Sunday, March 27, 2016

Zone conferences done-into Interviews!

Well, we finished up our Zone Conferences this past week down with all of our southern zones, and just as before, they were wonderful.  There was such a great spirit in each one, and we just feel the desire of these missionaries to find people to bring closer to Christ.  Missionary work is hard work, and it can get discouraging--yet these missionaries all seem happy and enthusiastic.  As always, the testimonies at the end of the meetings are the highlight.  I wish everyone could be there to listen to these 'disciples of Christ' share their testimonies about the Savior.  It is so inspiring.
Following our last zone conference in British Columbia we began interviews (yes, the same day!) with our missionaries from Trail, Creston, Sparwood, and Jaffrey.  They live the farthest from Cranbrook where we held our conference, and we didn't want them to have to travel back for interviews later on--so we did theirs that same day.  Then we completed the rest of the zone (which is only 4 more) on Saturday morning.
On Friday, we held a mission wide fast and prayed unitedly that hearts would be softened and that we could find more families and others to teach and baptize.  Now we will go forward exercising our faith to find those the Lord has prepared.
We drove home from BC on Friday so we could be ready for another round of interviews on Saturday with the Calgary Zone.
Today, Easter Sunday, we completed our reading of the Book of Mormon which we began on Christmas Day.  It has been a great experience for me personally, and for Steve.  It has also been fun to know that all of our missionaries have been reading along with us.  Circling each reference to Christ has once again testified to us that the Book of Mormon truly is "Another Testament of Jesus Christ".  I love the Book of Mormon and can share my own personal witness that it was divinely translated by the prophet Joseph Smith and that it testifies of our Savior.  There is a power in the Book of Mormon that you can't find anywhere else.
Tomorrow, we begin our study on the atonement of Jesus Christ.  We are really excited about this, and our missionaries are, too.  We know as we come to understand His atonement more, and how it impacts our lives, that our desire to share it will increase.
This morning we attended the Mandarin Branch with all of our Mandarin speaking elders.  It was really great to be in attendance at this little branch.  There were 8 investigators there.  We wore headphones, and Elder Smith, translated for us.  It is so amazing to see this little branch of about 50 gather together to worship.  It is  really touching.  I wanted to get a picture of all of our elders after, but they all had to hurry off to help teach classes, and things like that.  We are so proud of them!
Afterwords, we had a meeting with the Branch President, President Bao to discuss how we could help him in the work.
On this Easter Sunday, as we reflect on the Savior and His atoning sacrifice, we realize again His great love for each of us.  Because of Him we will all be resurrected and be able to see our loved ones again, and live with them forever.  Because of Him, we can all be forgiven of the things we do wrong, and not have to carry that burden with us.  Because of Him, we can feel true peace and joy, not only in this life, but in the eternities.  We are so grateful to be able to serve as missionaries at this time and to try and help bring this wonderful gospel into the lives of as many as we can.  We know our main charge is to help our missionaries to grow in their faith so that their testimony of the Savior is etched deep within their hearts.  We pray every day that we can be guided in our efforts.  We love the Savior, and know that as we keep Him as the center of our lives we find true happiness.
Elder Cervantes loves to take selfies with my phone!

Medicine Hat Zone

Lethbridge East Zone

Cardston Zone

Lethbridge Zone

Sisters Blake & King

British Columbia Zone

Interviews with Calgary Zone
Elder Einfeldt, Crump, Sisters Connors, Lyu

The new pass along cards our missionaries give out-
it goes with the Easter Initiative the church began

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Zone Conferences!

