Monday, August 31, 2015

Impossible To See How Far Our Influence Extends

Well, hopefully this letter will be a little bit longer than last weeks! I've got the iPad now, so it's a lot easier to write emails on p-day and just send them when I'm near wifi.

So I guess the first thing to talk about is the weather. I'll start by stating the obvious. Las Vegas is hot. I'm actually getting used to it though! anything under 105 is actually pretty comfortable now! It's not usually too windy, but when it does get windy, it feels like the hot air that blasts out of an oven when you open it. I was surprised to find that even the locals complain about the heat, even on some days I didn't think it was that hot. I guess I've just resigned myself to being hot and sweaty for the next 700 or so days. But on the bright side, things should start cooling down soon! Some of the projected highs for the coming week are below 100! Everyone says it's actually fairly nice down here in the fall and spring and will be in the 70s ,most of the time.

Some fun facts about the Nevada Las Vegas mission: There are about 121 languages spoken within the borders of the mission, so it's very diverse! The mission office keeps copies of the Book of Mormon in tons of different languages, and they say that they go through all of them pretty regularly. Las Vegas is one of the few missions that has been approved to take its number of missionaries to 220. Almost all missions have a cap of 200, but president snow has gotten special permission from the first presidency to have more because of the high conversion rates of the mission.

We recently started teaching an interesting group of people. There's a very well off family of members who have 3 foreign exchange students living with them right now, one from Russia, one from China, and one from Vietnam. We've started teaching the 3 foreign exchange students, and it makes for an interesting lingual experience! They're all pretty good English speakers, but occasionally it's hard to communicate concepts. Luckily we have the miracle of technology! We can have the iPads out and automatically translate everything with the google translate app! I think they're mostly interested in the lessons for the purpose of learning English better, but the Lord works in mysterious ways, so who knows what will come of it!

Sundays are a little interesting now, just because I'm used to them being a day of rest, but now in some ways, it seems like the most stressful day of the week trying to sort out ways for all of our investigators to get to church.  I'm finding little times to relax and enjoy the rest though, like when I take the sacrament.

I noticed what you said about people of other faiths doing their best to follow Christ.  We talked to a guy named Robert, who shared a lot of views with the church, and is a very devout Christian, but not LDS.  His son is a recent RM, but he seems pretty happy with where he's at in his own religion.  But he really is an awesome guy striving to do his best to follow Christ!

There are definitely some houses where it is easier to feel the spirit than others, haha.  We actually have 3 baptisms scheduled for this month!  Our first is scheduled for Thursday and 2 more scheduled in September!  I feel very blessed to be in an area where people are so prepared to hear the gospel. My branch president in the MTC said something cool about not knowing how we affect people.  Abinadi died believing that he hadn't been able to help anyone, but if it weren't for him, we wouldn't have the 2nd half of the Book of Mormon, because it all stemmed from Alma.  It's just impossible to see how far our influence extends!  But you can rest assured knowing that if nothing else, you've had profound influence on me!  I'm the man I am today in large part because of you.  Seeing a lot of dysfunctional families this last week has given me a newfound appreciation of how lucky I was growing up to have such amazing parents!

That's all for this week!  Thanks for your endless support and love!

Q&A - 8/31/2015

1.)  The hardest part of your week?  -- It definitely was a little daunting this last week to think about everything in terms of, "I'm going to be doing this for the next 2 years."  Never having a sleep-in day, only talking to family once a week, etc.  But as I'm starting to settle into the routine more, I've been able to get out of my own head a little bit and live in the moment more, so I'm doing much better!

2.)  The best part of your week?  --I've found a new appreciation for my personal study time!  It really does make or break my day.  If I don't have a good personal study of the scriptures in the morning, than I don't have the spirit with me as much, and it just makes everything about the day harder.  But when I've had good personal study, I don't even notice the hard stuff as much, because I'm so much more focused on the positives!

3.) Dad wants to know when your District Meetings are and how big is your District?  --Our district is made up of 9 people.  6 elders and 3 sisters.  we don't really have a regular day for district meetings, just whatever day it happens to be scheduled for that week. 

4.) What's the p-day activity for the day?  --every p-day our whole zone (about 15-20 people) gets together at the stake center for sports!  basketball, volleyball, and a game local to the las vegas mission called knacky (sort of like a combination of ultimate frisbee, and rugby, played with a football.)

Monday, August 24, 2015

First P-Day in the Field

Well, I survived the first weekend of Las Vegas!  I already love my mission and all of the people I've met!  I'll try to zoom through a couple of highlights so that I have more time to email individuals!

