Saturday, August 30, 2014

A New Assignment, a Real Investigator, and Only Two Weeks Left


This week was really full, and had many great stories. 

The first one worth sharing is actually a package that my companion got Thursday. We picked it up in the morning, this white, flat package that was about two feet by one. When we opened it that night the first thing we saw was a card and then a gigantic layer of tissue paper. It was from Lofgreen's grandma. We weren't surprised at the card; it was a quintessential wonderful card. What did surprise us is that, when we unpacked the giant layer of tissue paper we found 54 homemade cookies, each individually wrapped in pieces of tissue paper that had been obviously handcut to the size of each individual cookie. ... These things were so well packed that as we unwrapped the cookies to store them, not one of them had even lost a crumb in the shipping process. Apparently this sort of thing is not unusual, because all Elder Lofgreen did was smile and continue unpacking it. :) 

Our district study session yesterday morning was hard. Hard, as in it was really hard to stay awake and focused. Elder Lofgreen and I somehow got talking about Sherlock, Elder Demars (our ZL) was buried in his coat sleeping in the corner of the room, Elder Nisson, Gale, and Larson were debating whether a grizzly bear or a gorilla would win if they fought, while everybody else was studying in another room. Looking up from their "deeply-enriching" discussion, Elder Nisson looked out the window, startled, and said quickly, "President Stewart!!!" Sure enough, we looked up and saw our branch president turning the corner to walk in the room.

Everybody leaped to the nearest book/highlighter/paper/anything that could be construed as productive and feigned intense focus. And just in time. President Stewart walked into the room right as everybody settled back into their chairs. We started casually talking, when he looked at a heap of something on the ground off to the side. Everybody stopped talking as he started walking towards it, as we all realized the same thing:

We forgot to wake up Elder Demars.

President Stewart nudged him four times before he woke up. Turning around, all Elder Demars said was "Amen. What did you need President?" 

Absolute and sheer brilliance. Of course it took everything we had to keep it together and not die laughing until he left, but we managed it somehow. The only thing that President said was, "I'd prefer it if the elders didn't study on the floor." as he winked and walked away. :) 

Yup. Mission work at its finest.

But seriously, this week has had some phenomenally spiritually building experiences. 

Firstly, I am District Leader now, which is really cool. I love all of the elders in my district, and was really excited to have the opportunity to do more to serve them.

Secondly, we picked up a new investigator today who is actually an investigator. She is from Columbia, and speaks very very quickly. Her faith in God is very firm, and she is a very devoted Catholic. She's checking out the church and volunteering as an investigator for the MTC because she is very curious about what's different between Mormonism and Catholicism. The thing is that some of her beliefs don't coincide with the religion she affiliates with, and she is also looking for something that does. Teaching her has been fantastic. Both Elder Lofgreen and I have learned a TON from her, both in the language and the basic tenets of Catholicism (which is great, because we are both headed to Mexico). Our biggest roadblock in the lessons is that her interest in the Church so far has been purely intellectual. Trying to find something we both can build from and that she really latches onto is difficult; like the very discussion itself is made from Teflon. 

I'm so glad we have the chance to work with her and do what we can to help her come closer to Christ. If she makes it she'll be an incredible instrument in His hands. 

I am so happy to be on a mission. Everything that's going on would normally make me feel really discouraged and upset (not knowing the language well, the schedule, sleeping about four hours a night, and just the pure difficulty of our discussions and mission), but not here. It's like pouring water on an oil fire. I'm just feeling better and better as I go! I was reading in Romans yesterday (I have a goal to finish the New Testament before enter the field), Chapter 8, and verse 30-39. This scripture has always had a special place in my heart because it was my Seminary theme my sophomore year. It talks of those who are on God's side having his help and strength. We really can do anything, as long as we are living the life that God wants for us. The best life for us. When we do so, I'm coming to learn that there is nothing, absolutely nothing that we cannot do. The Lord prepares the way for his servants to accomplish that which he has commanded them to do. 
I'm so excited to hit the mission field and have the chance to see how to lean on this simple truth even more. I'm gonna hit the field (well, more like the field's going to hit me :) ) and not know what's going on for the first little while, but I can hardly wait to work with God in learning.

So stoked. About everything. 

That's all I've got time for at the moment... 
I love you all so very much! You're in my thoughts and prayers. Thank you for the continual love, prayers, and support. All of them mean the world to me.


