Monday, January 26, 2015

Elder Michael Alley Update

The Dairy Cheer
(This just seems quintessential small town Kentucky to me.)
For kicks, here's the Yelp review on the place: 5 stars, people.
Obviously, if you are anywhere near Prestonburg, KY, you've gotta stop in.
Check it out on Yelp. Make sure you click on the reviews
so you can see the photos, too. Looks yummy.
Last meal together before transfers
Smashburger, Dairy Cheer Style
New companion, Elder Barney. Michael speaks very highly of him.
These two are taking Martin, KY by storm :)
Jeopardy Game for Family Home Evening
Mousetraps-2, Mice-0
(Glad to hear he's washing his hands. LOL)

Michael took a selfie!!
(He's learning all kinds of new things on his mission. haha)
I love that he looks so happy. :)

January 26, 2015

Dear Family,

Man, it just seems like yesterday that I was in the MTC, sitting in a classroom studying the doctrines of Christ and how to teach them to others. Now, here I am, almost 4 months out on my mission! Hard to believe, right? Still, I really miss you guys. But I know that I'll receive great blessings after my 2 years of missionary service are done. Just keep Ashley, Max, Jacob, and I in your prayers. Thank you so much.

To answer the Weekly Housekeeping Questions:

1) There's a McDonalds, Long John Silvers, and a Dairy Queen nearby as well.

2) Elder Barney and I are working super well together. It's only been about a week, but I already love having him as my companion. He's super nice, laid-back, and very organized. He and I have been cleaning up the trailer, tracted through a couple streets, worked on a Jeopardy game for a FHE event, and caught a couple of mice with our two mousetraps. Don't worry, there were only two mice and I have been washing my hands. Anyway, we have had a lot of fun together.

3) Yes, I did get your Box of Sunshine package and 100 Days letter. Thank you so much. Those two deliveries have really made my day.

4) I still got plenty of room on my SD card. I think I'll just send you the SD card once it's full.

5) No, I don't think I have another SD card. But, don't stress about it too much.

Now for my actual letter: Wow! I can't believe that you had three baptisms in the ward! That's amazing! Those three individuals have no idea how many blessings that they will receive from Heavenly Father for their decision. I also wish that I could've been there to hear Bro. Sweeney's talk during that special event. I really miss hearing his testimony and talks. Tell Bro. Sweeney "thank you" for sharing his notes.

I also think that Aubrey and her team should've won that Cupcake War. Oh well, as I always say: it is what it is. Still, could you keep that recipe? I would like to try it when I get back. Mmmm.

Well, I don't what else to say, other than to share some thoughts with you. Missions are hard because it requires you to stay focused solely on the gospel and teaching it to others. This requirement becomes frustrating when it seems like nobody wants to learn or they just don't have time for it. However, staying focused on the gospel has increased my testimony tremendously. As the weeks have gone by, I've found that the stories, teachings and testimonies of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, and our Savior Jesus Christ have developed more meaning for me. For example, the hymn "I Am a Child of God" has become more than just a cute little song we sing. It has recently made me put more thought about our divine potential as children of God. I wish I could explain more about this insight but that would make this letter longer than it already is.

I better get going. But always remember that I love you all and miss you all. Even if I don't get any baptisms, my testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ has grown and will continue to grow. Take care everyone.


Elder Michael Alley 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Happy Martin Luther King Day!

Right before transfers

January 19, 2015

Dear Family,

As always, thank you so much for your e-mails and letters. You have no idea how uplifting it feels to either look in your mail box or e-mail account and find that someone was thinking about you and wrote to you. It really is true that you love to receive letters and e-mails when you're serving a mission.

Man, this week has been a week of changes. I get a new companion, Dad is wearing reading glasses (he actually does look like Grandpa, except for the hair color), I finally reached 100 days in my mission (about time), Max is past his 6 month mark, and Mom and Aubrey get a small taste of missionary life. Man, what a week.

To start off, I decided to keep Grandpa's suit after reading Grandma's last letter. If Grandpa wants it in threads, then I'm going to put this baby to threads (not literally, but you get the point).

Here's also some info about my new companion: his name is Elder Barney. He's from Arizona and went to Northern Arizona University for a year before coming out on his mission. He's got 7 siblings (5 sisters and 2 brothers). He's also a red-head (what are the odds that I would get another red-headed companion? Ha ha). He's also a really nice guy, laid-back, and very organized. In fact, in just a few days, we already got most of the kitchen in our trailer organized. Getting the trailer organized is our main project in the mornings before heading out to proselyte. Finally. So don't worry. I honestly have a good feeling about this companionship.

