Tuesday, February 23, 2016

A tender weekend for us...

Saturday evening we participated in the Calgary West Stake Conference which was an amazing conference.  Steve and President Steele conducted a discussion in the Priesthood leadership meeting, and then Steve and I both spoke in the evening session.  There was just such a great spirit there--they had invited a new young single adult convert to speak and share her story, and then a gentleman who had been less active for over 20 years share his story about coming back into full activity.  It is always so touching to hear these stories.  Following stake conference we rushed to go to the Spanish ward in Calgary to be in their meeting with our Spanish missionaries.  This was so fun--the Latino people have such a bright countenance and are so happy!  Bishop Gonzalez asked Steve to share his testimony, so Steve had Elder Fitzgerald come up and translate for him.  It was great.  After that meeting we had a meeting with Bishop Gonzalez, President Dudley and our missionaries to discuss the work in the Spanish ward.  It was a great meeting.  Bishop Gonzalez is so humble and so excited about sharing the gospel--he was so genuine and kind.  We really feel as we work closely with the priesthood leaders in the work that miracles will happen.
Earlier in the week we had received word that Steve's dad was not doing well and they thought the end might be near for him.  We knew when we left on our mission that there was a real possibility we could lose Dad Miles while we were gone.  It was difficult to face the fact that it was now really happening.  As we said our prayers, we prayed that Dad wouldn't have to hang on longer than is needful.  It was time for him to leave the body and mind that he had been trapped in for almost 4 years.  Early Sunday morning we received the phone call that Dad had passed away.  We shed a lot of tears and tried to compose ourselves to go attend the stake conference and other meetings we needed to be at.  Even though we have a testimony of the plan of salvation, and we know where Dad is, it is still difficult to say good-bye.  But Steve was blessed with a beautiful spiritual experience to know that his dad now knew exactly what he was doing, and would be able to share in this mission experience with him.  So, our hearts have been very tender as we remember this wonderful man who has blessed our lives.  It is especially difficult for Steve as he can't come home for the funeral--he will really miss not being able to participate in all of the funeral events, as he knows these can be some of the most spiritual times ever.  We are so grateful for Dad and for his life of integrity, honesty, and love.  His family was definitely his top priority, and he led by quiet example.  Although he wasn't a scriptorian, and never preached the gospel in word, he lived it--which is perhaps even more important.  We are so grateful that our children grew up knowing their Grandpa Miles and having so many fun experiences with him.  He holds such a special place in their hearts.  He has left a wonderful legacy to follow.
This week we are preparing for transfers next week.  Today, we drove to Lethbridge and attended two different District training meetings..one in Raymond, conducted by Elder Stringam, and the other in Lethbridge conducted by Elder McNeil.  We were so happy to be in both meetings and feel the spirit in both and watch these districts share thoughts and ideas on the different training topics.  We are so proud of our missionaries.  They are really trying to be the best missionaries they can by strengthening their faith, being obedient and working hard.  We know they will be blessed for their efforts.  We have seen some shy missionaries really start to grow and blossom and it is just amazing.
We love being with them.  Many times I am asked by missionaries, 'what is your favorite part of the mission?'  And I always tell them, 'Being with you missionaries!'.  We love to be with them in any setting.  We are so blessed to be serving with them--and very humbled at trying to lead them.  We pray constantly to be guided as to what the Lord would have us do for them.
View of Calgary from the Spanish Ward

Our Magrath district after district meeting

Dad Miles-a classic picture of him with his hat tipped slightly to the side, and no smile.
We will miss him dearly.

Sisters dinner

Friday night we had a special dinner for 19 sisters in our mission.  One of the sisters, Sister Layton, who is scheduled to go home in 2 weeks, fell on P-day and fractured her humerus bone right above the elbow, which required extensive surgery late Monday night.  They had to put in a plate and pins to repair it.  So, because of this, she needed to go home Saturday because her recovery will be quite difficult.  We are so sad to lose her early and so sad for her that she had to end her mission this way.  She has been a phenomenal missionary and we just love her.  She was devastated that she couldn't stay and go home with the group of sister missionaries she came out with.  So, we decided to have them all come to the mission home for dinner and to say good-bye to her.  All 9 of them came with their companions.  It was so fun to see them all together!  We are losing some wonderful sisters these next 2 weeks!  During dinner we had the sisters that will be leaving soon share their words of wisdom with the ones that are staying.  I was so touched by what they shared, and the advice they gave--things like: always be grateful, I'm the most happy when I'm grateful...remember who you are, that you are a daughter of Heavenly Father...when I'm discouraged I naturally want to clam up and not do anything, but I've learned to go get busy and do the work, and then I feel good again, because doing the work brings the spirit...never leave a lesson or home without testifying of the Savior...and the list went on.  I was so impressed by their words of wisdom and faith.  They are incredible sisters.
We will miss them so much!
Look at these cute sisters we lose on March 4!

