Letter from James - April 29, 2010

Week 3!!! 6 more weeks left!

     So last week was very hard. My testimony was shaken a little. The language got so hard I really felt like giving up. Then I read a lot about the Atonement and really researched it in Personal Study time. I love my Savior. It really opened my eyes to how much Christ loves me and will support me when times get hard like it did last week. I knew I not only had to rely on Heavenly Father's help but that if I put forth as much work as I could and really tried to speak the Language as much as I could, Heavenly Father would help me. So I had a sincere prayer with God. After that night I worked harder than I ever had before. I was constantly reading in the Book of Mormon in Lietuviskai and english. I spoke a lot more. I spent a lot more time studying then time for other things that don't really help much.

     Last night we had TRC again. TRC is where you teach a fake investigator. We do a door greeting and come into their home and teach them a lesson in Lithuanian. So I taught the same guy we taught last week. I told him I had been working so hard since last week. Last week I barely said anything. So as we entered his "home" we began the lesson. I said a silent prayer in my heart to know what to say. Imediately, the words I had been studying and the scriptures I had been researching came to my head. He asked lots of questions and answered them in ways that greatly brought the spirit. I was so happy after. Patrick, the guy I taught, gave me a hug and said, "Elder, I knew you had it in you. Lithuanian is one of the hardest languages out there. But you said more than anyone ever could in over 5 months of studying. I'm proud of you." That made my day. I felt like jumping up and down. It was like a had conquered a giant mountain. I still have a long way to go. My Lithuaninan is not perfect at all. But the Lord gave me a real humbling lesson that I needed to learn. I won't forget last night.

      Two nights ago we had another amazing devotional. Elder L. Tom Perry came and spoke to us. The spirit was so strong when he entered the room and we all stood up as he came in. It was amazing to see an apostle of the Lord so close. He spoke about the importance of the Book of Mormon and how we need to share it more with the Investigators that we teach. I really enjoyed cause this past week and this week my love for the scriptures has grown so much. A day doesnt go by where I don't get a lot out of it. I greatly love them and the counsel and guidance they bring to our lives.

     Being a District Leader has been way fun. I get lots of opportunities to teach and serve, the two things I greatly love. I'm really loving it here. Tell the Lambournes thanks for their letter I got two weeks ago. :D

      So dad, we talked for a sec about my bags and I think I may need another big bag now that I think about it. We moved last week and it was really tight. All the missionaries have two large bags. So I'm going to talk to the front desk and see if somehow I could leave the small one and you guys bring a big one or something. Tell me what you think. I have six weeks so it doesnt' have to be done right away. It would make things easier with two large bags then one small and big one.

     Tell the ward "hi" and if anyone wants to write to me tell them to.Thanks for the package. :D I will write a letter too. lol, dad, some words I couldn't read in your letter but I figured it out. I used my urim and thumim in my head.

      I love you all so much ( As myliu jus).  Lithuanian has been fun, lol. Learning seven cases is kicking my but I'm excited to learn it all. Our teacher, Bro. Snow, showed us pics of his mission. Oh my gosh it's so beautiful there. There's cemetaries and castles and it's really green. It got me so excited to go out there. It's funny, my excitement to share this message of this wonderful gospel and the abounding happiness it has brought into my life has made me love the people of Lithuania grow. I have never met them but I know that they need me and I need them. They look so neat and I can't wait to get out there to finally meet them. They are the sweetest people ( from what I hear).

     I have been taking lots of pics. I will take more then I will send the card out to you. Please keep them somewhere on the comp or somewhere where they won't be lost. I love them and want to keep them forever.

     I have been making lots of friends. The missionaries learning Greek didn't get to leave on Tuesday. They were supposed to but their visas haven't come. So they are still here. Luckily for us, it's so cool, if our permit to live/ visas don't go through, we will go to Lithuania for 90 days and if we still don't have them, we will serve in Ireland til they go through or for our whole mission. Awesome huh? I'm happy with whatever happens. I don't know how that works out with Ireland or Lithuania but It's really cool.

