Monday, June 28, 2010

I'm Here!

Wow! What a wonderful, not-even-a-week, week I have been having. My MTC district and I got in to Syracuse around 3:30 and met President Bulloch, his wife, and his two assistance. IT IS HUMID! We got some pizza and went over to the mission home in Whitesboro. What a beautiful area!

The next day we met our new companion. I have an amazing Trainer, Elder Call. He is from Orem, Utah, and has been out for about 6 months. We are in Syracuse (sort of the south-west part of town and 2 sister missionaries us north east with the campus and all that). WE ARE ON BIKES! or at least most of the week. The sisters give us the car on the weekends, which is a nice brake for our legs, but the rest of the time we are pounding it up on the bikes. The weather has been OK here. It has been sunny for a few days, but just recently it has been raining. I find that a bike picks up a lot of mud when it rains and white shirts love the mud. :)

I am so in love with this place though. It is diffidently a different culture. Many of the houses in our area are run-down and have porches out front that many people just sit on all day because they can not find work. It is sad to see sometimes, but it is wonderful talking with some of theses people and the humility and love they have for one another. We have amazing REAL people we are teaching right now. Ruth is a big black woman who is going through Chemo right now, but she knew the church was true even before meeting with the missionaries. She is so excited to get baptized, we just need to go over a few things before setting up an exact date.Ryan have been meeting with the missionaries for a while and is also so excited to be baptized. We are trying to get a date setup for the middle of next month. Thursday, my first full day out in the field, we were visiting someone that showed interesting in learning more, but they were not home. But just as we are about the got back on our bikes, their neighbor, Dominique, steps outside. So we talked with her, and she is very interested and wanted to read the Book of Mormon. Tonight we should be visiting her again. I am so excited for her!

Yesterday before church, I looked in the mirror and my lift eye-lid is swollen! I can see fine and it feels normal and everything, but it looks a little weird! I am not worried about it too much. It looks fine, and talking to people, just let it run its course. But what a great first impression for meeting the ward members! We have a ward and a young single adults branch that we share with the sister missionaries. What great people! the ward only have about 120 members that come and the branch has about 25. They are so nice. Sister Vise is a wonderful lady. She is a big black woman who takes care of everyone, including us us missionaries. She is even housing a kid name Cris, whom we been teaching. He is so in love with feeling the spirit, and I am so excited to see the change in his life that can only come through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I have to go! But thanks for all the letters! You can use dearelder if you want to, but it cost $.44 for postage. Or just send it with the address I already gave you. I love you all, and hope you know how much I love you, but also how much I love serving the Lord here in this area.

Elder Shurtz

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Last one from the MTC!

A friend who was familiar with the church once asked why would the church ask young people to leave their family for two years with little family contact when it seems so family oriented.  I knew the answer in my heart, but i did not know how to express it at the time.  then i heard a great answer this week:
My family is sealed together for eternity.  And the Lord has asked us to take two years out of eternity so that other families may enjoy the same blessings and live together forever.  Two years out of eternity is but a blink of an eye, and I am so glad I am in the middle of it.
Thanks everyone for your letters and your's!  the dearelders is nice because it comes the same day to the mailbox, which my companion as the district leader and I check 2-3 times a day.  Thank you dad, especially, for the brownies!  Everyone is eating them up, and I feel like I am getting fat!  But, tomorrow is gym, so I might go for a run.
MTC is wonderful.  they have been fixing the AC, so it has been a lot better now.  Last week we had Elder Hales for the devotional.  It was amazing!  The spirit was so strong.  He talked about light and darkness and how it was important for us to work with those who can recognize this light.  It was so powerful and so what i needed to hear at the time.  it was literally an answer to my prayers.
Our district came up with this amazing game to play in our dorm with beach balls, feet, and bed sheets.  I will have to send pictures of it later.  I cannot send pictures by email till i get on my mission.
Yesterday my companion and I went to a teacher who acted like a Buddhist and taught him about the restoration.  It was hard!  But we will see him again for another appointment on Thursday and teach him about families along with a portion of the plan of salvation; which i think he will enjoy because he is just about to get married and has questions about how to raise his family.
Tomorrow, my district has been asked to host which is to help the new missionaries get settled, which will be really sweet!  I'm excited we will have this opportunity.  It was only two weeks ago when I got here, now I'm suppose to help someone else around.  Go figure!
We got our flight itinerary!  I leave the MTC at 4 in the morning and my flight leaves at 7:10 from SLC to Chicago and then to Syracuse getting in at 3:25PM where we will be meeting our mission president.  I have been made travel leader, so I have to make sure everyone gets on the plane and the elders behave (sisters are always wonderful).  But, it will be great!
There is rumor that the prophet might be showing up tonight for devotional because the new mission residences should be getting here.  But I doubt it; I think he will be here that Tuesday we leave, so we will barley miss him.
I love the 5th chapter in the book of Jacob.  He is recounting the tame and wild olive tree allegory.  Read verse 70-74.  WE ARE THE OTHER SERVANTS.  WE ARE FEW, BUT WE HAVE THE MASTER OF THE VINEYARD TO HELP.  It is really the Lord that does the preparation.  But, he gives each of us the opportunity to have joy in helping other come unto Christ.
Love you all,
Elder Shurtz
PS - I might not be able to email next week because of travailing, but we will see.  I will try to call home Tuesday morning at the airport.  I will call the house number!  Love you all.  Katie, I love you so much.  Have a great summer and a wonderful trip!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

First Week!