Elder Kennington

Elder Gale, one of my favorite people EVER

Elder Lofgreen shining shoes

This is where we do Sunday and Tuesday devotionals with big speakers (the editor assumes Elder K means important people coming to speak, not a reference to their physical stature nor the quality of the sound system)

My District!!
Back row: Elders Wall, Nielsen, Demars, Goff, Andrews, Nisson, Gale, Larson
Front Row: Elders Fjerstad, MEEEE!!!!, Kitchen, and Lofgreen (mi companero)
Owen's hair is even shorter!!

Elder Blackbeard: "Arrrrrr elderrrrrrrrs y herrrrrrrrrmanas"

Elder Lofgreen is beautiful when he sleeps. On Frontrunner to get our Mexican visas

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Trial Raisins, a Field Trip, and What I Do Every Day


This week was fantastic.

Wednesday we had another little language gaff in a lesson. Again, Elder Lofgreen was a bit nervous as we went into the lesson. We did great (nothing out of the ordinary there... *dusts of shoulder* ;) ), despite it. Our investigator was wondering about why the path back to God was so long. My companion tried to respond that, "There are many steps in life because each one makes the [journey] much more worthwhile", but mixed up the word pasos (steps) for the word pasas (raisins). I'll let you do the substitution. Personally, I still think it works. Raisins are just as nasty as a trial, in my book. Especially when they take refuge in a cookie, posing as little innocent chocolate chips. If ever I had trust issues, I blame raisin cookies. 

We went up to the Mexican Consulate on Thursday to get our visas, which was way cool.

One thing that really stuck out to me is just how many people watched us, wherever we went. I've been up to SLC many many times, but never have I ever felt so exposed and noticed as I did this time. The missionaries really are watched, by everyone. And they all have certain expectations. I talked with a woman for about forty minutes on our way up in the Frontrunner, and it was very interesting. She was currently semi-active, with a life I wasn't jealous of. She had a lot of burdens she was struggling with. I enjoyed talking with her and getting to know her. She seemed very grateful for someone who would listen. She avoided some of the other missionaries in our little group (not in our zone) because they went straight into lecture mode with her (you need to do this and this and this, or you can't be saved sort of thing), and I wanted to try and repair any damage that was done. It went well, and she left looking much happier than she did coming in, so I think my companion and I did our job. :) 

I've had several requests for the regular MTC schedule, so I will talk about that for a sec:
6:30- Wake up/get ready (Elder Lofgreen is quick at this, so I always have to dash to be ready at the same time. :) )
7:00- Breakfast (have met Jessica Cannon many times, because apparently she works here)
7:30- CLASS (personal study, then companion study, then language study)
10:30- Gym (We've [my district and I] have played volleyball every day so we pretty much dominate everything there)
11:40- Lunch (we always get a sack lunch and eat at the apartment)
12:45- Class again (This time with a teacher. We study everything from the doctrine to language, and often both)
4:30- Dinner (always welcomed with open arms and empty stomachs)
5:15- Back to class... (With a teacher. Basically the same thing as the afternoon class)
9:15- Devotional (We've had some phenomenal ones. These are just with our district or zone)
9:30- Home for the night (Hallelujah!! :D )
10:30- Lights out and asleep (Unless your companion is also a huge Sherlock fan and you just HAPPEN to spend another half hour commiserating with him... But that never happens.)

This is pretty much every day but P days. Sundays and Tuesdays we have devotionals in the evening that are really cool. We get speakers from all over the place. From one of the MTC presidency, to Jenny Oaks Baker, all the way to Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson (the General Young Women's President).

Sister Oscarson was our most recent devotional, and she did brilliantly. For her talk she talked to all of her family members that had served missions (or were currently serving) and then based her talk on the most poignant and frequently mentioned bits of advice. There was one thing that she said, however, that really got my attention and got me thinking. "Don't let an eternal memory be a regret." 

