Thursday, September 24, 2009

The First Injury... Already?

Fourth Email from the MTC

Date: Thu 24 Sept 2009 1:00 PM

Hello family,

Well everything has been pretty good. Last Tuesday I did something really stupid, so stupid I don’t even wanna tell ya… ha-ha-ha. But I will tell you that my shoulder got hurt pretty badly. The MTC president’s wife, Hermana Wilson has been taking care of me, so it’s gotten a lot better. Well, this week has been crazy. Last Tuesday we said goodbye to an awesome group of elders and today we received a big group of new elders. I’m now the District Leader with the most time here. I get to conduct all the big meetings and teach a lot of lessons, which is awesome. My Spanish has been improving tremendously! Because of all the commotion and craziness of this week, they changed the schedule around a little bit. So yesterday we went Proselytizing! It was awesome. I taught the first lesson in Preach My Gospel 13 times to investigators on the street in Spanish! We were out for seven hours and were able to contact a ton of people. Out of the 13 lessons, I had about ten people commit to going to church this Sunday and I was able to give away three Books of Mormon and have people commit to read it! It was so awesome! I am starting to get used to this place, but sometimes it’s hard! For instance, yesterday I watched a pregnant dog get hit by a train and its back end was cut in half! It was pretty gross to watch. I wanted to help it, but there was nothing I could do and fearing I would get sick, I didn´t even touch it. So if you’re wondering if this place is different, the answer is YES! I didn’t think I liked the EPA until I got here where people just dump their trash all over the place and the streets smell like death. So I guess the government in America isn’t so bad when it is in moderation… ha-ha-ha. Well besides all of that, it’s been pretty good.  I’m having fun. I love to see the pictures you send me. I hope that package that you send me is small enough to go through customs without them seizing it. If it is too big, they will make me pay and the church doesn´t want to really bother with that, so I will never receive it. So I will just pray that I can get it and I’m sure it will come! Yes, if you’re wondering if my testimony has grown, I assure you that it has. This world we live in is amazing and so are all the billons of people who are on it. So amazing that I know that there had to be a God who made it all possible for it to happen! This gospel is amazing. It changes lives. I love you and I’m still alive. Today is the start of my fourth week on a mission. So keep me in your prayers and I will do the same.

Love your son, brother, uncle and friend

Elder John Sluder

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Butterfly Knife Saga Continues!

Third email from the MTC

Date: Thu 17 Sept 2009 1:07 PM

Hey guys what’s up!

So here’s what’s going on this week in my life. Every Saturday I get to go out tracting on the streets of Buenos Aires. Well last Saturday was crazy! My companion and I got sent to the most ghetto area! It seriously looked like a war zone! This apartment we were walking by caught on fire and people were running around really frantically, but no fire department showed up. There are packs of dogs everywhere and nobody speaks English which makes it even tougher. But it was still a blast and I loved being able to testify to those people who were willing to listen.

Argentina is crazy. Dad, if you thought Las Vegas traffic was bad; you should come check this place out. There are 13 million people here and there are no intersections, just round-abouts.

Well, pretty much besides that nothing really too exciting has happened. I can look forward to serving six more weeks here and then I go to Uruguay, which I’m much anticipating.

I can’t see any of the pictures you have sent me, but if you wanna send me a package here to the MTC do it. It just needs to be small, like very small. I see people getting packages here all the time. Put a couple of Snickers bars in it and also my butterfly knife please. A lot of missionaries are receiving knives from home, so don’t think I’ll be the only one to have one.

The people here are so kind and I love to serve them. I know that even though this is the hardest thing I have ever done, that I’m in the place the Lord intended me to be. I´m having a blast! Thank you for all your emails and your support. I love you all!

Elder John Sluder

P.S. Dad I did check my account, but I don’t really have any big purchases planned. I can’t really check my blog, but I think that’s great. I don’t think for now I can send any pictures, so when I get to Montevideo I’ll send you my memory card in the mail and then you can send it back or whatever you wanna do. I love you; oh and please send me my knife.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Elder Danger

Second email from the MTC... Sweet!

Date: Thu 10 Sep 2009 19:58:58

Hello every one,

How are you all doing! So this is my weekly thirty minute update to how I’m doing in the Argentina MTC. To be honest this experience has been the absolute hardest experience of my entire life. Every day I spend 8 to 12 hours learning Spanish in a small class room. Well the first night that I was here, the MTC President pulled me aside and said that he was inspired to call me as a District Leader. Wow! What an honor that was and what a blessing it has been in my life through this past week. I’m in charge of 7 elders and 3, soon to be 4 sisters. Me compañero es elder Stilwell and so far he seems to be absolutely great!

I no longer pray, testify, conduct class, speak in sacrament meeting, or teach in English… so everything in Spanish! I just got done going through my first session in the Buenos Aires Temple. It was done in Spanglish and for the first time I had to be pretty self-reliant. The people here are great and the food seems to be okay also... sorta... I have now eaten tons of cow tongue (the gift of tongues) and also lots of crab. The Latino Elders, who don’t speak any English, seem to like me. They call me Elder Peligro, which translates to Elder Danger. They claim that I’m the roughest fútbol player they have ever met! I play soccer with them every day and their foot work is just absolutely amazing, Fútbol is their passion. Me on the other hand, I run around and try to just kick the ball any direction as hard as I possibly can. But they say I’m pretty good for a North American and I’m always their first pick. I usually end up being one of the only white guys on the Latinos team. The people here are amazing and they are so funny.

