Monday, November 15, 2010

November 15, 2010

Sorry, don't really have anything this week


Hey all,

Had a really interesting week. I was on a three day exchange with Elder Seitz, who got here the transfer after I did. Realized there's a lot my Sr companion does that I need to be more grateful for =) It wasn't too bad though, we were able to teach pretty well, and get the message across.
Church went really well yesterday, we had one of our investigators their named Ahmer. He's Muslim and from Turkey, but we teach him in English. So I was able to sit by him for fast and testimony meeting and translate. He kept talking about how so many of his beliefs are already really similar to the Mormons, and is way happy that we live the word of wisdom. Way cool guy. Also, had a great miracle happened last night, we were out contacting former investigators and less actives in a place called Vecmilgravis all day, and we decided to go ahead and knock this one complex that was kinda hidden behind some trees. We went all the way from apartment 48 down to number 2 with no luck, but again, we got let in to door number 1. The man's name is Dmitrij, and he has a pretty solid religous background. A lot of the things he was saying about his relationship with God were closely aligned to our beliefs. He was baptized in the Russian Orthodox church (like everyone here) so brought up concerns when we talked about baptism. But, he accepted to be baptized on Dec. 25th as long as we "continued to meet with him and explain more". Really cool to see how the Spirit was working on him. You'll see that happen a lot, where they're baptized into the Orthodox church here, but have their own set of beliefs, and have no idea what their church really preaches. We had a really good training from President Dance this week too, all about weekly planning. It has definitely proven effective. I feel like I have too much to write about, and I find that a lot of times I don't know what to pick... Any suggestions? Hope all is well with you, God Bless.

Love, Elder Atkinson


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Pictures from Riga

Pictures: 1) Me with the Freedom Statue; 2) The Freedom Statue; 3) The Russian Orthodox temple closest to our apartment; 4) Some graffiti in Daugavpils, it says "who said I was white?!"; 5) In front of a Russian Orthodox Temple when I was out in Daugavpils.

Who Said I Was White?

Dear family and friends,
Yet another week here in Riga, things are still going pretty well. Still don't have any baptismal dates, but 3 of our investigators really are progressing towards it. I taught my first real Word of Wisdom lesson this week, it was way tough. It's so hard to see people addicted to all this stuff. Last tuesday I was on exchanges with Elder Seitz and we were just contacting on the streets when we heard someone behind us shout "Elders!". We don't hear that too often here, but at first we just kinda looked at each other cause we didn't know who it was. We both thought it was like a member from the Latvian branch or something. Turns out it was this couple from St. George, members and everything. They were here for an adoption, and just happened to see us on the street, so they chased us down and wanted to take us to dinner. We had English class, so we couldn't go, but it's still crazy we ran in to someone from Utah here, haha. Last night something pretty cool happened. Elder Koegler and I went out to an area called Sarkandaugava to see if we could find a former investigator from the area book. We found his Дом (apartment building) and went up to the 9th floor where he lived. He ended up not answering, but we still had like 30 minutes, so we decided to harvest (knock) the floor we were on. Nobody accepted, so we were on our way out of the building. As we passed the last door (room apartment #1) Elder Koegler was like "let's knock it for good measure". This lady, Йелена, answered and let us in immediately. So cool. Her family had just barely moved in, and were in the middle of a remont, so they didn't have any power, but we were able to share a bit about the restoration, and set up a return appointment. She volunteered to pray at the end of the lesson too.
So the daylight savings just made it get dark here at like 5 now, so our schedule is gonna change a bit, going out to proselyte a little earlier, so that we're home earlier. Yup, that's about all that's new, Love you all
-Старейшина Аткинсон


Pictures from Vilnius

The pictures are from top to bottom: 1- the monument at the top of the Hill of Three Crosses in Vilnius; 2- Umm, kinda boring, accident (just Vilnius); 3- Our District at the Hill of 3 Crosses (with Vilnius in the back); 4- Clock tower at the white cathedral on Gedimino in Vilnius (with me haha) I don't know the name of the cathedral; 5- Cathedral.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

"Elder, I think we just sold a Book of Mormon..." - Elder Koegler

Привет моей семье и друзям,

So it's good to be back here in Riga, I think I would like to serve in the bigger cities as much as I can, simply more people to talk to. We had our first snow on Saturday, and it pretty much rains every other day, and keeps getting colder we're at about 5* C now. Also, it's starting to get really dark pretty early now, the sun is usually down by 6 and doesn't come up until around 8 in the morning, and the day is only going to get shorter haha.
So we ran contacted this guy on the street this week, and we talked to him about the Book of Mormon and he seemed interested, so we gave a copy to him. He wouldn't let us get away without him giving us something, so he took us to this way nice Latvian Kitchen here and bought us a meal (we tried to pay and everything, but he insisted). We taught him about the restoration during lunch, and found out a little bit more about him. Turns out he owns the largest insurance company in the Baltics, and is just filthy rich. He didn't really want to meet again, but was very nice. Afterwards, me and Elder Koegler were talking about how it was very easy to see that something was missing from his life, and that money really can't buy happiness. The rest of the week has been filled with a lot of area book work (that thing was SO messy) and a lot of meeting with less actives, so we've been pretty busy. Dzintars is our closest investigator to baptism, and he is so ready for it. He's been coming to church every week for the past 3 months, and reads the Book of Mormon everyday. He was supposed to get baptized on the 30th, but his wife still doesn't approve. So we're going to try and do a fast with him this week, that her heart can be more open to the Gospel. Please keep us in your prayers!
This past week I've been reading in 1st and 2nd Nephi, and looking for reasons why Nephi was "highly favored of the Lord". I've been able to find out quite a bit more about what I need to do to become more effective in following the Spirit. I've also started to read through the New Testament, cause I feel like I need to become a little bit more familiar with it. The Russian is still coming along famously, I have definitely been blessed in learning the language. I can understand everything in church now, so it's become that much better. I am so grateful that I haven't had so much trouble with it, and can definitely accredit (sp?) it to the Lord. Well, times up this week, thanks for your prayers and support.

