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