Monday, October 29, 2012

Letter and Pictures From Mexico, Week Two

Hi Mum,

So this week was pretty tough, i went on exchanges with the Zone Leaders, Elder Ramirez is our district leader, i dont remember if i said that.  The exchanges were pretty fun, Elder Gonzalez is from Utah and it was pretty nice speaking in English for a day and a morning.  We did a lot of work, including talking to a man named Victor for the first lesson.  It was crazy because we showed him the picture of Christ when he appeared to the people in the Americas, the one that's in the Books of Mormon, it turned out he had the big version of that picture in his house already! He said it only made sense that Christ would visit the people in America too.  The rest of the week consisted of a lot of work.  A lot of finding new people, trying to talk to every person we could and inviting them to church and stuff and SO much praying.  The last day of the week our prayers were answered and the Lord provided, we found a little family who live in very very humble conditions.  Angelica and Rodrigo are a couple planning on getting married soon and also Angelica's sister Daniela was there.  The family is great and Angelica gets a lotof her faith from the scriptures.  We taught the Plan of Salvation to them and we'll teach the restoration this next time and give them a Book of Mormon, we are very excited.  And Thursday we got money from a sister for lunch because she didnt have time to have lunch with us so we ordered Domino's .... It was amazing i could have eaten 3 pizzas alone.  The food is really good here, but straight up pizza is straight up pizza.  5 minutes left! :( So i love all your letters mom i really do, and anyone else in the family can email me too if they want, that'd be real great. :) I want to hear everything and keep me updated, the story about Sadie really lifted me up today and also Aaron singing too, i can just picture him now on this big stage belting bass opera music haha ok no i cant, Aaron's too cool for that.  I love you all so much, I hope you know that.  I miss you all so much, family and everyone and stuff too, it hurts sometimes right in this one spot just a bit to the left from the centerof my chest.  I love the work though, I'm trying to get lost in it haha.
Love forever,
Elder Branden Carl Astle
                                                   Elder Astle and A Catholic Cathedral
                                                         Another view.....
                                                                more inside.....
                                                           More Inside....
                                                          A Doodle by Elder Astle

Monday, October 22, 2012

A few quick notes and an address where you can write to him!

Just a few short notes from Elder Astle:

From Branden:
Oh mom, keep trying to send pictures, maybe try just one or a smaller resolution or something, and send pictures of everyone :)  family, my friends, your friends, strangers.

From me to Branden:
to branden.astle

I love your pictures!!! Elder Rameriz is so cute!!

From Elder Astle to me:

I had him read that email and he was like ehhhhhh quien es? (who is that?) my mom.  Ohhhhh ok haha

MOM!! I almost forgot the address you should send letters and stuff to is:

Elder Branden Carl Astle
31 Poniente 109 Int. 201
Colonia Chula Vista
Puebla, Puebla México 72420

Elder Astle's first letter from Mexico!

Aye Mum,
So i miss you a bunch and i miss everyone a bunch.  I loved your last letter, i dunno i just love hearing about home and everything.  It's pretty tough out here.  We walk miles every day and I can barely understand anything right now.  Sorry i'm not being super interesting, i'm kind of trying to avoid talking about really deep things like home, or how much i miss you, or dad, the family, and Nicole, and everyone.  I have been trying to take pictures but it's tough to find time, every second of every day we are pretty much doing something.  I did take some though.  So to start the way of life is really.. interesting here. All the cars and the clothes and those kinds of things are pretty much really nice for everyone, but only the real wealthy have nicer homes.  Our apartment is very.. humble haha.  It's all we need though so that's really good, more time to focus on the missionary work!  It always smells like.. something here :) I really dont want to say anything bad about Puebla because I really do love it here and I love the people here. It's pretty much hot all the time, but not really hot just kind of and the best thing is that when it gets real hot there are breezes that come through and feel amazing!  OK so! My new companion is . . . . .Elder Ramirez! And guess what!! He doesnt speak English to me pretty much ever!! haha it's great though it is really helping me learn the language a lot faster.  He is also a district leader which is pretty impressive because i dont think there are any other trainers with a leadership position like him.  I was especially excited after I  was assigned to be his companion a lot of american missionaries came up to me and told me how he is pretty much the greatest companion in the mission, which is pretty much true.  He's super funny (when I can understand) and patient and loves missionary work a ton.  Oh quick story, so there is an Elder named Elder Prosper who started talking to me about table tennis (he only speaks Spanish too) and he asked if i wanted to play him sometime on a p day and i said YA! Five seconds later his companion told me that he is the national Table Tennis Champion of Uruguay! SO COOL! I still want to play him sometime haha.  Anyway (sorry do i say that a lot? I know Nicole doesnt (she'll understand haha)) So a teacher in the MTC said that anyone who wants to get a message to me can either send a letter or they can send an email to you, mom, and then you can send it to me in the email. (could you tell Nicole?) So, my Pday is today! Monday! Unfortunately I havent gotten your package yet sorry mom, I heard we probably will only get packages something like every 6 weeks.  And I found out that my debit card does work here but i will only use it if i really need to, no worries thank you though! I'm almost out of time :( I loved ALL of the ties so much and all the little notes and everything just made me cry a lot haha but i loved them all so much thank you so much.  Since I'm almost out of time I'm going to include the letter I sent to President Reeves:

Presidente Reeves,
I'm loving my first week, it has been really hard for me.  Really hard in a good way though.  I feel like I'm growing a lot under the pressure.  It has definitely been a change from the norm but I like it.  This last week was good we had a lot of appointments, unfortunately not all of them were able to happen.  It seemed like more than half of the people we went to see weren't home.  I feel I'm doing a good job of not getting discouraged though.  Elder Ramirez is helping me a lot with everything; learning the language, depending on and listening to the Spirit, and working hard and being positive.  We did a bunch of contacting yesterday and he helped me get out of my comfort zone more which helped a lot too.  One investigator that I really love, I love all of them more than I expected to love the people, is Jose Luis.  He is older and super humble and he really wants to do what is right but it seems like he is having a hard time keeping comittments.  Plus he needs glasses to read and he doesnt have any right now.  My favorite part about Jose Luis is that he is trying hard to learn and remember what he learned and he really wants to do what's right.  I'm loving the work President! Unfortunately I'm real sick today, I hope I feel better soon so I can do more work.  I want to say thank you to you and Sister Reeves for our loving welcome that we received here in the mission.
Elder Branden Astle

