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26 January 2012

Week 8: Last P-day in the CCM!

¡Mi familia!
This is the last email you will receive from me from the Dominican Republic! I cannot believe that in just 5 days I'll be packed up and flying east for an hour to get to San Juan Puerto Rico. I'm nervous beyond belief. But I'm also so excited to finally get to the place where I have been called to serve, and to meet the people there. I have enjoyed it here in the DR, but I know that I'm going to love Puerto Rico even more. I really can't even believe it's already time to leave for the field though . . . it's incredible.

Now for the weekly report!

Nothing too interesting happened last Thursday after I wrote you, so nothing to report there.

Friday was pretty normal, so nothing too interesting there either.

Saturday was kind of a long day, just because we had a lot of teaching and everything, but it was good.

Sunday, as always, was a great day! After very nice Sacrament, District, and Priesthood meetings and lunch, we watched a devotional by Elder Bednar from 2005. He talked about Pres. Hinckley and everything! It was a bit strange. But he gave a great talk on how to become a great missionary. It was incredible. I loved everything he said. He told a story about how he was in Indiana, and a couple missionaries came to his home and basically wasted an hour and a half of their time and the Lord's time. And Elder Bednar let them know about it. So they came back a few weeks later and did it right. It was such a good talk! That night, we were privileged to hear from Pres. and Hermana Hernandez. Pres. Hernandez is the President of the East mission, so that was pretty cool. I think my Spanish is really coming along, because I could understand a lot of what they were saying.

Monday and Tuesday weren't too different from usual. A lot of teaching and a lot of practice. We've taught the people here many times, which I think has been beneficial, and it has helped us better understand how to make lesson plans for each of the lessons. I started feeling kind of sick (with a cold) on Tuesday night, and I had a pretty bad sore throat yesterday, but through prayer as well as gargling some salt water, I think I've averted the worst of the sickness. :)

But that brings me to yesterday! We once again were able to go have a great experience in the field with some of the missionaries out there. I went again with Elder Hawks. On our way to our first destination, we took some pictures of the ocean.  Don't worry, we were not breaking any mission rules. I asked him and made sure. The beaches aren't really beaches in this area, they're just rocky coral cliffs. You'll see what I'm talking about in the pictures. :) We had 4 citas (appointments) scheduled, but none of them were there, so we contacted for about an hour. I did a few of the contacts, and that was a pretty good experience! It was so hot, and I was sweating. But I'm much happier here than I would be in Russia. :) It's such an interesting feeling, walking down the street and wearing that name badge, and working hard to bring people to Christ. These experiences have really helped me get excited for the field. After we contacted, we tried a couple more citas, but nobody was there either. :( So it was about time to go back to the capilla (chapel), and Elder Hawks took me to get some ice cream. It was way nice of him! The ice cream here is different, because they don't really have real milk that's cheap, but it's very, very good. I got some pictures of that too. So I enjoyed myself yesterday. :) And then last night I was just exhausted (I don't know how I'll last in the field one day!), and I just collapsed in bed ha ha.

And today we have planned some service in the morning. :) We're going to be going to an orphanage and reading to kids for an hour! I'm pretty excited, especially since I have a bit of experience with this from Guatemala. I'll also get my new scripture cases today, so I'll send some pictures whenever I can. :)

Anyway, like I said earlier, I leave for Puerto Rico in 5 days. However, I don't know if I'll be able to just call you because I don't know what time I'm leaving the CCM and what time I'll be arriving at the airport. I don't know how well the pay phones work and whatnot, or what kind of connection they will have to the States.

Also, I don't know when my next P-day will be. I think the standard for missions is to have P-day on Tuesday, but I don't really know. So I don't know the next time I'll be emailing. Another thing, the emails there won't be this long. They give us an hour here in the CCM for emails, so that's why they've been longer. I'll be back to a half hour I believe once I hit the field, but I'm not sure. A lot of unknowns at this point! However, I have the address for the mission home, which I'd imagine will be where you'll send any mail. If that's different, I'll let you know in my first email from the field, especially if I have the luck of being assigned to one of those little tail islands like the Virgin Islands and such. However, here's the address for the mission home:

Elder Kimball Ray Gardner
Puerto Rico San Juan Mission
Urb. Jardines de Caparra
#500 Calle Marginal Norte
Bayamon, PR 00959
Puerto Rico

