Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Good few days!

On Sunday after our meetings we went for a little drive through the Columbia Valley and came upon the Columbia Valley Wetlands.  They are the largest undeveloped wetlands in North America.  The view was spectacular--you could see for miles!

This was my favorite view of the wetlands!

We finally remembered to put the binoculars in the car so we could look for wildlife...but so far we have been disappointed!  We've only seen 1 or 2 deer!  I'm waiting to see a big moose!


Dad checking for wildlife!                

On Monday we went on a p-day hike with our British Columbia Zone at a ski resort outside of Cranbrook called Kimberley.  It was beautiful, but it was kind of a drizzle through the whole hike.  And, it was one steep incline!  Dad and I both made it-but it got us huffing and puffing a little.  I saw my first huckleberry bush and ate some huckleberries from it!

Just warmed my heart to see this!

Dad with half of our group

It was a great view from the top!

We completed our interviews with our BC zone on Tuesday and left there at 4:30 to drive to Lethbridge for our Missionary Leadership Council Meeting on Wednesday.  The drive from Cranbrook to Lethbridge is beautiful because you go through Crowsnest Pass which has some spectacular scenery.  But the highlight of the week so far was our MLC meeting on Wednesday.
The elders and sisters that attend this meeting are zone leaders and sister trainer leaders.  They are a remarkable group of missionaries that hold these leadership positions and lead the other missionaries.
They come with so many great ideas, and they express their concerns about what is going on within their zones, and seek direction and counsel from each other and from us.  They also come hoping to feel the spirit guide and direct them, so that makes the meeting even better.  They counsel together and come up with a training plan for the mission for the month of August, and how they will implement that plan.  It is so amazing to watch them counsel and discuss ideas and settle in on their plan.  They are so impressive and we love to watch them in action.  Last month we focused on Faith vs. Fear and how to increase our faith and decrease our fears we have in missionary work.  This month we are focusing on Refining Ourselves through the Spirit, and relying more on the spirit to help us in our personal weakness, in our teaching efforts and in all we do.  It is really so cool to sit back and watch these missionaries.  They have a great desire to serve and to strengthen not only their own testimonies but those of their zone.
Since this meeting was down in Lethbridge we had to order lunch in--we ordered 17 pizzas for it, and they all got eaten!  Plus Oreos and Chips Ahoy!

This is our Missionary Leadership Council!
We will be sad to lose some of them in two weeks when they go home.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Another busy but Incredible Week

This has been another very busy, but incredible week.  After completing our interviews with all of the Calgary area missionaries we left on Monday afternoon to drive to Medicine Hat to begin interviews there on Tuesday.  This was a city we were excited to see for the first time.  It looked like a great place to be a missionary and everyone that serves there really loves it. Medicine Hat is the furthest city east in southern Alberta that we have missionaries in. We were able to go out teaching with Elder Farnsworth and Marenco to a Sudanese family--a single mom whose husband had passed away 5 years ago, and her two sons ages 12 and 10.  It was such a sweet experience--this woman moved from the big city to this smaller city because she wanted to be in a better place to raise her boys.  She said she wanted her sons to know more about God and to be good boys, and to not get caught up in the things of the world.  She was such a spiritual person.  She loves what the missionaries teach and so do her boys.  It was so fun to see them want to open the Book of Mormon and read in it.  She told us she even calls her boys from work and asks them if they have read their scriptures.  It was really a special night for us.  Our missionaries did a great job of teaching them, and when Elder Marenco, in his humble way, bore his testimony it truly brought the spirit.
On that Tuesday morning during interviews I received a call from Jordan's brother Tanner Stobbe, who is here in Canada on vacation, saying he had a package to deliver from our family.  He didn't know that we were actually in Medicine Hat, where he was also staying.  He was just hoping to connect with us at some point...when I told him we were in Medicine Hat at the Stake Center, he said he would drive over in 15 minutes and bring us our package!  I was so excited!

Our missionaries were also excited to see us get a package!
Our 'little box of sunshine' our girls sent

We loved completing our interviews in Medicine Hat and then we drove to Lethbridge, which is a bigger city in Southern Alberta, to interview our missionaries there.