As I thought about it it not only made perfect sense, but inspired me to try harder to be and do better. Everything we ever do, think, or say is eternally recorded, and though we can't think of everything now, we will have both the time and the capacity in the eternities to recall everything. If this is the case, would we want to have anything else than the best of memories possible? If I'm going to spend the rest of forever living with myself, what I've done, and who I've been, I want to be happy and satisfied with it. I want to be able to look back with pride (though often flinching as I stare back into my teenage years). Though her advice was given in the context of the two year mission I am currently serving, my mind catapulted it into the stars. 'Cause that's where I'm headed. Where I'm trying to help as many of those in Mexico who will allow me to go. And I better see all of you there!! After all, that's why I'm so excited for it. An eternity with those who I love most my favorite aspect of this Gospel. 

That's all I have time for right now. I love you all very much! You're in my thoughts and prayers.


Elder Kennington

Elder Lofgreen and Elder Kennington in their room. The editor thinks the desk right there is Owen's.

A panorama shot of their ... classroom? Editor's Note: Since they are living in the former Raintree Apartments I can tell you this is where the living room, dining area (what is visible) and kitchen are (where the pic is being taken from). You can see the door to the apartment there.

Elder Lofgreen ala duck face.

Elder Demars. 

Our intrepid missionary. He said the sleeping pictures were both taken on the same morning. Evidently everyone was pretty tired.

Elder Goff welcomes a new district.

The first district in his zone. There are now six districts.

Elder Kennington, Elder Lofgreen, Elder Gale, Elder Fjerstad, Elder Nielsen, Elder Larsen. "These guys are about half of my district! They are all fantastic. Prolly my favorite people here at the MTC."

Elder Gale and Elder Kennington pointing to their missions on the main MTC campus world map

"Elder Lofgreen is beautiful when he sleeps. Elder Kitchen certainly thinks so. Kitchen is the guy on the left. We are currently on the train up to SLC to get our visas."

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Week 2 At the Lord's University


Things are really changing, and I've not even been here that long. Wednesday we added another district in our zone, and then the day after we found out that next Wednesday we are getting another THREE districts. Total districts = 6; total missionaries in zone = 54. It's making having a zone devotional every night a bit of a trick...

My spanish has also been seeing a lot of change. My language comprehension has grown vastly, with my speaking ability trailing a bit behind. The Gift of Tongues is real. We've had three more lessons with that" investigator" I mentioned in my first email since then, and I've been able to talk for about half of each lesson in Spanish. It was halting, broken, and sometimes inconfident, but it was Spanish all the same! I have resisted the temptation to just speak in French because I'm not here for that language. :) 

Others are having an interesting time trying to recall all the Spanish that they learned in High School. My companion is brilliant; he speaks more Spanish than the rest of the district combined, and he took four years of it in High School. We came to the second lesson with our "investigator" and we needed to talk about the Atonement, which was going to make use of a lot of vocabulary that I didn't know yet, so I was leaning pretty heavily on Elder Lofgreen to hit the homerun for the lesson. And he did great. The Spirit was there, the "investigator" was interested in the lesson, and then it came time for him to bear his testimony. Looking her straight in the eye, dead serious, he told her:

"And I know that the Atonement is real, and through it's power you can be cleansed of all your fish."

Noooo Elder Lofgreen... Not pescada (fish).... Pecada (sin).... :) The gaff didn't completely throw the lesson, but it took a little while to calm our investigator down... Haha. 

I keep putting the word investigator in " " because we had another interesting revelation Friday. We have known from the first lesson that she wasn't a real investigator, and that she was in the employ of the MTC, but what we didn't know was that after a week we were going to have two teachers, and that she'd be one of them! We walked into the classroom that morning, saw Dani wearing a nametag that said "Hermana Savage," and she politely asked us to sit down so we could begin the lesson. Honestly, it's a brilliant move. Have the students interact with a teacher without them knowing it's a teacher so they are themselves, and they display exactly where they're at in their progression, and then having the teacher actually teach. The program here is truly inspired.

I've learned so much in the past week and a half. When the Spirit is the one who is teaching you everything, and almost every single person around you is dedicated to maintaining that Spirit and applying it's lessons, the amount of growth that occurs is incredible. I can't believe it. Sometimes, when the Spirit is strongest, I feel like my soul is too big for my body. Like I'm just about to explode, with the strength and joy that I feel. It's no wonder that all of the scripture prophets are capable of such miracles. I can only imagine how powerful they are, when I feel like this. It's this kind of strength that makes an 18 year-old young man feel like it's possible for him to learn a brand new language, travel to a brand new place, and then share something brand new with brand new people; that it's not only possible, but the exactly the thing to do. The Spirit changes lives. It has changed mine many many times, and each time I am continually awed by its power. 

