Sunday, July 24, 2016

Our new missionaries!

Our new missionaries!!!

Dinner at the mission home!

Finishing up dinner--and they are still awake!

Transfer week!

This week we welcomed 18 new missionaries to the Canada Calgary Mission.  Six sisters and 12 elders! 16 we will keep, and two are waiting for their visas.  As always, it is so fun to greet these new missionaries at the airport.  This group had a direct flight from SLC to Calgary, which is unusual.  Most of the time they are flown from SLC to either Seattle or Minneapolis before arriving here.  So, this group only had to get up at 4:00 a.m. instead of 1:30!  And you could tell!  They were more alert and awake throughout the day.  And it is a great group.  We are so excited to have them here serving in our mission.  We did our usual bite of lunch and training with them starting about 2:30, when we finally got back to the mission home.  Then we had a yummy dinner about 6:00.  Following dinner we did just a little more training, but this time it's more casual--the assistants did a question and answer time, and the missionaries also tried to guess where in the mission they will be assigned.  We also showed them the video we have that introduces our family to them, so they can get to know us a little better.  After that we got them off to bed since they were pretty tired!  It was a great day.
Then on Wednesday morning we went to the church at 9:00 for an hour and fifteen minute training and then we welcomed their new trainers in to meet them.  That is always so fun.  Everyone is a little nervous--the trainers and the new missionaries.  So, it is good to get them together and send them to their new areas.  By 11:30 they were all on their way! Then I went home to wash sheets and towels!
I counted up, and between the missionaries that stayed here on Tuesday and Thursday nights, I washed 42 sheets and 21 towels!  
Then Thursday was our regular transfer day which went really smoothly.  We had great weather--no thunder storms!  In fact, we have had quite hot weather--25-27 degrees celsius, which translates into about 80-85 Fahrenheit.  Perfect for summer!
We got everyone transferred smoothly and brought back the departing missionaries and took them to the temple.  This time we had only elders going home.  And they were a great group going home--we will miss them.  We had such a nice temple session--this has turned out to be a very special time with our spend their last afternoon of their mission in the temple.  It has become a great tradition with them.  Following the temple we came back to the mission home and had a wonderful dinner with them and then our testimony meeting.  I wish everyone could have heard this testimony meeting.  These elders shared incredible testimonies of the Savior and his atonement and how it has changed their lives.  It was so touching.  And what we realized is that when missionaries are obedient and have worked hard their whole missions, they are blessed with deep, abiding testimonies because of it.  They leave with no regrets, and know their service has been acceptable to the Lord--whether they had a baptism or not, they know they have been successful.
Friday morning we took them all to the airport and sent them on their way!  It is hard to hug them all good-by!  But I just think about their mothers at the other end waiting for their son to come home and it makes it easier to send them off!
So, another transfer week has come and gone.  This will be the last group to spend the night at the mission home for awhile.  When we were having all the rain here in Calgary our basement bedrooms flooded..and we came to find out that the foundation has cracks in it where water was seeping in, and also coming through an improperly installed window in one of the bedrooms.  So, we are now in a renovation downstairs!  Carpet has been pulled up, sheet rock removed, big fans in there to dry it out.  It's going to be quite a project to fix it up right.  So, we are kind of sad we can't house missionaries for a few months!
This weekend we drove to Taber for a meeting with missionaries, then to Raymond to deliver contacts to a missionary there, then to Lethbridge.  Then this morning we drove to Cardston to meet with 2 Stake Presidents, attend a ward council meeting and then speak in a sacrament meeting.  We got back about 5:45 just in time to eat something quick before our assistants came for a meeting.
This week we are looking forward to a visit from two brothers from the missionary department who are coming to visit and help us in any way we need them.  It will be a great week.
This is great work out here.  We know the Lord leads and guides this work and helps us in it every day.  We are grateful to be part of it, and just hope we can be an instrument in His hands as we lead and guide these missionaries.
All of our Mandarin speaking elders at transfers

We always hope all the luggage gets picked up!

Unloading the van on transfer day!

Loading up in the van to go to the temple!

Van ride to the temple!  This was my first time riding in the mission van!

