Updates by Email

Did you know you can receive my weekly updates right in your inbox? To receive my updates via email, enter your email address here:

Powered by Feed My Inbox

Merry Christmas!

Hello all:

Hope you are all having a beautiful Christmas and holiday season-- it's snowing pretty well here, so it looks like we'll have a white Christmas! We were joking with an investigator that people would be less afraid to talk to us if they knew we were humans with a soul and a sense of humor, so we were thinking about getting some cheap Santa hats to wear while knocking doors. To our surprise, she loaded us up in the car, and drove us straight to Wal-Greens to buy some! =)

Things are going great here-- I am now serving in the Willow Creek Ward, which is in the Denver Stake in Englewood, CO. My new area has lots of ups and lots of downs, primarily because it's very hilly =). My legs are sure getting a workout! Our borders are (in case my cartographically-inclined father is interested) Holly on the West, I-25 on the East, Belleview on the North, and County Line on the South.

A downside to my new area is that the city planners work for Garmin, and to increase dependency on GPS devices, they named all the streets variations of the same few names. For example, there's a Niagra Ct, Niagra Ln., Niagra St., Niagra Ave., Niagra Pl., Niagra Blvd, etc, etc. It's pretty confusing, but still I'm picking up the area pretty fast. It's rather large and boy do I miss buses!

Oh, we had two baptisms the day before I came in-- two husbands in (formerly) part-member families. I've been getting to know them really well, and they are wonderful people. We have a few serious investigators that we're working with and for whom we have very high hopes.

I've noticed that I've begun to put more trust in Moroni's promise and am more bold in sharing it. Most people are very surprised when I tell people straight up that God WILL tell them whether or not our message is true.

It must be either true or it is not, and we literally call God as our witness to testify of the truths we proclaim. If someone studies our message out and prays sincerely about its veracity, they must receive and answer. Either God will tell them this is the Church of Jesus Christ restored to the Earth in the last days, and the Kingdom of God, or else He will must them that it is all a load of bologna and the most blasphemous sham created by charlatans "out of whole cloth" that the world has ever seen.

I know that Jesus Christ lives, that He was born as recorded in the Bible and the Book of Mormon: in a humble site in the outskirts of Jerusalem. He was born a prince to live as a pauper, and He knows what we got through. he is our strength and our hope. May we always remember to rely on Him I pray, in His name, even Jesus Christ, amen.

FYI-- as of Dec 29, 2009, all mail and packages should be sent to 999 E. Tufts Ave., Cherry Hills Village, CO 80113. Thanks.

Bow Now Brown Cow

Hello everyone!

I hope you all are enjoying your holiday season! It's been warming up a bit here-- as high as 45! I never thought I would consider 32 as nice, warm weather, but a dip into the -15 range will change your mind really quick, I guess.

So I'm getting transferred-- don't know where to yet-- I'll find that out on Thursday morning at the transfer meeting. I knew I would get transferred from the start of this transfer because starting to love your area and the people in it is the first sign that you'll be transferred. I've really come to love the people in the Crestmoor Ward, and I hope to see them again. It hurts to leave them-- there are some really nice families, and I really don't want to give up our two solid investigators.

But, as far as transfers go, I'm hoping for Grand Junction since I know so many ward members from there. Gotta learn this Colorado geography!

We had a great Christmas devotional last Thursday-- I really love our President and his wife-- they really do care for us-- they and the Assistants and Office Staff spent a long time knitting over 200 dark wool beanies by hand for every single missionary! It was touching to see all the work they put in for us!

I have been reading Jefferey R. Holland's talk "Safety for the Soul" from last General Conference a lot. His testimony is really powerful. We showed it to an investigator recently, and we're including it as lots of our discussions about the Book of Mormon.

I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God, and that this Church is true. I love it with all my heart, and I can't wait to tell people about it in a new area.

May God bless you all and have a wonderful Christmas!

--Elder Watkins

3 months

Wow-- has it really been a whole 3 months out on a mission? Wow-- it sure doesn't feel like it.

Well, my predictions for an arctic winter are coming true. Worked all day yesterday outside in the single digits, and woke up today to a balmy -16 degrees. Brr! It's a really weird feeling to walk outside and instantly feel your nose hairs freeze! Hopefully temperatures will approach freezing toward the end of the week. Luckily I have 5 layers, and have found creative ways to keep my hands warm.

