Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmastime in the Long Beach Mission

SNOW? In Long Beach California????  (nope, hail!)

Pepe's Baptism

Robert's baptism

Dear Mom,
I loved being able to talk with everyone it was like being home for 40 minutes.  I'm really excited that Sherry is LOVING BYU just as much as I did.  I knew Spencer would be psyched to finally have his own laptop.  It's going to be the gift that keeps on giving :P.  Tori is just adorable as ever, I loved getting to talk with her about Dr. Who, I can't wait to watch it all when I come back :).     
     Thank you so much for all the presents.  I never properly thanked you, but you two won the biggest Christmas package in the mission award.  Out of ~140 I had the largest Christmas package :P.  I really really really really like the new pants.  They fit comfortably, look nice (way to remember I like black pants :P), and are machine washable!  All my new clothes are excellent, I can always count on my Mom to buy my good clothes.  Thank you also for sending more toffee.  My companion and I are very excited to munch through it all.  I got SOOOO much candy this year, I'm in heaven :).
     Both P and R were confirmed yesterday.  A very special gift for both of them to receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost on Christmas day.  I'm really grateful for the opportunity to serve here and help people to make sacred covenants with the Lord.  There is nothing better than to help other people to be happy, and this Gospel is the best and only way to receive happiness forever.
      Unfortunately we haven't really found any new investigators for the last couple of weeks so nothing really new is happening in the area.  It's going to be a week of finding, but I know that the Lord will lead us to the people we need to find.
      Christmas Eve was a very special day to me.  I got up that morning and decided that we were going to teach a lesson to someone before lunch.  We had one iffy appointment that I figured would fall through, but I wanted to make sure we still had at least one lesson before lunch.  We went from place to place, meeting people at the door who said they were too busy, or wouldn't find anyone at home.  Our one appointment fell through and I started to remember what Dad had said about Holidays being some of the hardest days as a missionary to do missionary work.  Still we pressed on and went by a referral that we still had to contact.  We didn't find him at home, but two younger Samoans (20's) were out on the porch, and had just cracked open their bottles of Liquor to begin drinking for the day.  We began to teach them, and one of them Jo, wasn't too far gone yet, and he actually had wanted to speak with missionaries because he's trying to find the truth right now.  The other guy, Logo (pronounced low-ngo) was completely gone.  The rest of the lesson went well, although it was kind of comical to teach someone who was completely wasted.  I felt really blessed that I had been able to accomplish my goal to teach a lesson even though the odds were against me.
      Of course the rest of Christmas was just as wonderful as that morning had been with miracle packages, and the Christmas Caroling.  Looking forward to this week as always :)
Thank you again for all that you do for me,
Elder Henry
Ward Christmas Party

Elder Henry with his "Pillow Tie," so he can sleep during church???  haha.  I'm guessing the crown on his head was made by Kelsey's Kindergartners for him.

Some of the families Michael is teaching

Hey Dad,
     I would be all over those car projects if I were home.  I would love to get
into my pair of coveralls and start tinkering with a car, of course these
things sound like lots of fun when you are a missionary.  If I were home
I'm not so sure I would be quite as motivated :P.  I'll let you know before
I go shoe shopping, I'll ask around this week to find out where one can
purchase such shoes and probably go next week (although that will be the
monday after a sunday holiday, so it may not be until the 9th).
     I'm glad everyone enjoyed talking with me as much as I enjoyed picking up
the phone and calling all of you.  Mom was pretty quick to pick up that
phone when I called, had she been sitting there waiting all morning long?
     I'm not going to lie, I'm surprised that Sherry is getting a car for
college so soon.  I thought you were actually joking when you said that, at
first because I never thought you would give up your Insight.
     I want you to know what a great example you are to me of treasuring up not
the things of this world, but treasuring those things which are in heaven.
Everytime I read in the scriptures and think about how to improve the way
I'm living I always look to you and realize you've been showing me how I
should live my life all along.  It's not about how many toys you rack up at
the end of the day, its how much time you spent with your family and made
sure they are raised the best they can be.
Lots of Love,
Elder Henry

