Sunday, September 27, 2015

Welcomes, transfers and good-byes

Downtown Calgary at dusk--the chapel in the foreground is the Stake Center where N. Eldon Tanner was the first Stake President
This week is transfer week--which means it is ONE busy week.  On Tuesday we welcomed 22 new missionaries!  And they are a great group.  We just love the new missionaries that come fresh from the MTC, full of the spirit, and excitement and enthusiasm.  They also come a bit tired because they wake up at 2:00 a.m. or so to get to the airport!  This time we got through customs really quickly with  them, unlike last time when it took almost 5 hours to get them through.  We had them out of the airport by about 2:45 and were on the way to the mission home for some 'administrative training' on apartments, vehicles, insurance, etc.  Our office staff conducts this part of the training.   Then we had a delicious dinner prepared by our new cook, Natasha Zandbergen.  It was yummy and the missionaries were so excited to eat something besides MTC food.  Steve began interviewing them before dinner, and a few after--and this time he was able to get through all 22 on Tuesday evening!
We have a new elder, Elder Yang, from Taiwan, who doesn't speak any English, so Steve had to have the other Mandarin speaking elders come in to translate during his interview!  After dinner we took the 20 elders to the hotel to get a good nights sleep, and the two sisters stayed in the mission home.  Then about 9:00 we got a call that one of our elders was having chest pain and was at a health clinic and they were going to send him by ambulance to a hospital.  So, we headed to the hospital to meet him and the elders he had been with there.  We sent the other elders home--by this time it was about 10:30 p.m., and we stayed.  We were able to go in with Elder Mahoney and see how he was.  They had run some tests and given him some morphine for the pain.  After a few more hours we finally got word that he was just fine--they thought it could have even been acid reflux!  So, we left the hospital about 2:00 and got back home about 2:30 a.m. and crawled into bed.  Steve had to get up at 4:30 to take another missionary to the airport who was going home with medical problems.  So, he was back up at 4:30, and I stayed, although I really didn't sleep while he was gone.  So, we had maybe 2 hours of sleep max on Tuesday night.  We just prayed that Heavenly Father would renew us mentally and physically for everything we had to do on Wednesday.
On Wednesday morning the missionaries were all back at the mission home at 9:00 for training where we just talk with them about many different things and get to know each other before we send them off with their new companions that afternoon.  We know they are nervous about this, so we try to put them at ease as much as possible.  After our training we walked over to the church where some great Relief Society sisters had prepared lunch for them.  Following lunch all of their new companions come to the church and we read off who their new companions are and what area they are going to.  It's a pretty fun thing to watch.  Many of our trainers have just completed their 12 weeks of training, so they are a little nervous about this new responsibility--but we have complete faith in them.

Our new missionaries at the Calgary Airport--so excited to finally be here!

Dinner at the mission home!
this is how your front entryway looks when 22 missionaries arrive!

After we get all of our new missionaries off with their trainers on Wednesday we get ready for Thursday where everyone else transfers to their new areas.  It's quite a feat to get ones from British Columbia in, and ones from Calgary moved down south, and ones from the south moved up; with all the exchanges of cars and phones and everything else.  We are trying to determine a way to simplify this whole process; but haven't figured that out yet.  Our mission has the largest fleet of cars of any mission in the world (we have 85) and that in and of itself is daunting!  But, by 3:30 on Thursday we had everyone that needed to be transferred all set and gone!
Then Thursday evening we had the 16 departing missionaries at the mission home for dinner (once again a lovely meal cooked by Natasha Zandbergen).  Following the dinner we walked over to the church for a departing fireside where these elders have invited converts or others they have worked with to it.  They all have the chance to share their testimonies at this time, and Steve and I both share a few words.  This is only our second time doing it, but it gets more difficult because the longer you have these missionaries, the more you love them!  So, it is harder to say good-bye!
Following the fireside they all came back to sleep at the mission home...all 16 down on mats in the basement!  It is fun to hear their thoughts and  nervousness about going home!  The next morning they get up and have breakfast (lots of cereal, bagels, fruit, milk, and juice!) and shower--(and let me tell you, you don't want to shower after 16 elders have showered, unless you like cold showers), and we take them to the airport to send them on their way.  This last Friday morning we had an extra 30 minutes because their flight left a little later, and while Steve and I were upstairs doing a few things, we could hear them all downstairs singing hymns.  It was the sweetest thing ever--they just took turns choosing different hymns, and sang  Acapella.  It just warmed my heart.  We truly feel that as we send them off they are different when they leave than when they came.  They have grown in so many ways...but most of all, they have a deep abiding testimony of the Savior and his atonement.  And they have experienced his love in their lives and it has changed them.  We are so thankful for that--that is what we want most of all.  We want their missions to have converted them forever.
Dinner for our departing missionaries

Final picture with our departing missionaries

Our new assistants- Elder Roberts, Dad, Elder Warenski
Dad on 'Stephen Avenue' in downtown Calgary

Stephen Avenue is a bustling street-no cars-lots of shops, etc.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Departing interviews, a little get away

Banff in the fall time!

