Sunday, January 24, 2016

Great week at home!

This week we were home all week!  After the last two weeks traveling it felt good.  We were busy, but it was good to be home, (and to catch up on laundry, etc.)  This is the week before transfers so Steve spent quite a bit of time working on that.  We also have a long meeting with our office senior couples to go over what will happen on transfer week--getting everything squared away for new missionaries coming in and those departing.  This transfer will be done differently than those in the past.  Over the Christmas holidays Steve and I received some video training (as well as all the mission presidents worldwide) and they want us to do away with any formal 'transfer meetings'.  We were so happy with this directive.  So, now, our missionaries will know beforehand who their new companion will be, where they are going, and they will basically just meet at either the church in Calgary, or in Lethbridge to pick up their new companion and head to their area. It will be much more simple, and we are so happy about that!  We were also directed in our video training to do away with 'departure firesides'.  We were also happy about that.  No longer will we go to the church after our dinner with the departing missionaries and hold a fireside (that many people came to)and testimony meeting.  Instead, we will still go to the temple with our departing group, have a nice dinner at the mission home, and then hold our own intimate testimony meeting at the mission home.  We are really happy about this.  We are excited about these new changes.
On Wednesday we had a special world wide Missionary Broadcast that we watched live from Salt Lake City.  They told us they hadn't done this in a decade--so it was really a great experience.  We were taught by Elder Neil A. Andersen, Elder David A. Bednar, Elder Brent Nielson, Bishop W.Christopher Waddell, Elder L. Whitney Clayton, and Sister Bonnie Oscarson.  We learned a lot about teaching by the spirit, and also teaching repentance and baptizing converts. We were also reminded that inviting people to act and keep commitments, like reading the Book of Mormon, or praying, or coming to sacrament meeting helps them to exercise their faith and grow in their testimony. We were also instructed on the importance of working with the members, and they showed us a statistic that showed how much higher our baptism percentages are when we find people to teach through our members.  We were told that if we are ever unsure what to say, to testify of the Savior.  I have found that to be true.  There is always such a wonderful spirit when we speak of Christ.  It was a great broadcast and we all learned so much.  We are so grateful to be led by apostles of of the Lord.
After this broadcast Steve and I were able to teach a lesson to a little gal named Cach, that I had met in Nordstrom when I was buying Steve some ties--clear back before Christmas.  She saw my nametag, and asked me about what it meant.  She told me she was looking for a church.  She and I talked for quite awhile, and she told me how she suffers from some anxiety, and how every morning she goes into a dressing room and prays.  And after she prays she feels better.  So, I asked her if she knew why that happened, and told her that it is because God, who she prays to, is her loving Heavenly Father, and wants to help her and bless her...that he really hears her prayers and answers them.  I was even able to share with her what Christ suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane, and the He knows how she feels, that is why He can help her.  Anyway, she was quite interested, and I gave her a pass along card with my name and phone number on it, and told her to call me if she would like.  She texted me awhile later asking if we could get together and talk.  I was so excited!  So, we set a time, but then she cancelled.  So, we have been texting back and forth, and I have been praying that we could get together.  So, that night before the broadcast I got a text from her wondering if we could get together the next day.  So, it was a great experience for Steve and I to teach her.  We invited her to come to church--but don't know if she will do it.  We also gave her a Book of Mormon and asked her to read the introduction in it.  I have been praying that she would pick it up and read it, and that the spirit would touch her.  Now I know exactly how my missionaries feel with their investigators!!
