Monday, July 26, 2010

Service Softens Hearts (and bears everywhere!)

Dang! That's awesome that Cody finally is taking off on his mission! With all his baseball stuff, it seemed like he had to wait so stinking long!

Well, life is going well here in Valdez! The bears are really starting to get crazy around here now. When I first got here people said "Oh yeah there's bears all over during the summer," and over the past few months I've seen quite a few, but most of them were from a distance - they were in their respective habitat and I was in mine.  But the bears are really going nuts now! I have seen 3 in town, like 50-feet away from people's houses, even just wandering down the road. Most of them are black bears, so it's not as big a deal as a grizzly, 'cause black bears are usually more afraid of people than we are of them. But grizzlies, they are the man-hunters and there's tons of them in town! The city sets up bear traps. They look like a huge barrel with a trap door that slams shut when the bears take the bait. When caught, they take them up to the dump, shoot them, and just dump them. It's kinda sad, but once a bear has started to feed on human food they become a huge danger to everyone.

Here in Valdez, they have garbage pickups twice a week, but the bears still get into the trash cans. You can tell when it was a bear, because they just crush the can to get the lid off. So you will be driving down a street and just see can after can crushed. It's pretty crazy. I'm considering investing in some bear spray but it costs $35 per canister! Bears are awesomely scary. They are nimble like a small dog just bouncing and sprinting around. And they can run freaking fast! There's a story in that Saints In Alaska book that I sent home that talks about a guy using his priesthood to rebuke a bear. It's a pretty funny story!

Thank you so much for the pictures from Inconnu! That is so exciting that Poot caught a fish on a fly rod! In fact, all of you guys did! That's pretty stinking cool! Pootie can try to tell you that's his first fish but I know we have pictures of him with fish from rainbow lake and from the family fishing pond! I feel that excitement when I see those pictures! DUDE M.'s lake trout is HUGE. Not quite state-record huge, but stinking big!  It must have took some skill to bring that one in on an ultralight. I actually bought an ultralight rod and reel a few weeks back, it was an okay one, an Abu Garcia combo, but I broke the rod so I went back to the place I bought it, and I'm pretty friendly with the owners, so they hooked me up with a much nicer, $80 Rapalla ultra light for $10. It's always an awesome fight with those ultralight rods. Yeah, totally not Poot's first fish, maybe the first one he can remember though! I also liked the picture of grandpa in his waders. I hope you had an awesome time.

I love helping people fish! Especially when it is their first fish! I remember one time when we went fishing to the family fishing pond with our scout troop as deacons and we were all helping people fish and I helped Garth catch a fish! He was so excited! Catching the big one is always awesome, but nothing is as gratifying as helping someone catch their first! That excitement is universal!

I hope you guys enjoyed being out in nature like that too! I still vividly remember many of my adventures that I had while at Inconnu. Dad was awesome about letting me and C. dictate the day's adventure, and he even let us do our own thing. One of the things I remember is driving one of those little skiffs with just me and C. Dad was usually with someone else in the other one following us, but still that was pretty crazy. I remember one really warm day when C. and I just hung out at the lodge and used the hose and slid down a muddy hill in sleds. It was awesome! I'm sure it really stressed grandpa out, but it still was one of the funnest things we did. I also remember going to a few of the streams that fed into the main lake and making fish traps with C. using rocks. I love nature. I'm glad you guys had a good time. Keep it up. Buy yourselves a pole and keep on fishing!

The missionary work here in Valdez is picking up and as always we are staying plenty busy with tons of service. Rain or shine we are usually doing service of some kind and it is opening up tons of doors! Service is amazing because it is a very direct way to show our love for people! And it is an undeniable thing. People see us helping their friends and their attitudes towards us change instantly. I cannot really divulge the details of the work, because of the sensitive nature of it, but it helps so much. The best part is that it helps me love the people that I am serving even more! I gain more understanding, more charity, and my faith in them grows, as does theirs for me. They begin to love me and I them - I am able to share the source of my love, of my light of my charity. And because they love and trust me, their hearts and minds are open. That is the beauty of missionary work; getting lost in the love. And because of my willingness to share the gospel, my willingness to just open my mouth and say what I would want anyone to say to someone that I love, my Heavenly Father blesses me with more opportunities to serve and to open my mouth.

