Monday, December 3, 2012

What's even more difficult than leaving for your mission . . .

Dear Family, 

                Bitter sweet is the best way to describe it.  I don’t know what else to say really but that I am excited and look forward to seeing you soon!  I’ll be telling you all about my love for the great state of Minnesota and the amazing people that I’ve met here.  I have loved this whole experience and feel like  a piece of me is staying behind when I get on that plane.  This is the last email I get to send as Elder Craft and it is a surreal feeling and thought.  I hope all goes well and whatever you have planned for tonight is fine with me.  I love you and will see you soon!

Love, Elder Alex Craft

Monday, November 26, 2012

One More Week

Hey Crafts!

                Well I'm not exactly sure how long this letter's going to be and what there is to talk about.  It is a weird feeling now to see the next week and how crazy it's going to be.  Happy Birthday to Natalie first of all!  That's a good start for her week.  Thanks for the email too Nat.  I didn't know someone could put so many smiley faces into 4 sentences haha.  I appreciated the enthusiasm though.
                We have the exchange with Elder Mead and his companion Elder Davidson later this afternoon actually.  We had to switch days on them so he will be here with me tonight until tomorrow morning.  Then we have exchanges with missionaries Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday with meetings for the mission leadership Wednesday and Thursday with all the new missionaries and their trainers.  It's plenty to keep us busy but I'm afraid of how quickly the week's going to run by!  I have nothing against you guys but like Mom said it perfectly I could almost come visit for a little while, catch up on some sleep, and then come right back and that might be just fine with me.  President hasn't assigned anyone to replace me yet so sometime amid all the other stuff we'll pick up my replacement and try to train him on everything I know for Bloomington in whatever time I can.

                I have had to write me final letter to President about my mission and all the memories and things that I feel I have learned.  That task has proven to be much harder than I could have anticipated.  It is almost impossible for me to summarize all the amazing experiences that I have had in my two years in Minnesota!  I can look back and say that I have loved every bit of it.  This has definitely been the best two years of my life that I could have ever imagined.  I have felt the biggest change come in my view of priorities and values.  I have come to learn that the Gospel really is the only thing to bring true happiness to us as God's children.  It's not the church that brings that happiness but is the divine organization for the Lord's eternal restored Gospel on the Earth that is our most helpful tool and aid in living the Gospel fully in our lives.  I have come to love learning from the scriptures and seeing the truth that is taught to us in there.  We had the chance to teach the Gospel Principles class yesterday on the Postmortal Spirit World and in that discussion and preparation we learned how crucial our choices are to eventual lead to our eternal destiny.  The Spirit World and the happiness, rest, peace, and ultimate joy that come with it are only temporary and immeasurable compared to what we can imagine returning to the presence of the Father will be like after that brief waiting period.  That is why I feel so grateful that the Lord has shaped me and helped me learn the importance of my priorities because as Elder Oaks put it in General Conference that, "Desires dictate our priorities, priorities shape our choices, and choices determine our actions".  Those actions are what we must strive to be obedient and righteous in because President Uchtdorf teaches us something that I know to be true, "Diligently doing the things that matter most will lead us to the Savior of the world".  I have loved seeing what matters most in life.  Our relationship and devotion to Our Father in Heaven is what our life ultimately comes down to.  His love is endless and His Son was sent to show us that.  If we change our focus and priorities to see that we can repent and become better through Him.  That understanding has been one of the greatest blessings in my life and greatest things to teach others.  Trying to obtain an eternal perspective has been one of the things I have strived for in my time serving and feel like I have only now caught a glimpse of it.  The quote Dad sent last week about fearing our potential is so true because it is so true.  God wants us to receive all the peace and joy life is intended to have for us and you as my family have helped to bring that to me!  I have come to appreciate and love you guys more now than I feel I did before my mission when I thought it would be hard to leave you all behind.  Through that sacrifice my feelings have only grown.  If you weren't so great I might just hide out in Minnesota and never come back haha.  I have feelings that words can't describe and gratitude to my loving Father in Heaven that is unmatched for the blessing and opportunity to serve as His minister and messenger for His Son in this great mission.  I will be eternally grateful for this blessing and privilege of trust that He has given to me that I have been able to gain so much from.  It has changed my life forever!  I love you all and will be sending one last note either Sunday night or early Monday and look forward to talking to you then.  I love you and appreciate you all more than I could say.

Love, Elder Alex Craft

Thursday, November 22, 2012

International Travels and Thanksgiving!

Hey family!

                I am sorry that this weekly update is coming to you late and a little bit shorter than you would like I'm sure but I just wanted to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and hope that all went well down in Sandy with that side of the family.  Tell Jacob congratulations for me and I look forward to meeting his fiancĂ©.

                Today has been a definite Thanksgiving for the books and one I don't think I'll ever forget.  I am so thankful at this time of year to reflect on all the many things that I am so thankful for in my life.  I am most thankful for a loving Father in Heaven that sent His Son to be a Savior for the world.  I am also thankful for His love in putting me in a family with all of you!  I don't know what I could or would do without you and know that there is no other group of people that I was meant to be with and associate so closely with in my time here on Earth than all of you.  You do so much for me and help me in so many ways that I can't even begin to describe.  I love even more the Plan of Salvation and the knowledge that it gives me in knowing that I can be with all of you as a family for eternity.  Even if not all of you want me after my choice in schooling haha jk ;).  There are so many things that I could be so thankful for and that I am thankful for but are hard to find the words for.  More than anything at this moment I am thankful for the chance that I have had to be missionary and to serve here in the greatest mission the MMM!  I have learned and will learn so much from my time spent in service.  I am thankful for the good and not so good times.  I am thankful for the hard faith building and testing times and the miracles that I have witnessed in my life and the life of others.  I think that through this experience I have become most thankful for my testimony especially on the principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His Atoning sacrifice for all of us.  I am thankful for the knowledge of all the simple things that I can do in my life with eternal blessings that come and for the joy I feel in doing the simple things that we are asked.  There  are just so many things that I have and should not take for granted that all come from my Father in Heaven.

I wish I could tell you all the details from my Thanksgiving 2012 but this story will have to be a little briefer than my usual ones haha.  As you know we spent a day in Pine City, MN Sunday to Monday and in Grand Rapids, MN for Monday to Tuesday which were both awesome experiences!  It was great to work with those Elders and to see the work going on there and those parts of the state that I never got the chance to serve in.  The areas up North like Grand Rapids remind me a little bit of what it's like near Yellowstone just minus the mountains and crazy geysers haha.  It's all very beautiful.  My first time out of the country was a really cool and really close experience going to Thunder Bay.  (Relatively speaking for those others in my family that have traveled or served all the foreign missions that they have).  We got there at about 8:30 pm CST on Tuesday night and then started for home this morning at 4:30 am CST to travel the 7 hours that we had to back for the Thanksgiving dinner that we would be having this afternoon, which was a great experience in and of itself.  With all the turkey and stuffing in me now it's making concentrating and communicating a little more effectively difficult haha.  It has been crazy to think about the experience that we had of being out of the country earlier today and traveling about 400 miles back down to Bloomington.  It was just as much fun to see and work with the Elders up there to get spend some time seeing a part of the mission that only a handful ever see.  In our time there in Canada I got the chance to teach, find (tracting and street contacting mostly), and see the brotherhood that is formed in serving together for the common purpose of serving the Lord.  This 4 day exchange experience was a huge blessing for us in being allowed to do it.  I realize that I've used the work experience a lot in this email but that's what my mission has been to me and for me, especially in the last couple of days, a lot of experiences.  It seems like looking back I have had an unbroken chain of good experiences throughout my entire time as a missionary and treasure so much the great lessons learned and people I've met along the way.  Every experience has been a good one for me in one way or another and I wish I had the words to convey to you and help you understand what it has fully meant for me as I have reflected on it throughout today.  (14+ hours in a car over 4 days has given me a lot of time to think and reflect haha).  I have learned and seen myself appreciate even more the joy in living in the moment and having joy every step of the way not just when the journey's over.  I look forward to telling you all about them and sharing with you in the most heartfelt way I can what it has meant for me.  I know that there is still a lot to learn and look forward to and I'm excited to embrace all the experiences coming my way in the near future.

I'm sorry that this isn't as detailed or descriptive but I had very limited time to try and write this.  I hope that all is well and to hear from you again soon.  I love you all.

Love, Elder Alex Craft

Monday, November 12, 2012

Goodbye to the Rest of My Group

Hello Craft Fam,

                This was a great week and has been a crazy day for us gearing up for the crazy week that we have ahead.  But it should all be fun haha.  I think I mentioned last week that we have Mission Conference tomorrow and Wednesday from about 7 am when we have to be there to set up and get ready until around 4 pm.  That was the plan before we came in this morning and found out that Elder Gavarret, of the Seventy, who is coming won’t be coming until later tomorrow morning so our meeting will go from about 10 am, when we have to get there to set up, until 6.  So we’ve had to switch things up today and move them around on the agenda to accommodate.  Wednesday it should be the same 7 am- 4 pm.  It should be a great meeting and our 25 minute training for both of them is on how to introduce the Book of Mormon and use the Gospel Art Book in contacting people effectively and should go pretty smoothly.  Mission tour last year was really great when we had Elder Zwick, of the Seventy, come too.  It’s always a great way to learn a lot and get inspired.  The real inspiring thought for us and the rest of the office staff today is the fact that Elder Gavarret wants to spend some time tomorrow touring the office  and inspecting it.  We’ve been cleaning and organizing that for part of the day and will have to spend some of what’s left in the day at our apartment cleaning too because the GA’s usually like to inspect missionary apartments at these conferences and with us and the Bloomington Spanish Sisters being only a couple of miles away each we are likely candidates for a visit.  Good thing we’ve been cleaning and maintaining it the whole time.