This past week we were able to take Sisters Kolkova and Merritt to the temple prior to Sister Kolkova going home next week.  Her visa expires earlier than our other missionaries, so she will miss the temple day on Thursday with them, so we wanted her to be able to go with us.  So we took them to the Calgary Temple and did an endowment session with them, which was really special, and then took them for a bite of lunch.
On Friday we had our training meeting for our missionaries that will be new trainers for the new missionaries coming from the MTC.  We held this meeting at the mission home, since the numbers were a bit smaller.  It was really nice to do it in our training room downstairs.  Some of our missionaries we are finding, have never been in the mission home.  One sister when she came in remarked that 'there is such a strong spirit here'.  And I have to say, there is a beautiful spirit in the mission home.  We are trying to hold more of our training meetings here, if our numbers aren't too large.  We had a great meeting with this new group--the spirit was really strong, and we feel they are all excited and ready to train.  After the meeting we had a hotdog lunch, which they loved!  We kind of decided late Thursday night that we should just feed them lunch after the meeting, and at first I wanted to order a sandwich tray--but it was too late to do that; so hotdogs came to mind!  I think it's because Steve has been craving a hotdog from Weinerschnitzel!  So, I bought 40 hotdogs and buns and threw them in a roaster pan to cook while we had our meeting.  It was a fun lunch together and we were glad we did it.  We just love these missionaries.  We love seeing them grow in the gospel and in their faith.  We feel badly when they struggle with their own self worth, and confidence and when they wonder if they are doing any good.  We always pray for guidance in how to help them.  Steve is so good with them.  He is so patient and kind.  And I can see how he is guided by the spirit as to what to say and what scriptures to read with them.  I have really seen the 'mantle of a mission president'
fall upon him.  He is the best.  We love serving together.  Our love for each other has grown deeper and deeper.  It's hard to describe what it is like to really only have each other to depend upon.  We have truly become each other's companion, and have become united as never before.  If anyone that is older is reading this that is married--if you want your love for each other to grow,  just go on a mission together!!  It is the best.
We were able to attend the baptism of Sarah Milne on Friday night.  We met her with the sisters that were teaching her back in December, and they were hopeful she would accept baptism.  It was such a special night to see her enter the waters of baptism.  You really can't describe how special a convert baptism is.  To see someone come to feel the spirit for the first time ever, and see them make changes in their lives and come closer to Christ.  It is such an amazing thing.  It's what this is all about.
On Saturday early evening we finally had a date night and went to one of our favorite places, The Keg--only because it has my favorite cheesy garlic bread.  Then we came home and tried to watch 'Planet Earth' but we both kept falling asleep!  I guess we have been a bit worn out.  So, we called it a night and went to bed!  (But only after a big bowl of buttery popcorn which has become a favorite treat we have on the weekends when we can!)
We are looking forward to next week and transfers!
At the temple with Sister Kolkova

