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Excerpts from Mike's Letter Home:


Dear Family,

Happy President's Day! Though, that is the whole reason that this letter will be sent a day late. It will probably also cause your letters to me to be delayed. Oh well, that is life without e-mail.

The real excitement this week was of course Valentine's Day. The movie was great and the girls were cute. Unfortunately, I am going to need more funds to be sent to me to cover the night... No, it was nothing like that. The burgers were good and Elder Sorenson was himself. Though the money thing I leave up to you. (J/K)

The only real exciting thing concerning Valentine's Day happened the day before. Elder Sorenson absolutely loves to hassle District Leaders. He thinks of himself as the "refiners fire", because a lot of his past District Leaders became Assistants to the President and Zone Leaders. Anyways, the day before Valentine's Day he called our District Leader asking if our curfew could be extended. Our DL, Elder Powell, then responded with "Why?" Elder Sorenson replied, "Well, it is Friday night and more importantly Valentines Day. So, we are just going to need a little extra time to get the girls home, since it is a long movie." To which Elder Powell responded "Elder Sorenson, I don't care how late you get in." Surprised by the response, Elder Sorenson quickly responded "Can I quote you on that?" The response, "Put it on as many note cards as you like." We were a little shocked by this response, but then again Elder Powell is not the person to ask about staying out late. Though, Elder Sorenson is proud that he has desensitized Elder Powell enough that if we did do something wrong and told him about it, he would think we were joking. Elder Sorenson just likes giving DLs a hard time. Also, I must stress that no rules were broken on Valentine's Day.

The most unexpected thing of the week was that we had a flat tire. (On the car, not bicycle). So, we pulled into the Poteau Beauty College parking lot, locked the car, and walked the two blocks to our apartment. We called our dinner appointment to let them know that we would be late. Then, we called the mission office. Elder Scott (the car coordinator) was not in, so we spoke with Elder Fluckiger (the Finance/Housing Coordinator). We told him that we had a flat, to which he asked, "Both sides?" We told him no, since only the front passenger tire was flat. Then the response came, "Oh, that is easy, just turn the tire over so you aren't driving on the flat part of it." We chuckled and appreciated the humor of the situation.

Then we walked back to our car and changed to the donut tire. Yes, there were two elders changing a tire in the rain outside the Poteau Beauty College. We then proceeded to drive at a slow speed (a.k.a. the speed limit in Poteau - 35 MPH) to Wal-mart. Yes, I said Wal-mart. We have a Wal-mart Super Center here in Poteau, meaning there is a tire & lube center, garden center, bank, McDonald's, money orders, etc. So, as you can tell, Wal-mart is huge out here and is where most missionaries buy groceries. We got a hold of Elder Scott and had our tire fixed.

The other excitement of the week was Stake Conference. This was my first one during my mission. It is interesting to see how different some things are done. They had headphones for the hearing impaired and a camcorder with projector to help the view of those sitting in the cultural hall. All this, even though there were about the same number people at one of our sessions of Stake Conference. They have split sessions like we do, but the different sessions took place at different locations (Fort Smith, AR & Muskogee, OK). Elder Sorenson and I asked why the high councilmen do not sit on the stand? The response, "They have different assignments, like parking." Though, their parking situation is nicer than ours.

They had an adult session on Saturday. Almost all the missionaries were "drafted" on the spot to sing with the Fort Smith II Ward choir, since they didn't have very many male voices. So, we had no run through practice or explanation of what we were to sing. We also were not sitting divided according to parts. The first number was hymn #296 "Our Father, by Whose Name." Since it is simple and straight out of the hymn book, no problem.