                The work in Bloomington is going great!  Brother S committed to live the Word of Wisdom in the lesson that we had on exchanges this last week and is really confused by why people question what we teach.  He said, “I have loved everything I’ve heard, I’ve loved the worship service with you, and I know it’s all true.  Why does no one else see that or have a hard time listening to what you say?”  If we could have a world full of people like Brother S and the Ns’, so basically the Liberians, it would be a much better place haha!  We are looking forward to Brother S’s baptism here in the next few weeks and the Ns not too far after.  Brother N is really trying to get work off and once he can get to church he will be able to set a date for him and Sister N to be baptized.  There are a lot of exciting things going on here that we are really looking forward to.

                Transfers went well and the departing activities were very fun.  Getting the chance to be together with all those Elders again and just reminisce on memories that we had or experiences that we’ve since had was a lot of fun.  The stories that we all got to tell throughout the day and getting to go to the temple was pretty great too.  President seemed a little more relaxed asking questions about different crazy things that we’ve seen or experienced and laughed mostly because I think those were things he never heard or knew about and now got a chance to catch it firsthand without having to worry about consequences like he would with a new missionary telling him that because they were all going home in a few hours.  None of it was really too bad just about different companions that were more interesting than others and the stories to go with them haha.  A great part of the whole day though was getting to have them all stay in our apartment and getting to talk with them all there.  The best part was after all the fun, memories, emotions, and stories that I got to drop them off at the airport and wave good bye to them all while I went back to my element in what I knew in Bloomington haha.

                That’s about it for now and the rest of this week will be outlined on the calendar I sent you.  I decided with all the cool information and things that I tell you about doing each week now recently that I’d just attach the calendar that Elder Clancy and I had to make for our schedule.  One of the coolest things that you might notice is the road trip that we have to do next week for Sunday through Thursday to do 3 of the exchanges that we have to in the Duluth Zone.  It will start with us in Pine City, then to Grand Rapids, and finally we’ll end up in Thunder Bay Canada for a little over a day to do that exchange up there.  It looks like I’ll use my passport after all and it should be pretty sweet!  We were really surprised when President approved it and said that was a great idea but we’re going with it and looking forward to working with all the great Elders all along the way.  The last cool thing to point out on the calendar is that exchange that last Monday with the New Brighton Elders.  That’s where Elder Mead is serving with his new companion that he is training, so that means exchanges with us!  I’m pretty excited for that too.

                There’s a lot of great things happening and just not enough time to tell you all about it haha.  I love you all and I’m so thankful for your love and support to me.  Talk to you again soon!

Love, Elder Alex Craft

Monday, November 5, 2012

Final Transfer Calls

Dear Family,

     That email quote that Dad sent is one that I heard at the beginning of my mission and has been kind of the theme for me throughout especially when I was in Kasson and had nothing going so it was either be obedient and diligent and be blessed or be like the rest of the dingle berry  missionaries that had served there and see absolutely nothing happen.  I have seen that principle prove true time and time again in my life and time as a missionary and in the life of those investigators I teach that make the changes that they do.  When we strive to be obedient and make it a quest to do all that God asks of us to the fullest we will not only be blessed with power from on high like President Benson says but we are blessed with confidence and assurance in the Lord and what His promises are.  Obedience brings peace into our lives.  I have still in all my time here yet met a missionary that is disobedient and happy.  It just doesn't happen.  It's a lot easier to distinguish and differentiate while on a mission I think because of all the black and white clear lines that we have clarified for us and we know what to do and not to, what it means to cross and what doesn't.  I think it's harder to see that same difference and and differentiation in the world as we live our lives because Satan is such a master of subtle persuasion and distraction that we may not recognize or see the lines all around us because of his cunning craft to blind us.  I have a firm belief that one of Satan's best tools against all of us is distraction.  For those of you who don't know what quote I'm talking about it's by President Ezra Taft Benson that says, "When obedience ceases to be an irritant and becomes our quest in that moment that God endows us with power".  It's a true principle and one that we can all adopt and strive to develop within us all a little more fully.  Thanks for sharing that and your thoughts, Dad.

     It's not too cold as of yet.  On one of the exchanges last week I got to ride my bike around with one of the new missionaries and it was around 40 degrees that day without the windchill but that's the lowest really that it's gotten.  It may have snuck down into the mid 30's but nothing bad at all.  There isn't snow down here yet but we have seen flurries.  Nothing has stuck in the cities but up north around the areas of Grand Rapids and Bemidji they have a few inches of snow and have for a week or 2.  I'm just glad I wasn't riding my bike in that haha.  I should be fine and survive no problem.  Not only am I a toughened Minnesota Viking after 2 years now, but I had a feeling not to send all my winter stuff home when I shipped that package with the Youngs in April, so I still have a beanie, my earmuffs, gloves, and my Mr. Mac 3 in 1 coat.  Nothing should stop me now haha! :)  Thanks for the concern though Mom I appreciate it.  I won't say anything about the cold if it stays like last winter, but I'm kind of hoping for another winter like my first to go out on a bang.  So that means we'll need a few inches of snow here soon and temperatures about 40 degrees colder than this last week.  Bring it on! haha

     This P-day is what used to be known as transfer calls when President Clements would call to notify all missionaries being transferred of their new area, companion, and assignment, but this last week we had to change it. With the increase that's sure to come of new missionaries there won't be any physical way for him to call and talk to everyone that is changing.  We still met with him this past week to go over the transfers and will continue to do that even with the new missionaries that start to come in floods, but now we type up all the transfers like normal and will send that info to the Zone Leaders over fax for all the changes among their teams.  The Zone Leaders will then call all teams transferring to notify them.  President will now just call the new Zone Leaders and Trainers in the mission.  So needless to say this morning didn't have as many transfer "calls" like the usual "transfer call" day in the office used to for the other 4 that I have done.  We still have a lot of things to get done to prepare for the transfer coming up on Wednesday.  It's a lot of coordinating and logistics figuring out everyone's transportation to the mission office now for transfers.  It shouldn't be too bad though.  Nothing I haven't done before.  It is weird to think that this is the last transfer I'll officially be apart of and help out in though.  Crazy stuff!

     Before transfer Wednesday all the departing missionaries will come starting at about 9:30 tomorrow morning to do all the stuff they do when they get all trunky (Departing interview with the President to review goals, watching some training videos, lunch and dinner at the mission home with President and Sister Clements, and going to the temple to do a session together before ending with a testimony meeting and training from President and Sister Clements on adjusting to life again and being successful I guess).  I have been there for the very beginning and very end of those days while serving here and helping with all the other groups to go home that I have.  I always got to see the after effect of all those departing Elders coming to our apartment to spend their last night before breakfast in the morning at the mission home after which I'd take them all to the airport and wish them good bye and joyfully return not facing that  thought of getting on a plane haha.  What's cool about this transfer because it is my MTC group leaving I get to do all of that and some.  President is letting me and Elder Lewis go to the temple and all the middle of the day Tuesday stuff that I'd miss because we're going home mid transfer and would miss out on that otherwise.  The best part is that even though I get all that fun stuff with the other missionaries I came out with I still don't have the consequence at the end that I should.  I get to still drop them all off at the airport and leave them there while Elder Lewis and I joyfully return to the field haha!  It should be an eventful next few days!

     After this week we have to gear up for Elder Eduardo Gavarret of the Seventy coming for our mission conference next Tuesday and Wednesday and the meetings that the while mission is having for that.  There will be two 4 zone meetings, so half the mission at one and the other half at the other, where Elder Gavarret and his wife and President and Sister Clements will present and Elder Gavarret has asked also that Elder Clancy and I spend 25 minutes in each meeting training all the missionaries.  It is kind of intimidating having to prepare to do that in front of a General Authority but it should be a lot of fun too.  After that at the beginning of next week we have to start our exchange craze up again.  We finished 14 of 20 exchanges total this transfer (so about 5 weeks time) with 6 more to do to finish the last batch of new missionaries while starting the work on the 9 new Elders that will have just recently have come out.  It's going to be a very busy time for us, but well worth it for all the fun we will have and miracles we will see!

     I hope that all goes well with all of you this next week and to hear from you soon!  I love you all and love to hear from you.  Your love and support has always been such a big help to me.  Thanks for all that you do!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Success and Miracles

Hey there family!