Well, I am excited to announce that we now have an investigator with a baptismal date! She is pretty solid, and actually takes the commitments we leave to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it.

It's funny that we never have to worry about whether people will receive an answer-- just about whether they will take the few minutes out of their lives to read and ask God. It really is remarkable how complete the promise is. If people will sincerely read scriptures from the Book of Mormon, and humbly pray and ask God if it is true, they WILL receive a witness from God-- a spiritual litmus test, I guess.

The only problem is, 9 times out of ten, people don't even bother to crack open the book, let alone read a few verses, and so they never know. But if the commitment of reading for five minutes is too much for them, they certainly are not ready for the other commitments this Church and God expect of its members.

Transfers are next week-- I'm pretty worried-- I've really come to love the people here, and the ward members especially. We have an eternigator that I really want to continue to visit, and I want to see our baptismal date investigator progress more. I'm starting to learn the ward members' names and coming to know them well. President, if you're reading this, please don't transfer me!!! =)

But, from what I've heard, coming to love an area is the first sign of a definite transfer. Oh well-- I'll go where the Lord wants me to go, I guess.

Thank you everybody for all your letters and packages-- my poor companion is tired of throwing letters at me. =)

I know this Church is true, and that anyone who will test its fruits (the Book of Mormon, modern revelation, etc), and prays sincerely to God, asking if it is true, will receive an answer. We literally call God as our witness to the truths we proclaim and the principles we teach. God bless you all. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

The Church is true... and so is Google

Well, it's been another week. It's crazy how time goes here. It's cold, too. Today, there's a high of 22 and a low of... 3. Tomorrow, high of 18 and a low of 2. Brrrr!

Well, I have exciting news to announce: Pres. Monson must have heard my grumblings while knocking doors and my suggestions and have taken my advice to heart: the Church is ditching the ineffective, unreliable Novell client email system that runs the current myldsmail.net service, and switching to...... GMAIL! That's right, Google hsa signed over a copy of its apps to Church servers, and within a month I will be back at home in a familiar inbox.

Also, it's rumored that this new myldsmail.net service will soon be opened to Church members worldwide, if you're interested in signing up.

Unfortunately, the rest of the missionaries responded to this news with blank stares, and when I excitedly explained to them why it was so awesome... they continued with the blank stares, once again pointing out the fact that I am the new mission geek.

Well, on other notes, I hope everyone's holiday season is going fantastic. It's great to the decorated houses (though there are very few primary-colored C9 bulbs-- sorry, Dad). There is a HUGE population of Jews roundabouts, so it's not exactly all around, but the ones that are decorated look awesome!

We're still working with some OK investigators, but still we're getting in 30+ hours of tracting per week-- ouch. Oh well, the work is good and the Church is true, so it's worth it. Well, I miss you all and I'll write later.

Happy Holidays!

Happy Thanksgiving

Hello all!

Well, the weather's getting colder and colder here in Denver. Could be worse, though. Forecast says in Gunnison it's a balmy -1 deg F. Here, it was 25 waking up.

So the work is improving still. We've had to sort of drop a lot of our flaky investigators. They don't show up for appointments and don't return or answer our calls, so we can only hope they'll be more committed when more missionaries come by. It's not that they don't like the message; rather they refuse to find out whether or not it's true. If we ask them to do anything read 1 chapter in the Scriptures, come by Church one week, or even simply pray once in a while, they can never "find time" to do it.

It's really frustrating because we know how important it is to do those simple things. No man can ever know for himself whether our message is true and gain a testimony of it until he has begun to keep his commitments to find out.

This has been something my comp and I have been working on: helping people to realize the importance of reading and praying and keeping commitments. Everybody enjoys our visits and thinks we're really nice and all, but don't understand that we mean business when we promise that reading and praying about the Book of Mormon WILL give you a witness from God.

We have one investigator that has actually decided to take us seriously and take that challenge. When we asked if she had read the two chapters we left her, she said no, but that she'd read the one before it as well. Our jaws almost dropped to the floor. She felt something as she read, and Moroni's promise was coming true, and she is gaining a testimony. We are SO excited about her progress.

