Some Pictures

I mentioned earlier that I had a picture with the Mission President and his wife. Here it is in their basement, I believe. Excited and ready to work, I guess.

A picture of my first Pirogy. I think us missionaries cooked them in a non-traditional way. I liked to boil them until they were hot, then pan fry them in butter until a nice golden brown skin developed, then I'd dip them in BBQ sauce. I think a little more traditional is like a dumpling -- straight out of the boiling water.

My bruised ankle, also mentioned previoulsy.

Picture of my first baptism. I'm the tall guy

The next letter

This letter is not dated at the top. I do remember some of the events quite vividly:

Dear Family,

Things go, er, are going well! I'm pumped, I'm excited, I am slightly injured, though -- Our P-day was moved to Tuesday for Zone Conference on Wed. So the big zone activity on Thursday was to play basketball. Well...ten plays into the game, my ankle, well, I landed on it & I think I killed it. (HAH) I actually sprained it quite badly, but things are going a bit better now. It is quite swollen, and has begun to bruise -- I've taken some wonderful pictures of it, but I just have to wait until I get them developed.

Anyhow, I have a weakness, so perhaps (not perhaps -- for sure) -- so, for sure I'll be humbled (According to Ether 12:27), but other than that, things are great here on the West Side of Lethbridge. On Sunday, I, and Elder Ogden, had our first baptism, which was quite exciting. Sis ... , originally from Japan, now from B.C., was visiting her sister, a convert to the church, when we incoincedentally [is that a real word?] showed up, offered to teach her the discussions. Now - she's a member of the church, and is so happy that she has the gospel in her life. What a blessing to have her come to me at this stage in my mission, to have her accept the gospel.

[this next part is a little funny]

We have two other commitments with two mothers, Dayna who I know will be baptized on Sept. 21st. Also Renee scheduled on the 16 Sept.

[funny part is 'dayna' was about as on again/off again as any investigator I ever met. She never did get baptised as far as I know, yet my enthusiasm led me to testify that she would be. I think it was supposed to be me showing how faithful I was that I knew she would be baptized].

The letter goes on with some rants and ravings of a self-absorbed missionary. But here is the funny part. I was able to perform the baptism for the Sister who was from Japan. She had to be in her 70's. She was willing and humble. I was very nervous about making sure she went all the way under the water at the baptismal service. I had heard many stories about people having to baptize people over and over and over, and I was determined to NOT be one of those.

So we walked into the font and said the prayer and then I laid her into the water. He held her there while I surveyed her body to make sure everything went under. I think I held her under for 3 or 4 seconds. Compared to the usual 1/2 second, it felt like a very long time for everyone else watching. On the way home, my Zone Leader asked me, "Elder Bettilyon, what do you think could have gone better at that baptismal service?" I replied, "Maybe there could have been more water in the font." (It was a tad low). "Yes, I suppose," he replied. "Anything else?" I just sat there, feeling stupid and a little embarassed and finally he said "YOU COULD HAVE BROUGHT HER OUT OF THE WATER!!". The two zonies and my trainer all hooted and hollered. They just loved having someone so dim-witted with them. (It actually is pretty funny. I didn't feel that way at the time, but the picture of this well intentioned Elder holding this tiny Japanese woman under the water is just so sad....). Interesting how writing about it makes me want to feel angry at my zone leaders again. I vowed after that experience to never make that mistake again, but even more, to try to make the actualy event of the baptism a calming and peaceful one for the person making new covenants.

It also stirs up feelings of how wonderful this Sister from Japan really was. She had been married and outlived her husband and had suffered a brain aneurysm but had lived through it. Her sister who was converted was never really too active, but I am still amazed at how quickly she attached herself to the gospel and believed it. We honestly believed at that time that the Lord had saved her from her brain aneurysm so she could be baptized.

First Letter from Canada -- Aug 25, 1997

I arrived to Lethbridge at the end of August. I think I worked for a few days and then we had P day. Reading my first letters home is actually a little embarassing. They are so silly. I am trying to talk myself into being excited and clearly lacking some confidence. I guess that's why I went into the field, to grow. I was so worried about being a bad missionary, about hoping my parents didn't think I was a bad missionary, so it seems there is a lot of over zealousness in these letters, not to mention an obnoxious sense of humor: [brackets denote editor's comments]

"25 Aug '97

Dear Family,

"I'm here! I made it...(as Bro. ... has already told you) [interestingly, my first companion's father and my father worked together. My trainer faxed his dad the same night I arrived and so our two dads probably had a nice chat at work the next day and next few months] Anyhow, I'm here, and figuring out what missionary work is really about. Learning that, hey , I get tired and, hey, the MTC's role playing is pretty sugar-coated. Elder ... , my trainer, is good. He's on top of things. We're both singers and missionaries, but I think that's about all we have in common. (Joke)...I'm serving the Lethbridge 9 & 10 wards, and I'm having a blast, I guess you could say. I'm not in a car, but on bike, (or foot, if I get a flat tire). But that is good for me.

"I guess [my girlfriend's] farewell was yesterday, wasn't it. Well, I hope it went well, and I suppose you all had the chance to get to know her Ma & Paw better by seeing them talk. (I would imagine they gave talks) --

"But about Canada...

"I think what surprised me the most was the freeways. In Salt Lake, the roads by I-15 are barren....sagebrush. Here they're all grass. Or, a dang big part of it is grass! I slept over at the mission home, & the next day, we found out who our trainer would be, our Area/District/Zone & that good stuff. So then I set out on a grand 'ol bus ride to Lethbridge.

