Yes, I was serious about the dorms. Sign me up! That'll be a lot of fun. I'll have to email daniel drake and see what he's planning on doing. Maybe we can coordinate that. That's such great news about Jonny's friend! You guys will be blessed for helping the missionaries and providing an opportunity for them to teach. It's always really exciting. Sammy looks SO OLD! I can't believe he went to his first dance. That's really exciting. I can't wait to see those two. I miss them. They are my friends.
Well, I'll fill you in on the details of what's going on with transfers at the end of this letter. First I'll give you a quick run-down of the week.
MONDAY: We hung out with the Krafts all day. It was pretty much the best P-Day I've had on my mission. They're such a fun family. Really great people. Plus, it was a much needed break. I'm glad I got to relax a bit before the most hectic pre-transfer week I've ever had. We took them (well, they drove us in their mini cooper so I guess they took us) to get 2 dollar tacos at Las Palmas in Brookline. We were originally supposed to go to the Dor Stop in Dormont but we got there after it had closed (it's a breakfast place). The door was unlocked and so I went inside but then the workers yelled at me and told me to get out - they were closed. Terrible customer service. haha. They were quite rude. Anyway, we sat on the sidewalk outside and ate our tacos. The weather was SO nice. It was in the 60's. It felt like a cool summer day. Then we went back to their house and played cards and ate cookies for the rest of the afternoon. They've got this great game called "Dutch Blitz." It's a lot of fun. That night the Bajorquez family fed us and the Dormont Elders Dinner. Elder Bartlett and I tried contacting a few families that night on foot. We parked our car in the parking lot of the Catholic Convent and we set out. It was really dark. No one was home, but we had a great conversation about the most meaningful things each of our companions had taught us.
TUESDAY: We had a super long transfer board from 10:30 AM to 3:00 PM. 50 missionaries are getting transferred this week... it's a huge transfer. The 23 incoming missionaries really shook things up quite a bit. It was exhausting. We visited Nick and Jess and had a lesson with them. We watched "Joseph Smith: The Man" - It's that video where the old lady shakes the hands of all the kids and tells them, "Now you've shaken the hand of one who shook the hand of one who shook the hand of one who shook the hand of the prophet Joseph Smith!" Nick got a kick out of that. We laughed and laughed. Then we had a lesson about foreordination. It was pretty cool - not the most spiritual, more informational - but they liked it. Then the Budds had us over for dinner. Mason came and so did Jose. We watched Safety for the Soul from Elder Holland. It was powerful. Jose is doing so well - he said, "Wow. My faith grew so much from watching that. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I can't believe how far my family has come in the last year. We are so much happier now." It was really neat. Then we visited Justin that night. We watched Safety for the Soul as well. Such a great talk! We were able to answer some of his doctrinal questions and explain some things. It was good. He said, "Elder Collier, you gotta visit me as much as you can this week before you go." It was sad hearing him say that.
WEDNESDAY: We had a lesson with Madelyn and Brother Gray at the church in the morning. We talked about vicarious ordinance work, answered her questions about the spirit world, and taught about the importance of family history (something Brother Gray loves). It went perfectly. Turns out, Brother Gray and Madelyn are both REALLY into cemeteries.... strange, but cool that they had that in common. haha! It was good. Madelyn is trying to talk me into going to law school. She says I'd be a good lawyer. Afterwards we had our Zone Training Meeting. President reviewed a talk that Elder Bednar gave while I was in the MTC called "Becoming a Preach My Gospel Missionary." It was good to hear again. The Zone Leaders took our training from last week and used it to train on the area book. They also reaffirmed the music rules. Some Elders questioned it, and I guess I laid down the law... I said something along the lines of, "We prayed about what to do with regards to music, and we've studied the words of Modern Prophets and Apostles and they gave us the conclusion we've reached. If you have a problem with it, take it up with the Lord. We're going with the Prophets and the Apostles." Nobody said anything after that. After the meeting Elder Bartlett and I went tracting for a few hours. A snowstorm blew in and it snowed on us really hard. No one was interested. When we got in the car I looked in the mirror and there was a pile of snow on my head. It was funny. President had us over again to review the transfer board. I had gotten switched again... it's unsettling when you're not sure where your future is going to take you. haha. I tried my best not to think about it. Then we had Book of Mormon class that night and Barb, the cool lady dormont is teaching, used turpentine to get paint off of my trench coat. She saved it! She's so awesome.