Unfortunately, I don't have very many funny stories to share today-- we've been focusing our efforts on non-Colfax areas mainly, and so we meet less crazy people.

To all ward members, on behalf of all missionaries, I beg you to keep us in mind and look for missionary opportunities with your family members and friends. Members are SO much more effective at this work than we could ever dream to be. Members living the principles of the Gospel bear a far more powerful testimony by their examples and actions than any full-time missionary could ever dream to share with his words. We've learned that if someone actually opens the door to us and talks to us, it's a sure-fire bet that they know a member.

Also, to all those who are afraid that mentioning your nonmember friends to missionaries will destroy any friendship you have, simply tell the missionaries what street to tract, and that will be good enough. =)

Well, I love you all, and I know that this church is true. I've never found so much joy in work and rejection. =) I know that this work is indeed the work of God. To this I bear testimony in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

It's a Small World after all

Hey all!

So, another P-Day, another week! Here's what's up:

I severely underestimated the intelligence of stupid dogs. We tracted (knocked doors) at the Lofts at Lowry townhouse complex-- a really nice complex with 2-3 story residencies. There's the entrance, a 2nd story wood patio above it, and an attic.

There was one with a dog on the second story that really didn't like us. I thought as I walked over that if the dog was smart enough, he could easily urinate on us from above, but dogs aren't that bright, right? Wrong. I ended up with a small measure of dog piddle on my head, and a companion laughing his head off at my misfortune. I just hope the dog's owner didn't train him to do that =)

So, Leah reminded me that I have yet to mention anything about my mission president! Well, President Christison is amazing. He's one of those people that you love the moment you meet, and you can tell they love you. I knew from the moment he spoke that he was the man called of god to lead this mission.

His wife (our "mission mom") is no less awesome. The love that they can show for this ragtag bunch of 19-21 year-olds is astounding. I don't know how they can love 200 missionaries all at once!

OK, so my folks may remember the time that we bumped into our cousins completely by random coincidence in front of "It's a Small World" at Disneyland? I've had a few moments like that in my mission.

One of the Elders serving here (Elder Brooks) went to my Junior High school, I bumped into another one (Elder Guthrie) at the MTC, and Elder Sax is from our home stake in NC!

Also, I met a returned missionary, Elder Bouldon, who just a few months ago was serving in the Cary 1st Ward, and recognized me from Institute class.

Oh, and remember that New Era article that the Church did about the Young Men in our ward? Well, one of the APs at the office happened to be looking through that issue and swore he recognized one of the people in the article, and now everybody knows about Elder Watkins-- the Church magazine missionary.

Anyway, time's up, and I gotta get back to work. I know that the message we share is true. I wish I could sit down with everyone on the face of the planet and spend a few hours talking about what I know and why, and how wonderful a message it is. I love the Gospel, and that motivates me to WANT to share it with everybody I see. I just wish they could see how much I love it and know that there must be something in it.

I love you all! Have a beautiful winter, and enjoy the temperature (it reached 9 degrees here). I close with the traditional Colorado farewell, "Stay warm!"

A couple of great people

H everyone!

Just FYI-- I did get that package from my boss yesterday. Thanks for that-- I will greatly enjoy its contents ;) Sorry for the confusion about the address.

So I'm still getting used to actually being a missionary. As I walked down the hall at Church, one of the girls was talking to her friend, and said, "No, we can't-- there's a missionary right there." I turned around to see who she was talking about.

Weather has gotten better since last week. Most of the snow has melted. Oh, and here's some pictures of how the snow was last week: brrr!

Well, in missionary work news, we have a few really great investigators now. By great, I mean they show up for their appointments and are somewhat interested. We have a couple that we're teaching that have a newborn. We taught the first lesson about Joseph Smith and the Restoration, and also answered some questions and cleared up some confusion they had about a lot of stuff. We also taught some of the Plan of Salvation, and mentioned how families can be together forever. The Spirit was very strong, and we could tell that they felt it, too. We challenged them to read some scriptures from the Book of Mormon and to pray to ask God if it was true, and whether Joseph Smith was really a prophet. They said they would, and we almost shouted for joy =).

We are also teaching another lady, and she is pretty solid, too. We just need to teach her some more before any more progress can be made.