I truly love Valdez and I have grown to love the people here, as I love my own family. It is my desire to help them make their families eternal, and to bring that joy that only the Savior's Atonement can bring to people's lives.  This fuels my efforts. I strive to become more like Christ; I want to be His hands. And as I get better at seeing through His eyes, I am becoming better at seeing the opportunities to share my love. I am so grateful for the chance I have had to serve in Valdez.

I found myself laying in bed, nervously contemplating the idea of getting transferred. A new start. New people to learn to love and serve. I would miss this area so much, and I hope I don't get transferred because I love to see the progress of these people! But I trust the Lord. I have faith that wherever I am sent, is where I am needed. I will go anywhere. And I realized that my love for the people of Valdez is not reserved for just the people of Valdez, but is a reflection of my love for my Savior, and it is for all of God's Children. I hope to maintain this love, because it is what helps me work beyond exhaustion. I will go where he needs me, and will always love Valdez.

I know the Lord has a lot in store for me. I know that he wants me to continue to grow, which means adversity is near in my future. I hope that I am ready, but I know with the Lord's help I can overcome all things. The greatest joy comes when I take a step back and look at the people here that I have interacted and worked with, and how far they have progressed. Overwhelming gratitude fills my heart. This is what the work is all about!

Well family, friends, I love and miss you. God be with you.


Elder Winterrose

Monday, July 19, 2010

Six New Investigators (and Fishing too)

So, First Item of Business...

Last Saturday I helped a bunch of the families in our branch fish for the kids derby. It's a fishing tournament for kids under the age of 14, and guess what! I caught the winning fish in a division and the 2nd and 3rd place fish in two others! Well, I at least hooked the fish, and let the kids reel them in. It's pretty sweet, cause they have some awesome prizes, like they were giving away skateboards and longboards. One of the kids I helped got a complete element skateboard with trucks wheels and everything. It was a blast.

We have also been helping the members install a snow-melt system on the roof of our building, it's been fun. And the work is going fast!

The missionary work has been picking up as well. Our teaching pool has grown and we now have 6 investigators that we are working with who all show promise. Will they accept the Gospel? Only time will tell...

We have been struggling to contact some of them and to arrange times to teach them because of their jobs. People here work odd shifts, 12 hour days for one week straight from 6 to 6, in a week-on, week-off schedule, swapping night and day shifts. OR they work over at the cannery and are super busy anytime there are fish coming in!

You talked about that guy that grandpa's friend knows helping people make $10,000 in 10 days, that is like every single summer job in Alaska! I am seriously contemplating coming back to Valdez the summer after my mission because I could get a job as as a deckhand on a seiner (a fishing boat) and make between $20,000 to $40,000 working July through August. That is a very conservative estimate too! This year most of the people are making almost $60,000 per person on most of the boats.

So I sent a few packages home, you should be getting them soon. I put some of the salmon that I smoked in there for you guys!

I'm pretty jealous of the brothers getting to go to Inconnu.... but no worries! (Haha) I get to live the dream for the next few years! They are going to have a blast! I had forgotten how much fun fishing was, before I came up here.

Life is going pretty well here overall. I love this city and I really love Alaska! I am so grateful that the Lord chose me to serve here! It's like getting picked for the winning team! Epic snowfall in the winter, epic fishing in the summer... Alaska is the only place where you could use "Epic" to describe almost everything and it would still be a gross understatement!

I miss you guys! I miss my brothers tons! I saw the pictures of Bryson and the girls in the newsletter and initially thought "Balla!!!" till I realized it was my cousins..... Hahah, it's so weird to see how everyone has grown up!

Well I love you all! And I hope for the best for you!

God be with you till we meet again!

Elder Winterrose

Monday, July 12, 2010

Fishing, Catching and Predators : )

Hi Family and Friends!

Today has been wonderful so far! My comp and I woke up early this morning and got out to go fishing at 7:00 a.m. It was one of the best days of fishing I've ever had. It's hard to even call it fishing because you hook a fish nearly every time you cast. It's really not good for my fishing patience though. I start feeling like I'm having to wait forever when it takes more than two casts between fish. It's so stinking much fun.