At the temple with our departing missionaries!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Rainy and wonderful week!

Last week was Stampede week here in Calgary, and it rained buckets of rain every single day!  Along with hail, and thunder and lightning!  I even got stuck at the grocery store one day because it was hailing so hard I couldn't go out to the car!  I had to wait inside until it let up--at least until the hail let up-and then I made a mad dash in the rain with  my groceries to the car!  And now this week, with Stampede over, is going to be warm and dry.  And that is good because we will be welcoming 18 new missionaries tomorrow!
So, last week, we were able to meet with our Spanish elders to help them in the work, and we felt like it was a great meeting with them, and they were motivated to go out and work hard.  We were also able to attend a district meeting in the Calgary North Zone, with Elder Dredge as the district leader and it was also a great meeting.  I am so proud of these district leaders and their abilities.  They always put so much thought into their meetings, and try to make them edifying and uplifting.  It was good to be there!  And afterwards, Elder Dredge shared Oreo cookies from the states that his mom had sent up.  The missionaries all swear that the U.S. Oreos are better than the Canadian ones.  I wouldn't really know!
We were also able to interview all of our departing missionaries that will leave this Friday to return home.  This is a great group of elders leaving us (no sisters this time), and we will miss them.  I am so thankful to have had this past year with them and to see them grow in their testimonies and faith, and to see what dedicated, wonderful missionaries they have been.
We also had a new trainers meeting on Friday for the missionaries that will be training our new ones coming in tomorrow.  We always love this meeting, and are grateful for these missionaries that are excited and ready to train.  This is one of the most important assignments a missionary can be given-to train a new missionary, because they really set them on the path of how missionary work should be.  They can really set the tone for their whole mission.  We feel we have a great group.  After the training we had a hotdog lunch for them upstairs.
Then this past weekend we were able to attend 3 incredible baptisms-  Ben Venema, Ryan Ford, and Aydin Baltaci.   As I've said before, to attend a convert baptism is so special.  All 3 of these people being baptized are pioneers in their own families.  They are the only ones to become members of the church, and one with a little bit of opposition.  I am always amazed to see their faith to embrace the gospel and go forward even when they don't have any support from family.  Both Ben and Ryan are young single adults, and have been greatly influenced by their friends.  It was so neat to see the love and support from their peers.  And Aydin's situation is so unique.  He and his wife and son are from Turkey.  They immigrated here about 2 1/2 years ago to escape the problems in that country.   So, they are of the Muslim faith.  But they moved into a neighborhood where they had a Mormon neighbor who befriended them.  And, eventually they began taking the missionary lessons from Elders Roberts and Misiluki.  Both he and his wife read the Book of Mormon and gained a testimony of it, and of the prophet Joseph Smith, and of living prophets.  They both wanted to be baptized, but were a little hesitant because of her parents who are still living in Turkey, and were wondering what they would think.  Aydin also didn't know if he could commit to paying tithing.  But, then they both decided he should get baptized because they wanted to have him have the gift of the Holy Ghost to be in their home.  How sweet is that?  So, Steve interviewed him just to be sure he was really ready, and to determine if it would be alright with extended family, even though they are not returning to Turkey.
All throughout the lessons, and in Steve's interview, they have had a returned missionary from Turkey there to translate.  Aydin's wife, speaks English quite well, but Aydin's english isn't nearly as good, so they wanted to be sure he was understanding everything being taught.  This returned missionary, James Clark,  loved being able to use his Turkish outside of the mission field!  So, what a great experience for him, and he is the one that performed the actual baptism.  Anyway, it was such a sweet, tender baptism.  His wife told us afterwards that she just 'felt the Holy Ghost the whole time'.  And their little boy, James, was upset, because he wanted to be baptized as well!  We really feel that the mom and James will end up being baptized soon.  Her parents are coming from Turkey to visit for 6 months--and they want to introduce them to the gospel and this new religion they have found and show them how wonderful it is.  Another neat component in this story is that another couple from Turkey, who are also converts to the church and live in Edmonton, have been fellowshipping the Baltaci's over the phone and sharing their testimonies.  And when we got to the baptism on Saturday, this couple had driven down from Edmonton to be part of it!  It was all just so neat.
That's what this missionary work is all about.  To bring these wonderful people, who knew nothing about our Savior, Jesus Christ, into his gospel.  It is just inspiring to see them and hear of their faith.
Meeting with Spanish elders in Calgary

Eating Oreos after district meeting!