I think one of the things I'm learning on my mission is how to take the right perspective on rejection. It's actually kinda funny. Some people think they're dealing us a huge mental-emotional blow when they curse us out and slam the door ("Yeah, I I really showed those Mormon boys!"), but in reality all they've really done is scared their neighbors and weakened the integrity of their porch door frame.

Some rejections are really funny, because people believe the weirdest things about our Church. It's amazing how people can tell you straight to your face that you have devil horns, worship Martian lizards, sacrifice chickens, are a nudist colony, have 23 mothers, and are racist. So, we simply bear our testimony that we know Jesus Christ is our Savior, and (politely) that those strange rumors are straight out of left-field, and that is that.

Well, looks like I'm almost out of time-- I'd better get going. I love you all, and hope things are going fine on the home front. God bless you all!

Brrr. Its cold!

Sorry I couldn't write last P-Day (Wednesday). My district wanted to play football.... in the snow. It snowed pretty heavily, more especially out in Aurora than here in Denver, so we ended up playing football for about 3 hours in 5-6 inches of snow. I wore six layers, so I was perfectly fine temperature-wise, but having a blizzard of icy crystals slamming you in your unprotected face made playing offensive into the wind very hard.

After football, bike repairs for my comp (he broke his crank arm bolt while tightening it, leaving it wedged in his bottom bracket), and getting new glasses for Elder Gonzales (he broke the last pair in the previous week's football game), we got no time for email, shopping, or cleaning. Good thing we overshopped the week before, and the members feed us well here! =)

So other than the increasing snow that greatly decreases our efficiency, there's not much else to report. The work is going at a fairly steady pace-- still trying to find anyone sincerely interested in the message we have to share. Our investigator pool is pretty tiny, but we're making some progress with several.

Konstantin will be glad to know that the Colorado School of Film is in my area-- right off of Lowry. We've talked to several students attending there, and met a really cool kid who's studying to be a producer. We met him tracting (knocking doors), and he was willing to geek out with me about AfterEffects and Andrew Kramer's vicopilot.net tutorials-- made me feel like I was at work at Tekelec psyched out about new videos all over again. =) on the religious note, he has a friend serving a mission in Brazil and is very familiar with the Church. We'll be stopping by his place often for a quick lesson, and a warm place to stay a moment.

Right now it's snowing again. Our Zone Leader called a few minutes ago and said our bikes and cars were parked because of ice and snow on the roads. Stink; that means we'll have to call and bum rides off members so we can get to our appointments.

But the snow may be a blessing today. One investigator that the area West of us is working with has just been evicted from his apartment and is really down on his luck. With the snow, the city might hire him for $20/hr today for snow removal. We're praying for him to be able to get that job for a while.

So, all my Priest Quorum buddies have finally gotten their mission calls! Yay! Congrats to John for going to my hometown of Mesa, AZ. I listened to the weather a few days ago: the temperature waking up was 22 here, while in Mesa, it was 84. Boy, does that sound nice.

OK, so I have to end with a funny story from the MTC I just remembered. Another Elder, not from our mission, found a snail outside the building. He kept it for a few days as a pet, feeding it chocolate and dunking it in water occasionally, and named it Elder Snail. A few of the Elders strongly considered that Elder Snail should be put out of his supposed chocolate-diet misery inflicted by this Elder, and wanted to select Elder Snail as a candidate for the next projectile launched down the hall from our giant elastic exercise bands that no one uses for exercise (see a previous entry for a more detailed description of the creativity of 19-yr-old guys and a giant elastic band).

They decided that that would make too much of a mess, though, and elected to follow his owner's suggestion. You see, his girlfriend has this thing about snails-- that the pictures of them are cute or something, so he decided she would appreciate Elder Snail as a pet from her thoughtful boyfriend. He somehow got a hold of a Tiffany's ring box, and put the snail with some water and malted milk balls (for nourishment), and mailed it to her. A week and a half later, he received a letter back saying:

"Thanks for your most recent package. I saw the Tiffany's box and got all excited, and opened it to find that you had sent me a limp, dead snail. Thanks.... I guess. But, you're right, after I doused it in some water, it perked right up."

Gives a whole new meaning to "snail mail, huh?

