Monday, May 25, 2009

May 25 Update

We were delighted to receive our first photos from Chile today! Elder Kenison is doing great and continuing to progress.

He had the privilege of returning to mission headquarters in Santiago last Tuesday for a special zone conference at the Santiago Temple; the photo shows him with President and Sister Jones, mission president, and his companion, Elder Mecham. They are standing in front of the Santiago Temple. Matt said this about the conference and the temple:
It was awesome! The celestial room is small but GORGEOUS!!! haha It's really nice. We also did sealings which was a really cool experience. We didn't get to do baptisms but we did get to see the font. It, like the rest of the temple, is amazing.
We asked about how the work is going, and what kind of things they do — working with members, less active members, investigators, "finding" activities, etc.. This was his summary of the activities:
we try to spend a little bit of time with everyone. except members. If we visit a member it's usually just for lunch or we just share a short scripture. for less active... there are actually a lot of less active members here so we've been trying to teach them as much as we can. but... most of them aren't interested. but we still try. if a sita (appointment) with an investigator falls through we knock a couple doors in the area. haha there are gates all over here. so to knock you stand outside the gate and yell ALLO! it's fun. haha
He's working hard on his language skills; it's been hard so far to understand much, since Chilean Spanish is pretty non-standard. But he's determined to do his best and persist in learning.

He also expressed his enjoyment of a new evening tradition — apparently the elders all enjoy drinking Maté every evening (see photo — click for enlargement). This is a Chilean tradition, so they are fitting right in. He loves his companion and the other missionaries in his apartment: "they're really cool." Apparently they tried to pull some greenie tricks on him, but he was on to them pretty quickly. He mentioned something about the word "caliente" which means hot in describing food, but "for people ... it means something else." He didn't give us any details, but we can imagine his companions trying to embarrass a poor greenie!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Cartagena for real

We were finally able to track down Elder Kenison's email to us — only one day late. Hurray! And in the mean time, Bonnie was able to make contact with his companion's mother via a "missionary moms" email list she is on. So we have lots of additional info!

Elder Kenison and Elder Mecham (from Arizona) are actually living in an apartment with two other elders: Elder McKay (from Idaho) and Elder Marquez (from Texas). That will be nice for Matt, to have the extra interaction. He says his companion is "really smart" — knows a lot about scriptures and the Church. He's been on his mission for 21 months (22 according to his mother). He did mention the fleas in the apartment... oh joy.

He says Cartagena is "an amazing place" and he likes it a lot. The city is right on the ocean, and he says they have "GORGEOUS" sunsets (some of you know how Matt will appreciate that; his favorite photo subjects (other than girls) are sunsets and waterfalls). The city is "really humble" - a lower standard of living than he's used to. The homes he's seen were not very attractive outside, but are pretty nice inside. (The photo shown here is from the Internet; we hope to get some pictures from Matt next week.)

The ward where they serve had 78 people in attendance on Sunday, of which 3 were investigators. That's a good start! He said the building is small and simple, with just chairs set up for the chapel (no permanent benches).

Final comments from Matt in this letter:
I'm so glad that I'm serving a mission!!! haha I LOVE CHILE!!!!! p.s. soup is good haha they have A LOT of that here. with chicken and potatoes. So everytime I eat I think of grandma because of the potatoes.
And one last thing to share. Elder Mecham's mother said her son wrote this to her about Matt:
It does feel really good to have a companion who is excited to work. I was trying to keep positive all last change, but it was really starting to get to me. Anyways, I was just meaning to say that it is really fun to have a companion who wants to work and helps you do it to the most of his ability. We've had the spirit strong with us in many lessons.
If that doesn't warm a parent's heart, I don't know what will!

Monday, May 18, 2009

First area: Cartagena!

Today was supposed to be the day we received the exciting first letter from Elder Kenison from Chile! Unfortunately, we suffered from some "technical difficulties." We believe that Matt sent an email, but unfortunately, he was replying to a message from us with a bad "reply-to" address and the message was sent to a non-existent mailbox. ARGH! We hope it gets recovered eventually, maybe next Monday.