If there's anything that I want Mom and Aubrey to take away from this letter, it's this: I am so proud of you two. What you experienced is exactly what every missionary has to deal with. There's nothing more frustrating than putting so much work into sharing the gospel with someone and not seeing them act on the message. In the 3 months that I've been here, I have felt frustration with our investigators who cancel appointments on us, drop us or have felt the Spirit of God during an amazing discussion and then not make progress. Some of the reasons behind these events I can understand, while others just make me want to pull my hair out. Every time this happens, I have to be reminded of one very important gospel principle: agency. We all have the freedom to choose, which also includes the freedom to accept or reject the gospel. It's hard but sometimes the only thing we can do is just deal with it and move on.

However, don't give up just yet. I believe that you're encounter will have a huge impact in the long run. Just keep doing your best and let the Lord have the rest. Also remember that every time you go out with the missionaries and share the gospel with those you meet, you are working along side Sister Ashley Alley, Elder Max Alley, Elder Jacob Sok, and me. We love you and are so proud of you. We are also very proud of Dad for always being a wonderful father, priesthood holder, and now an awesome ward missionary. Keep up the good work everyone.

Well, that's all for now. I'll write to you again next week. I love you all and miss you all.

Elder Michael Alley

Thursday, January 15, 2015

First Official Transfer Coming Up!

At the Mission Christmas Conference

Sharing his testimony
Michael and his companion, Elder Buttars. After transfers this week, he'll have a new companion,
but get to stay in Martin. We're grateful to Elder Buttars for the great training he provided
Elder Alley while they were together. The training period is over now. Time to hit it for reals. :)
He spent Christmas at the Bentley's house. He and Elder Buttars had a great Christmas over there.
Now there's something right up Michael's alley (pun intended)
Fine looking missionaries
With the Bentley Family
This family takes such great care of the missionaries. Elder Alley adores them.
I'm so grateful for people like them!

Elder Alley is a happy guy. He LOVES spaghetti.
Good call to put the towel on. (We've seen how he eats spaghetti. lol)
Lunch with some more of Elder Alley's favorite people :)

January 14, 2015

Dear Family,

First of all, I can't thank you guys enough for writing to me. I'm also truly grateful to you guys for putting our names in the temple's prayer roll. Please know that I find great comfort in knowing that my family and friends are rooting and praying for me from back home. Thank you everyone so much!

Well, as the title says, my first official transfer is coming up and the result is this: I'll be staying in Martin, Kentucky for another 6 weeks with a new companion. The Ashland Zone Leaders have told me that my new companion's name is Elder Barnie. I won't meet him until some time tomorrow, but I heard that he's a really nice guy.

Elder Buttars was a good companion who gave me some good advice and I thanked him for training me and putting up with me. To be honest, I have a lot of mixed feelings about this transfer. Part of me is looking forward to it, however, because I'm the one who is staying, that means I'm the senior companion ("senior" as in I know this area better than he does) and I'll be the one in charge. To be honest, I don't want to be in charge. I don't want to be a leader. I'm usually fine with just being on the sidelines. The best way that I can describe it is that I'd rather be the sidekick who wants to help, instead of the hero who gets most of the responsibility. Does that make sense? I'm not saying this to be negative. I'm just saying that I really don't like being in leadership positions. The fact that I survived being a Zone Leader at the M.T.C. was a miracle on its own. Oh well, it is what it is. Just please keep me in your prayers that I'll be able to make the most of this transfer. Please and thank you.

Speaking of "thank you". Could you thank Uncle Matt for me for his generous donation to our mission funds by buying the Play Station 3? I was not expecting him to give us that much. Thank you so much Uncle Matt!

To answer some of your questions: Yes, Grandpa's suit does still fit but I might send it home because I'm worried about it getting damaged out here. It is an old suit after all. I'll think about it after this transfer week settles down. As for what I was doing in that picture of me at the Christmas Conference: I was bearing my testimony of the true meaning of Christmas using Luke 2:8-20. Prior to this conference, me and a few other missionaries were asked to bear our testimonies about the true meaning of Christmas at the end of the conference. As I was bearing my testimony and reading them the story, I told them about the time when I asked mom, "Why did God send angels to shepherds?" I asked this question because during this time, it made more sense to me that God would send angels to His prophets and other chosen servants. Mom, I remember you telling me that (it may not be word for word) God loved the shepherds just as much as He loves us. Because the birth of His Only Begotten was such an important event, He wanted everyone to know about it, including the lower-class people like the shepherds. So important, that He sent angels to spread the Word about His Son. As I told this story, I testified that we, the missionaries, must be like the angels spreading the message of the Restored Gospel to everyone, including those who most people would over-look. It was a very special moment for me.

