Sunday, November 1, 2015

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!

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