Elder Atkinson


Monday, October 18, 2010

"Yup, girlfriends are tools of Satan" - President Dance. There is absolutely no surrounding context =)

Again, not too much time this week, but not that much has changed in doing the work, still pressing on in finding those who have been prepared by the Lord.
I'm actually E-mailing you from Daugavpils this week, I'll be here on exchanges for the next three days because of a leadership conference going on in Riga. Daugavpils is the 2nd biggest city in Latvia, with about 80,000 people, so it'll be some interesting work, because I've only worked in the big cities so far, with at least half a million. Thanks for your love and support.

-Elder Atkinson

Monday, October 11, 2010

Hey family and friends

Hey family and friends,

Elder Koegler and I have been pretty busy this week with teaching, and it's been a really great week here in Riga. We have a baptismal date set with Dzintars for October 23rd. He's 45, and married with two daughters, but is still a little hesitant because his wife isn't really supportive of it all. We're praying that he is gong to get them to come to watch conference this weekend (in Russian) with the rest of the branch, and that might help them change their mind.
I just gotta say, my companion is definitely the best. Seriously, he's like the most humble guy I've ever met and is way focused on getting the work done, and fulfilling our purpose as missionaries. His Canadian-ness is pretty cool too, he actually says "eh" quite often haha. I've also found out that I make a way legit alfredo sauce, and some nice chicken enchiladas.
I think I mentioned this last week, but I am really liking Riga. It's about twice the size of Vilnius, and there are actually Russian people here. I don't know what else to write about this week, but things are just dandy here. I appreciate your love and prayers, I say it every week because I really mean it =)

Love, Elder Atkinson

Monday, October 4, 2010

Привет от Рига (Hey from Riga)

Hey friends and fam, sorry I only have like 5 minutes this week.

President Dance called me on Friday morning and said that I was being transferred to Riga the next day. Kinda unexpected, especially because this transfer doesn't end for another week and a half. So I'm in Riga now, haha, pretty much just traded places with one of the other trainees. So my new companion is Elder Koegler, and he's from Calgary, Canada. I've only known him for two days, but so far he seems way awesome. The work up here so far has been way intense. We had 3 investigators at church yesterday, and two of them have a baptisimal date for later this month, way exciting. Well, gotta run,

-Elder Atkinson

Picture Time

So, I found out that the exposure on the camera has been all the way down this whole time. That's why all the pictures are so dark. Ugh, so frustrating, I was going to send some from last week, but they're all too dark to see. I forgot to attach pics, here they are:

1) Elder Barnard and Elder Dellinger on top of all the wood we chopped down and threw in that huge WWII truck.
2-the rest) Random Pics of Trakai Castle from this morning. I took a ton, so these are only a few of the good ones.

-Elder Atkinson
So, I found out that the exposure on the camera has been all the way down this whole time. That's why all the pictures are so dark. Ugh, so frustrating, I was going to send some from last week, but they're all too dark to see. I forgot to attach pics, here they are:

1) Elder Barnard and Elder Dellinger on top of all the wood we chopped down and threw in that huge WWII truck.
2-the rest) Random Pics of Trakai Castle from this morning. I took a ton, so these are only a few of the good ones.

-Elder Atkinson

Monday, September 27, 2010

С Любовью от Литвы! (With Love from Lithuania)‏

Hello all,

The work is still moving along, sometimes not as fast as I would like it to, but I'm learning to look at things in the Lord's timetable. The weather here this week was really nice, we had about 3 days of sunshine which was great. This morning we were able to head out to Trakai Castle this morning as a district which was sooooo awesome. I'll attach some pictures.

I think I kind of mentioned earlier that most of our time here is spent contacting people on the streets. It's something that I'm getting better and better at, and it is definitely way helpful for my Russian. We're usually able to find people that speak Russian, and if they don't, they usually know enough English to communicate. I think only like 6% of Lithuania is actually Russian (compared to like 36% in Latvia, and 45% in Estonia) but there are a ton of Polish people here, and quite a few from Belarus- And they all speak Russian. All of the food labels and stuff here are in Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian. If you're lucky, there's some in Russian and English too. I'm finally feeling comfortable with the culture changes (I'm totally buying a European man-purse and bringing it back to the states) except for the smoking. Everyone here smokes, it's ridiculous. Apparently I'll just become accustomed to that over time haha. I had a cool experience at church yesterday, I sat next to a member in the ward from England who lives quite a ways away, so he only comes every other week. He asked me if I could translate for him and I told him i'd only been here for 3 weeks but that I would try. I was able to translate everything the two speakers said, it was so awesome! Granted, it was all Gospel-related lingo, but still, I didn't realize I could understand that much. I have definitely been able to see the hand of the Lord in my progress with the Language. Our one investigator (Yolanta) who's ready for Baptism is going to take her mom to court so we can get the legal documents we need. The other investigators we have have been kind of flaky in meeting with us, but we have a couple more that are really solid.

This past week in my studies I've been really focusing on the Atonement, both the cleansing and enabling power that it can bring. I don't think that I could ever run out of material there. It is something that I don't think I've ever understood very well (I don't think there's anyone who fully understands it) but as I learn more and more about it, my calling as a missionary becomes more and more important to me. Everyone out there needs to hear this message. Sorry, there wasn't anything super exciting here this week. Now that I've been here for 3 weeks, I'm hoping (actually expecting) to get some letters or Dear Elders this week. The zone leaders are heading up to Riga on Wednesday and they'll bring the mail back. Thanks for your love and prayers!