We flew in from Salt Lake on wednesday, which was a little chaotic, but everyone survived!  then all of the new missionaries went to President and Sister Snow's house to do a little bit of orientation kind of stuff, and get interviewed by president snow.  it took most of the day.  (I've decided to abandon grammar and capitalization in the interest of time.  Don't judge me. :) )  

after that we went to the mission office and met our new companions!  My new companion is Elder Wihongi.  He's a really great guy! (see Q and A for additional details.)  Since then it's just been teaching the gospel from dawn til dusk!  

I was a little bummed, because the suit pants from my suit that Cass gave me from China ripped right down the seat seam when i was getting into a car!  It should be easy enough to fix though, so hopefully i can find a good seamstress in the ward!  

We eat dinners with a member family pretty much every night here.  We're super blessed with amazing members who are willing to feed us and come out teaching with us!  most of them are pretty good cooks too!  

I always associated being saddle sore with riding horses, but i can now confirm, thanks to hours of intensive bike riding, that it is not horse exclusive!  fingers crossed that I'll get used to it soon.  

apparently down here, no one trusts the tap water, so everyone drinks bottled water.  I've always resented bottled water, but i'll play it safe for now.  Maybe I'll try to pick up one of those filtered water bottles soon.  

I really don't have time for much more than this for now, but hopefully next week I'll have a little more time and I'll include some of the things that I didn't have time to write this week.

Until next week...
Love, Elder Excell

Q&A - 8/24/2015

1.)  Tell us about your new companion.  Where is he from and what is something that you really like about him?  ---My new companions name is Elder Wihongi!  He's originally from New Zealand, but he's been living in Wisconsin for a while!  He's on his final transfer, so there's definitely some circle of life stuff happening, haha.  He's a really awesome guy, and a really hard worker!  I think you already have pictures of him from Sis. Hudman, so maybe you could post those, since i haven't taken any yet!

2.)  What area are you serving in?  Tell us how many wards or stakes or what kind of geographical area it covers.  ---I'm serving in the Warm Springs Stake, Haven Ward!  I already really love the people, and everyone is so amazingly nice and welcoming!   I'm definitely in one of the richer parts of las vegas for this transfer, so you don't have to worry about me being in the ghetto yet!   Although, my companion tells me there are definitely some areas that are a little sketchy after 9 PM.

3.)  Was your bike waiting for you when you arrived and how do you feel about it?  ---The bike was waiting for me.  It's a really nice bike!  It's going to have some hard miles put on it in the next couple of years, but it seems like it's up to the challenge!  I only hope that I am!

4.)  Have you received your iPad yet? (Elder Excell is serving in an area that uses iPads for the missionaries.  Not every area does this.)  ---No iPad yet.  They should give them out fairly soon though.  They distribute them at district meetings instead of right when you get there, so as to minimize confusion.  We have another district meeting on Wednesday though, so fingers crossed for then!

5.)  Best moment so far in Las Vegas?  ---To be included in next week's letter for time purposes!

6.)  Are you happy?  ---I'm super happy!  I love the work, the people, and I'm even getting used to the heat!  105 is a cool day down here right now, and it hasn't really gotten much over 110, so I've been lucky weather wise! (so i've been told, haha)

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Kind People Everywhere!

How do we possibly thank kind strangers who send us text message pictures of our missionary son and help us to know that he's being well taken care of?  This is our latest! Someone is spoiling the "greenie" Elder Excell!  And his parents couldn't be more grateful!!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Elder Excell Has Arrived!

Elder Excell with President and Sister Snow

Elder Excell and Elder Summers!  Both serving from the Highland 7th Ward!

His new companion??

Dear Brother and Sister Excell,
I am pleased to inform you that Elder Excell arrived in Las Vegas with a smile on his face and a wonderful spirit.  Thank you for preparing him to serve the Lord.  We will do our best to build on what you have taught him by incorporating the principles of missionary work found in Preach My Gospel.  Our goal is to have your son return home after the remainder of his two years in the Nevada Las Vegas Mission with a desire and the tools necessary to be a Preach My Gospel missionary for life!  When his service is finished he will be a stronger person with a deep commitment to the Lord....

**We were super excited to get our first communication from President and Sister Snow and learn that our missionary has arrived safely!!  Now, the real work and fun begins!!**

Thursday, August 13, 2015

A Wonderful Surprise!

Imagine our surprise, and joy, when we received a random text tonight from a fellow missionary mama from Orem, UT, who happened to be at the temple today and found these handsome young missionaries!!  I have a feeling that she must truly understand what pictures like these would mean to eight other families out there!!  What a wonderful, kind thing to do!!