I know that missionaries are here for a reason. If the church wasn't true, then its missionaries would have killed it ages ago. :) After all, most missionaries are 18-21 years old, and just out of high school or a year of college. Just a few months ago I had to ask to use the restroom. Now I'm completely responsible for my schedule, study, learning, and life. The church is true!! And because of Christ's Gospel and Atonement, children trying on the shoes of adults can become emissaries of the Lord, and angels doing his work. There is a plan, designed by God Himself. Of that I am absolutely convinced. That plan is known as the Plan of Happiness, and it has that name for a reason. It is the only thing that can bring true and everlasting happiness, and the only way that joy can be preserved. And sharing that plan with all who are willing to receive it is what it means to be a member of this Church. 

I'm so grateful for the chance that I have to serve a mission. Already. I look forward to every next day. Thank you all for your love and support, prayers and letters. I've felt every one of them, and they mean the world to me. Thank you. Please keep sending them this way. I love you all so very much. 


Elder Kennington

Some pictures he included today. He said his companion isn't in any of them because Elder Lofgreen is taking the photos. I need to get a little multi-card slot reader thing to him to make uploading photos easier. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

What? This Isn't a French-Speaking Mission?

August 9, 2014

Hola mi familia y mi amigos!

Now my Spanish vocabulary consists of not just buenos dias, but that as well! Unfortunately, that is about it for the moment... But that's ok. It will come (fingers crossed and arms folded!).

My companion is fantastic. Elder Lofgreen (yes mom, he's distantly related to some Lofgrens, I checked) speaks a lot of Spanish, having taken four years of it in High School. His favorite class was his AP Chem class. When he gets a song stuck in his head he whistles it for days (I'm still hearing the Indiana Jones theme from Thursday :) ). He talks in his sleep. And he is the best person who I could have had as a first companion. Driven to learn quickly, strictly obedient to the missionary handbook, and a connection to the Spirit that he's been forging for a long time. I love him to bits already.

It's been a wonderful first week. The days are very very long, but not in a bad way. They are simply crammed from 6:30 in the morning to 10:00 at night. That last half hour is the only time that things slow down. With classes, devotionals, study time, and mealtimes there isn't much time to think about anything else (aside from the fact that I'm still learning how to conjugate "ser", the Spanish verb for "to be"...). 

And I love it here. The Spirit is so strong wherever I go. From gym class to the evening zone devotional. The Gospel is true. I've known that my whole life, but I've not felt it so powerfully as I do now. Every thought, action, word, and inspiration is testament to the truthfulness of Christ's Gospel. It's wonderful, almost intoxicating, it's so powerful. 

One of the best stories I have so far in the MTC thus far (for, as I look back in shock, I've only been in here for three days) took place last night. The night before, in class, our teacher looked us in the eye and told us "By the way, your first teaching experience is tomorrow. You'll be teaching an investigator. And she doesn't speak any English whatsoever." 

I died. It was over. I was going to screw up because I didn't know any Spanish, accidentally say something that was worthy of getting me sent home, and then I would be excommunicated. I'd never make it to college, and I would be forced to live my life as a hobo until I died alone in a cardboard box. 

Ok. So I was overreacting at that moment, but even thinking about it now I feel justified in just how terrified I was. :) 

We got inside the door ok, Elder Lofgreen speaking the vast majority of the Spanish while I stood there looking "confident." We sat down, got to know Dani, and got the lesson underway. Of course, I didn't know when any of this was happening because the little Spanish I had picked up thus far had ran away. I had no idea what was going on. There was a minute where I zoned out trying to find a scripture for Elder Lofgreen, and naturally it was then that Dani chose to ask me a question. Noticing by blush, Elder Lofgreen told me that she had just asked me what I was looking for. I lost my head completely and responded to her question in French.

And as it turns out she is fluent in French. I have never been more grateful for the years and years of French classes I took. I was able to have a fantastic discussion with her (I was a little better at French than Elder Lofgreen was with Spanish, heh heh :) ), team teach with Elder Lofgreen, and was even able to bear my testimony with Elder Lofgreen in the end. 

