Sunday, June 12, 2016

Transfers and THEN- President Russell M. Nelson!

Well, this was quite a week for our mission!  First on Tuesday we welcome 15 new elders and sisters from the MTC.  It is always so fun to greet them at the airport.  This group was our 'liveliest' group we have had--meaning, that they didn't act like they had gotten up at 1:30 in the morning to get here! They were tired, but not nearly as tired as some of our other groups.  One of the sisters, Sister Burnside, is from our home stake in Sandy, Utah--so it was really fun to greet her and hug her.  We have another great group of missionaries here in the Canada Calgary Mission.  As usual, we brought them to the mission home for a bite of lunch, and then training on cars, housing, medical, etc.  And then we had our yummy dinner made by Natasha--which have I mentioned before that she never makes the same meal twice?  Not even for her family!  Can you imagine that?  Her hobby is cooking (well she does some catering, too) and so she likes to do a new recipe EVERY single time!  She really is a fantastic cook, and the missionaries coming from the MTC love their first dinner here!
Following dinner we had about one hour of 'casual' time with them where the assistants show them a map of the mission and they guess where they will be sent to serve.  Oh, and we also take their pictures on this day and email it to their parents to show them they arrived safe and sound.  At about 8:00 p.m. we let them get to bed.  We had the 5 elders stay with us, and 8 of the sisters went to a hotel, and 2 stayed with one of our senior couples, the Sefciks.  The next morning, we all met at the church at 9:00 for a little more 'spiritual' training on the White Handbook, our Standards of Excellence, and some things like that.  At 10:15 we had all the new trainers show up and then we introduced the new missionaries to their trainers and sent them on their way by 11:00.  This is different than we have done in the past, usually we spend 3 hours on Wednesday morning in training--but we have really been thinking and rethinking this, and finally decided we wanted to do something different and shorter.  After doing it this new way, we felt good about the change.  This transfer we also assigned our assistant, Elder Christensen, to go back out in the field, and we brought in a new assistant, Elder Lee.  We will miss Elder Christensen--he was an excellent assistant--but we are also grateful for what he will now go out and do in an area for  6 weeks before he leaves to go home.  And we are excited to have Elder Lee join us.  There are always changes going on in a mission!
Thursday was our transfer day--and boy did we have a lot going on!  We even had cars being transferred!  To orchestrate it all is a pretty big feat.  We are so grateful for our office couples and all that they do.  We have the Sefciks, the Peppingers, and the Thorleys, and they are all amazing.  You just can't imagine all the work that goes on in an office to keep a mission running smoothly.  They handle cars, housing, financing, scheduling, ordering, baptismal records, board cards, newsletters, emails to parents, travel arrangements, and the list goes on and on.  We are so thankful for them.
We had to laugh, because as we were ready to leave Lethbridge (the 2nd transfer station) to come north--and two cars had to come north-- with both of those cars we had one where the keys got locked inside of it, and the other one the keys got lost!  But after some hunting and digging and probing we were able to get the keys out of the one car, and mysteriously we found the 'lost' key in one of our zone leaders pockets!  So, the transfer ended well.
Then we took our departing missionaries to the temple, which is always a special time for us.  I love to see them dressed in their temple clothing.  It is a tender time for them as they ponder going home.  I am glad they are able to have this time in the temple to reflect on their mission and to think about their future.  Following the temple we go back to our home for another yummy Natasha dinner and then a testimony meeting.  This is always a highlight.  To hear these missionaries share their testimonies at the end of their service is always so touching.  It is amazing to hear them speak of their Savior and how they have come to know Him in a way they never thought possible.
Then on Friday morning we take them to the airport and send them off!  This is always a little bittersweet.  We love them and will miss them--but at the same time are so excited for them to reunite with their families!
Then on Saturday morning was the event we have been anticipating--our visit from President Russell M. Nelson, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.  He was accompanied by his wife, and then Elder Ulisses Soares, and his wife, and Elder Paul Bassett and his wife.  It was an incredible morning.  Each of the missionaries were able to shake all of their hands--what a special experience for them--truly a once in a lifetime experience.
Then Steve and I were asked to just share our testimonies at the first.  Following our testimonies we had a special musical number, "I Stand All Amazed" performed by Elders Fellows and Assily and Sister VanBloem, accompanied by Elder Adams.  It was so beautiful.  It was an arrangement done by someone in Denmark, and it isn't even published.  Elder Fellows, who is majoring in music at BYU lined it all up.  It was so powerful.  I wish everyone could have heard them.  President Nelson loved it.  Following that we heard from the Bassetts, then the Soares, and then Sister Nelson and President Nelson.  It was a power packed 2 hours.  We were taught so many have joy in our work, to let the Lord work through us, to use the Book of Mormon as our main converting tool, to follow the white handbook willingly, to live each day fully, to be alert to the teachings of the Holy Ghost, and to remember that the fulness of the gospel is contained in the Book of Mormon because it teaches us about the atonement of Jesus Christ.  No other set of scripture explains the atonement like the Book of Mormon.  It was an amazing meeting, and at the end of it, President Nelson left an apostolic blessing upon our missionaries, which was so special.