-Elder Atkinson

Monday, September 20, 2010

"Recognizing the Spirit, is like the butter on my grilled cheese sandwich" -Elder Gearhart‏

Hey family and friends,
This past week was full of some really new and interesting events. President and Sister Dance were down here this week for training, and it was waaaaaay good. We talked a lot about the importance of the Spirit in all aspects of the work. That was pretty much all we did on Wednesday and Thursday. Oh! I was able to give my first Priesthood blessing on Thursday night, and it was all in Russian! Way intense, I hadn't even done one in English before, so it was a really powerful and spiritual experience. It was for one of the members here, Genadi. He was crossing the street, and a car came by and clipped his arm, so his elbow was pretty messed up. We had called him earlier that morning to ask him if he would sit in on a lesson with us that night. Even though he was in a ton of pain, and couldn't move his arm, he still came, and taught with us. He's the man.
Friday morning, Elder Mock and I went out to a town called Pabrade (no idea how to spell it in English) about 50 km north of Vilnius.I think it's pretty safe to say that we were the first missionaries to ever set foot there. We drove up with the Senior couple here in Lithuania (the Morrell's) to meet with this refugee family of 6. They are originally from Georgia (the country) but moved to Russia for work. The father started a business there, but was threatened by the mafia, so they fled the country and left absolutely everything behind. We showed up to the refugee center, and there was barbed-wire all around the gate, pretty serious stuff. The family came out and we translated for Elder Morrell to see what they wanted. It turns out they're members, and they showed us their temple recommends, and all they were looking for was help in getting down to Vilnius every week for church. Elder Morrell just whipped out his wallet and gave them money. And they showed up to church on Sunday. It was a very interesting and complicated situation, but it's very humbling to see that even with the situation they're in, all they want is to come to church.
Saturday I was on exchanges with Elder Dellinger. He's been here for 22 months now, and had is language switched from Lithuanian to Russian about 3 transfers in, so he can speak both now, it's pretty cool. We went and did service from like 10 to 6 on Saturday with some of the members. We thought that we were just going to go out into the forest to pick mushrooms (don't ask, picking mushrooms in the forest is a pretty big deal here) but whent we showed up we found out that we were going to gather firewood. So we spent the next several hours cutting down trees with chainsaws and such, and then tossing logs into this huge WWll truck. It's way hard to explain, and I still can't even believe it happened, haha. It was so sweet though! Elder Mock was way jealous, cause he said they don't get a lot of opportunities to do service here. I'll E-mail some pictures next week (we're emailing from the U.S. Embassy right now, and they confiscated my camera haha).
The work is still going along at the same pace. We weren't able to find any more investigators, but the few that we have are still making some good steps towards Baptism. And we still have a few contacts that are really promising, so I've got plenty of work to do =)
Well hopefully all is going well, thanks for your prayers and love
-Elder Atkinson

Monday, September 13, 2010

"Hip-Hop let me do that. Hip-Hop is my God" -the high kid we contacted last week‏

Hello there family and friends,

Wow, it's hard to believe another week has gone by. Everything is still going very well here, and I'm learning to love it more and more each day. We spent our entire Preparation Day (today) cleaning our apartment. Seriously, it took like 8 hours. But, it had to be done; when I first got here, it was pretty disgusting, haha and I had no time to clean it. It didn't really help that my companion didn't mind the mess at all. Earlier this week the senior couple here in Lithuania came and did an apartment inspection, and we pretty much failed. The word even got to Sister Dance (the mission President's wife) so she called and said they're going to come and inspect it on Thursday. So my companion finally gave in and cleaned with me, haha. We're doing a day and a half training session on Wednesday and Thursday with President Dance for the missionaries here in Vilnius, so I guess they'll drop by or something.
A little bit more about Lithuania: so the first week I was here, it was a little chilly, and rained pretty much everyday. It's warmed up a little bit since then, but supposedly it's going to get cold soon. We do about half of our contacting in Russian, and half of it in English. Everyone 30 or younger speaks English, and everyone knows a little bit of Russian. All of the signs and everything in the stores in Lithuanian though, so I'm pretty much guessing at everything I read. The Russian is getting better and better, especially when me and Elder Mock try to talk as much as we can. I can only understand about 20% of what goes on at church, haha, so it's a little rough. But the word is that the members in the Russian Branch here in Vilnius are the best in the Baltics, and so far, I'd have to say that I agree. There are 6 Russian Missionaries, and 6 Lithuanian Missionaries here in Vilnius. Me and my companion live in Center Vilnius on Gedimino, which is like the main walking and shopping street. It's nice, cause it's pretty central to everything and there are always a lot of people to talk to.
Haha, so last night when we were coming home, there were cars all over the streets, and EVERYBODY was honking their horns and going crazy. There were people on like every street corner holding hands and singing songs haha. I'm guessing Lithuania won their game in the FIBA tourney last night. They are so crazy about basketball here, it's nuts. Whenever people find out that we're from America, they always ask about basketball, I love it.
The work is coming along quite nicely, it's been another big adjustment, but like I said- I'm learning more and more how to love it. So the baptism that was going to happen on Saturday was canceled. It turns out that there are a bunch of legal issues that came up. She isn't legally married, only married through the Russian Orthodox church. In order to get the legal marriage document, she needs passport, which for some reason, is under the legal custody of her mother (the two of them don't have the best relationship, so that's going to be hard to get). Crazy story with way more complications. It's tough, cause she's so ready to be baptized, but we know that it will happen eventually.
We were able to find a few more people to teach this week, through contacting and harvesting (here in the Baltics, we don't knock, we harvest). It is so awesome to see the hand of the Lord in putting prepared people in our path. Something really awesome happened Sunday night: We were out talking to everyone on the street and we ran into these two college students. They spoke English, so I was able to get more involved. They seemed to take a little interest, and we pulled them back to our office to teach them the First Lesson. I can't believe how prepared one of them was. Holy cow it was amazing. He said that he had favored the protestant churches, but didn't really know which one was true, and he was asking questions about how he could find the right one. When we introduced the Book of Mormon, he was like "I want this book, where can I get this book?". We gave him one, and he committed to read it, and he gave a beautiful prayer at the end of the lesson. Ah, so good, so we are definitely going to keep up with him. Also, there's another cool story that happened on Saturday when we were out Harvesting. We knocked on a door and they didn't really seem to be interested at all, but I kept talking (in my broken Russian) and the guy named Stas (Russian names are different, so I'm doing my best to spell it) let us in. We were only able to talk for like 15 minutes, but he was all over the Book of Mormon and told us he would finish it in just 10 days. Cool yeah?
It's people like this that help me keep in mind why I'm really here. I know that if I can keep exercising the faith, Heavenly Father will put as many people into my path as I am ready for.
So Dear Elders are proabably going to be easiest way to contact me, cause they just get sent to the mission office and only take like 12 days or something. I was gonna just add that if anybody wants to send letters or packages, it's just best to send it to the Mission Office, cause we never know how long it'll take to get here, or how long I'll be in a certain area. Here's the address:

