Monday, November 30, 2015

District Meeting, MLC, Thanksgiving with our Kids!, Stake Conference

Wow has this week flown by with wonderful things!  We were able to attend District meetings in our Calgary East zone on Tuesday morning and watch our District leaders instruct their zones.  Steve and I split up, so he went with one district and I went with the other.  It is so great to see these missionaries lead out and see how they really care for their districts.  I went to Elder Hopoi's district, and he even served Thanksgiving cupcakes at the end for his district!  It was a snowy day that day, so we had to drive carefully on the freeway--but everyone made it safely.  Then, that afternoon we drove to Lethbridge for our MLC meeting on Wednesday.  The roads were actually pretty good until we got closer to Lethbridge, then they got a bit sketchy..but we arrived safe and sound!  The average temperature for the first few days of last week was about 15!  Now, when it warms up to above 30 we feel like it is a heat wave, and don't even wear a coat!
Our MLC was one of our best yet.  We were able to have so many great discussions and Steve did a great training on being leaders in a mission.  We discussed what good leadership qualities were, and how we could better improve to be more Christlike leaders.  The zone leaders and sister trainer leaders that attend this MLC meeting really do have a huge impact on how the mission goes...and so we depend upon them a lot to set the example, and to know and care for their zones, and to reach out to any who are struggling.  We ordered 16 pizzas for lunch for this group!  We had about 1 1/2 leftover, which some of the missionaries gladly took with them after it was over.  We love our MLC meetings--there is always a good spirit there.  Tomorrow, all of the zones will hold Zone Training, which is where they take what we taught in MLC and teach it to their zones.  This month our focus is on "Developing Christlike Attributes".  We decided that the greatest gift we could give the Savior is to try and become more like Him, by developing the attributes He has.   Each district leader can decide which attribute he wants to focus on for his district and teach about that one.  But we decided the district meeting on Dec. 22 should be focused completely on the birth of the Savior--we thought that would be special for the week of Christmas.
After MLC was complete, we drove back to Calgary, and I quickly made a pie, before we headed out to the airport to pick up Mike and Jillian who came up for Thanksgiving.  It was so fun to have them here with us!  I get so excited to see them come through the 'customs' doors at the airport!  We stayed up with them talking till a little after midnight, and then all went to bed.  Thursday we had so much fun just cooking a Thanksgiving dinner all together.  Mike's mission companion, Rob Falconer, joined us for dinner.  He lives here in Calgary--so it was fun for he and Mike to see each other again.
On Friday, we were able to take Mike and Jillian to Banff and to Lake Louise.  Frozen Lake Louise!
It was a winter wonderland there, and so beautiful.  We had such a fun time.
Then on Saturday, we took them with us to the Raymond Stake Conference.  Mike and Dad went to the priesthood meeting at 4:00, and Jillian and I went out teaching with Sisters Lowe and Shields.
It was so great to have Jillian there, and have her share her testimony of the Book of Mormon.  I know it brought her back to when she served her mission.  I was so proud to be with her, and I was proud of our Sister missionaries.  They did a great job teaching these 3 young women.
After that, we had dinner with the Stake Presidency and Elder Rulon Stacey of the Seventy, prior to the Saturday evening session of Stake Conference where Steve and I both spoke.  It was a great meeting, and we really enjoyed learning from Elder Stacey.  He had a fun personality, and taught us a lot.  The Sunday morning session was equally as good, and they also had a Young Men's choir of all priest age boys sing.  They were so great!  In this session, a couple named the Nortons, shared their experience of coming back into the church after about 35 years of inactivity.  It was so touching.  It just really made you realize you can't give up on anyone!  You never know when the time will be right for them, and when their heart will be in the right place and they will want to return to the gospel and the joy that can be found there.  It was really a special meeting.
After it was over, we chatted with our missionaries serving in that Stake for a few minutes and then left to get back to Calgary so we could feed Mike and Jillian and let them pack before taking them to the airport to fly home.  We had so much fun having them with us, and having them meet some of our missionaries.  It was also so fun to be speaking at the pulpit and look down and see Mike and Jillian sitting in the congregation!  We had a great week with our missionaries and our kids!!!
We are so grateful for the many blessings we have been given--first and foremost, the gospel in our lives.  We are so grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who sent His son to be our Redeemer.  We are so grateful for the atoning sacrifice of our Savior.  Our testimony of Him influences all that we do in our lives.  We are so grateful for an incredible family.  How we are so blessed to have each one of them we will never know.  We love them more than words can express.  We are grateful for our parents and our extended families.  And we are so grateful for this amazing experience of serving on this mission and to be able to serve with these wonderful missionaries.  We love them so much.  We have been richly blessed!
We are looking forward to the upcoming Christmas season.  Our first one in the mission field!
Elders Hardwick, Condie & Christensen shoveling snow before district meetings.