Moraine Lake- gorgeous!

Banff National Park
Well, this is my second time around writing this post!  I had it all written and when I went to add the photos it somehow erased everything I had written!  AAAH!  So, here we go again!
This past week has been busy as usual.  Do I say that every week?  I think so!  One thing we have learned is that the work never stops, or slows down.  We go from sun up to sun down and into the night and we still can't do all that needs to be done.  So, we just keep taking it one day at a time and trying to do the best we can.  We are definitely more comfortable now--but it is still overwhelming and we are constantly on our knees seeking guidance.  We are so grateful for a kind and loving and patient Heavenly Father who blesses us with what we need at the time we need it.
This week we had our departing interviews for our missionaries that will be leaving us this Friday.
We drove to Lethbridge on Tuesday evening (didn't get there until 12:30 a.m.!) did interviews on Wednesday, drove back to Calgary and did interviews on Thursday.  Although I did take time on Thursday while Steve interviewed for a much needed hair appointment!  Just trying to find time to have my hair cut can be tricky!  And then when Steve finished interviews he went and got his hair cut!  So, we are ready to go!
On Friday we had our 'training meeting for new trainers'.  Since we have 22 new missionaries coming in on Tuesday, we need 22 new trainers.  This can be quite tricky to manage--but after a lot of prayer and thought we zeroed in on our new trainers and we think they will be great.
Since we have been here (which is almost 3 months now!) we really haven't taken any time to ourselves like we have been instructed to do.  So, Friday afternoon we decided on a whim to go stay overnight in Banff National Park.  We hadn't even made a hotel reservation, but hoped we could just find one once we got there--which we did!  We drove to see the famous Lake Louise and Moraine Lake--both of which are absolutely beautiful.  And it was really pretty in Banff with the leaves turning yellow and the snow on the tops of the mountains.  I'm sure that snow is here to stay until next June!  It felt so good to get outside and walk around a bit and enjoy the fresh mountain air and the scenery.  It is pretty incredible.
We found a fun pizza/pasta restaurant in Banff and had a tasty pizza there, and then we walked down the main street and found a little chocolate shop to buy some fresh fudge.  We always love finding either English Toffee or fudge!  We then went to our hotel and relaxed for the night.  We were back on the road to Calgary by 9:30 the next morning, but we felt refreshed and ready to go.  We had to be to a stake conference in Fort Macleod, which is about 1 1/2 hours, away by 5:45 that night.  The Saturday evening session was very good, and so was the Sunday morning session.  Dad and I both spoke in the Sunday morning session, along with a recent convert and a man who had been less active for about 30 years.  They both shared their stories of coming into the gospel, and they were so tender and sweet.  There is nothing like hearing people talk about their conversion process and feeling the love of the Savior in their lives.  It was very touching.
We left Fort Macleod about 12:30 and got home about 2:00 and spent a while going over our transfer board and making some changes we felt were needed.  We think we are now ready for this upcoming transfer week.  We will send 16 missionaries home, and receive 22 new ones.  It is always an exciting week.  Although we are sad to lose some, we know they are ready to go home and begin their lives post-mission, and we are excited to see what they do.  But we are happy to get our new ones!!!  

inside Banff National Park

Beautiful Lake Louise

the huge hotel at Lake Louise

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Elder Martino's Visit

This past week we had the great blessing of having Elder James B. Martino of the Seventy come visit our mission and teach us and our missionaries.  It has just been a wonderful experience--I think Dad and I enjoyed it the most of all!  He was so personable, and so dynamic, and so fun, and so inspiring.
We learned so much from him.  We picked him up from the airport on Wednesday about noon and spent the whole afternoon with him as he just chatted and counseled with us about our mission and our missionaries.  We then had dinner here at the mission home and he and Steve and our assistants went out teaching for 3 hours, where they had great experiences.  Then on Thursday he held a special Zone Conference for all of our Calgary Zones--so about half of our mission.  That was a great day--he had asked Dad and I to both speak to our missionaries, and then he spent all the time instructing and working with them.  He did the same thing on Friday with all of our southern Alberta zones.  Each day Relief Society sisters prepared lunch for our huge groups -about 100 in each group.  We were so appreciative of their efforts--they are always so willing to help out.
Elder Martino focused much of his training on our missionaries working with the members to find investigators, and also less active members to bring back.  He also instructed us on how important it is for our missionaries to have the right member with them on all of their teaching visits because the right member will make all the difference for the person they are teaching.  He related the story of Alma and Amulek in the Book of Mormon and applied it to our missionaries.  It was really great.
His instruction went right along with our September training plan on member work, and working with the bishops, ward council and the members.  So, we are now more excited than ever to go implement everything we have been taught.  Our missionaries are excited about this, and we have even had Ward Mission Leaders, High Councilors over missionary work, and bishops tell us how enthused they are.  We feel like we are doing the Lord's will here and following President Monson's counsel to work closely with members.
After our Zone Conferences with Elder Martino were over we then had a Stake Conference in Lethbridge to attend with him.  He spent Saturday with the Stake President and Steve didn't have to be there until 4:00 for the priesthood meeting where he took part.  We then had a yummy dinner at 6:00 with the Stake President and his wife and some of the bishops and their wives prior to the evening session.   Elder Martino had told us previously that we probably would not speak on Saturday evening; so I was just going to sit back and really enjoy the meeting.  Then about 1 minute before it began, he came to me and said, 'I'd like you to speak for 5-7 minutes tonight.'  So, I gulped and said, 'ok!'  It ended up being a marvelous meeting, where we were able to listen to a recent young adult convert, a newly activated older gentleman and others.  And then to hear Elder Martino again.
On Sunday morning Steve was asked to speak for 5-7 minutes--and he did a wonderful job.  I still love hearing him talk- no matter how many times I have heard him.  He is a wonderful Mission President!  After Stake Conference was over we went to President Maclennan's home where his wife had fixed us box lunches for the road trip back to Calgary!  She was so sweet!  So we picked those up and took Elder Martino back to the airport to catch his flight. It was a great week for us--our first General Authority visit...and we loved it.  We will see Elder Martino again in November when we go to our annual Mission President's Seminar in Omaha, Nebraska. We will look forward to that.
We are so grateful for these wonderful men who have dedicated their lives to serve the Lord.  What a blessing they are to all of us.
This upcoming week we prepare for transfers!  Can't believe that time is almost here again!
Our Calgary Foothills Zone with Elder Martino- 3rd from the right on front row.