     I love you all so much. I miss you all greatly. I pray that the Lord will bless you and keep you safe. Mom thanks for the letter :D
                            Myliu,  (love)

                                    Vyresnysis Sanfordas

Letter from James - April 22, 2010

Hey dad and everyone :D,

             Things are pretty good here. Just going through the MTC. week 2! I got the package and thanks so much :D i haven't busted in to the chips yet... yummy.

              The MTC is good. I had a really hard night last night. ugh. we had to teach an investigator in Lithuanian only and I have been studying like crazy, so I figured I would do really well. When we got there I did so bad. I barely said anything and I could hardly understand our investigator. Sister Alldredge was my comp and she was doing amazing. Our goal was to have the first vision memorized by yesterday but I tried and I could barely remember it. Plus i have no time to memorize it. Ugh it's hard. But i'm not giving up. I think the Lord really wants to humble me and show me that it is going to take alot of his help to get it. I think learning French so quickly got my pride up about this language. I was in a pretty bad mood last night and prayed for a long time before I fell asleep.

              Other than that things are good. Just working really hard. I have had lots of opportunites to serve and lead as a District Leader. Branch President Payne always gives me a huge hug and tells me how happy he is to serve with me. I get to teach a lot as a DL.

               I have gotten lots of letters from neighbors and friends and family. It made me happy. It was a pretty hard week this week, Language wise. But I have Christ's Picture on my wall along with the temple, plus those two cool pics I bought from seagul book which boost up my spirit. We went to the temple again this morning. I had a long time to sit and pray and think in the celestial room. :D that made me very happy. It was snowing like crazy as we walked over. Now it's really hot outside.

                So did Uncle Grueber send a flag to me! Cause we want to hang a Lithuanian Flag in our room. Plus I guess they suggested to bring white temple pants and a tie for baptisms. I was hoping I could send this too you before you sent the other package. It's ok if you dont' send it right away. But soon would be nice lol. I promise it will be the last package.

                  I miss u all and always have you in my prayers. I am really working hard and enjoy being here preparing to go out into the field to work. :D I write in my journal a lot which is crazy for me to say lol.

              Well time is almost up. I will write letters too.  

              As myliu jus. :D

                       Vyresnysis Sanfordas

A conversation with James - April 22, 2010

I was able to "chat" via email with James today. He has 30 minutes each P-day (preparation day) to use a computer and read his email and send out new ones. We chatted back and forth for a couple of minutes before he had to go. Our conversation is below:

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James:  Hey dad. you online?
Dad:  Yes.
James:  Hey :D I'm working on an email for you all. How are things?
Dad:  Things are good. I sent you an email today. Did you get it?
James:  Ya i did. I just sent my long one. I have less then ten minutes on my timer lol. it's a bummer having a timer. There won't be one when i'm out in the field.
Dad:  I saw your note about the flag Aunt Beverly and Uncle Randy ordered for you. I am going to pick up the flag. I'll send it to you as soon as I get it. 
James:  SWEET. ya get a big one like the ones in my room. 
Dad:  How are you handling getting up every morning?
James:  I'm fine with it. Elder Hilton likes to get up at 6 lol
Dad: I am so happy you are doing well. That's what we worry about the most...we just need to know you're okay.
James: Ya, I'm doing good. Just stressed this week but i'm ok. I prayed really hard last night cause of the language problem. but i'm not going to give up at all. We have heard so many stories about these people. i'm excited. but my time is almost up so if i don't email back just know I love you and I look up to you so much. I always think what would my dad do. Your my hero dad and I can't wait to get home and tell you all about my adventures.
Dad:  Have a great week. Don't stress about the language. It will come. Love you!
James:  ok :D love you dad

Letter from James - April 14, 2010

We received our first email from James - one week after he entered the MTC.