Thanksgiving cupcakes from Elder Hopoi

Calgary East zone district meetings

Getting ready for MLC in Lethbridge

Thanksgiving dinner with Jillian and Mike!

Standing ON Lake Louise!

Walking around the hotel grounds at Lake Louise

Elders Sondrup and Stringam with their matching, homage ties!
At our Raymond Stake Conference

Sisters McDonald and Hatch, with the cute "Elder Snow" snowman they made for us!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Zone conferences done! Our Anniversary..

Friday we completed all of our zone conferences.  As I said in the previous post--we have so grown to love this time with our missionaries.  They are spiritual, uplifting, and fun!  And to think we only get to have 4 a year!  So we have now done two, and we can see how you look forward to Zone Conferences each time.  Friday was our 34th wedding anniversary, and we celebrated it with the British Columbia zone in their conference.  This is our smallest zone, and theirs is held on its own rather than combining it with another zone like we do the others.  They are too far away from the other zones--so it gets its own conference.  And it was great.  After the conference we stayed to witness the baptism of Jen Jensen..and it was so sweet to see this gal be so excited to be baptized.  Unfortunately the water in the font was cold--so she had to endure that!  But she came out smiling and so joyful.  Following her baptism she shared some thoughts and she spoke about how she felt she had 'come home'.  It was so special.  We had 6 missionaries involved in the baptism--the two that taught her, Elders Rodriguez and Cervantes, two sisters that provided a beautiful musical number,  Sisters Brown and Halliday,  and then two that provided some remarks and a video while she was changing her clothes, Elders Smith and Thomas.  I was so proud of all of them as they each took part.  And I love how they all support each other, and are excited for each other.  They are all thrilled to see anyone enter the waters of baptism and change their lives.  Our missionaries are the best.
Following the baptism, we left Cranbrook, BC, at about 8:15 to drive home to Calgary, which is a 4 hour drive.  We hit a bit of icy roads and wind along the way, but made it back safely about 12:15 a.m.!  Late night!
Then on Saturday we were able to attend another incredible baptism of Hilary and Rob MacLachlin.
Hilary was introduced to the church in SLC by a man named Lynn Moore and his wife.  Hilary had gone down for a DoTerra convention and as she got off the plane Lynn asked her what she was doing the rest of the day and she told him she was just going to her hotel to relax until the convention began.  So he invited her to tour temple square with he and his wife.  While there, she felt the spirit strongly, and as she told us today, she wondered to herself, 'what are these feelings I'm feeling?  I feel warm, and tingly.'  She was given a Book of Mormon by the missionaries at temple square and Lynn Moore also put his testimony in it as well.  And then they parted ways.  Hilary came back to Calgary after the convention and just happened to be picking up her girls from school when they saw that another little girl needed a ride home.  This little girl's name was Cora Larsen, who is a member of the church.  While Hilary was driving her home, she asked Cora what she was doing over the weekend and Cora proceeded to tell her she was watching General Conference with her family.  To which Hilary responded, 'you're a Mormon?'  Cora of course said yes, and told her how she had been baptized and how much she loved the church.  Well, Hilary, at that point contacted Cora's mom and asked her to tell her all about her church.  Long story short, the MacLachlin family met the Larsen family, and then our missionaries, Elders Warenski and Roberts, began teaching them, and today both Hilary and Rob were baptized.  They have 5 beautiful children, and as soon as Rob receives the priesthood, he will baptize the 3 girls that are old enough.  It was an amazing baptism.  Right after Hilary was baptized, she stood in the font and just wept tears of joy.  It was so beautiful.  And then Rob was baptized--and it was all just so tender and emotional.  Dad was able to participate in their confirmations, and he said that Hilary just cried through the whole confirmation prayer.  It was really one of the sweetest things I have ever witnessed.  To see a whole family coming into the church.  To see them know that they are clean through baptism and have been forgiven because of the atonement of Jesus Christ, and then to know that they can be sealed together for eternity.  I wish you all could see the joy in their faces.  They are a beautiful family.
So, our anniversary wasn't how we would usually celebrate.  But to spend the weekend witnessing people change their lives, and seeing how this wonderful gospel has given them hope, and peace and joy they have never experienced was incredible.    It was a great anniversary!
Last week as we were in the south and BC, our average high temperature was 15!  But then we got back to Calgary and it had warmed up into the 30's.  When it is in the 30's we don't even feel like we need a coat!
Today, Sunday, we were able to attend the rededication services for the Montreal Quebec Temple at our Stake Center.  President Eyring presided and gave the dedicatory prayer for it.  Bishop Gerald Causse also spoke--he gave his remarks in French which was kind of neat.  I'm sure for many of our missionaries this was their first time to attend a temple dedication.

