Oa mai outou? (How are all of you?)
We can't believe that we have been in Pago Pago for two weeks!!! We have tried everyday to post, but have been so busy since we got here that today (8/11/12) is the first day we have had a minute to breath and reminisce on the last month...
What an incredible month it has been. We entered the MTC on Monday, July 9th. The Spirit there is so strong, and we loved every minute we spend there. The first week we had training from Preach My Gospel and even the role playing wasn't so bad. We were kind of nervous, but it all went well. We had some awesome people in our district and after just a few days we felt like life-long friends. We were all going to different parts of the world and it was so great to hear their stories of how they got their calls and what experiences each of us had to go through to finally get on our missions.
Our District In the MTC
There were two other couples that were going to Samoa. Each of us going to different islands. They are doing ITEP missions - training the teachers in the church owned schools to become certified through BYU Hawaii. Elder and Sister Spencer will be living on the island of Uplou in the Church Compound where the temple and mission headquarters are. Elder & Sister Budgett will be on the island of Savaii at the church school in Valoia. Savaii is the least modernized of the three islands and probably has the most challenges when it comes to getting food and supplies. In fact, they have to go by ferry to Uplou to do their shopping.
Elder & Sister Budgett, Elder & Sister Spencer, Elder & Sister Jordan
While at the MTC we had four teachers (young returned missionaries) who did the training. We all had one thing in common - the name Jordan. Jordan Gardner (our language trainer - since March), Jordan Hepworth, Jordan Knowls and Jordan Harker. We all got a chuckle from that - so of course we had to get a picture of all the Jordans....
The "Jordans" have taken over the MTC
One of the highlights was the devotionals (Tuesday and Sunday evenings). The senior missionaries had front row seats, and all the young missionaries sat behind us in the bleachers. So we could look behind us and see a sea of white shirts. They have a MTC choir that provides a musical number and it was awesome to hear them! We had Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone speak to us one night and Jennie Oakes Baker talked. She also played her violin and had her four children perform as well. It was so great! But the highlight of each devotional was when we all sang "Called to Serve". When we turned around and saw all of those young missionaries and felt their strength and spirit we were both crying... What a blessing to be part of that special group of young men and young women!!!
Our air conditioner was not working in our room and the first night it was about 85 degrees. They brought us a fan to use until they could get it fixed and that helped a lot. After a couple of days they informed us that they were not going to be able to have it fixed and offered a room in the Marriott. We both looked at each other and said we would put up with the heat - because we didn't want to leave the environment of the MTC. The spirit is so strong there - almost like being in the temple. In fact one of the senior missionaries described it in her testimony as "like being in the temple with angels."
We were in the MTC for a week and a half, leaving on Wednesday evening. We spend the next few days with Michael and Michelle in their home in Draper. We flew out of Salt Lake on Monday afternoon (July 23rd). We were scheduled to fly out on the 20th, but were able to change the date to the 23rd so we could attend our beautiful granddaughter, Jessica's wedding on Saturday the 21st.
Monday the 23rd we spent a tearful morning saying goodbye to our family who couldn't make the airport. Jeff and Judy McNeil, our long time friends picked us up with ALL of our luggage and delivered us to the airport about 2:30 PM. We had a tearful farewell with the rest of the family, Todd and Teresa, Devin, Rhythm, Mike and Alicia's and their girls, MeKenna, Lexie, Ellie, and Anna, my sister Kathy and Mom. Even though we were excited to go, it was hard to say good-bye!
We left Salt Lake at 5:00 - flew into Los Angeles and had a lay-over until about 9:00. We flew out on New Zealand Air. A funny thing happened while we were in the airport. We got up to the counter to check in - and all of a sudden all the people behind the counter just walked into the back room. When we asked where they were going we were told they were going on break... There were about 50 people in line waiting to be checked in. I guess that is why they say arrive at the airport early! ONLY in Los Angeles. We all had a great laugh. We were on the plane with 6 elders and a sister who were going to the New Zealand Mission. They had been serving in San Bernardino for 3 months while waiting for their visas. The sister missionary was at the counter checking-in when the 'walk-out' occurred. One of her bags was too heavy, and they just left her there, with the bag on the scale and told her to adjust the contents of her bags so they were come in under the weight limit. So there she was with both bags open - one on the scale and the other on the floor, trying to move things from one to the other... She finally made it, with the help of the mission president's wife. What an experience... It was great to be on the flight with them and see their excitement at finally being able to go to their assigned mission. One of the elder's got so excited - you could tell it was his first flight and he was taking it all in.