Before I end, I want to share with you one cool event that happened to me this week. I was on exchanges in Prestonsburg with Elder Wheeler and we came across this martial arts dojang after we had dinner. To make the long story short, Elder Wheeler saw my excitement when I saw the dojang and convinced me to go inside and talk to the teacher there. We did and the teacher and I had a great discussion about martial arts and its history. I wasn't able to get the gospel into the conversation, but the teacher said that we can stop by again and exercise with him if we want! I felt like I just opened up a new future for missionary work! It was awesome! I'm hoping that we can work something out where I can come back to help get the Prestonsburg Elders set up with the martial arts teacher. At the end of the day, Elder Wheeler told me that he loves watching missionaries "geek out" because that helps people to feel more comfortable around him and be more open to him. It was a great exchange.

Well, that's all for now. I love you all and miss you all. Take care everyone.

Elder Michael Alley

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Happy New Year!

January 5, 2015

Dear Family,

How's it going y'all? How's it feel beginning the year 2015? Man, I got to admit that I'm little nervous because this is the year when, like Max and Jacob, I spend 100% of it doing missionary work. I really hope this year flies by because, in all honesty, this two-year mission is starting to feel like a two-century mission. On the bright side though, this week is the last week of my 12 week training program. I'm hoping that this sense of accomplishment will give me the boost I need to endure my mission. I'm also hoping that this freezing weather and flu season doesn't last forever because it's really putting a hurt on the missionary work here in Martin. It's just really hard to see people when they don't want to be outside (especially since some of our investigators are single women and mission rules prevent us from going into their homes) and they're sick. Oh well, it is what it is I guess.

I also want you to know that I love the pictures that you sent me. I couldn't help but chuckle when I saw Sam in his snowman costume (I would laugh harder but I'm doing these e-mails in library). I also can't believe how much older Aubrey looks in her pictures! I really wish she would stop growing (ha ha). I especially enjoyed the pictures of my new cousin Adam. He is so adorable. Way to bowl while holding my new cousin Dad! ;)

Man, I wish I was there for that Bunco Night at our house. It looked like a lot of fun. Could you do me favor and keep that slushie machine until I get back? I want to find out for myself how good these slushies really are.

Well, with the new year coming up, I have to admit that I've got some mixed feelings about it. Half of me is ready for a change: a change in weather, maybe a change in location if, for some reason I'm the one that gets transferred, but most importantly I'm ready for a new sense of motivation and excitement for missionary work. As I read Max's, Jacob's and Ashley's e-mails, I felt a lot of sympathy for them. Ashley's e-mail really stood out to me because I know just how frustrating it is to have an investigator drop you. Just last week, we had an investigator drop us on the day that we finally had a scheduled appointment with her! Man, this stinks! That's the struggle we have here in Martin: scheduling appointments. To make the long story short, it's really hard to schedule appointments here. When these things happen it becomes really hard to stay motivated for missionary work.

Being out here in the mission, I've realized some things about me that I've never thought about before. I like being in a big group of people and I like positive energy. I like being in big groups of people because it helps me to not feel lonely but I don't feel forced to say something since they'll just have conversations with other people. When I do talk to someone about something I like for them to be excited because then I can feed off of that energy.

To help me stay motivated, I read your letters and e-mails and find a quiet place to read my scriptures in the trailer during our meal breaks. I hope this e-mail doesn't make you sad, it's just that the work here is moving slow and I find writing about my thoughts and feelings to someone helps me to stay sane. I also gave a similar to report to President Salisbury.

There is one other thing in Ashley's e-mail that stood out to me. It was the advice that her companion gave her: "There is no such thing as a "half-miracle," but sometimes we just don't get to see how it ends."  I thought that was a great piece of advice. Not only does it help me to see the big picture of missionary work, but it also helps me to know that even if my weekly and daily reports show zeroes, it doesn't mean that miracles aren't happening. We just might not get a chance to see them.