As far as the lesson goes, it kinda bombed, as first lessons are supposed to go... As in we totally forgot to leave a commitment and set up a next appointment sort of bombed, but I still left it feeling elated. Up to that point I'd really been struggling with feeling a bit useless and way in-over-my-head. But it's ok now. I needed that opportunity. There is no such thing as mere chance. The Lord looks out for us. 

I'm running out of time right now, so I will have to wrap up this letter. My next email will include pictures, I promise! Thank you all for your prayers, I've felt them already. You're in my thoughts and prayers as well. 

I love you all!! 
Elder Kennington

P.S. Oh. A side note that I forgot to put into the update. My apartment room is basically the coolest ever. The ceiling is covered in glow in the dark stars. And I have the top bunk. So the mission is pretty much worth it for that alone. I'm going to start naming them tonight. 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The First Day

As far as first days go, it was really good! My apartment is great; six Elders in it, each companionship with their own room. My companion is Elder Lofgreen and he's great! He was very quiet for most of the day, but he's opening up a bit by now (it's evening). He's tall, slender, with four years of Spanish under his belt and a favorite school course of Chemistry.

The thing that has struck me most today is just how much I have to learn. I don't understand a lick of Spanish, am having a hard time comprehending my schedule, but already thoroughly enjoying myself all the same. Please pray for my ability to learn the language. I wanna speak Spanish but all that comes out is French!!

The Spirit is so powerful here it's intoxicating. Surrounded by super stoked missionaries all with a similar passion for the gospel...WOW! I can hardly believe just how focused the atmosphere is. I love it.

...Well...As it is the first day, and I'm supposed to be in bed soon, I'm gonna have to wrap up this letter now. I can type faster than I can write.  :)  Details about everyone in my dorm, the district/zone, and all others to follow!!

I love you all very, very much, and I miss you already. Dad, Mom and Bronwyn both cried so you lost the bet and owe me money. :)  Hope you're all ok!!!!

Elder Kennington

Thursday, August 7, 2014

How to Send Pouch Mail to Mexico

This information won't be useful for about six weeks, as Elder Kennington won't be in Mexico until mid-September, but I wanted to get it posted right away to make sure I didn't forget.

Sending pouch mail is a little different than regular mail. Senders can mail a letter that will be delivered to Elder Kennington in Mexico for the cost of a first class U.S. postage stamp, but the guidelines are very strict about what can be sent:

--One-page correspondence written on sturdy paper (notebook or other lightweight paper will not process through USPS machines) written on one side of the paper only

NOT Allowed:
--Multiple pages
--Anything added to the folded over letter

"Items not complying with the ... instructions will be returned to the sender, or discarded if the complete return address is not included." -- Elder Kennington's missionary packet instructions.

In order to send the letter for the courier to take to Mexico, here are the instructions as given in his packet:

Directions for mailing the letter
"Lay the letter blank side down. Fold the bottom of the letter about one-third of the way up the page and crease. Fold the top of the letter to the bottom of the first fold and crease. Secure the long side with two pieces of tape about one inch in from each end, but do not seal the ends. Write your name and complete return address in the top left corner. Affix first class postage in the top right corner. In the middle, write the missionary address..."  I've posted his pouch mail address to the right.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Elder OK Checks In

Today Owen entered the MTC in Provo, Utah.  He is so excited and so ready to go serve. We met Justin at Village Inn for a last piece of pie as a family. Owen was too keyed up to have anything except a lemonade. We drove up to the Provo Temple to take a few last pictures and to say our final good-byes because there is not time for that at the MTC curb. We met another couple with their youngest son also taking a picture on the east side of the temple. He is going to Montreal Canada on his mission, French-speaking. We traded taking family pictures for a moment.

The Drop Off was so efficient and organized. There are MTC staff and missionaries every few feet, on both sides of the drive. Along the sidewalk are numbered signs where families pull up to be greeted by a missionary host. Justin and I got out of the car with Owen to help him pull out his suitcases, give him a last hug, and watch him be escorted down the sidewalk. Four minutes and we were pulling away from the curb.

He is going to be so missed here at home, but he is where he is supposed to be and he is anxious to begin his service to the Lord.

The priesthood brethren who set Owen apart as a missionary.

Goofing off at Village Inn

Got the satchel...

...last hug from Dad... the suitcases....

....and he's off.
Check back here weekly to read about Elder Kennington's adventures in learning Spanish, the ropes of being a missionary, and serving the beautiful people of Mexico.