Thursday, January 27, 2011

Week 4

Elder and Sister Blattman’s Missionary Weekly Journal
January 23-29, 2011

We made it. The GPS only had to say, “Turn around as soon as possible,” a few times. Once, just outside the Mortenson’s house in Louisville, KY, an exit ramp was parallel to the roadway we were to turn on and Elder Blattman started up the freeway the wrong way but God protects missionaries and blesses their mistakes so we don’t have to sing “…and should we die before our journey’s through,” nor do Elder and Sister Blattman’s children have to suffer the humiliation if their parents had made national news for causing a massive traffic pileup as confused aged drivers going the wrong way on the freeway.
Our apartment is lovely. The Elders proudly brought us a desk without legs, a dining table without chairs, and a dresser without handles. Sister Blattman is enduring it with all the cheeriness of a newly minted-fresh-from-the-MTC missionary. The second night when we slept in the bedroom we awoke to a noise and Sister Blattman said it was just the heater fan. Elder Blattman checked and found the heater fan control door was painted shut so it couldn’t be that. In fact, there was little and no heat from the radiator. The wind from outside was blowing the blinds. The windows are old and loose with gaps for the wind to howl through. Last evening the maintenance man came again, banged on the radiator pipes, twisted a few valves, put his tools back in his bag, threw up his hands and said, “I dunno, it just laughs at me,” and left. Meantime, the plastic on the windows and the space heater is keeping us warm. And between Home Depot and Wal-Mart, we have everything we need to be happy.
Elder Blattman is a little embarrassed at the comfort he felt when walking into Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart is universal; the same funny looking people, the same cheap stuff, and for us old folks, our prescriptions can be filled at any Wal-Mart in the USA. Ahhh! There’s a little of Homer S. in all of us.
There was a bit of culture shock for us at the inner-city ward meeting Sunday. A nicely dressed black man with a headband greeted us at the door saying he was president of the ward and to be seated, the other leaders would be here soon. Someone whispered to us, “Don’t mind him, he’s harmless. He thinks he runs the place.” We sat across the aisle from an evidently homeless man who could not quite make words to speak but waved his hands about in a friendly, welcoming way. We were expecting racial diversity but surprised at the mental problems. The Church’s Addiction Recovery Program was mentioned several times in the talks and lessons. The Bishop told stories of in the past having to post men in the hallways to protect the building during sacrament meeting. As we prepared for our class there this morning I shoveled snow on the sidewalk out front and cleaned off a brass plaque in the cement commemorating a policeman killed in the line of duty, presumably on that spot. Sister Blattman is comforted by the gated parking lot surrounded by a tall iron fence. There is a Burger King adjacent to the church so after class next week she will find solace in a Coca-Cola and I’ll find mine in a double Whopper.
We are on the internet now. We got a stick for the computer that connects us on 4G. We have no idea what 4G is, but it sounds impressive to tell people. We’ve Skyped to Matt and Heather so far. Sister Blattman is the tech wizard on that one. Feel free to email us or try Skype. Keep in mind we go to bed about 6:30 PM PST.
Home Sweet Home:
Elder and Sister Blattman
100 Old York Road APT E204
Jenkintown, PA 19046

Week 3

Elder and Sister Blattman’s Missionary Weekly Journal
January 17-23, 2011

Here’s our CES group on the first week. Some couples in the group were leaving to be coordinators and office staff, others left to run programs on military bases, some were called to operate youth centers in Europe, a couple couples were teacher trainers in the South Pacific, and only a few were called specifically as teachers for Seminary and Institutes. There were all sorts of personalities in this group. The couple going to New Zealand were very pleased with their assignment. The couple that didn’t get selected for that assignment seemed a little miffed. For many couples this was their second or third mission.

The next photo is of our MTC district taken at the traditional world-wide photo spot. In the photo it looks like there’s a UFO sighting on the map somewhere in the South Pacific just below Elder Curtis’ right ear. Which reminds me that I realized during training that old men are generally not very funny. Our jokes are often in a context no one else is sharing or part of some obscure reference that hardly anyone understands. For example, if I were to call some wattled and jowled old codger with deep creases that push the edges of his mouth together so he looks like one of those wooden soldier nutcrackers a (I’ve lost you already haven’t i); well, if I were to call this old guy a ‘’Howdy Doody” it’s likely you might think I was just saying a quaint “Hello.” And then to explain it with, “Well, when I was a boy there was a black and white TV program for children...” I’m sure there would be some great arcing eye-rolls or that the squinty-eyed-tight-jawed look of someone stifling a yawn. We aren’t dumb, us old farts, we can see those stifled looks just like we could tell when you were getting ready to poop in your diaper, but we tell the joke anyway. Some of us old guys can’t slap you young folks anymore for your insolence, but we can still inflict pain with pithy jokes.
The newly minted Elder and Sister Blattman have been feeling somewhat like fish out of water so we’re adapting to walk on land. Here’s Elder Blattman prepared to go to the gym to exercise. Sister Blattman took to the circular track while her companion tried the machines.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Elder and Sister Blattman’s Missionary Weekly Journal Week 1