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hello Mom!
     Sorry to make you wait an extra day.  We found out last Thursday that we were going to the temple today, so our P-day got switched to Tuesday instead of the normal Monday.  Hope nobody was worried :).
     That's super exciting about Sherry's proficiency scores!  Does that mean she's in the acting program?  I put on the CD you sent me in the car, and my companion is very impressed.  I forgot how talented my sister is!
     I'm glad you explained the shoes.  I'm not going to be able to wear them here in Long Beach, but they certainly will come in handy when I head down to Brazil.  Also the dress shoes you sent me are good, but they probably won't last very long.  My guess is 2ish months of proselyting every day in them.  My shoes get a lot of wear and tear.  I really need a good sturdy pair of shoes that will last me a long time.  The slip-ons don't usually hold up all that much, the leather gets all wrinkled and starts to fall apart easy.  I still need to ship back the bad shoes.  P-days are pretty crazy, but I'll try and get it done soon.
     We bought ourselves a Christmas Tree for our apartment.  I took pictures but we are at the library this week for E-mails, instead of the Family History Center, and these computers won't allow me to put in a USB drive.  Hopefully I'll be able to send them to you next week.  I know how much you appreciate them.
     This week we had two more baptisms!  Always very exciting to be a missionary when people are being baptized.
     R (9) - R was finally baptized on Sunday.  We met with him a couple times last week and he has a good understanding of the Gospel, although he's still a primary kid.  The best part about this baptism is it has opened the door for us for the rest of his Family.  His Mom has just started coming back to church a couple months ago, and has a word of wisdom problem that we are trying to help her with, and Dad isn't a member.  We hope to begin to teach his Dad, a very friendly man, and we have began to teach Robert's older half-brother Jo.
     J (14) - Jis a 14 year old kid, who recently got in a little bit of trouble with the law.  He was arrested because he punched his Dad (not Robert's Dad), and is currently under house arrest at R's house.  He's just like any other youth growing up in the Ghetto, and he's had his first bucket of cold water thrown on his parade.  He feels really bad for what he did, and has sincere desires to repent.  We are really hopeful that with the Gospel, we will be able to help him overcome his circumstances and grow up to be a respectible man.  He's not baptized yet, and because he's on probation he won't be able to be baptized any time soon, regardless he's a good kid that just needs direction and good friends.
     One thing I haven't talked very much about is how amazing the Long Beach 15th Ward Young Men are.  We have a lot of youth that even though they live in Compton/Paramount/North Long Beach, they have had good parents that have taught them well.  They are strong in their testimonies and strive to share the gospel with their friends.  I'm really glad to see such young men preparing to serve missions, and I hope that we will be able to work with them in our missionary efforts.
     P (31) - P was a referral that we met on Dec 11th, and she was baptized this past Sunday.  She has been going to church for 3-4 years now in Utah but never was baptized because she wasn't ready to give up Alcohol or Tobacco, but she quit a few months back and moved down here.  We were able to meet with her several times last week, and she was able to be baptized.  She has a solid testimony of the Restoration, and reads the Book of Mormon everyday.  I'm very excited to have been able to work with her, and to now review the new-member lessons with her.  The Samoan wards are amazing at preparing people for the missionaries to teach.  They love to share the gospel with all their friends and family, and the Compton 1st ward understands that that is the best way to bring people to the joy of the Gospel.
     Not much more happening on the investigator front.  We had a rather interesting weekend where our world was turned completely upside down.  Things are going well though, and good things should continue to come from our efforts.
     Thank you so much for all the packages, and my companion says, "MORE TOFFEE!"  He really enjoyed it, and I've been hoarding most of it to myself :P.  Thank you for the CD's, they brought back a lot of good memories from the old Boychoir days.
All my Love,
Elder Henry

Monday, December 12, 2011

This Year of 2011

Hate Christmas letters?  Stop reading!  NOW!!!!!!  Quick!  Just close the page!

The Henry family 2011

Dear family and friends,
     Well I decided not to send out a letter with our Christmas cards, because it annoys some people. Its been a pretty eventful year or so for us.  One of the best things was having all of our children at the Temple with us.  They are truly the joy of our life!

We feel very very blessed to have Michael serving his mission, he was able to finish up at Clark College before he left.  We had two kids graduate in a week--Mike from Clark College and Sherry from Prairie High School.

