Thursday, June 28, 2012

George Clark, WWI Comanche Code Talker

In March, we wrote a story on Elliot's blog, Comanche National Museum to honor Code Talkers, about an upcoming exhibit at the Comanche National Museum. The exhibit tells the story of members of the Comanche Nation who served in WWI and WWII. Transmitting messages in the native tongue, these Native American patriots served their country and protected their fellow soldiers by speaking in a language the Germans were never able to understand.

Today, KSWO ran a story about one of the WWI Code Talkers, George Clark. On Thursday, Mr. Clark's nephew, Albert, donated a 48-star American flag that belonged to his uncle to the museum, which prompted the news coverage. The story tells the interesting history of Mr. Clark and his role in establishing the Code Talkers:
In 1918 George was one of only 4 Comanches to use their native tongue to send messages the enemy couldn't decode, but before The Great War.
[Albert:] "There were two or three Choctaw boys who were in the same outfit, sitting and talking to each other in their native tongue. An officer came by and heard them talking. The thought came to him that these boys talking in their native tongue, the Germans wouldn't be able to understand it." 
The Germans never did figure it out. Messages were never decoded in Choctaw or later in Comanche. Even though they couldn't vote until 1924, four World War I Comanche Code Talkers served their country and saved lives, and George Clark was one of them. The Germans tried to learn the language and actually sent spies to the United States to try to break the code. 
The story of Mr. Clark, one of the earliest Code Talkers, will be a great addition to the exhibit at the museum. Unfortunately, Elliot is no longer serving in Lawton, the home of the museum, so he own't have a chance to see the exhibit. It must be fascinating.

Enjoy the video report of the KSWO story.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Elliot's June 25 email

Here's the latest email from Elliot.


Good news-I'm going to train again! Elder Phillips (my MTC companion who is one of the Assistants now) called me last night to tell me the news. So I'll for sure be spending the last 6 weeks of my mission here in OK City and I'll have another new missionary. No news on whether or not Elder Orellana is going to stay. It seems very possible that he and my new missionary will both be here this next transfer and that they'll stay together after I leave. Whatever happens, I'm pretty excited. A lot of missionaries never have the opportunity to train, but I'm blessed enough to train 4 new missionaries. It's so fun. I also found out that I will no longer be a District Leader, so I'll be able to just focus on my companion(s) and the area. That'll be a nice change since the last 9 transfers I've either been a DL or Zone Leader.

Oklahoma City seems a little deflated after getting knocked out quickly by the Heat. We just stopped in at Academy and everything Thunder related is half off. We went to Brick Town/downtown to see the set up for the Finals last Monday. It was pretty cool. I have it all on film so eventually I'll get that developed.

But life's good! We set a baptismal goal with the guy I told you about last week that we found. We also found a lot more new people to teach and have been having fun even though it has been getting so hot lately. I just want to finish out strong and give it all I got. The Lord has blessed me with so much more than I deserve and I want to show him my gratitude. I'm grateful for the enabling power of the Atonement to make more out of me than I could ever make out of myself, and I want to make the most out of the opportunity I have in front of me right now.

I haven't gotten the shirts yet, but the office sometimes takes a week or so to get packages through. I did get the Target gift card though and that is very much appreciated! I already put that to good use. So thanks for that! Hope you guys have a great week!


Elder Elliot

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Bible Videos: "Jesus Declares He Is the Messiah"

 21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.

