Dear Friends and Family,
As you can see the last two post were a little tardy on my part. Recent shoulder surgery has slowed me down a bit and computer typing was slow to impossible. Now that I've regained use of my left arm again, I've manage to post Elder Shoemaker's last two letters. We did not have a letter on Christmas Eve, as we were expecting a call on Christmas morning and the Library, where Nate writes his letters was closed for the holidays.
We were all anxiously anticipating the phone to ring and promptly at 9:00 a.m. on Christmas morning we heard the melodious ring that we were all waiting for...
Nate: Merry Christmas Mom and Dad and Justin...(I started the crying here, but managed to bury it for most of the duration of the call)
It was so good to hear his voice. He sounds so OLD, but sounds very strong, upbeat and happy. He was actually in the car with his companion as the tin roof of their "barn house" prevents adequate cell phone reception. Elder Moses had just finished his call home and now it was Nate's turn.
We exchanged Christmas wishes and then proceeded directly to getting questions asked as Nate was very serious about keeping to his Mission Rules phone call length.
I had written down several questions the night before. These are some of the things we talked about.
How do you decide what tie to wear?
Nate: That is a tough thing sometimes. It depends on how I'm feeling that day and I try to think of what I've worn recently. I've put several ties into a box that don't wear or that are too flashy for the mission. I've also given many away at Zone Conferences to Elders in need or to other people. I've also packed away stuff I don't use or stuff I'm not allowed to have like the Nose Flute - Missions rules say no instruments. (LOL).
What are your wards like?
Nate: The wards in Texas are great. They really love their missionaries. One member here says if we need ANYTHING, not to call the mission pres or our parents, but to call him and he will take care of us. We've really been spoiled by members this Christmas - from goodies, treats, dinners to Gift Cards, money and presents. Texas is a pretty well-off area. Our apartment is owned by members who have a nice big house with a pool, not that we can use of course, but they are an amazing family. We are having Christmas dinner with them later. There will be 17 family members there. This is one family I will surely come back to see when I am off my mission. We are also heading to a part member home for dinner too.
Has the President's wife come to inspect the apartment?
Nate: Whenever I get to a new area, the apartment is pretty thrashed, so on P-day I give it a White Tornado (Mom's version of cleaning like a banshee). My apartment always looks good. The AIR WICK things are great. I left the room for a minute and came out and it smelled like sugar cookies when I came back. That was an awesome gift.
Did you enjoy the gifts?
Nate: The PJ pants are awesome. We found the Marshmallow guns will fit the nerf darts too, so that's awesome. The GPS saves us so much time. I've keyed in all our members homes and it really saves us time. We just ask for the shortest distance and we're off. Thanks so much. Some missionaries have them, but we got here and found our car didn't have it. The Mission Pres thinks they're great.
What are your District Leader responsibilities like? How have your companions been?
Nate: I call the other missionaries each week to get their reports (numbers) on number of discussions, contacts and so forth. I report this to the Zone Leaders. I also call them to see how it's going and to help where I can. I've had some companions who were not as motivated so it has been hard at times, but by the time there came a transfer I feel I helped them to be in a better place and feel like they found more motivation to serve.
Have you bought any Texas souvenirs?
Nate: So far, only my cowboy boots. I am still looking for a Texas flag. Oh and I was given a Texas license plate that says "Truckin". Lots of license plates are like that around here.
Are you a "truck guy" now?
Nate: I like trucks all right, but I think when I get home, I'll look for a more reliable car, maybe an Accord or a Toyota to get me back and forth from college. Is my car, I mean, the Sentra still running? I'm thinking of doing the Dave Ramsey thing and working and saving up to get a better car.
Have you gained or lost weight?
Nate: Well, remember I lost about 15 when I first got here. Since then I've put some back on, so I guess I'm up about 5 pounds since I left home. Elder Moses and I have agreed to start running for our exercise.
Do you have any after-effects from the rear ending accident?
Nate: Nope, I'm doing great. That accident was a pretty interesting thing though. It was a rainy evening and I remember hearing a prompting that told me to prepare and that we were going to get hit. As we were waiting for oncoming traffic before we could turn left, the lady in the Trailblazer behind us hit our right rear part of the car and sent us into another car. I had the impression to take my foot off the break and as it turns out, that was the best thing I could have done. The lady was pretty upset, as she had just picked up her car from the auto shop. It was still primered from her last accident doing the same exact thing. She turned out to be a less-active member too. It was interesting.
Do you have enough money each month to get by on?
Nate: Yes, plenty. I made us Christmas breakfast today. We've got some great deals here in Texas. I bought a gallon of milk for $1. And eggs are .39 cents a dozen.
Who cuts your hair?
Nate: There is a lady member here who cuts it for free.
Have you spoken in church or bared your testimony?
Nate: I've not spoken yet, but have had the opportunity to bare my testimony. I usually go to church on Fast Sunday with a decision already made to bare my testimony and I usually do it right away. On one Sunday before the elections, I had decided to testify, but the spirit said wait. My Mission President counseled us to always be prepared to testify in case the spirit leaves the room. A rather zealous member got a little excited over the elections to come and turned the testimony meeting in another direction. I promptly got up and was able to help restore the proper spirit to the meeting. Our Stake President was there and read from the handbook regarding elections and so forth. It was a pretty amazing experience.
What questions do you have for us?
Nate: Okay, so what's this NO MEAT/NO DAIRY thing with Spencer and Chelsey? NO MEAT really? (You have to realize Nate is in "Longhorn" country) Mom: It's called Vegan Nate, and yes they really are. It's a healthier choice for them. Nate: Yeah, I got some Christmas treats from them and .........the chocolate pretzels were good.
Nate: So Justin, what are your plans now that the mission age was set at 18 now? Justin: I'm not sure, I'm thinking of working or going to school. Eric Turner said it was a great experience to really learn more about the gospel with classes and stuff, but I don't know. I've been reading scriptures every day and have studied Preach My Gospel since you gave me that challenge on Mother's Day, so I feel like I'm getting pretty prepared already. I don't know for sure yet.
Nate: I have a favor to ask of you. Would you consider working with me when I get home? We could get up at 6:30 everyday and exercise and then have companion study time together. It would really help me to transition to home life and I could help you prepare for what it's like in the mission field.
Justin: Wow! I think that would be pretty awesome.
What have you learned about yourself? (This part is a little muddled, cause I started crying at this point)
Nate: (Basically said this...) I know that all things are possible through Christ. I know this is the foundation in which to raise my family and prepare for my future. I will have true happiness and eternal blessings from living all the standards of this gospel. (I know there was more, but it's very tender and special, so I'll let Nate share that on his own with you someday)
We were fast approaching the 40 minute mark so Paul asked Nate to share his testimony. It's a special moment to hear the power and conviction in his voice. He KNOWS the gospel is true. He's a witness to it everyday of his mission. He is an obedient missionary and has witnessed miracles and marvelous works in his service. He has had challenges, but knows he can overcome and helps others through his example and loving ways.
He hopes others will write to him and thanks those who have done so.
As his parents, we are overjoyed at his sacrifice and service. We knew the forty minutes would go quickly and wished for 40 more, but wanted to help him remain obedient - we only have to repent of a 2 minute and 34 second overage. LOL.
Hope you enjoyed his phone call. We surely did.
Counting the days till our next phone call - Mother's Day....