Sunday, April 5, 2009

From Ellenbrook, WA

Richard has been on his mission for just over a year now. It seems He was transferred eight weeks ago to Ellenbrook, WA, a community in the Swan valley about 20 miles northeast of Perth. Richard has said that Ellenbrook is a lot like Stepford in that everything s perfect in Ellenbrook. What he means by that is that Ellenbrook is a fairly new planned community where the streets are clean, the homes well kept, and there are parks and water features at every turn.

His first companion in the area was Elder Bailey, one of Richard's companions while in the MTC, until two weeks ago when Elder Bailey was transferred to another area and Elder Ulu arrived. Ulu is from Samoa and, as with Elder Bailey, Richard seems to be thriving along side of a companion he enjoys and gets along with.

Here are a couple of excerpts from Richard's recent letters - these are classic Richard!

March 23rd: We had an interesting time last week altogether; Tuesday, I was reaching in my pocket for the garage opener (We really have a garage, like a proper house) while I was riding the bike... We were really close to the flat, but for some reason, I decided that while my left hand was occupied, I would slam on the front wheel brake. It was a very bad idea, and I wasn't even wearing a helmet. The brains are all over the road now.... Nah, my head wasn't even hurt. So I catapulted myself over the handlebars, ground myself onto the asphalt, and bled to death. No, I didn't. I only tenderised my left palm and my right elbow, as in stripped the flesh right off. Not to the bone, mind you, not badly, but the wound on my hand is pretty deep. Well, was. It's healing now quite nicely, and only a day or so ago, the infection stopped. That one isn't a joke. You should have seen how red it was around the wound. At least I don't need the bandages anymore, but whatever.

March 30th: Elder Ulu and I were walking past the shops, and we thought we'd use the very last of our money to buy some cordial, since Ellenbrook water is absolutely horrible tasting... It must be the relatively new pipes or something, I don't know. Anyway, we go into the shops, and we see one of the Members, Sister Lawrence, and her kids. Said hi, the formalities and such, and she asked if we were all good and everything. We said yes, because that's what we always say no matter what, and moved on. As we're about to pay, Luke (the oldest son) comes up to us with $20 and offers to buy that much worth of stuff for us, on behalf of his family. I was stunned, and we accepted the offer. It's very rude to a lot of people around here if you don't accept offers like that. So we did, with much thanks. We were planning to pay for the stuff we were originally getting ourselves, but as we went to pay for that stuff, a Member from Warwick Stake who neither of us knew came to us and paid for that stuff, too.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Australian fires - far from Elder Haskell's area of service

Several of Richard's family and friends have contacted Rick or Leslie recently asking about Richard's proximity to the fires and natural disasters occuring throughout Australia. We appreciate the expressions of concern for Richard and are saddened as hundreds of lives have been lost in what is now being heralded as the worst natural disaster in Australian history. Richard is safe and the area in which he is serving is hundreds of miles (or more) from those areas that have been hardest hit.

We’ve been monitoring the fires in Australia pretty closely each day by satellite imagery. You may hear about fires having broken out around Perth overnight, but the closest we can find at the moment is south and west of Richard by well over 100 miles, on the coast. He doesn't appear to be in any danger at this time, and it doesn’t look as though there’s much likelihood that he’ll find himself in harm’s way.

He was transferred this week to Ellenbrook, some 50 miles northeast of Perth (about 25 miles from his mission’s office). His area is developed enough that it’s not likely he’ll be threatened by wild fires, but I think it’s safe to assume that the missionaries are going to be called in to assist with humanitarian needs after any significant danger has passed. There may not be enough activity in the Perth area to warrant Richard’s mission to be called into service; I’m sure he’ll let us know.

We received emails from him earlier this week in which he wrote about the loss of life and the building fear of those around him. At the time, he was in Armadale, a more rural area much closer to the fires south of Perth. His move to Ellenbrook almost certainly had nothing to do with the fires, but I’m glad he’s just that much farther from them. His new companion, Elder Bailey, was in his district while he was in the MTC in Provo, so they already know each other pretty well.

Again, thanks for your concerns. He’s been away for just over 10 months now, almost half way through his two year assignment, we miss him terribly, but are proud of him and pleased to know he’s actively engaged in serving the Lord.