Our 'sister's dinner'!  It was so fun.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Interviews complete!

Tomorrow will make our last day of interviews with our missionaries.  It has taken 3 weeks to complete them all.  This is really such a great opportunity to have personal time with them.  As the missionaries have been in their interviews with Steve I get to chat with their companion as they wait. I've been asking them all how they have enjoyed our Book of Mormon reading that we began on Christmas day.  It has been such a positive, faith building experience for our missionaries.  They all comment about what they have learned, and how they have come to see even more clearly how the Book of Mormon testifies of Jesus Christ. They have really loved circling all the references of the Savior.  It has also been fun for them to think that the whole mission is in about the same place in the book--it has been a unifying experience for our mission.
These missionaries are so wonderful.  Each day as we complete the interviews we just comment to each other about how great they are.  They are trying so hard--and sometimes this work can be discouraging--yet they are giving it their all.  We are so proud of them.  They are learning things they would never learn anywhere else but on a mission.  They have come to rely on the Savior and trust in Him as never before.  They learn how to get along with a companion they have never met and know nothing about.  So, they all learn patience and forgiveness and kindness and love in order to do this.
They learn how to love people in a way they never imagined.  So many of them comment on this--that it is one of the best things about their mission--learning to love complete strangers.  And the thing they love the most is watching people's lives change as they accept the gospel and learn more of Christ and His atonement and what it means for them.  They all, also recognize, how their lives change as they come closer to the Savior.  It is such a joy to watch them grow in their discipleship.
We had a fun experience on Tuesday night.  We had about 22 youth from the Spanish branch come to the mission home to learn about what it is like to be a missionary.  We had two of our Spanish speaking elders come, too, to talk to them about it.  We took the youth on a little tour of the mission home and showed them the big table where the missionaries have their first meal.  Steve then showed them the transfer board, so they could see where all the missionaries are and how a mission is set up.
Then our missionaries walked them through the day in the life of a missionary.  Then we opened it up for a question and answer period.  These kids had a lot of questions..it was really fun to see their enthusiasm.  After that the elders taught them (in Spanish) the lesson on the Restoration and gave each of them a pamphlet.  They invited them to read it and also to read the Book of Mormon.  It was such a great night.  These youth just had a light in their eyes, and they were so fun.  They are all fluent in English, and so they speak that with each other, but most of their parents speak mainly Spanish--so when they are in church they all speak Spanish with their parents. Once we were done we had some yummy donuts--which they loved!  It was a great night!
The youth singing "Called to Serve"

Good looking future missionaries!

Elders Nuttall & McLaren teaching the youth

All the youth from the Spanish branch (& their leaders)