The closing number was "Come Thou Font of Every Blessing." Which, I was thrilled to sing this new favorite in a choir setting. Though, being as most of the missionaries have not heard this old hymn and we did not have enough copies, Elder Sorenson and I gave up our copy since we had at least heard it quite a few times. So, we quickly wrote down the words and music to the bass part on the back of our program. It was not the easiest way to sing it, but it worked. It probably looked interesting to the congregation though. Since, since they print the words to the congregational hymns on the back of the program. It probably appeared as a whole bunch of missionaries singing the song out of black binders, and then Elder Sorenson and I looking at the wrong hymn on the back of the program. It was interesting that this version had 4 verses and I am only familiar with 2 of them.

In addition to the organ and the impromptu missionary choir, there was a clarinet accompanist. I was thrilled to see a clarinet and was very much looking forward to hearing it. However when the first note of the piece sounded, it was very much evident that no time or thought had been placed on tuning the clarinet to the organ. The clarinet player did not make the wise decision to stop playing, but instead played slightly softer. It did not help that there wasn't much of an arrangement to the hymn so the clarinet played with almost all of it. I figured that I might have been overly critical of the clarinetist since I missed mine so much. So I decided to ask Elder Sorenson (also a clarinet player) what his thoughts on the clarinet performance was. The response, "Clarinet? I thought that it was a bad floutist. Though, it was most definitely a clarinet since I saw it before the performance. So, I will just have to wait to hear a good clarinetist on my mission. I will also have to wait to hear "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" with a choir that has practiced. So, there are some more things to look forward to on my mission.

Also of interest from the adult session on Saturday was a talk by a sister from the Muskogee Ward. She is an old widow lady who is the singles representative. She stressed that the singles activities were "not the dating game", but she then went on to say "but if two people like each other, great! We will help them get to the temple." Out of curiosity, she asked for a show of hands how many people were single. She looked out over the hands of the congregation as they broke out into a chuckle. One or two of the missionaries raised their hands. Slowly, other Elders followed their lead. So, slowly Elders took courage from the first and decided that they too were "single." Eventually, most of the Elders had their hands up and the audience was laughing at the response, since we were all sitting together on the stand for the choir numbers. The speaker turned around to find out what was so funny. She quickly responded with "You don't count!" She then gave a brief chuckle about it. The real question is would Elders still have raised their hands if President Peterson had been at this session of conference?

President Peterson was there for the Sunday conference though. He gave a wonderful talk about the "raising of the bar" for missionaries. He stressed that raising the bar for the missionaries meant raising the bar for parents that are bringing up future missionaries. So, you just skated by that one (just joking.) He also said, "if there is any experience in this church that defines us as a "peculiar people" it's got to be this (missionary work) ." He also said, " We want to increase faith in the hearts of the sons and daughters of God." So, as usual we very much enjoyed President Peterson's talk.

Since this Stake Conference was about families there were some more interesting quotes. The Stake President said, "I believe Family Home Evening should start with a prayer - and then you can do just about anything. (Pause) Well, I have watch what I say." His first counselor said, "I don't think you can have a successful Family Home Evening without treats at the end. That's just my opinion, of course." So, there were some good things said.

I have done a little bike tune-up this week. I grabbed an old back fender we had in the apartment and put it on my bike. Elder Sorenson gave me his front one since he only has about 9 weeks left and he also lost his front one before he got here. So, I am now somewhat more equipped in the bike department. However, I noticed a temporary repair that I had to make in Bartlesville. I had taped something on since I had lost a screw. Since it is on the bottom of a gear shifter that moves, tape is not a great long term solution. I went to 2 bike repair shops and Lowes in Ft. Smith. None of them had a screw this small. Though this is not essential to the operation of my bike, it is nice to have because I don't want mud, dirt, etc. getting into my gear shifter which is protected by the plastic cover which is held into place by this screw.

Anyways, this letter is a little long. I want you to know that I love and appreciate you! Take care!

Elder M. Joseph Robinson

P.S. Since I had to wait until to Tuesday to mail this, so I received your package. Thank you so much for the food/snacks/band scores/CDs, etc. We have already started to listen to the CDs and are greatly enjoying them! Way to go, another great package!