This has been the craziest week of my mission yet. On Tuesday, we had a mission-wide training for iPads. That was huge! There are around 200 elders and sisters in the mission, and putting them all in one place made things pretty nuts. Funny story though- when the age change for missionaries hit, our mission had 150 missionaries. 50 were transferred out to a new mission as ours split, and the remaining 100 ALL ended up training, because another 100 fresh-out-of-the-MTC new elders got sent in. That led to some interesting results. Because a few companionships were still training at the time that all the new elders came in, they had to form a few "tripanionships," where you'd have one senior missionary, one 6 weeks in, and another right off the plane. That must have been fun. Irregardless of that tangent, when the whole mission got together, we had a huge training, where they brought in the MTC head and an area 70 to train us for the new iPads we got later. The training program is just another study thing that basically just got dumped in our laps while they told us "figure out how to use it." We were one of the pilot programs for iPads, so there was absolutely no training in how to use them when we first got them, we were just told to figure it out and tell the mission president. Fun, huh? That was a year ago, I just came in in the last 6 weeks before they rolled out the new training program they put together. We're going to have to figure out how to use that well, too. They also told us a bit about all the monitoring software that they put on the iPads. According to Elder WIlding, it's basically the same sort of scary stuff they said about the last monitoring software, but that ended up not being true at all, something we figured out when they told us about the last one when describing the new one. Apparently, there were quite a few loopholes in the software that missionaries would use to download any app they liked without the president's knowledge, but those theoretically got closed. Also, President Taggart will now get an email whenever someone does download any app, with the unapproved ones flagged, and if he sees us using any app in an unproductive or inappropriate fashion, he can push one button and shut that app down on the missionary's iPad. It's kind of weird, all the stuff they can do remotely.
After that meeting, we went to Ihop, because it was free pancake day. 10 missionaries, in suits and ties, all showed up at the same time in a crowded Ihop at the busiest time of day. Shockingly, it took them a while to seat us. Then, we all got exactly 3 free pancakes, and left. It took them next to no time to make the pancakes though. Probably because a), it was free pancake day and they were already churning them out like crazy, and b) because they had a half-hour warning before we sat down. That night, the member family that fed us took us out to Blaze pizza. Do they have any of those in Indiana? It's basically to pizza what 5 guys is to hamburgers, or Chipotle is to burritos. There's a lot of options.
The next day, we did the mobile food pantry thing again. We went out early in the morning, and started setting up. We put out tables around a truck that the people who go there would line up and go around, and had one person on the outside handing out the food, and one on the inside restocking the table. It was a pretty slick operation. Sometimes it was a little comical, though. The people who'd get food there would show up with whatever containers they could find- shopping carts, boxes, strollers, you name it, they had it. I was on potatoes this time, but they were the really small kind, smaller than your thumb, and came in big boxes. We were told to give out 2 heaping double handfuls, but there were so many potatoes that we ended up giving out whole boxes, half boxes, and just whatever people would take. We only just barely managed to give out all of them by the end anyway. The people next to us were giving out fruit snacks, and they were giving out 6 boxes to each person. There was so much food given out that it was staggering. Then, later that night, a miracle happened- an appointment 3 weeks in the making finally came together, and I got to teach my first set-out, full-on lesson. Normally, they are 2 minute affairs on doorsteps, but this one was what they prepped you for in the MTC- a 45 minute, solid lesson, with commitments, prayers, member testimonies, the whole deal. I think it went pretty well, too.
Thursday, we did almost nothing but set up the new iPads we got. They have double the memory, a new fancy display, better cases, screen protectors, and more spying software. Oh, and no Facebook. Some missionaries, who used it a lot for the past year, are practically going through withdrawal. They are pretty nice, but I'd rather have the old one back, because although it was slow and annoying, it had a month and a half worth of scriptural annotations, insights, comments, and revelations that I had while reading. What's worse, I figured out how to sync them with LDS.org less than 24 hours after turning it in, so it was too late. The iPads really take a lot of setup. You have to do all the expected stuff, like naming it and getting all the wifi networks in there and all that, but then you had to download all the gospel library stuff again, all the notes that you mailed to yourself, and all your photos. It probably took 8 hours, all told.
Friday was fun. What do you think of when you hear "building houses for Habitat for Humanity?" I though we'd be building houses when we were told of the project. Psych! When we showed up and asked what needed to be done, the supervisor pointed to a red line painted on the ground. "You see that line there? It needs to disappear." So, we spent 4 hours digging a big hole. They needed somewhere to run pipes for gas and water and all that through, and the trench had to be at least 2 feet deep. That is a lot deeper than it sounds, past your knees. What's worse, the ground was not only rock hard, but was actually dirt pounded hard for a foot, then a layer of concrete for a few inches, then more hard dirt. And to make it more fun, it was a bright and sunny day, in the high 80s. We did get a jackhammer and some pickaxes, but they were no easier, just more productive. I ended up on the jackhammer for quite a while, well over an hour, mostly because no one else wanted it. It was HEAVY! Easily 60-80 pounds, and so working with it was a pain. You'd turn it on, then let it rest against the dirt at an angle, and it would start pounding up and down. It would sink in about four inches, then you'd lever it out so it loosened up the dirt. Then you'd repeat about 10,000 times until the patch of dirt you were working on was loose enough to be removed with shovels. 20 strapping young men with power tools only managed to get 40 feet in 4 hours, the ground was so hard. It was a lot of fun though, and it was the first time I'd met half the missionaries there. What's crazy is that even though I was working in the sun for hours, I only got sunburned in one place- the back of my arm. On the way back from it, we saw a house burning. I got a few pictures, which I will send later.
Saturday was transfer call night. The whole day was just anxious anticipation for them. Two missionaries in our zone, the Elders Johnson, are both getting transferred way far out. Funny story though- one of them (the super athletic one that I went on transfers with a few weeks back) was cruising down a street at 30+ mph, and hit a few orange pylon things. He never buckles his helmet, and so he said after that as he flew over the handlebars that he thought his life was over. Then he slammed down on the ground really hard on his back, cracking his head on the ground. Somehow though, his helmet stayed on his head even in midair, and even though it was cracked in 7-8 places, his head wasn't. His backpack and shoulder of his shirt both got rubbed through in a few places, and he messed up his ankle when it smacked into the ground, but he was walking just an hour later at transfer eve. The wheels on his bike were bent funny, and his taillight fell off, though. It's definitely a miracle that he was alive, period.
The guy we baptized two weeks after I moved in is named Andy, and we taught him the second new convert lesson today. It went really well! We also taught Gospel Principles class again, which is pretty fun. Not too many people attend, but it's a good class. And the best news of my mission- We got a referral! All of the investigators we've had that have been serious to any extent have all been referrals, so any new ones are super exciting. Well, that's not strictly true- we found one solid guy while tracting, and he's following commitments and trying to get a testimony. Unfortunately, we had to pass him off to the zone leaders because he's YSA. Fortunately, the referral we got isn't, so we might be able to actually teach him.
How have things been in Indiana? How's the new job treating you? Has David had any luck getting a job? Tell Sam that he should email me back!