Anyway, that's all for today-- have a good week, and I hope to have some more news for you all next week: transfers are in 8 days. Enjoy everything.

Attacked by dogs

Whew, another P-day! Our Church building was built in the 1920's and is the oldest LDS Church building in Colorado. As such, it is really unique in its construction, and there is a labyrinth of tunnels and passages for maintenance underneath, including a coal chute where it is rumored that a hobo died long ago. Having keys, we missionaries decided it'd be fun to go exploring the tunnels. As I was inching through the dusty crawlspace, a familiar phrase entered my mind: "You are in a maze of twisty passages, all alike." I know, I'm a really old-school nerd.

Well, this week was pretty interesting. I had my first dog attack. We approached a very calm-looking house during tracting. There was a huge wooden fence around the perimeter, but we didn't notice any "Beware of Dog" sign, so after waiting a moment, entered, latching the gate behind us with its huge wooden bolt. When we got halfway across the giant lawn (these were affluent people), a small Toto-like canine came tearing out of the backyard, barking its brains out, but not exactly the most menacing mongrel you've seen; we were just about to turn around... when the Husky came out.

I realize that the Husky is not the biggest breed in the world, but when it's bolting at you, snarling and booming, it suddenly looks a lot like the Beast from the Sandlot.

It's funny how athletic a fairly sedentary nerd can be when properly motivated. I was tired, freezing, and my movements were hampered by 6 inches or more of heavy coat (it was 25 degrees), but in the blink of an eye, I had cleared 20 yards of ground, as well the 5 1/2 foot fence in a single bound and found myself lying on my back on the gravel outside the premises. My companion says it was the most amazing thing he had ever seen.

Another interesting incident that occurred this week was last night following a dinner appointment. We had been warned by a rather drunk but nice guy on Colfax to watch ourselves North of 35th Avenue-- up near Stapleton because it was all dangerous gang turf. He was right. After the dinner appointment, we biked to a bus stop, and a guy followed us over there, yelling and screaming and cussing up a storm about how we were "fake" and "occultists." He told us if he ever saw us in his neighborhood again, he and his buddies would shoot/stab/maim/ whatever us.

The funny thing is, we have another dinner appointment at the same place tonight, so we'll see how it goes.

In better news, we have 2 great new investigators that I'm pretty hopeful for. They are pretty solid, and one has even accepted a baptismal invitation. I hope they continue being as solid as they are so far.

Well, that's about all for now. I know the Church is true. I took the promise in James 1:5 to heart, and I have definitely seen the blessings resulting therefrom. As a missionary and a servant of the Lord, I invite everyone to do the same, that is, to pray and ask God about the validity of the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Prophet Joseph Smith. I promise that God answers our prayers, and I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Keep up the good fight on the home front =)

--Elder Watkins

Week 2 in Denver

Hey! Well, it looks like I've survived to week 2 in the Mile High city! General Conference was awesome, as usual =). For those who don't know, General Conference is a semiannual broadcast from the leaders of our Church: the men we believe to be Christ's Apostles and Prophet on the Earth today.

At any rate, it was amazing as usual. I especially like Elder Holland's amazing talk... well, more like testimony of the Book of Mormon. I wish I could use the same boldness and powerful Spirit that he used when I'm talking to people here! How is it that we bear the same testimony as the Apostles, but they always sound better than we do?

Well, its starting to get nippy here. I'm told that 31 degrees is "nippy"-- it doesn't get "cold" here until it gets down to where it's 20 degrees at noon, and snowing with high wind. As it is now, I need to figure out how to get a waterproof coat.

We still have no really progressing investigators, though we're averaging 20 or so new investigators (mission slang: "gators") per week. Apparently they have real lives, and thus can never actually be home for the appointments they committed to. So, we end up spending a lot of the time finding people by talking on the streets instead of actually teaching. Oh well, it's still good. Those who know me will be happy to learn that I now have a good tan from all that time outside talking.

I'm also glad to be able to use my Spanish. Half of our conversations are in español, the celestial language. My poor companion can't keep up in those discussions. Hispanics account for half or more of our new investigators, but we have to turn them over to the Spanish elders. ¡Qué lástima!

Well, I hope everything's going well on the homefront. There's another Elder here from Morrisville serving-- his name's Elder Sax-- it's kinda funny to reminisce about the "old days at home"-- it sure doesn't feel like one month ago!