Hotdog lunch at the mission home

Sister Creech, Sarah, Sister McDonald

Monday, January 18, 2016

Another travel & training week!

Last week was another travel week, but this time we went southeast to Medicine Hat which is about 3 hours from Calgary.  On the way there (Sunday), we stopped by our Rosemary/Brooks elders to do a district leader training at their apartment.  We met with Elder Walker, who is the district leader and his companion, Elder Manarri.  We love them both.  They are total opposites--Elder Walker is thin and blonde, and Elder Manarri is a big French Polynesian.  But they are working well together and we are so proud of them and all they are doing.  We left their place about 8:30 p.m. and got to Medicine Hat about 10:30 and checked into our hotel.  The next morning Steve read letters and then had a meeting with President Salmon, the stake president there.  We spent the afternoon working on different things, and then we went out teaching with the missionaries.  Steve went with the zone leaders, and I went with Sisters Gleason and Calder.  I really enjoy going out teaching with the sisters, and I learn so much from them.  They had planned and prepared, and yet they also followed the spirit and knew just what scriptures might touch the women they were teaching.  It was really a great night, and Steve also had a great night going out with the elders.  He said they gave wonderful lessons in their two appointments.  It is just amazing to watch these young 18-20 year old missionaries teach with such power.  They alone are a testimony of this great work.
The next day we attended a district meeting in Medicine Hat, which was planned and conducted by Elder Henry, and he did a great job.  The zone leaders had come up with some friendly competition within the zone for different aspects of missionary work--and they had made a 'Standards of Excellence' flag and whoever won the competition got to hang on to the flag until the next week.  This particular week, the sisters in the zone won the competition--they were pretty excited about it.  So, now all the elders were really pumped to win it back--this week their competition was to see how many referrals they could get.  It will be fun to see who wins.  After that meeting was over we headed to Lethbridge, but on the way stopped by two different missionary apartments in Taber to say Hi and see how their apartments looked--to see if their smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors were working. It is always good to see our  missionaries along the way.  
On Wednesday and Thursday nights we had training meetings with the Stake Presidents, Stake Councils, bishops, and ward mission leaders in the Lethbridge Stake, and the Cardston Stake.  On Wednesday before the meeting, President and Sister MacLennan invited us for dinner.  And wow, she is a gourmet cook!  She fed us this absolutely delicious 5 course meal--it was so yummy!  We enjoyed every bite.  They are such a nice couple, and we feel like we could be lifelong friends.  We have really loved the relationships we have made here with Stake Presidents and their wives and with our Area Seventies and their wives.  We look forward to the times we are able to spend with them.
Both of our Stake Training meetings went really well--we had great discussions on Member Missionary Work, and how our missionaries and the wards can work more unitedly together to bring souls unto Christ.  We know as we partner together we can find success.
After our meeting in Cardston we drove back to Calgary--in a big snow storm.  The roads were icy and it got quite foggy--so it was rough going some of the way, but we made it back by midnight safe and sound.   
Friday morning we had a retrainers meeting with our new missionaries and their trainers--but we had called all of the ones that were supposed to come up from the south and told them not to drive up on the bad roads.  So, we had about half of the missionaries there, but it was a great meeting--to just see how they are doing, and how their 12 week course is coming along.  Then on Saturday  we had conference calls with all the ones who couldn't drive up--and it was actually really fun.  We patched in 2-3 companionships on each call and did an hour 'retraining' with them.  We decided that this could be a great way to be in touch with certain groups of our missionaries more often.  We just love these missionaries--it is so fun to see the new ones 'grow' in the work, and to see what they have learned in 4 short weeks.  
On Saturday over in the Columbia River Valley in the Fairmont Branch was a wonderful baptism of Amanda and Sean Ryan.  This was a couple we had met clear back in July, who were being taught by the sisters, and they wanted to get baptized but were waiting for her divorce to become final so they could get married and then get baptized.  Well, miraculously her divorce was finalized in December and they immediately had the branch president marry them.  Then they set their baptismal date for Jan.   Sean was baptized on Saturday, and then he was able to baptize Amanda on Sunday.  We weren't able to attend because we had to be at a Stake Conference, but we were sent some pictures.  We were so excited for them.  They have been waiting a long time for this day.  It is so special to see someone come into the gospel, and to see how their lives have changed, and what they have given up to follow the Savior--and yet they are so happy to do it, and feel so blessed.  That's what this work is all about.

Sean, Cody, Amanda, Sister Holzer, Cody's twin sister before the baptism

The BC missionaries at Sean & Amanda's baptism

The Medicine Hat District-the Sisters 'won' the flag!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Holidays over, New Year Here!

P-day basketball with our BC zone

Elders Todd, Hopoi, Steve, Cervantes, Thomas

Me with Sisters Jakobi, Merkley, Wagner & Brown

Elders Hopoi and Cervantes waving our new Standards of Excellence!