     This week was another great week for us here in the MMM!  We had a lot of success and miracles with 3 exchanges this week with some other new missionaries.  We had the one with the Eden Prairie Elders on Monday, Elder Lor and Elder Chappell that went really well.  We had one on Wednesday with the Cedar Lake Elders, Elder Olaveson from Rigby, ID is training Elder Pinsent from Nova Scotia and it was a lot of fun with them.  Because we only have the one van to drive around whenever teams like Cedar Lake come, who are on bikes, one of us ends up biking around for that day, so our area moves between a car and biking area depending on which one of us gets to ride that day or not haha.  Elder Olaveson and I got to ride around on the nice misty rainy day that we had Wednesday that took me back to my days in Shingle Creek riding through all the storms we had then.  Luckily for us it only snowed for part of the morning and the rest of it was just misty and raining for the day.  Our weather really hasn't been too bad here.  We have had it pretty dry so far except for the day that I got to spend biking around haha.  I'm expecting the weather may just hold off from the snow, down here in the cities at least because there's already a few inches in the areas up north, until after my group of missionaries goes home and then the cold will come haha.  I don't know if I mentioned this before or not but Elder Lewis, my MTC companion who is a Zone Leader in Lakeville now with one of the other Elders that was in our room at the MTC Elder Anderson,  extended and will be flying home with me to SLC so I'm not all by my lonesome self.  I think President needed him and didn't really want to have to replace both Zone Leaders at the transfer so now we came to Minnesota together and will be leaving at the same time too.  Our last exchange for last week was with the Apple Valley Elders, Elder Eggertsen who was Elder Anderson's companion in my MTC district and room who's training Elder Burt from Blackfoot, Idaho.  It was a lot of fun and the miracles keep rolling through with all these exchanges.  It can be challenging to try and plan things for all the exchanges that happen but it keeps us busy and blessings keep pouring down.  We have 3 , more this week and we are excited to see what the Lord has in store.

                This week we also have our monthly Zone Leader Council meeting tomorrow and will be spending most of our p-day today preparing our training and finalizing the agenda and presentation.  IT should be a really great meeting and things here in the mission will continue to pick up.  Our area is seeing a lot of great success.  Brother S (that's the actual spelling and not S like I did last week)
 is progressing very well along with the N family who he lives with.  Because Brother N had to work Brother S and Sister N came to the Fall Festival at the church with her two kids, J and J, and loved it.  The members loved meeting them and a lot of people introduced themselves to them  We found out the Brother S actually played volleyball on Liberia's national team and played in the All Africa games in Kenya while he was over there.  So the Elders Quorum invited him to play basketball with them early in the morning Saturday and we went to play with them.  He enjoyed it even though he's only ever played a couple of times in his life.  What was great though was as much fun as they had at the Festival and he did at basketball they both loved church even more!  Brother N couldn't make it because of work again but Brother S and Sister N felt very at home.  It was fast and testimony meeting and at the end they both talked about how much they loved hearing from all the different people.  Sister N said she really did feel like we were all Brothers and Sisters there and Brother S said to the Elders Quorum when he introduced himself that he has decided that he wants to join this church.  Brother N even though he couldn't come to any of those things is doing well.  We taught him at the mission home with President and Sister Clements last week and he committed to be baptized on Dec. 1st.  He's set on it and we are really excited about it too!  Now we are just working to keep the ward involved and help them all progress towards that day together.  We had an idea this morning that we could make a youth activity for all the kids to invite their friends to a volleyball clinic that Brother S can put on.  It'd be great to help him serve and get the youth to invite their friends to a very fun activity.  We'll be meeting with a member from the Young Men's presidency before their activities planning and Friday and see if we can get that going.  Brother S said he's ready and would love to play anytime!
                The Lord really is merciful and mindful of all of us!  I love seeing His hand day by day in all that we do and know that he is aware of individual needs for all of us and a part of all of our lives.  Thank you so much for all your love, prayers, and support.  I know that they are being answered and I am the grateful recipient of them.  I better get back to the reports that we need to finish, but I hope all goes well this week and to hear from you all again soon!

Monday, October 22, 2012

I Love the MMM!

Craft family,
                Thanks so much for the updates and all the support that you give to me.  It really is such a blessing to be serving a mission and to have the support of a loving family behind me.  I have learned throughout my mission more and more the blessings of the Gospel and the amazing opportunity that I have had to grow up with that as a normal part of my life.  So many of the people that we teach have their trials and challenges that they have to face each day that can so easily be overcome through the strengths of Gospel Principles and truths.  At times I wonder why I was so fortunate to have been in the family situation that I have been and be surrounded by all you loving and caring people that have helped to strengthen me and my testimony through your wonderful examples and experiences.  It is still a mystery to me as to why but I do know that I am very thankful each and every day and know that there is no other family that I would rather be a part of.  It’s because of that love and feeling that I have that I know that God is aware of all of our individual needs and places us in those circumstances.  These truths are a powerful part of what makes people want to have that change and feel that same belonging from being in the fold of the Good Shepherd.  In the world around us the family is so attacked and will be because of the strength that that ordained unit has.  We have several families that we are working with now that have so much going on within their families and have so many problems that they face.  I have come to see that no matter our personal needs and concerns, the challenges that we all face, the Savior’s teachings and Gospel can help throughout it all.  Even though not all people have the most ideal situations in life we have the greatest solution that can improve them and no government program can even come close to that.  Like I said it’s a great blessing to be preaching and serving the people here in the MMM!
                This week I’m going to steal a miracle that Elder Clancy experienced while we were on our last exchange of the week last Friday with Elder Sargeant.  They went to see the N family, the ones that I may have told you about from Liberia, and in going there were planning on teaching them the plan of salvation.  When they got to the house they met a friend of theirs, Brother S, who just moved to Minnesota from Liberia three weeks earlier.  They started to teach and he joined right in asking questions and participating because of the great spiritual nature of the Liberian people and their sincere desire to come to know God.  When they began to teach about Adam and Eve and the Fall they went through and used the scriptures to outline and explain it all to them, Brother S and Brother and Sister N.  At the end they asked what they now understood about Adam and Eve and Brother S responded something to the effect that he had wondered about that his whole life. He said that he knew God was perfect so that just couldn’t be a mistake that He didn’t know about  and that what the Elders had taught to him right there out of 2 Nephi 2 he knew was true and answered questions he had had his entire life.  It was then that he committed to come to church and wanted to join our church on that Sunday too.  They explained there was more to be learned before baptism but his excitement that came from hearing the truth then feeling it in his heart is a wonderful thing to be a part of and witness just like I had mentioned with the change that comes in the paragraph above.  Brother N then committed to fear God more than man and talk to his boss about getting Sundays off and making that a priority.  I’m sure the Brother S will now help to make sure that happens too.  It is so amazing like I said to see how God is so aware of our situations and all of the needs and desires of His children and is willing to grant whatever He can to us to bless our lives.  I know that Heavenly Father listens to and answers prayers and leads us by the hand when we follow His path.  I love helping others to find that path and help them see the guidance for themselves.
                This week is another full one of exchanges but not as varsity as last week.  We have the Eden Prairie Elders tonight with Cedar Lake coming Wednesday and Apple Valley Saturday.  It should be very fun and full of miracles.  We have the ward Fall Festival this week too and we were thinking of our sweet costumes.  I may just end up going as Elder Clancy and he will go as Elder Craft to throw everyone for a loop.  We’ll see what reactions we get haha.
                Well I love and appreciate once again all that you do for me!  You love and prayers on my behalf are felt and answered each and every day.  I hope that all continues to go well and that good things will come for you in the coming week.

Love,  Elder A. Craft

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Finally a Real Update

Dear Family,

     Sorry that this is so late but this week has been one eventful one for us here.  I had mentioned that wedo exchanges with the new missionaries and their trainers in Bloomington within their 2 transfers of being trained and this week has been one full of those.  We try to schedule them with teams that are further out around events and meetings they'll be coming to the cities for.  THat's the main reason why this week has so many because of the New Missionary Training Meeting that we had on Tuesday, so we had teams coming from 2 and 3 hours away and had to schedule their exchanges all in a row so that we could get to them without delaying it too long or making them make an unnecessary trip out of their area later in the month.  This Monday to Tuesday we went with the Elders from Fairmont, MN.  Elder Sande is thr trainer and a convert of a little over 2 years from Washington state and his companion is Elder Meguro from Japan.  We were with them Monday night until  the NMT meeting on Tuesday morning.  Then after all or training and things we had to do in the meeting we had an exchange with the Mankato, MN Elders.  Elder Waite is the trainer from Logandale and Overton, Nevada.  Dad might know where that is because Elder Waite told me all about Hawthorne!  He's been there and to Walker Lake a lot before and told me all about what isn't there haha.  I thought that was cool that he could tell me all about Dad's little hometown which I now want to go check out sometime.  His trainee is Elder Hall from Draper.  On Wednesday after lunch they went to drive back down to Mankato before the Chippewa Falls, WI Elders came in until this morning.  Elder Worwood is the trainer from Ferron, UT and his new missionary Elder Allen is from Sun Tan Valley, AZ.  It was great to have a chance to work with all these Elders and see the great faith that new missionaries bring to the mission.  It was a lot of fun seeing all the miracles that came and as a result of all these missionaries helping to work in our area we have found 20 new future investigators this week which should really keep up busy and help the work to pick up.  Last night Elder Worwood and I found a few potentials in this really nice and really fancy town home complex in Eden Prairie that has a bunch of the Vikings players that live there.  One of the guys that we talked to said that he sees Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin driving around in there all the time and that Nate Osiata, the guy who used to play for the U and is now the Vikings fullback, lives there.  So that was kind of a cool adventure.  I'll let you know when I find one of those guys or you can look on ESPN or something to hear them announce the new celestial help that the Vikings team seems to be getting ;) haha JK.   Coming up tomorrow until Saturday afternoon we'll have the Blaine, MN Elders coming.  Elder Sargeant is the trainer from Springville, UT and Elder Manoa is from Hayward  CA.  That should be another fun and exciting exchange too.  These exchanges have a lot of planning and work that can go into them but are one of my favorite parts about this assignment here.  I missed not getting to work with all the new missionaries when I spent my summer vacation over in the Lake Nokomis Ward.  Speaking of that since you asked Dad it was kind of hard to leave all the good things that were progressing and the fun Elder Neeley and I were having, but because I didn't go far I still get to see some of those people and talk to the Elders working over there. 