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      How are things at home? I finally get to have my first P- Day at the MTC. I'm really loving it here. My 4-way companionship is great. Today we moved to another apartment. It's a lot lot nicer than our old one. The showers have pressure. yay! The language is.... ok. It's really hard but im enjoying it. It's a really pretty language. I can say my prayers on my own and small little phrases. I can read now. Pretty much how I thought things were said before, I was way wrong lol. It's funny there are no articles so to translate exactly what your saying is like cave man talk. We also sing all the hymns in Lithuanian. We learned that this language is one of the oldest languages. So if we went back 600 years they would be able to understand us. I will write a letter and write out my prayer and testimony to you. I run into brock all the time and talk to him in french along with all of his comps.
       It's really cool how they teach us here about the gospel. They really get us to think hard and how to teach. They started off last week with having us watch a lot of people from around the world who told their life story. We would look at them and see how God has been a part of their life or how we can help them to know God loves them. It's really neat. Yesterday we had our first real practice of going into someones home and teaching them as an investigator. It was really good. I enjoyed it a lot. The spirit was so strong. I have had so many opportunities to practice teaching and bearing my testimony. Next week we have to give a short lesson all in Lithuanian. Im nervous. It's hard for me to remeber a lot of how to say things. But im trying my hardest. I study a ton. A lot more than I ever have before. I enjoy it though. It may feel overwhelming at times but I know that the Lord wants me to teach his Lithuanian People.
         I got a letter from spencer. After I finish this email i'm going to write to him. I haven't gotten any letters in a while. It's quite depressing being the DL and going to get the letters and none of them are for you. lol but i will live. and yes I have wrote to lots of people. I'm not just sitting here expecting letters to come to me. :D Right now im in the laundry room waiting for my clothes to finish washing. I miss you guys a lot and can't wait to see you and the rest of the family again.
         I was writing in my journal on sunday and found your letter. It made me so happy. I was really stressed out and when I saw that it made me so happy and I really felt your love and support. It helped me to feel that I can do this. Why im out here. I love serving. I can't wait to actually get out to Lithuania and teach the people. lol when I actually can understand them and I can talk back.
        So something crazy we learned. In the summer the sun comes up at 3:30 in the morning and does a huge circle around the sky then goes down from where it started at around 11 PM. I can't wait to see that. Then in the winter it just barely comes up and then goes down. So it will feel like it's always night time during the winter. I'm excited. Broulis Wallace said that no matter how much your wearing, the cold goes right through your bones. lol.
        I wrote a letter to mom. I believe I sent it yesterday. I asked if you guys could send me two tops of the silky kind. I have two extra shorts and I need two  more of the silky tops. You'll have to read the letter too. We had a really amazing devotional and after an amazing District meeting. We all bore our testimonies. All of us were crying. Definitely make sure to read it. Pretty much you can share whatever I email or write unless you feel not to or I say not to.
        But ya, life is good. I'm really loving the MTC. Tell everyone hi and that im doing good. You can even share this idk. Make sure to tell the Preists or anyone who is thinking of the mission that the MTC is really hard but really rewarding at the same time. You work from 7AM to 9:30 PM everyday. They expect a lot from us. You cant ever sit back and think things will all work out. The lord will only help you if you put forth the effort and do your part. But he will help you. I feel his help. Especially with this language. It's been really hard but i'm really loving it. A lot of Elders I have seen haven't thought about really what you do in the MTC or haven't been told. They think it's just class and that's pretty much it. It's a very interactive way of teaching. You teach your very first night here. Then you practice lots in teaching, contacting random people, and builing your spirit and testimony. Studying is something you cannot avoid or try and go around. I have never studied so hard in my life. But I know that I need to casue the Lord needs me to and asked me to.
          Tell everyone I love them and to please write to me. :D I can only check email on PDays. But i love writing and recieving letters.
           I know that this gospel is true. I love the spirit here. It's so so strong. I look out beyond the fence from our apartments and it would feel so scary and weird to leave and go into the real world. lol. I enjoy living and teaching the gospel everyday. :D  I can't wait to here back from you all.
                                   VYRESNYSIS SANFORDAS