The salmon that we are fishing for are Pink Salmon. Some of them are good Sea Bright ones that are good to eat, but more and more are looking like they are in the early to mid stages of the spawning transformation where their flesh turns white instead of pink and starts getting all mooshy. I caught a huge one today though, it weighed 8 and a half pounds. That's a pretty huge pink. I haven't actually seen any others bigger than that one. The state record though is like some freak behemoth fish at 14lbs. Anyways, so we fished for 3 hours and caught around 40 - 50 each. We have eaten so much salmon that I can't even stomach any more of the Pinks, I'm always game for Red (Sockeye) and King (Chinook) as long as they're fresh and free! We only ended up keeping 4 fish then we went and filleted them. I'm getting pro at filleting fish, I've done ~100 this last week between my own catches and helping people fillet their fish. One of the fish cleaners down in the harbor taught us how to fillet them right! In the 30+ years he's been doing it he's filleted more than 200,000 fish! A lot of them are freaking huge ones too! Today was all about catching fish though, not keeping it.

We went to the Solomon Gulch Fish Hatchery and fished down stream from the hatchery. Then when the tide was way out we went down along the river that runs through the tidal flats and just caught fish after fish after fish! It was an awesome morning. That whole area is pretty awesome though because all that food in one area brings in the coolest predators! Orcas, Sea Lions, Sea Otters, River Otters, Black Bears and Brown Bears! And tons of tourists! We contact so many people each day just because we are polite and helpful, the other people usually even start the conversation! We are also able to donate our fish that we catch to the local food bank! It's awesome because we get to do service by fishing. Service and contacting - all while enjoying nature and some of the best fishing it has to offer. It really is wonderful.

I'm sending some pictures of my comp and I! That reminds me...? Did you ever get my memory card? Are you sending it back?

Well... I really miss you guys. It freaks me out how much all the brothers have grown since I've left. It's also weird to think that I am already 4 months into my mission.

This guy drives around town and has the biggest malamute I've ever seen. His dog is a beast. I want one like it.

Well shoot............ it won't let me attach more than one picture per email. Freaking stupid.... Well here comes a few emails and an explanation of the pictures! Haahah.

Well the work here is going slowly but it is progressing! I really miss you guys!

Love Elder Winterrose!

P.S. I really liked Elder Berke's idea of the car wash and Sizzle but it rains all the time here. :)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Summer in Valdez

Dear Family and Friends,

So right now my companion is sitting looking at pictures of his younger sister who just got married to some guy he has never met before! Makes me so glad I don't have any sisters. I'm bummed that you guys are selling the boat but I guess it's for the best because that means that eventually dad is going to give in and buy a wake-boarding boat..... way down the line. It's not like we spent a whole lot of time on it last summer, but it is still a bummer. So let's go over what I did last week........

Caught some salmon. Talk about Alaskan experiences! I caught 3 pink salmon last week when they first started to come in! It was pretty awesome because it was my first salmon. Now the run is hitting full swing and the salmon are just pushing each other up the fish ladders at the hatchery. It's a wild life party over there.

Last week I saw a pack of river otters swimming in the ocean chasing the salmon. It was weird because they were about 50yds out and I couldn't figure what they were because they were too small to be sea otters and they had long skinny tails. But then I saw one closer and realized that they were river otters. There were 5 or 6 of them swimming off of Allison Point, one of the better fishing locations. Then Saturday the pinks were really charging in. They swim in in schools and they swim so fast and are packed so dense that they create a wave that rides on top of them and a wake behind them as they come in and up the river. It's pretty sweet to see the Sea Lions that chase them around too! Those things are huge! Like freaking massive! Their heads are about the same size as a grizzly bear's. Wanna know how I know? Because there was a mamma griz and 3 second-year cubs chillin 15 yards upstream from the bridge where we were taking pictures! It was so cool! All the tourists there on the bridge just kept saying "OMG OMG!!!" and "THIS IS A ONCE IN A LIFE TIME EXPERIENCE!" and then the member that we were with replied "Unless you live in Valdez"........ it was funny, I guess you had to be there though.

The nature here is pretty phenomenal. I've seen Brown/Grizzly Bears, Black Bears, Sea Lions, Sea Otters, Various types of seal and Fur Seal, mammoth Halibut! ~ the largest one entered in the derby this year was 200.2 lbs ~ and huge runs of fish! Not to mention the number of amazing waterfalls and huge glaciers all around Valdez. This place is amazing. Honestly, this is the best time of year to visit Valdez because it's just packed with wildlife.

