Sunday, April 24, 2016

Another transfer week!

We had another fun, busy transfer week this last week.  On Tuesday we welcomed 8 new missionaries at the airport--this was our smallest transfer yet. 5 of them are ours to stay, and 3 of them are awaiting their visas to missions in the U.S.  They arrived on an earlier flight than usual--so we had them all through customs by 1:15 or so and then were on our way to the mission home for the usual orientation and training we do with new missionaries.  Following that we had another yummy dinner for them, and then Steve finished interviewing them and we sent the sisters home with one of our office couples, The Sefciks, to sleep for the night and the 6 elders stayed with us at the mission home.  They are all always so tired from getting up at 1:00 in the morning that we send them to bed early.  And they are pretty grateful for that.  It's kind of funny to watch them during the orientation because you see their eyes start to close and they really fight falling asleep.
Then on Wednesday morning we do more training with them beginning at 9:00 until about 11:30 or so--then lunch, and then the moment they are really waiting for--meeting their trainers!  I think then they feel like their mission has really begun--as they drive off with their first companion and head to their new area.  They are excited and nervous all at once.  I love seeing this happen...the trainers are excited to meet their new companion and get to know them--and in reality, the trainers are nervous, too.  They want to do a good job as a trainer, and so they always have a little anxiousness about them, too.  So, by 1:30 they are all gone to their areas.  Then I start washing sheets! ha ha!  And tablecloths and get ready for the missionaries that will stay on Thursday night and get the table ready for the departing missionaries dinner on Thursday as well.
Thursday is transfer day and we have gotten it down so it goes quite smoothly now!  We meet at the Willowpark Building parking lot where the ones being transferred come get their new companion and head out; and the ones being transferred south hop in the van to head to Lethbridge.  We then get them down to Lethbridge (2 hours south) and they meet up with their new companions and head out, and then we bring the remaining ones that need to come north back up to Calgary and send them off!
Then, we take the missionaries that are going home on Friday to the temple.  This has really become a special time.  This time we only had 4 missionaries going home!  Two elders and two sisters.  So we were all able to ride in a truck together to go to the temple.  They have such a mix of emotions at this point--so excited to see their families, and yet so sad to leave good friends and their mission behind.  It really is a tender time.  Following our session at the temple, President Guenther, of the temple presidency took us into a small sealing room and just spoke with them about their lives ahead, and encouraging them to be in the temple often, and how it will bless their lives.  It is so special to sit in that sealing room with them.  I love seeing our missionaries in their temple robes.  Steve also took just a few minutes to express some thoughts of love to them and then we all went and got dressed and drove back to the mission home for another delicious dinner made by Natasha.
Following dinner we have our own little testimony meeting together which is also very special.  I love hearing the final testimony of these missionaries.  To hear how they have grown in the gospel, and how much they love the Savior and have come to feel of His atonement in their lives is pretty incredible.  I am always so proud of them.  That's how we want them to go home--rock solid in their testimony of the Savior and His gospel.
Friday morning we got them all to the airport and sent them off to meet their families!  Thinking of that is what helps me not cry so much as I say good-by to them.  We have just grown to love them so much.
This weekend we participated in the  Fort Macleod Stake Conference with President Poytress and Elder and Sister Spackman.  We were with Elder and Sister Spackman last weekend, too, so it was fun to be together again.  Steve and I both spoke at the Saturday evening session for just a few minutes.  After the session the Poytress' invited us to their home for a bite to eat, and that was fun to spend time with them and get to know them better.  They shared with us the story of their 12 year old son who died because of a hockey accident.  As he was playing, a puck was hit and it hit him right in the back of the neck below his helmet.  It was just a freak accident.  They told us that he was flown to Calgary to the Children's hospital there, and as they were driving up, Sister Poytress could see in her mind herself standing in a funeral line.  She said she knew then that their son wouldn't survive.  When they got to the hospital and he passed away, they decided they wanted to donate his organs, so they did.  Quite awhile later, a woman came into Pres. Poytress' office and told him that she thought her son had his son's kidney.  They talked about the date when they received a call that there was a kidney available and where, and it was the same day that the  Poytress' son passed away.  President and Sister Poytress said it was such a tender mercy to know that their loss had saved someone else's life.  Years later this same family invited the Poytress' to their son's wedding!  What an incredible made me realize again that so many people go through very difficult challenges and trials, and yet they can be buoyed up by their faith in Jesus Christ.  He will carry them through it all.  I am so grateful for the knowledge I have of our Savior and Redeemer.
We have learned to love participating in these stake conferences because of many things--first of all because of the wonderful people we are able to meet and become friends with, and also because of the wonderful spirit that is at each one.  I am always uplifted by them and touched by the speakers.
We feel it is a real blessing to be able to attend so many.
Following the Sunday session of the conference we left and drove to Claresholm to watch one of our elders sing in a community choir performance held at the local Catholic church there.  It was a great program, with many wonderful musical numbers.  It has become a great thing in that town to have the LDS people join in and participate in the choir.  In fact their pianist was the local LDS bishop's wife, and one of the soloists was a beautiful teenage girl that actually had just spoken as a youth speaker in the morning session of Stake Conference.  It was really fun to attend and we were able to meet the pastor of the church and also the choir director, who loves the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Mack Wilberg!  It was a great Sunday!
Our new missionaries at the airport!

