These are the pictures that the mission president mailed home, as well as a transcript of the letter he sent, informing us of Elder Alex's assignment.
Elder Swindler with President and Sister Griffen (5/19/2015)
Elder Swindler (5/19/2015)
Elder Swindler and Elder Merrill, new companions (5/19/2015)
21 May 2015
Dear Brother and Sister Swindler,
Sister Griffen and I are happy to welcome your son, Elder Alex Swindler, to the Tennessee Knoxville Mission. He arrived safely and we are grateful for his desire to come on a mission and serve the Lord.
He and the other incoming missionaries had dinner with us at the mission home and then participated in the training seminar. Before leaving for his new area, he attended his first testimony and transfer meeting where he was introduced to the mission. He has now been assigned to serve with his companion, Elder Merrill, and will be laboring in the Knoxville zone, Rockwood West area of the Tennessee Knoxville Mission.
We recommend that you send your letters and packages to the Mission Office through the U.S. Postal Service. We can forward 1st Class and Priority mail to your missionary. We cannot forward standard post, UPS, or FedEx packages and they will be held in the office until we are able to deliver them to his area. Your letters of encouragement will be a great blessing.
Don't forget to check the mission blog at www.knoxvilletennesseemission.blogspot.com
Our prayers are for his success and happiness as he serves the Lord. We know that great blessings are in store for him and for you.
President Steven P. Griffin
Tennessee Knoxville Mission
Thursday, May 28, 2015
Monday, May 25, 2015
I'm short on time, we have limited time at the library because it's memorial day weekend. I'll write more next week and send pictures too.
I'm alive and well, and enjoying myself. Tennessee is wonderful. Absurdly green. Humid. Stunningly beautiful. I love my companion, his name is Elder Merrill. And this mission is fantastic.
More details to come. And pictures. I've gotta leave literally right now though. :(
Also. All the stereotypes you have ever heard about the South are 100% true.
The Gospel is true. I'm so sorry I didn't write more. Talk to you all next week!
Thursday, May 14, 2015
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
It's been quite the week. I don't really know how to describe it. They keep us super busy here. Every day is so long. It's weird that I've been here a week. Like, partly it seems like it went by really fast, but it also feels like we've been here for a lot longer than that. You do so much and grow so much in such a short time. It's amazing. I think it really speaks to how much the Lord helps His servants I mean, we are just not enough on our own. Seriously, I can't do this on my own. There's just no way. But because He has called us, and we have been ordained by His power and authority, and He has promised that He will make us sufficient for our calling, He will not let us fail. I have grown so much as a person and as a missionary in the past week, and I know it hasn't been by my own strength. I've felt the Spirit work through me, and I've felt how much I've grown, and honestly it's kind of weird, but also awesome.
I'm pretty sure I'm rambling and I really don't feel like proofreading so y'all are just gonna have to deal with it. Sorry.
The food here is really good, although we're all pretty sure it gives you gas. I haven't been drinking the OJ (at least four or five different people told me not to drink the OJ...) but there's something else going on in this food. I hope I don't get fat before I leave... Haha
My companion's name is Elder Park. He's from Nampa, Idaho, he's like 5 foot 2, he's super buff, he's half Korean, and I love him. He's awesome. We seemed pretty different on the surface, at least to me, but I'm starting to see that we have a lot in common under the surface, or at least that we work really well together. And I love my district. There's me and Elder Park, two other Elders, and 6 Sisters. We all get along really great together and really like each other. A bunch of us sing, too. The last couple days me and Elder Park and two of the sisters have been hanging out in our classroom in between other stuff (even though finding time in between other stuff is super rare here) and singing hymns as a quartet.
The other district in our zone that got here the week before us was awesome too, I really liked them. They've all left now though. Most of them left for North Carolina super early on Monday morning (like 3:30 am) but two of them, Elder McGirt and Sister Beckwith, took the frontrunner to the Ogden mission at like 4 am this morning.
Because the rest of his district left early, Elder McGirt was companions with me and Elder Park yesterday. Before I tell you about yesterday though, I've gotta tell you about Elder McGirt. (If I even can... He's just.. Elder McGirt. There's not really any way to describe him in words)
Elder McGirt is from North Carolina. He's got this big thick North Carolina accent, he's possibly the hairiest person I've ever seen (except maybe one of my uncles, but it's seriously pretty close and I'm not actually sure who's hairier, which is saying something, believe me), he's a bona fide redneck hick, not too fond of personal hygiene, quite fond of the bodily functions (except around the Sisters. He's very respectful of the Sisters; he at least warns them to "don' comover here fora minit"), his grammar and analogies and the way he talks is super amusing, he doesn't care what anyone thinks about him, he's super politically incorrect (and I love it), he made me laugh harder yesterday than any other day on my mission (last night, one of my favorite moments - there were way too many to tell you, this is seriously just one of so many, and there's not really any way to adequately describe it, you just had to be there - he was asking us what sorts of things we look for in a girl, and he was like "Elder Park, whad'da you lak in a girl?," or something like that, and then immediately afterwards "do you prefer like uh particular race?" then a pause, then "I mean I'm not a racis'" and then couldn't figure out why everyone in the room was peeing themselves laughing), he has this bizzare (and usually off-color) sense of humor, and he speaks by the Spirit like nobody I've ever met in my life (except President Warner).