Napa Valley Register: "Missionaries on a mission"

Last Sunday, the Napa Valley Register featured two stories about missionaries serving in California's wine country. Elders Jace Felix and Ty Mair, both from Utah, are currently stationed in Napa. The two stories, "Missionaries on a mission" and "Walking with the missionaries," describe their experiences. The latter story in particular provides an interesting and detailed look into a fairly typical weekday as the two missionaries seek to contact members of the community who may be interested in learning more about the Church.
On a recent weekday afternoon, after referring to a city map marked in numbered sections, Felix and Mair set out to go “contacting” in a quiet northeast Napa neighborhood. 
Arriving by car, the two parked on a side street, hopped out of their vehicle and strapped on two black backpacks. 
They wasted no time. Holding copies of the Book of Mormon and introducing themselves as Elder Felix and Elder Mair, the two men earnestly knocked on doors, poked their heads into open garages and generally chatted up anyone they saw. 
For the most part, Napans were welcoming to these two strangers in their midst.
The story then describes the missionaries' encounters with various people, some positive, some less so. But the story provides a very realistic look at a typical day in the life of a missionary, and probably very typical of the experience Elliot is having. Both stories are worth a read.

53 Days Left

Of the 735 total days that Elliot will be gone on his mission to Oklahoma, only 53 remain. We try not to get too excited about his return, since that will just make us crazy. And we certainly try to avoid reminding him how little time he has left, since he needs to stay focused on what he is doing and not worry about what he will do when he returns home. But we're obviously excited.

We recently received his travel itinerary from the Church. He returns August 16. For those who like to plan ahead, he is scheduled to speak about his mission experience at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, August 19, at the LDS chapel located at 24915 Peachland Avenue, Newhall, California (map). Everyone is welcome. His friend Carlton Reininger returns just a day earlier from his mission to Argentina and will speak at the same meeting, so it should be a great day.

Jabari Parker: Basketball Phenom, Mormon, and Future Missionary?

We've posted a couple of stories on Elliot's blog about young men who excel in sports and are then faced with the decision whether to serve a mission. Our two stories featured rugby stars Sid Going and Will Hopoate, both of whom elected to serve missions. In Elder Going's case, he returned from a mission to Canada and became one of the most celebrated stars of New Zealand's All Blacks team. Elder Hopoate is currently on his mission in Australia, so we'll have to wait to see about his professional rugby career.

A similar story is currently developing. A young man from Chicago, Jabari Parker, is being hailed as the top high school basketball player in the country and a sure thing for the NBA. He was recently featured in a lengthy cover story in Sports Illustrated, which called him "the best high school basketball player since Lebron James." But the subtitle of the story points out that "there's something more important to him than NBA stardom: his faith." Jabari is a Mormon. The Sports Illustrated story points out:
The backpack that Jabari Parker takes everywhere contains all the expected items: a pair of Nikes, socks with the NBA logo, basketball shorts, T-shirts, Icy Hot gel, a couple of rolls of athletic prewrap, and an iPod loaded with rap and R&B. But there's also a paperback copy of The Book of Mormon. Jabari belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. "Basketball is what I do," he says. "It's not who I am."
The story acknowledges the difficult decision Jabari will face at the end of his freshman year of college: enter the NBA draft, with the potential to make the astronomical salaries available to young stars, or risk that future to serve a two-year mission for the Church, where he will be unable to train seriously or play at a high level to maintain his skill level.
Eyes might be on him most of all at the end of his freshman year in college, when he has to decide whether he will declare for the NBA draft or—like thousands of other Mormon men who turn 19—embark on a two-year mission to spread the faith in the U.S. or a foreign country (page 67). In 2010 the president of the church, Thomas S. Monson, called missionary service "a priesthood duty—an obligation the Lord expects of us who have been given so very much." 
Missionaries do not return home for two years. They aren't allowed to have a job, attend college classes or pursue other personal interests. In Jabari's case, that would mean a two-year hiatus from basketball and conditioning, possibly jeopardizing a brilliant NBA career.
Whatever decision Jabari makes, what is beyond question is that he is an extraordinary young man, and not just because he's a 6'9" budding superstar. Another excerpts from the SI story:
Jabari wakes up each morning at five and says a simple prayer, thanking God for another day. By 5:30 three days a week he's off to church for Bible study. Jabari's bio on his Twitter page features a favorite maxim from his basketball idol John Wooden: You can't let praise or criticism get to you. It's a weakness to get caught up in either one. "I realize why I'm in the position I'm in right now," says Jabari. "It's not because of me. It's because of God."
It's a great story of a great young man. It's nice to see such good coverage, done fairly by a member of the Church, Jeff Benedict. There is also a companion story in the same edition of Sports Illustrated, To Serve Or Not To Serve?, which discusses Jabari's decision and talks about others before him who faced the same decision. Both stories are well worth a read.