The work has been quite hard and I’m trying to adjust to the fact that I can’t just do anything I want any time I want any more. But I will get better, that’s for sure. The spirit here is so strong and I have never felt so comfortable to pray. In fact I have never prayed this much ever in my life as I have here. Congrats Dad on your new calling! I know that they called you to be in the YM for a reason and I’m so happy for you. I have kept you guys in my prayers and I love you so very much! Mom and Dad, you are the best parents I could have ever asked for and I miss you. Once again I love all of you and miss you and thank you. God bless you.

Love, Elder Sluder

P.S. I only have thirty minutes a week to check and reply to your emails, so sorry if I didn’t respond to your emails, but keep sending em it was great to hear from you and instead I’ll write you back through the real mail system. Love you guys.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The First Email

The total flight time to Buenos Aires was about 13 hours. The first leg of John's flight departed Salt Lake at 3:00 PM and arrived in Dallas about 6:30 PM. He then transferred to his flight to Buenos Aires, which departed at 7:35. About 3 hours into his flight, he used the airphone to make a quick call home and let us know that he had made his flight and was on his way. In the morning, I was surprised to receive his first email saying that he had arrived. Here is the text of the email:

Hey Mom and Dad

I have landed safely and I'm now at the MTC. It's pretty interesting here! There is alot of stuff going on and everyone but me and my companion Elder Stilwell are busy, so now I have just a few minutes to email ya. Sorry about the knife thing in the airport... ha ha ha. It's just typical me I guess. I really had no idea it was in there at all. Well, I love you a whole lot and I'm doing well, even though I'm very tired. Well, thanks for everything. I will be able to email you every Thursday (which is my p-day), so just be ready for em I guess. Well, love ya and have fun!

Love, Elder John Sluder

Short and sweet, but very much appreciated by Dad.

Departure Day

Wednesday, September 2 was the dreaded "big day". We left the house about 8:00 am and drove into town so that John could say his goodbyes to Steven, Beth and the kids. Here is a cute picture that Beth took of John holding Luke.

We then headed south to Alpine, Utah for a quick visit with Pete and Terri. After leaving Pete's house, John wanted to go to Del Taco for his last fast food meal in the USA, a Double Del with Chili Cheese Fries. We got to the airport and checked in and still had an hour to kill, so we found a place to sit down near security. John's missionary traveling companions were also there. We got to meet Elder Stilwell's family from Provo. We also met the sister Missionaries and their families. I so appreciated the extra time we had to chat, but I mostly just sat there and fought back tears. The time finally came that we had to say our final goodbyes. As John entered the security check-in line, a very nice woman TSA employee said "Goodbye and thank you for your service!" to each of the missionaries. We watched as John went through the scanner and then noticed that the TSA agent had taken John to the side and was going through his carry-on bag. We could see John shrugging his shoulders, but we knew he had something in his carry on that was not allowed. It turns out that John had placed his butterfly knife in his scripture pouch a few weeks earlier and had completly fogotten about it being there. The agent brought us the knife as John mouthed the words "I'm sorry". I am so glad they were understanding and didn't arrest him.

Family Reunion and Temple Trip

In preparation for John's departure, we held our first Sluder family reunion August 3-8, 2009.
On the morning of Saturday the 8th, we went to the Logan Temple where John received his own endowment. In the afternoon, the entire family (including all 21 grandchildren) met in the historic Wellsville Tabernacle for a family testimony meeting. We had a wonderful time honoring John for his contributions to our family.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Saying Goodbye you know on the day they are born that someday they will reach that magic age of 19. You talk about it from the time they can talk. You start a mission fund. It's mentioned in every ordinance they receive from confirmation through the offices of the Priesthood. You know it's coming and yet when the day arrives, you're somehow not quite ready to say goodbye. Well... at least that's the way it was for me!

Bittersweet is the right word. Bitter and sweet at the same time. Bitter to realize that my little boy has become a man. Bitter for the sense of loss I feel from his absence from our home. Bitter to think that it will be two long years before I can hug him again. Bitter because everything I see around me reminds me of him.

And in the midst of all that bitterness is the sweetness. Sweet from the joy I feel at his worthiness to serve the Lord. Sweet for his willingness to leave every comfort he has to go to a foreign land. Sweet for his obedience to follow our savior. Sweet for the wonderful experiences I know he will have. Sweet because I know in my heart that he is ready. Sweet because I know there are people out there who have been waiting for Elder Sluder.

This blog is my way of dealing with the bitter part. It's dedicated to my son, the missionary, but it's really for me and my therapy. I will post his weekly emails and letters. I will post pictures that will help to document his adventure as a missionary in Montevideo Uruguay.  Family and friends are welcome to share as well.

Some of the greatest things that have ever happened to me began with a goodbye to someone or something. I have trust in the Lord that this goodbye will lead to some of the choicest blessings in our lives.