THURSDAY: Thursday morning we were supposed to help Brother Connor move some sheet rock... then he told us when we showed up that the company delivering the sheet rock wouldn't be able to come for another hour, so we turned around and left. We went to the church because an elder asked us to go find his wallet that he left there at Zone Training. We searched the church for a few minutes only to get a call saying that he found his wallet. By that point it was time for us to go back to Brother Connor's. When we got there, we found that the delivering company felt so bad that they were late that they helped him move it inside for him. So we weren't even needed. It was funny, but pretty frustrating because 2 hours of our morning were totally wasted. We were hungry at that point so we decided to go to Boston Market. We texted Klayton and invited him to come with us. He got himself out of bed and we picked him up for lunch. He said, "Man, normally valentines day really sucks for me. Thanks for taking me out with you guys." He also thanked us for being his friends. His family only moved here a year or so ago and because of his health problems he hasn't been able to branch out much. It never occurred to me that we were helping him out by spending time with him. We just always thought he was cool and it was fun for us to spend time with him. haha! It was a good experience. We spent the day working on prepping things for logistics. Then the Whitings had us over for dinner. We had tacos. They were delicious. Brother Whiting gave us some really great life advice: "Remember, Elder. Life is hard. It's even harder when you're stupid." Classic! =) Then we met up with Justin. We watched a video called "Reclaimed" and talked about the atonement. We also agreed to fast on Saturday so we could give him a blessing on Sunday to help him quit smoking.
FRIDAY: We weekly planned and used part of that time to help me start packing and to prep the apartment for when Elder Moulton, the new assistant, arrives. We also had to clean out our car because our Corolla is getting shipped across the mission due to a car shortage. Elder Bartlett is going to have to drive the 15 passenger van all over Pittsburgh. Too funny. Because our Saturday was completely booked (the day we normally work on logistics), we had to do it on Friday. The Office Couples were in working, so we only had one computer. We worked in shifts all day. Then Nick and Jess had us, the Dormont Elders, and Justin over for tacos. Jess makes delicious food. We had a lesson on Patience after that and watched a good mormon message about developing patience. It was a relaxing end to the evening after a stressful day. We worked on logistics a little bit more before going in.
SATURDAY: Saturday was absolutely nuts. We woke up at 5:45 AM so that we could go pick up the Dormont Elders. We were participating in an Elder's Quorum Service Project. They were going to the South Hills Interfaith Ministries food pantry to help build shelves and a bulletin board. So that's what we did. I cut cork board with a knife and leveled things and moved things for 2 hours. It was fun. The stake president came and worked along side us. It was cool because he was in normal clothes and showed up a bit late, and everyone there who weren't members of the church had no idea how big of a deal he was. =D He was working hard like all the rest of us. President Murray is the man. I really admire him. He works for Ford and is pretty high up in the industry. He was flying back into Pittsburgh from China one time and he heard that Brother Parker (from Uniontown) was in the hospital downtown. So before he even went home, he drove to the hospital and gave him a blessing. I don't know how he does it, but he seems to be able to minister to everyone he's been asked to watch over and to do it genuinely. What a cool guy.
Anyway, after that we dropped off the Dormont Elders at the church (they had to fill the font) and then we finished painting Sue's apartment. She is renting it out this weekend and so it's kind of down to the wire. We worked there for a few hours and then we went home and changed. Then we went to Barb's baptism. It was a beautiful service. The guy who introduced her to the church was able to fly out from Utah and baptize her. Really neat. After the baptism, we had the pre-transfer dinner at the Chinese place we always go to. As we were headed over there, we realized that we forgot that we were supposed to fast for Justin! I looked at Elder Bartlett and I said, "Alright... we can either be heroes and not go to the Chinese place, or we can cave, go eat dinner, and then start our fast after." It was a tough decision. But Elder Bartlett said, "You said it yourself. We better be heroes." So we pulled into the parking lot, said a prayer, started our fast, and then walked into the restaurant. We explained the situation to President Topham and the office couples and let them know that we couldn't eat with them that night. We expected them to be frustrated with us for not letting them know ahead of time, but instead they just said how proud they were of us. Then Justin sent us a text that said, "Hey, did you guys fast with me?" It was a shock. Elder Bartlett and I looked at each other and realized how awful we would have felt had we caved and not kept our word. Confidently and truthfully we texted back, "Yeah we are." He said, "You're awesome. I love you guys." It was a great learning experience. Like Brother Whiting says, "There are only two pains in life, elder. The pain of discipleship, and the pain of regret. Take your pick." We chose discipleship. It was a good feeling.