   Ok so fun stuff: The first night we went out teaching, which was tuesday night, right after i got my companion and right after we dropped my things off at the apartment, We taught a guy named Julian.  He is questioning a lot of things right now but at the end of the lesson I invited him to be baptized.  Unfortunately he isn't ready yet. 
   But I think it was Tuesday night we met with Jose Luis and I invited him to be baptized and he said yes!! Right now we are working on helping him strengthen his testimony. 
   On thursday night there was a surprise thunderstorm! whooo!! we had to go to the church building which was about a mile away and we walked the whole way in the POURING rain and lightning. It was SO fun, at one point Elder Ramirez was like, with faith we can walk on water like Jesus did! and he started walking on the sidewalk where the water was so high in the street that it came up on the sidewalk.  The street was literally a river though, we had to cross it at one point and the water was above my ankles haha it was really fun. 
    Church yesterday was AMAZING, i love church every time (they invited me to give my testimony in the beginning of Sacrament meeting and I did awful haha) but i could definitely feel the love in the ward, it is so strong.  Oh one last thing, everyone in the ward seems to be tone deaf so i fit right in, i feel like an singing pro! haha
    I love you all so much, please try to be missionaries, it's so incredibly rewarding.  I miss you all a ton.  Pictures are coming.
    I love Heavenly Father so much i'm so thankful to be a part of the work.  I'm thankful for all of your support, everyone, in getting here, mom, dad, my family, bishop, Nicole, President Watkins, everyone. Thank you so much

Elder Branden Carl Astle



              On their way to Houston, Texas. L-R Elders Kitchen, Dougherty, Astle and Allred

      Welcoming commitee at approximately midnight! President and Sister Reeves and friends.

Elders Astle, Rameriz and Malaerts

                                              Elders Astle and Rameriz in a combi.

Lunch time with Elder Rameriz

                                                             Typical street in Puebla

                                                              another Puebla street

Elder Astle!

Oh no!! His shower!! I just hope the water is warm!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Last Day in The United States

As of 8:00 pm last night Elder Astle is in Puebla, Mexico. We were so excited because we knew he was going to call home during his layover in Houston. We were expecting his call around 2:45. You can imagine this mother's surprise when I answered my cell phone at 9:10 that morning, not recognizing the phone number and hearing the word mom on my phone left me feeling a little confused for a moment. I finally realized it was Branden!! It was so good to hear his voice! He was a little nervous, but excited to be flying to Puebla. He had told me that he, and the approximately 11 other Elders with him, wanted to go share the gospel with the people around them at the airport while they waited for their flight....but they were, well a little scared.. He told me how much he missed everyone. He also expressed how much he missed his home ward. I only spoke with him for about 10 minutes, then said goodbye, both of us in tears. It is such an amazing blessing, the old saying that "Absence makes the heart grow fonder". I know from my own life's experience that when we are away from those we love, our appreciation and love for them is felt so strongly. I have witnessed this with Elder Astle the last couple of months. He loves his family and friends so much. If you are reading this, it means you!

Later that day some of his family and friends were gathered in eager anticipation of his phone call. It was his dads birthday too and he had expressed to me earlier that he couldn't wait to tell dad Happy Birthday. unfortunately dad didn't make it home in time so he had to settle on a one on one conversation with his son. I think that worked just fine!!

When Elder Astle called he told me that after speaking to me earlier he had approached a customs agent at the airport and began to share the gospel with him. After a few minutes he asked the gentleman if he knew any Mormons? "Well, lets see? Me, my wife, my parents..." What can you expect when asking people at the Salt Lake City Airport! He noticed a gentleman sitting in the airport who had really, really cool Italian shoes on. Branden sat and asked the man about his shoes. It turned out he was from Italy. He was a "Fluid Dynamics Physicist" I'm sure Branden was really enjoying the conversation since he loves that science stuff. Before the conversation was over Elder Astle had given the gentleman a pass a long card with the churches internet address on it. He felt good about that. I will keep you all posted as news comes in. I don't know at this point what his P-Day will be, but I will post it when I do know.

I think the best way for everyone to write Elder Astle, and he does love getting letters, is through the site. It is simple and they ship the letters in a pouch to Mexico. Packages are expensive to send. Approximately $40.00. I will be mailing packages from time to time. If you ever have something you would like to send to him, you can get it to me and I will cover the cost. Please remember Elder Astle in your prayers, I know he remembers you in his..

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Elder Astle Continues On His Journey

Elder Astle will be leaving the MTC for Puebla, Mexico on Monday, October 15th, which just happens to be his Dad's birthday!! What a great birthday present. I hope all of you are enjoying this blog as we keep up on the latest of Elder Astle's adventures.. I will post his address when he lets me know it. What I have now from the Mission Call is the Mission home address:

Elder Branden Carl Astle
Mexico Puebla South Mission
Puebla, Puebla

If you would like to write him you can send letters to that address, it takes about two weeks to get there. Also is a great way to write him, some of the information you will need:

Elder Branden Carl Astle
Mexico Puebla South Mission

The deadline to write him is Sunday nights at midnight. dearelder will print off your letter and send them out in a pouch to the mission home, they send out every Monday.

You may also email him at, however he will not be able to email you back, only letters. He said he loves getting the dearelders and letters because he can take a moment to read them before he gets on the computer on his pdays, then he can answer any questions in his email to his family, and I will forward them to you.

I am so excited for the journey he is on! We can feel the Lord's blessings increase in our lives as we pray for Elder Astle each and every day.. what a blessing..

                                   I wonder if he will meet any new species of bugs in Mexico??

His Nice, New Watch Broke, So He Got a MTC Special!

1. So i needed a watch before I leave for Mexico, this was the very last one they had! It's huge! But luckily I had 12 dollars that the MTC gave me so it was pretty much free! ya it was only 12 dollars :P It's pretty cheapy.
2. So I just found out the elders in my district got a hold of my camera and took about 40 pictures like this one while i was teaching an investigator haha

I think The Birthday Treats are Getting to Him!