Our two graduates!
Michael's mission call is to Porto Alegre North, Brazil.  However, his visa application was lost and recently the Missionary Travel Office called to let us know, they are resubmitting it.  He spent 9 weeks in the Missionary Training Center in Provo Utah learning Portuguese, then was reassigned temporarily to the Long Beach California Mission to wait for his visa. He loves it there and is serving in Long Beach and Compton in Samoan wards, learning the language and loving being a missionary.
Mike and his companion at his first baptism as a missionary.  Michael was able to confirm him the next week.
 Sherry finished an incredible high school experience with quite a few exceptional honors and awards.  And many others she was "runner up" for--we started joking that she is Miss 95th Percentile (her height, her grades, just missing the cut for a few awards). Her principal called her the most outstanding student he's had at Prairie, she truly excelled in so many areas starting with being a graceful kind caring person.  She has carried those qualities with her to Brigham Young University where she is considering a performing major, finding her way, relishing academic challenges, learning more than ever before, and functioning as an independent wise adult.  Its fun to see her roommates' and friends' reactions to her sense of humor and fearlessness in using it.  She ran her first 5K and placed 5th overall for females out of a couple hundred, went to lots of football games, played intramural Ultimate Frisbee, performed in a student directed version of Oklahoma as well as in her first student film, has truly enjoyed working with her voice teacher Dr. Arden Hopkin, and found she loves learning about science and philosophy as well as tap dancing.  (No, she doesn't have a boyfriend, yes she dates, yes she writes a missionary but they are just good friends. I know you were wondering because so many people ask haha)   Update:  Sherry passed her Acting proficiency audition, and is moving on in the Acting BFA Program next semester!  (BFA=Bachelor of Fine Arts)
Here's a photo of her with her absolutely fabulous roommates. 

   Spencer had an eventful year too, finishing his first year of high school, playing on the tennis team, participating in Rachel's Challenge (a service organization), performing in plays (just started his third rehearsal process in Midsummer Nights Dream), working in the student store, and carrying on his siblings legacy of being a kind, funny student at Prairie.  He's just an enjoyable person.  He also has grown 6 or 7 inches in the past year or so, and has some pretty nasty stretch marks to prove it!  He loves his classes at school and lately has been obsessed with Napoleon ("he's my idol!) (scary haha!).  Here's a photo from The Three Musketeers:
And one from Tennis too showing his studliness and all that ;o)
Tori is growing too, not at the rate Spencer is, but she's hoping to be the shortest Henry child anyway (her sister has complained about guys being too short to date, so Tori has her strategy for the future haha).  She's doing really well in school, loves the Lord with all her heart, knows a lot about the Gospel, and basically is obsessed with Dr. Who and an Anglophile much to her Granny's chagrin.  She is such a pretty little girl that boys are starting to ask her when she will date them, she tells them "not til I'm 16" but confides in me that they are like brothers.  Ha!
Ready for a Portland Winterhawks Hockey game with bff Bailey
Damon is still working for ACS, still serving as Stake Athletic Director, and still my best friend!  I started working at Crafts Americana Group this summer just as Mike was leaving, so I'm gone during the day and he is home holding down the fort. 
     We feel so blessed to have a missionary from our family serving, and such a wonderful family.  Life isn't without its challenges but we're grateful for the ones we have and pray for those with more difficult burdens than ours are at this time.  Thank you for your prayers on our behalf, on Michael's, and for being our friends.

     Much Love from the Henry's in Vancouver!