"So I'm here. I'm trying to "get into the groove," if you know what I mean. What throws me off is the Elders. They/We're all a bunch of typical guys that talk about missionary work -- that's how it seems, anyway. It wasn't like that in the MTC, either, but it is here. I'm sure [my sister] knows exactly what I'm talking about.

"There are several families in our teaching pool, but I've not met with the greater portion of them. I've met with three of them, though. There is a family from Chile, who was fellowshipped by a member family -- we taught them a lot, but it was a little rough b/c they didn't want to pray about the B.O.M.

"The ... family is a mother who is Less Active , her husband & two sons, who aren't baptized. It'll be a bit rough with them. They've had the 1st, but same sort of deal. The wife "knows" the church is true, but was offended somewhere along the lines, I guess. We'll see how this one goes.

"My favorite, ..., in a non-member who is a least seventy-five. The D.L. wanted to check up on a less active, so we went over. Her sister was there, so we offered to come back. Now Sis .... [the less active sister] is fellowshipping her sister & becoming more active. We'll teach her a second discussion tonight if she's kept her commitments to read &pray, and ask her to be baptized.

"That's about all for now, except don't be scared to write. Nope. Not at all. In fact, I'd really appreciate it.!

Love you!

Elder Bettilyon"

Earlier in the letter I was talking about what it was like to be around this district of Elders. I was confused because my District and Zone Leaders really had some issues with maintaining the Spirit. (I guess all of us do in some way or another...). We went over to their apt. for a 'sleepover' (my trainer called it "P Day Eve") my first Sunday night in the field. The other missionaries sat up past bedtime and talked and cussued until midnight or so. I laid on a mattress in the hallway thinking that this was incredibly stupid. Finally, one ZL said "Bettilyon must think we're burnt!" and I think they finally went to bed. We'd drive around on P day and they'd look at girls and talk about how they were excited to go home and date, etc. etc. Very frustrating. I tried to engage them in a conversation about this activity by citing D&C 121 about letting "virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly." They found some clever way to mock me and make it sound like they weren't doing anything marginal.

Missionaries are people too, is the conclusion I finally came up with. I had pleny of my own issues out there, too. I was very suprised, however, to find these elders weren't as focused out there in the 'mission field' as they were in the MTC. In hindsight, I probably should have written home about the P Day Eve party and how I was confused about it. Perhaps my father would have sent some good advice.

I should also comment about my girlfriend. We dated for 6 months before my mission. It was an odd relationship, but it was exciting and we both were experiencing feelings of affection and accelerated tokens of affection. (not anything bad...just falling in love with love). I gave her a promise ring before I left. I guess it was a pseudo-engagement ring in her perspective, but I thought it was just a promise to see what happened when I got home. She decided to wait for me by serving a church service mission in the family history center. That's what the 'farewell' was for that I mentioned at the beginning of the letter.

Mission President Letter -- Aug 26, 1997

When I arrived to the mission home in August, the mission president and his wife sent a letter home to my parents. It is a good idea and probably a standard practice. I thought it was a little interesting. I have blanked out names to protect the innocent:

"August 26, 1997

"Dear Brother and Sister Bettilyon,

"It was a pleasure for us to welcome your son, Elder Matthew Bettilyon, to the Canada Calgary Mission on Tuesday afternoon Aug, 19, 1997. He was in good health and good spirits. He spent one day with us in the mission home receiving orientation, and we are already aware of his great potential to be an excellent missionary. His sprit and desire will assist as he performs his labor of love here in Canada. He will be an invaluable servant of our Heavenly Father.

"His first companion, Elder....., of North Ogden, Utah, will do an excellent job of training your son for his service to the Lord. His new address is: 1210 13th St. S. Lethbridge, Alberta T1K 1S9

"Enclosed is a picture of your son and us, as well as a sheet of suggestions which answer most of the questions asked by parents. These suggestions are offered in a spirit of love, and we hope they will assist you and your missionary in the service he has begun.

"Thanks you for helping him prepare for his mission. We pray the Lord will abundantly bless all of you as you share his missionary experience. We know that your life and the lives of your familly will be blessed as you support Elder Bettilyon in the call he has accepted.

"Kindest personal regards,

I am sure a lot of this is a canned form letter, but that doesn't mean that it wasn't true or offered in a spirit of love. I'd like to think that I did actually arrive in good spirits and show at least some potential of being an "excellent missionary." I was probably more like a deer in headlights.

I'm not sure if I have the picture any more. If I can locate it I'll scan it back into this post.

August 1997 -- the Airport

After three weeks in the MTC, it was time for our district to go it's separate ways. Elders and Sisters are handed flight schedules and told where to meet the transport going to the airport. I think it was a Tuesday morning. I was so scared I was going to sleep in and miss the bus, or miss my flight.
A rather silly tradtion (that has since gone away for reasons you will see) for missionaries from the Greater Salt Lake area is for friends, families and well wishers to greet you at the airport and say goodbye one more time. I'm not sure why this was ever really allowed (maybe there's nothing anyone could do do disallow it). It was an exciting moment, to see everyone again, but it was also very stressful and difficult. Three weeks after saying goodbye to everyone, you see them all again and have to say goodbye again. It is particurlarly agonizing, because you know you aren't going to see these people for two years; you just got done saying bye to them, and then *poof* here they are in your life again.
Here are some of my friends who came out at some horribly early hour to see me off.
Parents and family come, too.
Here is my mom and my brother.
For security reasons, of course, no one is allowed to the departure gate in the airport to say goodbye to anyone. I imagine this makes the airport a much easier experience for missionaries flying away to their sundry destinations. I hope so.

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