New missionary luggage in our garage

Elders Jewkes, Parker, Austin & Dolinar-(our new missionary)

Elder Weidner (center) with his new companions, Elders Cartwright & Wright

Elder Miller and Weidner saying good-bye

Elder Tate (new) & Elder McLaren ready to go!

Transfer day--Lethbridge East elders loading up!

At the temple with our departing missionaries

Our departing missionaries with the assistants one last time--
Sisters Morgan and Perrero, Elders Hensen, Christensen, Farnsworth & Cervantes

Elder Condie singing in the Claresholm Community Choir-of course the only one in a white shirt!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Visit from an Apostle

I'll just begin with yesterday and our visit from Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elders James B. Martino and Larry Spackman of the Seventy.  What an amazing morning we had.  First of all, to have all 200 of our missionaries sitting in the chapel together--it was a magnificent sight!  And we completely filled that chapel--there was not a space left.  Our missionaries began arriving early to get a good seat.  When Steve and I got to the parking lot about 8:15 there were already many of them there...they have been anticipating this event for quite awhile now.  We asked everyone to be in their seats at 8:30 and just listen to the prelude music from Elder Christensen while they waited.  About 8:40 we saw Elder Spackman (our Area Seventy) and his wife Flora drive up with Elders Christofferson and Martino, so we went out to meet them.  It was so fun to greet them--Elder Christofferson is from our home stake, and so we have had many occasion to be with him, and I served with his wife in the Stake Relief Society Presidency many years ago (before he became an apostle)--so it was special for us to meet our friend!  And then it was fun to be with Elder Martino again--we enjoyed his mission tour with us last September and grew to love him and are so thankful for the continued support he gives us.  And then the Spackmans have become our friends here--our mentors, really.  Elder Spackman served as president of the New York, New York South mission about 15 years ago; and so they have been a great to help us out offer their counsel and lend a listening ear.
So, after greeting everyone we all walked into the chapel and all of the missionaries stood in respect for Elder Christofferson.  We took our places on the stand and began the meeting.  The first thing Elder Christofferson wanted to do was to shake everyone's hands.  So he and Elder Martino and Steve and I stood down below the pulpit and each missionary came up row by row and shook their hands.  What an amazing experience for our missionaries!  So many have never been in the presence of an apostle, let alone shaken their hand.  I am sure it is one they will never forget.  Following the opening hymn and prayer we had a special musical number, "Brightly Beams our Father's Mercy" performed by Elders Murdock and Fitzgerald and Sisters Rasmussen and Shields, accompanied by Elder Farnsworth on the piano.  It was so beautiful!  It brought such a wonderful spirit to the meeting--I just wanted to grab them all and hug them when they were through!
Steve and I were asked to share our testimonies along with Elder and Sister Spackman.  Then Elder Martino spoke to us and reminded us of the charge we have as missionaries to 'teach repentance and baptize converts'.  He also reminded us of the importance of working closely with the members in our missionary work, and bringing them to the lessons we teach.  He then shared his testimony of the apostles and their calling.  Then Elder Christofferson spoke to us and told us he feels a particular spiritual power with the missionaries.  He explained how the Seventy are an extension of the apostles and how the missionaries are an extension of that--so in reality we are their companions in this missionary work.  That was very powerful for our missionaries to hear.  He counseled them to love, read and study the Book of Mormon throughout their lives, and to never neglect the Book of Mormon in our teaching, or when our mission ends.  He told us that as we read it it reminds us of when we need to improve, repent, and change.  He then opened it up for some questions from our missionaries.