We love interviewing our missionaries because of the one on one time we get with them.
We also love going out teaching with them.  In Lethbridge I was able to go out with the sisters and Steve went with the elders.  It was my first experience with a big ol' dog!  As I was walking to the home with Sisters Condie and Jones they said, "oh, you aren't allergic to dogs, are you?  Because they have a big dog."  Oh boy, did that put the fear in me.  Anyone that knows me well, knows I'm a bit fearful of dogs--especially big ones.  So, we went into the home and this HUGE out of control dog was jumping and growling and basically scaring me to death.  We were there to teach Sam (a less active sister), but her boyfriend was also there...and I decided his role was to tame the dog.  The sisters did a great job teaching..following the spirit and changing up what they were originally planning to teach.  I just tried to add to their lesson.  And I survived the dog--even though he would keep creeping closer to me until the owner would jerk him back!
From Lethbridge we drove to Raymond to have interviews there.  This was also a new town for us to see.  It is predominantly LDS, and the members help out a lot with missionary work.
Many towns in southern Alberta have pioneer heritage, and so many generations of LDS families live in them.  They are great towns.

After completing our interviews in Raymond, we drove to Cardston to Elder Evanson's home.  He is  the Area Seventy for southern Alberta.  He and his wife Jody hosted a BBQ for us and all the Stake Presidents in that area..there are 11 in all.  They were such great people, and it was really fun to meet them all.  It's nice to know them a little before Stake Conferences start next month.  Once Stake Conferences begin in August, we are at a Stake Conference almost every weekend!
On Wednesday we interviewed our missionaries in the Cardston area and then that night we were able to go on a very special teaching appointment with our Zone Leaders, Elders Hill and Perfili.  We went to teach a less active sister named JoAnn.  She is half native (in our terms that means half Indian, but in Canada they are called natives, and they are called the First Nation.)  She is a convert, and was a returned missionary that had actually served in the Salt Lake City mission back in 1980.  She has struggled over the years, and 5 years ago was in a terrible car accident that gave her head trauma and a broken neck.  She has healed remarkably well, but has lost some of her short term memory.  The elders had planned and prepared to teach her about agency and the atonement.  There was such a sweet spirit there...and JoAnn came to see the atonement in a different way.  It is so touching to see someone begin to understand what the atonement really is.  She had tears many times during the lesson.  She committed to go to church today, and we hope she did.  It was a special night for us.  And she couldn't believe that the Mission President and his wife would come to her home.  It was very powerful for her, and made us know we were in the right place that night.
Driving back to Cardston at dusk, you can see the temple lit up in the distance against the mountains.

After our interviews in Cardston the zone leaders asked us to go see a young man who is serving a church service mission.  He has muscular dystrophy.  His name is Elder Shipley.  He alone has indexed 2,100 names. Through his efforts and those of his extended family and the youth of his ward over 11,000 names have been indexed.        

On Friday afternoon about 3:30 we had completed all of our interviews and were going to head to British Columbia because we were speaking at a small branch there on Sunday.  But we received a call from Elders Ellison and Corning saying they needed Steve to come interview a baptismal candidate.  So, we changed our plans and drove back up to southern Calgary, about 1 hour 45 minutes away for Steve to do this interview.  The woman's name was Sina, and she was an incredible woman.  We were so glad we were able to meet her and her little son Josiah.  She will be such a great member of the church, and is so excited to get baptized.  Again, we felt like we were in the right place at the right time.

After our interview with Sina and a bite of dinner we headed to BC-finally!  We stayed the night in Fernie, and the next day drove through the beautiful Columbia Valley to Fairmont--another town we had never been in. The branch president there found out we were coming and asked us to speak in the branch on Sunday.  We have sister missionaries serving in Invermere, which is about 30 minutes from Fairmont, but the branch is in Fairmont.  These sisters live in a town with not a single member!  The branch has about 14 members--which includes the branch president and his wife.  These little sister missionaries are the lifeblood of that branch.  They are Sister Perrero and Sister Holzer, and they are dynamite missionaries.  When we got to Fairmont we thought we would have our regular 'date night', take off our suit and skirt, put on our casual duds and go have dinner somewhere. But then the thought came to us, 'we should go take these sister missionaries to dinner'.  So we bagged our date night and called them to see if we could take them.  They were so excited, and we were too..we had never seen Invermere, and we wanted to check out this town they serve in.  They also serve in other small towns surrounding it.
At dinner the sisters told us they had had a discouraging day out working, so this was a real treat for us to be with them.  And then Sister Perrero shared with us that the night before she had dreamed that 'President and Sister Miles had called to invite them to dinner'.  She told us that the way Steve had asked her on the phone was exactly the same as in her dream!  What a sweet tender mercy for these hard-working missionaries.  We laughed and told them that 'dreams really do come true'.  But, what it really tells us is that Heavenly Father is looking after his missionaries in even the smallest ways.

