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.