I know that the message I'm sharing is true. I may not be able to phrase it as powerfully or poetically as Elder Holland, and I may not have a perfect knowledge, but I do know that God lives, and that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to atone for our sins, so that we can return to live with Him again. I know that Christ's Church has been restored to the Earth again through the Prophet Joseph Smith, and that the same power, authority, and foundation of revelation is present on the Earth today. It truly is a miracle. I know that the Book of Mormon and the Bible are the Word of God, and that if we read and pray about them with real intent, that we will know they are true. I wish everyone a good next week, be they at home, or school or Tekelec =).

I say these things and bear my witness that Jesus is the Christ, in His name, amen

Out of the MTC!

Sorry for no post last week-- out of the 5 P-Days I've had so far, I've only been able to email on 2 of them (until now). So I'm out on the mission now.... for real! I'm finished teaching fake investigators and role-playing at the Missionary training Center, and out doing it for real! Or... in other words, I'm out in the ocean after fishing in the MTC (empty sea... get it?)

FYI, my address for at least the next 5 weeks will be: 6970 E Cedar Bldg C #704, Denver, CO 80224.

So, I'm serving in the Crestmoor East area of Denver with a companion named Elder Stamper whose been out 20 months. I have been lucky/blessed with several things: 1.) the largest apartment in the mission. 2.) a FREE bike from a departing elder, and 3.) a fairly easy-going companion who is really good at fixing and tuning bikes.

All English Elder areas use bikes, and almost every mission has a car with limited miles for use in long commutes. Unfortunately, ours is one of the few missions with no car-- bike only. Plus, in addition to it being my first time riding a bike in 6 years, my companion is Speedy Gonzales on the cycle, so it's... interesting trying to keep up.

Oh, and I may possibly get a Spanish mission after all! The Spanish Elders and Sisters heard me talking Spanish, and they started conversations. They're recommending me to the President for a language transfer, and my comp is sure it's going to happen within two transfers. I'm not as sure, but it would be nice, because Spanish areas are so big they never use those confounded bikes!

Also the work is progressing well. My comp says there hasn't been an elder that cares about the area for about 2 years, and no one has reached the kind of numbers we've reached this past week, nor the success we've experienced. We have a ton of New Investigators to go teach on Monday. The only problem is, half the people we contact speak Spanish, so I do most of the talking. Still, I enjoy it.

I can honestly say that this work has made me the most tired I've ever been, but in a good way. I go to sleep satisfied and happy (waking up is a different story-- 6:30 doesn't suit me well).

I'd include pictures, but the USB slot they have here doesn't like my microSD to USB adapter. Looks like I'll be getting a USB extension cord pretty soon. I'll send pictures next week-- Colorado is what Mom would call "beautiful." We live on the 7th story of the largest building in the area, so you can see for miles from our patio.

Ooh, of course I must tell you about Colfax. Colfax is a major street that we OYM (Open Your Mouth) or contact almost every night. It's a great, busy street, but the problem is, we tend to attract lunatics.

We usually run into an average of 3 crazy people over 2 hours of contacting. The funny thing is, none of them call us Mormons, but use the Church's actual name (The church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints).

There was one guy named William who accosted us and pulled out of his wallet one of the cards that missionaries pass out-- a Faith in Christ Referral card. It has a picture of Christ coming out of the tomb. While he was homeless in Louisiana, he fell asleep at the foot of a Jesus statue. When he awoke, he found this card and a dime sitting next to him (I think it was some Elder trying to be funny).

Well, William decided that it was God's message that Christ was always watching out for him, so he taped his newly-found "sacred Jesus dime" underneath Christ's outstretched hand,"as if to say, 'here-- have a dime'" William so eloquently stated. He's carried that card and dime around with him for inspiration for 3 years, and would not let us leave until we promised to make such a card-dime combination ourselves, and to tell his story to others (I assured him that I have a blog, and people would definitely know ☺). William told his story no less than 7 times over again, and sent us off with a solemn testimony of our "divine calling against the adversary in a crazy world," and sang "Onward Christian Soldiers."

That one takes the cake, though there are plenty more I will have to share later because I've almost exhausted my 30 minutes. I know that I'm doing a good work, and I love serving this people! I know that the things I teach are true, and I love it.