1. my bomb new tie!
2. Me with 2 new Elders
So there's a tale started long ago about the creature named the P-Day Goblin. Every night of P-day Eve the missionaries who are good and diligent and who remember leave their socks outside their bedroom door.  In the morning they receive wonderful and tasty treats surrounding their socks for their offerings to the P-Day Goblin!  (the p day goblin doesnt actually take anything from them)  It's a P-day miracle! ... So one of the districts older than us was serving as the P day goblin while they were here and once they left there was an absence of P day goblin.  One night i decided to not let the legend die with them and Elder Allred and I decided to keep the p day Goblin alive.  The 2 Elders from picture two are the new elders we chose to be the new p day goblin! whoo!

3. My stash of goodies, i'm pretty sure i have more than anyone, some were used for p day goblin purposes, but i'm eating all of Nicole's because she told me too :P (could you tell her that? :) )

Birthday Bash and a Few Pictures

1. Birthday bash
2. me being dumb
3. My view most of the day... Just kidding!

General Conference and One More Letter before He Leaves

Aye Mum,
General Conference was way good was it not???  We watch every session and take notes and everything which made it even more rewarding.  Our district takes our page for notes and puts a line down the middle of it.  We write what the speaker said on the left side and what the Spirit tells us on the right side, it really makes it even better.  I loved all of conference, great talks, revelation, and having all my questions answered.  President Uchtdorf gave a talk in priesthood session that actually answered all of my questions at once, but the other talks answered them too.  On Sunday night we had Chad Lewis, who played for the Eagle's, come and talk at the fireside.  It was really good and really motivational for everyone.  He spoke about a trip he went on, which was famous football players who work with wounded warriors, and they went and hiked mount Kilamanjaro.  3 of the 4 wounded warriors had only 1 leg and a prosthetic.  It was really amazing.  I also want to tell dad we really need to start getting ready and getting in shape because when I get back I want to go climb that with him!  I would love it if everyone could go in fact! Afterward there were only a few people who got picked out of the audience to meet Brother Lewis and our zone leaders, elder hauser and elder hansen, were part of that group.  So after they told everyone that they could leave and those people could go meet Brother Lewis, i honestly thought "oh they probably don't have a camera and I do! I should give it to them and they can get a picture with him" so i went back to the back area and motioned at them with my camera to come and get it.  They came and got me and told me to take the picture for them and then right after that they said "someone else can do it so you get in the picture with us" so i got a picture with him you can see. :) On Tuesday guess who came to talk to the MTC... Elder David A. Bednar! whoo! Also i wore that blue and grey tie that you sent me where its looks kind of fuzzy i guess (Elder hauser and i said it reminds us of the Water temple front Zelda Ocarina of Time) so i was looking good! and even better... we sat in the third row from the front, we were basically 15 feet from him.  I remember before he came in i felt this really heavy spiritual feeling and i leaned over to one of the really new elders and said "do you feel that? an apostle just entered the building" and a couple minutes later he came in.  He spoke on how to do studying it was really good and really spiritual of course.  Unfortunately, no one got to meet him haha.  So i love getting all your letters so much I REALLY REALLY do.  I will send you my new address in Mexico right when I find out and i have the chance.  I'm super proud of Aaron for doing choir, I know he's the best, no doubt in my mind.  Im super happy to hear about Brian doing well at teaching, but wait a second... Brian's good at everything!!! haha I am so relieved to hear about Bobby doing better, I have really prayed hard for him and everything, but I loved your letter about how all those trials were a blessing in disguise.  I shared it with the district and they all really liked it, thank you mom.  I sent Bobby a birthday card but he probably got it late if he has gotten it yet.  And don't worry mom i'll just sign my thing and send it back to you, you can vote for me. :) Yesterday we had in field orientation where we went through a bunch of workshops and practiced things like meeting people in the airport and using members and setting goals and things and it lasted all day.  My favorite part was that i got a nap in ;) but don't worry they recommended naps during breaks! haha I'm real excited and real scared at the same time for the field.  I'm real excited and scared for the airport to be honest! One of the biggest things I have learned in the MTC is being sincere and honest in prayer and praying with all my might.  I need so much help and so much strength and so many things that only Heavenly Father can help me with.  I pray for everyone individually, I'm so thankful for all of my family and friends and all my amazing examples.  I love you all!  I miss everyone a bunch too and i pray for your safety and blessings for you every night too.  Every night in the MTC that I can remember I have cried in my prayers, i'm such a baby, but it's only because i love you all so much.  So I leave Monday monring! So excited but so nervous.  Wish me luck, pictures coming after.
Love you forever, i'm excited to prove it forever,
Elder Branden Carl Astle

