together since we knew some of us would be getting transferred. The lesson was on improving our teaching through the use of object lessons. So we all went around and shared our favorite object lessons. Some of them were pretty funny. Elder Jones had me draw a sheep with my left hand, Elder Bartlett draw a sheep with the pen in his mouth, and Elder Nelson draw a sheep with his foot. They all turned out awful. Elder Nelson's was famously bad! In the end Elder Jones said, "Be grateful that God made you right. Every day is good when you don't have to draw a sheep with your foot!" Classic. We went out to eat at Subway after that. We got the Chipotle Chicken Flatbread Sandwich. It's the 5 dollar footlong this month. Delicious. Elder Nelson and Elder Coleman went on exchange with the South Side Elders, Stewart and Escobar. Stewart went with Nelson. Elder Coleman went with Elder Escobar. During lunch, Elder Escobar asked, "So, Elder Collier. Elder Bartlett. With the 9 new missionaries coming in, are any of them.... you know...." He motioned to himself from head to foot. "....like me?" Elder Bartlett said, "Are you wondering if any of them are black?" Elder Escobar said, "Yes, that's exactly what I'm asking." I said, "Sorry, buddy. Not this time." He said, "AAHH! Dang it! I'm the only one yet again!"
Then we followed Elder Nelson and Elder Stewart to their next appointment. I had to do David's baptismal interview. He is so awesome! I asked him what his experience was like meeting with the missionaries and he said it was the best. He was glad that they knocked on his door, because he had been praying for God to send him the truth, and he got it. He explained all of the commandments perfectly, bore his testimony of them, and said "I'm ready to be baptized and live the commandments until I die. Let's do this!" It was so awesome. Such a good guy. He's our age. Really smart kid - getting ready to go to med school. I was so proud of him.
We met with Jamal after that. We had a really interesting lesson. I'll tell dad about it. haha!
We went to Book of Mormon class that night. But the roads were really bad, there wasn't any mutual or any other Wednesday night activities due to New Year's, and everyone was out of town. So missionaries were the only ones who showed up. It was such a bummer. We cancelled class and were suddenly stuck with nothing to do on a really cold January night from 8 PM to 9 PM. So Elder Bartlett and I dropped off Rivas and Jones at their back up appointment and we went tracting. People were really mean to us except for two people. One lady had met with missionaries before pretty regularly and said that she was content with remaining Catholic but she loved us, was proud of us for sticking to it even though it was cold, and that if she had a male in the house she'd let us come in but she knew the rule. It was nice of her to offer. This other guy said we could come back, so that was great! Other than that, it was a miserable experience. I was so frustrated I went right to bed as soon as we were done planning.
Thursday we were back to the transfer board. We worked until 3. Then we went and helped Sue paint the empty side of her duplex. She's getting ready to rent it out. We had a good time, even though it was super cold in there! The heat was shut off on that side of the apartment, and she couldn't get it to work. You know it's cold when you can see your breath indoors! Sue is doing so well. She told us, "The other day I watched a documentary on Nauvoo. What a neat place!" She's SO Mormon!
Brother Trout took us to dinner at Pasta Too!, this really great Italian restaurant in Castle Shannon. We were sitting in the waiting booth next to a family who was super Catholic (they had Notre Dame shirts). We were both in normal clothes since we just came from painting at Sue's. But I had brought a blue Book of Mormon in with me in order to share a thought. Brother Trout said, "So, the other day my buddy took me to his church for a dinner." I said oh really? That's cool! where did you go? He said (And you gotta know Brother Trout. He's a rough character - was a marine for 20 years) "Ah, some heathen church." Suddenly us, and everyone around us got really uncomfortable. I said, "What?" He said, "Well, you know, if it's not mormon it's a heathen church to me. They're all the same." It was SO AWKWARD. The family across from us didn't look too happy. haha! Classic Brother Trout. Good news was, half way through dinner, he announced that he was coming to church on Sunday. He finally felt well enough and confident enough in himself to come back (it's been really hard ever since he got blowed up). We've been working with him for 6 weeks. It was awesome. He was really happy to tell us. We had a great dinner. After that we went to the office to get started on logistics. That night Elder Ward and Elder Anderson came in from Harrisburg to stay the night. We played 4 rounds of "And it Came to Pass." It's like the Mormon version of Uno. I got destroyed because of the stupid extra rules! haha.
We had Zone Leader Council the next day until 4 PM. Then we went to eat with some of the Elders at Chick-Fil-A. We had to eat quick because we had a lesson with Tatiana and Esthela and Luis and Guille. It was the last time we could see Tatiana before she headed back to college. We had a good lesson on the importance of church attendance and keeping the Sabbath Holy and why we had the programs of the church. We read from Moroni 6 and D&C 59. It was cool. Luis finished the Book of Mormon! He was really sad that the Nephites died but he was happy because of the resurrection and the hope of Jesus Christ. He can't wait to start it over. Guille's English is improving fast! She's doing such a good job. She was happy to announce that she got a Christmas card from Elder Herratt (Gerratt). "He no forget me!" It was great. =)
We worked on logistics after that. UGH.
