Tuesday, February 26, 2013

First email contact from Pittsburgh

Jarrod and I are still trying to figure out the best way to communicate with each other. It turns out we were both emailing each other at the same time yesterday - and read each others’ messages after our initial email to the other. Confused? Join the club! Apparently he’s written me a letter that I should be getting pretty soon. I’m hoping that in the letter he will tell me where he is located in the PA area, because he didn’t mention it in his emails. Here’s the most pertinent thing that he wrote (besides the photo information):
“if you wanna send another care package, don't forget schick hydro razors. those come in handy! also heath bars :) i keep wanting to text or call you about these things but i CAN'T! ahhhhhh annoyiiiing. oh well. i seriosly like it better without a phone but being able to send those quick little messages are a major blessing. be grateful for the little things like that. and being able to eat whenever you want. and usually being able to buy whatever you want without thinking about it for 2 years if you're gonna need it or not. ah! some of these will seriously stress you out. but with prayer and scirptures i'm sane. love you”
Here are the photos he sent me. The tall guy in the center is one of Jarrod’s friends from St. George. Elder Bryce Brindley. I can’t remember where he’s going. Cousin Bekki Brau somehow figured out when he was going to be at the temple and was able to run over and meet him there. I think that girl is magic! (And they have the same nose!!) MTC Pic of a group of them All of the guys in our district the last night with our zone leaders. (maroon shirt in the back and super tall blue shirt) Bekki knows him from school! And lastly - in Pennsylvania! All the PA missionaries from the MTC together. getting in the field Feb. 18th and getting our comps/areas on the 19th

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Flight from the MTC

Jarrod flew out from the Salt Lake City airport early this morning and safely arrived at the mission home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I have only received two quick letters from him this last week, and two short emails. He didn't share too many adventures, except flirting with some of the Sister missionaries. On Valentine's Day they were at the temple, and there was one sister that was quite good looking. With much encouragement from the guys, he got down on one knee and asked her to be his Valentine for the day! All in good fun! I can tell he is really enjoying himself, since he is being so silly in his letters... usually his address to me ("Maaaa!", "Yo!", "Mother Dear") Mostly he's talked of who he's received letters from (Thank you, everyone who has written him! He has loved it!) and how terrible it is not to hear from his mother and father! (Chicago mail to Utah is really slow!! That's my excuse, anyway!) Oh, they had snowball wars with a neighboring district (in which the elder that was from St George and played lacrosse with Jarrod, Elder Angell). Apparently there was some floor/ceiling banging going on. He also listed some of his favorite treats, if anyone would like to send packages: Oreos, Twix, Milky Way, Starbusts, Charleston Chews, gum, etc. Although, he's not a huge junk-food eater (must have some dominant West genes there because he sure didn't get that from his mother!), so if you'd like to send him some healthy snacks, I'm sure he wouldn't complain. Jerky is good, fruit snacks.... ? His last letter to me said there was a possibility he could call from the airport if he had time, so he hoped I didn't mind a 4 am phone call! Of course, I woke up at 4 and waited and dozed and waited some more! He called at about 9 am, during his layover in Denver! When they arrived at the Salt Lake City airport they had just enough time to check in and board the plane. He said his luggage didn't go overweight and they checked in his carry-on since it was a smaller plane. He was able to get a phone card that had just a few minutes free on it, so we didn't speak long. He was doing great. 20 elders and 2 sisters were heading out to Pennsylvania. He said there were about 80 leaving to California!! He said he has a lot of pictures, but has yet to post anything. I don't think he had enough time on the computer to be able to post anything. He saw a lot of friends in the MTC, including his cousin, Jake Whitney. He sends his love to everyone! I got this short note from the Mission President's wife: Dear West family, Just a quick note to let you know your missionary made it here safe and sound. We are so excited to have him here with us in PA. Thanks for sharing him with us for the next little while. We will try and take very good care of him. much love, Sister Topham

MTC Drop-Off

Jarrod and his dad caravaned with me from St. George to Provo, the morning of January 30, 2013. He went with Stephen until we got to Meadow, Utah and switched off to arrive in Provo with me. The plan was to meet with some more West family at a restaurant there, have lunch, then drop him off. As we were walking in, we were hollered at - by Elder Angell... a kid that Jarrod played lacrosse with in St. George. We'd seen him the night before since he was the elder that was set apart right before Jarrod was. (There were a total of 6 that night from Jarrod's stake.) They just happened to arrive at the same time as us and decided to go to the same restaurant as us. His drop off was a half hour before ours, though. We enjoyed a long lunch with Aunt Michelle, Uncle Jim, Bekki (cousin), Grandma Sloan (West), and Stephen's Aunt and Uncle, Nancy and Robert West. Funny little story: when the fam arrived, Bekki rushed to Jarrod and threw her arms around him - but he held his arms straight out... I was so confused at what he was doing - until it dawned on me - HE CAN'T HUG GIRLS!! He was being very good at keeping the rules!! Jim and Bekki needed to head back to their classes at BYU (Jim is a professor of finance, and Bekki is in her freshman year there). Bek was heading back to her mission prep class, but wanted to go with Jarrod to the drop-off point. As we were trying to figure out the logistics, they got the brilliant idea to have Jarrod go along with them, since it was mission prep! We coordinated it to work out a pick up point and Jim accompanied, so that Jarrod would have a companion with him. Stephen, Grandma, and I drove to pick them up.... they'd had a great time! Jarrod said there were a ton of cute girls there! He enjoyed that quite a bit! So we headed out to the drop off point, to do the deed! Showing just a little anxiety. Back of the line to drop off our missionary. It took five minutes to get to the point to turn into the entrance. . They have a guard station where they check to make sure you do indeed have a missionary in the car. Then they directed us to turn the corner and follow the guides... This young gentlemen was enjoying the time to practice a few little entertaining dance moves. The welcoming elders on the sidewalk are mostly elders that are going to foreign-speaking missions and are therefore in the MTC longer than the English speakers. We were directed to an empty spot at the curb and everybody piled out to give their last hugs and snap a few last shots. He rushed the hugs and went to go...but he'd forgotten one person. His mama. He quickly turned at my little mew of, "Jarrod?" And he gave me a bear hug, and we forced back the joyful tears and he was happily on his way!

