Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Arrival Pictures

Sister Smart, the mission president's wife, records the events of the mission (i.e. Zone Conferences, missionaries going home, missionaries arriving, etc) in the mission blog.  The most recent entry was about the arrival of Elder Tonini (she may have mentioned a few others as well), complete with pictures.  You can read the entry here.

We have added a link to the mission blog (under Useful Links, right) so that you can follow the other events of the Riverside mission.  For example, there is an interesting story about a Bishop feeding an entire zone of missionaries.  And it wasn't hamburgers and hotdogs!

Monday, March 26, 2012

News from the Mission President

Dear Brother and Sister Tonini,

We are so grateful to have Elder Tonini join us here in the California Riverside Mission!  It was exciting to meet him at the airport.  I had the opportunity to interview your missionary and we were able to hear his testimony before having dinner together.  We have been impressed with his testimony and desire to serve.  It has been a privilege to get to know him.
Elder Tonini is now hard at work in his new area, the Yucaipa Zone with his companion, Elder Chambers.
Preparation day is Monday; most missionaries choose to email their family on that day.  We encourage you to write or email weekly as well.  Thank you for keeping your letters positive, uplifting, and encouraging your son to work hard and take advantage of the time spent here in the work of the Lord.  You may also keep updated with our mission events by looking at our blog at:
As we visited with your son, this is what he said about his family: "They are the most loving family.  My siblings are the best and we love to serve."
We look forward to a wonderful experience together with your missionary.  Thank you for preparing one worthy to serve.  May God continue to bless you.
/s/ President Paul F. Smart

email: March 26, 2012

I am so stoked to hear that things are going so well down there! Keep the missionary work going! I got my bike and it is AWESOME. I love it! It's all black and it is sweetttttttttt. My first area is a bike area so I'm on it everyday. I haven't gotten my Camelbak yet because its still at the mission office. I don't know if they can forward the package to me... If you are going to send me letters or packages, send them with USPS so that the mission office can forward it to me in my area. Send everything there and they will forward it to me.
My week has been kinda crazy. I got to Cali on last Tuesday and that was crazy and emotional for me. I got to meet my trainer, Elder Chambers and he is an awesome guy. It was hard to say goodbye to my MTC companions but I was ready to start working. We got to the new apartment and unpacked and went to the store to get food. That next morning we got up and started to work. The missionary schedule isn't that bad but it's rough when you're ridding a bike everywhere you go. I was pretty exhausted my first couple of days. We have talked to a lot of people and hopefully we will start to see some success soon. I got white washed into the area with my trainer so we have had to start from scratch. We have a few leads but nothing promising yet. I got pretty burnt this week from the California sun... But that didn't last very long. I'm already pretty dark!
So we have done a lot of tracting and we were out knocking doors when we found this lady that claimed she was a chosen one. She told us that she was reincarnated (or however you spell that) and is a messenger from God to tell people that in 2012, the world is going to end. She told us that God spoke to us through her checks. We sat and listened to her go ON and ON and ON about all this stupid stuff. She found this website that claims that in 2012 that the world will end. She was SUPER messed up in the head. I thought she was kidding but she wasn't when she pulled out TWO three ring binders of stuff from this website. We finally said that we had to go but we walked away from that house shaking our heads and wondering what in the WORLD just happened. Two days before that, we tracted into this guy that is an amateur photographer named Marcos. He was cutting out a reflector board to reflect the light when he takes pictures and we asked him if he needed any help. He said he did but it was an unusual request. He needed someone to take pictures of and he asked us if he can take pictures of us. It was an unusual request but we told him that we would. So the next day, he went out with us and we basically had a photo shoot. He even took pictures of us tracting and talking to people! He's going to send it to us and I will send them to you. It was nuts. Our first Sunday in the ward, we got one of the less active members to come with us! It was pretty cool. One of the members that we ate dinner with got up to bear her testimony and said that it was inspiring to hear me say that we are having so much success and it's only been a week in the area. After sacrament meeting, we went and talked to a primary class about missionary work. That was so much fun! I had all the boys put on my tag and see how it feels to wear it. They loved it and the teacher was beaming the entire time. The members are so good here and they help a ton. We have dinner every night :) it's so sweet.

I am hoping soon that we will find someone that is looking for the gospel and wants to be baptized. We found a family that we taught but I don't know if they will accept it or not. I am working hard everyday, following the rules. Sure do love you all. The gospel can do amazing things. I love this work and everything that comes with it. It's hard but it is well worth it. I can't wait to hear from you next week. Love you tons and miss you every single day.
Your missionary,
Elder Tonini

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Letter: March 19, 2012

The Tonini Family:

Enjoy the shirts! They are one of a kind. the MTC was a cool place but I am SO ready to get to Cali!