You see huge farms with hay rolled like this as you drive through southern Alberta.  They are beautiful!

This is Windermere Lake in the town of Invermere.  We just happened to catch the train going through!

Lake Windemere...

This is a view of the mountains in Fairmont outside our hotel room.  It is gorgeous country!!!

Us with our cute sisters, Sister Holzer and Perrero at the Fairmont Chapel.
We love these missionaries, this missionary work and this mission!!!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Another great week!

This has been another busy week (of course!)  We finished interviewing all of our Calgary Zones.
It was so great to be able to sit down with each of these wonderful missionaries and get to know them more personally.  Many of them come from the 'typical' LDS family--raised in the gospel, had fun activities as a family, held family home evenings, family prayer, and overall were raised in a happy, healthy home.  Then there are those who come from such different backgrounds...some have only one parent, some divorced parents, some have no support from family, and some have family that are very upset they chose to join this church and serve a mission.  As we have sat and visited with all of them we have grown to love them even more.  We admire all of them for choosing to answer the call to serve, but especially those that come from such difficult and humble circumstances.
This next week we will be interviewing all of our 'southern' missionaries--meaning those serving in Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Raymond, Magrath, Cardston and British Columbia.  We are excited to get to know each of them more personally as well.  We will also have the chance to meet all of the Stake Presidents in southern Alberta, which we are looking forward to.  We have been so warmly welcomed by all of the leaders here.
Today we attended the Rocky View ward in the Calgary West Stake and as we met with the bishop he invited us to sit on the stand and asked Steve to take a few minutes at the end.  After the sacrament, the counselor stood to announce the speakers and he said, 'after Brother Ursenbach speaks we will hear from our new mission president and his wife.'  So, I was then on the program!  I have to say though, it is easy to stand and share my testimony and a few thoughts.  Dad did such a beautiful job in his closing remarks.  I have really seen the mantle settle in on him.  He is doing a wonderful job.
We are still very humbled in this calling.  But we feel the guidance of the spirit and are starting to get direction on things we would like to help our missionaries with.
One funny thing yesterday!  We went to Costco - well Steve dropped me off so I could go in and get some things--and I got up to the check out stand and they didn't take VISA!  So there I am with all my groceries and no way to pay.  The man was kind and said, 'if you want you can put your cart over there and run to the ATM machine and get cash.'  So, that's what I did.  So, note to self from now on--get cash before going to Costco!
We also found a place for Dad to get his hair cut that is only about 1 mile from our home, so he got a hair cut yesterday, and then we found a dry cleaner and some things like that.  It's kind of nice to find the things that you need...and I actually drove to Safeway by myself--I haven't driven since we went to the MTC!  It was good to get behind the wheel!  Dad was teasing me that I would lose all my driving skills if I didn't start driving.  But we go everywhere together so he is usually driving!  And here they have radar cameras--so if you speed you are caught on the camera.  We have been extra careful driving!
I haven't mentioned our office staff at the Mission Office. We currently have Elder and Sister Birch from Idaho Falls, Idaho who are serving full time.  Then we also have Elder and Sister Shields, who are serving part time as church service missionaries.  And then we have the Clarke's who are also part time church service missionaries.  The Clarke's get released at the end of August, I believe.  As many times as we have been in the office, we still have not seen Elder and Sister Shields there!  I guess we are always there on the days they are off.  But we were able to meet them down in Sandy when they came down to visit Elder Shield's sister who is in our home ward.  We just haven't seen them here in the mission!  We love our office people--they truly keep all the administrative stuff going--and it is amazing at all they have to do.  Cars, apartments, arriving missionary paperwork, departing missionary paperwork, letters to parents, to Stake Presidents, name it, they do it.
We are so grateful for them.  We have another full time couple coming in August which will be great, because they will need to be trained before Elder and Sister Birch are released in November.
Steve has been going out with the missionaries on teaching appointments about 3 nights a week, and he loves it.  It gives him a chance to work side by side with the missionaries.  I have also gone out with him with sister companionships.  This last week we were able to teach the Plan of Salvation with the sisters to a very humble, spiritual woman from Ghana.  She was so receptive, and felt like everything taught to her made sense and was right.  She wants to completely read the Book of Mormon before she commits to being baptized, so she is reading it now on her own.  The missionaries found her one day sitting by the Calgary Temple.  She was coming there each day for a long time to just sit and ponder, and she wondered what went on in there.  She has some struggles in her life, and she felt peaceful at the temple.  We know it is no coincidence that the sisters found her there.
This missionary work is amazing.  We know that the Lord directs His work, and He prepares people to hear the gospel.  We are learning ourselves to be more bold in speaking with people...we have spoken with waitresses, our movers, and others, and so many say, 'yes I would let your missionaries come and tell me more.' So we get their names and numbers and give them to our missionaries.  We hope that one of them will be touched!
This is the west side of Calgary by the church we attended on Sunday--check out the Olympic Ski jumps in the background!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Our first P-Day

The Canadian Rockies are so unique!
On the road to Banff...