Well, that's about all I have now. The next time you get an email from me, I'll (most likely) be in "La Isla de Encanta"; "La Estrella del Caribe"; and the island that I'll be calling my home for the next 22 months. :) I'm so excited, and so thankful I have this opportunity to serve my Lord. I miss you much, but I love you even more. I pray for you and think about you all, and wish you the best. I don't know if I'm in much of a position to counsel, but as a representative of Jesus Christ and as a special witness, I just want to testify to you that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I know that we weren't the best at reading it before, but as a missionary I can promise that as you make that effort to read, ponder, and ask God if that book is true, He will answer you. Even if you know it's true already, ask Him again, and He will give you an added witness. I did, and I know, without a doubt, that the Book of Mormon is true. I know that the Book will bring happiness and peace, and that our home can become an even stronger refuge from the world. I encourage you to read it together as often as you can. I understand the challenges that come with that, but I know that He will bless you for your efforts. I love you all so much, and I thank you for your support, and the kind words every week.

Elder Kimball Ray Gardner

Puerto Rico San Juan Mission

Alma 29:9

3 Nephi 5:13

19 January 2012

Week 7: Less than 2 weeks!

Well, another week has come and gone mi familia. I'm still getting used to the fact that you're 3 hours behind me... so as I type this, it is 4:20 in Utah. Crazy!

Thursday night I guess was where the adventure began. I was flossing above my retainer on my top teeth (that's what the floss threaders were for), and the floss got caught or wrapped around the retainer or something, so when I tried to pull it out, it pulled on the retainer and popped the retainer off my far left tooth. :( It was pretty depressing. I was going to just try and live with it, but my tooth started hurting and I didn't like the end of my retainer just flopping around in there, so I eventually asked someone about it, and they had me talk to one of the CCM administrators. But I'll get to that in a bit. Also, the native missionaries came in Wednesday night, and all I can say is . . . where are the Haitians??? But the natives are great, they are just very open and kind of do whatever they want. They're great and have wonderful testimonies.

Friday (the 13th!) was interesting. After a normal morning, we went to the local university to do some contacting! That was pretty cool. We talked to a few people, and left some folletos (pamphlets) for them. One couple talked to us about reincarnation, and we had to explain that we don't believe in that, but we believe in the Resurrection. Apparently they did too, as well as reincarnation. I don't really understand how anyone could believe both, but whatever. We also talked to a guy about the Book of Mormon, and we left him with one as well as a pamphlet on the Restoration. He seemed really interested. I hope he read it! Also, keep in mind that it's only winter here. All of our teachers say that it's pretty cool compared to summer. And I while we were contacting, I was sweating very much. It was awful! It's so hot and humid here! But honestly, I am very glad that it's hot rather than cold and freezing. :)

Saturday was an "eh" kind of day. Elder Clarke, one of my roommates, had been feeling sick all day, so that night we gave him a blessing as well. It turned out that he had some kind of amoeba that was causing him some problems, but he is doing great now. :) Besides that, Saturday was just a normal day.

Sunday, as always was really nice! We had a great Sacrament meeting, and I was selected to give a talk (in Spanish) about the Restoration. I chose to speak on why it's important for our investigators to know about the Great Apostasy, and why it was important to have a Restoration. I honestly don't really remember much of what I said, so I'm pretty confident that there was a higher power just giving me the words to say. It was a cool experience. That afternoon, we got to watch the Devotional from the Provo MTC given on Nov. 22 by Elder Christofferson. That was just 8 days before I got there, and I remember Elder Paxman telling me about it. It was a really great talk! That night, we were also privileged to hear from Pres. and Hna. Rodriguez. Pres. Rodriguez is the Mission President of the Santo Domingo West Mission, and he gave a pretty good talk himself. He's a very spiritual man, and the missionaries are lucky to have him as their president! But I have heard such great things about Pres. Alvarado, and I cannot wait to meet him. :)

So Monday is where the story gets interesting I think. It started out normal enough, and I talked to the guy about the dentist. And so he said he would call someone and see what he could do. Later that day, after lunch, I was pulled out of class and talked to the dentist, and she looked at my retainer, and then I as well as Elder Taai (an Elder here going to Santiago, DR), went with the dentist to her office. It turned out he needed work done and she asked me to tell him. He's from the Christmas Islands (a Nephite descendant!!), and he doesn't quite understand Spanish as well as English. He had a cavity the size of Kansas!! It was huge! I felt so bad for him, and when I saw I thought "well that's why your teeth are hurting!" Then she worked on my retainer, and cemented it back on, and now I'm back to normal. :) However, it cost about 50 bucks, so if you noticed that change in the money, that's what happened. So don't worry, nobody stole my card or anything. :)

Tuesday, we got to hear from Elder Andersen, who is a General Authority of some kind, but I'm not exactly sure what... but he gave a great talk on how to become better missionaries by developing better attributes of work, obedience, and reverence. It was great. I loved his talk, and I hope that I can do exactly what he talked about!