They had some good questions for him--the first one being, "What do you attribute most to your progression in the gospel?"  His first response was, "The Book of Mormon".  Another question was, "How do we help our family members that have wandered from the gospel, now and when we get home?"  He told them the greatest thing they can do now is to be faithful, diligent missionaries.  He told them God will bless them because of their faithfulness, so to press on, keep praying, keep working.  Following the questions and answers he went on to teach more about 'teaching repentance and baptize converts'.  He told us that the message of repentance is that there is a Savior.  He told us that true repentance is a re-direction of our whole life.  He also said that each time we repent we are invigorating our baptismal covenant.  Then he said that 'none of what we've talked about has any significance without Christ.'  He told us the atonement makes us holy--it takes away the sin and the stain, and makes us spotless.  It helps us to become like Christ, and that is what this gospel is about--becoming.  He then shared his witness with us that Christ does live and leads this church.  It was such an incredible experience to sit at the feet of an apostle and be taught by him.
I am so grateful to have a modern day prophet and apostles that  under the direction of the Savior, lead and guide us and help us become better, and teach us the way to find happiness in this life.  I know from my own experience, if we follow their counsel, we will be happy and our lives will be immensely blessed.  Because what they tell us, is what the Lord would have us know.  And all He wants is our happiness.
So, earlier in the week we completed our interviews; finishing up with our Calgary West Zone on Tuesday. Following those interviews we drove out to Canmore to meet our new senior couple who will be serving out there--Elder and Sister Gardiner.  They are from Willichak, BC.  They had just barely finished unloading their belongings into their apartment.  We took them to dinner to get to know them better and try to answer a few of their questions and get them going.  They are going to be a great asset to the branch in Banff/Canmore, and we are excited to have them in our mission with us!  Then on Friday we had a meeting at the mission home for the missionaries that will be training  the new missionaries coming in this next week.  We only have 8 missionaries coming--and 3 of those are visa waiters.  So, in reality, we have 5 we are keeping.  This is our smallest group yet.  We had a great meeting with these  new trainers, and they are excited and willing to accept this new assignment.  Training is such an important assignment.  To train a new missionary is a sacred trust and it sets the tone for the new missionary's whole mission.
On Friday following our training meeting, we were saddened by the news of the death of our dear friend, Janell Berry, who has been battling cancer for about 18 months.  We love she and her husband Bryce, and their family.  We pray that they can feel an abundance of the spirit at this difficult time.  We are so grateful for their examples and friendship over the years.  And are so grateful they have a testimony of the plan of salvation--and that because of the atonement they will see their mom and wife again as a beautiful resurrected being, and because they have been sealed in the temple as a family, will be together again eternally.  How grateful we are for this knowledge--that gives us such hope and peace in difficult times.
Polka dot day!  Sisters Dobyns, Blazer, Trimble (at interviews)

Friday afternoon walk along the Bow River Walkway in  Calgary

Found these 2 geese on our walk

The Bow River, which winds right by downtown Calgary

The missionaries gathering for our meeting with Elder Christofferson

More missionaries arriving!

Some of our senior missionaries awaiting the meeting- Elder & Sister Gardiner, Sisters Thorley & Peppinger, Elder Sefcik, The Sonntag's

Monday, April 11, 2016

Interviews almost done! Awaiting Elder Christofferson's visit!