     It's been kind of fun coming back to an old area too and talking with all the members again and visiting other people that I taught.  So I didn't tell you much about Elder Clancy when I got here but he is from Lawrence, Mass.  He graduated the year before I did but went to BYU-I for a year before his mission.  He came out to Minnesota about four months after me.  He's a pretty goofy guy and it's been fun to serve with him.  I knew of him just from seeing him around in the mission.  He's very smart and creative.  We get along really well and are hoping for great things to come here in the near future.  He actually has a  twin brother who is serving in the SLC Family History Center Mission who goes home in mid-December. 

     The weather here has been typical Minnesota which equals out to bipolar.  Something that I'm used to from living in Utah.  We have had some really nice days in the upper 60's and one in the lower 30's too over the past few weeks. The leaves have been falling really quickly the last couple of weeks and we're all hoping Winter holds off for a little bit longer.  I think secretly I want this Winter to just be awful so that I can experience some of it and have something to talk about because the last one was so mild.  We'll see what happens here in the next couple of weeks.

     The Saints Unified Voices (SUV) choir and Gladys Knight were awesome last week!  The presentation was so good and the message they conveyed I think touched a lot of people.  I definitely loved it and would highly recommend inviting and taking people to that if it ever comes around in Utah haha.  It was sweet to hear some of the Gospel songs that they sang and the renditions of the hymns that were sung.  The best was all the people with a Baptist of Pentecostal back round that just stood up or put their hands in the air "praising" and saying some good heartfelt "amen" to different things they sang or talked about.  It was just all around awesome and something that I really loved.  It was a little bit of a later night because of the length of the 8:30 show too and due to the fact that we had to help tear down and clean up.  It was cool though because I got to meet her husband and talk to him for a minute and say hi to Gladys Knight while I was helping clean the stuff up in the church.

     From what Mom told me though it sounds like the Primary program was just about as eventful as the presentation that I got to see though haha.  That's too bad for the poor kids that were sick but exciting about Mom's new calling!  That's going to be a lot of fun for you!  Does that mean you just get to go visit a lot more of the Primaries around and go talk with the Presidents?  I assume from what I've known seen and come to understand with the structure of The Church that that's some part of it.  I'm really excited for you but sorry that you have to leave your little entourage of fans in the Sunbeam class.  At least you'll still get to see them every once in awhile.

     I think that's about it for the updates from me here and all the adventures that we've been on in the great state of Minnesota. haha  I hope that all is well and that I can hear from you again soon!

Love, Elder Alex Craft

Monday, October 15, 2012

Political Indoctrination From Dad

Hey Mom,

     Sorry that I only have a few minutes to send you a quick note.  I loved the emails and look forward to telling you all about the Gladys Knight presentation and the new missionaries and all the other things that people asked about.  You can tell Dad that I registered for my absentee ballot already and that Elder Braun, the one who does all the cars and bikes stuff here in the office just started laughing when I read him Dad's line about what happens if either Obama or Romney wins the election.  He feels the same way as Dad. haha  I did get Grandma's card and the cake.  I'll respond more to that later in the week.  The reason this note is so short is because we don't get P-day today because of all the stuff we have to get done this week.  We have an exchange (or split is what some people call is) with the ELders from Fairmont, MN before we have our New Missionary Training Meeting tomorrow with 2.5 hours of training we're doing and an exchange with the Mankato, MN Elders after that, and an exchange Wednesday with the Chippewa Falls, WI Elders.  We will have one more exchange towards the end of the week with the Blaine, MN Elders on Friday, so looks like I won't get to really send everyone an email until Thursday   I just wanted to send this this morning so you weren't worried and wondering.  Give everyone my love and tell them sorry for making them wait.  I'm getting good at doing that to you all recently. :) haha

Love, Elder Craft

Monday, October 8, 2012

General Conference Shake-Up

Dear Family,

     Hey everyone!  Thank you so much for all the birthday wishes from all of you!  It feels weird that it's actually my birthday. haha With all the other things that we've been doing I haven't really payed too much attention and now that it's finally here it doesn't have the same excitement as usual I guess haha.  It's not a bad thing I just think with all the other things coming that I'm looking forward to the excitement must just be channeled there.  It's almost like how I explained my 19th birthday being like because I was so looking forward to leaving on my mission that all the feelings were saved for that day.

    Speaking of birthdays and missions that new announcement was so incredible!  People (mostly members I;m sure) will be talking about that for awhile now.  I thought about exactly what Nick said that now I can say, "you had to be at least 19 and 21 when I went on my mission", just like Nick, Brock, and Tom can say, "we had memorized discussions on our missions that we taught to everyone", and dad can say," we didn't have either of those or those MTCs everyone has now they just sent us off into territories to get on a soapbox anywhere we could to preach".  hahaha  jk Dad ;)  It really is a great announcement that really is not only going to change the mission field with a larger number of missionaries and especially Sisters, but it will really change the culture of BYU and BYU-I with who marries who and the Student enrollment.  There are several levels to the changes that this will bring!  We are very excited to see how this effects the MMM and mission field worldwide!

     This whole conference weekend was just fantastic!  I loved all the talks and the underlying themes that came of personal conversion and how to strengthen ours.  Out of all the talks of the five missions that I got to listen to and watch at the church I think I loved the talk by President Uchtdorf the most!  That really hit home about not looking too far ahead and making sure I'm allowing myself to enjoy the moments in life and be happy!  It's so great to see the inspiration that God's anointed servants receive and how it is so applicable to all of God's children!  I love this dispensation that we are so privileged to live in and agree with Dad's message that we were meant to be here as a family together.  You all set such a great example for me and I've always felt that there's no other family that I could have possibly been better matched up with!  I have such a testimony from Conference too that Our Father in Heaven is aware of all of us individually and what we need in our own lives. 

     Sorry that this is so short!  There's much to do before I officially become an adult! :)  I love you and appreciate all that you do for me!

Love, Elder Alex Craft

Monday, October 1, 2012

Weird, But Good to Be Back

Dear Family,

     Good afternoon Utah from Bloomington!  haha  Sorry that I am so late in writing but today has been a lot of preparation for us to get ready for a leadership meeting tomorrow with all the Zone Leaders and District Leaders.  It should be a really great meeting with a big focus on improving our teaching by helping people commit to change.  President Clements wants to focus on "faith unto repentance" for the people we teach and having us as missionaries focus on listening to the Spirit in asking questions and relating to people so that we can teach and commit them to make changes in their lives.  It should be really good and really help our mission improve.

     It is such a great time to be a missionary here in the MMM!  General Conference (a.k.a. Missionary Super Bowl) is this weekend so that is way exciting!  We are pumped for that!  Then that presentation/ musical fireside with Sister Gladys Knight is going to be a week from Wednesday in the 10th.  That's going to be such a great opportunity and blessing for our mission too.  We are really hoping to have a lot of people go to feel of the Spirit from her testimony and see how it can change their own lives.  From what we've heard it does amazing things in other missions and areas with phenomenal amounts of referrals and even baptisms that come from it.  Good thing Minnesota has 10,000+ lakes so we can keep up with it all after she leaves ;) haha. 

     Speaking of baptisms this past Saturday was the baptism of Brother and Sister M.  Tr and Al are so awesome!  I love them so much and was very fortunate to be able to go and witness their baptism because I came to Bloomington last Tuesday, to answer your question of when I'd get back here in the office Mom.  It was one of the best baptismal services that I have witnessed.  We sang a few hymns while they changed and heard a message on the Restoration from Elder Neeley and the other three Elders in the Lake Nokomis Ward.  Once that was all over the Ms asked if they could share their testimonies and gave some powerful witnesses of the blessings that they have now seen come into their lives.  Brother M basically gave a sermon up their for 10 minutes on the goodness of God and all that he has seen in his life.  It was awesome!  Brother L, one of the members of the Elder's Quorum Presidency, baptized them both and like I said the Spirit their was just so strong!  It's so amazing to see the changes and witness that people can have while doing such simple things like reading scriptures and prayer.  Even for people like the Ms who have grown up Christian and very religious their entire lives the Spirit can work and increase within them so much and so rapidly.  I love being a missionary!