Elder and Sister Blattman’s Missionary Weekly Journal
January 3-9, 2011

Our first trip to the Missionary Training Center for Church Seminary and Institutes Training
We left Winnemucca on our first trip to the MTC in Provo for Seminary and Institutes Training on Sunday after sacrament meeting in our ward. We enjoyed a wonderful Christmas together with everyone. Christmas seemed a bit hurried because we knew we’d have to button everything up in preparation for leaving. I hope we weren’t short with anyone. Everyone helped in one way or another if nothing more than hauling stuff off so we wouldn’t have to pack it. Matt & Kathy were especially kind in helping us clean the refrigerators, mop floors and pack the last few boxes. Many thanks.
Nancy and I talked most of the six hour trip (which always somehow takes us 8 hours), mostly about our children and grandchildren. We proudly hold our own in the senior missionary crowd here at the MTC. After asking where you are from and where you are going, it’s “How many grandchildren do you have?”
Here’s what we looked like in our application photo.

Tuesday evening we attended a devotional where David S. Baxter of the Seventy spoke. His message was one of the basic principles of the church. At the devotional Nancy saw one of her former seminary students, Colton Nielson, who had moved from Winnemucca and is here preparing to go to Bolivia on his mission. She was very pleased to see him.
The CES trainers who taught us through the week were exceptionally good teachers. They were models of good teaching practices as they taught things like lesson planning and classroom techniques. It was one of the best in-service like classes that I have attended.

Elder and Sister Blattman’s Missionary Weekly Journal Week 2

Elder and Sister Blattman’s Missionary Weekly Journal
January 10-14, 2011

Saturday morning as we prepared to leave Nancy spotted a drip under the kitchen sink. The more I tightened the leaky fittings the more they leaked so I had to make a trip to the hardware store before we could leave. I turned the valve back on and as I stood up and looked over the sink, there Nancy sat red-eyed on the couch, sadly staring around her empty and faintly echoing house. As much as she desires to serve a mission it was hard to leave the comfort of our home.
The car is overloaded. Not one more piece of clothing, not one more book can be crammed into the trunk. There is an area in the middle where the driver can see through things piled on the back seat. We have sewing machines to mend clothing and a cookie sheet to make refreshments for the single adults, enough books to make a small library, and plenty of stuff that we just can’t live without. I’m reminded how we stepped off the plane when we returned from Australia with four children, a diaper bag, and a didgeridoo. A couple of duffel bags containing our belongings had been lost and came later.
Saturday evening we had dinner at ‘Jim’s Family Diner’ in Springdale with my sisters, Edie, Judy, and Kathy. Jake and Toni were nearby looking at houses and they joined us as well. That was a nice treat. Edie took us back to her home to stay. It happened that Edie had been asked to give a talk in Sacrament meeting the next morning, the first time she had been asked in nine years. That was a special treat. Larry, Nancy, and I had our usual back row seats and we didn’t make faces at her or anything. Sunday evening, Chris and his family came over for dinner. Chris shared a lot of information about seminary and the Church Education System. We had a nice last day as civilians.
At the Tuesday evening devotional the chorister casually mentioned as we sang prelude hymns that should an Apostle were to enter the room it would be respectful for everyone to stand. That created a buzz in the senior crowd. Jeffrey R. Holland, of the Quorum of the Twelve, walked in with several other general authorities including Gordon B. Hinkley’s son whom I always give a double take. Elder Holland spoke powerfully about the ‘Preach My Gospel’ handbook and how with its implementation the Church was concerned that missionaries had a firmer foundation in gospel doctrine. He practically thundered on missionaries studying more, being more sensitive to the needs of investigators, and preparation. He made it very clear that we will never be the same after serving a mission nor can we go back to being what we once were.
With that, Nancy and I are experiencing a little culture shock. It’s not that we were not religious but we feel a little like we have joined a monastery full of exuberantly friendly monks. There are no vows of silence here for sure, people are so friendly that sometimes we look for a quiet corner in the cafeteria. I think our faces have some new wrinkles from smiling all the time. But on the other hand, we found Elder Ang in the cafeteria sitting by himself during lunch last week and he really seemed to enjoy our company. Elder Ang is from Cambodia and he earned his way to the MTC by working “lots a jobs in grocery store and selling things on street”. He joined the church as a teenager after reading a missionary pamphlet. He stepped on the pamphlet in a muddy street after playing ball with his friends. He picked it up and instead of throwing it away, he put it in his pocket and read it through several times over the next few days. After reading it he said he knew it was true. He found the missionaries and asked to be baptized, then saved until he could go on a mission himself. It took him a year to get a visa. Out of the 2500 missionaries here we seemed to run into a grinning friendly Elder Ang at least once a day. He left Wednesday morning to serve his mission in Boston. We can’t imagine a Bostonian/Cambodian accent. By the way, I had no idea that there were so many Elder and Sister missionaries that came here from all over the world to learn English before departing on their missions.
Here we are in the traditional MTC map

Sunday, January 2, 2011

And the adventure begins

I wanted to let everyone know about my new project.
I am asking Dad and Mom to send me a weekly letter and photo. I plan to compile them in a book and get each family a copy when they return.

If you have anything you would like to include in this record (ie: letters sent to you, letters you send to them, photos if you visit them, etc) you can also send to me in soft copy and I will archive them in the book.