Mike's letter 12/12/11

Hey Mom!
     President says no Skype, just phone calls for Christmas.  I'm excited for some sweets.  My shoes actually have a hole in them, and its raining today for the first time in like a month.  I walked outside and my feet got soaked.  Do you want me to send my holey shoes back home?  I live in a locked apartment complex, so packages are really safe when they get delivered.  So I wouldn't worry about it while I'm in Long Beach.
     I'll make sure to keep Sherry in my prayers, I really want her to succeed at BYU :).  I'm really happy that the two of you are getting along a lot better now.  It sounds like all good news from the homefront, expect Spencer's Grades...
     Also transfer calls came in last Saturday, and both Elder Galke and I are staying.  I wasn't very surprised by that, but we'll see if I can make it a whole transfer :P after last transfer's fiasco!
     This week has been a bit of a mixed bag, but it all turned out good in the end.
     Ma'epu of course was Baptized last week, and yesterday I was able to confirm him a member of the Church.  That was a really awesome experience.  I'm very grateful that Ma'epu chose me to confirm him a member of the Church, and I just know that he's going to be a strong member of the Church from here on out.  I have so many hopes and desires for this young child, and I know that if he continues he will one day serve a mission.  That's probably the best gift of it all, knowing that I brought a future missionary into the church :).
     I didn't get to meet with R last week because I was on exchanges with Elder Stringham in the Spanish area.  It was a ton of fun to be back together with him, but we are changing zones this transfer so it's probably the last time I'll be together with him since he goes home in January.  He wasn't baptized yesterday because his Mom couldn't make that time, so he's going to be baptized this coming Sunday.  We also started teaching his 14 year old brother, and he should be baptized sometime in January as well.
     M on the other hand was all sorts of ups and downs last week.  We got a call from our ward mission leader on Tuesday who said that the members that Maria is staying with were upset that we hadn't taught her in a while.  We had an appointment last Thursday, and Elder Galke never set up a return appointment after M canceled on us.  We had planned on seeing her at Church on Sunday but she didn't show up.  The family was very upset with us, and so we had to repair bridges between us.  M was also hurt because she didn't feel like she was a priority for us, and that we didn't care about her.  It was a very sticky situation, and of course there are miscommunications up the wazzu because of the language barrier between us and the family.
     We ended up working everything out, but M is going to the English ward instead of the Samoan wards because she doesn't learn as well in Samoan.  Its a better situation, but it also means that we aren't teaching her anymore.  The other Elders are of course very happy to have her now, but its a little bit sad to see such a Golden investigator leave.  The good news is, our relationship with the Ward Mission Leader and the Bishop wasn't hurt because of this.  Also hopefully I've learned a good lesson about keeping in contact with your investigators.
     At Church yesterday our Ward Mission Leader, Bro. Va'ili came up to us with two people to teach.  So during the second hour of church we sat down with F and P and began to teach them.  They really want to be baptized, and both have been taught by missionaries before.  They are on date to be baptized on the 18th and 25th, and we are meeting with them again tonight.  I really love our ward, they do so much missionary work its just amazing :).
     We also were teaching a less-active/recent convert family last night and we watched Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration.  The father/boyfriend? was actually interested and watched the movie with us.  We have an appointment now to start teaching him, and hopefully once the father figure is on board, the whole family will begin to be active in the church.  I'm really excited to see the changes in their lives.
     I'm really excited to talk with the whole family soon!  I'll talk with you again next week with some pictures (hopefully ^^;).
Elder Henry