Elder Austin P. Atkinson
Baltic Mission
Cesu Iela 31-2K2

Thanks for your thoughts and prayers, God Bless
-Elder Austin P. Atkinson

Monday, September 6, 2010

Austin Update

Austin didn't have time to write a general e-mail this week but he wanted me to send on a little information.

"I'm serving in Vilnius, Lithuania this transfer (there are only 6 Russian speaking missionaries in Lithuania, so I wasn't expecting it at all). My trainer is Elder Mock, from Houston, Texas and he's way legit. We have a baptism this Saturday, which is exciting. There hasn't been a baptism here in our branch since February, so again, it's pretty exciting. Church was good yesterday, I didn't understand a lot (cause it's all in Russian) but I got to bear my testimony."

MTC Photos


1. What happened to the MTC sign?
2. MTC companions Elders Atkinson and Thomas.
3. This is where we are going (Elders Atkinson, Huber, Palmer and Thomas).
4. MTC District.
5. MTC Zone.

Pictures From a Foreign Land

The first picture is of Austin at the Riga, Latvia airport. The next is of sunset in Downtown Riga (Austin hung out a window at the Mission Home to take it). Austin with President and Sister Dance is third. The last one is Austin in his first area Vilnius, Lithuania.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Letter From President Dance

Dear Family,

Your missionary made it to the Baltic Mission safe and sound. Attached is a picture taken at the Riga Airport just after they landed. They all look great and arrived without incident. They spent a few hours this afternoon talking with people on the street and sharing their testimonies. We had dinner and a testimony meeting at the mission home and then put them all to bed. They will have training on Wednesday plus have a chance to talk with more people on the streets about the gospel. Then on Thursday morning they will meet their new companion and be off to their new area.

Sometime in the next several days we will have the mission office send you the details of where your missionary is serving and some information about the mission as well as all our contact information. You can expect your missionary to email you next Monday on his/her preparation day. If there is an emergency in the meantime please feel free to call me at my cell phone. The direct dial number from the US is 011-371-2928-7605

Thank you for your trust and confidence in sending your missionary to us. We love them and are excited to work with them in sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Warmest Regards,

President and Sister Dance

Baltic Mission

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Not Enough Time for a catchy subject, haha‏

Hello all, hopefully you all had a really awesome summer (I'm pretty sure this has been the fastest summer for me)

Alright, so I have my flight plans, we got 'em last Friday. I leave Monday morning at 5:00 and we fly from Salt Lake to Chicago, Chicago to Frankfurt (Germany), and then Frankfurt to Riga. Pretty exciting stuff. We should be in Riga by 2:00 PM their time on Tuesday the 31. So crazy exciting, I can't even explain it. We got a letter from President Dance talking about our agenda for those first two days. We'll be in the mission home for two nights when we get there, and doing a lot of training those first two days. There are 20 of us coming in (10 Russians, 2 Estonian, 5 Latvian, 3 Lithuanian) and there are only about 80 missionaries total. It's gonna be crazy having 1/4 of the missionaries being greenies. We'll get our training comp on Thursday the 2nd. Much more though not much time sorry =)
Oh, funny story, Jon Heder (the actor who played Napoleon Dynamite) was here on Sunday visiting. He's related to one of the Branch Presidency members in the other Russian branch here. Haha so we were sitting next to him and his family Sunday at lunch.
Oh, so I don't know if everyone knows this but Dear Elders are still going to be free when I get out into the field, they'll just take as long as a normal letter would.
Hosting was pretty sweet this last week, I actually got to host a couple people that I knew from high school (Tanner Bean and Chase Anderson) brought back some pretty good memories I guess.
Tomorrow me and my comp Elder Thomas get to be a part of the new missionary experience on Wednesday nights (It's the first real training session the missionaries have when they get here) They only select 7 or 8 companionships out of about 1000 or 1200 every week, so we were pretty surprised. Basically, we just walk into the room and begin teaching the "investigator" in front of a big group of new missionaries. Pretty cool yeah? I'm way stoked for it.
Oh, they finished remodeling the gym a week earlier than they anticipated, so we'll actually get to see the last two devotionals here live, rather than being in the cafeteria. Also Exciting.
We went to the temple today (last time for two years) and I really tried to absorb that awesome feeling. I'm definitely gonna miss it. Ah! so much on my mind, but I gotta go now.
Thanks for your love and prayers! God Bless

-Elder Atkinson

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"We all live far below our privelages of the Spirit"- Brigham Young‏