     It is weird to be back in the area I just left from but a lot of fun.  It's cool to see all the members again and to see the same people I was teaching before.  People like Brother A who we are still working towards baptism for.  It is a lot of fun to visit some of the same people and work right from where I left off almost.  In a sense it's almost like I never left haha.  A lot of the members and people were surprised to see me back.  I told them I just spent summer vacation in Lake Nokomis Ward but it was fun while it lasted haha.  I really do miss that ward and the area with all the people there, but now I'm hoping to see things progress even more here and fix what I must have done wrong the first time haha.

     I love you all and love to hear about all the great things going on back at home!  You guys are the greatest and I look forward to talking to you soon! 

Love, Elder Alex Craft

Monday, September 24, 2012

Back to Bloomington for Good, and . . . I Am Extending!

Dear Family,

     I would just like to start by responding to a comment Mom made in her email about Natalie accomplishing a dream of mine that I had in driving on the bike path.  Although the picture looks sweet to see you in the car on there the joke is that Brady and I drove down that one night on our way home a couple weeks before I left and I guess we never told you.  haha  So now Natalie is officially apart of our club that we started fall 2010.  Welcome Natalie! :) haha

     This week as I'm sure you are all fully aware of has been crazy and unexpected!  I would have never thought I was going to get a chance to call and talk to any of you if you would have asked me at the beginning of the week.  I am excited for the chance I have to extend my mission and to continue to help out anyway I can in my service to the Lord.  That's so cool to hear that Shae is extending too!  Man that's going to be crazy!  Too bad for Tommy haha.  I apologize that it did throw a major curve ball and wrench into the plans with Nick and Tati and the family all coming from Idaho.  Not only did it ruin the whole 11/11 @ 11 thing Mom's been talking about but everyone's vacation and holiday plans.  I'm excited to see what I can continue to learn and what the Lord will have in store.  It is different going back now to a ward that I just served in and to one that is neighboring too.  I've had 3 of these transfers now into bordering areas and these next few months will make my time in the Minneapolis stake officially up to somewhere over 15 months.  That's nothing compared to Nick's 15 months in one area but it sure will make Stake Conference cool in November when I get a chance to see everyone from the Eden Prairie and now Lake Nokomis wards too.  Even though I am excited to be be back in Bloomington I am sad to leave this area.  We have a lot of things going here now and it's hard when you grow so close to people and work so hard to see it build and then to leave and put it in another missionary's care.  Elder Neeley is great though and I only expect to hear about great things and many baptisms to come.  The Elder coming to replace me here is Elder  Bast.  He's a very good, very happy missionary from Germany.  He's from a little city called Glueckstadt up near the North Sea in Germany and will be a great help in leading this zone.  I got to do exchanges with Elder Bast when I was in Bloomington the last time and see all the great qualities he will help the zone with.  The good news is that even though I am leaving I'm only going a little ways away and will be able to see how all these things continue to progress and come back for some of the baptisms coming up.  This past week we had the interviews for both Brother and Sister Mentoe and they're both good to go for this Saturday.  we still haven't figured out the best way I can tell them I'm leaving because even if it is pretty close they still won't be happy haha.  And that's the last thing we want is some angry Liberians haha jk.  They should be ok because I should be able to come to the baptism Saturday.  We are really excited and have grown to love them so much!  They talked to me on Saturday about how they are wanting to come to Utah next summer to visit me and see the Salt Lake Temple.  I was pumped to hear that I they are excited to do it.  It's not for sure by any means but at the least it's a great idea and desire and something to look forward to hopefully. 

     Besides the crazy news on Thursday for Mom this week has been great.  We found a couple new investigators that show some real promise and potential with a few more people that we found and Elder Bast and Elder Neeley will go back to teach this week.  The Lord has been directing us so much and it's amazing to see the preparation of people that truly goes on before our face.  We run into at least a few people a week that have some association with The Church.  Whether it's they like or hate Mitt Romney, they have family members or friends that are members, or they have met with missionaries before years ago.  That last one happened to us a couple of times this last week; contacting and tracting into people who have been to our church or at least read from The Book of Mormon and met with missionaries some time in the past.  It's always a great feeling to be an instrument in the Lord's hands and feel the direction that was given to you to find these people.  Just as cool as the finding is when that guidance comes in teaching.  For example this past week when we taught the Ms about tithing we got to a point in the lesson where we were explain how you actually donate with an envelope there after we'd already covered the doctrine and asked Brother M some question about what we had taught.  He told us his experience of being in the kitchen a few hours earlier in the day and thinking, "I need to be doing more for the Lord, but how can I do that?".  He hadn't related that to Sister M because she'd been running errands all morning and we actually beat her to the house for the appointment.  He told us also in regards to the envelope we shared that they would ask themselves at church every week where to offering plate was or if we even did tithes and offerings because they never saw it.  Every week though they would forget to ask us about it and so Brother M said it was no coincidence that we taught that today with the thought that he had and now the answer that we gave to his question.  They were both excited and look forward to the blessings of tithing in their lives!  It was such a good lesson and all of us were just to happy afterwards.  Those guys are a true example to me of faith and really just putting your trust in the Lord and knowing that things will always work out "through God's grace" as the Ms always say haha.  It's sweet whenever you ask how they're doing too Sister M says, oh praise God we are blessed in Jesus name".  African people are so legit!

     Sorry that I don't have much more time.  We have to go down and start to help with the crazy transfer coming up today once all the calls are done and then I have to be in Bloomington by tomorrow morning again with all my stuff for my official early transfer because even though Elder Dalrymple doesn't fly home until Wednesday tomorrow all the departing missionaries go to the mission home and have all their departure interviews, training, and a trip to the temple.  Plus, we have a couple new missionaries from this last transfer to do exchanges with tomorrow before the craziness with 22 new ones coming out on Wednesday!  Thank you so much for the love and support that you guys give to me!  I can truly feel that and more fully appreciate it after this new change in plans!  You guys are so great and love having such a great foundation around me.  I love you and I'll talk to you soon!

Love, Elder Alex Craft

Monday, September 17, 2012

Back to Bloomington . . . For a Couple Meetings?

Dear Family,

     This week has been one of chaos and fun for everyone it sound like.  It's crazy to see how many different things are going on in your own lives and then seeing how much goes on here with me.  The most amazing part of it all is to see how things seem to work out for all of us for the best and we can truly see the Lord guiding and directing us as His children.  That's why it blows my mind to see all the many miracles I do and then to hear about all the great things with Brady and you guys!  That's something I have a strong testimony of is the knowledge and care God has for each one of us individually in our own lives!  We weren't able to meet with Brother and Sister M this week due to scheduling conflicts and as a result may have to move their baptism back one week so it's on the 29th and not the 22nd.  They still have a desire and want to be baptized we just don't want to make it a hectic dash to the end with some of the things we still have to go over and have them just feel the stress of it all working out instead of the spirit that they should feel strongly as they prepare.  Pushing it back will give them the chance to make sure and invite all of their friends and relatives to attend too and make it an extra special event.  We set another baptismal date this week with an investigator for October that we are really excited about.  It's crazy and scary to me to see the Halloween stuff coming out right now!  Time is going quick!

     This is going to be a crazy week for us again.  It's the last week before transfers and this time around there are 23 new missionaries coming out to Minnesota!  That's the most I've seen at once since I've been here.  Cool side note is there's one coming from Japan and one from Nepal who is actually the first Nepalese missionary to come out the the country there.  At least that's what we were told so that's kind of a big deal.  With that many missionaries though that means that there's going to be a lot of trainers and transfers and new areas opened up which equals a lot of work for President and the Assistants.  So he has asked that I go back to Bloomington for a couple meetings this week to coordinate it all and help to drive the departing and arriving missionaries to and from the airport on transfer day.  It's nice for him because I am van certified haha ( I can drive the big mission 12 passenger transfer day travel van) and I guess it means that I must not have screwed it up too badly while I was there haha.  That should be fun to work with that whole aspect of transfers again and it will be cool for Elder Neeley to get the experience.

    Sorry that there's not much more that I can write about.  It sounds pretty boring this last week for us but rest assured I just can't remember all that happened and some that I can would take more time than  I have to write.  I need to finish up some applications for school so thanks for the transcripts Mom.  I'll be sure not to open them.  I love and hope the best for all of you this week.  Thank you for your love, prayers, and support.

Love, Elder Alex Craft

Monday, September 3, 2012

Fall Harvest

Dear Family,

     This week was a crazy hectic one just like it sounds like Brady had (because every missionaries week is crazy and hectic in some fashion haha) but it was very good.  We had a great time with all 100+ of us missionaries at the Twins game and Zone Conference the next day was very uplifting and inspring.  We've focused a lot on the finding and planning aspects of missionary work and now President Clements has been training on how to improve our teaching.  That's what most of the training we were assigned to give at the conference and what he trained on as well.  It's going to be a great thing to help us all do a lot better and really help the mission as a whole to move in a upward direction.  We have set a goal to have a great "Fall Harvest" here in the mission by helping 100 souls come to Christ over the next 3 months of September, October, and November.  We are working hard to do our part to build up the people we have so that our efforts can help in bringing people to Christ for all of those months and not just what we have already set up in September.