Since we have missionaries serving in the Banff/Canmore area we decided to take a little half day p-day to check out their area.
Canmore is a city of about 12,000 people and Banff has about 7,500.
The scenery on the way there was beautiful!
Canmore is about 25 minutes from Banff and is nestled right in the mountains.  It thrives on tourists, but we can see there are opportunities for missionary work there.

The town of Banff
We can see that Banff would be harder to do missionary work in being that it is such a tourist attraction.  It would be hard to find the 'locals' who actually live there.  But our sisters in that area
are working hard at it!

Going into Canmore

The town of Canmore

It was fun to take a few hours and go visit these two beautiful areas...especially since we knew the rest of the week was going to be extremely busy with interviews and appointments all day long.
Interviewing our missionaries last week and this week (and all of next week!) has been such a delight.  We get to know them personally and hear about their backgrounds.  We have some amazing missionaries who have gone through so much in their personal lives.  We love them.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Wonderful Week in the Mission!

We love our assistants Elder Smith and Elder Kelly!
We have had a great week this past week in the
Canada Calgary Mission.  We were able to travel through our whole mission and meet all of our missionaries.  We left on Monday and drove to British Columbia, which is about a 4 1/2 hour drive from Calgary.  We went through the absolutely beautiful Crowsnest Pass.
We got to the little town of Jaffray where we met with the sister missionaries there, Sister Moulton and Sister Wallock.  We were able to go with them on a teaching appointment and we were so impressed with everything they did.  They truly loved the people they were working with and there was a good spirit there.
They are so enthusiastic about the work and we loved being with them.
Getting to meet all of our missionaries and look
into their eyes has been so great.  We can see
how much they love the Lord and their great desire to serve.
The Frank Slide where in 1903 half of the mountain broke off!
Some of the beautiful scenery on the way to B.C.

In the little town of Sparwood we found this truck!

A ski resort in the town of Fernie.

We love these Canadian Rockies!

The meetinghouse in the little town of Jaffray.

Our awesome sisters in Jaffray, Sister Wallock and Sister Moulton.

Our British Columbia Zone

Our southern Alberta zones...

Elder Johnson, Lillian-newly baptized member, Elder Ward
One of the highlights of our week was being able to attend our first convert baptism with Elders Johnson and Ward.  Lillian Melling was the sister they have been working with, and she was so sweet and so excited to go into the waters of baptism.  It is really special to watch someone take this step.  She was so grateful for the missionaries that she said have 'helped her on her journey'.  This was really special for me because I truly can't remember when the last time was that I saw a convert baptism.
This is the Bow River which winds through downtown Calgary.

President Miles in front of the Bow River and downtown Calgary.

We are feeling so blessed to be able to serve in this capacity.  We have truly felt the Lord's hand guiding us in all that we do.  It is very overwhelming and daunting to think of everything that needs to be done, and to think of how we can best lead and teach our missionaries.  We have been very humbled and pray for help every day that we can do what Heavenly Father wants us to.  One thing that has been easy for us though, is to love them.  As we have conducted interviews this week and been able to sit down with some of them personally, we have grown to love them already.  We want so much for them to have a wonderful mission experience and for their faith in Jesus Christ to grow.
We know if they become 'steadfast and immovable' and feel the power of the atonement in their lives their missionary work will become joyful and easy for them.
We pray for them every day, especially as they face their personal challenges...and each one is so different.  But they all have a great desire to serve and are trying and we are so proud of them.
This past week we were also able to meet with 6 Stake Presidents and their wives in the Calgary area.
They were the nicest, most down to earth people, and we felt like we were among good friends.
We are anxious to help them with the missionary work in their stakes, and they are anxious to work with us.  One of the greatest blessings of serving in the church are the wonderful friends and people you are able to meet and grow close to.
This mission is a true blessing!!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Our Mission Home

this is our mission home!

this cute little elder graces our front porch!
Our mission home is in a quiet neighborhood with tons of huge trees.  The backyard backs up to a golf course, so we have a wonderful view from our back patio.  The home has such a sweet spirit about it.  There are so many beautiful paintings of the Savior...we really feel we are in a sacred place living here.

