This week we met our new mission president and his family - the Vellinga's! They are from Utah and are so excited to be here. On Saturday, the Akron and Youngstown Zones met together for their mission tour. It was a 2 hour meeting where they gave some talks (get-to-know you kind of talks) and left time at the end for a Q&A about them. He and his wife have 8 children and their youngest is actually out here with them - she is a junior in high school and will be in Ohio with her parents until she goes off to school. It was a very different meeting than we were all used to - the Sorensen's were much more formal and reverent. This meeting was a little bit more like a fireside feel. Regardless, it was a great meeting, and I know that the Vellinga's are just what this mission needs! The Sorensen's are deeply missed, but will not be forgotten!
Last Monday we played Corn Hole (and I actually attached pictures this time!). It's a popular game in Ohio where you and a partner stand at two different sides, marked by two corn hole boards. You have 5 colored bean bags and are playing against another team with 5 different colored bean bags. You take turns throwing the bags to the other side, in attempts to either land on the board or in the hole. On the board is 1 point, in the hole is 3 (and you have to yell "CORN HOLE" when you make it...or so they say). So for example, Sister Holley and I were against each other but stood on the same side. We had our 5 colored bean bags and would take turns throwing; I throw one, she throws one, I throw one, she throws one.. until all 10 have been thrown. The trick is, you can knock each others bean bags off. AND your points cancel out each other. So if I made a corn hole, and then she made a corn hole, they negate each other and don't count as points. In the end of each round, you count up the points and then the players on the other side do the same thing. You do this until you reach 21 points. It was surprisingly fun and we had a blast! Unfortunately, the Holley's beat Elder Hansen and I. haha we were pretty embarrassed!
This week we also had a trip up to Kirtland with Bonnie. It was probably one of the best trips of my mission! We drove up at 9am and made it before the rush of tours began. Sister Tokunaga and Sister Rasmussen got special permission from Elder Edman (the sights director) to give us a tour even though it wasn't there day to be at sites. Bonnie just ate it all up. The history of it all, the spirit of it all, just everything. We did a tour, then ate our packed lunches, and then went to a room we had reserved to watch the movie, Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration. It gives a great reenactment of the history of Joseph Smith. Bonnie loved it and said that it was all so contrary to what her church had taught her growing up. She didn't know that the Saints were driven out of the eastern states to Utah, she was taught that they fled there so they could practice their evil worship and practices hidden in the mountains. Yeah right. It was a wonderful experience and the Spirit was very strong the whole tour. I'm so grateful we had the opportunity to go. While we were there I got to see lots of missionaries I served around when I was in my last area, Shaker Heights. I got to see Elder Hicks and Elder Ingersoll (who I've been companions with) and Elder Crowley who is on a service mission - he gets to help with the upkeep of all the historical buildings. They are currently working on restoring the Joseph Smith Jr. Home which the church just recently purchased. It will eventually be part of the sites.
Yesterday at church I had a few special experiences. First was during Sacrament meeting. We were sitting there, looking for a part-member family who had told us they would be coming to church. They never showed, but who DID show was Sister Haas! She was a recent-convert who Elder Bills and I taught very often last year. She left the church due to some stress and pressures from lawyers (something about her parent's trust fund and paying tithing, I'm not sure) and hasn't been back in 9+ months. She moved up north towards Akron so she's not even in our ward boundaries anymore. But she walked into Sacrament Meeting last yesterday and when I walked up to her afterwards she squealed and gave me a big hug! She was so thrilled to see me and wants to meet up for lunch sometime. It amazed me to see how the Lord has orchestrated some many things in our lives so that we can continue to help all those around us come closer to him. Hopefully we will be seeing Sister Haas some more and help her with her testimony.
Another cool experience was yesterday at Elder and Sister Holley's grandson's baptism. Their oldest daughter and her family are doing a church history trip and have come to stop in Canton for a number of days to be with grandma and grandpa and to see Kirtland. Well one of the kids had just turned 8, and they got special permission to have his baptism here in our ward yesterday. The Holley's asked us to be the witnesses, and during church I was asked last minute to play the piano. I was happy to help, until I realized that one of the songs was a little too difficult for me to play well enough for a baptismal service. So I pulled Sister Neville aside (Elder Bills and I taught the Nevilles last year) and asked if she could play for me. She said she could and followed me and my companion to the chapel where the baptismal service was to begin in about 30 minutes (this was all immediately following church). Her and I sat down on the piano bench and she began to play the primary songs while I softly sang them to her. After we were all situated, I played the prelude and when the meeting began I sat down on the stand by Sister Neville to act as the chorister. As I sat during the service by this recent-convert who I was privileged to teach and help lead to baptism, I thought "Wow! What a tender mercy this is - how many missionaries get to baptize someone and then a year later sit next to them as they assist in someone else's baptism?" It was a very special experience and I was touched for having the opportunity to do that with her. We will be playing a piano duet in a few weeks in sacrament meeting together - again, how cool is that? The convert and her missionary doing a musical number together. Jenny and Phil will be going to the temple next month and we are so excited for them. And today is their anniversary actually! (Happy anniversary!) And happy (early) anniversary to my parents too (tomorrow)!!
Well, my computer only has 9 minutes left so I had better wrap this up. To answer some questions - yes it's been extremely and unusually hot and humid. We were tracting and a girl told me she had just come back from Texas. I said, Oh well this is probably not as hot as there. And she said, Oohhh no. This is much worse than Texas despite what you may think. Yikes! But we survive, many people offer us water bottles. Life is great though. Elder Becksted (one of the Elders I live with) and I run every morning and I no longer drink pop - so I feel so much more energized and refreshed every day! :) I love my mission with all my heart. It's been amazing 21 months and will be an even more amazing last 3. I will cherish every memory I have gained and can see how things I have learned will help me throughout the rest of my life. This is just further proof of the truthfulness of the gospel - the wonderful effects it has on our lives. I know that through Jesus Christ, we can change and receive strength. I know that as we repent and endure through life, we will find joy and stability. I know this church is the same church which Jesus Christ Himself established on the church thousands of years ago. It is true and it is amazing.
Again, thank you for all the prayers and wonderful letters and thoughts you send my way. I couldn't do it without my fans! :)
Love, Elder Dransfield