God bless you all!

Two Weeks Down, One to Go

Hello all:

First, thanks to everyone who's sent letters, dearelders, and packages. I love hearing from home all the time at the end of the day. Quick note on the dearelder.com site, you need to select "Provo MTC Mission" in order for it to send it to me for free.

Second, Konstantin, I met an Elder Watkins who IS serving in Russia-- sorry buddy! =) (PS, Konstantin, send me your address on dearelder)

Sorry I can't attach pictures until I get out into the field-- the computers here are very restrictive on what you can and can't do-- it's kinda annoying a bit that technologically inclined knuckleheads ruin everything for the rest of us, but that's OK, because I'll be out in the field with real computers in a week anyway.

Everything here is going weird. You know that Scripture in Matthew (Ch. 24, I believe) that says the Lord will "shorten the days?" Well, I'm sure God's been messing around with how time works here; it's really weird: a day feels like a week, a week feels like a day, and P-Day feels like Christmas (it never seems to come). Oh, and for those who don't know what P-Day is, it's preparation day, when I can actually email and write letters, do laundry, get supplies, attend the Temple, etc.

Other than the space-time continuum being altered, everything else is alright. I can't wait to actually go out to Colorado and start "real" missionary work. Right now we're still training and role-playing, which starts to get on my nerves a bit. I want to talk to real investigators with real questions.

I get to do that, actually, in the Referral Center. Dad asked what that was-- it wasn't here until about 5 years ago. You know when you see those TV commercials, hear the radio commercials, or see the banner ads for the Church or a free Book of Mormon, Bible, or DVD? All those 1-800 numbers get routed to us in the referral center. Also, the mormon.org "Chat with a missionary" page goes to us, and we talk with or chat with real people investigating the Church. After the several hours I've spent there, my companion Elder Jensen and I have investigators that we're working with long distance. It's pretty cool.

So I've gotten a lot of questions about the MTC food. Here it is: I eat too much, and it's good, but leaves you feeling SO tired during class. It's hard to pay attention a lot of the time, so I'm trying to cut back. They have grapefruit like I used to eat with Grandpa Watkins, and I have it every breakfast with lots of sugar and oatmeal. It's nice to have that nostalgia.

Well, there's a HUGE difference between the Elder and the Sister missionaries here. Sister Tsai and Sis. Munn are fantastic-- driven, focused, and full of the love that makes the Church what it is. Rachelle and Leah are REALLY going to love serving their missions with these wonderful sisters.

On the other hand, we Elders have short attention spans, but lots of creativity. Being deprived of the normal delicacies of life (radios, TVs, musical instruments, etc) hasn't limited our fun-- we've invented many new sports: including "cafeteria orange catch," "shoot a rubber band in Elder So-and-so's mouth," and my favorite: "Let's use those huge elastic band thingies they gave us to exercise with, and launch various objects down the apartment hallway and put sugary dents in the ceilings" (later modified to have a human target 30 feet away). Also, Elder Rambe made a functional guitar out of a Krispy Kreme box, rubber bands, and ballpoint pens.

So, we're doing alright entertainment-wise. Elder Chapman is the zone's favorite missionary because his ward (local Church branch) sends him LOTS of food every week. This week it was 3 boxes of Krispy Kreme donuts.

On a more spiritual note, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland came to give a talk on Tuesday. Everyone thought the Prophet Thomas S. Monson was coming since he was giving a devotional at BYU earlier that day, but Elder Holland's Talk was fantastic. It's always great to hear from one of the Twelve Apostles of God.

This will most likely be my last entry for a while, at least until Colorado. I will email then.

I know this Church is true. I can happily say that the MTC really hasn't made that much of an increase in my testimony because I already knew that the things we're teaching are true. I'm grateful for the opportunity to serve in my area, and to come to the MTC (for however long I'm here). I look forward to serving the Lord in this work, and appreciate all the support I've gotten from all of you. I love you all, and miss you, and will see you in two years. My 30 minutes is up, so I've got to go. The Church is true-- read the Book of Mormon and Bible, pray about it, and you'll know; I've done it.

Have a nice day!