This is Elder and Sister Peppinger-our office couple from Utah.
We love them and appreciate all they do for our mission!

Zone conference lunch in Raymond- homage lasagne!

Sisters Lowe, Shields, Freeman and Tilley from our Cardston zone.

Sister Halliday and Elder Smith from our BC Zone.
We decided their floral skirt and tie matched!

Elders Rodriguez, Smith, Cervantes and Fox--from BC zone.

Sister Merkley, us and Sister Wagner--BC zone conference

The baptism we attended on our anniversary.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

First Christmas lights of the season!

The other night when we drove to our home we found these lights right outside our subdivision--our first Christmas lights of the season!
Got us excited for our first Christmas in Canada!

Zone conferences!

We are in the middle of zone conferences, and they have been so wonderful.  We have completed 4 of our 6.  We've done all the ones in Calgary, and we are now down south where we have done one with our Lethbridge East and Medicine Hat zones, and tomorrow we are with our Cardston, Raymond and Magrath zones, and then on Friday we will be in British Columbia with that zone.
We have discussed many things in these conferences, but the main theme Steve wanted to teach was for our missionaries to really know WHO they are...that they are disciples of Christ, who are given power and authority to preach his gospel, and that they are sons and daughters of a loving Heavenly
Father and they have such divine potential.  We have felt that as they come to really know this, deep in their hearts, that their desire to serve more effectively will grow, and that the things they look at as 'burdens' (like daily companion study, effective planning, etc.) will become easier for them because they will want to do it out of love for the Lord.  Not because they have to do it.  Each time he has taught this in our conferences there has been a great spirit there; and I can tell it has been something our missionaries have needed to hear.
We have also talked about the Christlike attribute of diligence, and the blessings that come from being diligent.  We've had role plays on How to Introduce the Book of Mormon, and how to teach using the missionary pamphlets. We have also had some fun with acknowledging birthdays, and we play a game where I come with questions out of Preach My Gospel, The White Handbook, and the Scriptures--and the first one to answer gets to choose out of the basket of candy.  It's really quite fun, and we always have a bonus last question.  This time it was, "How many grandsons do President and Sister Miles have?"  Today one elder, Elder Henry, guessed it right off the bat.  Then Steve threw out another bonus question, and said, "How many dates did it take for me to kiss Sister Miles?"  They about died when he asked it and they were throwing out responses like: 3rd! 4th!, and when he said, "First" they just laughed and couldn't believe it.  I was just a tad embarrased-- ha ha!
The best part of zone conferences though are the testimony meetings we hold at the end.  Each one of these have been so amazing.  The spirit has been so strong and yet tender as these elders and sisters share their testimonies of our Savior and how His atonement is changing them.  I love to listen to them share their feelings and testify of Christ.  I love watching them grow in their faith, and also to hear the joy they have as they watch other people's lives change as they accept the gospel.  To see a missionary more excited and worried about someone else's eternal future is quite a thing to witness.
It is such a joy to see the change in our missionaries as they go through the struggles and rigors of missionary life, and to see their testimonies deepen.  You can tell that as they turn their lives over to God He is molding them into something wonderful!  It is soooo amazing!  I just love it.
I wish I could adequately express how much we love these missionaries, and worry about them!
We feel so badly when they are struggling, yet we also know that it is through their struggles they grow.  It's when they have to dig deep that their relationship with Christ strengthens.  We love these missionaries and just want them to know that we know the ONLY way to have true happiness in your life is through the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We are so grateful to be part of this work.
Here are some pics from the various zone conferences!!
Sister Pipkin, Sister Jones, Elder Abunuwara