Elder Tonini

Enclosed were t-shirts with this graphic:

Letter: March 16, 2012

Mom and Dad,

Thank you for supporting me while I'm out serving. Thank you for your love, prayers, and support. I know I've asked a lot while I've been out on my mission and y'all have been there every step of the way. I am eternally grateful for that. I wish I could find some way to pay both of you back in the amount that could cover for all you have given me.

I leave in four days to go to the field. That is CRAZY! Sure do love you and miss you. Send my love to the Branch. I love you two so much.

Your missionary son,

Elder Tonini

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

This Isn't Your Parent's Mission

When Greg and I served our mission, our parents had very little contact with the mission office. I don't know if it is part of the communication age we live in or the fact that he is State-side, but I have already spoken to the mission office three times. Today they called ME while I was in the car pool line at school.

Sister Haygood called to report that our missionary arrived safe and sound. She told me that they already love him and can tell that he will be a great missionary (does she tell that to every mom???) He had his interview with the mission president and would be heading over to the mission home for dinner and testimony meeting tonight. She told me that the missionaries were well fed and that they would be well fed again tonight! Drew was worried about the whole dinner thing. I think he will be well taken care of!

His p-day will be on Monday's and that all mail, if sent USPS, can be forwarded on to him. I am grateful that he had safe arrival and such a warm reception. He will be assigned a trainer tonight and go to his new area. He will be in the first area at least until June and then who knows where he will go. I'm sure one proud momma!!!

He's Leaving On A Jet Plane

First thing this morning I get a text from an unknown phone number with a picture of Drew at the airport.  I'll let you read the message and see the picture.  I guess this means he is on his way!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Letter: March 9, 2012

I typically correspond with Elder Tonini via mailed letters so that he can read and respond to them at his convenience (they are able to use public computers to email home but only have about 30 minutes each week).  When we got home this weekend from Spring break activities, I had a letter waiting for me.  Included were a few pictures:

This is a picture of him with his companion, Elder Braithwaite.  In the lobby of the MTC is this large world map and by tradition, every missionary stands in front of it, pointing to their mission.  I am glad to see that they have kept up the tradition.

In the MTC, missionaries are assigned to a district (see yesterday's post).  In addition to a picture of his district, he also sent a picture of him with two other Elders in his district: 

Fortunately, it was easy to pick out which one was Elder Kaluhiokalani because by reading the back of the picture, Elder Tonini hasn't figured out the convention of listing people from left to right!

In his letter, he talks about continuing to focus on his teaching skills:

We don't teach specific lessons any more, it's about what the Spirit tells us to say.  It is a huge challenge sometimes to teach by the Spirit but at the same time, it is seriously amazing.  We got our first commitment to baptism today!  That was the most awesome feeling ever.  Even though it was a practice investigator, we listed to her and asked inspired questions to her in order to get her to open up.  It was an amazing experience.

He also told me a little bit more about Brother DuBois, the Dutchman he met at the Salt Lake Conference Center:

He taught me something that I will never forget.  He said that there are two things that are not in God's vocabulary: luck and coincidence.  He told me stories and experiences he has had.  It was a pretty cool experience and it wasn't by luck that we came to talk to him.

He concludes:

Well, I think I am coming down with something and I feel like crap.  I'm pretty miserable right now.  But I'm not complaining and keeping my head up.  Sure do love you and miss you.  Send my love to Mom.

He leaves for Riverside on Tuesday so please keep him in your prayers as he begins this next phase of his mission.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mission Terms (Part I)

Whether serving a foreign or State-side mission, it is a cultural experience. With any new culture, comes a new language. Below are some terms you may find in this blog that we thought might be helpful.  Instead of being in alphabetical order, they are grouped by related terms.

Church Units

Branch - a very small congregation (between 30 - 100 people). The ecclesiastical leader is the branch president and his title is President (e.g. President Davis).

Ward - a typical congregation (usually less than 500 people). The ecclesiastical leader is the bishop.

Stake - a collection of seven - ten wards in the same geographical area (similar to a Catholic dioceses). The ecclesiastical leader is the stake president and his title is President (e.g. President Shumway).

Mission - overlays several stakes and is presided over by a mission president (see below).  A mission will typically have between 150 - 200 full time missionaries assigned to that area at any given time. 

Mission Organization

Companionship - two (sometimes three) missionaries assigned to labor in a specific area (usually corresponding to a branch or ward).  One missionary might be designated as the "trainer" for a recently arrived missionary.