Friday, October 5, 2012

Elder Astle's Birthday October 5, 2012

hi mum,
So this week has been a rollercoaster.  But first, i meant to tell you how the music performance thingy went.  It was a lot of fun and we all wore purple ties and everyone said we did really well even the guy who was speaking made a comment about how awesome we did and how much energy and enthusiasm we had, so that was a plus.  Ok so Sundays are so so so so so so so amazing.  Every Sunday here is filled with the Spirit all day.  And Sacrament meeting is always the highlight.  The Sacrament is so important and i just realize that more and more every Sunday.  I heard a talk by Elder Bednar, there are some talks that Apostles give in the MTC that you can only hear in the MTC and they don't show them anywhere else, about his life and becoming a missionary.  One part i wanted to share with you is a part when he said every time they had a family gathering, big or small, at some point in the gathering they had a time to focus on some part of Gospel doctrine, so my challenge for you all is to try to do the same.  Even if it's short or long, a testimony, a lesson, scriptures, anything just take some time to focus on some part of Gospel doctrine.  I know it will invite the Spirit more and will just make home even better.  So guess what! remember that call you got from the lady at the MTC? I went to the foot doctor and got that same toe surgery that Doctor Medawar did.  It was still just as interesting to watch and Elder Kitchen had to come with me and watch too haha.  Unfortunately that also means i'm back to soaking my foot... Anyway on tuesday later that day, a woman called all the Puebla mexico missionaries up to the travel desk to get some information on their visas except for me.  I have been praying to have more faith in God's plan for me so when i realized my name wasn't called I honestly wasn't bummed or frustrated and i was actually ok with wherever Heavenly Father put me.  when the other elders came back they told me that the woman had forgotten to call my name so i was going with everyone to the mexican consolate the next day.  On wednesday I had the opportunity to host other missionaries, i ended up helping 3, kind of like that one elder helped me get my bags and everything when you dropped me off (i miss you all so much). It was really fun and i felt pretty experienced haha.  Later we went on a field trip to the consolate in salt lake and i pretty much slept the whole way there and back.  Yesterday just after lunch we got our travel plans.  It's a huge deal to get travel plans in the MTC because it means you really are leaving and you're right on schedule.  All of the Puebla missionaries are traveling together, we're flying on United and we start our trip at 8:00 AM on October 15, Happy birthday dad i love you.  We will end up getting to puebla at 8 PM whoo.  In the middle there will be a lay over in Texas where we are allowed to call home, so if you could be home at about (it will be 5 in texas) 3 i can call.  Unfortunately I can't call anyone else like Nicole but if she was at our house then i'm still calling home and i could talk to her haha.  So this next week will be our last week here at the MTC crazy right? That also means that next week i wont be able to write letters and send emails until Saturday next week because our P day gets changed for that week.  Anyway thank you so much for all the birthday stuff i haven't opened them yet, i opened Nicole's and i loved everything so much, but to be honest her present and the two cards from sadie and eloise got me so emotional and made me miss home so much i'm having a really hard time opening the other present.  Every time i go to open it i start thinking about home and crying a bunch till i calm down and find something else to do.  I just miss everyone so much. Great now i'm crying at the computer in the laundry room wearing a fake mustache.  (So a little bit ago i cut myself really bad just above my lip while shaving and i put a bandaid on it, i thought it looked pretty bland and i'm a pretty weird guy so i drew a mustache on it in pen).  I love it here so much i really do but at times it's so hard to be away from home and then i just pray for strength to make it through the day.  I'm really excited for general conference this weekend! I have been reading other general conference talks and getting PUMPED haha.  I honestly am pretty bumped that i'm going to miss cinnamon rolls.  We heard something in a talk on tuesday, the speaker said as we listen to the talks throughout conference try not to think of how much other people need to hear the message, but instead ask "Lord, is it I?" as the 12 Apostles asked Christ when he said one of them would betray him.  Try to find a way to apply the message in your own lives and commit to trying a little harder because you love Christ.  Great now i'm crying a second time haha.  I know this general conference is going to be great, don't forget to come with questions! The Spanish is coming along well lately i still feel totally new to it but i can understand basically everything that the teachers say and i can speak pretty well as long as it is something related to the Gospel haha.  Sorry this is an enormous letter.  All the missionaries in my district are getting excited to get to the field and work.  Thank you for inviting Elder Kitchen to celebrate my birthday mum, but i asked everyone to not make it different than any other day because we have so much more preparation to do and so much time to spend on studying i don't feel it would be right to take time out of their labors for me.  I just want everyone to stay focused on the task at hand and keep pressing on in the work.  But thank you mum, i love you so much.  We have a new investigator! His name is Samuel and he has friends who are in the Church and one of them comes to lessons with us and it is really great.  He really likes fishing and our message but has trouble understanding some points of doctrine.  We plan on inviting him to Baptism tonight, wish us luck! Pictures will be in another email today. I love you all so much, thank you all for being amazing examples to me.
With love forever,
Elder Branden Carl Astle

Elder Astle doing a handstand wearing the t-shirt made especially for him by the young men and women back home in Loomis 3rd Ward

 So apparantly Elder Astle nicked himself shaving and thought he'd cover it up with a bandaid.... hey wait a minute, that's little Miss Sadie's nickname for him, Bandaid!

                       So I guess He is celebrating being the first to class by jumping on his desk?!

                                He has an artistic flare...especially when it comes to acorns!

       He was pretty excited to receive not one but two Birthday presents in the mail!!
Hi mum,
So Nicole sent me a dearelder and told me that i would get a letter today which i wanted to write her back about, but i didnt get it, could you tell her that? also could you tell her that i did write a letter to her today but it wont be a response to her letter :(
Also could you tell Dad that i love him and i miss him and i really wish we would have gone fishing so much more before i left.  A temple worker was talking about fishing today and i realized how much i miss fishing with dad.
We did Initiatories today and it was really good, last week i got to do sealings!!! it was really fun and amazing and i was smiling pretty much the entire time we were going through it.
Anyway my p day ends at 6 and i cant write anymore after that and i have to get through some things
Also could you text Bishop or the next time you see him could you tell him that i love him and that he has always been a great example to me.  thank you all so much for the shirt you sent I took a picture of me wearing it, its definitely one of my favorite shirts! it means so much to me.

               the original PMG and the new mini one that just came out a couple weeks ago that we bought.

                                              our class last night, can you find Elder Astle?

another one, me being a dumby because i'm so very unphotogetic. (no idea how to spell that)