Love our elders!

Loved this pic of all of them in their white shirts standing together.

Our cute sisters!
Great looking bunch of elders!

Our new senior couple- Elder and Sister Sonntagg
They are going out to help in a tiny branch in Columbia Valley

Elder Lee enjoying dessert at zone conference

Elders with their mail!

Elder Bailey getting goodies to take home from zone conference-
was glad he took some veggies along with the desserts!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

All the Mission Presidents and wives

We received this photo this week from our Mission President's Seminar in Omaha.
There were 25 Presidents and wives there, along with our area medical adviser and his wife and then the
General Authorities on the front row--Elder Wilferd Andersen and his wife, Elder Craig Christensen and his wife, and Elder Martino and his wife.  

Monday, November 9, 2015

First Mission Presidents Seminar

This past week we attended our first Mission Presidents Seminar in Omaha, Nebraska.  It was fun to be back in the states!  25 Mission Presidents and their wives from the North America Central Region all gathered together along with Elder Craig Christensen, Elder James Martino and Elder Wilferd Andersen of the Seventy and their wives.  We all arrived on Thursday evening where we had dinner together and visited and met everyone.  Then on Friday morning we our seminar began at 8:30 a.m. where we were taught and instructed by our General Authorities.  We also were able to have a lot of group participation and interaction, which was so great, because we could learn from each other.  At noon we had lunch together and then we left on a tour of the Winter Quarters Cemetery and the Winter Quarters Visitors center.  This was really neat...Winter Quarters is where the Saints gathered after being forced out of Nauvoo.  They built very small log cabins to live in to get them through the winter.  They lived right by the banks of the Missouri river.   We were able to go in a replica of a log cabin- and they were tiny-but they kept them out of the elements.  There was about 9 miles of homes built in Winter Quarters.  The cemetery was a very sacred spot.  About 369 saints died while in Winter Quarters--so you really feel you are on hallowed ground.  In the Visitor center they have the actual headstone of one of the graves.  It was for a mom, Amy Sumner Porter and her two little boys.
It really made you stop to think about what these pioneers went through.  I thought about my girls with their little boys, and thought about what it would be like to lose them--I can't imagine it.
Following the visitors center tour we all were able to go on an endowment session in the Winter Quarters Temple.  That was really special to be in there with all of these wonderful people.  It was just a really special experience for us.  The temple was beautiful and you also felt the sacredness of its location- knowing that many Saints had lost their lives in this area as they were trying to go west to the Salt Lake Valley.
We loved what we were taught in our seminar...we talked so much about building the faith of our missionaries and helping them to gain a greater understanding of the Savior and His atonement and love for them.  If we can help their testimonies grow and become firmly planted in Christ then everything else will fall into place..obedience, hard work, baptisms, etc.  As they come to love the Savior then they will naturally want to do those things that please Him.
We are so grateful for this wonderful gospel and to be able to share our testimony with others about our Savior and His atonement.  We know He lives and loves each one of us and that He gave His life for each of us so that we might be able to live again as eternal families with our Heavenly Father.
We know that following Jesus Christ is the true way to happiness.  We love this gospel and are so grateful for the peace and guidance it gives us in our lives.
I believe winter has now come to Canada.  We woke up this morning to snow coming down and it has continued all day long.  We had to drive the two hours to Lethbridge tonight for a baptismal interview and the further south we got the more it stuck on the road.  It has stayed about 32 degrees all day and is  supposed to get down to 21 tonight (which is about -6 celsius).  I'm still trying to figure out the celsius stuff!
After attending a Zone training meeting tomorrow morning we will head back to Calgary to prepare for our upcoming zone conferences that begin on Thursday.  Never a dull moment on a mission!