District - consists of two or three companionships.  One of the companionships is designated as the "district leaders" and conducts a weekly "district meeting" where training and instruction is given.

Zone - consists of multiple districts and typically consists of all the missionaries serving in a single stake.  "Zone Leaders" get weekly reports from the district leaders and also conduct a regular "zone conference" where training and instruction is given.  The mission president and his "assistants" participate in zone conferences.  The Zone Leaders liaise the missionary efforts with the Stake President on a monthly basis.

Mission President - being a mission president is a three-year assignment.  In dedicating themselves to this call, many couples essentially put their old lives on hold, including their jobs and family.  (If they have dependent children, they will go with their parents).  A Mission President wears many hats; comforting homesick missionaries, providing encouragement and motivation, assigning missionaries to companionships, ensuring that proper doctrine is being taught, and is responsible for the logistics of the mission (housing, transportation, etc). A Mission President is always accompanied by his wife.

Assistant to the President (AP) - two missionaries who are spiritually grounded and have demonstrated leadership skills will serve as assistants to the mission president (usually towards the end of their mission).   They work with the Mission President and Zone Leaders to ensure that all is running smoothly in the mission. 

We hope this helps.  Part II of this series will define common mission slang terms.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

email: March 14, 2012

We received another email from Drew today.  He is anxious to get to the field (he leaves next Tuesday) although he is has already had to say one goodbye:  our trio of Taiwan Elders left today to go to the Asian district to start learning Madrien. it was hard to say goodbye but thats where they need to be. 

Even with the short amount of time that he has spent in the MTC, his knowledge and understanding of the gospel has increased. As he put it:

Learning about the gospel has given me a whole knew outlook on the doctrine and how I should really apply it to my life. The gospel is true and the Spirit is amazing.

He is already getting thing ready for his departure, checking with the travel department to see how much cash he needs to have on hand (to pay for his luggage - you would think the Church could have negotiated the baggage fee for as many tickets that they buy!) and last minute purchases at the bookstore.  He purchased one packback (without a hydration system) and now he wants to buy another one?!?  That son of ours!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

email: March 7, 2012

On Wed, Mar 7, 2012 at 2:18 PM, Andrew Tonini <> wrote:
My dearest mother (and father),
Thank you so much for your prayers and thoughts.
I was so blessed to be in an awesome district. We have so much fun and we are learning so much as well. We really do feel like a family. We have sister missionaries in our district too! they are awesome and help us Elders to stay on topic. I have a great companion, Elder Braithwaite. He reminds we a lot of Jacob. We butt heads but we are good friends. There are three of us going to Cali, one to Idaho, Sisters to St. George Visitors Center, and a trio going to Taiwan! We really get along really well and have tons of fun together. We have a huge Hawaiian elder that plays for BYU and another that is a wide receiver for Utah. I will send pictures home soon so you can see my new missionary family :)
I got called to be the zone leader of our zone! We were here five days and I got called to be the leader of our zone. It was quite humbling for me because I was NOT expecting that at all. I guess we were called to the leaders for a specific reason. On our first couple of hours, we had to deal with a missionary that was having conduct issues and then call the branch president. We got it taken care of but it was an awesome welcoming to the leadership.
I had seriously one of the most spiritual experiences of my life on Monday night. One of my missionaries fell and hit his head really hard on the hardwood playing basketball. He definitely had a concussion so I had to take him to the emergency room. We were there for less than ten minutes before someone asked us to give a blessing. Only did we know that our night was just about to start. We got called back into our "room" which was only a trauma bed with curtains to separate the beds. There was a woman next to us that had a super bad seizure that lasted almost five minutes. After the doctors got it to stop, I got this prompting that I needed to give her a blessing. Elder Bean (the elder who had the concussion) got the same impression as well so we acted on it and we gave her a blessing. She was so thankful that we were there for her. So we went and got Elder Bean's CT scan done and went back to the bed. The same woman had another seizure and I felt prompted to give her a blessing of comfort, so we did. However, she kept having them and having them. I started to pray, I prayed harder than I ever have before for a woman that I just barely met. I asked my Father in Heaven to stop the seizures and to help her not to be in pain anymore. Then the most amazing thing happen, her seizures started to get shorter and shorter. My prayers were actually working! I kept praying and praying for her and they kept getting shorter and shorter. After one of the later ones, she called out to us. She could barely call to us because she was in so much pain. We went to her bedside and with tears in her eyes, she asked for another blessing. I grabbed her by the hand and Elder Bean asked her to offer her a prayer. She did, expressing the faith and love she has for our Father in Heaven. After she finished, I looked her in the eyes and asked her "Do you have faith in your Lord and Savior?" She replied with tears in her eyes again that she did. I told her that if she has faith, these seizures with stop and that the pain will leave her body. We anointed and sealed the oil on her head for the second time. In that prayer, I said something that I never thought I had the power to say. I promised her that the seizures would stop. That they WOULD stop. I blessed her with healing and that she would not be in pain anymore. I could hear her just sob when I blessed her. When I finished the blessing, I told her that I believe that God will answer this blessing and that you will be okay. Soon after, the scan came back for Elder Bean. He was fine, just a mild concussion. She did have another seizure but they were getting shorter and shorter.
It is really hard to not tell that story and not cry. I cried like a baby last night in front of my branch president when I shared my testimony about the power of the priesthood. Even typing it up is bringing tears to my eyes. That was not just by luck that we went to the ER that night. We needed to be there for Barbara Jean Largent. She needed us to be there for her. How do I know this? A CT scan is only supposed to take 20 minutes to be read. We were there for an HOUR. The Lord works in mysterious ways and that was one of the ways. I was seriously humbled so much from that experience. Thank you Dad for teaching me to honor my priesthood and how to use it. I've only been here a week and I've given 5 blessings.
The new missionaries get here today so I'll be pretty busy getting them settled down. Sure do love y'all, so much. Send my love to the Branch and let them know that Seminole is being represented really well here in Utah and soon in California. I know I need to be here. This gospel is so simple and true. I love you all and miss you. Can't wait to hear from y'all next Wednesday.
Elder Tonini
P.S. A package of goodies wouldn't be too bad to get here ;)