The Oklahoman included a brief summary of the story about Jabari, Faith and Hoops: Check out Sports Illustrated. And most recently Jabari was interviewed on ABC's Good Morning America. The video interview is below.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Elliot's June 18 email and pictures

Here's the latest email from Elliot. There are several new pictures after the jump.

Happy Father's Day dad! I'm glad to hear you had a good one. You deserve it.

This past week was pretty good for us. We had Temple Conference which was nice. The north half of the mission went up to Surrey Hills and got to go to the temple and have other meetings. President Southward, the OKC Temple President, and his wife also spoke to us which was way cool. We also had Stake Conference Saturday-Sunday. President and Sister Taylor spoke at that as well as President and Sister Southward. So I got to hear a ton of great talks and trainings this past week.

We had quite a few good lessons this past week. We feel like a few of the people we're teaching are really sincere and have a lot of potential. So there's a lot for us to do right now. Yesterday we also had a really cool finding miracle. Yesterday was hot and humid, not atypical for Oklahoma. We were working hard and trying to follow the Spirit but we just weren't really having much success. We were hot and pretty tired and decided to start biking over to try to visit one of our investigators a couple of miles away instead of continuing to work the street we were on. As we were going I felt like we should take a different street than usual. When we turned on the street I thought we needed to get off of our bikes and knock just a couple of doors, contrary to what we wanted to do. When we go tracting we don't knock every door on the street, unless we feel that's what we're supposed to do. We try to discern by the Spirit which houses to try. Elder Orellana felt we should go to one house. We introduced ourselves to the young man at the door who at first seemed like he's not taking this too seriously. It turned around really quickly. We introduced ourselves as representatives of Jesus Christ and how we were there to pray for him and ask the Lord's blessings to be with him. He accepted the offer for us to pray with him. We asked if there was anything in particular he would like us to pray for, and in response he told us about the tough times he was going through. He got into some rough things down in Dallas when he was a bit younger but changed his life around, became a Christian, and left his street gang, and cleaned up his act. He had just barely made it to OK City and had to come because Dallas was just not a good place for him any more. We prayed very specifically for him and his family. Afterwards he had tears in his eyes and the Spirit was so strong. We testified of the power of the Atonement to change lives and cover our mistakes. He was very moved and gladly accepted to have us come back by and teach him. It was such a great experience and it shows me that God is mindful of all of us and is definitely guiding us in this work. That brings me a lot of happiness.

I have pictures to send y'all! I'll attatch them to this email. Also I have a bit of a favor to ask. If I remember correctly we had like 3-4 extra short sleeved shirts that we bought before I came out. If that's the case, do you think you might be able to send them out? That would be super nice to have now that it's so hot. Thanks!

Have fun at girl's camp mom!


Elder Elliot

Saturday, June 16, 2012 Video: "Why Mormons Send Missionaries Around the World"

I ran across this video on, on its Missionary Work page. The video depicts several missionaries from around the world as they describe their purpose and experiences in serving their missions. I enjoyed it and thought it would be a good video to share on Elliot's blog, as it gives insight into the experience is having.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Religion News Service: "For Mitt Romney and other Mormons, missions are a ‘refiner’s fire’"

I ran across an interesting story on the Religion News Service written by Daniel Burke. Despite the title of this story, it's not really about Mitt Romney (and certainly not about politics). Instead, it's an insightful piece about the experience of being a Mormon missionary.