April 7, 2010 - The MTC

Tuesday (April 6) was a very busy day at the Sanford house. James was trying to fit in all his last-minute shopping and visiting friends. It took about two hours to pack his two suitcases and one book bag (it's amazing that anyone can live two years out of one medium-sized suitcase and one the size of a carry-on). We had to pack and repack several times because we kept finding something (usually something large) that we forgot to pack. If the zippers hold out, he should arrive in the Baltics without his clothes bursting out on the tarmac. Around 9:45 that evening, the Stake Presidency stopped by to set James apart and give him a blessing (it's the last official step to becoming a full-time missionary). The blessing was wonderful and James was told he would be able to learn the languages required in his mission and that he would be free of any serious injuries while serving so far from home. He was encouraged in the blessing to learn to love the people and to exercise his faith during difficult times.

Wednesday morning (April 7th) found us making one more trip to the store to get a few more things (hangers, batteries, little padlocks for the suitcases, gum, and pocket cash - what would we do without Walmart?). We loaded up the car, picked up Anna from middle school and headed for lunch at McGrath's Fish House - James' choice for his "last meal as a civilian." After a nice meal we headed south to Provo and the Missionary Training Center (MTC). James was to report there at 1:00 pm. The MTC is just north of the BYU campus and it is here that the missionaries live and attend class until reporting to their mission field. Those not learning a new language stay for 8 weeks. Those missionaries learning a foreign language can stay for up to 12 weeks. James will be there until June 9th. Once at the MTC, families and missionaries have contact only through letters and weekly email - no phone calls, visits, accidental sightings, etc.

We arrived about 30 minutes ahead of schedule (a minor miracle for our family) so we had time to hang out in the parking lot across the street and relax and prepare for the last good-byes. James was eager to get his mission started. It seemed like we had forever when his call came in November; April seemed so far off. Now that the day arrived I think we all wished we had a few more days just to be together. James' mom held up amazingly well. We distracted ourselves by trying to figure out how James could smuggle Parker into the MTC with him.

When it finally came time to say, "good-bye," we walked across the street and were greeted by an MTC worker, who was cuing the line of Elders and Sisters. One by one, the missionaries were greeted by a fellow missionary (who had already arrived at the MTC weeks earlier). Suitcases in hand, James left with his missionary escort, leaving us to watch from the sidewalk. He gave us a wave and then disappeared inside one of the buildings. That was the hardest part (for me, at least). What I would have given for one more hug, one more "I love you, James." I think I bit a hole in my tongue trying not to shed a tear.

I came away from the experience with mixed emotions. James was where he wanted to be since he was a small boy. We had planned for this day almost all of his life. It takes faith to serve a mission. It takes an equal amount of faith to send a child on one. It made me think of the day, some 25 years earlier, when I entered the MTC as a relatively new member of the church. And it made me admire my parents all the more for saying good-bye to their son, putting him on a plane in Oregon, not knowing what lie ahead. I am only now beginning to understand the love, confidence and sheer trust which they demonstrated all those years ago.

We made a quick stop to take a few pictures in front of the Jordan River Temple.

 James and Anna in the MTC parking lot. Anna inherited James' cell phone. Needless to say, she was quite excited.

 James turned around to smile as he was escorted to the MTC campus.

 Our last sight of James just before he entered the MTC to begin his missionary service.

March 28, 2010 - The Farewell

James had his mission farewell on Sunday, March 28. It was his dad's turn to conduct sacrament meeting so he was able to speak on the program as well. James spoke about the restoration of the gospel and how the Book of Mormon was key to strengthening our faith in Jesus Christ, gaining a testimony of Joseph Smith, and helping us to know our Heavenly Father's will for us. Many, many family and friends supported James (thank you to all who traveled from afar to be with us). Afterwards everyone was invite to our home for refreshments. James' mother (with the help of many of our neighbors) had enough cookies, desserts, fruit, deli and vegetable trays to feed over 150 guests - whew.

The Sanford/Grueber Clan

The Sanford/Mondragon Clan

Julie (mom), Anna, James, Parker, Jack (dad)

Grandpa Sanford, Dad, James

James and Dad

The Sanford/Grueber Clan