Hotdog lunch with new trainers!

Another view of the hotdog lunch at mission home!

Sister Sears, Ryan Ford, Sister Lane

Elder Misiluki, James Clark (translator) Aydin Baltaci, his wife, Elder Roberts

The couple second from the right are the converts from Turkey who came from Edmonton

Ben Venema's baptism (middle back) with some of his friends
Elders Moffitt, Stringam and Chen, who taught him.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Interviews complete!

This past week we were able to complete all of our interviews.  We headed to BC on Monday afternoon, and met with President Anderson and his wife--they were nice enough to invite us to their home in Jaffrey for dinner before we got to Cranbrook.  Jaffrey is so beautiful, and they live on an incredible piece of land nestled in the pines.  We had fun with them, and then he and Steve were able to talk mission/stake president talk, and then we were on our way to Cranbrook.  On Tuesday we interviewed all of our missionaries in the BC zone, and stayed for a little bit of their district meeting before heading off to Pincher Creek to interview 4 missionaries there, and then on to Cardston.  After we finished in Pincher Creek it was about 6:15, so we decided to detour a couple of miles and go into Waterton Park for a bite of dinner.  Watertown is the Canadian side of Glacier National Park, and it is incredibly beautiful.  We haven't been able to really spend any time in there--some day we will take a day and go exploring.  But we did stop long enough to take a few pictures and eat some pizza before going to Cardston.
On Wednesday we did a full day of interviews, beginning with 4 elders in Cardston, then we drove to Raymond and interviewed all of our Raymond and Magrath missionaries, and then we drove to Lethbridge for 3 more interviews, and then we drove to Claresholm to interview 2 more!  We finished up those about 6:00 and had a bite to eat and drove back to Calgary to meet with two more missionaries that were just having some struggles that needed us.  So, we got home about 10:15 or so.
Then on Thursday we interviewed our Confederation Park Zone, and on Friday we held our Retrainers Meeting for all of our new missionaries and their trainers.  It was such a great meeting and good spirit.  I just love these new missionaries and their excitement, humility and faith.  They are amazing.  We talk about what they have learned--and it is so fun to hear their answers.  They tell us they have learned the power of prayer, the power of bearing testimony, and they have learned the value of a companionship, and many other things. We also talk about how they are doing in the 12 week program--every new missionary is trained in a special program for 12 weeks that helps them learn the ins and outs of missionary work.  It is such an inspired program.  And it is crucial to help them become the best missionary they can be.  So, that is why the role of a trainer is so important in a mission--they really teach these new missionaries HOW to be a missionary.
After our retrainers meeting we interviewed the Fish Creek Zone, and then on Saturday we finished up with the Calgary Central Zone.  While we were interviewing them it began thundering and raining, and we watched an incredible rainstorm!  We were also in the 17th Avenue chapel which is such a unique building with all of these huge picture it was fun to just watch the rain come pouring down.
The Calgary Stampede is going on in full force now--so our missionaries serving downtown have to be in earlier than usual because of all that goes on with it.  We want them in by 8:00 p.m. just to be safe.
We have loved traveling this past week--the scenery is so beautiful.  The canola fields are in full bloom and everything else is so green.  I don't know if last year we appreciated the scenery because we were so overwhelmed!
This afternoon we spoke in a 'Mid Singles' sacrament meeting.  I was really struggling trying to prepare something.  I studied and read yesterday and just didn't feel anything come to mind.  And then this morning I was also at a loss.  I stepped into Steve's office a little teary, telling him that I didn't know what I was speaking on yet--and this was at 10:30, and we were speaking at 1:00.  He told me not to worry, that I had read and studied and prayed, and to trust the Lord and I would be given what to say.  He said he had a few thoughts, but didn't know what he would speak on yet.  He is more used to doing that than I am.  I've been able to do that when the speaking assignment is only 5-7 minutes.  But 15-20 requires more!  Or maybe I just don't have enough faith to trust that I will know what to say for that long.  So, I went back into the kitchen where all my scriptures were and offered another prayer, and then some thoughts and scriptures came to mind.  So, I jotted down notes and scribbles and took the paper with me.    I believe I said what I was supposed to.  Steve did a wonderful job--I truly felt his words were inspired.  At least it's over!
This week we will be preparing for transfers coming up next week--determining who will be new trainers for 17 missionaries coming in!  And Steve will interview all of the departing missionaries.
We meet with our senior couples in the office on Mondays and tomorrow we really go into detail about anything for transfers--any new apartments needed, vehicles, etc.  We are so thankful for our senior couples serving in the office.  They are unsung heroes.  They do so much that no one ever knows about.  We wish we could have all of them stay until our time is over.  They are great examples of consecrated saints.  We love them!
Saying good-by to Elder Battenfield