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


Last week and this week we are conducting interviews with our missionaries.  We did 3 zones last week up in Calgary and this week we began in Medicine Hat and are now in Lethbridge, and then we will travel to Cardston and then British Columbia.  We will get home late Sunday.  Then we will finish interviewing the rest of the Calgary Zones next week.  It takes 3 weeks to complete them all!
But it is a great time--especially for Steve to have the one on one time with each missionary.  While he is interviewing each missionary I sit out with the others and this time I have introduced an 'Exercise Challenge' for our missionaries.  I have found that many of our missionaries don't exercise-some because they don't know what to do, some because they have gotten out of the habit, etc.  I have also had quite a few with lower back problems, and once I have them begin doing some lower back exercises and some stretches it usually resolves itself.  So, I typed up quite a few exercise routines for them to do in their apartments, and I gave them each a calendar to mark through the end of March.  We are challenging them to do 5 days a week (a lot already do that, which is great!).  At the end of March they will turn in their calendars to get a certificate if they did it!  I just want to promote healthy lifestyle habits...but not to become obsessed with it.  Most of them were quite excited about it!
Last Friday night we were able to go to the Calgary Tower and see the view from the top of it.  It was fun to do--at the top you can look out in every direction and see for miles!  There is also one small part where you stand that is clear 'plexi-glass' so you look down under your feet.  At first I couldn't step out onto it, because it really made me a little freaked out (ha ha), but I finally did.  You can eat at the restaurant at the top there, but we opted for another steakhouse at the bottom because we weren't thrilled with the menu at the top one!  But it was a fun Friday night date.
We also held our monthly MLC meeting last Wednesday in Lethbridge, and we had such a great meeting.  There was a great spirit there all day as we discussed the needs of our mission with these zone leaders and sister trainer leaders.  We rolled out our February training plan, which was centered on the January Worldwide Missionary Broadcast we had.  What better thing could we teach and train on all month than the instruction we received from our apostles and General Authorities?
On Tuesday following our interviews in Medicine Hat, we decided to order Chinese Food for that zone (it is a smaller zone) and eat together which was really fun.  Then we attended their Zone Training meeting that the Zone Leaders (Elder Nawahine and Pugh had conducted) .  It was a great meeting--they led a discussion from the remarks from Elder Oaks and Elder Andersen from the missionary broadcast, and all the missionaries shared thoughts from the notes they had taken.  Afterwards we did role-plays on teaching the principle of repentance.  We were able to role-play with Sisters Widgren and Lowe, and they did a great job teaching us on repentance.  I'm not sure how well we did teaching them?  Actually, I think we did pretty well considering we hadn't practiced at all.  It was really fun to teach about the beautiful gift of repentance and how it blesses our lives.  Later that night we were in a Stake Training Meeting with the Medicine Hat Stake President, President Salmon, along with all the bishops, ward mission leaders and Relief Society Presidents, to discuss member missionary work.  It was a great meeting and we were able to share some thoughts about what our missionaries can do to support the Stake's vision in missionary work.  We are so grateful to be able to work with these priesthood leaders, and are grateful for the unity we feel with them.  It is exciting to see the missionary work moving forward as everyone works together.
So, it has been a great week and a half, and we are looking forward to the rest of our interviews!
Looking at the tower from the ground level!

Standing on the see-through floor!

Views from the top

You can see the Saddledome in the background.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Transfer week and a real chinook!