Seventh Letter September 25, 2012

Hi Mum,
and everyone :)
I miss everyone a lot a lot a lot a lot.  So i have to start off with an apology, Sunday before last, i believe it was, I emailed home about watching that video by Elder Bednar about light.  I'm sorry for doing that because it was disobedient because our time to email home and write letters in only on P-day, Friday.  I talked to my Branch President, Presidente Claybaugh, after i sent the email and basically what I got from our talk was to be obedient with exactness which I have been trying to be and will strive even harder to be.  Only after obedience can we receive blessings. There is a law decreed in heaven and obedience to those laws is what all blessings are based off of (basically). Ask dad to try to find that scripture, his scripture is John 4: 35-36, it wasn't too hard to find because a couple weeks ago I memorized D&C 4 which references his scripture.  I really love dad's letters a lot, reading the letters from home, and letters from Nicole, and getting a package every once in a while really makes my week so much better, so thank you.  So one thing I forgot to mention last week was that a week before that i was doing some curling exercises and it was pretty tough and i did a lot but i forgot to stretch afterward...  The nest day i could not open my arms past 90 degrees, it was crazy haha but seriously it hurt so bad.  They are better now though.  Last week while i was doing my laundry a Elder from the First Quorum of the Seventy came through the laundry room getting a tour of the MTC and he came up to me and told me i was doing a good job by hanging up my shirts after they were dry and not only buttoning the top button but the top two buttons, then he said my mom must have taught me well.  I got pretty sad.  Only because I miss everyone so much and i miss my mom so much.  Then his wife, who barely speaks English, came up to me and was talking to me about how she always wanted her sons to do their laundry or hang up their shirts after they were dry, then she was like "Anyway i just wanted to tell you Congratulations" It was pretty funny, it made me smile.  I wanted to challenge the family, although I know it's only mom dad and aaron, to have family prayer every night together.  It's one of the commitments we have for our investigators entonces ("so" in Spanish) i think it will bless our family so much, don't forget, every night! Another thing i think i forgot to mention in my last letter was that Elder Kitchen and I were called as the Music Coordinators for our branch, we pick the songs and special musical numbers, one every week, teaching how to lead music and pick people for that and that kind of stuff.  THEN, a couple days ago Elder Kitchen got called as our new District Leader! WHOOOO!! He is really awesome and great at talking to people so I know he'll do great.  That leaves me as the solo music coordinator now haha.  SO much power in my hands! haha i'm keeeeding. ( I just was about to take my laundry out and now i can't find my hangers... uh oh).  I really liked Aaron's letter a lot.  I liked his motto A LOT too! it is really good. Aaron, I challenge you to take it to the next level, Be the best and do the best. But you have to remember if you're going to have a motto you gotta live by it, i'm proud of you for being so awesome, you're going to be an awwwwwwwesome missionary i know it. 
So some stuff about me here: We currently have 5 investigators, including 2 who are really progressing who we get to teach a bunch.  Their names are Benjamin, Jose-Manuel, Irazema, Benjamin, and Manuel.  The first two are our really actively progressing investigators.  Benjamin is going to be baptized on the 5 of October and we are still deciding on a date for Jose to be baptized.  Benjamin is a Barber with a lot of faith in Christ and loves church.  Jose has been tougher but we, no Christ, has worked with him to overcome his concerns, he does want to be baptized though.  Jose is a single father and wants to best for his son and we know Christ will help him get that for his son.  It so exciting when our investigators begin to develop their faith and get a desire for the truth.  To me the best part is being able to rely on Heavenly Father, we commit them to pray about our message, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and then we leave it to them and the Lord to get their first steps, I love being a part of this work.  I love being an instrument in the hands of the Lord already and I feel like i love every person on the Earth.  I know i wouldnt be this happy if it wasn't for my help from the way I was raised, the home i lived in, and the people who helped me to get on my mission like everyone in our family, bishop, Nicole, and my Savior.
I love you all so much,
Elder Branden Carl Astle
Oh mum about your questions,
I'm doing well, thank you, how are you?
Nicole's birthday is on 26 of September, could you maybe still do something for her? I feel kind of helpless here :/
The elders going to Puebla are Yo, y Elder Kitchen, Dougherty, and Allred.
i didn't get new tennis shoes before i left but the ones i have are doing amazing and they are really good. 
Thank you for telling me about everything going on at home i love it.
Could you send me ties? Just any that we have already, like the ones from my room, except skinny ties, our branch mom (branch pres's wife) said we should have a bunch because it is our only way of kind of expressing ourselves in that way.
finally, could you tell kimmy thank you for raising perfect daughters?  I miss sadie and eloise so much it hurts, i cry when i think about them.  Especially about Sadie saying she is excited to turn 6, one of the teachers said when he got back his little sister was something like 6 or 8 inches taller and he wanted to have his little sister back, and i know itll be similar for me, but i'm excited to see sadie and eloise more grown up when i get back.
Anyway time to hunt for some hangers to use.
PS. I heard about this one Meme, ask kimmy what that is, it said: "He trained Obe Won Kinobe... He trained Batman... He fought wolves with his bare hands in the snow... WHY would you think it's a good idea to take his daughter???"

Elder Astle's Sixth Letter

Aye Mum,
So this week was pretty tough to be honest but it was also great!  The low times were when I was feeling like maybe I can't learn the language fast enough or well enough because I was really struggling while trying to teach our investigators and also when I was kind of getting picked on by some other missionaries, but it's all good now, I only let it get me down because it was a combination of already feeling down plus those kinds of things.  So I kind of am bummed because I keep forgetting to bring my journal to the computers to type emails.  I was hoping to bring it because it's hard to remember everything that has happened in the last week because the days all kind of blend together at this point.  The saying is true: The days feel like weeks but the weeks feel like days.  I can't believe next wednesday i will only have 23 months left :P It really doesn't feel like i have been here very long at all, except when I think of family and my friend sso that's tough but I pray for everyone every night.  I know everyone must be livin' it up havin a blast without me there haha.  It's really nice here though!  Although when we are in the MTC it kind of feels confined and like a *cough* prison *cough* but we will be walking around the MTC campus and we'll see the mountains that are right by it and admire the nature and i'll usually stop us to just stop and look at the clouds for a bit.  Luckily both elder Kitchen and myself love nature so neither of us are bothered by wanting to stop and look.  The best times are during gym time when we decide we want to go to the yard.  The yard is just across the street and is infront of the Provo Temple, it's really cool because we'll go on runs around the yard or we'll throw a frisbee and i think we are planning on playing soccer tomorrow.  The best part about the yard is that the sky just feels enormous because of how crammed the MTC is.  There are just clouds all over the place and we can see way in the distance and in every direction there's mountains with brilliant colors and landscapes I dunno it's just great to get out of the *cough* prison *cough* I think i'm getting a cold ;) haha (...I'm not really, Mom).  BTW when you dearelder the other elders here (PS elder stephens left for Peru already so you can't dear elder him) if you want you could just leave out who it's from or you can include, it's up to you i suppose.  Sorry sometimes my thought patterns are in Spanish so they no make sense.  The Spanish is coming slowly but surely, I feel like I'm doing okay and I think everyone in my district is getting it pretty well too, Elder Kitchen is really doing great and he is learning really fast which is awesome, I try to give him lots more opportunities to show his Spanish in lessons and stuff, I'm such a good senior companion :P haha im keeding.  So in the last week a lot happened! I just can't remember all of it haha. Every Sunday we get to go on Temple walks where we just go hang out around the Temple for like an hour to an hour and a half, OR we do choir practice for the choir performances at the Tuesday Devotional.  In the last Temple walk our whole district walked over together and for the last like 45 minutes I was laying on the grass looking at the clouds and then i just slept on the grass in the shade of a tree.  On tuesday we had a devotional from a member of the 70 named Elder Kopischke. His wife spoke before him and she was hilarious! she had a super thick german accent and she was SO enthusiastic about everything.  His talk was good too haha.  Throughout the week we taught more lessons in Spanish and I feel like we are just now starting to get the hang a little bit of teaching in Spanish.  Unfortunately my time is about up.  Questions: Did Aaron get my letter? Tell him to dearelder me por favor? How's your shoulder mum? How is Jessica and Trampus and the boys? How's Bobby now and how's matthew? How's Kimmy and Scott and the girls? I miss everyone so much, I get super emotional when I think about the girls, I miss em and I just hope they'll remember me when I come home.  How's quitting the soda going? haha You can do it! What are you guys doing for fun? You should be going out having adventures and things! It's important! haha Oh and mom could you forward my emails to everyone in the fam bam and friends? kgraciasbye!
Love you all so much!
Elder Branden Carl Astle