We love you all.

Rick and Leslie

Friday, December 19, 2008

Elder Haskell - breathing fire in Western Australia!

We're not sure if Elder Haskell was preaching fire and brimstone to the good people of Armadale, Western Australia or if he'd simply had too much fire hot Tabasco sauce, but regardless, this is a great picture. Atually, one of the locals taught Richard and his companion, Elder Ah Ta to spit fire - looks cool!

Richard has been in Armadale for several months now and expects he'll be transferred to another part of the mission just after Christmas. Though he continues to report that the work is slow there, he's had some great experiences. His mission president, President Carl Maurer, recently went tracting with him for a part of the day and both Richard and his companion learned a lot from the experience.

He's had opportunities to sing with other Elders in his district at mission functions and has been asked to sing with Elder Ah Ta at an upcoming Christmas event - he's got a good, strong voice and truth be known , I think he likes having opportunities to use it. He's also had a chance to do some good service for members and non-members in the Armadale area.

This photo is of Elder Ah Ta, but it appears that while working on the same project, Richard helped move a large boulder, reminiscent of those he'd helped move for our pond, and it got the better of his back - oh well, it seems the rock won.

Last week, Elders Haskell and Ah Ta returned to their apartment only to find that they'd been broken into, Several of Richard's personal items, camera lens, etc., were missing, and then they realized that they hadn't seen their car outside and the car keys were missing also. The car was found hours later at an LDS Church building in Bunbury, about two hours away from Richard's area.

This will be Richard's first Christmas away from home and I'm confident that it's harder on his family than it is on him - he's busy and engaged in doing the Lord's work, while we're engaged in missing him and counting the months until he comes home.

Monday, August 25, 2008

From Armadale, WA

Richard doesn't have a lot to say in his weekly emails, but at least he's consistent - we hear from him each and every week. He was transferred to a small town, Armadale, south and east of Perth three weeks ago. His new companion is Elder Seuga from Samoa and the two of them, along with some other missionaries in the district seem to be making the most of the Aussie winter, which is to say that the weather is a little cooler and a lot rainier, but still isn't winter like Richard's come to know them in Utah. As those around him have complained about the bitter cold, 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit, Richard's resorted to wearing long sleeve shirts and his suit coat more often. We think he does even have a coat and doesn't see any need for one.

He reports that the work is slow and that he and Elder Seuga could use all the member help they can get. It sounds like they do a lot of tracting, but not a lot of teaching. Preaching the gospel to Aussies has proved to be more difficult than Richard had supposed it might. The Aussies, though friendly, aren't all that inclined to focus on spiritual issues and are far more interested int he here and now. Richard has increasingly asked us to pray for those whom he and his companion can teach.

We've also heard a lot about hiking and chasing kangaroos and wallabies in the outback. That simply means that he's having a great experience - exactly what we had hoped for!

The following are some excerpts from a few of Richard's recent emails:

August 24, 2008 - Transfers have started over again, I'm in my fourth transfer... Yipee. The area's pretty boring right now, lots of tracting and hard-heartedness. We're getting some member referrals in right now, though, but the area's still taking a down turn. A guy from my last ward Dianella, Kit Oldfield, has found the Elder Haskell Blog site. Completely random. He's a fan, now. Kit's awesome, though, a real good guy. Recent convert, too. Our WML (ward mission leader) is a champ, though, he just loaded us up with food for a bit a few weeks ago, gave us good stuff, too. He even gave us lamb, lamb chops! They were good, nice and tasty. I've uploaded some pictures now, and one of them might make dad laugh. I'm declaring war on the Grandpa's chicken recipe and I've started to make it on my own. It looks right, but we'll soon see how I did.

August 17, 2008 - Right now the real work we've been doing focuses on finding new investigators and working with recent converts/less actives. I actually met a possessed lady while on exchanges with Elder Docking, who's in my intake. She was weird. We couldn't do any casting out or anything because of the environment we were in, which was dominant with bad stuff, and the spirit told us to get out of there anyway. So we did. Anyway, another day in the field. We meet a lot of interesting people.