What a great week!  It has been busy, and full of learning and teaching opportunities.  I love the atmosphere here.  I almost feel rude not to introduce myself or at least give a greating to compleate strangers or unaquanted elders.
Most of the other missionaries got here Wednesday afternoon, and i met my companion, Elder Christensen from Mesa, Arizona, then.  He is a great missionary: full of testimony and knowledge of why he is here.  He works hard, and we can have amazing conversations about the gospel.  Although we might not be buddies-for-life, I am sure we will have respect and reverence for each other, enjoying each others company.  We are both very open with each other, and actively try to strengthen our companionship with communication, companionship prayer, and humility.  We are able to teach well together: where one might be weak in one aspect, the other is strong.  He was also made district leader, if that gives you any idea what a great elder he is.
We are VERY busy.  We get up around 6:15 and meet in our classroom with the district for personal study before breakfast at 7:45.  We have 10 people in out district; 8 elders, and 2 sisters, all going to New York Utica.  We seems to get a long well, and are able to work hard as a district, working on different teaching skills in our time between class and other activities.  Gym is great!  I look forward to being outside, or exercising after sitting all day in class or eating in the cafeteria.  Yesterday we went to the Teaching Resource Center for the first time and taught this sister from Samoa.  My companion and I had a great experience with her, teaching with ease, joy, and most importantly, the spirit.  We have class in about 2-4 hour intervals, about 3 times a day, and end about 9:30 at night.  Our classroom, which we stay in the whole time, is almost always hot, and we keep getting a broken fan!
I am so thankful to be out here.  It is hard to describe how I feel knowing that I have been authorized to represent not only the church, but more importantly the Lord.  What a humbling experience to know that he gives ME and other 19 and 21-year-old-elders and sisters that sacred calling.  The spirit is so strong here, and I have felt the love of the Savior for not only me, but for those I teach and will teach.  To strive and work to have the constant companionship of the spirit and Gods love is one of the most important things we can do in this life, and I am glad I have this opportunity to devote myself for 2 years to do it.
I love you all!  Sorry if I can't email all of you separately.  I only get thirty minutes, and the timer is going.
PLEASE SEND FUTURE MESSAGES THROUGH DEARELDER.COM.  They offer free same day delivery to the MTC, and it will give me more time to email, rather than read.  Thank you for all your support, especially you dad.  You have been such a blessing in my life, and a example of someone who I wish to emulate along with my father in heaven.  There is no other place I would rather be than right here.  I miss you all, and I pray for you everyday.
Elder Shurtz

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

First Day!

Well, I am here!
We haven't done much so far today, but they just wanted us to write a quick message to family. 
It has been so amazing so far though.  At two this morning, an elder from Mexico (who knows no english) got in and was my temporary companion.  So far we are touring the place and I wont figure out who is my MTC companion is till latter today.  Most of the people I am with are international elders and sisters who are required to get here even earlier.  But hearing their testimonies, even in a different language... I am so going to enjoy it here.
The Salt Lake Temple was amazing!  Clayton and I had such a great experience.  It is so beautiful, inside and out.
I love you all.  Miss you, but I am so happy I am here.  Heavenly Father loves us, and has blessed us with gifts beyond our imagination.  It is because of God's love and our desire to become like Him in likeness, we are here to serve our brothers and sisters.  Keep us missionaries in your prayers, for you are in mine.

Parting is such sweet sorrow!

Well, he's off! Elder Shurtz has been so excited to begin serving his mission that the time has crept slowly as he anticipated the day of his departure. The big day finally arrived, and we said our goodbyes at the airport just yesterday. Here are a few pictures of friends and family bidding Elder Shurtz farewell. It was hard to see him go, but we know that what he is doing is right. That makes this temporary separation easier to bear. Elder Shurtz loves the Lord, and we are so proud of him for choosing to serve a full-time mission for the next two years.

Handshakes only!  :)

Saying goodbye was hard, as it always is...

But we are so, so proud of him!

And he's off!

See you in 2 years, Matt!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

I Hope They Call Me On A Mission

Matt was set apart as a missionary on Monday night.  Right after he was set apart, we had a Family Home Evening on... missionary work, what else?!  We learned that we can be missionaries right now, even though we are not as tall as Matt, and we don't dress like Matt.  Jesus was the best missionary ever, and he didn't wear a suit or a name tag!

 After coloring our missionary pictures, each kid got a chance to dress up like a real missionary.  

I hope they call me on a mission...

When I have grown a foot or two...

I hope by then I will be ready...

To teach and preach and work as missionaries do!

Uncle Matt, someday we hope to be just like you!  But, while you're gone, we'll be the best missionaries we can be!