This past week was transfer week--which is always exciting as we welcome in new missionaries, and then it is sad as we say good bye to the others.  We received 14 new missionaries--4 of them are visa waiters who are waiting to get into their regular missions in the states.  It usually takes one transfer for their visas to arrive-but right now we still have our 4 from the last transfer, so we now have 8 visa waiters.  But, we treat them like our own and will keep them as long as we can!  They all usually end up having a great experience here.
So, on Tuesday our missionaries arrived about 2:00 and they were out of customs by 3:00, which is the earliest ever!  We had them back to the mission home for training by 4:00, which was great.  I get so excited to see these new missionaries walk through those doors at the airport!   They always looks so excited, yet tired from getting up at 2:00 in the morning!
Our wonderful cook, Natasha, made them a fabulous meal that evening, after which we went back downstairs in the mission home for more training, while Steve completed interviewing them all.  When we were finished we sent the 3 sisters home with Elder and Sister Sefcik, and the elders stayed here.  We have 18 pads here at the mission home for missionaries to sleep on--so the elders pull those out, throw on sheets, and down they go!  We always try to get them to bed early because they are so tired.  Wednesday morning we have 3 more hours of training with them, then a sandwich lunch, and then their companions come to meet them.  This is always so fun to see them meet their new trainers!
Once they have met, we talk to them all together for just a few minutes and then send them off to their areas!  They are soooo excited to finally be going into 'the field'!
Later Wednesday evening Steve begins interviewing the departing missionaries.  So, while he was busy with that, I was on the phone with a missionary who had been having headaches and dizziness.  I called two different doctors that we use a lot here in our mission, and after much discussion (because this elder was being transferred out of Calgary the next day), they told us to take him to the ER for evaluation.  So, we had his zone leaders take him to the hospital and we met them there.  We got there about 9:30 p.m.  After the doctor examined him, and consulted with a neurologist, they were pretty sure it was all migraine related, so they discharged him.  This doctor came in and told us he wasn't going to charge us-when he found out we were missionaries!  He said, 'just go give to a charity and that is good enough for me.  You do good work.'  What a nice person!  So, we left the hospital at a 12:20 a.m. and took this elder and his companion back to their apartment.  Steve and I climbed back into bed about 1:20 a.m.!
On Thursday we had our regular transfer day, but following the new guidelines we were given, and it all went quite smoothly.  We really liked it being simpler, and most of the missionaries did too.  Once transfers were done we took our 8 departing missionaries to the Calgary Temple.  This is always such a sweet experience.  I love seeing them dressed in their temple clothing.  I know this is a tender time for them as they contemplate going home and what all that will involve.  Following our temple session we were able to have President and Sister Guenther (2nd counselor in the temple presidency) come speak to our missionaries in a sealing room.  He gave them such great counsel--about keeping the 'fire of the covenant' burning brightly within them.  He reminded them of how their temple covenants bless them with power to do all that they need to in life.  It was really a wonderful time with them.
Following the temple, we came back to the mission home for a delicious dinner.  It was so fun to just sit and visit with these missionaries and enjoy them on this their last night.  After dinner we went downstairs and held our own testimony meeting with them.  This was our first time to be able to do it this way, and we loved it.  To just have them to ourselves and listen to their testimonies is so touching.  We love hearing them share what they have learned and how their faith has grown, and how much they love the Savior.  You feel good sending them home when they have grown in the gospel as they have.  We always counsel them to go home and be a 'light that shines in the darkness'.
We just love them!  Once our testimony meeting is over, we weigh their bags and they get their customs declarations forms filled out and they go to bed.  I don't really know if they sleep too much, though!
Then on Friday morning we sing one last time together, 'I Know that my Redeemer Lives' and we kneel together and Steve offers one last prayer with them.  The spirit is always so strong, and I am always very teary-eyed.   We then get to hug them all--yes, I get to hug the elders at this point!  I don't ever hug them until this last morning, and then I give them all a big hug good-bye.  It is always so hard for me to do this!  Then off to the airport we go.  Another transfer complete.
Friday night we were able to spend some time with Elder and Sister Spackman, our Area Seventy here in Calgary.  They served as mission president and wife in New York about 15 years ago--so they are a great sounding board for us.  We love them.
Saturday evening we attended the Confederation Park Stake Conference where Steve spoke in the priesthood leadership meeting at 4:00 and we both spoke in the Saturday Evening session.  This conference Elder Evanson, the Area Seventy from Lethbridge was the visiting authority, so it was nice to be with he and his wife again.  An 18 year old gal named Shanice who was just baptized on Friday night was one of the speakers on Saturday evening.  She was so excited about her baptism, and so excited to be a member of the church!  Her enthusiasm was just so great!  Her whole life has been changed...and it was so neat to listen to her.  When we have grown up in the church, we sometimes take for granted how it feels to be a member.  I have loved seeing these new converts and feeling of their excitement and gratitude for having found the gospel. It's what it is all about!
The past week we have had a real chinook here in Calgary--which means the warm air comes in and thaws everything.  There were a couple of days when it got up to almost 48 Fahrenheit!  Crazy!  But we loved it.  You get this taste of spring--but we know the cold will be coming back.  We think on the average, Calgary is about 10-12 degrees colder than in Sandy, Utah.  But, we have not had nearly the snow as we hear they are having down there.
We can't believe it is Feb. 1.  We have now been on our mission for 7 months.  Time has flown by.
This is great work to be involved with 24/7.  There is nothing like getting up and just focusing on nothing but our missionaries and missionary work.  We pray constantly for guidance because it is so overwhelming sometimes.  We feel like we are on a treadmill that never stops--and sometimes it goes pretty fast!  But we love it.  We love seeing our missionaries grow in their testimonies.  We love it when we see them experience miracles they have been praying for.  We love it when they come to know that as they are more obedient the Lord blesses them abundantly.
We know this is the Lord's work and He will bless and guide us in it.  We are so grateful for our Savior and for His love.
Our new missionaries at the airport.  1/28/16

The trainers waiting to meet their new companions.

The new missionaries waiting to meet their trainers.

Sisters Palmer & Kendrick getting to drive the newest car to transfers!

Loading up the trailer at transfers!

At the Calgary Temple with our departing missionaries.

Dinner for the new missionaries!

Our wonderful cook Natasha!

Sisters Milius & Shields with Shanice (newly baptized) and us.