Sisters Dean, Tilley & Perrero

Fish Creek Zone

The elders have to take 'selfies' with my phone!
This week we held 3 of our 6 zone conferences, and they were so great!  We met with all of our Calgary Zones.   There was such a wonderful spirit in each conference, and we felt that our missionaries walked away feeling inspired and uplifted. We have come to really love zone conferences--we love being with a bigger group of our missionaries, but not so big that you can't interact with them personally.  We asked our missionaries to come prepared to teach the lesson on the Restoration in 6 minutes, and to have read Chapter 11 in Preach my Gospel on Keeping Commitments.  We also asked them to memorize 3 Nephi 5:13 which reads, "Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  I have been called of Him, to declare His word, unto His people, that they might have everlasting life."  We love this scripture because it states exactly who we are as missionaries, and what we are to do.  So, in addition to reciting "My Purpose as a Missionary" from Preach my Gospel in all of our meetings, we will also recite 3 Nephi 5:13.
Steve and I actually role-played the 6 minute lesson on the Restoration in front of the missionaries.  The purpose for doing it in 6 minutes is to learn how to give the lesson simply and with clarity, without rambling!  We have learned that the spirit can truly testify to these brief segments of truth and touch the hearts of the people we are teaching.  It isn't necessary to teach everything we know--we need to teach enough for the spirit to testify to them that what we are teaching is true.
After we did our role-play we invited 8 missionaries to come up and each one took one of the 8 principles taught in that lesson and recited it.  They did a great job--and most of the time they came in at right about 6 minutes!  It was really fun to do with them--and we all learned the value of teaching simply for understanding.  We also had wonderful discussions (led by our assistants) on How to Help People make and Keep Commitments.  We touched on teaching with the spirit, and how crucial that is; because the spirit is the one that takes the message into their hearts.  We even spoke about how our dress (and abiding by the missionary guidelines) is another way to 'yield our hearts unto God'--by being completely obedient.  Following lunch we played our question and answer game where we have come up with about 10 questions from Preach my Gospel, the White Handbook, and the scriptures and we ask them and the first one to be able to answer gets a candy bar.  It's a fun activity they have come to enjoy; and it is also a good teaching opportunity--as we use questions that teach us something.  Then, after singing Happy Birthday to all the missionaries who have had birthdays since the last zone conference, we settle in for a spiritual lesson by Steve.  This time he chose to speak about the atonement of Jesus Christ, and it was so incredible.  In Preach my Gospel it tells us that as our knowledge of the atonement grows, so will our desire to share the gospel.  So, we decided that we always need to be strengthening their faith in the Savior and His atonement.  So, following the lesson we gave each missionary a specially bound book we had made with 30 talks on the atonement written by different prophets and apostles.  We are going to begin studying it the day after Easter, and go until our zone conferences in May.  Then in our May zone conferences we are going to attend the temple together.  Our southern zones will go to the Cardston Temple, and the northern ones to the Calgary Temple.  We are excited about that.
The very last part of our conferences we watched a 5 minute testimony of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland on the Book of Mormon.  We thought this was a great  thing to end with since we are completing our reading of the Book of Mormon as a mission this coming Easter Sunday.  Following the video, we had a testimony meeting.  This is alway such a highlight for me.  I love to hear these testimonies of these incredible missionaries.  I love to see ones that a few months ago were struggling, and now can stand firmly and share how much they have grown to love the Savior.  It really is such a sweet thing.
After those zone conferences were complete, we celebrated Steve's 60th birthday on Friday!  It was a regular missionary day for most of the day--but he got lots of calls and texts from missionaries wishing him happy birthday.
On Saturday we drove to Medicine Hat to participate in the Stake Conference there with President Salmon and Elder Marcus B. Nash of the Seventy.  This was our first stake conference in Medicine Hat, and it was great to be there and feel of the spirit in that stake.
Then we drove to Lethbridge to get ready to finish up another week of Zone Conferences with our southern zones--we are excited to be with them.
We also announced at zone conferences that Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles will be coming to our mission on April 16!  Our missionaries are SO excited about this!  And so are we.  Elder James B. Martino will also be coming with him--it will be a great day!!!
Calgary West Zone