PS I learned how to solve a rubik's cube yesterday in like 20 minutes and now I can solve it in under 4 minutes already, it's so easy once you know how haha let Brian know I'm going to be gettin the world record soon! ;)
So the first picture is pretty dumb lol but there is a big sculpture of two missionaries riding their bikes here and their faces look kind of mean when you get close so i pretended like a was running away haha I know it's dumb haha.
The second is our first zone leaders who left at the beginning of this week they were really great, elder watson on the left was yoked out of his mind and elder hunsaker on the right was hilarious and really really good at basketball and the elder coolguy in the middle was a combination of the both of them :D
The third is a picture of our classroom!
the fourth one is a cool picture of elder kitchen on left and elder hansen on right
the fifth is elder hauser studying
6 - elder stephens the day before he left for peru.
7 is brother clifford our first and best spanish teacher in the world and sister runyan who was our first investigator and then our teacher for a bit then our sub... kind of

Elder Astle escaping the scary Elder statues!

Elders Watson, Astle and Hunsaker

Elders Kitchen and Hansen

Elders Astle and Stephens

Branden Post Haircut

Elders Astle, Kitchen and Thompson

The Before picture would not load properly. I will try to figure it out and post the other photos later!

Fourth Letter August 31, 2012

 Hi Mom and everyone,
SOOOO I hope you get this, unfortunately the computers here are kind of cheapy and the internet program is super glitchy because it is so locked down to keep anyone from doing anything besides LDS stuff haha.  I'm sorry to hear about Bobby that sounds really rough, but he showed his patience, in a way, where I would not have been able to hold myself back from getting upset with that kind of bad treatment.  I hope you start feeling better soon mom, those tests sound like literal torture techniques.  I pray for everyone every night, but i will be sure to send a little more for Bobby.  I miss everyone so much to be honest, especially the girls, every time I think of how much I miss them I start to cry.  I just love our family so much.  I loved Bobby's letter that he sent it was super funny and I was dieing laughing and a bunch of the other elders that i showed thought it was super funny too.  Tell dad thank you for his letter too, but I'm super jealous that he got to fish the South Fork without me.  I showed a bunch of Elders brian's picture and they all thought it was epic and super good, one of my Zone Leaders, who is one of the funniest guys around because he sounds serious all the time but says the funniest stuff, said "Well this is awful because first off you have no sleeves on your suit coat which is definitely against the Missionary Handbook and also what are you looking at? You shouldnt be standing around you should be tracting" hahaha but then he said it actually was really awsome. 13 MINUTES!! So I get to write letters and email on Pday which is Friday for me, I found out the email is for family and elders only :( So i get to read my emails only on Friday and email back also.  BUT i get letters and dear elders any day of the week whenever they come in, with all the letters and dear elders you have sent in, my drawer is almost full haha not really :P OH so guess what?!?!? One of the councilers in my branch presidency is Kenneth Jennings Sr. He is super smart, served his mission in Taiwan, went back and worked in China for a bunch of years, then was mission president in Taiwan, oh and also his son is Ken Jennings, THE GUY WHO WON TONS OF MONEY ON JEOPARDY! Isn't that awesome? maybe not, I thought it was anyway haha Oh and before I forget could you or the fam write some letters for the elders in my district? OR just DEARELDER them (oh that's a swell idea) you could just write little ones, even on the same paper, and in the same envelope and ill hand them out. They are Elders Kitchen, Yano (Went to school at WEST POINT, super super prestigious), Thompson, Dougherty, Allred, Ellison, Garcia, Stephens, Choate, Hauser, and Hansen. If not could you just write one or dearlelder one to my companion Elder Kitchen? his mailing adress is the same as mine and he has only gotten one letter so far.  Could you please send me a couple more shirts if possible? everyone here has logos on everything they wear to gym and p day and I barely have any shirts, send any, you or Kim or Aaron could pick them out? thank you, but really if that costs too much or is too much hassle dont even worry about it I'm gettin by just fine with the shirts I have :)  So i forgot to bring my journal to the computer lab today, 50 SECONDS, which is full of my stories and things from the week, but all in all not much happened, I went to the Temple last week and did a session, and then today I went and did initiatories, no idea how to spell that.  It was really good, right at the end, as I was sitting there I began to think about the men I was helping and the Spirit filled me up and told me that the work I was doing was true and helped me feel a bit of the joy that those men were feeling right then.  Yo se que la Iglesia de Jesucristo de los Santos de los Ultimos Dias es el mas correcto iglesia en el mundo hoy.  Estoy muy agredecido por esta iglesia y por la oportunidad a servir un mision para mi Padre Celestial.  Les quiero tanto. I went over time and now it's counting down negative haha. 
One thing I have learned while i have been here is that it doesnt matter how much you know about the Gospel necessarily, showing love for your investigator is what works,
Love always, Elder Branden Carl Astle

PS I try to have soda every once in a while, I think twice since I have been here, and it's so hard to drink because it messes up my stomach a bunch but i gotta get used to it for Mexico. BLEH! You can quit mom i know you can do it if you believe in yourself you will learn how to not drink soda :P Oh and also I have a dream pretty much every night and they are always crazy, stuff like pirate ships and puzzles and dragons and wizards and breaking into banks and the ocean and fighting robots and flying and all kinds of stuff, and my comp gets to hear about them while we wait in line for breakfast haha. Love you much.