Our First Email from Elder Excell in the MTC!!

The first week of my mission has been awesome and crazy!  I'll do my best to give some highlights.

Day 1 was definitely the craziest.  It's super impressive that they processed about 600 missionaries in about 2 hours.  And that includes giving out schedules, nametags, credit cards, ID, dropping you off at your room and more!  I met my companion Elder Bissett.  He's from Edmonton, Alberta.  He has a great sense of humor and we've been getting along really well!  

Day 2 was the first full day at the MTC, so this seems like a good place to list a typical day for me right now:  Wake up at 6:10 to beat the shower rush, and be ready in time for district prayer in our classroom at 7.  From there, we have half an hour to eat breakfast, then it's back to the classroom for 3 hours of personal/companion/additional study.  Then we meet with a TRC investigator and teach.  TRC investigators are people who have agreed to be taught by missionaries at the MTC.  Most are recent converts reenacting their conversions, but some are real investigators!  I love both of our TRC investigators, Chrissy and Andrew.  Then we have 45 minutes for lunch, then we have classroom instruction for 3 hours.  Then another TRC investigator then dinner.  After that, we have class until 9:30, when we have closing district prayer. Then we go back to the residence halls, get ready for the next day, and then go to bed.  10:15 is quiet time, 10:30 is lights out.  Also on day 2 we met with our branch presidency and I was made district leader!  It's given me lots of opportunities to serve our district, which is awesome!  Random stuff like gym time and service get thrown in at random.

Honestly all of the days are pretty much like this, so I'll break my pattern and just mention a couple of highlights out of order!  I love my district!  We do everything together, even gym time and meal times, which we don't necessarily have to.  

I love being able to sing in the MTC choir.  It's literally a 1,000 person choir!  And also, I'll be getting the chance to do something out of the ordinary, even for the MTC choir.  On this Tuesday night, the Nashville Tribute Band will be performing at the tuesday night devotional, and I'll be singing in the 1,000 person backup choir! Should be a super cool experience.

I've gotten my flight plan, and it turns out that I'll be flying out on the 19th instead of Monday the 17th.  

I think that's about it for highlights, so now I'll hit the Q and A section.  If anyone reading wants to ask me questions, feel free to send them to my Mom at and I'll do my best to get to all of the ones that she sends me!  (also feel free to just email me directly! ;) )

1.) How are you liking the MTC? Is it what you thought it would be?  ---I love the MTC!  The days feel super long, like time slows down so we can get more done, which is awesome, but also super exhausting!

2.) Who is your companion and where is he from? Tell us a little about him.  ---See above

3.) Who are the other Elders in your room and where are they from?  ---The other elders from my room actually aren't in my district.  Elder Bissett and I were placed in a room with a bunch of Spanish speaking elders who've already been here for a while.  I only see them for a little while each day, but they're all cool and really nice!

4.) What is the best thing about your companion?  ---Elder Bissett has this awesome way of simplifying things which totally complements my way of over-complicating things, haha

5.) Have you discovered anything you forgot to pack?  ---Nothing yet!

6.) Tell us about your best moment so far.  ---I think my favorite so far has definitely been singing in the choir and all of the opportunities that I've had to learn new things about the gospel!

7.) A moment you've felt the Spirit?  ---This one's hard to narrow down.  I guess I have to go with the feeling that I get after I finish teaching a TRC lesson.  It's just such an amazing feeling to help someone come closer to Christ!

8.) Tell us about something you've learned that wowed you.  ---I don't wow easy, but moving 600 new elders and sisters into a campus in 2 hours is impressive!

9.) Do you have any questions or requests for us?   ---No questions yet!  After all, I've only been gone a week, even if it feels like much longer!

10.) Did you receive the package I sent?   ---Yes!  I was so happy to get the care package of socks and conference talks!  Really made my day!!!

I'll wrap things up with the spiritual thought for the week:

I'm just super happy that I have this chance to not focus on myself at all, and turn my focus outward for 2 whole years!  It's really rare in life to have everything provided for you in such a way that you can focus on nothing but helping others, and I love that I've been given this opportunity!  

Thanks everyone for all your support!  Until next week!

Elder Excell

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Nevada Las Vegas Mission: One of the Best is Headed Your Way!

Elder Excell entered the Provo MTC on Wednesday, August 5, 2015 at 12:45 pm.  He walked away excited and full of faith.  We are incredibly proud of him and his decision to serve and although we miss him already, we know that his strong testimony will bless many lives!