     I can't believe September is already here!  And that means Tomatoe Days on Labor Day! haha.  September is looking good for us still.  Sister M is scheduled and had already been interviewed to be baptized on this upcoming Saturday.  We are really excited for her!  She's been battling smoking for a long time now and she has finally kicked the habit.  We all fasted this past Sunday together that she will be strengthened to overcome temptation and the devil this week and throughout the coming months and years.  She had grown an amazing amount and it's a great blessing to be a missionary in helping someone crawl over, under, and through the obstacles that they may have in their life and being apart of that evey step of the way.  It can get frustrating beause all you can do is encourage but when the changes are made it's almost like you yourself have overcome that obstacle too.  That's the way we feel with Sister M.  Her faith and knowledge have grown a lot and with the new hometeachers she has things should ciontinue to only improve for her.

     We had a couple lessons this week with Brother and Sister M again and they are still doing awesome!  The lesson we had on Saturday was at a member's house.  We had a bbq there and the Ms brought some more of the Kala, that we made at their house, to go along with the hotdogs and salads haha.  They told me because I know the Liberian handshake from my time in Shingle Creek and I now have eaten and knwo how to cook so much of their food I'm practically Liberian haha!  That lesson after the bbq at the M family home was so great.  We taught about the Word of Wisodom but what's funny is that Brother M has already been telling us how important it is to eat healthy and stay in shape, so literally everything we taught about keeping ourselves physically and spiritually in shape and healthy they agreed with and were already doing.  Now they just have some more doctrine to back up their beliefs.  It was funny when we extend the commitment to live it Brother M just looked at me and said, "Come on Craft you know I'm already doing that!" haha Sometimes they only call us by our last names and no matter who you are they are very honest straight forward people haha.  He did say yes after that but it was just funny to seee how different it can be when we teach one person something that they have a really hard time with doing and other people we teach the exactly same thing to can have such strong agreeances and no questions of doubts about doing it.  The Lord prepares each person in their own way to hear and come to know the message is true, but no matter their path and the curves they have to follow, sometimes very faithful and fearfully, they all come to the same witness and enter the same gate to the straight and narrow path that Nephi talks about.

     I love this work and I love all of you!  I can't believe that the time is going like it is!  Thanks for your continued support and love for your.  Your prayers are very much appreciated and heard!  Talk to you again soon.

Love, Elder A. Craft  ( The "A" is for African now ;) haha)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Learning to BBQ

Dear Family,

     This was a great week for us here!  A lot of great things are happening that we are very blessed to be apart of.   I think I mentioned to you last week that we were planning a Liberian BBQ with our two investigators from Liberia, Brother and Sister M and that was awesome!  We went over early on Thursday to help because they told us they wanted us to learn how to make it.  We basically sat there and prepared it all.  They told us the ingredients and gave us instruction but we were the ones cutting, washing, boiling, pouring, and mixing almost everything that we ate.  We had potato greens with soup, Fufu with the same soup, Kala, watermelon, and peanut butter chicken and steak that we grilled.  It was kind of crazy with all 4 burners on the stove going and the grill, but it turned out great.  We had talked to and invited 7 other members of the ward to come over and they all really loved the food.  It wasn't half bad if I do say so myself and Brother and Sister M gave us all the credit anytime anyone said anything haha.  They are so awesome though and told us that now we can go home and impress our families with our cooking skills, so everyone look out for the foreign feast that I'm going to whip up.  The only challenge will be finding all the right ingredients in Utah haha.  Not only was the BBQ great but we were able to teach them two other times this week and one was last night at the mission home with President and Sister Clements.  It went really well both times and all people that meet them love them.  We were able to set a baptismal date with the both of them for August 22nd and they are excitedly preparing for that day!  The best part is that within the mission, and I think the church in general as far as missionary work goes, there has been a focus on teaching about baptism as a covenant and the eternal aspect of what we are teaching people to find true conversion.  The Ms understand that and are even more excited for their chance to go to the temple and do baptisms after their own baptism and for their sealing a year from then.  It's an amazing thing to continually see these changes and desires grow within people.  Sister M, the other lady being baptized on the 8th, is doing well also.  She is progressing and has made a lot of changes in her life.  It's so cool to see how proud we are of her and how much love and encouragement we feel for these people and then try to even comprehend the amount of pride and love Our Heavenly Father has for us when we do what is right.

     It's great to see all the many miracles that the Lord provides for all of us and our area and this mission seem to be doing really well.  We are just hoping to continue to find now so that October and November will be just as good for us as August and September have been.  It's going to be the people we are finding and meeting with now that can make that progression in the future.

     We have a very busy but exciting week ahead.  The 5 Twin Cities Zones will be going to the Twins game this Thursday and we have to prepare our training for Zone Conference this Friday. On top of all of that Sister Yazzie serving in the Edina part of the ward is going back to temple square after her couple transfers she's been out here and her companion Sister Briggs will be going to Waconia to be in a trio for the rest of the transfer, so we are now going to be covering their area and moving in to their apartment.  Moving, Twins game with 100 other missionaries, and Zone Conference should make for a very full and eventful week.

     It sound like things have been and are getting even more eventful at home too.  I'm glad to hear that things are going well though and most importantly that Natalie survived school haha ;).  I will continue to pray for all of you and hope to see the same great things continue for you.  Once again thanks for all the help and support that you all give to me.  Your faith and prayers are helping to bless the lives of all these people too.  The Lord hears and answers us and it's a great time to be a missionary.

Love, Elder Alex Craft

Monday, August 20, 2012

Liberian Barbecue and a Twins Game!

Hello Craft Family,

      This week has been another great one with some amazingly mild and Utahesque weather haha.  We have had some decently cooler temperatures with moderate humidity.  We tell everyone when it's nice like this or on the dry days that "this is more like a Utah summer we're used to".  We just figured we'd let you know in case there's a sudden increase of Minnesotans in the state haha :).

     Unfortunately this week I don't have a lot of time to go through the miracles like last week but be assured they are always there.  It's amazing to see at all times how the Lord is in charge here and that we are lead and things just seem to work out in the right way.  It's not always just for us but we have the privilege of seeing that sort of stuff that is happening throughout the zone.  I think just behind Salt Lake City the Lord loves Minneapolis the most haha ;) jk Maybe they just need the most help haha.  Seriously there are a lot of great things in the works here for the work to continue to build and grow even through September and October as well.  We still have some great people we are working with and teaching here.  A couple in particular from Liberia are doing really well and love anything church.  Whether it's meeting with us, going to church, meeting the members, or whatever they just love it all.  Hopefully he'll be coming to play some basketball with us today and this Thursday we are going to there house for some Liberian bbq.  There will be fufu just like Shingle Creek last year.  It should be a lot of fun and hopefully have some good pictures for you.  I agree with what Mom said this week though we need to plan a trip where we can come back and I'll take you on a real tour of the mission!  It'd be sweet!  I've thought about it and a lot of the members and people I've taught have said for sure that I need to,so whoever is in we'll have to get something in the works haha. 

     It's crazy to see how fast time is flying though!  School starts this week for Natalie!  don't feel too bad Natalie I felt totally lost my first few times in that school but once you're there for a little while it's one of the easiest schools to get around.  And this whole driving thing for her is nuts too.  The cavalier is off limits as a drivers ed car haha. jk  You can use it but without the radio on.  We can't have any distractions for you. 

     Next week is Zone Conference so that's always exciting.  There are going to be zone activities associated with it too.  For us here in the Twin Cities ( the 5 zones that are here) we're going to a Twins Game on the 30th!  There's going to be probably 100-110 missionaries all going to that game and we'll all be in the same section.  It should be a lot of fun and get a lot of attention.

     I apologize that there isn't more time this week to write.  I love reading about all the great things going on at home.  The Lord blesses us in so many ways that are so incredible to see.  I look forward to hearing from you next week and appreciate all the love and support that you give me.

Love, Elder Alexander J. Craft, of the Minnesota Minneapolis Mission :)

Monday, August 13, 2012


Dear Craft Family!

     I'm so glad that things are going so well back at home!  I've been praying very hard for little Memphis and I'm glad to hear that things are looking up.  I can't believe school will start in 10 days though!  Have fun Natalie ;)! haha  Don't worry if you have any questions I'm just an email away and Fremont's not too scary.  You'll do fine. :)

     Transfer calls were this morning and we found out that both Elder Neeley and I would be staying here!  That's just fine with us.  He will now tie with Elder Dalrymple and Elder Haupt as being my longest companion for 2 transfers at the end of this next one haha.  We are being very blessed and look forward to the great things still to come from Lake Nokomis South and Minneapolis.

     This week was another wonderful week for us here.  Brother S.P.'s baptism was amazing and something like that can make any week a good week!  I feel so blessed to have been here at this critical time to be a part of his teaching and conversion process.  With his job as a Special Education Teacher there is no way if we would have taught him any other time of the year that he would have been able to commit as much effort and time to learning and building a testimony like he did with all the other distractions he would have had.  It really has given me an even stronger belief in the timing that it takes for people to learn about and accept the Gospel.  Brady wrote me about not having coincidences and I fully agree.  It was Brother P's time and now we are all anxious for the time in a year for their sealing and the blessing that that is going to be for their family.  I look forward to what the future is going to bring for them.

