[I feel it appropriate for the last MTC pictures to be of those near us. All missionaries learning small European languages were crammed on one floor, so right around us, we had Lithuanians, Armenians, Greeks, Czechs, Finnish, Estonians, etc. We also lived by the Lithuanians, Armenians, and Greeks, so we grew closest to them. Here are the Greeks, minus one who I will show in a moment. From the left: Elders Okazaki, Dundee, Southwick, Hickey, Valgren. Elder Dundee was from Sweden, and Elder Valgren was from Denmark (I believe).]
[The fellow on the bottom left is Elder Okazaki. He was very toned, and showed us why: he ran an exercise ring before bed each night. It was conditioning, and so you didn't sweat like crazy, but you hurt pretty badly after each session.][The Armenian-speaking missionaries. They were our zone leaders (meaning they made sure that all Latvians, Lithuanians, Greeks, and Armenians got where they were supposed to go when they were supposed to be there, and their classroom was right next to ours, so we often ran into them. From left to right: Elders Judd, Kruger (sp), I don't recall his name (sorry, sir!), and Beus. We didn't associate as much with them as with the Lithuanians and Greeks, but they were all fantastic!]
[This is a very popular MTC picture: stand by the world map, and stab the lace you're going to serve with your finger. This is the Baltic missionaries with whom we often associated and lived with. From the left: Elders Fitzgerald (an amazing storyteller due to his general talent for words), Newman (a band buff who played lower brass instruments and who often thought quite deeply on various topics), Sisters Thomas (very kind-hearted, softspoken, and spiritually powerful), Melchin (very obedient, focused, and dedicated), Hagen (very skilled with the language in the MTC, a fantastic singer, and hillarious), and Knight (artistic, quiet, determined), Elders Davis (kept largely to himself, but worked hard), Brown (one of my dearest friends), Argyle (me), and Nelson (super hilarious, yet softspoken, so every time he cracked a joke, you usually had to think about it for a little bit before you realized what just happened).]
Ok, I just typed an email, but because myldsmail is a terrible program, my email was deleted. [Note: right at the end of my mission, the church contracted Google to replace their dreadful Novell system. So now, the church basically runs a closed circuit of Gmail. It's not so terrible anymore.] So, very quickly:
I made huge advancements in the language this week. Talking with Elder Lepeshkin (the native Latvian), he told me that I speak very well for only learning it 9 weeks, and that he could understand me. He also spoke at me, and on the second hearing I could usually understand a little more than half of what he said.
I also have made some big leaps in Spiritual knowledge and conviction, and in my desire to share the gospel. I leave in 6 days from today, and here are my plans:
7:13 Leave Salt Lake City, UT.
11:22 Arrive in Chicago/O Hare, IL.
Hang around for 4 hours, then
15:30 Leave Chicago/O Hare, IL
6:55 Arrive in Frankfurt, Germany
Hang around for 3 hours, then
9:45 Leave Frankfurt, Germany.
12:55 Arrive in Riga, Latvia.
So, folks, I will be calling you while in Chicago. I will not be calling in Germany because I don't know the international rates or codes. I have also been named the group leader for the 16 Baltic bound missionaries. At first, this excited me! But then i discovered I was only selected because my name is the first on the list. Oh well. But, i have issued (and will soon issue to the 3 Estonian and the 3 Russian-speaking missionaries) a challenge to place 3 pass-along cards, and a Book of Mormon each per missionary per airport. I'll report on that in 2 weeks, methinks.
P-days are on Wednesdays in Latvia, so my emails will come then, rather than Thursdays as they have been.
Also, my new address is:
P.O. Box 30150
Salt Lake City, UT 84130-0150
Melnsila Iela 3-1
LV 1046 Rīga, Latvia
[The above address is no longer valid for Latvia, as the mission home moved to Cēsu iela.]
Please note that letters may be delayed up to 8 weeks (as I don't get mail until I see the mission president, and I see him every 6 weeks (or we try to). And mail may take up to two weeks to arrive there. This includes pouch and DearElder.com notes) as will smaller packages. Larger ones may take up to 3 months (they usually take no more than 4 weeks, but sometimes they can be held up) and are all subject to being opened and searched. Ask my folks for the work-arounds for this.
I love you all!