Dear Family and Friends,

Woo! only 13 more days and then I'll be in the field, so crazy to think about. My district is getting pretty anxious to get out there and get to work. This past week, everyone else went into 100% Russian as well, so it's been pretty fun trying to do all that we can in the new language, plus we learn so much faster. I can only imagine how much it'll help when we get into the field (if anyone there actually speaks Russian, haha it'll probably be a lot of Latvian)
Tomorrow we get to be hosts for the new missionaries that are coming in, so that's pretty exciting. It's so weird that it's been 62 days since I was one of those new missionaries. Also, we should be getting our flight plans this Thursday, so we can't wait for that. So they're like tearing up the entrance to the MTC right now, and it's been like that for the past 5 weeks or so. I didn't get a chance to get a picture with the sign, you know, like everyone else does, because they're not even there anymore. Hopefully they put new ones back up within the next two weeks... I just got back from the Temple, that was sooooooo good. Only one more chance to do it...
This week I've really been thinking a lot about the Book of Mormon. David F. Evans of the Seventy came last Tuesday night and gave a way good talk on how the Lord intended the Book of Mormon to be used in Missionary work. I've noticed that it seems the church is still reforming the way missionary work is being done, and we are being taught things that those in the field right now haven't heard yet. Kind of interesting, and it's really awesome to be a part of. He talked about how it will probably be through the Book of Mormon that the investigators are converted, so it is very important that we utilize it in our teaching. I'm really trying to solidify my own testimony of the Book of Mormon, so that I can know better the power that it contains within it's pages, and then convey that testimony to the people that I'm teaching. I've finished it once already since I arrived here, and will probably finish it again this week sometime. He talked about the difference between "Sincere Heart" - just that you really want to know the truth of these things; and "Real Intent" - what you intend to do once to receive the witness and testimony. Really cool.
Sunday's devotional was a little different. We had three composers of some Hymns in the current LDS hymn book come talk to us and share their stories about how their hymns came to be. (the composers for hymns 128, 171, and 220) The last hymn that was talked about, was Lord, I Would Follow Thee. Bro. Dayley told a really cool story about how his came to be. I wish I could tell the whole story, but he said that he actually finalized it at the High School in Blanding, UT (shoutout to Steve and TD!!!)
I still feel like I'm making progress, though I know that the Lord has His own expectations in mind for me, and there is still much to be done.
Thanks for all of your love and support

Love- Elder Austin P. Atkinson

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Lord calls us with our weakness, but He qualifies us for His work

Hello family and friends, hope you are having a good week

This past week has been awesome for me, I continue to learn and grow everyday, and I am really beginning to see the Lord shape me in His own way.
Last Tuesday's devotional was from L. Lionel Kendrick, an Emeritus. And he gave a way awesome talk about faith - It was probably my favorite one so far. Again, I wish that I could share everything with you all, and paste my notes right here. I have really been focusing on what more I can do to increase my faith, because it is vital to my calling as a missionary. It's been way awesome to learn so much here, I still love it.
Sundays are really good for me, it's so nice to have a day where I don't have to worry so much about Grammar and Language concepts being thrown at me, and I can really focus on feeling the Spirit. One of my favorite parts about Sunday is being able to just sit and listen to my companion play the piano while I write in my journal. It's way awesome. All around sunday is the definitely the best day, which I'm sure many other Missionaries can testify of.
I mentioned the language, and things are still going really well with it. There are still a few grammar concepts we need to learn, but me and my comp have already gone 100% Russian and it's been way helpful. The teaching in Russian is also going very well. I never would have thought that just after 8 weeks I would be able to direct entire conversations, and understand everything, in a different language. The gift of tongues is definitely real.
So all of the native Elders went through the temple and took out their own endowments today, that was a really awesome experience, and it makes me more grateful for all of the temples that I have close to home. One of the Elders is actually from Riga, Latvia (where my mission home is) and knows President Dance (my mission Pres) very well. Apparently he was the ward mission leader at one of the branches in Riga. Kinda cool. We've been pegging him with questions all about what our mission will be like, haha I'm sure he's sick of us. Anyway, he told us that about half of the people will want to be taught in Latvian, and the other half would be taught in Russian, so we will find people. He also said that we'll most likely spend our first 6 months or so in the Riga area. He said that all of the youth speak English there, and a lot of the people will want to talk to us simply because we speak English. Though he emphasized that we aren't there to speak English with them, we are there to change their lives. Kinda cool. We can never remember his name though, cause it's some crazy Russian name, so for the mean time, we call him Elder Latvia.
Oh I forgot to mention that we all got a letter from Pres. Dance. He said that we will get to work the day we get there. It's way exciting- we get our flight plans hopefully on the 19. 3 weeks from now I will be walking the cobblestone streets of Riga. And from what we've heard, as soon as we get off the plane, he takes us to a park for 3 hours, and we need to place Book of Mormons (that's right, I said it- Book of MormonS) and all that fun stuff. Crazy.
Well that's about all I got right now, thanks for the letters and all of your support. Love you all

-Elder Austin P. Atkinson

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

"The more you know about exponential growth, the more excited you are about the Gospel" - Elder Palmer