      I don't think I've told you about this before but if I have I'm sorry haha  we've had a mission focus of getting "2-3-7" to keep a balanced proselyting effort.  We focus on getting 2- FIs (Future Investigators= people who we get their info. and either set up an appointment with or they tell us to come back) average per day.  The other numbers are 3- investigators that attend Sacrament Meeting, and 7- lessons taught to investigators with members present.  This is ultimately leading up to not just having people baptized and then not having anything else going on in the area and having to rebuild after them.  We've been able to reach or surpass that 2-3-7 goal the past 2 weeks in our area and had a sweet miracle this past week I wrote in my weekly letter to President Clements about.  Here's what it was:
"We have been very blessed as we've been committed to our goals here.This past week we didn't have as much finding time and were concerned about making the goal we had set of 2 FIs per day.  Which has been a critical goal for us as people have been baptized and setting dates.  We know that finding now is what will help the work after these people make their covenants, so that's what our backup plan and most of our focus was for yesterday.  We had some Weekly Training Evaluation calls we needed to accomplish last night and could have easily justified going in around 8:30 to do it, but because of Elder Neeley's zeal and determination we decided to keep going and called to reschedule with the team we were going to call until after planning and encouraged them to do the same and go out and find for that last 30 minutes.  The Lord truly blessed us for our small effort.  Right after we got off the phone we started knocking some doors and in the middle of a contact with a man out on his porch a woman whom we had waved to as she walked by during an earlier contact on the street came up behind us and said. "excuse me.  I don't mean to interrupt but could I have one of ya'll's Bibles?" haha (you'll have to excuse my grammar for the quote)  So I went right down and talked to her on the sidewalk while Elder Neeley continued to talk to the man at his door.  With my ensuing questions she proceeded to tell me how she was just living with a friend and had had a Book of Mormon probably 10 years ago but got rid of it when she had to move.  She said when she saw us she remembered how she felt as she read and wanted to read it again.  We eagerly gave her a copy and promised her of the guidance by the spirit she had felt as she acted in faith to come find us and that the Book of Mormon would bring that peace back into her life.  She gave us her phone number so that she could come meet with us at the church hopefully this Wednesday and was excited to start reading again.  The amazing part for us was that we had knocked on her friend's door just after getting off the phone to reschedule our call to keep finding with no answer and instead she later came to find us.  After that miraculous faith building miracle with Kay we found 3 other FIs on that street we're going to see tonight.  This experience really helped us to feel as though we were guided by the Lord and blessed to stay in that area a little longer and find those that are searching."
It was an amazing experience that we were apart of last night and even though I just copied that from my letter I had to write President earlier it was such a great experience that I wanted to share with all of you.  I know that the Lord really does go before and that angels prepare people each and every day for us to teach.  If we listen for and act on promptings, no matter how small they may be or insignificant they may seem, like staying on one street or walking a block over to the next one, there are people prepared and placed in our path.

      We are now hoping to continue the blessings of the Lord in coming to the Minneapolis zone.  This transfer has been great and I look forward to serving with Elder Neeley for another six weeks.  We have some great goals that we are very committed to and hoping to accomplish the next couple of months and transfer with the Lord's help in Minneapolis.  Thanks for all your help and support you guys give to me!  I love you all and look forward to hearing from you next week.

Love, Elder Craft

Monday, August 6, 2012

Crazy Miracles

Dear Family,

     Sorry that I don't have time to write much today either.  Mine's not as cool as Brady's excuse.  I wish it was because I was going to play soccer haha.  These computers just don't let us stay on here long.

     That is some exciting news about little Memphis though!  So was she born on Friday or Saturday?  In the email it said Friday the 4th but the 4th was Saturday.  Either way it's still exciting.  I will continue to pray for you all and especially Memphis too.  Thanks for the updates!  I love to hear about all the great stuff going on there.

     This week in Minneapolis was sweet as always!  We have our baptism coming up on Saturday with Scott the guy I've been telling you about.  He is so great!  It's amazing to be blessed as much as I have to be apart of his teaching process.  The growth that all of us (Scott, Elder Neeley, and myself) have all made throughout his conversion has been a great thing to see.  It's so cool the bonds and lifelong friendships that you can build from only knowing people a few months.  It makes more sense though because as you love and serve someone you can truly get to know them.  That is one thing that I've learned on my mission.  The more fully you love and serve someone the better you get to know them.  I believe that's a true principle because of the Savior's example.  He didn't need a few months to get this way with anyone or even a few weeks like it often takes me.  His perfect example of charity and service to all is what helped Him to love more perfectly and more fully.  It's a great lesson I feel that I have been able to learn and only through serving as a missionary have I come to understand this a little more.  The other woman that we are teaching is progressing well with towards his baptism on the 18th of this month. She will have to have her interviews sometime this week, but she has a lot of commitment.  She sat next to us at church yesterday and on Saturday we had set a goal with her to quit smoking.  So when we went to teach her we ended up walking out at the end of the lesson with her last half a pack of cigarettes.  It was a great feeling to see her desire and commitment to the Lord and that we got to be the hands in the work of taking away that temptation.  Things here have been going great!  Your continued prayers are what's going to help even more.

     A couple weeks ago me and another Elder (Elder Happonen) on exchanges contacted a woman who just moved from Milwaukee for cancer treatment here and all her family is still in Wisconsin.  We talked to here for awhile and set up an appointment to come back.  Unfortunately she wasn't there for the appointment or the past couple weeks as we've tried to contact her.  Last night we decided to try again at a time when she should have been at work so we weren't as confident or faithful that she would be there.  She did end up being home and told us that she was sorry that she missed us and that she was expecting us to try back again soon because we hadn't been able to connect.  She also told us her mom had just sent her a DVD from the church (Finding Faith in Christ) this past week because her mom said, "it's a good video that you might like" while she's going through chemo.  She even showed us the DVD when she saw how confused we looked at the claim her Catholic mom had just sent her some church produced movie and praised it haha.  Turns out it really was from our church and that even more crazy or coincidental I guess was that her mom "used to be a Mormon" is how she put it but had never told her that.  Her mom joined the Catholic church when her parents got married because her dad's Catholic.  So once they'd established that her mom told her, "I'm glad that you're interested because it's a great church that you'll really like".  Then that's when we came into the scene again last night after all of that last week!  It is so unbelievable how the Lord works on our behalf.  I couldn't make up a story like that.  Or like most other things I see and experience here but I think that's just Minneapolis haha. ;)

     Crazy miracles and stuff happening "er' day up in here".  Thank you so much for all your love and support that you show to me.  You all are the greatest!  Can't wait to hear from you again.

Love, Elder "Hood" Craft

Monday, July 30, 2012

Thanks, Family!

Dear Craft Family,

     Thanks for the emails and pictures!  It's always fun to see some of the old ones like of Saja and Koda and the newer ones of Brandt and Raylee.  They look like they're getting pretty big pretty fast haha.  I'm surprised he knows my name too.  That's pretty cool.  Speaking of pictures though I can't believe you thought I sent you a picture message Mom haha.  Brother Parsons had that wise idea after dinner when I told him about the picture of Camie with the Root Beer.  I thought that would give you something to laugh at too.  Brother Parsons is a pretty funny guy.  We love going over there to eat.  They help out with missionary work a lot and is one of the lead member fellowshippers for the guy we have scheduled to be baptized on August 11th. 

     Things really picked up this week and we had the best numbers reporting week as far as teaching and finding goes in our own area since I've been here.  We're staying really busy and loving every minute of it.  Elder Neeley is great helping things to go even better here and we're really hoping that come 2 weeks from now when we have transfer calls that neither one of us is going anywhere.  The guy we have working towards the 11th and lady for baptism on the 18th are still doing well!  They came to church again yesterday and loved it.  I think that the one brother likes Primary more than anything when he gets to go in and sit with his 5 year old son.  He said he's learning on their basic same level so it's great for him haha.  He's such a good guy!  We've been finding a lot even with all the teaching and people getting ready for baptism so that we can continue to have people to teach and progress throughout August and September so that things don't just drop like I talked about last week after these people are baptized.  We've found a couple new families to start teaching hopefully.  One single mother and her 3 sons seem very interested.  She works a lot but loves the idea of her boys having good male influences around them because they don't have their Dad.  So even though she had to work the 3 kids ages 12, 11, and 10 all came with their downstairs neighbor, who's a member, and loved primary too.  They're some great kids that we are really wanting to help along with their Mom because the environment where they live is definitely less than ideal and my heart just goes out to them.  We're hoping to get them to the church to play some basketball or something and do what we can to help them avoid the street influence that is all right in front of them.

     I have been so blessed to have grown up with the family I have and with the Gospel as my foundation.  I've really gained a testimony of that by serving around people like this is this area.  Thank you for all that you all do.  I love and appreciate your support and care.  You're the ones helping to make this amazing experience all possible.  Sorry there's not much to write.  I look forward to hearing from you next week.

Love, Elder Alex Craft

Monday, July 23, 2012

Moving Forward

Dear Craft Family,

     This week was good in the hood!  We had an exciting triple baptism in the ward here for the north Elders and the Spanish Sisters had a baptism yesterday so there were 4 in the zone for the weekend.  We were pretty excited an appreciative for all that the Lord seems to continue to bless us with.  Thank you for all the prayers and support that you give on my behalf.  The Minneapolis Zone looks like it will reach the goal we had of 10 baptisms for July.  We have a total of 9 already with a solid one scheduled for the end of this week.  It's amazing to see how many miracles come through following through on all we're asked to do as missionaries. 