-- Elder Watkins

First post at MTC

Current Address:

Elder Matthew P Watkins
Colorado Denver South Mission MTC Box #243
2005 North 900 East
Provo, UT 84604

Feel free to write, or use http://www.dearelder.com to send free letters printed and delivered daily to the MTC-- like an email, but not against the rules =). Feel free to write or dearelder me anytime.

OK, so I now have my email address, and can send email (and receive from family). I've only got less than 20 minutes or so left, so this will have to be short. I'll send pictures next week. I only get to send email on Wednesdays, so that's when I'll be doing it.

So settling in at the MTC was hard. The shuttle bringing me here was late, and we arrived to an empty place. Another elder asked, "Well, isn't anyone going to tell us where to go?" Another elder responded, "No Elder-- it's not until you go start knocking on peoples' doors unannounced that people will 'tell you where to go.'" I think it went over his head.

I got my badge and keys from the front desk lady, and ran over to meet my district, which had just finished orientation. Our district is composed of 10 companionships-- 8 elders and 2 sisters. The sisters are SO much better missionaries than the elders-- Leah and Rachelle are gong to love their companions when they head out to serve-- they truly are angels.

So my companion (hereafter abbreviated "comp") is Elder Jensen, a great guy with a slight speech impediment. He has a good testimony of the Gospel, and I'm sure he will meet good success in the mission field despite having, like Moses, a "slow tongue."

Time apparently doesn't exist here-- a day feels like a week, a week feels like a day, and P-Day feels like Christmas (it never seems to come).

Other than that, things seem to be going OK-- I'm so grateful for the opportunity to serve and look forward to the chance to go out into the field and do work.

Oh, and I get a bragging moment: In our Church, we believe in spiritual inspiration. I had a moment where that happened. I was in choir, joking around, and I turned behind me and saw someone: Elder King. I felt prompted to ask him where he's from. I did, and he revealed that he's from the Southern part of Denver, Colorado! Being the good missionary I am (and humble, too! =), I of course asked for referrals, and he gave us three names of people to look up and share the word with. We even got an address and phone number for when we get out there! I'm kinda excited about that.

The RC (Referral Center) is really cool here-- we get to chat with and talk to investigators about the Gospel, and I've had some really cool experiences I will have to share later.

Well, I gotta go get my laundry out, and get ready for my next meeting.

I know that I'm doing a good work, and as a missionary instructed to bear testimony "at all times and in all things, and in all places," I witness that Jesus is the Christ, and that His work is going forth to the different nations. The Standard of Truth has been erected. No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing.

Well, until next week, ¡Adios!

--Elder Watkins

T minus 6 Weeks!

Well, I guess this makes my first missionary blog post! My blog is located on the web at elderwatkins.blogspot.com. I've got everything all automated so that from the mission field, all I have to do is send a weekly update to my email account at home, and the amazing Gmail posts it to my blog. I've added a "Feed My Inbox" gadget on top of my posts, so if you want to automatically receive my updates by email, go to the blog site and sign up. You'll need to click the confirmation link that will be sent to validate your address, but you won't need to register or anything.

Well, on to actual missionary stuff. As most people know by now, I will be serving in the Colorado Denver South Mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. For two years, I will be devoting my time to the service of the Lord and my fellow man: teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and working to help others in any way possible. I look forward to the opportunity to accept this calling, despite all those of you who have tormented me, the Arizonan desert rat, with horrific depictions of the "frigid Arctic tundra" of Denver. Fine, so it's a bit chilly... OK,a LOT chilly. WolframAlpha says -13 F isn't unheard of in that region, but then again, neither is 104. All part of the experience, I guess. =)

I opened my call on the 9th. I was so sure 5 years of Spanish would mean at very least "un misión hispanohablante para mi," but the Lord always has His reasons-- I can't wait to see why I'm needed in Colorado. In terms of preparation, I have already got my 2 missionary suits, many ties (there were even a few gems at Goodwill), and more stuff to get my well on my way.

I know that this is a good work I'm about to begin, and I hope to serve to the best of my abilities. I'm very grateful for the blessing I have been given to be called to serve the Lord and all His children. I know that He lives, and I'm glad for the opportunity to bear my testimony of this. God bless you all.

-- "Elder" Matthew P. Watkins

Mission Prep Pictures