Hey there family and friends,
Thanks to those who wrote me this week, it's nice to hear from all of you. I truly mean that.
This week went by just as fast as every other week, and I'm still loving it. I don't know if I've said this already, but the days feel like weeks and the weeks feel like days. In reference to the weird foods that I mentioned last week- those were all from other Elders in things they got in the mail. Not from the cafeteria here haha.
The Russian is still coming along well, we've been teaching full discussions in the language for about three weeks now. I find that I can work my way around the language, so that I can get my point across, though sometimes it's hard because I can't really express myself. I'm not too worried about it though, because I have already seen how real the gift of tongues really is, and I know that if what I'm teaching is true, the Spirit will testify the truthfulness of my words. But yeah, we're still learning a lot about the language everyday- it's so crazy. We all get really excited when we're writing in english and we throw in a backwards 'N' for a normal n, or an 'H' for an n. Even better is the cursive 'D' in Russian is a g. So yeah, that's kinda cool.
Last week our Tuesday devotional was from Gene R. Cook, an Emeritus Seventy it was pretty good, those are still my favorite part. I think that this week, I've really learned that I have truly been called of God as a Representative of Jesus Christ. There is no need to fewr - especially because the things we are teaching are true. We can humbe ourselves before the Lord, and be bold with the message we are sharing. I'm really coming to see my faith grow by the small and simple things that I am doing everyday. I taught the lesson in District Meeting on Sunday on Faith (I found out only a few hours before, haha, guess I should get used to that) and Sunday was Fast and Testimony meeting, so that was exciting. My last chance to formally bear my testimony in English, so I took the opportunity. The new district is pretty cool, all of them are either going to Russia, or Ukraine. Anyway, I'm running low on time, so I gotta go. Thanks again for all your love and prayers. I'll try to share more next week.
Love- Elder Atkinson

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Nothing else really exciting has happened this past week, haha that's about it. As far as crazy foods go, I have no idea what weird things I'll be eating once I get out into the field, but since being here I've already had quite the variety- Astronaut Ice Cream, Bacon Flavored Mints, Chicken Hearts, and Pigs Feet. All very interesting. We, as a district, have also discovered that no living human being has the capacity or self-discipline to put a skittle in their mouth, and let it disolve entirely without chewing.
Tomorrow I'll hit 6 weeks here in the MTC. Not much else to say other than what I've said in the past. The time is going by sooooooo fast. Tomorrow we'll be getting a new district of Russian speaking missionaries in our branch (6 Elders and 3 Sisters) We don't know where they're going, but it's probably to Russia. The other Russian speaking Branch is empty now, except for one district of ten that got here the same time we did, and they're getting 18 more missionaries. It's been weird without all the older missionaries this week, but it'll be nice to see some new faces.
Last Tuesday's devotional was from H. Ross Workman (Emeritus 70) and it was way good. One thing he mentioned that I've been thinking about was Hebrews 11:1. When we keep a commandment, sometimes we don't see immediate results, and the blessing is delayed. When this happens, our faith is tested and it grows. It kinda got me thinking about the blessing of "delayed blessings" and how important it is that our faith be tried before we see results. It also puts things into a different perspective, about what truly motivates us to action. I've also been doing a lot of study in the first few chapters of Mosiah-with King Benjamin's address. I've come to love it more and more everyday, and see the truth in it. Anyway, that's a bit about what's been on my mind lately.
I have a feeling that tonight's devotional is going to be from an apostle - I can just feel it. I'll let ya'll know next week. I would still have to say that my favorite part about the MTC is the devotionals on Sunday and Tuesday nights. They always get me so excited to be a part of this work. I am truly grateful for this opportunity that I have been given to serve our Master Jesus Christ. Especially grateful to do it in the Baltic.
Anyway, my time is up, my typing skills are dimishing little by little each week, I feel like I have less and less to share, haha.
Thank you all for the letters, prayers, love and support.
Love- Elder Austin P. Atkinson

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

You sir, are a Moron!... A Mormon?!? but I'm from Earth!‏

Hello everyone, hopefully all is well.

I am going to have to say that this week has probably been the most uneventful, but hey, what can you do. I like the fact that I'm on a tight schedule, I always feel like I get so much more done, and I feel more organized.
The older District in our branch left this week, so we got a bunch of pictures and stuff with them on Sunday. They were all way awesome, but now we're the senior district, woo!!! We get 2 or 3 more Russian speaking districts on the 28th of July, so that will be very fun. We're gonna recite the first vision AT them, and make them think that we know a ton of Russian, haha. So because the older district left, we got new leaders in our branch/district. Our Zone Leaders are Elder Reynolds and Tucker going to Kiev, Ukraine (Ukrainian Speaking) and my district leader is my companion, Elder Thomas. I totally saw it coming, he's a way hard worker, and the job really suits him well. Though he is now also the Senior Companion, so I am completely and utterly powerless.
Oh another exciting thing happens next week-the temple opens up next monday, so that means I'll finally get to go again! It's been so weird not having the temple, I guess it's good I got a taste of what it'll be like when I actually get out into the field. But yeah, the gym is still closed here cause they're re-doing the bleachers, so no more basketball for me (probably a good thing, I know). You can still run or lift weights on the third floor, but I usually just go out to the field and play soccer. It's pretty fun, I love it.
But because the gym is closed, they have to send us to a bunch of random places whenever there's a devotional, like on Sunday we were in the Cafeteria and they just broadcast it to us. Sunday we heard from Richard Heaton, head of administrators here at the MTC and it was really interesting to see how everything works behind the scenes here. He also talked about the process of how Preach My Gospel came to be, and that the transition from the pre-PMG era still isn't complete. Last tuesday's devotional was from Elder Ronald T. Halverson (another Emeritus seventy) and he gave a good quote from Emerson "God will not have his work manifest by cowards" We have been called here to do the work and there is no reason to fear; Fear was not given to man by God. If I intend to be successful as a missionary it is going to require more effort and energy than I have ever put into anything before. (1Timothy 4:12 and Alma 29) He also said that as missionairies 'we are not to linger on a plateau of mediocraty" i thought that was cool too. Anyway, I'm still learning and growing each day, thanks for the love, prayers and support.
God Bless

-Elder Austin P. Atkinson

Sunday, July 18, 2010

You're mocking me, aren't you?

Zdravstvuoytseh! (sorry, that's the best american sound translation I can give for hello)

I have now been in the MTC for 28 days- so so so hard to believe. The time is absolutely flying by. If I was english speaking I would already be in the field, so I am truly grateful for all this time that I have here.

