We were surprised to receive our very first letter from Elder Keppner today! He entered the MTC this past Wednesday (January 1st!), and we were not sure when we'd hear from him.
But here's his letter below, with the names of the other Elders in his district abbreviated to maintain their privacy.
I'm not sure how to tell you everything that's happened to me in the last few days, so, please be patient with me as I spew all of this out. :)
As I walked alone through airport security, it really hit me that I wouldn't be coming back for two years. While I waited for my flight, I looked out the window, and realized that this was the last time I would be in Arizona for a long time. After that, I said a prayer in my heart, asking God to help me, so that I would not be homesick at any time during my mission. He answered my prayer. :)
Anyway, while I waited, I bumped into SIX other missionaries (three sisters and three elders) going to the MTC that day with me. We talked a while, and when we boarded the plane, we were generally clustered together at the back of the plane.
Flying is AMAZING! I sat at the window staring out like a wide eyed six year old as the plane took off, and flew over the route to Utah I know so well. After less than two minutes, we were out of the Valley, and over the mountains. Less than fifteen minutes in, we were over Flagstaff. I was in awe at how fast we traveled the distance that took us hours and hours to drive. Anyway,after our plane landed, we missionaries all met back up, got our bags, and rode the shuttle together over to the MTC.
OH! Ask Brother W. if he was running in Orem Utah by any chance on January first! I swear I saw him running as my shuttle drove by.
When I arrived at the MTC, we were taken through a quick introduction about where we would be staying and where everything was, and then we started classes, immediately. After the first few classes, we were each assigned a companion. Our district had four elders and four sisters, all of us heading to Spokane Washington. My companion, Elder F., is a wrestler from ___. He is six foot, and more ripped than Tanner (his cousin). The other two elders in our district were Elder H. (a big Polynesian) who is also a wrestler from ___, and Elder B., a small and thin elder from __.
From the first day, we all bonded as brothers. We all LOVE the gospel, and all of us feel very strongly about being here. There are a lot of elders that act like their here to screw off, but not these elders. MY elders. These elders are my brothers, and we all really love and respect each other. We've all worked so hard, and we are really working to improve, and bring others to Christ by invitation, and by simply allowing the spirit to work in their lives. One of our focuses is making sure that the Spirit teaches, not us. We try and make sure that this is all about the investigators relationship with God, and that we are simply to love them.
Our sisters are amazing (and beautiful, which is something we elders make sure we help each other with. Not because there is a problem, but because we want to make sure that our thoughts are where they need to be), and we are so blessed to have them. As a district, we are all truly brothers and sisters, and we ALL are completely focused on the gospel, the spirit, and helping others.
I can't tell you how much I've grown. For the first time, I feel completely alive, completely focused, and completely centered on Christ. We talk about the gospel 24/7, in our residents, in our classroom, in personal study, at meals, in the gym, it doesn't matter. We have deep discussions constantly about ways to improve, and ways to make sure the spirit is teaching. We also have A LOT of inside jokes about certain gospel topics (never say that it was "sweet to the taste" around Elder H.), and we LOVE being here. I really do love it here, and even though we work non-stop, I've never felt more at home.
Now, on a sad note, Elder B. was yesterday treated by the MTC doctor, and found to have a depression disorder which requires medical attention which would need to be resolved back at home. He was a spiritual giant, and he had NO interest in going, but the district President talked to him, and it was decided, that after he resolved the issue, he would be able to return to the MTC and continue his mission. We were all crushed to have lost him, but we all agreed, that no matter what happened or how long it took, we would all be in the Washington Spokane Mission together, and that we would sacrifice whatever the Lord required us to sacrifice to get there. We had a testimony meeting last night, and we were all comforted, and received personal revelation from God.
This morning we got up at 4:00am to take him to the shuttle and say goodbye. There were some tears, but the Spirit was strong, and we all were strengthened by it.
So, for mom's benefit, I have slept well, I shower regularly, I shave, and I follow ALL of the mission rules with exactness. I'm so happy here, and I am so excited to be here, and to work for something that I care about so much. I've only been here a few days, but it feels like I've been here my whole life.
Thank you all for everything you've done. And write to me! I'm the only one who has received no letter of any kind here at the MTC, and Elder H. is starting to think that I must have ticked everyone at home off for some reason. Please write!
I love you all,
P.S.-- Oh! I'm also a zone leader. ;)
We don't have his MTC address yet, which is why we haven't sent him anything, yet! :-(
Yes, we're newbie parents at this missionary thing! LOL! Hopefully, he'll answer our return emails soon and give us his MTC address.