So that brings me to Wednesday. After a normal morning, and lunch, we all packed into a couple of vans, and we drove to a church in the city. And there we met with a zone of missionaries out in the field, and they split us up, and then away we went, into the city to preach the word of God!!! I was paired with Elder Hawks, a missionary from Montana who has been out a year. When I asked him if it felt like it's been a year, he shook his head. But we walked through the city a ways, in the rain, and then we started some contacting. It was really interesting! He had me talk to a few people as we were doing that, and we got a couple to say yes to a visit for tomorrow (today). After we contacted for a bit, we went to some appointments. Most of them weren't home, but we did teach an older couple. It was interesting, because the guy was missing his front teeth and he speaks Dominican, fast, crazy Spanish. But I understood most of what was being said, and Elder Hawks had me bear my testimony and teach a little bit about the Book of Mormon. It was a really cool and interesting experience, and I'm glad I had it, because I feel so much better about going to the field! I'm so excited to go to Puerto Rico, because it's going to be just like here, but Americanized. :)

Anyway, after the appointments, we walked to a corner store, and Elder Hawks bought me a little thing of cornbread and some Coke. It was great! I had had a little headache and a stomachache, and the Coke helped a ton. (By the way Mom, you would be proud of me and my new eating habits. I've come to actually enjoy peppers and onions now, and the cornbread was really good.) And then we were done. Elder Dowell had been paired with a native speaker, so that was a cool experience for him. Anyway, after the field experience, we came back and found out that my old compañero, Elder Kerr, was going to the hospital because he's been so sick lately. Later we found out that he has pneumonia. :( So he's there now with his companion. We have been praying for him to get better, and I feel so bad for him... Also, not to freak you out or anything, but apparently a few days ago someone got into the CCM and stole a projector. On our floor. And we live on the top floor! Apparently Hermano Cuevas, the MTC Director, saw him on the cameras the next day. So… that was kind of creepy. But all our room doors lock, so we were safe. :)

Anyway, that was my week! Kind of a long letter, but they give us an hour here to write emails each week, so I can write everything that happened that week. :)

Espero que Uds. estén muy bien. Les extraño mucho, y les amo mucho. Espero que Dios les bendiga en todas partes de sus vidas. Ya estoy aprendiendo español, pero espero que Uds. puedan entender las cosas que he escrito aquí. :)

Con mucho amor y cariño,

Elder Kimball Ray Gardner

Puerto Rico San Juan Mission

12 January 2012

Week 6: 19 Days Left in the DR!

¡Hola Familia!

I can't believe Elder Paxman is already out in the field. It's incredible how fast time flies.

Dad! It's so cool that you got to go to a Jazz game!! How are they doing? What's their record look like? Have you heard much about Jimmer and the Kings? How's the league doing? Sorry for all the questions, but a little news about the NBA would be great :) Anyway, I'm glad they won! That's always good news. And I'm glad that you had a good time there. Also, that's so cool that Jon Schmidt played for that and you got to talk to him! I actually played Waterfall here a couple days ago, so that's pretty cool that you'd bring that up. That's a bit sad that my car is now sold, but I'm glad that there's a bit more money for my mission! It was a good car for me. But I hope it serves that gentleman well! I also hope that home teaching goes well.

And Marilee, I will just keep responding to your email, because it doesn't take too long. :)

Now, getting to what has happened this week . . . a LOT! Last Thursday, after I emailed, we went to what's called the Colonial Area of Santo Domingo. It was really cool. It talked a lot about the history of the country and the city, and how Columbus visited here after visiting the Bahamas and Cuba during his first voyage. Apparently the entire Spanish conquest was based here in Santo Domingo, so that was cool! But we got to walk through some old houses, and we visited the oldest Cathedral in all of the Americas or the Caribbean. It was interesting!