Saturday was awesome. We picked up the Dormont Elders and took them to David's baptism. David stood up and bore his testimony to his parents after he was baptized. So cool to see! It was a wonderful service. We went and visited Mason after that. He's doing so well! We had a similar lesson about the Sabbath day and the purpose of the other classes in preparing us to receive the priesthood, temple blessings, and also in helping make blessings happen to others through service. He really enjoyed it because he didn't really know what went on after sacrament meeting. He let us know after the lesson that he stopped drinking coffee all together! He has felt the difference and said that revelation comes easier now that he's living that commandment. It was a good surprise.
We picked up the Kraft's son after that. He came with us to have a lesson with Nick and Jess. We read the parable of the talents and talked about the importance of improving our talents, using time wisely, and accepting callings. It was a good lesson since Bro. Kraft just got called as the new Elders' Quorum Secretary and could share his experience with having a new calling. Jess was nervous about starting to work in the primary and Nick has been having a hard time accepting callings. But by the end of the lesson they were all feeling really good about it.
We took Brother Kraft home after that and then picked up Jones and Rivas and took them to Correlation at Brother Hemmert's house. We had a good meeting, but Elder Jones was really bummed when he found out he was getting transferred to Chambersburg. We are really going to miss him. He's become one of my best friends out here. We had dinner with the office couples and the Tophams at the Sesame Inn. If you guys come out here to tour my mission we're going there. It's so good! Then we worked on logistics after that. UGH.
Sunday was so awesome. We have 1 PM church now. It's a nice change of pace. We actually get to take studies. Then we have meetings. Then we sing in the choir. Then we have church. And then it's 4 o'clock by the time everything's done! It's great. It was a fantastic Sunday. TONS of people were there! Everyone came back from vacation. The Whitings, the Eves, and the Match family were all back. They've been gone for like a month. I told Sister Eve it was scary not having them all around because I had to make new friends! haha. But I feel closer to the ward now that I know more families. Jose, Luis, Guille, Tatiana, and Esthela were all there as a family. They can all make it to 1 PM church now. They took up a whole row! It was so good to see! Sue was there, and Nick and Jess. Tori was there with her parents but TJ was sick and Justin and Michelle were out of town. And Brother Trout came to church for the first time in 8 months! It was like a party. All of the people that I love so much were there. We had a solid testimony meeting. Caroline bore her testimony about how cool it has been to come out with us to lessons. She said, "I've been waiting for so long to serve a mission and as soon as I'm graduated I'm going. But now I know that you don't have to wait until your mission to do missionary work. It's ALWAYS time to be a missionary." SO. COOL. Nick got called to be the Audio Visual Coordinator for the ward and he accepted! He was so proud of himself. Jess was proud of him too. He also volunteered to help clean the building after church by taking out the trash. That's so unlike him! He's turning into quite the go-getter. He's a social butterfly! Also, Hannah, one of the girls in the ward, has been bringing two of her close friends to church the last few weeks. Chloe and Kelsey. They're really nice and they ask us questions after church. They'd meet with us, but their parents don't want them to. Anyway, they're applying for BYU! They had their ecclesiastical endorsement interview with the bishop after church. They're really excited to go and were asking me questions about what school was like. They're 4.0 students so there's no way they're NOT going to get in. Such an exciting thing.
I think the highlight of my Sunday was when Sister Bushman (who is in the primary presidency) came up to me after church. She said, "Elder Collier, your name came up in Primary today. I was teaching about examples. I asked the kids: what do you think of when you hear Darth Vader's name? Then the kids said he was a bad guy, no good, scary, tough, evil. Then I said: What do you think of when you hear Elder Collier's name? They said you were a good guy and a very nice missionary! Congratulations. You're the opposite of Darth Vader." I hit a milestone in my life. I have just superseded Luke Skywalker as Darth Vader's Nemesis! =)
We went to Tori and TJ's for a short lesson after church. We read 1st Nephi 10. Tori is going to get baptized the first weekend in March! Way exciting. I won't be there for it, but it's good to have a date set. =) TJ will probably be joining her.
After that we did logistics from 7 PM to 10 PM. UGH.
That's my week! Today we are picking up the new missionaries at 4:30 PM. I'll be picking up a 19 year old sister missionary. THAT'S weird. Transfers are tomorrow. Elder Jones is leaving and Elder Nelson, the Pitt Zone Leader, is moving one ward over and taking his place. That'll be cool. A season of change is on its way!
Sister Topham says she loves you guys and thinks your son is great.