Mr. Burke introduces his story with a brief discussion of Mitt Romney's service as a missionary, and quotes him as saying:
“On a mission, your faith in Jesus Christ either evaporates or it becomes much deeper,” Romney later said. “For me it became much deeper.”
The story notes that some 57,000 missionaries are currently serving missions throughout the world, with more than a million Mormons having served since the inception of the Church in 1830. Mr. Burke describes their shared experience:
Most Mormon missionaries endure a grueling regimen of prayer, study and proselytizing. They put careers and college on hold and move to mission fields where rejection is the norm. Some have been beaten, mocked, caught in gang crossfire, even killed. Romney himself was in a serious car accident and roughed up by a team of soused rugby players. 
And yet, many Mormons say their faith flourished during the mission, as they discovered a genuine joy in sharing the gospel and encountered one of spirituality's central paradoxes: by surrendering the self, you often find it. 
“In a lot of ways serving a mission is like going through a refiner’s fire,” said Rob Skidmore, who recalls bicycling in 100-degree heat and dodging paintballs fired from passing cars during his mission in Las Vegas from 2004-2006. “It’s an arduous process, but in the end all of the impurities have been burned out.”
The story is well-written and fair, and worth a read. You can find it here.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Elliot's June 11 email

Here's the latest email from Elliot.

Hi familia!

That's so cool that you ran into Patrick Spiker. I got an email from him so I'm gonna get back to him after y'all. I'm definitely pumped to be living near all of them from the SCV as well as some missionaries here that are going to live in Liberty Square. That's crazy to think that he's back now. Its also crazy to think that today is my 22 month mark. Can you believe that? It goes by too fast. Everyone out here sees me as the old guy in the mission now haha.

This past week was pretty good. We're just trying to keep working hard and get things moving. Our investigator who came to church last week actually left town for the next 3 weeks, but we've been keeping in touch with him. We also have 2-3 appointments set up for every single day so we should have a good week here. I also went on exchanges with Elder Grover which was fun. He and Elder Andersen (both former companions of mine) are my ZLs and it's been cool. So it was a good week until yesterday when I came down with some kind of a 24 hour stomach virus. I pretty much just laid down all day after church and took it easy. I'm feeling a ton better today though, so no worries.

Today I think we are going to go to the science museum here in OKC which should be fun. I'll be sure to tell you about it next week!

I love y'all!

Elder Elliot

Monday, June 4, 2012

Elliot's June 4 email and pictures

Here's the latest email from Elliot, with several new pictures after the jump.

I'm an uncle! That's so awesome. Tell Kim and Keith I say congrats! I'm so excited to meet her when I get back! [Keith (Elliot's older brother) and Kim were blessed with a beautiful baby girl, Adelyn Ruth Adair, on June 1.]

This past week was extremely eventful. On Tuesday we had definitely the craziest storm out of all the ones I've been through here. We were teaching a family we found the week before and right at the end of a great lesson it started pouring. We were on our bikes about 4 or 5 miles from our apartment and they told us to hold off and see if the rain didn't die down. A few minutes later we start getting hail somewhere between the size of golf balls and tennis balls with a ton of wind. The man of the house we were teaching ran out in it to move his truck underneath a shed and in the process got hit in the hand by hail which bruised it up. They turned on the weather channel and being the only one who spoke English in the situation I translated for them. Apparently a tornado touched down west of OKC somewhere. A couple minutes later the tornado alarms went off which was tied with the tornado LTM last spring in intense-ness. About 5 or so minutes later everything calmed down and the other Elders in the branch, Charlesworth and Hernandez, came and picked us up and we went to the church. We pretty much rode out the storm there until 11 at night or so when we got a call that it was safe to return home. It was wild.

This past week was pretty awesome. We set 3 baptismal goals and had an investigator at church. He had an awesome time too. He had been visiting with the missionaries in Indiana for about 3 months but then moved to our area like 2 weeks ago. We met him like 8 days ago when we were walking down the street. He was like a block down from us on a side street and when he saw us yelled, "Hey amigos! Venganse! (Hey friends! Come over here)" He had never gone to church before in Indiana but Saturday he texted us and said he wanted to come. He had such a great time. The Spanish Branch here is awesome because like 95% of them are converts and many of them have had similar experiences. He bore his testimony in Sacrament Meeting of God's love and how important families are and how we need to love our children. Everyone was so nice and welcoming to him and he loved it. We went by later on and he was still smiling.