On Friday, we went back out to do some contacting! That had some highs and some lows. We had a couple of guys who were really interested, and we gave them some pamphlets and they said they would call the mission numbers we gave them. We also gave a kid (about 12 years old) a Book of Mormon to read, and he seemed really interested. However, Elder Dowell and I encountered an American atheist, and we were having a pretty nice conversation until we started talking religion with him. We did our best and tried to give him a pamphlet on the Plan of Salvation, but he wasn't having any of it. So he stormed off, and we just went on our way. I felt awful just because I couldn't understand how anyone could live their life thinking it had no purpose. It was truly depressing. But right after that we talked to a younger Dominican guy and asked "¿Cree Ud. en Dios?"(Do you believe in God?) and his reply was "¡Claro!"(Of course!) So that was nice. :)

On Sunday night we were blessed to have a guy speak to us about preaching to "the isles of the sea" like it says in the Book of Mormon. It was so cool! He taught us about Columbus and how he was an inspired man. Apparently Columbus said that the Holy Ghost inspired him. Isn't that so amazing?? Because in 1 Nephi, Nephi has that vision of Columbus coming across the seas. So amazing. It was really a cool lesson.

Monday night was really cool. We had a nice closing meeting for the Haitian missionaries leaving, which was kind of sad, but really nice because they were so excited to get out into the field. We sang "God be With You 'Til We Meet Again" which was really cool, and I was able to play the piano for them. Also, that night Elder Kerr (my old companion) came into our room with his companion, asking if one of us would be willing to help with a blessing. Being his old companion, I volunteered, and I performed the anointing. It was really cool! It was a really good experience, and then after that, all of us in the room participated in the sealing and the blessing. It was really nice.
Tuesday morning, the Haitian missionaries left. :( I'll be sending another email with a few pictures of us with them as well as pictures of other stuff. But they left that morning, and I gave one of them, Elder Excellent (that's his real name!) my temple tie bar. He had seen my Captain Moroni one and said that he wished he had one, so the day he left I just gave him my Salt Lake Temple one. I think he liked it. :) I'll also send a picture of me and him so you can see who he is. Anyway, after they had left (with Pres. Glazier; it was odd not having him there), we went to the Supermercado. That was a strange experience. It was like a really big D.I., but full of new stuff. It was weird. But really cool! I bought a few things I needed, like index cards, floss, some Shout, and a camera case. Oh, and I bought a really cool black and white tie. :)

I also found.... MERENGUE!! You will have to tell Bro. Muirbrook that I found it so he will know that I did. :) I also took a picture of that which I will send in the picture email, which you can maybe show him. It was really good! Anyway, after that I felt sickish, and I think it's because of Elder Kerr the night before, but for whatever reason, my stomach wasn't doing so well and I was having some... problems. But I took some medicine, and after a GREAT night's rest, I felt much better yesterday.

Which brings me to today! We went to the temple again this morning (probably for the last time for my mission, because the temple will be closed until we leave) and we started off doing baptisms and confirmations. There was a bit of a twist though, as it was in Spanish! But it was really nice. For the baptizing part, Elder Dowell baptized me, and then I baptized him, so that was really cool. After, we did another endowment session which was really good. I'm going to miss going to the temple for a couple years, so just be ready to go when I get back, because I'm going to want to really badly!! It was sad leaving the Celestial Room, knowing that I wouldn't see it again. I mean, I might because we may go and clean the temple, but it won't be after a session. But it was a really great morning, and I'm so glad I was able to go to the temple one more time. It always reminds me of you!

Anyway, that's my week. It was a pretty busy one, but a good one. The DR is a great place, but I'm really looking forward to Puerto Rico. I've heard so much about it, and I'm excited to experience it myself in just 19 days! I'm excited to meet my Mission President, and get back into a country where the mail is reliable. I don't know if anybody's sent anything (probably not, since I said not to), but I haven't received anything. It's just funny to watch some of the elders really suffer because they were used to daily letters and packages back in Provo. But such is life. I look forward to writing again next week, and I hope you are all doing well! I pray for you every night and every time I'm in the temple. Tell the dogs I say hi :) and know that I love you all very much. I hope you're handling the cold well (we have Windows 7 here with the weather gadgets, so I check on you every morning), and just know that it is always very warm and humid here! It will be interesting walking around and riding a bike in this, especially in the summer!

But I pray for you, and think of you always. I pray that the Lord may continue to bless you in all things. I love you and miss you!