Calgary North Zone

Confederation Park Zone

Bow River Zone

Foothills Zone

Calgary Zone

Monday, March 14, 2016

Praying for families

The past week has been a great week.  Although on Tuesday we had to say good-bye to 3 of our visa waiting missionaries, Sisters Ince and Oickle, and Elder Poirier.  They have been great missionaries here in our mission-and we wish we could keep them--but we have to send them on to their 'real' missions!  So, on Monday evening we picked them up from Lethbridge and Ft. MacLeod and brought them to the mission home to stay with us since we had to take them to the airport at 4:00 in the morning!  That is always a killer--to get up that early!  I do ok throughout the day until late afternoon, and then I really feel the early morning!
Then on Wednesday we held our monthly Mission Leadership Council meeting here in Calgary.  It was a great day-long meeting.  There was such a wonderful spirit there, and these zone leaders and sister trainer leaders have a real desire to unite our mission and work hard as a 'mission family'.  We had such good discussions on how to help any of our missionaries that might be struggling, and how to build faith.  We love hearing their input and truly 'counseling' with them.  One thing we have begun doing is praying for hearts to be softened and to be able to find families and others to baptize.  It is amazing how Heavenly Father is answering our prayers.  So many missionaries have called to tell us about a family they just happened to pick up!  The Lord really is giving us miracles.  Last week one set of elders told us a family of 8 just randomly came to the church on Sunday!  They are now teaching the entire family!  We are trying to exercise our faith by being more obedient, and more diligent in our personal and companion studies, and in our weekly planning, and working with our members.  We are trying to show the Lord that as we do our part we know He will help us find those He has prepared.  We are really seeing His hand in this work--especially when we pray specifically to find families.  It is so exciting!
Thursday we wanted to see the area of Cochrane in west Calgary--so we called our elders serving there and met up with them (Elders Varble and Simmons).  We were able to drive around Cochrane and see it (and how huge it is), and then we took the elders for a bite of dinner since they didn't have a dinner appointment that night.  We are excited to see the work that is going on there--they are going to baptize a family this next week!
Then on Friday we wanted to see the Coventry area of Calgary, so we met up with our two sisters serving there (Sisters Creech and Horning) and talked about their area-since they 'whitewashed' the area and are trying to get to know their members and get the work going.  We had them choose a place for lunch and we went to a fun little Thai restaurant.
We just love meeting with our missionaries and talking with them about their areas and see what they are doing to get the work going.  We are proud of our missionaries and their desires to work hard and try to work with the members.  We have truly found that our success in finding is by working with our members.  When a member introduces their friend to the missionaries and brings them into their home for the lessons, it is incredible to see how many accept the gospel.  We are trying to help the members not be so fearful and to look for opportunities to share anything about the gospel to their friends and neighbors.
On Saturday we spent much of the day preparing for zone conferences which are this week and next, and we can't wait for those!  Then on Sunday we drove to Lethbridge for a meeting with President Lowe in the Lethbridge Stake and two bishops and ward mission leaders and our missionaries, Elder Moffitt and Hawkins, to discuss the work in their wards.  These are always great meetings.
Following that, we picked up Elder Kelly, to bring him back up with us because he went home today. He was one of our assistants when we first got to the mission, and so it was with sadness to send him off.  Since he had to go home a tad earlier than his usual release date because of some extenuating circumstances, we had a few of his close companions that are still here come to say good-bye on Sunday night.  After dessert and some fun conversation, we asked Elder Kelly to share his testimony one last time with these elders.  He bore such a powerful testimony of the Savior and His atonement--it was very touching.  Elder Kelly is a convert of only 3 years--so of his 3 years in the church, 2 have been as a missionary.  He is so grateful for the atonement and it's power to change people's lives--especially his.  He never in his wildest dreams thought his life could be like it is, and he is so appreciative of the Savior's sacrifice.  That is what this gospel is all about.  That is why we invite people to learn of Jesus Christ--because their lives can be transformed!  It is so amazing.
Saying good-bye to our visa waiters, Sisters Oickle, Ince an Elder Poirier

Visiting Elders Simmons & Varble in Cochrane

Lunch with Sisters Creech & Horning in Coventry

Elders Maughan, Rodriguez, Kelly, Cervantes, Christensen, Lee, Christensen

We have also been having unusually warm weather for March-as you can see that most of our elders are just in shirts and not even suit coats!  We have had weather in the 40's-50's!  They say this is usually how May is.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Transfer week