Fifth Letter, September 21, 2012

Hi mum,
I love you. You're the best mom.  And an amazing example to me.  Thank you for always loving me so much.
So this week was pretty good!  So i wrote down a lot of little things to send home about.  But i will get to that in a bit.  This week there was a lot of joy and teaching in Spanish and doing my best to really seem happy because the Gospel is in my life, which is true, I am happy for that reason but sometimes we forget to show it and/or we forget where it comes from.  That's my challenge to everyone remember to show how happy you are because the blessings of the Gospel are in your life.  Just think about how lucky we are to be able to experience so many blessings.  I love the Gospel so much.  Oh mum I just remembered to ask, you're forwarding all my emails to Nicole right?  Thank you.  Oh speaking of Nicole her birthday is coming up, could you and kim brainstorm for somethin for her maybe? pwease? She likes lasagna and I know you and kim both make really good lasagna so i thought maybe you could make that for her. just an idea :)
So let's start the list-
=Tell Brian to read Haggai 2:17 in the Bible, I used it as my spiritual thought in one of our classes and said we better be careful to turn to the Lord or we'll get all moldy.. you'll understand haha.
=I see Brother Luke Stoddard here a bunch and we chat every once in a while it's awesome because he helps me with my Spanish a bunch and it's cool because we basically grew up together, we were in Priest's quorum anyway
=Could you tell dad that I love him a ton and i'm so thankful for his example to me, oh and also could you ask him if he knows Dave Rose? Our branch president President Claybaugh brought him to a devotional meeting the other night and I guess he lived in Auburn at one point and thinks he knows dad.
=Could you thank Trampus for me for sharing his experiences about his conversion and things like that at Church, we had a discussion about how important it is for new members and members to share their conversion experiences all the time for themselves and for the current investigators to hear about those things, I thought about Trampus and how he was a good example of that in Elder's quorum.
=So the other night we had a hilarious experience, we found out that someone from our district was changing our alarm clocks to wake us up at random times in the night, but we got fed up one night before they had changed it and we set up like a spy cam thing right next to where my alarm is and then went back and got it later after we noticed the alarm was changed.  We all huddled around the tiny camera screen to see who the alarm clock bandit was.  Dead silence filled the air, a couple minutes in we saw ELDER GARCIA! With lightning hands he changed my alarm under one second and went on his way like nothing had happened.  The crowd went wild and we all were busting up laughing and joking with Elder Garcia it was great.
=So my rubik's cube skills have improved haha tell Brian I'm down to 1:43
=Finally not a big deal or anything, I wanted to try out for a musical number to sing infront of like the relief society or the new missionaries coming in so i was working on the song Nearer My God to Thee and it was going pretty well, but then I invited some other Elders to try out with me and to do a different song so for the last couple weeks we have been practicing the song Ye Elders of Israel with a group of 8 elders from our zone.  we thought it was going ok but didnt think much would come of it if anything.  We went and tried out for the music director and the MTC president and his wife just happened to be there.  We performed and the music director lady seemed pretty impressed with it we were surprised because a soloist girl performed right before us and she did really well.  So all in all not much happened..... Until last night we got a note front the director saying she wants us to perform our song in front of THE ENTIRE MTC, 2700 people, at the mtc fireside this Sunday! O.O scary! So wish us luck haha we'll need it, I have a partial solo-ish part in the beginning haha but we cant record and i dont think they put these on the internet.
Love you so much, i miss everyone so much, I pray for you all every night individually, thank you all for your amazing examples to me.
With love and joy, Elder Branden Carl Astle
PS Tell Aaron i really liked his letter alot alot alot it was awesome and made me laugh a ton and was inspiring to me, I can't wait for Aaron to get to go on his mission so he can experience all of this too
A quick note:

Hey mum,
Real quick i wanted to ask you to watch the video "Patterns of Light" with everyone who's home today, it's on the site. It's really good and it it's three real little parts.  Also could you text Nicole and ask her to watch it for me? thank you i love you

Third Letter September 14, 2012

I'm having a little trouble getting the pix to load correctly on here, I will do the best I can. Only Elder Garcia cooperated on this post!!

Sept 14, 2012

Heya mum,
So i forgot my journal again... haha.  Thank you so much for the package and everything in it! I loved looking at both of the photo albums (I loved the pictures from yours and dad's hiking trip, really i loved it and i loved seeing and hearing about dad, i miss dad a ton, and i miss you a ton too mum) and the hug from sadie and eloise with help from kimmy.  I haven't chowed down on the snacks.. yet. It's hard because everyone else is getting dulces (sweets in spanish) and sharing them and I try to keep from eating those too much as it is haha.  Thanks for all the shirts too, they're the perfect ones, just what I wanted to be honest.  Unfortunately i'm down to one pair of gym shorts because the draw string on one of my pairs broke so I just wear those to bed, but don't worry about sending any other shorts, honestly i think my luggage is going to be over weight and over stuffed as it is but thank you because I know you would send them.  I can't believe I have already been here a month, longer than most missionaries are in the MTC already, and i still have another month left in the MTC haha but at the same time i feel like i have been gone forever, i miss everyone a ton and i miss joking around and playing games with everyone like train game with our family and train game with Nicole's family... because i always won hahaha im kidding.  I'm love hearing about everything that's going on at home.  I just like to feel like i'm still part of life back there i dunno i guess that's kind of weird haha.  I dont want to be forgotten haha.  but seriously D: ....  ANYWAY haha Things are going great here, thanks a bunch for the dear elders for me and the elders in my district, they all loved them and they said they might just write you back haha but really they told me to say thank you, it meant a lot to them.  The elders with copies didnt mind at all.  Unfortunately the dear elders you send to me online don't always make it straight to me, there are other elder astle's here i guess so sometimes my mail gets directed to them, and then a few days later it gets redirected to me.  But I still do get them so thank you so much! The Spanish here is going well.  It's tough because there are like periods of learning followed by periods of plateau where you don't feel like you're learning anything, those parts are pretty tough.  Tomorrow Elder Kitchen and I are going to do an English fast and speak only Spanish for the whole day, that'll be fun.  We teach investigators... completely in Spanish about 5 times a week, it's pretty tough but it's getting easier.  We had a zone fireside yesterday about being a disciple of Christ and "being caught in the act of Discipleship" It was super good and I felt the Spirit so strong especially when I was able to say to myself "Yes, I'm am trying my very best to be like Christ and be the best me that i can be." My motto used to be the song "I'm trying to be like Jesus" and the fireside really brought that motto back to me.  I love feeling the Spirit so much, i have learned so much here it's crazy, I know it's only by the power of God.  Our teacher says "God is invested in you, because of that He is going to help you prepare."  Everyday for the rest of my life i'm going to strive to feel the Spirit in some way, I never want these feelings to go away.  I know the Church is true. And also I'm starving and it's time for lunch :P talk to you soon,
Love you all so much,
Elder Branden Carl Astle
pic 1 - the laundry room we type our emails in
pic 2 - awesome picture of an acorn that i took
pic 3 - our group for the musical auditions for performing in front of the entire MTC
pic 4 - Elder Garcia - nuff said
pic 5 - my name tag, The mexican falg on bottom means "Habla Su Idioma" meaning "speak your language" in spanish, The dot on my name tag is the dot everyone wears on their first day and then they take it off to show that they aren't new anymore.... I put it back on because I feel like i'll be new for the next 6 months

Elder Garcia

ACTUALLY, this was Elder Astle's very first letter!