Love, Elder Gardner

06 January 2012

Week 5: Earthquake!

Well hello again my family! I hope you are all doing well! I tried to respond quickly to all your emails you sent, so hopefully I got all of that.

That being said, I will only focus on what's been happening here for the past week. :) Starting with this morning. So there I was sleeping, dreaming about who knows what, and all of a sudden, my bed starts shaking! For a moment I thought it was Elder Clarke (the Elder who sleeps under me), but then I heard Elder Dowell (my companion) say "What's going on??" And then I realized... we were in an earthquake!!! It was crazy!! In all my years living in Utah I'd never felt an earthquake, and then all of a sudden I get here for a week and BOOM, earthquake. I heard that this one was in the middle of the ocean between PR and here, and we still felt it pretty good. So I really hope no big earthquakes happen while I'm here. But whatever happens, I know I'm going to be protected by the Lord for my service. Anyway, we asked the Haitian missionaries if they felt it, and they just laughed like it was nothing. I bet they get it all the time. But yeah, so that was my fun experience of the week!

Another great thing we got to do, and that we get to do again tomorrow, is go contacting at the local park! We took a van over and then my companion and I took some pamphlets and just started walking around, talking to people and getting them to read the pamphlets and call the mission headquarters of their area. It was a really cool experience. There was one guy who really wanted to know where our meeting place was, but since we didn't know, we just told him to call the number. I hope he was able to find what he was looking for! Also, listening to some of the Dominican people talking, and knowing that the Puerto Ricans speak just as fast is a bit defeating, because I could barely understand them! But hopefully that will come with time.

This morning I had the opportunity to once again do a session at the Santo Domingo Temple. Also, I was very privileged to be a part of and witness some sealings! Of course, I was just able to represent a child, for obvious reasons, but it was still wonderful. It reminded me very much of about 11 years ago.(*) It was incredible, and I felt the Spirit so strongly. It was great. :)

On Sunday, we got to watch an old MTC devotional from Elder Holland. It was AMAZING. He is such a powerful, moving speaker, and I loved every moment of his teaching. He taught about how we need to convert ourselves first as missionaries before we can ever hope to convert others. He talked about Peter, in the last chapter of John, and how he became the Great Apostle then. It was great!

Then on Tuesday we were able to hear from Elder Cornish from the Area Presidency of the Caribbean. That was also really great, and he taught us about the 8 fundamentals of Preach my Gospel, which was really cool. I learned a lot about that, and I hope I can apply it! Also, my evening teacher, Hermano Rubio, is amazing. He is only 23, but he teaches the gospel like he's 50 or something. It's incredible.

Which reminds me, Elder Dowell and I have 3 investigators we are teaching! Cleira in the morning, Kristal in the afternoon, and José in the evening. It's sometimes difficult, teaching 3 different investigators (our teachers), but it's a good experience. I'll probably be teaching way more in the field!

Anyway, I really love it here. I think I enjoy it here more than in Provo. I don't know exactly why. Maybe it's because it's a bit less strict here and still spiritual, or maybe it's because it's just more personal. I don't know, but it's great. The people here are great, and Pres. Glazier, the MTC Pres. is a great man. I can't believe I've already been here a week. It's crazy! And in just 4 weeks I'll be leaving for the mission field. But I'm so excited to get to Puerto Rico and get to know those people. I've only heard good things about PR, so that will be great. :)

Well, I'm almost out of time, and I still need attach some pictures for you! (Which reminds me, did you get my SD card??? I sure hope so!!) So I will attach those and send off this email. But just know that I love you very much mi familia, and I pray for you every day, and especially every time I'm in the temple. I miss you, but I am doing great and loving every minute here. The food's great, and I'm doing just fine. :) I love you very much!!

Con much amor,

Elder Gardner

Alma 29:9
3 Nefi 5:13

*NOTE FROM THE EDITOR (MOM): In the year 2000 our family adopted Kimball’s baby sister. Six months later we were able to go to the temple to have her sealed to our family. Since Kimball was turning 8 that week, we asked the bishop if he could be with us at the temple, and he gave Kimball a temporary recommend. After all that went on in the temple was over, Kimball told us that he felt so happy in there that he wanted to go back some day. His wish was finally fulfilled when he received his endowments at the Bountiful temple. Happy day!
By the way, the earthquake was a 5.3, a rumble, there were no injuries or destruction.