I went into yesterday praying to love him and expecting to be helping him and being nice to him (I felt like the elders in his last district could be kind of mean though they didn't mean to be). By bedtime though, I realized that the Lord sent him to us to help us. The Lord seriously has a sense of humor.
Pretty much all day, but especially in the evening when we taught one of our "TRC" investigators, Elder Park and I were really not feeling the Spirit. After the lesson we felt frustrated and down, and that the lesson was a failure, and we just weren't feeling the Spirit. And we went back to our classroom for district study, and Elder McGirt being Elder McGirt, he suggested (decided) that all the elders would give each of the sisters a blessing, so we could bond. To be honest... I was a little bit annoyed and wasn't super enthusiastic about it. But by the end... We were all feeling the Spirit. It was so cool. Especially Elder Park. At the end Elder McGirt asked him and I to give him a blessing of health, and asked Park to seal it and pronounce the blessings. And Elder Park, this tough little half-Asian ball of muscle and manhood, was crying a bit by the end. He said it was so powerful. He was really not feeling it before, and he was really feeling it afterward. The Spirit really powerfully gave him the words to say and he pronounced some pretty cool blessings. And then after that during scripture study, Elder McGirt had the most amazing insights about the scriptures, and made some (a lot... he's pretty talkative) comments that were exactly what I needed to hear. The Spirit really spoke through him. He is very close to the Spirit. He told us how Elder Park and I were not failures, that we'd come in there and done exactly as the Lord wanted us to do. We fulfilled our purpose. And he said so many other amazing things. It was one of the most powerful nights of my mission so far, if not the most.
And then we got back to the room and he was back to cracking dirty jokes / poop jokes and making no sense and telling weird stories and being a stereotypical hick and just being himself.
No matter how much we think we know, or how great or experienced we think we are, or how hard we try to succeed by our own strength and ability... It's the ones that are humble and meek that the Lord uses most powerfully. I got here, and I felt like I was pretty okay, because I know a lot of stuff and I'm good at explaining things and I think I have good insights and all that... And I was failing, I was slipping and falling. And then here comes hairy, smelly, hickish, weird old Elder McGirt from North Carolina. I thought I was going to help him. But he ended up helping us. The Lord uses the weak things of the world to confound the wise and thrash the nations. He sends Elder McGirts to save the prideful souls like me from ourselves. Elder McGirt, going by first impressions, is not at all what you would expect a representative of Jesus Christ to be like. But really, he's the best representative of Christ I've met so far at the MTC.
All of us have been called to do the Lord's work, full-time missionaries or not. And no matter how hard we try, or how great and capable we think we are, we simply cannot do the Lord's work by our own strength. We must humble ourselves, and be meek and teachable, and embrace the Grace of Christ. We must let go of ourselves and embrace His work. We must lose ourselves in the service of others. It is only then that we really become powerful servants of Christ. It is only then that He can really powerfully work through us.
I think we can all learn from the Elder McGirts in our lives. Let us seek to be humble. And let us also not permit ourselves to judge others. Look for the good in everyone; it may surprise you how much you will find.
Once again, I apologize for the long ramble. Also - pictures will have to wait for another day, we can't get our cameras to work with the MTC computers, but Elder Park thinks he has a memory card reader so we might try to slip in a computer lab sometime this week and send a few pictures.
Also also - if you sent me a letter or an email, thank you!! I read it and loved it and really appreciated it. I apologize for not answering. You really don't get much time for emailing here, or for anything at all besides class and stuff. But it doesn't mean I don't love you, and I'll answer as soon as I can.
I love you all. :)
P.S. Julia: congratulations!!! that's awesome!! :D (my mom told me in a dear elder haha)
Friday, May 8, 2015
Hey guys! :)
So I'm alive! I sent a postcard yesterday but this will probably get there first. I wasn't sure if we'd get to email home before our p-day on Tuesday though so I sent it to be safe.
But yeah, I'm alive :) I like the MTC, it's good so far. I got gas yesterday from the food though haha. And my companion and district are good, I like them. My companion's name is Elder Park. He's at least a foot shorter than me, and his parents were Korean but he's American, and at first we seemed pretty different but I'm noticing we actually have a lot more in common than I thought. And so far we've worked pretty well together, so that's good. :)
We do get to call home on Mother's Day! That's why we get to email today, so we can let our families know. I'm pretty sure they told us 3:15 - 3:45 will be our call time. It might be 4:15 but I'm like 90% sure it's 3:15.
How are you guys doing? You doing okay?
Oh, also, we got our branch callings yesterday. Elder Park and I are zone leaders! I mean, that's not saying much because zone leaders don't do a whole lot in the MTC, and it doesn't take effect until next week when the district who got here before us leaves. And there are only 4 elders in our district, so 2 of us had to be zone leaders, and one the district leader, and one the sacrament coordinator, but I still think it's cool. :)
I do miss you, and I love you all. Know that I am happy and enjoying myself. :)
The Gospel is true!!