The past week was transfer week, which is always busy, exciting and fun.  We welcomed 18 new missionaries at the airport on Tuesday--12 sisters and 6 elders.  As always, we love seeing them come through those doors at the airport!  It is getting so that we get them through customs much quicker now--we have paperwork we fill out and fax to the customs office ahead of time, and that seems to help a lot with the process.  As usual, we had a yummy dinner for them (Mexican this time!) and then had our usual 'administrative training' on housing, apartments, medical, and finances, etc.  We really just try to keep them awake during all of this, since they are ready to drop being they have been up since 2:00 in the morning to get here!  Steve also conducts an interview with each one during all the training, so he can get a feel of who their new companion should be.  He literally doesn't make that assignment until the next day one hour before their trainers arrives.  This time, we had the 12 sisters sleep at the mission home, and the elders slept at Elder and Sister Sefcik's home--they are one of our great office couples.  Then we all meet together on Wednesday morning at 9:00 for more training--we have our assistants participate in this, and Steve and I both share different messages.  We really enjoy this morning with them, and getting to know them a little better.  But, we can always tell they are just anxious to meet their companions and get on their way!  So, after lunch, their new trainers came and we send them out to buy their sheets, and go to their areas!
After all this, I get busy washing 24 sheets and pillowcases and tablecloths, to be ready for round 2 on Thursday night!  Thursday morning we begin transfers with all the least those who are being transferred to different areas.  We load up the ones who are being transferred south into the van and their luggage in the trailer and off they go.  Then we all head to Lethbridge to unload them, have them meet their companion and get on their way.  Then we collect the ones that need to come north and load them up in the van, and back to Calgary we go!  We get them delivered to their new companions, and off they go to their new areas.  Then, we take the missionaries that will departing on Friday to the temple.  As I have said before, this is such a special time--to be in the temple with these wonderful missionaries.  I love seeing them all dressed in white.  We just feel this is the perfect way to send them home--to have been in the temple, and remembering all the blessings and power that come from their temple covenants to bless  them as they begin this new chapter of their lives.
We got back from the temple and had dinner about 7:30 (again another yummy dinner made by Natasha).  Following dinner we go downstairs for our own little 'fireside' with them.  We watch a conference address by Elder Robert D. Hales, where he addressed young adults on issues pertaining just to them, and it is perfect for our returning missionaries.  Following that we have a testimony meeting, which is always so special and tender.  It is so amazing to hear the faith and testimonies each of these missionaries have in their Savior.  They have truly come to know Him on their missions in a way they never would have.  It is really a sweet night.
After our fireside, we let them finish packing up--we weigh their bags, and if they are over 50 pounds then they do some shuffling to get them under weight!  Or they do some 'throwing away', ha ha!
Then they are off to bed--I don't know how well they sleep on this last night of their mission!  Although, Sister Schell told me it was her best night of sleeping her whole mission!  I know that most of them don't have much of an appetite on Thursday during the day--a little anxiety I think, about going home.  Then, Friday morning we gather in the mission home living room and sing one last time, "I Know that my Redeemer Lives", and we kneel while Steve offers one last prayer with them. This is always a very spiritual time, and quite a few tears are shed.  Then it's off to the airport to send them home!  I just always think of their families and how excited they are to welcome that son or daughter home--that is what gets me through my sadness of saying good-bye.
This past week we also had the difficult task of informing one of our missionaries, actually one of our visa-waiting missionaries- Elder Poirier, that his mother had passed away.  He knew when he left that this would most likely happen..but it is another thing when it does.  We had him at the mission home on Wednesday to call his family as they were all gathered at his mother's bedside.  Our hearts ached for him as we knew he was saying good-bye to his angel mother.  I was just so amazed at his faith and strength.  Then on Thursday morning early, we received the call from his grandmother that his mom had passed away.  Steve had to call him with the was especially tender for Steve since he had just experienced losing his own dad--so he could completely relate to how Elder Poirier was feeling.  We were so grateful he had absolutely wonderful companions to help him.  And we were grateful that we would be able to meet with him again on Thursday afternoon at transfers.  To see this sweet elder just lose his mom, yet display the faith that he had was nothing short of a miracle.  He is the only active child in his family.  Only he, his parents and grandmother, are active.  And yet he could see that the hearts of his siblings were being softened through this experience, and he is so hopeful for their return to the gospel.  On Tuesday this elder will be flying to his 'real' mission in Longbeach, California.  We will miss him--he has been a wonderful missionary.  We are so grateful for the short time that we had him here with us, and wish him all the best in his other mission.  He told us that he was praying that if his mom had to go, that she would go while he was serving in our mission because he wanted to be with his two companions, Elder Stringam and Elder Purvis, because of the great friendship they have, and the love they have for one another.  So, I think he was blessed with that tender mercy.  I know Heavenly Father is so mindful of each of us.
Our 18 new missionaries!

Dinner for the new missionaries 

The sisters getting ready for bed at the mission home.

So ready to sleep!

New missionaries trying to guess where they will be going in the mission.

Departing missionaries at the temple

One last picture with our cute sisters that are leaving us.

The baptism of Jan Langell by her husband Steve, who was just recently activated.
Elders Petrucka, Taylor and Robbins--who she calls her '3 Musketeers".

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Joyful, tender and strange all at the same time!

The last few days have been tender, joyful, and even a little strange!  Tender in that we said good-bye to Steve's dad and I went home to attend the funeral and participate in that.  It was difficult to leave Steve behind in Calgary.  Joyful in that we are so grateful for the abundance of the spirit  we have felt, and for the knowledge that families truly can be together forever, and for being able to see my wonderful children, sweet little grandsons, and our extended family.   And then strange to be away from my companion for 3 days!  I have missed him like crazy, and even though it was wonderful to be able to be here for Dad's funeral--I had a real longing to be back with Steve and on our mission.  It made me again, so eternally grateful for the testimony I have of the plan of salvation, and for this beautiful gospel that gives me so much joy, and peace and happiness.  It also makes me realize again just how much we need to share what we have with all of those that don't know of their Savior and His atonement and how it blesses their lives.  And so I am grateful to go back out to the mission field and help our great missionaries in this, the Lord's work.
We have transfer week coming up and so we are excited to welcome 18 new missionaries on Tuesday.  I have been praying for them!  And we will say good-bye to 11 on Friday, and I will be sad to see them go-yet so grateful for the wonderful missionaries they have been, and that I have been so blessed and privileged to be part of their lives.  Transfer week is always so exciting!
Hugging my little Drewbie...

and my Sam...

My little Finn said he wouldn't quit hugging me until it was time to eat!

Steve's "Mission Mom" Sister Goaslind came to the viewing for Steve's dad.

Our sweet little Beck!  Youngest grandson.

All the Miles grandchildren with their Grandma

Hugging my Miles, Wyatt and Finn!

Military honors for a wonderful man.