We had a pretty good devotional last Tuesday night, from Elder Robert K. Dellenbach (and emeritus seventy) and he opened up his talk by talking about journal writitng. He showed us his Mission journals, and expressed to us how important they really were. I guess when he got back from his mission in Germany, the church was interviewing him about it, and asked if they could use his journals for their own records! Crazy right? I guess you'll never know what can happen. So I have set a little goal to try and write something everynight, and to remain positive about it. I think it was President Kimball that said those who write in journals every day are more likely to remember the Lord in all things- I can testify of this statement.
I'm still getting along very well with my companion Elder Thomas, sure we have our differences but he is so dedicated and it really helps me stay on task. We do very well with setting our goals and really helping each other reach them. Also, Elder Huber (the Canadian) says that I don't know how to really make my bed, so he does it for me every single morning. I can't complain =)

Russian is still going well, we met the some of the Latvian/Lithuanian/Estonian speakers this week. I need to go talk to their teachers to find out more about my mission. Because all of my Russian teachers went to Russia, they really have no idea what it is like there. I mean it's probably similar, but it would still be cool to find out more about. I found out there are like 20 of us going to the Baltic on the same day - August 30 (10 of which are in my branch).

So the gym is being closed tomorrow, they're finally putting the bleachers back in. But that means it'll be closed the rest of the time I'm here (that's what they tell us anyway) so we'll have to do gym outside from now on. It's also kinda lame that they took out the bleachers, because they don't have an MTC-wide choir without them. I was kinda upset about that but oh well, I'll get over it.
The temple is still closed too (bad timing? I'm not sure) but only for two more weeks. Hallelujah!

I'm still doing alright with the food, everyone else like hates it and complains about it all the time- I'm honestly happy that I don't have to cook for myself =)
oh the older district in our branch got their flight plans last week, that was pretty exciting. They're all going to be flying out next week, except they're all going by themselves. So I think they'll be switching up Leadership positions this sunday- again, it's so weird that I have been here for this long already!
The Sunday Fireside was really good as well; it was Sister Jenny Oaks Baker (renowned violinist and youngest daughter of Elder Dallin H. Oaks). She did a mix of talking about her experiences with the gospel, and performed a bunch of songs from her new CD, it was beautiful, and nice to get to listen to some music. Elder Oaks was there too, but he just sat in the audience (Like two rows in front of me, it was legit!)

I was also really touched by the talk that President Childs (our branch president) gave in sacrament. He spoke on the Atonement, and I swear- it was as if he prepared that talk exactly for me. It was just what I had been praying about, and what I have been working to increase my faith and testimony of. So good, I'm really grateful for our branch presidency, and all they do to help us.

Well my time is running short, thank you all for the love, prayers, and support.

-Elder Austin P., Atkinson

Saturday, July 10, 2010

"so what are you gonna do about it?" - Elder Brimley

Hey family and friends, I hope that all is going well with you. Thank you so much for the letters and DearElders, I love hearing from all of you!

This past week has been a bit more eventful than the others. It's hard to believe that I've already been here for three weeks!!!
Saturday night they did a little presentation about how the founding fathers and people like Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Columbus were inspired to help bring about the Restoration. Afterwords, they let us go outside and watch the fireworks from the Stadium of Fire (we also got to hear a bit of Carrie Underwood, oh yeah Cowboy Casanova) It was a pretty good show too, and we were allowed out until like 11:30.
I don't know if i've mentioned this before, but they don't allow your own music here in the MTC, kinda a rule so you don't try to play it too loud in the Residence Halls. So I am going absolutely crazy without it- I would totally kill for some MOTAB right now, only 8 more weeks until musical freedom. Also, something else funny I forgot to mention, in the cafeteria, we (all the Russian speakers) eat on the West side of the room by the windows and behind the pillars- We call it the Iron Curtain. =)
Sister Elaine Dalton was our speaker last Tuesday night, that was pretty cool I guess. After every Tuesday night devotional, we have a district review of it, and we all share our insights. Elder Derek Brimley (in my district, going to Donetsk Ukraine-Russian speaking) said the quote above, and told us that it was running through his mind the entire duration of Sister Dalton's talk. So that's what I've been trying to focus on- I'm learning all of these new things, but I need to think about how I am going to act on them. I've noticed that a lot of the speakers are starting to cover some of the same things. Like it's a three week rotation for the Elders that are always coming in and going out. I was also saddened when our district leader pointed out that one of his friends got his Mission call last week, enters the MTC the first week of August, and will be gone before we are. Yeah... I Know...
I also had my first Fast Sunday here, and it was a little bit different, being the 4th of July- which I'm sure most of you found out. We had our testimony in English, so I understood everything perfectly, and it was awesome to hear some of the other Elders in our branch bear their testimonies. Our Branch presidency is awesome too, they are way helpful and are taking a genuine interest in helping us to become the best missionaries we can become.
I've come to see the importance of obedience and planning in my time here so far. I know that even though most of the lessons I have been teaching here aren't to real investigators, that my preparation and desire to be exactly obedient is assisting me in utilizing the Spirit in my teaching. It is awesome and I can tell that I have learned and grown so much. I was also trying to think about how I can devote my entire self to my calling as a missionary, and I realized that I have nothing to worry about at home. Don't have to worry about the family, about school, about the real world. When I realized- "what am I thinking?" This is the real world. This is as close to real life as I am ever going to get. I need to remain diligent and faithful in the work before me, and I know that in doing so, the Lord will take care of everything at home.
The Russian is still doing alright, I can tell that this is what I need to remain diligent in, to avoid becoming discouraged in my work, but I know that I can learn it through the power of God.
Well that's all I have for now, sorry if this is kinda disorganized-they literally put us on a 30 minute timer here =)
I love you all and pray that the Lord may bless you. Keep the letters coming =)