    This week was great more specifically for us here in the South too.  We have the one guy I talked about last week that is still preparing and excited to be baptized on the 11th of August and another lady we've been teaching for a little while just committed this week to be baptized the week after on the 18th too.  We found a couple new investigators and have been keeping up the finding efforts so we can keep a continued balance and increase with teaching on through August and even September.  Our mission has been trying to focus recently on the standards of excellence President Clements has set and more specifically the numbers of "2-3-7".  Finding 2 Futures investigators each day, getting 3 investigators to come worship and attend sacrament meeting, and have 7 lessons taught to investigators with members present.  As we've been focusing on that we have seen so much success and things to be on a continual increase here instead of just teaching one or two people up until baptism and then crashing and staring all over from the beginning with trying to find all new people because we baptized everyone we were teaching.  It's a better cycle to keep of always finding new people along with having people close to baptism so that people are always progressing and baptisms start to be more on a consistent basis.  Teaching those lessons with members have been so helpful in people becoming truly converted.  It's an amazing process to see that occurs within individuals and is often times something they don't really notice too much within themselves until it's done.  That's the cool thing we are seeing with the guy who's getting baptized on the 11th.   Missionary work is just awesome!  I love it!

     We had a meeting with the Minneapolis Stake Presidency and President Clements yesterday to review the progress and success in the Stake with regards to missionary work, and President pointed out a couple interesting points to Elder Neeley and me afterwards.  He said he was just looking at the fact that "we have a missionary from Providence, Utah and one from Hooper, Utah both serving in South Minneapolis.  This is something unlike anything you ever have or will see" haha. And he's right.  We laugh about that all the time.  I tell almost everyone we contact about being from a small farming city in Utah of about 4,000 people with one four way stop and they can't believe that I'm standing there in the projects or off streets like East Lake St. and Chicago Ave. talking to them. It's so awesome haha.  The even funnier part is when I tell them about my years of hauling hay or moving pipe and harvesting watermelon, pumpkins, corn, or whatever else for Evan.  Then my description of what I did before my mission working at Dallas Green Farm and Home Supply store seems so foreign to them haha.  It's such a great experience to have a chance to be in Minneapolis where I am and gaining the experiences I am.  I love it!  At the baptisms on Saturday we were noticing and talked with some other people about our ward having the most tattoos per capita out of anywhere. haha  If I get any pictures you'll see what I'm talking about.  One cool thing we've been experiencing recently is that people on the streets are always out and around so you run into the same people every now and again.  So we've gotten to know some of the road side beggars and other people that just roam around and can stop and talk to them or call out their names and wave as we go by and they know who we are.  Usually they just yell back, "my Jesus brothers", our last names, "or the Mormons!" and wave haha.

     Like I said before though things are going great!  I really am loving it here and loving the area I'm in and people I'm serving.  Missions are the best and it's through all your love, prayers, and support that I get to be out here and have the time of my life that I am!  I love and appreciate all you do.  Keep up all the great work and I hope to talk to you again soon!

Love, Elder Alex Craft

Monday, July 16, 2012

All Signs Indicate Romney Should be Stopped

Dear Craft Family,

     I'm so glad to hear all about the great things going on with all of you!  In about a week from what it sounds like we're going to have a new little family addition too!  That's way exciting!  I wish I had more time to write today so I'm sorry if this is a little shorter.

     This week has been a great week for us here!  Things are going well in our part of the vineyard in Lake Nokomis South with an investigator we have setting a baptismal date for the 11th of August.  He is a great guy that we have grown to love so much.  He was introduced to the missionaries at church about 3 months ago with his girlfriend who is a member of the ward here that brought him to church.  Things have been going well and I've been meeting with him ever since I got to the area.  Things have now progressed not only spiritually, but with him and his girlfriend to where they are planning on getting married here soon but he wants to be baptized before then so they can work on being sealed.  We were so excited for him and are working very hard to help him make it for the 11th, so then in about a year we can see them at their sealing.  Family completing, or in the case a family starting baptism, are among some of the greatest moments and miracles that the Lord allows us to be apart of as missionaries.  This investigator told us how he respects and reveres us so much and every Elder he's ever met and looks forward to the day that his now 5 year old son can serve a mission and become like us.  It's great to see the impact just an example can be to all the people around us.

     Things have also been going well here in the District and our Zone too.  We're on track to try and meet our goal.  There are so many great miracles and blessings that Our Father in Heaven is giving to us.  I appreciate the love and faith that you all show in all your prayers that help to aid us with all the miracles we've seen.  It sounds like there have been some great things going for you guys too.  Not only with the baby coming but the move for Nick and Brady getting to see what a big city mailbox and yard looks like haha.  It sounds like he's having a great time over there which is great. 

     The libraries been packed today so I only have a couple minutes left to say some last things.  First, President Clements told all us missionaries that we need to get an absentee ballot if we want to vote this year and because the election is the day before I come home I need you to see if I've been registered somehow or what I can do to get that absentee ballot.  It will be kind of interesting to see what happens leading up to that.  We found another stop sign with Romney painted under it the other day.  I should have registered to vote my Senior year I'm pretty sure, but I remember having to turn in my registration for some assignment in my U.S. Government class and the teacher said she'd send them in for us.  I'm just never sure if she did.  So if you know how to check that out or look it up just let me know what I need to do for that haha.  Also, time is flying by!  I can't believe Tommy Scoleri comes home from Florida in about a week and a half!  That's so crazy!  That's probably why you didn't see many of our friends up at the Weber State fireworks, Mom.  Most of mine are either married or on missions haha.  You could be right that you weren't in the right spot either this year to see the rest of them running around everywhere haha. 

     Well I love you guys and I hope all is well with you.  I look forward to any new exciting pictures and updates next week.  Tell Whitney and Phil good luck and I'll be praying for them too.  I'll talk to you soon!

Love, Elder Alex Craft

Monday, July 9, 2012

4th of July Fun

Hello Everyone!

     The 4th of July was a lot of fun with us with transfers and having some good bbq at the Johnson's house.  We had all the missionaries in the ward there and some of their family so that made things pretty eventful and fun.  We still had to be home before the fireworks started to do our planning but after planning to end the night the Barretts invited us upstairs to watch the fireworks from their backyard that they were shooting off a few blocks away on the other side of the freeway at Veteran's Park.  I don't know if I mentioned before that we live in the Barretts basement or not.  If not you know now haha.  Elder Neeley and I call it "the Man Cave".  Hopefully I get some pictures taken soon that we can show you exactly what I'm talking about haha.

     The heat and humidity has been pretty crazy this last week.  We had a couple days of the heat index of 110+.  Today there's a nice breeze and the temperature's dropped a little so it feels more like a Utah hot and not a tropical summer day.  Things here with Elder Neeley are going great there.  I told you a little last week but he's from Logan and went to Mountain Crest High School.  He's the youngest of 4 boys and the last one to serve a mission.  He graduated last year and has been out since December so he loves to tell me how "ancient" I am on the mission haha.  He's a way cool guy and great missionary.  It was an interesting transfer for him moving 30 blocks for transfers from the Lake Nokomis North area to Lake Nokomis South.  We are really working hard together and trying hard to motivate and inspire the zone.  We also need to try and build up the work here in our area.  We have some good people we're teaching but not enough to balance out our time between finding (tracting, contacting, etc.) and teaching.  We did a lot more finding this week and really hit the ground sweating with some of those warm days, but we did find 17 Future Investigators or people who gave us their info. and told us to come by again.  So hopefully with that things should start to pick up.

     I love hearing all the updates from home.   It gives me a lot of things to remember to pray for haha jk.  I hope that things are going better out West with the fires and East with the storms.  Nick's probably enjoying the Arizona heat by now but I'll keep praying things continue to go well there too.  That's good you're keeping an eye on my friends at these farewells for me.  Have you found out if any of those guys still at home are planning on serving a mission or school or anything like that.  Speaking of school I still haven't decided at all where I'm going to go or what I'm even going to study.  President Clements told me I need to start looking into it a little bit but there's no time on p-day to spend looking at that haha.  There are some members in the ward from Hawaii, the Fuluvakas, that were trying to convince me to go out to BYU-Hawaii and almost had me sold haha.  So if we throw that into the mix with N's offer of ASU too there's s few different places I could think about going along with the U of M back here in Minneapolis haha.  But who knows I may just end up at good old "Harrison High" (Weber State).  I'll let you know if I need any help application wise. 

     Thanks for all the letters and support you guys give to me!  I really appreciate the time that you spend writing or in prayer.  It means a lot.  You guys are the greatest and I look forward to talking to you again!

Love, Elder Minnesoooota Craft :)

P.S.  I think that happened a couple times with my radio Dad but to be honest I can't remember what I did to fix it.  It may be something with the wiring.  I know when my subs would cut out it was a loose wire I had to tighten or adjust on the amp, so maybe that is it.  I'm not sure.  Sorry I can't be of more help.