The farewell

I should have posted this one first, since it happened before his setting apart... but that would only have made too much sense. So my apologies. Jarrod was set apart as an Elder on January 13, 2013, by his father, Stephen West. He then went through the temple for the first time to receive his own endowments the following Saturday, January 19, 2013. That was a very sweet experience. His dad was his escort, and he was privileged to have his Grandma Sloan (West) there along with his Aunt Michelle Brau (Stephen's sister) and her husband, Jim. There were many other members from the Morningside 3rd Ward there, as well as his friend, Jafid Garcia and another young sister (can't remember her name) who was almost ready to leave on her mission. There were a lot of the West family members that came down from Northern Utah: Grandma, Vickie Sloan, Aunt Rhonda Granquist and her daughter, Annie (along with her husband and baby). Then Stephen's sisters all came: Michelle and Jim Brau and their kids, Mari and Dan Topham and their kids, Jeanna Bromley (and her kids - Beau had to work and couldn't come), and Suzi and Tom and their kids. Steve and Kristi hosted an open house that night for family and ward members. The next day, Sunday January 20, 2013 Jarrod spoke in church along with another young man that was set to leave on his mission the week after Jarrod. It was a packed house... the gym was filled with chairs all the way to the back. The front two benches were filled with young men that were friends of Jarrod's. The sides had family friends from other wards and work. And then all the family took up at least another two rows. There were a lot more friends behind, but I couldn't see them. Jarrod spoke first. He did some little hand thingy to start with just to be silly, but quickly got serious. It's really kind of funny, but I don't remember the topic of his talk... I think it was becoming converted? He read a little bit at first, but then talked of his own conversion. I will try to remember as best I can: He said he really didn't have his own testimony for a long time. There was a an experience that really stuck with him, though. It was a youth conference going to the Manti Pageant and they were approached by protesters. He said he had no idea what to say, but his friend, Vea Fakahua, seemed to have all the right answers. He was impressed by that, but one of the man's questions stuck with him since then. It was something along the lines of how we couldn't have a modern day prophet or the Book of Mormon, that it had to be false. A while later, during scripture time with his dad they read Mormon 9:8-10..." 8 Behold I say unto you, he that denieth these things knoweth not the gospel of Christ; yea, he has not read the scriptures; if so, he does not understand them. 9 For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing? 10 And now, if ye have imagined up unto yourselves a god who doth vary, and in whom there is shadow of changing, then have ye imagined up unto yourselves a god who is not a God of miracles." This answered the man's question and witnessed to Jarrod the truth of the Book of Mormon. And then he continued with another experience in which his dad challenged him to think of what his big question in life was at the moment and that his questions would be answered in Conference the following weekend. (The fateful October 2012 conference!) He said that Stephen's questions kept popping up in his head and wouldn't let him alone. And as he was thinking of it, he realized that he needed to decide whether or not he really was going to serve a mission. The next morning he was awoken by his mother's text..."Can you hear conference right now? Did you hear what they just announced?!!!" He said during the break in between sessions he felt he should read his patriarchal blessing, and it said straight out that he would be called to serve a mission. He had his answer... He called the bishop a bit after conference and the bishop's response was, "Jarrod, I've been waiting for your call." He bore his testimony that he knew of the truthfulness of the Gospel and wrapped it up. After the meeting he invited his friends over to his dad's house for some food, and he had quite a crowd! It was a sweet thing to see how many of his friends were there in support of him - and how many friends he had! Kind of crazy!

Set apart to be a Missionary

Jarrod West was set apart as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on January 29, 2013 at 8:15 pm. He had a number of friends and his immediate family there. The family includes me (Mom, Lisa Szymanski), his Dad, Stephen West, his brother Charlie West, and his stepmother, Kristi West, and step brothers, Riley and Tanner Eaton. President Richards of the Morningside Stake set him apart. The circle consisted of the stake president, his dad, and two of his friends, Jafid Garcia and Patrick Nilsson. He was blessed a number of times to be kind. He was blessed with love and patience and obedience. He was told that he would be an example of obedience and that he would be one that his mission president could trust. He was also blessed with safety from number of things that could go wrong. (I was very comforted by that!)And he was also told that he would bring many souls into the church. After he was set apart, Jarrod gave me his first blessing, with the aid of the Stake President. He blessed me to have the Spirit with me and that the Holy Ghost would lead me and I would know what I need to do. Very short, simple and sweet. We drove his friend's home and then visited with the Christiansen family in our ward who had lent me their car while I was there. We were there for a bit and then took Patrick home. We returned to the house and Jarrod's friend Matt Jennings (aka Jungle) came to visit. I said goodnight and left Charlie and Jarrod at their dad's for their last night together. It was a sweet evening.