The pictures that lady sent you were of us catching our dolly varden from a secret spot that a friend showed us. :) We got 16 of them. It was a pretty nice day of fishing and I'm getting much better at filleting fish, I can actually do a little fish like the dolly's in one cut. We are going to go and fish them again today though! I'm pretty excited for that! I'll be sure to let you know how it goes! We eat so much fish! Usually we just end up giving a bunch of it to members. The members here are awesome about feeding us too!

And I did have a baptism two weeks ago! I can't believe that I omitted that part! It was great! The boy is 9, his mom is a member and his dad is not but we did end up teaching the whole family! His mom had been struggling with church attendance but now it's not just her getting the two little boys to go to church, now she only has to worry about the youngest because the older boy is more motivated to attend church! It was a great baptismal service too! The primary did a really great job getting people to turn out!! I even taught the younger boy why we need to tuck our shirts in and wear ties and then he did it! HE TUCKED HIS SHIRT IN! Talk about milestones. The mom was very happy that he did it! We made sure that we included the dad through the entire process and I feel that he progressed as well.

So last week, besides fishing and nature-loving, we got to paint a big visitor bureau kiosk. It took the better part of 3 days! The good news is that while we were doing it we met a ton of people in the community who were happy to see the pile of junk off of the side of the road finally getting a good paint job. They would stop by and chat! And I learned how to use an airless sprayer! Those things are awesome. To put the icing on the cake the people we were doing the service for took us out to dinner, lunch, and breakfast. We literally ate at every restaurant in town last week! It was a fun service opportunity!

Sunday was a blast too! My companion and I were asked to teach a primary class because it was the lesson about missionary work but it turned out that we had a potential investigator show up to church so we had to split-up. He went to the gospel principals class and I taught Primary 9! it was way fun, we had a few visitors, and I was asked to teach at the last moment's notice, but seriously what missionary cant teach how to be a missionary! I even used the manual! It was a blast. It was a pretty large class though, 9 kids, but that's nothing compared to my Primary class! Haha. The only rough part was when we went to do sharing time and singing time, my little missionaries started going crazy! All in all it was a blast and now I have a army of mini-missionaries that love me, and my companion was able to pick up a new investigator, so it was an awesome Sunday!

After church we went and wandered around all the various activities that the town was having! It reminded me of when we went to the 4th celebration down in Fillmore, how the entire town was at the parade and then they had that big barbecue after. That's exactly what it was like here except I'm sure they don't have anything like that in Fillmore on a Sunday! Haha. So we just walked around and talked to a bunch of people. Later on we went to a family party at one of the member's house and then went and watched them light off fireworks. It's weird lighting off fireworks here in Alaska because it really doesn't matter if its 7 pm or 12 pm, it never gets dark. So people don't even wait. They just start lighting off their fireworks as soon as they get done with dinner. All in all it was an excellent end to a fantastic day!

Well family and friends, I miss you much! I hope you are all doing well and I hope you are all asking Heavenly Father to increase your Charity and Faith. Faith and hope. Charity and love. These are the Christ -like attributes that are critical in being Christian. Without these, it is impossible to emulate Him, and all of our actions, (attending church, attending the temple, serving in our callings, serving a mission) are all in vain. The Pharisees had all the right actions but lacked these basic characteristics, that is why they were Hippocrates. Pray always for these things. Mormon beseeches us to seek after these things in Moroni 7 .

I love you all so much, I wish the best for you and I hope that you all will do these things. I have noticed a drastic change in my life as I have prayed for, received, and used my strengthened charity and faith. It has helped me become less cynical, critical, and stressed. It has made me more understanding of others, it helps me see others as the sons and daughters of Heavenly Father that they are, and helps me treat them they way they deserve to be treated. I'm so grateful to be here on my mission and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Much Aloha,
Elder Winterrose

Are you still learning Tongan? Yep Still working on it! How’s the work going? Slow, but it seems to be picking up! Are you getting letters from anyone else but family? I was receiving letters from ******* but I haven't got one in quite some time.. You should bug her a little bit next time you see her in person. Seriously though I haven't received a letter in like 5 weeks! Hahaha