Last week we completed all but one zone's interviews.  It was a good week seeing our missionaries one on one.  It takes us 3 weeks to complete all of the interviews, and we will finish up tomorrow with the Calgary West zone.
On Friday we held our 'retrainers' meeting with all of our new missionaries and their trainers.  We hold it at the church that is just around the corner from the mission home.  It was such a great meeting--and we determined that what made it so good was the fact that the missionaries came prepared and with the spirit, and with such enthusiasm.  They are all -the ones being trained, and the ones training- working hard, and being obedient, and trying their best.  That is all we can ask.  If they do those things, good things will happen!  We love seeing the faith grow in our missionaries.
On Saturday we left early, at 6:45 a.m. to go to Lethbridge to interview that zone down there, and to participate in the Lethbridge East Stake Conference.  We had a good day of interviews, and then President and Sister Stewart (the stake president and wife) invited us to catch a bite of lunch with them.  It was great to go with them and just chat and enjoy their company.  President Stewart is a family doctor, and he has helped me so much with needs of missionaries down in Lethbridge.  He is my 'go to' doctor!  He is always willing to help in any way--I have so appreciated all he has done.  And then, his counselor, Pres. Koegler, is also a doctor, so I can use him as well, and his other counselor, Pres. Peterson, is an optometrist, so I can use him as needed!  I have found great doctors to help me around the mission.  I have several in the Calgary area, and two in Medicine Hat, and one in BC.  They are all so kind to offer their services and fit the missionaries in.
Steve and I both attended the Priesthood Leadership Session of the Stake Conference and did some training on missionaries and members working together.  At first I was a little worried the way the meeting was going (which by the way, I was the ONLY woman in the whole about intimidating), but then Steve finally got them to open up and begin discussing, and it ended up being a great meeting, with lots of ideas and thoughts shared.
We also spoke at the Sunday morning session for just a few minutes.  Both the Saturday evening session and the Sunday session were so wonderful.  I have decided that I am very grateful to be able to  attend and be involved in all of these Stake Conferences.  There is always such a great spirit there, and I am always so inspired.  And we get to become friends with all of these stake presidents and their wives, and we enjoy them so much.  We hope we will be lifelong friends!
Following the conference we had lunch at President Peterson's home, and then we headed back to Calgary for Steve to meet with the assistants, Elders Cervantes and Christensen.
This week we are anxiously awaiting the visit from Elder D. Todd Christofferson and Elder James B. Martino on Saturday.  They have given us permission for our ENTIRE mission to be in the meeting!
It will be such an amazing day to sit at the feet of an apostle and be taught.  I just can't wait!  Our missionaries are so excited!
Elders Jenkins, Proctor, Bailey, Fox, Sanchez, Ellison, Whicker, Mecham

Sisters Barlow, Wagner, Larsen & Cunningham

Sisters Jensen, Allard, Dobyns, Black, Atkinson, Carter, Pipkin

Another group of cute sisters at retrainers meeting

Elders Gray & Thackeray with the cake they had made for some missionaries in their zone.

Us with President and Sister Stewart of the Lethbridge East Stake

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Forgotten picture of our last missionaries that arrived!

This is a great picture that I didn't even know I had from our new missionaries that arrived last transfer--first week of March.  Don't they look great?  We just had a retraining meeting with them on Friday with their trainers, and we are so proud of them and how they have adjusted and how hard they are working and how their faith has grown so much in just 5 weeks.  We truly have seen growth in each one.  It is so fun to feel of their enthusiasm and love for the work.  We just love them.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Interviews, MLC, General Conference