We are Here!!

We left our home in Sandy, Utah on Monday June 29 at 8:30 a.m.  We originally planned to drive to Great Falls, Montana to spend the night, but then decided we wanted to get into our mission!  So we pressed on for another 2 1/2 hours to get to Cardston.  When we got to the border crossing the guard was a little stern and was asking us if we were planning on seeking employment here and things like that.  We showed him our missionary papers and then he informed us that his little station didn't have the ability to process them.  So he directed us to another border station about 45 minutes away.  He told us we had to hurry and get there or there would be a warrant for our arrest!  Wouldn't that be crazy--the first mission president to be arrested!  But then he softened a little bit when he realized we really didn't know what we were doing, so he extended our time to get there for another hour.  So we followed his directions and drove to the other border crossing where they took our papers and passports and processed everything and we finally made it across the border into our mission!
By this time it was about 10:15 p.m.
We have learned here in Canada it stays light until almost 11:00 p.m.!
Cardston is famous for being the city where the 'plains meet the rockies'.

We were pretty hungry by the time we got to Cardston, so we stopped at a DQ!  Then we found a little motel called the Flamingo Inn to stay at.
The next morning we thought it would be fun to find some of our missionaries, so Steve went out walking for some exercise (I stayed in because I didn't have any workout shoes! they are packed away in our shipment) and he happened upon a woman who was the wife of a branch president in Cardston.  She gave us what she thought was their number and we called them and told them who we were and asked if we could come visit them.  It was Sister Freeman and Sister Durrant.  We drove to their apartment at 8:30 and just said Hi and got to know them a little bit.  They were darling, and it got us so excited to meet all of our missionaries.

After meeting with them we drove back up to see the Cardston temple.  We had actually gone by it the night before--this picture is it in the nighttime. It is a very unique temple--it looks like a fortress.
We  decided to go in and try to meet the temple president.  He wasn't there, but we were able to meet his counselor, President Strong.
We then had a little breakfast and drove through the beautiful countrysides on the way to Calgary.
They were beautiful--it is true prairie country.  There were thousands of acres of beautiful yellow canola fields.  It was so fun to be driving through our mission.

We arrived in Calgary about 1:00 and drove straight to the mission home to meet President and Sister Nicholas. They took us to a nice little Italian restaurant for lunch and then we came back to the mission home where Steve met with President Nicholas for a couple of hours and I met with Sister Nicholas and went over things in the mission home, and some medical details, phone numbers I would need, etc.  We then took President and Sister Nicholas to their hotel, hugged them good-bye and from that moment on it was an absolute whirlwind!  Steve's phone began ringing and the excitement began!
Wednesday morning we went to a pancake breakfast at the meeting house by our home in celebration of Canada Day (which is like our July 4).  There we met 4 more of our sister missionaries, Sister Dente, Sister Joseph, Sister Trimble, and Sister Kolodisi. They were helping to serve pancakes!  They were so cute, and so excited to meet us.
We already love these cute sisters!
After the pancake breakfast we met with our assistants, Elder Kelly, from the UK, and Elder Smith, from Selah, Washington.  They are fabulous elders and have been our right arm!  We planned our two 'Meet the new Mission President' meetings for Thursday, and our Mission Leadership Council meeting for Friday.  Along with a million other things!  We literally didn't stop for a break until it was time to fall into bed each night between 11:00 and midnight. 
Our meetings to meet our missionaries on Thursday were so wonderful.  We have now met all of our missionaries serving in the main Calgary area, and the Banff area.  On Monday afternoon we will drive to BC to meet our missionaries there, and from there to Lethbridge to meet our missionaries serving there, along with the Medicine Hat, Magrath, and Raymond area missionaries.  
We had our first Missionary Leadership Council on Friday from 9:30 to 3:30.  It was so fun to meet these zone leaders and sister trainer leaders.  They are incredible young people and have such a desire to serve.  It was just neat to sit back and watch them plan and prepare for the upcoming month for the mission. There was a great spirit there, and we enjoyed teaching them and planning with them.
Today, Saturday, is the first day where we have not had a set we caught up on our laundry, and actually had time to put up a few little pictures!
paintings from our grandsons!