Well, that's my report for y'all. Again, please don't let this letter get you down. I just needed to get this off my chest. As I have said before in my past e-mails, I've been given great counsel from my mission president and other missionaries and the members (especially the Bentleys) have given us great support. Take care everyone. I love you all and miss you all.


Elder Michael Alley 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

I Wish You a Happy New Year!

Christmas morning at The Winn's apartment
Our pile of gifts. Thanks everyone!
Sister and Elder Winn. They're a senior missionary couple in our district. 
They are so nice. They remind me of Grandma and Grandpa Alley.
Oh, man, I love the Alley Family Missionary calendar!
One more Christmas to go. 
Skyping with you
                                           Nest series of photos is from Elder Alley's mom:
                                                  Our view of Skyping with Elder Alley

He even got to Skype with his Dad who was on a trip. 
(I love technology!)

This is what his little sister posted on Snap Chat

Love this boy and miss him!
3 for 3 in successful Skype calls with my missionaries!
More pictures Elder Alley sent:
Elder Buttars and the Bentley Family.
The Bentleys let the us Skype at their house and we spent a lot of our Christmas with them.
They are a great family!

Celebrating New Year's Eve
(Sister Bentley was really thoughtful and sent me these pics via Facebook.
"Bonus" pics of my missionary are THE BEST!!!)

Playing Uno.
(Funny, because his sister played Uno on New Year's Eve with the members in Thailand.
Uno is, apparently, a universal game.)

December 29, 2014

Dear Family,

Man, I really enjoyed Skyping with you guys during Christmas. You have no idea how much I loved talking with you. It just felt so good to finally to both see your faces and hear your voices. I loved every minute of it. I wish we could've talked longer but I guess there's a reason why these Skype appointments are limited to one hour. Still, one hour just didn't feel long enough. Oh well, now we have Mother's day to look forward to. Awesome!

Speaking of "forward", I just want to wish everyone a Happy New Year! To be honest, I am both excited and nervous for the new year. I'm excited because I personally feel like the feeling of a new year might be able to help with the missionary work here in Martin, Kentucky. I'm not sure how but it just might give us missionaries a new start in missionary work and allow us to invite more people to learn about the Gospel as they think about what to do for the new year. Here's hoping. Pray for us and hope things improve for missionary work.

My plan for the new year is to be social and confident in missionary work. What I mean by this is that because I'm not the most social person that you'll ever meet (as much as I hate to admit it), I find it hard to talk with people I don't really know. Anyways, could you keep me in your prayers and pray that I'll have more charity, understanding and patience for the people I've been called to serve? I would really appreciate it. Thank you.

I also want to explain real quickly about one of the pictures that I sent. Just in case anyone was curious, there's a picture of me holding the family missionary calendar while also holding one finger up. That's my way of saying, "We just have one more Christmas to go before we're all back together again."

Well, that's it for now. I love you all and I will see you all again in about 21 months. Have a Happy New Year!

Elder Michael Alley    

Merry Christmas Everyone!

At the Martin Christmas Festival

Elder Alley in Martin, Kentucky

December 24, 2014

Dear Family,

Merry Christmas everyone! Thank you everyone for all of your love and support. Whether it's a simple letter or a bag of candy, I can feel all of your love and support from just looking at what I've been given. I truly have been blessed with a wonderful family and group of friends. Thank you so much everyone.

Mom, thank you so much for your last letter. You have no idea how much your words lifted up my spirit. I'm grateful to know that I am helping with the work, even if it's just through e-mails. I've read that letter multiple times and each time that I've read it I've been thinking about Sis. Buxton's story of how her husband set up these teaching appointments with members for the missionaries to use. As I read Sis. Buxton's story, I've been thinking about bringing this idea up our Ward Mission Leader and our district and see if this could help reactivate some members in our area. I will have to wait until after the holidays since many people are out of town right now. Still, I like this idea.

I'm also grateful that you answered my questions. You didn't have to answer them but I'm glad you did. I promise that I won't beat myself up if things don't go according to plan. I will just be me, do my best and let the Lord have the rest.

I also want to thank you for sending me the Skype info. Just a heads up, I'll be calling you on Christmas Eve but the purpose is to set up a time when we can chat. It'll be hard but we'll need to do our best to stay focused and keep that phone call short. Man, I can't wait!

I'm going to keep this e-mail short so that I will have stories to share over either Skype or phone. I'm excited! I love you all and I wish you a Merry Christmas!


Elder Michael Alley