Our missionaries standing to sing a thank you song for the women who prepared their lunch

Our office staff--Elder & Sister Birch, Elder & Sister Shields, us, Elder Martino, Elder & Sister Sefcik,
Elder & Sister Peppinger- we love this group!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Some rain, a burger, and a baptism

This has been another great week, but not so busy with every day being scheduled out.  We had our MLC on Wednesday with all of our Zone Leaders and Sister Trainer Leaders, and that is always a great meeting.  These elders and sisters are the leaders in our mission, and they are so capable and so desirous to serve.  We love working with them.  This month we are focusing on our member missionary work, beginning with the Bishop first, then ward mission leader, ward council and then the members.  Steve has met with all 17 Stake Presidents in our mission and asked them if it would be all right for our missionaries to set their baptism and reactivation goals WITH the bishop and ward council together--so their goals align, and they are all on the same page.  Instead of having the missionaries set one goal, and a ward set another goal, they set it together.  The Stake Presidents were so excited about this idea, and felt it was truly inspired.  So they are all on board, and are directing their bishops to work with the missionaries on this goal together.  We have already seen great results as our missionaries have gone in to make a truly united effort with the ward leaders.  We are really excited to see what happens.
After MLC on Wednesday we had our mission presidency over for dinner.  This was the first time the two counselors and their wives have met each other.  They are such great people--the Gedlamans, from Lethbridge, and the Stephen's from Calgary.  The Gedlamans served with President Nicholas, so  they are not new to this, but the Stephen's are new, and they are excited to be serving.  We had a fun dinner and feel like we have great new friends to work with.
On Friday we had our Re-training meeting with our brand new missionaries and their trainers.  We feel like it went really well.  The highlight was when Steve asked someone to extemporaneously stand and role play how to teach someone what the Book of Mormon is and extend the invitation to read it.  Elder Bienz said he would give it a try and he stood and did it with Steve and he did such an amazing job.  We could feel the spirit in just the few minutes he explained about the Book of Mormon.  Then Sister Moulton also stood and did it, and she did an equally amazing job.  Both different, but both so effective and full of the spirit.  We just love these missionaries.  It was so fun to see our new missionaries grow so much in the first few weeks they have been here. In our testimony meeting at the end, several stood and said how much their testimony of the Savior has grown since arriving here.
Friday it turned cold and rainy here--it rained all day long and the high was about 38! I have even worn nylons all weekend long, so you know it had to be cold!  It got down to about 34 that night when we went out to get a burger.  One of our missionaries had told us about a burger joint called 'Peters', so we decided to check it out.  It is kind of like a Hires Big H, but there is nowhere to sit really just drive up, get your food, and drive out.  It had two drive up windows with long lines to each!  And I actually ate a burger--yes, me!!  And onion rings, too!  And then we shared a pineapple shake.  It was delicious.
The best part of our week was Saturday attending Luisa Lazaro's baptism in downtown Calgary.  She is a sweet gal who was taught at first by our Spanish sisters, but then she wanted to go to an English speaking ward, so they transferred her to the English elders who completed teaching her, and they were the ones to baptize her.  She was so sweet, and so excited to be baptized.  It never gets old watching someone enter the waters of baptism and make that covenant to follow Christ.  It was really beautiful, and she was so happy.
This next week we will have Elder James Martino coming to tour our mission.  We are really excited for him to come.

Me with Elder Simpson, Sophia (Luisa's daughter) Luisa, Elder Morrow, Dad

Me with my burger!