Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The First Week

(Here is our first email from Zach, he's been at the MTC one week. My comments or additions will be in parenthesis)
Well the first week has been a good one! Please forgive me for lack of proper English punctuation, I only have 17 minutes left to... scratch that, I've only got 14 minutes left on the computer and then I'll get booted out of my email. (Computer access is limited at the MTC due to the high number of missionaries waiting their turn, and so that the computer doesn't become a distraction to their studies)
The first day was really cool, we had to drop everything off at our residences, NOT DORMS, we can't call them that; the buildings have been set apart for the training of missionaries, and then all ~400 of us 'dotters' (newly arrived missionaries get a dot on their nametags) got all of our materials and were forced to walk around the campus, arms full of books, until we found our class rooms. Then we spent 2 hours learning Spanish. After that we had dinner and then we all went into a huge meeting room and were introduced by country/state of origin. It was cool, there were a few from Missouri and of course half the room stood when Utah was called. Elder Gerlach (he is Zach's MTC companion) and I are becoming better friends and companions and we both are struggling to learn Spanish. Mom as it turns our we may be related, since you printed me a 5-gen chart instead of a 4 we found that #55 C D B S Gerlach could be a relation to his great grandfather from Prusssia.  I'll have to send you his name soon, like before you fly back here to get it. I luv you mom.
Beyond that there isn't too much to talk about, we eat three square meals a day and have gym time for an hour everyday except pday (preparation day, Zach's p-day while at the MTC is Wednesday) and Sundays. We spend about 7 hours a day learning Spanish so I could probably out quiz Katie after 5 days! It really wipes you out though. If you could send me some envelopes and my black shin guards I would appreciate it. I had to get a Tdap Booster when I went through the immunization line so I'm sending an insurance claim form that they gave me. I'm betting that they won't pay it though because the church wants missionaries vaccinated every 5 yrs and the standard for that vaccine is 10 years. But just in case: we're blessed.
I'm gonna send you part of the pictures that I've taken and before I get kicked off, Dad do you remember who we ran into when we went to the temple  in St. Louis? I do his name is Cameron Hendricks and he is one of the 11 elders in my district (at the MTC the missionaries are organized into smaller, organized groups called Districts. Members of the district will follow similar schedules and meet together for classes), no one else in my district is going to Mexico-West.
hasta luega y vaya con dios

Monday, September 19, 2011

MTC, Branch #40

Dad, Zach and Mom in front of the Provo, UT Temple
Here's Zach's first letter to us from the MTC. It's a kind of form letter that he filled in the blanks and sent to us, with a note at the end:
Branch 40
Branch President: President Mortensen
1st Counselor: Brother Evans
2nd Counselor: Brother Russon
My companion's name is: Elder Gerlach
My companion is from: Campis, Utah
My address is: 2005 North 900 East, Provo, UT 84604
My mail box # is: 278
My Preparation Day is Wednesday (the only day I can write/email)
Quick note to family: Well, its' been fast! I got here and went straight into tours, firesides and meetings. I was getting tired and looked at my watch and it was only 3:15!! (We had dropped him off at 12 noon that day) But it was a very fun time and continues to be. The residence halls are actually pretty cool; we sleep four to a room in two bunks, huge banyos (bathrooms). And the coolest thing is a few vending machines one of which dispenses frozen pizzas and ice cream and any other cold snack you can think of.
My ensanaza (teacher?) is Hna. Breedlove; she served 20 months in Panama. It's an emersion class so we are all communicating through charades for now. We're going to teach an investigator, in Spanish, tomorrow morning.
Vaya con Dios, con amor
E.Z. Nelson
p.s. Any news on my passport? (it's back, fixed and has already been sent out)
(Also: is a great way to email a written letter to a missionary. There is no charge and your missionary will receive a printed copy, delivered to his mailbox at the MTC the same day you write.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

At the MTC!

FINALLY! The day Zach thought would never arrive. After spending the morning at the Provo Temple, we had him at the MTC right on time for his 12 noon report time. We had been properly prepared by our friends here in Sandy, and by others who have recently dropped off missionaries at the MTC. It was a quick at the curb, let us help with your luggage, take a few minutes for pictures and good-byes, he walks one way while we try to drive another with tears in our eyes!
He is excited about his mission, and to finally be underway.
Meanwhile, back on the homefront, good news! Grandma Nelson reports the new passport has arrived, and is in Jeff City waiting for us to forward it on to the MTC.
For those of you interested in writing to Zach, his address at the MTC is:

Elder Zachary Nelson
Box 278
Mex-MexW 11/14
2005 North 900 East
Provo, Utah 84604-1793

He'll be at the MTC until his departure for Mexico City, which should take place on Nov. 14, as long as his visas and travel permits are approved.
While at the MTC, he will be working on learning Spanish and learning the missionary lessons and practice teaching the gospel principles he will be sharing with others while on his mission.
Viya con Dios!