One of the passes we drove through to BC
Well, the holidays have come and gone, and the New Year is here!  We really enjoyed our first Christmas season here in our mission!  We especially loved that some of our children were able to come up and share in our mission with us.  Brad and Katy and little Sam and Drew arrived late on Dec. 30--we didn't get back to the mission home with them until about midnight!  We spent Thursday just being with them and the little boys--we took them up to the Bass Pro Shop store, which is huge and full of all kinds of animal 'mounts'.  In one area there were about a dozen caribou--and did Sam and Drew ever love seeing these reindeer!  This was New Year's Eve, so we invited the zone closest to our home to come have sandwiches with us and meet our kids.  It was really fun to have our missionaries come and see them; and it was fun for our kids to meet our missionaries.
Then on Friday we took them into Banff to spend the night and go on a sleigh ride around Lake Louise and then a dog sled run.  The little boys loved the dog sled run the most...even though the weather was very cold!  It was about -13 celsius, which is about 8 degrees fahrenheit!  We had dressed as warm as possible, so we did pretty good!  It was difficult to kiss those little boys and Katy and Brad good-bye on Sunday.
Oh, and right as the kids were packing up Sam and I opened the door so I could go show him the 'secret' bathroom (which is the second bathroom downstairs which was added on for missionaries), and there was water all over the floor.  We came to realize that all of our pipes were backed up and water was coming up through the drain there.  So, we had to turn off all the water and call our physical facilities manager to get the help we needed..especially because we were leaving that afternoon to head to British Columbia to meet missionaries, bishops, and ward mission leaders.  So, we left the home in a mess and got the kids to the airport, then we left for BC.
First we went to Lethbridge to meet missionaries there, then on to Pincher Creek to meet a district leader there and do a little training with him.  We stayed the night in Pincher Creek and then Monday we drove to Cranbrook where we had our first P-day basketball game with the missionaries there!  Neither Steve or I twisted an ankle or anything during the games!  We also played 'chair soccer'--which was another first for us.  If I felt inadequate in basketball, it was much worse during soccer, ha ha!  But it was fun.  Later that evening we went out teaching with our two zone leaders and had a wonderful lesson with them.  I love seeing our missionaries teach and share their is so inspiring.
On Tuesday morning we attended their Zone Training meeting, which was incredible.  They introduced our new 'Standards of Excellence' (which we had previously developed with our MLC over the last couple of months).  We are so excited about our Standards of Excellence.  We feel that as our missionaries focus on these standards we will see true success in our mission.   The highlight of the zone training meeting was when our new zone leader, Elder Hopoi, closed with his testimony. It was so touching and tender.  I think every person there was in tears..the spirit was very strong and it was the perfect ending to a wonderful meeting.
Following that meeting we drove to Creston, which was our first time getting to this area, to meet our district leader there and do some training with he and his companion.  They are working hard and turning things around in that area.  They have developed great relationships with the members and it is paying off.  We were invited to have dinner at the ward mission leader's home, and he was so excited to be working with these missionaries.  We then were able to teach a lesson with this companionship to an older couple, Larry and Charlotte, who were just a delight.  Again, it was so wonderful to watch these missionaries teach.  They had practiced and prepared and taught a great lesson and brought the spirit with them.  I was so proud of them.  It was so neat to see how this couple was touched by many of the things the missionaries taught.
The next morning we had a training meeting with this companionship and following that we left to drive to Trail and Castlegar (also areas we hadn't been to yet).  We have a set of elders serving there, and to get there you go through absolutely gorgeous country, but the mountain passes can be a bit scary in the winter.  But we arrived safely and took these two elders to lunch in Castlegar.  They are so far away from everyone else in our mission that we decided they deserved a lunch!  They are hardworking elders and we know it can be hard to be so far away that you don't even see your zone very often.  Following lunch we went to their apartment and did some weekly planning with them, then we went to the church and had a meeting  with the bishop of the ward they serve in.  After that we were supposed to go out teaching with them, but their appointment fell through, so we checked into our hotel room to catch up on letters, and medical things and  phone calls.
It has been a busy week, and tomorrow we will drive back to Calgary (about an 8 hour drive with the winter conditions) so we can be ready for a District Leader training on Friday morning, and then an office staff meeting on Friday afternoon.  We are welcoming in the New Year with a bang!
We are excited for this New Year and all that it will bring.  We pray that our missionaries will develop greater faith in Jesus Christ and have a strong desire to work hard and find those who are prepared to hear the gospel.  We love them and want them to find joy in this great work.
Steve with Sam before the dog sled ride

Me and Sam ready to go in our dog sled

Drewbie loved the dogs
Katy & Brad and Sam & Drew at the teepee for a snack