Monday, December 5, 2011

First baptism and First Presidency decisions

Hi Mom!
I actually knew they lost my visa paperwork a couple weeks ago, and I don't know if they told you this but the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles actually reviewed my mission call, and it was kind of up in the air as to where I was going.  They weren't sure that I should continue on to Brazil or not, so that was a little scary for me, I didn't know where I was going for a couple weeks, but everything is worked out now.  My guess is I'll be here till about April or so.  Hopefully my Portuguese won't get too rusty.  I'm just glad that Brazil is still on the table ^^.
Also I had the educational history saved on my Computer's Hard Drive, I don't know if you've already re-typed one up or not but its there if you need it (mom note: this was the document that Damon miraculously got Michael's dead computer working to find!).  Brazillian Visas go through cycles of a couple months of fast, a couple months of slow.  From what I hear the Consulate pretty much shuts down from Christmas until post-Lent so I probably won't be seeing a visa anytime soon.  Maybe they'll expidite my visa because they lost my paperwork but I pretty much doubt it.
What time on Christmas do you want me to call?  I know its a bit early to start asking but I'm in church from 7am-1pm most sundays (I don't know if we will just be having a sacrament meeting on Christmas or if they will keep the full 3 hour block) and they prefer us to be done with phone calls by 5pm.  There are still a lot of details to be worked out on our end as well, because we'll have to cram in studies and when my companion wants to call his family but we better get planning sooner than later.
Also if you are still putting together a christmas package for me, I thought of just a couple more things that I could use.  A set of colored pencils (24 count), a set of the Missionary Reference Library (to cut down on shipping expenses you can call up the mission office and order it through them I believe since books are heavy), and I definitely need some of Mom's toffee ^^.
It's been pretty chilly down here recently, in the mornings it gets as low as 40 degrees, with highs in the 60-70's.  One thing that has really surprised me though about living down here is the sun is I still wake up to the sun every morning even though its the dead of winter.  I remember some days in middle school in Vancouver where it would get to be 8:30 or 9:00 before the sun would come up.  Every morning in So-cal is another sunny day, with the sun shining through the windows at 6:30.  Never fails.  (Rough life eh? :P)
Did you all get an oppertunity to watch the First Presidency's Christmas Devotional last night?  It was absolutely beautiful, I loved every minute of it.  Before our stake showed it, a stake choir got up and sang a bunch of Christmas Carols.  Our Ward Mission Leader was the organizer of the choir so he invited us to come up and sing with the choir.  It was the first time its really felt like Christmas :).  I really am going to miss spending this Christmas with the family though.  I'm really glad that I'll have the oppertunity to talk with you on the phone, and I can see why they allow missionaries to do so.  Otherwise we would be home sick all day long :P.
I'm sure you are all dying to hear about my first baptism yesterday, and I'm dying to tell you all about it so here it goes.  Last week we taught Ma'epu twice, but we were on exchanges one of those times, so I only had the oppertunity to teach him once.  We taught him the Word of Wisdom, Law of Chastity (10 year old edition), and the 10 commandments.  We also watched a video of the Prophet to help him to see who he is, and reviewed the Baptismal Interview Questions with him to make sure he was ready to go.  On Friday my old companion Elder Stringham (did I ever mention he's my Zone Leader now?) interviewed him for baptism.  Afterwards he told us that he was super ready to be baptised, and I was sooooo excited for the whole weekend.
Sunday finally rolled around, and 4:00pm couldn't have come slower I tell you!  We showed up at the baptism and Brother Va'ili, the Ward Mission Leader, had put together a beautiful service for Ma'epu.  There was a ward missionary choir, and a Primary Choir there to support Ma'epu.  After some songs and a speech (in the samoan wards they aren't talks, they are speeches) we went to the Baptismal Font.  Ma'epu was really excited to be baptised the whole time.  He could barely sit still in the Chapel.  Elder Galke walked into the font and baptised Ma'epu.  It was one of the happiest moments of my life.  I knew that all the sacrifices, all the hard work, all the suffering and trials I had endured up to this point in preparing and serving a mission, all of that was not in vain, because little Ma'epu was baptized.  Many missionaries have come home without ever seeing one of the people they work with baptized.  I am fortunate to have witnessed that in the first 2 months as serving as a missionary.
After Ma'epu was changed out of his wet clothes, I was anxious to see how he felt.  I will never forget his answer to my question, "How do you feel?".
He replied, "That was so much fun!  Elder Galke said I can do it again in 2 more years!  I want to do it again!"  *facepalm*  I forgot that he's 10 years old.  Regardless I feel like Ma'epu will one day also serve a mission and that he will marry in the temple, partly because I served a mission in Long Beach California.
We weren't able to meet with M last week, and she didn't come to church yesterday because her kid was sick.  Hopefully she is still reading the Book of Mormon, and will be ready to be baptized in a couple weeks.  We have to help her overcome a smoking addiction as well, so keep her in your prayers.
The family that we had Thanksgiving dinner with, the P family, we were able to meet with them last week again.  They believe that the church they are going to is not the true church, but also that no church is true.  Only the bible is the true church, so hopefully we will be able to help them feel the spirit that the Book of Mormon will bring into their lives.  We have an awesome member family that is working with them as well, and they came to our last lesson with them.  We have another appointment with them tonight so hopefully all will go well.
Finally R is doing well.  His Dad is not a member and we had a breakthrough with him last time we were over there.  He said he would like to learn more about this Joseph Smith fellow, and we were very excited to jump all over that :P.  R is scheduled to be baptized next Sunday, and hopefully all will work out with that.  He is a much slower learner than Ma'epu, but to be honest all a 9 year old needs to know is that Jesus is our Savior, and God is our Father, and to follow the commandments.  He paid his tithing yesterday for the first time so he's definitely making progress :).  Have I ever mentioned I love teaching children the Gospel?  Its so much fun because all you have to do is teach true doctrine, and they will excersize their faith on that doctrine.
One last piece of good news!  I've been keeping track, and I haven't gained a single pound in one month of serving in the Samoan wards!  Hooray XD
Thank you all for everything you do.  I'm so happy to recieve letters from home and friends about how their lives are doing.
Love, Elder Henry
"My shoes area already dying" (glad he is working hard!)

Ma'epu, Elder Galke and Myself ready for his Baptism!

Ma'epu, his Grandparents, Elder Galke and Myself