Letter: March 3, 2012

How are things in thriving Seminole? I made it here okay. The MTC is good, I like being here, but I really want to get to the mission field. My companion is Elder Braithwaite (his personality reminds me of Jacob). My roommates are Elder Weight and Elder Stimely.

Teaching is going okay, I'm learning a lot from the Spirit. I have to completely relearn how to teach. We've been super busy so sorry its taken me forever to write. I love you and miss you all.

Elder Tonini

(Excerpts from letter to my parents as edited by my dad)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Still No News - But New Pictures!

Doesn't he look excited?!?
We still haven't heard anything from Drew yet, but we did get some pictures from his Aunt Rochelle that proves that he was at least dropped off at the MTC.

So what is he doing in the MTC?  Here is an article from the Church's youth magazine, The New Era, that gives an idea of what that first day at the MTC may have been like:

You arrive at the missionary training center in missionary attire, perhaps accompanied by your family if they want to be there and can make the trip with you. You check in and receive a name badge with your new title: “Elder” or “Sister.” Sounds good, doesn’t it?

You are then led to another area of the MTC. At the first stop, you receive your information packet. In it you find a card with your mailing address, your companion’s name, your residence hall and district assignment, and your branch president’s information. You also receive your schedule, which tells you when and where to be for your entire stay in the MTC. A volunteer explains all the information in the packet and answers any questions you have.
Next, you check some forms with your personal information and report any special dietary or medical needs. Then a volunteer goes over your immunization record with you. Depending on where you’re going, you might receive some additional shots at this point.

You then head to the MTC bookstore. You’ve taken a peek at your schedule and realize that a lot of your day will be spent in class. That means you’ll need textbooks—just like in school. You’re given a copy of Preach My Gospel - everything you do in class and during personal study will be connected to this book. 

After you pick up your luggage, you find your room. There you meet your companion and other members of your district. Depending on your mission language, your district has between 8 and 12 missionaries, who could all be going to the same mission or several different missions.

In the afternoon, the MTC presidency hosts an orientation meeting for new missionaries. Here you get additional information on the organization of the MTC and the resources available to you.

After dinner in the cafeteria, you meet your branch presidency. While in the MTC, your branch president will conduct Sunday meetings, hold personal interviews, and be available to answer questions and help you solve problems. There are 56 branches at the MTC, divided into two districts with district presidencies (the equivalent of stake presidencies). The districts are presided over by the MTC presidency. After you meet your branch president, it’s lights out at 10:30 p.m.  

Saturday, March 3, 2012

What is the MTC?

Elder Tonini will spend the first three weeks in the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah.  Technically part of the Brigham Young University campus, the purpose of the MTC is "to provide an atmosphere of peace, love, trust, confidence, and respect in which missionaries can prepare for missionary service."  The Provo MTC is one of seventeen that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day operates throughout the world.  Here are some websites to learn more:

Official MTC website
A three-part article from the Deseret News:
     Inside the Missionary Training Center 
     Arrival at Missionary Training Center 
     Running a Missionary Training Center