-Elder Austin P. Atkinson

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Jerimiah Was A Prophet, not a Bullfrog - District 9‏

Hey everybody, I hope that everything is going well with you.. I have been very glad to hear from a few of you through letters or Dear Elder so keep them coming.. Also this computer that I'm on puts in two periods everytime I type one, and the enter key isn't working, so don't judge.. Things are still awesome and going strong for me here, it's hard to believe that it has already been two weeks.. My ankle is doing a lot better now, and I've been cleared to play in gym again, just gotta be careful with it.. This last week was training week for the new incoming Mission Presidents here at the MTC, so things were really crowded around here.. This also meant that the 1st presidency and the Quorom of the 12 were spending a lot of time down here as well- We had a Special fireside on Friday night, and Elder Oaks was the speaker.. Elders Anderson, Christofferson, Cook, Bednar, Scott, Holland, and Nelson were also on the stand, it was really a powerful experience to have them all there during the fireside.. Elder Oaks gave some great counsel on why this Gospel is the one and only true one on the earth.. I also read Our Search for Happiness this past week, and that has given me a lot more to think about/ work on.. The Russian is still coming along really well, it's very different from English, but still not terribly confusing, there are just a lot of different rules to remember with all of the cases and verb conjugation.. We made our first contacts and appointments in Russian this week, and are getting to know peoples family and stuff like that.. I also have about half of the 1st vision memorized, so that's fun as well.. I've really been focusing on trying to increase my faith in the Savior, because that's something that I could definitely try to teach about Him and His Atonement with more convincing power.. I was able to watch one of Elder Holland's talks that he gave here at the MTC a few years ago, and that has really given me new ideas about the kind of missionary that I want to be.. There is no time to waste while I'm out here, and I'm going to be old a lot longer than I'm going to be young and able to do this, so I need to push myself to be all that I can be.. Yeah, like I said, I'm still really enjoying my time here.. The days are all just kinda blending together, P-day and Sunday are really the only ones that are different.. Anyway, my time is about up, love you all and hope to hear from you soon.. -Elder Austin P.. Atkinson

God Bless Us, Every One (Say like Tiny Tim)

Hey there family and friends,

I got your dear elders, and that is probably the best way to contact me here in the MTC, so I can spend my 30 minutes of E-mail typing and not reading. I didn't get an E-mail from anyone, so hopefully you haven't tried sending anything. These computers are being really faulty right now.
So guess what the subject of the E-mail is supposed to mean? That's right, I managed to get a 3rd degree sprain on my right ankle (which was my only good one) came down on an Elder's foot during my very first gym period on Thursday Morning. I was on crutches for a few days, and it was waaaaaaayyy swollen and purple everywhere. I got a blessing from the Zone Leaders though, and that has worked famously. I have definitely been blessed, especially that it happened at the beginning of my stay here, and not right before I was about to fly out. I have sweet pictures, though I haven't figured out the best way to get them to you yet, I'll work on that.
Our Zone has like 4 districts in it, 3 of them speak Russian and one of them speaks Ukranian. There are like 26 of us total. In my district there are 8 of us, and 4 of us are going to the Baltic. About half of our zone is going to the Baltic. My roomies are Elder Huber from Alberta Canada, he's like 6' 5" and he's a baller (I can't get enough of his accent either haha), and there's Elder Palmer. He reminds me of that kid Goob from meet the Robinson's (as far as looks go anyway) he's a pretty cool guy though. And then there's Elder Thomas, he's awesome. He wants to be here as much as I do, and I couldn't ask for anymore than that. Our District Leader is Elder Petterson (Russian speaking, going to Ukraine) and he's kinda funny. He has tried to convert us to using flouride-free toothepaste and he meditates and reads Isaiah for fun. Haha, he's not bad though, we have to remind him to check the mailbox a lot though. Oh well, we are all one in purpose and we learn to love each other. One of the Districts is older they've been here for 6 weeks now, there are 6 Elders, all russian speaking, all going to different missions. Elder Reeves (a ZL also) is going to the Baltic, he just turned 19 on Friday. The rest of us just got here on Wednesday.
The days are very long here, I come home very exhausted but not discouraged. I made it to sunday, and things have definitely picked up since then, we have a lot more time to choose how we want to study. The Spirit is very strong here, and it's way awesome. There's like no contention either, which I love.
The food is good here, I don't have any complaints as I'm happy I don't have to cook for myself for 3 months. I weighed myself yesterday though, came in at 10 pounds more than when I checked at home when I left. I think part of that is that I haven't been able to work out much with my ankle. I don't wanna get up to 2 bills, so I really gotta work on that. My P-day is today (on Tuesday) so that's when I'll be writing and sending letters and stuff.
The class and the Russian is super intense. It's like EFY on steroids, with no girls (at least that you can flirt with) and not as much free time. But I love it. We can already make a street contact, pray, read anything, and bare our testimony in Russian, and I know that that is only because we have been blessed by the Spirit.
Our Branch Presidency is really good too, on Sunday during Sacrament Pres. Childs asks two random Elders to come up and give a 3-5 minute talk on a certain topic. Guess who got picked. Me. and one of our Zone Leaders, so I spoke on commandments and bore my testimony in Russian in front of the whole branch, it went very well.
Hope you had a good Birthday Mom, and Father's day Dad I love you both very much =)

That's all the time I got, I love you all
Send me Dear Elder's when you get time
-Elder Austin P. Atkinson

First Post!

The time has finally come! This is the first post for Austin's mission experiences. The plan is to post his emails here and some of the pictures he sends us. If you know of anyone who would like to stay caught up on how he is doing, feel free to share this site.

The titles for each post from Austin's letters are his own.