Headed for Provo and the MTC!

This morning marks the official first day of Zach's mission. We will drop him off at the Missionary Training Center (MTC) where he will begin his missionary training. The MTC is set up similar to a college campus with dorms, cafeterias and everything necessary to prepare missionaries for their service around the world. He will study with other missionaries, attend Spanish language classes (so much for all that French in high school!) and learn from the instructors about what to expect during mission life, many of whom are returned missionaries themselves.
In the good ole days, parents parked and walked their missionary into the MTC for a brief church service and farewell, with the chance to say goodbyes. With the on-set of the flu epidemic several years ago, the procedure was changed and now missionaries are dropped off curbside, after a few minutes to say good bye. Many we have talked to here who have dropped off Missionaries under both the old and new systems, prefer the new.
We've prepared, we've prayed (and I've shed a few tears already) and think we are as ready, and Zach is as ready as he can be. After a visit to the Provo Temple later on this morning, our Missionary will report to begin his labors. Mom and I have filled his suitcases with stamps and postcards, and his Uncle Ken and Aunt Patty made sure he had a supply of paper and envelopes. There's no excuse for not writing!
Today also marks the change over for this blog. It will no longer be a travelog of our adventures in Utah pre-mission. Once Zach reports, his mind, energies and efforts will be on his mission. As he writes and emails us, I will share his thoughts with you here.
A father's parting advice to his Mission-bound son: Know the people. Serve the people. Love the people!

Vaya con Dios a mi hijo. Te amamos y sabemos que va a hacer bien!

Bells Canyon and Final Preparations!

Tuesday was an all-around great day. Zach was the navigator and we let him set the course (and the pace) for what the day would hold. We packed lunches and headed out to the Bells Canyon Reservoir and the waterfalls that we had heard were above it. What a beautiful day for a hike!
The weather was perfect, our attitudes were in tune and off we went. In Utah, most of the hikes go up, so we had quite a few switchbacks as we gained altitude. This hike may seem tame to native Utahns, but to us it required a bit of effort. Once we made it to the reservoir, our efforts were rewarded!

Bells Canyon Reservoir
From the reservoir upward, the trail opened up for a while, but then turned upward and was strewn with more and more boulders, kind a mini-Elephant Rocks in many places, for those of you familiar with our park in Missouri. In many places we were right next to the stream that feeds into the reservoir, and its many riffles and waterfalls. Millie picked out a nice spot for lunch that had a great view, and then we headed back down.
We stopped back at FOB Westfall to check in before heading out to the Bingham Canyon Copper Mine. It's the largest of its kind in the world. It is a pit mine in operation since the earliest of the pioneer days, and the pit is large is enough it can be located in pictures of the earth taken by satellite. The driveway from the entrance gate to the mine itself is 6 miles long!
The open-pit mine
One of the interesting things we learned here was that Kennecott (the mining company) donated the minerals that made the gold, sliver and bronze metals for the Utah Winter Olympics, making the Utah games the first ever to have the medals made from minerals mined at the game sites.
From there it was a great meal at Cafe Rio, the best Mexican we've discovered in Utah, and a late night of preparations, laundry and packing and re-packing....tomorrow we're off to Provo.
Was a touching night to watch as Zach made phone calls to Kaitlyn, Charles, Ian and Isaak. As they will be at school tomorrow when we head out, this was Zach's last time talking to them on the phone til Christmas (as Missionaries are called to serve and commit to focus on the missionary work, they do so free of distractions from their labors. Phone calls home are twice a year: at Christmas time and on Mother's Day. We've talked and prayed about this, and are committed to helping our Missionary serve with honor!) We're not sure that Ian and Isaak really get it, but we have told them Zach will be gone and on a mission, and won't be coming home with us.
Millie and I have helped prepare him all we can, and he's continuing to be blessed from his decisions.
Tomorrow: to Provo!
Via con Dios

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

In and around Temple Square

Monday, September 12 was a day of adventure all around. Mom spent the biggest part of the day at the Family History Library. Dad tried, but the one roll of microfilm he needed about Denmark was apparently in use by someone else, as none of the Librarians could find it!
So, as a result, dad and Zach spend the day on tour. we discovered; the Church History Museum, the Church Archives and the garden on top of the new conference center. All were amazing!
Some of the things we learned:
The conference center will seat 21,000 people, and has been designed so that everyone can exit the building in a 15 minute time period;
The church archives are set up to provide secure storage of the church's important books, documents and films...for example: people have donated their pioneer families' journals, and they are all available for research by anyone who has the interest! It's set up as a giant research library. You ask for what you need, a librarian retrieves it and brings it to you. Zach's favorite was a 1600s Bible, all in the King's English, which was full of charts and graphs about how the ancient Priests determined when Easter should be. As it was all in Roman numerals, he tried to calculate next Easter to see if it would be held on the proper day!
We all enjoyed the church history museum with its artifacts, Utah history and all the different time periods of the church.
Tomorrow (Tuesday) will be our last day as tourists....Zach reports to the MTC on Wednesday.
Via con Dios!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Provo Canyon