This has been a great week!  We have been continuing to do interviews--this week doing them with the Calgary North Zone,  Lethbridge Zone and Cardston Zone.  While Steve conducts the interviews I have been giving the missionaries out with me a  paper that asks them "How Well Do you Know the Ward Members?".  On it are listed the callings of all the members of the ward council and then their counselors.  I have the missionaries fill out from memory all that they know--and then we challenge them to go get into the homes of the ones they don't know and meet them and get to know their families and offer their services as missionaries...for example, if the brother serves in Young Men's than the elders can offer to teach in the YM's or to help a young man that might be struggling, or come to an activity--anything like that.  The same goes for each organization.  We are trying to help our missionaries (and members) see that they can use the missionaries to build the faith and strengthen the ward or branch in which they serve. As they do this, they will also be able to talk with the members about sharing the gospel.  Member/missionary work is so vital!  We have learned that our best referrals come from our members; and the members play a crucial role in their conversion.
After interviews on Tuesday, Steve had a special training in the Fish Creek Stake with President Craig, (one of the few where I didn't go).  So, he didn't get home until about 9:15 and then we left for Lethbridge--arriving there about 11:15 p.m.  So, we got to bed a little before midnight.
On Wednesday we held our MLC with our zone leaders and sister trainer leaders.  This was a great meeting.  We followed up on many of the things we had done in zone conferences, and the goals that the individual zones had set to show the Lord their desire to find, teach and baptize more.
We also discussed what member/missionary work is, and how we can improve in that area.  We also alway address struggles and challenges and how to resolve them.  This meeting is quite an incredible meeting with these leaders.  They all come willing to learn, share, and inspire--and the spirit is always very strong throughout.  We ended with 4 missionaries (who Steve asked ) to share their testimonies...and they were so powerful and sweet.
That evening after MLC, Steve went out teaching with Elders Schank and Johnson, and I went out teaching with Sisters Palmer and Tolbert.  We had two wonderful visits--one with a less active sister, and one with a nonmember sister.  It is so great to hear these sisters teach and testify that the atonement is real, and that the Savior can take away our pains and help us in our struggles.  We were also able to share with the nonmember that there is a living prophet on earth today, President Thomas S. Monson, and he holds the priesthood keys and authority to act in God's name to direct His church.  She was wondering what the difference was between our prophet and the pope, and when we explained that Christ's priesthood was restored again on the earth through the prophet Joseph Smith and that the priesthood is still upon the earth and we have a living prophet, she said, "Now it is crystal clear.  Now it makes sense."  She also said she would watch General Conference!  I have been praying she would, and be able to feel the spirit through the apostles and prophet as they spoke.
On Thursday we stayed in Lethbridge to interview the Lethbridge Zone, and then on Friday we drove to Raymond and did interviews there, then on to Cardston for interviews there, and then to Fort Macleod for interviews there!  We got home about 7:30 p.m. Friday night.
Saturday of course we enjoyed watching conference.  We went to a different stake center each session so we could be with more of our missionaries.  All of our missionaries look so forward to General Conference--they all comment how now it is so much more meaningful than when they were home!
It is such a boost and so inspiring for them.  And for us!  We are so grateful to hear from our prophet and the apostles and other general authorities.  We were especially grateful that President Monson could speak 2 different times.
On Sunday, in-between sessions, we had a hotdog lunch for the Bow River zone which is closest to the mission home.  It was also Elder Peppinger's birthday (He is our senior missionary over finance in the office), and on Tuesday was Elder Thorley's birthday (He is our senior missionary over cars).  So I made them a cake and we all sang Happy Birthday and made them blow out candles!
This next week we will continue with interviews-driving to Medicine Hat tomorrow for their interviews on Tuesday, then back to Calgary for more here, and then back to Lethbridge for interviews and the Lethbridge East Stake Conference next weekend.  It's great work!
Sisters Widgren & Shaffer at interviews

Sisters Larsen, Moulton & Ovard at MLC

Elders Reynolds, Owens, Hopoi, Fullmer, Stringam, Roberts & Murphy at MLC

Elder Rodriguez, Sisters Tilley & Kendrick, Elders Fitzgerald, Warenski, Simpson, Stone, Crump

Elder Sondrup, Sisters Earnhardt & Brown at MLC

The entire Missionary Leadership Council

Me with Sisters Palmer & Tolbert- my teaching companions!

Hot dog lunch at the mission home with the Bow River Zone in-between conference sessions.