Aug 18

Mom. stop.
its great here. stop.
i dont know if you know this. stop.
But this is how they talk in morris code. stop.
Ask brian. Stop.

This is my mailing adress for the MTC

Elder Branden Carl Astle
MTC Mailbox # 256
2005 N 900 E
Provo, UT 84604-1793

I'm excited to get your letters, when we first got mail me and my companion were the only ones not to get anything while one of the elders in our district got like three letters.  My companion is Elder Kitchen from American Fork Utah, Kitchen in Spanish is Cocina so sometimes we call him Elder Cocina and i have gotten the nickname Elder Loomis by one of the elders in our district from SoCal.  I sent you a letter but that will probably take some time to get there.  As far as the work it's intense and way super hard and way harder than i imagined. Yesterday on our third day we had to teach a real lesson to an investigator completely in Spanish, and she didn't understand any English.  So ya that was hard.  could you tell Nicole that once i'm in the field she can send me Emails to this email but i will have to send letters back, or she can use dear elder while im in the field and pay a little bit of money, tough decision right? haha Anyway i'm just about out of time our laundry is about to be done.  Thank you for the cinnamon rolls and candy all the other elders love them! Unfortunately I'm always extremely stuffed with salad and fruit from dinner and lunch so i haven't eaten any except a piece of candy.  Love you all so much, it's great feeling the spirit all the time.  Oh by the way I'm also the senior companion right now so that's fun!
Elder Astle

Elder Astle's First Letter Home

This is Elder Astle's first letter home after arriving at the MTC:

Aug 24

L to R Elders Stephens, Choate, Garcia, Allred, Dougherty
 Ellison, Hansen,  Hauser, Kitchen, Superhot, Yano, Thompson.

                                 Elder Kitchen and Elder Astle in front of Provo Temple
                                    Elder Kitchen and Elder Astle give the thumbs up to ?

Hi Mum,
So eveything's good here, it's a lot of fun so much has happened already, the first few days were the longest of my life, but the last week has just flown by, first it was Sunday and I was having definitely one of the most spiritual Sundays of my life and then all of a sudden it's friday and i'm on pday. Unfortunately there is only thirty minutes to write emails on pday.  it's been 6 minutes for this long of a letter so far :O! Anywarrs, I'm glad you didn't crash your car... that would suck haha.  So the best way for you all to send me letters would be through Dear Elder, Nicole also.  That gives me a chance to read them before I sit down to type my email, unless you want to send those really cool more-than-just-a-letter letters.  AHH i'm down to 17 minutes im such a slow typer.  Dear elder is free by the way, and it only costs like a dollar or something while im out in the field.  Mom could you forward this email to everyone? And Nicole please? thanks you're a doll haha.  So anyway on sunday we had a super spiritual sunday and I was crying about 90% of the time that i was awake haha ok not really but after the fireside where we leanred a key principle of teaching the book of mormon, me and Elder Kitchen (AKA elder cocina (cocina is spanish for kitchen)) we went and saw a talk by elder bednar, it was a video, called Recognizing the Spirit and it was super good, we sat in the back but then two sisters came in a little late and had no seats because it was so packed, so we gave them our seats and stood the whole time but it was better in the end to stand anyway.  It's cool because you cant find these talks anywhere else except in the MTC because they are talks only for missionaries.  So on Tuesday we had a great day and a lot of learning spanish then, every tuesday there is a devotional, at devotional we don't know who the speaker is until the last minute... IT WAS NEIL L ANDERSON! haha it was awesome because we were late thinking we wouldnt get any seats in the actual stadium he was talking in but we found seats pretty close to the front and at one point while he was talking he made eye contact with me, it was INTENSE! He talked about key principles the prophet would want us to think about, it was also on President Monson's birthday so we all sang happy birthday to a picture of president Monson, we were all expecting him to walk in at some point, but he didnt haha.  So our lessons completely in Spanish got better after the first one, which was actually really really rough.  But then we ended up teaching our investigator Hermana Gabriela 4 times and at the end even committed to her to baptism and she said yes! Later that day though we found out she found work in San Diego so she is going to move but she still wants to learn more about the church in San Diego.  The whole time we knew she was a teacher here at the MTC but we were told to think and treat her like a real investigator and we all loved her and prayed for her and poured our hearts into teaching her so it was really hard for us all when she said she was leaving, we all cried a bunch.  Afterward we watched a video of a real investigator being baptized and it was so good, a was converted even more during the video, I dont know why but it never really clicked to me that although the ordinances and acts like baptism may seem odd or just like acts they carry a tremendous amount of meaning in Heaven and the Angels rejoice when we do what is right and what the Lord wants for us.  Great now im crying in the laundry room and people are looking at me, i write emails in the laundry room.  After all that then our teacher Hermano Clifford, who we all love so much and we cant imagine another teacher being able to handle us at all, told us he is moving up in his teaching status so he wont be our teacher anymore. Anyway I love you all so much, the Church is the most important thing on the Earth, I know this to be true and I know my Savior loves me and loves us all. Again, I love you all.
Elder Branden Carl Astle

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A day at Temple Square and dropping Elder Astle off at the MTC

Visiting Temple Square, Salt Lake,  August 14, 2012
The Guys, Reflecting pool on Temple Square
After leaving Temple Square and trying to find the freeway we got
 lost and stumbled upon this mural on the side of a building.
Mom trying to let go of her Elder!

Temple Square August 14, 2012

We made a quick stop in Salt Lake to visit Temple Square on our way to the MTC. Mom, Elder Astle and Dad.