August 10, 2008 - We had a great time hiking last week at Serpentine Falls, that was way fun, saw some Roos, too. Seems we went at the right time of the year, now the rainy season is coming to a close and all the watershed is hitting the falls, it's pretty awesome. Elder Lui, someone else in the district, says the last time he was there it wasn't nearly as active as it was when we went there. He was trained here in Armadale, he'd know. So the work has been extremely slow and dropping fast, we're going to power tract tomorrow and visit some members to see if they know people we can go teach... Member Referrals, they're basically our brain cells. We need them. We hope for them. We even dream about them, the myths that they are! We really do, I've dreamed about them twice. It's a sign. About Elder Seuga, my companion. It's true, I haven't really talked about him much. He's Samoan, like, born in Samoa and lived in NZ for like, two years. He's cool. Oh, Seuga, the G in Samoan g isn't like our g, you touch the back of the tongue to the back of the throat and that's a Samoan g. He's been out for 17 months. It's all good.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Reporting from Western Australia

Richard has now been in Australia for just over a month. When we spoke to him on Mother's Day it was amazing to hear the resolve in his voice. He sounded confident, sure of himself, not in a cocky way, but in that way that helps you know that he is in the right place at the right time of his life. He seemed to have quickly made the transition from the boy we left at the Provo, MTC to a man, doing his duty and serving the Lord.

Richard is in Wayland, Western Australia - a suburb of Perth that he describes as the 'drug capital western Australia'. In his most recent email he told us of a drug bust in the middle of the night in the 'flat' just beneath his. He also told us that as he and his companion began to rush outside to see what was going on, they were quietly guided by the spirit to stay inside and observe rather than get involved.

Richard's companion is Elder Barff from Tasmania and Richard describes him as a surfer dude. Not quite sure how that translates into being a missionary, but Richard likes him and his stories reflect that they're getting along very well. Barff is the District leader, so Richard is having plenty of opportunities to go on 'splits' with other missionaries in the same district. Richard's area includes much of downtown Perth, some outlying suburbs, the mission office and the Perth Temple. It seems to be a very large area when we look at it and appears to have a pretty large population.

As soon as he got his field assignment, Richard went out and purchased a bicycle and a few of the other things he'll need while in that area. Not long afterwards he developed a bad case of bronchitis that, left untreated, turned into pneumonia. After an aggressive course of antibiotics and some extra care he was just fine. He wrote home on week and explained that he and his companion had bottles thrown at them from a moving car one afternoon - as a parent that's a little concerning of course, but as a parent who served a mission I know that it is just a normal part of missionary life. I wrote him back and congratulated him for having made that rite of passage if you will. Thrown bottles, unkind gestures, inappropriate advances and slammed doors are just as much a part of missionary life as feelings of the spirit, baptisms, dinner appointments and prayers.

Richard sends us an email each Sunday night, Monday morning in Australia, and we can't wait to read them. They are typically short and often don't address questions we've asked (sometimes 2 or 3 times), but they are pure Richard! Attitude mixed with a little humility and caring - what a kid!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Richard's arrival in Perth - Aprill 23, 2008

Richard left the Provo MTC on Monday, April 21st. His flight to Perth routed through Los Angeles, non-stop to Sydney, Australia and then on to Perth, lasting over 24 hours. He called us from both the Salt Lake and Sydney airports and we can't tell you how great it was to talk with him.

As we spoke to him from the Salt Lake airport, he sounded confident, excited and ready to take on the world. He told us that the MTC had turned out to be a good experience, though he was glad to be on his pay to Perth. He was assigned to be a district leader while in the MTC over a small distric of elders headed to New Zealnad and Australia. At first the MTC was difficult for him, the sitting and listening, studying and having to pay attention all of the time about bored him to tears. But by the end, the other experiences there outwieghed the tedium. He had a lot of fun with some of the elders in his district, met up with Travis Schoenfeld (a childhood friend from South Jordan headed for South America), Janis Richardson (a beautiful young woman from our ward in Sandy that entetred the MTC last wednesday bound for Ohio) and Diane Morrow (a friend of Rick and Leslie from our BYU days who runs the food services group at the MTC) He got lots of letters and emails, a big package of chips, queso and other goodies from Rick so he could have a send off party at the MTC the night before he left and cookies and cupcakes from Jessica - we're pretty sure he felt well cared for - or at least well fed!