We know he was online. We received a separate email which he wrote, to be delivered to some of his friends (guys) telling of his experiences so far and encouraging them to serve missions. It was a wonderful letter, full of encouragement and love for the work. We were so proud of him as we read it!

Meanwhile, we dropped a short note to his mission president, just to find out where he is serving and make sure "all is well." President Jones responded this evening, letting us know that Matt is doing great and has been assigned to serve in the coastal city of Cartagena (see map of the mission to the right — click to enlarge) with Elder Mecham as a companion. This was wonderful to hear! We have prayed for a wonderful first companion to help him continue to learn Spanish, and to help build on his enthusiasm for missionary work. We think an English-speaker will be great at first, to help with the transition, but then hope for a native speaker soon.

President Jones also mentioned that Matt will be returning to Santiago tomorrow for a "special zone conference in the temple." That will be exciting for Matt; he has really grown to love the temple while he was at the MTC, and will be thrilled to experience the Santiago temple! What a great way to start off his experience in Chile! Google maps says it's a little over two hours to drive from Cartagena to Santiago; a bus ride will probably be slower.

President Jones concluded his letter, "Thanks for the gift of your son in the mission!!" We already love this man, and pray for him along with Matt.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

¡Hola, Santiago!

We received an email this morning that indicates Matt has arrived save and sound. He wrote this from his mission president's account (Pres. & Sis. Jones):
I'm just letting you know real quick that I made it to Chile, or as Sister Jones said, that Chile does exist. haha It was a good flight not a lot of sleep for anyone but I didn't expect to get a lot. It was a good flight though. The lady in front of us was a Chilean, I don't know if that's right haha anyways she was also LDS she talked to us, Elder Callis and me, about missionary work and what Chile is like and things like that. It was really nice. Oh real quick something kind of funny. So I was sitting with Elder Callis on the plane flight and when he asked for another coke the flight attendent said, I thought you didn't drink caffeine. We kinda laughed and said well we can we don't drink drinks with large amounts of caffeine because that can get addictive, like coffee. so that was a nice experience for me.
Now we're really looking forward to P-day next Monday!!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

¡Adiós, Elder Kenison!

I returned home late this evening from Church assignments, wondering where my son was. I was able to check current status of his flight and found the picture to the right (as of about 11 p.m.). Wow!!

We're sure it has been a long and somewhat poignant day for Matt, as it has been for his family! He spent the morning packing, then left the MTC about noon. He got to the airport and checked in (total 97 pounds of checked luggage, just under the 100 pound limit! Hurrah!).

We got our first phone call from the SLC airport. How good to hear his voice!! After losing the connection once, we enjoyed chatting for about 40 minutes or so. We talked about all kinds of things, exploring details of the things that were somewhat superficial in his letters. We were again impressed by a couple of things:
  • his great efforts to be obedient, even when he sometimes sees other missionaries "stretch" the rules a little. He's really trying to "obey with exactness" and we know he'll be blessed for that.
  • his love for sharing the Gospel and his testimony. He really did enjoy the experiences in talking with "real investigators" in the referral center. He commented how great it was to hear their questions, to be able to share his thoughts and testimony, and occasionally, to have the challenge of studying and preparing a response. He shared with us some of the things he taught, and we enjoyed hearing how well he remembered scriptural references and concepts.
  • his desire to learn and to do his best. He's a bit apprehensive about Spanish, knowing it will be a struggle for a while — especially when confronted with native speakers. But his heart is definitely right and he will be able to share the spirit even before the words are perfect. He's even hoping and praying for a native companion! (We're not sure we are!)
He had to leave to get on the plane, so we went back to work and other activities. But we got a second call this evening from Dallas. He was being careful what he eats there (since he has had previous bad experiences with getting sick in the Dallas airport). But he seemed to be growing in his excitement, and apprehension. There's a bit of comfort in just being in Provo, in familiar surroundings, even seeing a familiar face now and then. But leaving the country for 22 months, knowing how far away it is, and how strange the surroundings and experiences will be — that has a whole different impact.