We had a great lesson with Tori and TJ that night. They taught us about Entertainment and the Media and Education out of the For Strength of Youth Pamphlet. It was great. We watched some of the videos from Youth.lds.org. One was about King David and Bathsheba, the other was about how to use the media to share our beliefs. It was a great lesson. They are both getting baptized on March 2nd. They were sad when I told them I was being transferred. Their dad said, "Oh man! Not my favorite missionary!" His wife said, "Hey!" And hinted at Elder Bartlett. Then their dad said, "Sorry. I just mean that we've had him longer than you or Elder Gerratt." It was really awkward and really funny. We took pictures with them. It was great. I'm so proud of Tori and TJ. Solid kids.
I found out that night that one of the Zone Leaders is being sent home unexpectedly. Because of that, I'm now being transferred to Hanover. I'm going to go be a zone leader for 5 weeks to fill a vacancy. Kind of a cool situation - now I'm Elder Gerratt's Zone Leader! =D Funny. Anyway, it was unexpected as things changed yet again.
After the lesson we went back to the office to do logistics and to call zone leaders and fax stuff and map stuff and count stuff and files stuff and bang our heads on the desk etc. Doing logistics is incredibly hard. It is even harder when you're fasting. I went to bed THE MOST tired I've ever been in my life. I remember thinking as I was falling asleep, "If I were to die, right this moment, that would be awesome. I hope I don't wake up." hahaha. I hurt inside and out. I was sad that I was leaving the area and everyone I love. Nervous for the future, scared for the unknown, physically sore, mentally exhausted, Spiritually drained, emotionally stretched, hungry, thirsty... man. I don't know how the Savior did it.
SUNDAY: Sunday morning we studied and then almost got logistics done before church. Then we went to church and it was a missionary farewell. A girl in the ward here is going to Tacoma! Pretty cool. It reminded me of my own farewell. Justin came. He was starving. haha! The Cardenas family was all there and Jose and I were able to bless the sacrament together again. He did awesome. He said the prayer perfectly! Barb also asked us to stand in the circle for her confirmation. It was neat. Brother Trout also came to church. He was having trouble with his eyes and was in a lot of pain, but when Brother Kraft asked him why he came he said, "I wouldn't miss Elder Collier's last Sunday for the world." I wanted to cry. I love brother Trout! After church we gave Justin the blessing and then broke our fast. He hasn't had a craving for cigarettes since Saturday. We had a linger longer after church (I guess we picked a good day to fast!) and Barb made us chocolate lava cake. There was so much food! The Hoyts had us over for dinner after that. They're such a great family. We watched the Mormon Message about living below your spiritual means - the one about the guy going on the cruise. Their kids loved it and it evoked some great spiritual discussion. After that the Cardenas family had us over and Guille made us empenadas and hot chocolate. They were delicious. I had 3 even though I was super full. Then they asked if I could give Jose a blessing before he goes into the Marines. That was spectacular. I felt like I should, so I asked Jose if he had ever considered serving a mission (he is my age). He said, "Actually, funny you should mention that. I thought about it just this morning. Then we had the missionary farewell and I talked with Brother Bayles after Sacrament about his experience. How would I go about doing that?" So we talked about it for a little bit. I hope he chooses to serve. His dad said that having a missionary son would be very beautiful and pleasing to his heart. I said goodbye to their family. We took pictures and Guille cried. She gave me a big hug. She's happy though because Elder Gerratt got permission to go visit them tomorrow while he's in town for transfers. =) She gave me a giant chocolate heart with two naked angel babies kissing engraved on it. Classic. =D
The Match family had us over after that. I LOVE THEM. Brother Match is my hero. I got to say goodbye to them as well. I also got a video of me and their son Allan (he is 4) saying, "IT'S MORPHIN' TIME!" And doing the power rangers line up. Allan normally goes through the whole thing but he got distracted and started karate chopping me instead. It was awesome. =)
Then the Krafts had us over one last time. We had a great visit. Told funny stories. Their daughter knitted me gloves with owls on them. It's funny because we've been having this constant debate over whether owls are cool or not. She got me! Apparently they're cool because they're on my gloves. Anyway, it was very nice of them. Really sad to say goodbye.
We better be coming back out here to visit this summer. That's all I'm sayin'. I love these people so much!
So I'm getting transferred tomorrow. I pick up the new missionaries tonight. Tomorrow will be the busiest, craziest day of my life. Elder Garrett is staying at our apartment tonight (he is training). My new companion's name is Elder Mouritsen. Life is good. Life is hard. Life is beautiful, and I'm loving it. The Lord makes everything better - including yourself. You've just gotta do the things he's asked you to. I only have 4 months left. Can you believe it? I'll keep working hard.
Love you much