Winter Quarters Temple

Bronze pioneer statue

This beautiful statue depicts a husband & wife who had to bury their baby-the cloak around them represents the love of the Savior for them

Dad coming out of the log house replica

The original grave marker of Amy Sumner Porter and her little boys

Painting depicting Winters Quarters

Me with Sister Gardiner of the Omaha Nebraska Mission- we knew  each other before our missions--we were in training together, so it was fun to see each other again!

The Canadians!  Us with President & Sister Manion of the Edmonton Mission, and President & Sister Craig of the Winnipeg Mission.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

We love our sisters, and first snow!

Sisters Anthian, Creech, and Kolodisi with President Miles after  Stake  Conference with Elder Rasband

Sisters Kolodisi, Creech, Anthian, Carter and Blaser after Stake Conference

Our first snowfall of the year!  Nov. 2, 2015

Sunday, November 1, 2015

More pictures of departing missionaries

Forgot to add these pictures!
Last picture of departing missionaries at the mission home!

One last crazy picture with them!

Arrivals, transfers, departures and an Apostle

This week has been an incredible week.  It was transfer week, so on Tuesday we welcomed 15 new missionaries from the MTC.  Eleven are ours to stay, and 4 are awaiting their visas to go to the U.S.
So, we picked them up from the airport  and got them through customs so quickly that we were loaded in the vans and trailer by about 1:30.  It is so fun to wait for them to come through the customs door--they look so excited and nervous and I love to be right there to greet them.  They are finally in the field--anxious to apply everything they learned from the MTC.  We take them to the church right by the mission home and put their luggage there--they keep just an overnight bag with them.  Then they walk over to the mission home where we have snacks and our office missionaries do training on apartments, vehicles, phones, and all that fun stuff.  Then our wonderful cook, Natasha Zandbergen, feeds them a great meal at 5:30.  They love this!  They are tired of MTC food, so they gobble it up.  This night we had all of the elders sleep at the mission home, and the two sisters slept at Pres. & Sister Stephen's home.
On Wednesday morning we have a more spiritual training for them, have lunch at the mission home and then walk over to the church where they meet their new, first companion/trainer!  This is always so exciting for them.  We have prayed and pondered over who these new trainers should be because they set such an example for the new missionaries.  They truly set the tone for their whole being asked to train is of great importance.  We know all of these trainers will do a great job teaching and helping these new missionaries their first 12 weeks.  There is actually a 12 Week Program they follow that is very inspired.  After they meet their new companions, we send them on their way!  We just always have a little prayer in our hearts that these new missionaries will overcome their nervousness, and anxieties, rely on their faith and be able to go to work and love it!
This transfer we planned differently in that we wanted it to be more special for our departing missionaries; so we arranged for them to come up one night early and then Steve arranged for them to be able to do a temple session at the Calgary Temple and afterwards have President Bennett, the temple president speak to them.  I can't even describe what a special time this was.  To be in the temple and watch each of these missionaries come walking in in their white clothing was so tender and touching.  I just had this immense feeling of love for each one of them.  It was such a special time for me and Steve.  Following the session, President Bennett took us into a sealing room where he spoke to us about the temple and the sacredness of it.  It was something I don't think any of us will forget.  He taught us about the powerful blessings that come from the temple endowment,  and just how significant they are.  It was so wonderful.  Afterwards, we were able to get a group picture outside the temple before going back to the mission home for a great dinner.  Following the dinner we have our 'departure fireside' at the church where a slideshow is presented and the missionaries are able to share their testimonies.  This is such an incredibly spiritual night.  To hear the sweet, but powerful testimonies of each of these missionaries always touches my heart.  Each one bore a strong testimony of their Savior, and of his atonement and love for them personally.  Each one speaks about how they have changed because of their missionary service.  That is exactly what we want to have happened on their missions--to have become truly converted themselves.  We just love each one, and wanted them to be solid in the gospel throughout their lives.  We know it is the way for true happiness.