We continue to play tourist!
Yesterday we headed south from FOB Westfall to Provo for a walk around of the BYU campus, a drive past the MTC to see Zach's future home and to begin to try and get a 'feel' for what Zach's time at the MTC will be like. Looked similar to a community college campus, adjacent to BYU. It's right across the street from the Provo Temple. After a fun morning on campus, we headed back to the northeast for a drive up Provo canyon and to see Bridal Veil Falls.
Zach and Millie at the Falls.
It was a great little hike, but almost straight up! From the Falls we continued up and through the canyon, stopped at Sundance for a look around (the lifts were closed due to lightning) and then past the Deer Creek
The mountains here are awesome
Reservoir and through Heber City on our way to Park City. All the rides were closed due to a light rain that had fallen earlier, but we were able to view some of the freestyle skiers as they practiced their aerial jumps and flips before landing in a big swimming pool at the bottom of the ski jump.
A great day ended on a down note, however as BYU, Utah and Mizzou all three lost their football games yesterday.
Kind of looking forward to Sunday being our day of rest. Heading to the church genealogy library on Monday to see what new info we can find out about our ancestors!
Via con dios!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

MTC or bust......

The Salt Lake City, Utah Temple
FYI: this is David, checking in from Sandy, Utah. For the next five days, Zach and I both will be the official 'webmasters' of his mission blog. Then, once he enters the MTC, he will yield those responsibilities to me so that he can focus on his studies, and the need to learn important Spanish, like 'donde est la banio?. As his Spanish is already way better than mine, I think he will do alright.
We landed in Salt Lake City Thursday afternoon, and have been the penultimate tourists ever since. We've been to: both Temple and Welfare Squares, the conference center, the tabernacle to watch the mo-tab choir practice, the Salt Lake temple, a couple of visitor's centers, Mr. Mac's (a thank you shout out to one of our new best friends Trevor...if you have any clothing needs, look him up at the Mr. Mac closest to Sandy, off of Redwood and he will hook you up!), the Red Iguana, the Old Spaghetti Factory and a couple of DI stores.
To Millie's pals at Columbia College: here's a pic
of her performing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir!
Have to take a minute here and share a heartfelt thank you to our host family, the Westfalls. We first met Elder Westfall when he was one of 'our' missionaries in Jefferson City. After enjoying him on his labors in central Missouri, and at his release at the end of his mission, he brought his family to Missouri on a tour of the places he had served. That, of course, included spending some time with the 7Nelsons gang, and  a new family friendship was born! Fast forward a couple of months, and when they found out Zach had received his call and we were coming to Utah, they invited us to stay with them. so, in a way we're now at FOB Westfall enjoying their wonderful hospitality, Sister Westfall's culinary talents, and trying to take in all Utah and beautiful Wasatch front has to offer.
We'll be off to Provo today to get a peek at the BYU campus and scout out the MTC for our Wednesday drop off. Millie has about had her fill of Utah Ute red (sorry Br. Mack) and needs to get back in the blue! There's possibly some biking and hiking trails in our near future -- so stay tuned!
Grandma Nelson is minding the home fires and the 4Nelsons left in Jefferson City. She's doing a fabulous job, the kids are happy and homework is getting done. All is well.
Back to the serious side of things: our time at the Salt Lake temple yesterday was an experience I could not have imagined. To be in that historic structure, enjoying all it represents while knowing the huge sacrifice that so many made so long ago so that I could enjoy it today is difficult to put into words. Millie says it is now her 'new favorite' temple....but she seems to say that each time we discover another one.
TTFN....or in the words of our new favorite elder: vaya con dios!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Rocky Road

Well I've been saying goodbyes and giving hugs, all while trying to stay dry amidst the tears of others. I've only had a little trouble trying to fit my bedroom into 2 suitcases,unfortunately it didn't work :( , but with help from my mom I think I fit everything in. All seemed to be going well until I found my passport card in my paperwork, and noticed a little flaw in the spelling . . . of my name, And since I shipped my passport to Utah, for my Mexican visa to be processed, we had to find out if it was also incorrect on my passport book (it was). So, my parents and I had to wait for Labor Day to end so we could call the appropriate peoples to get this sorted out. So far the outlook is decent, the people in Utah are going to overnight my book to me so I can get all of my paperwork together and I'll overnight it to the State Dept. to have a new Passport Book and Visa issued to me. The only problem with that is my new book and card will have new ID #'s on them. So the whole process of my Mexican visa application will have to be repeated. Which means that I probably won't get to Mexico by Thanksgiving . . . or Christmas. Either way it'll be a great experience, one I'm already learning from: i.e. double check documents before you submit them, and know how to spell your own name.

Until we meet again Via Con Dios,
E.Z. Nelson