We asked him about the most important lessons he had learned while at the MTC. His first response had to do with the scriptures. Even though our family has read scriptures together each morning for his entire life and has read the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and The Pearl of Great Price from cover to cover several times, and even though Richard attended LDS seminary for four years, Richard finally felt as though he was learning things through the scriptures. He was willing to admit that this was the first time he felt like paying attention - go figure. He also admitted that he had learned to just do what he is told when given instructions from those he trusts or those whose authority he respects - without questioning everything - I have to admit that I about fainted when he said this and I did everything I could to restrain myself. It just felt good that our son was evidencing that he's growing up and becoming the man we had hoped he would.

When Richard called from Sydney he was pretty wiped out after such a long trip. He still had several hours to go before boarding the flight to Perth and then another 4-5 hours in the air before he would arrive in Perth. Perth is 14 hours ahead of Utah time (13 hours ahead of California), so he left Utah on Monday evening and arrived in Perth on Wednesday at about noon. That still seems strange to me, because while he was arriving in Perth on Wednesday we were laying in bed talking about him on Tuesday night - intellectually we get it, but intuitively it still seems off.

So now Richard is on the other side of the world - he's off to a great adventure that will yield tremendous benefits and blessings for those he teaches there, for his family here in the US and mostly for Richard himself. We already miss him, but the upstairs bathroom has been clean for three weeks now and the refrigerator has never been so full for so long. We'll get used to it.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Called To Serve - Elder Haskell enters the MTC

It's one of those events you plan for all of your life, or in this case, all of my son's life. As Richard's Dad, I always expected the day would come when he would serve the Lord. For years I did my best to convince Richard's older sisters to serve missions just as Leslie, thier mother, and I had each done. But in the end they each chose husbands instead of simply being assigned companions. We love Brandon and Justin, our sons-in-law, and we know the girls made great choices. While the girls may have had opportunities to serve as missionaries, Richard knew he was responsible to serve - to fulfill the direction that every young man serve a mission.

As a young teenager, Richard displayed all of the predictable traits one might imagine. Sometimes forgetfull, often defensive, always up for a good time, and never lacking in attitude, but he also rarely forgot who he was and what his duties were. I'd like to think I was, or am, the same way, but without a doubt, 'duty' is a primary focus for Richard. He would rarely have admitted to this, but now I see that he understands the trait and even strives to lead others in fulfilling thier duty to God and man.

Richard was set apart as a full-time missionary, an ordained minister of the gospel last night in our home. Stake President, Curtis Dahl set him apart, joined by Bishop John Swallow, Shane Pace, Justin Ashby and Richard Haskell, Sr.. President Dahl pronounced meaningful blessings for Richard and there was a great spirit with us. Bishop Swallow, Brother Pace, Leslie and I each bore our testimonies to Richard and offered him some last bits of counsel. Becca and Justin Ashby and our daughter Lauren were with us as well. Afterwards, our family spent the remainder of the evening talking about missions, theology, how important it is to live the tenants of the faith that you espouse and remembering just why apple pie and vanilla ice cream are among life's simple pleasures. Actually, we did more than remember - the six of us consumed an entire pie! We love Leslie's pies!

Richard enters the MTC this afternoon. In the grand scheme of things it is just one little event, and the two years during which Richard will be in Australia will ultimately be remembered as a short time of focused service. But for right now, and for us, those two years and this event have amazing import - our world is changing, in a way we've always known it would, but the knowing only tempers the reality. Our little boy, our 6'2", 200+ pound, 19 year old son, my buddy and helper is heading out and there's nothing we could or would do to change it. Richard is exactly where we've hoped he would be at this point in his life. This, by the way, falls under the heading of 'be careful what you wish for'.

So this afternoon we'll go to the MTC, become emotional as the Elders and Sisters stand and sing 'Called To Serve' and then morph into weeping ninnies as we go out one door and our son goes through another. But we'll keep in mind that we're going out the door, going back home and he'll be going into a doorway that will bring him some of the defining experiences of his life. We can only presume what some of those will be, they're different for every missionary - but what is common to all missionaries is the inescapable reality that the years of diligent service, began as a boy, lead to rich lives lived by honorable men, dutiful priesthood holders, faithful husbands and loving fathers. What a glorious progression, what an amazing experience, what an impressive young man - our son.