 Following the fireside they come back to sleep at the mission home (so, yes, this is the 3rd night of having missionaries at the mission home--I have washed a lot of sheets and towels!)
The next morning we had a little impromptu devotional (which we are now going to make a tradition), where we all gathered in the living room and sang one last time as missionaries, "I Know that My Redeemer Lives".  There were some tears shed while we sang, and then Steve offered one last prayer with them, all kneeling, before we left for the airport.  It was such a sweet, sweet time.
Then we packed up and headed for the airport.  We checked them all in (except Sister Joseph, whose flight was later that afternoon) and hugged them all good-bye.  I hate that part.  I really dislike saying good-bye.  But, I just have to remember their families all waiting to welcome them home!
Then at 1:15 Sister Joseph and her companions came to the mission home where we repeated the same devotional from the morning.  These 3 cute sisters were so emotional they couldn't sing part of the hymn--and neither could I!  The sisters really grow to love each other.  We then took her to the airport and sent her on her way--all the way to New Zealand!  Again, another emotional good-bye!
So, transfer week was complete!
On Friday night we both spoke at the Foothills Stake  High Priest social.  It was fun to meet the members of that stake.  We will be speaking at their stake conference in two weeks.  Then on Saturday we got up and headed to Cardston to meet with President Lowe of the Cardston West Stake to discuss missionary work, and after that we drove to Lethbridge for the Lethbridge West Stake Conference where Elder Rasband, our newly called apostle, was visiting.
This stake conference was so wonderful.  It was Elder Rasband's first assignment to a Stake Conference since his call as an apostle.  He had very tender feelings about it, and we felt so blessed to be there with him.  On Sunday morning he held a special meeting for our missionaries that serve in that stake, the bishops, and ward mission leaders.  It was so awesome to have our missionaries sitting at the feet of an apostle.  They were all in awe.  He taught us about the importance and sacredness of the Sabbath Day and to use the Sabbath day in our finding people.
In the general session at 10:00 both Steve and I spoke, along with Pres. and Sister Hardy who have just begun their service as the new temple president and matron of the Cardston temple.  Then Elder Rhodes of the Seventy (who accompanied Elder Rasband) spoke, and then Elder Rasband.  And the music at the session was so beautiful.  Elder Rasband shared with us how he received his call as an apostle, and some of the feelings he has had.  He also spoke to us about learning from the Savior and how He ministers--and that He always did it one by one.  He also spoke to us about what we do within our families, and quoted some of our past prophets, like Pres. McKay, who said, "No success can compensate for failure in the home."  And President Lee, who said, "The greatest work you will ever do will be within the walls of your own home."  He also reminded us that President Monson told us our families should be a refuge of peace and safety.  It was such great counsel for us to always remember, and to remember that the gospel is here to bless families...eternal families!
We were so grateful to have had this experience!
After the conference we had to drive to the town of Taber, about 40 minutes away, for Steve to do two
baptismal candidate interviews.  After those were done, we left about 2:30 to drive back home.
It has been a very busy, spiritual, wonderful week!
Our newly arriving missionaries-straight from the MTC!

President & Sister Stephen--Steve's 2nd counselor and wife
Great looking elders of ours!  transfer Day!
Picture at the Calgary Temple with our departing missionaries.  
Some of our departing elders singing at the mission home. Elders Pincock, Heuer, Olsen and Law.
Sister and Elder Birch-- our office couple who are going home.  We  love and will miss them!

Some of our cute sisters on transfer day!

More of our cute sisters on transfer day! Notice Steve in the background!