I'm with you guys on eating healthier and stuff. Today I bought a lot of fruit and healthy foods to eat. It's definitely easy to get out of shape out here but I've been doing better here lately. Also I've been cutting back on soda and how much I eat in general.

Anyway I love yall! I took some pictures of my district [above] and some of the damage from the storms [below].


Elder Elliot

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A great weekend of bike racing in OKC and Moore

What a fun weekend this must have been in Oklahoma City and Moore. First, the inaugural Oklahoma City ProAm Classic took place on Saturday. Some 500 cyclists raced in different categories on the streets of OKC, just north of downtown, in a criterium-style race. A total of $25,000 in prize money was available to winners, mainly in the elite events held later in the day. The Oklahoman carried a story about the event, along with some great photos (one of which is posted here).

Then, on Sunday, the city of Moore, where Elliot was assigned for several weeks, hosted a criterium known as the King of Moore. Moore Monthly provided coverage of the race, including photos and video. I can't embed the video on the blog but here's the link and one of the pictures is below.

I don't know if Elliot was aware of either of these races. Saturday's race was just outside his current assigned area, so he probably wouldn't have been able to see it in any event.

Bible Videos: "Jesus Teaches Nicodemus about Being Born Again"

 3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
 4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?
 5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

Oklahoma 2011: Hottest. Summer. Ever.

Elliot picked a most inopportune time to go on a mission to Oklahoma. You may recall that we wrote several stories for the blog about the incredible temperatures and drought experienced last year in Oklahoma and neighboring Texas. (See here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.) And now climatologists are reporting that last summer in Oklahoma (not Texas, as previously thought) was the hottest ever recorded in the United States:
In the new tally by the National Climatic Data Center, Oklahoma's average temperature last summer was 86.9 degrees, while Texas finished with 86.7 degrees. The previous record for the hottest summer was 85.2 degrees set in 1934 — in Oklahoma. 
"I'm from Oklahoma, and when you talk about the summer of 1934, there are a lot of connotations that go with that," said Deke Arndt, chief of the NCDC's climate monitoring branch in Asheville, N.C. "That whole climate episode — the Dust Bowl — that is a point in our state's history that we still look back to as transformative." 
Yet the summer of 2011, "was warmer than all those summers that they experienced during the Dust Bowl," Arndt said.
It really was remarkable to watch the weather reports from last summer. The 46 consecutive days of 100+ degrees in Wichita Falls where Elliot was assigned is hard to imagine. And it had a huge impact on local ranchers and farmers:
For Oklahoma rancher Monte Tucker, last summer was a breaking point, and it didn't make him feel any better Friday when he learned about his state's new dubious honor. 
Last summer felt like "opening an oven after cooking bread," said Tucker, who ranches in Sweetwater, in western Oklahoma. "We basically got up right about sun-up and did all we could until 11 in the morning, and we basically shut down almost 'till dark and kind of started up again. 
"I don't want to do it again, I'll say that much," he said.
The good news for Elliot is that this summer likely will not match the temperatures of last summer, and he'll be coming home in mid-August.

Elder Britten Schenk leaves the hospital

We saw some great news last week from the family of Elder Britten Schenk. We have posted a couple of stories about Elder Schenk here on Elliot's blog (here and here). He was seriously injured back in March when he was hit by a bus while serving his mission in Brazil. His family has written about his recovery on their blog.

On May 31, the Schenks posted the news that Elder Schenk has been released from hospital and allowed to return home. What a great day that must have been! Please read the story here and check out all the fun pictures, one of which I have posted here. Congratulation to Elder Schenk and his entire family, and best wishes to him as he continues with therapy.