We felt so blessed to have this experience.  Now in less than two months we have had visits from two of the Lord's apostles on earth--Elder Christofferson and President Nelson.  We are so grateful for these men, and to be led by them.  We know they are special witnesses of Jesus Christ.  You can't help but come to feel that as you shake their hands and listen to them.
Steve and I were able to have lunch with all of them at Elder Evanson's home, and that was a treat.  I wanted to get a picture with President Nelson (his wife didn't come to lunch because she was making changes in her preparations for the afternoon women's meeting), but I didn't know if it was appropriate to ask.  But then after lunch he brought out his phone to take a picture, and I thought to myself, 'well if he's taking pictures, I can, too!'.  So, we got our phone and were able to snap a picture with him!
After lunch Steve went with all the brethren to a Priesthood Leadership Conference, and I went to another stake center with the sisters for a special Women's Conference.  All of the women ages 18 and over in southern Alberta were invited.  They piped it into 22 buildings!  So, yes, I was a bit nervous to speak at this meeting.  I felt a huge responsibility to add to the spirit and not detract from it.  I had been praying and pondering for days about what to say, and I felt like what I said was what the spirit prompted me to share.  I only had  7 minutes to speak, and then we were able to hear from Sister Bassett, Sister Soares, and then Sister Nelson.  It was the quickest 3 hour meeting I have ever been to.  There was such a great spirit there, and those women are amazing.  Especially Sister Nelson.  She is so dynamic, yet fun and genuine and down to earth.  She taught us that as women when we feel the pressures of life and the stresses and the distractions to make temple work a greater part of our lives.  She said that this seems 'counter-intuitive' when you already have a full plate..but in reality what happens is that as we focus on things of real importance, of an eternal nature, we begin to be able to let go of things that aren't as important; and that the temple will give us power to do what is demanded of us, yet it also helps us prioritize what is best.  She reminded us of the power of our covenants.  We were also taught to always find time to study the Book of Mormon.  If our testimony of the Book of Mormon is strong-than we will be faithful and valiant in a world that is constantly tearing at us.  It was just such a fantastic meeting.  I wished every woman I knew could have been there because it was so inspiring.  I really wanted my daughters and daughters-in-law to be there, because they would have loved it.  I always love being at events like that with them and being inspired together.
Then on Sunday, Steve and I had the special privilege of going to a special stake conference in Raymond with President and Sister Nelson.  Sister Nelson was raised in Raymond, so this was a unique time with that stake.  Steve and I both spoke, and then President and Sister Hardy of the Cardston Temple and then Sister Nelson, followed by President Nelson.  Again, such an incredible meeting.  This time President Nelson spoke about the 'future' of the church, and he had all of the primary children stand and wave to him.  It was so cute.  Then he instructed their parents on what they should be doing to raise these children in righteousness.  He told them to teach their children their true identity, that they are children of a loving Heavenly Father.  He told them to teach them to pray to Him.  He told them to teach them the significance of the sacrament. And to teach them about Joseph Smith.  He told them to teach them the importance of the scriptures.  He reminded them that children can read the text straight from the Book of Mormon at a younger age than we might think, and to read from it.  He told them to help them be worthy and ready to receive a patriarchal blessing.  He told them to help them understand the importance of temples and families, and to help them become spiritually self-reliant, and to be spiritually fortified so they can avoid plagues like pornography.    As he spoke we could watch these young parents just soaking in all that he said.  Talk about timely counsel.  I just have such a testimony that if we will follow their teachings that we can be happy.  I have been so blessed by following our prophets and apostles.  They truly are the Lord's spokesmen on the earth, and as we follow them, we are following exactly what the Lord would have us do.  I am so grateful for them!!!
It was a fabulous week here in our mission.
Our newly arrived missionaries.

Elders Cervantes, Christensen, Lee (our assistants)

New missionaries first dinner at mission home.

Transfer day!

Sisters Christensen, Pipkin, Black, Brignone at transfers

Our redheaded companionship- Sisters King and Burnside

Departing missionaries at the temple

Our visit from President Russell M. Nelson

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