When it came time to end, it was easy to say "I love you." It was great to be able to say, "I'm so proud of you" and "I will be praying for you, more than ever." But it was very hard to say "goodbye." We'll miss our son and brother. God bless you, Elder Kenison!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Final MTC update!

On Tuesday May 12, Elder Kenison and his companions will fly to Santiago via Dallas. Their 9 weeks of preparation have ended, and now the real work begins! It's hard to get much of a feel for how Matt is dealing with this impending dramatic change. In his letter today, he was more concerned about fitting things in his suitcase and understanding the airline regulations for luggage.

He continues to love talking to people when he works in the "referral center" — a good warmup for his missionary service, though it will be very different once he starts teaching in Spanish! And he reported this experience from the week:
Elder M Russel Ballard came to talk to us on Tuesday. haha his talk was amazing. he spoke about desire. Just the desire to follow Jesus Christ and the Desire to carry his gospel to the world. One thing he said that really got me was "The missionaries today have to be the best missionaries this church has ever seen, in order to kindle that desire in the hearts of their investigators." so yeah...
Since we won't be able to have the traditional Mother's Day phone call which missionaries are allowed to make, we are really looking forward to a phone call from the airport on Tuesday.

While we believe Matt has had tremendous spiritual growth during his MTC experience, much of his personality is unchanged. Some of these photos will demonstrate that:

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Tooth woes

Matt had some dental work done just a few weeks before his mission. He was a little worried because the teeth stayed sore. We were worried too, and after he entered the MTC and the pain continued, we encouraged him every week to be aggressive in having the problem looked at. He eventually did go to the dentist again, and things seemed to get better for a while. In his letter last week he said the teeth were in great shape.

Then suddenly, we heard again this week that he was back to the dentist — endodontist, actually. On the Thursday before he was scheduled to leave for Chile, Matt had a root canal! (Doesn't he look like he's having fun in that photo taken in the dentist's office?) They are going to rush the crown and hope to get it put on Monday, so he'll still be able to fly out on Tuesday. Argh! Too close for comfort!!

The fun thing about this event is that Matt called his mother to clarify some questions about insurance — three calls, actually! Bonnie was quite shocked to hear his voice on the phone, but very delighted. She was careful to keep the calls "mostly business" and not abuse the privilege of talking to her son. But I think she really enjoyed hearing his voice.

Lucky Mom! Dad is jealous!!

We should have a formal, official chance to talk with him on Tuesday afternoon when he calls us from the airport.

Friday, May 1, 2009

MTC Update 5/01/09

May is here — time is flying by, and Elder Kenison is in the "MTC home stretch!"

Some of his best experiences now are coming while he does actual missionary work! He really enjoys the time he spends in the "Referral Center" where missionaries respond to phone calls placed by people who see Church commercials or advertisements. He wrote:
At the RC one of the people I'm talking to, her name is Anna, she read the Book of Mormon for a few hours yesterday. And I answered some of her questions. It was really cool. I challenged her to pray about the Book of Mormon, and I told her that I would try to find out an answer to her question. It's about 2 Nephi 31:21 just about how it says that God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are one. But we know it means one in purpose.
And he continues to love the MTC and the spirit he feels there. We asked him how he has changed since starting his mission:
I've changed a lot.... Ever since I got here I've read [the scriptures] SO much. I have a goal to finish the Book of Mormon before I get to Chile. That includes my 3 hour lay over in Dallas... ugh. Studying actually is a lot easier. It feels like wherever I go in the MTC the spirit is always there. in every room. so studying is really nice. I especially like the Celestial Room. Every time I go in there it feels like a cloud has been moved from over my head. It's hard to explain but it just feels like praying is a lot easier there. and I know it is. :)
This coming week will be busy, as he finishes his studies and starts packing and preparation to depart for "the field." We appreciate all the prayers and support on Matt's behalf!