The beautiful canola fields

Waterton Park in the background 

Waterton Park

Saying good-by to Sister Larsen

In the summer we find rabbits like this all over Calgary--this one was at the church where we were doing interviews.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

One Year Out!

The past two weeks have been quite eventful!  We did another week of interviews up in Calgary, which is always a good thing.  It's funny because some of our missionaries tell me that they get nervous for interviews, and I always laugh and ask them how they can possibly be nervous to meet with President Miles?  I think he is so easy to talk to.  And then they tell me that he is easy to speak with, but they have always gotten nervous for any interview with a priesthood leader.  And then some tell me that they were nervous only the first time with him, and now they really look forward to their interviews.  So, that is good!  It's one of Steve's favorite things to do.
 And then our family came to was the first time Steve had seen some of our grandsons, and one son-in-law, Neil, in a year.  I have been able to see them all because of traveling down to SLC for Steve's dad's funeral in February.  So, it was one happy reunion!
We asked our assistants to come teach a little 'mini' lesson to our little grandsons on Sunday evening--and it was so great.  The little boys actually paid attention, and loved listening to them.  We attended the church services in the little Banff branch--so we brought 16 more people to that little congregation.  (And 6 fairly noisy ones, ha ha!)  We were able to do many fun things with our family--hiking, gondola rides, and just being together.  It was a wonderful time.  We are so blessed to have this amazing family.  They are such a great support to us...we are so grateful for each one, and for their fun personalities, their faith and testimonies, and their devotion to family.  We admire each one so much, and thank our Heavenly Father for them each day.  Everyone speaks of our sacrifice to leave our family, but I think it is a sacrifice for our children to have their parents gone, and not so easily accessible.  But, we have watched them grow together as siblings, and have seen them work together and help each other in ways that I don't think they would have if we were there.  So, I guess we all are learning and growing in this experience.  We have tried hard to include our children in our mission by inviting them to do all the things we have done with our missionaries...our Book of Mormon reading, and the atonement study, and things like that.  Every Monday morning Steve writes a letter to the missionaries and we also send that to the kids as well.  We just want them to feel part of all this great work.  It truly is amazing.  Because of the wonderful plan of salvation, or plan of happiness, we are able to come to earth and experience the joy of a family, and know that we can be together forever.  We are so grateful for our Heavenly Father's plan, and for our Savior who came to fulfill his part and complete the atonement that makes it all possible.
On July 1, it was Canada Day, which also marks our one year anniversary of being on our mission.  We attended the pancake breakfast at the ward close to the mission home, with all of our family, which was fun.  The little boys were able to walk in the 'Primary Parade' and wave their Canadian flags, too!
As we reflect on the past year, it has been one of tremendous growth.  We have learned to trust in the Lord as never before.  We have also been humbled as never before.  We have also never been busier, or more overwhelmed, at times frustrated, and perplexed. But we are also extremely grateful for the confidence the Lord has placed in us, and grateful for the opportunity to serve in this capacity.  It is something you really can't prepare for--you think you are preparing for those 6-7 months before you leave, but then you get out and feel so completely inadequate that you really wonder if you can do it at all.  So, we are grateful for the Lord's patience with us, and we are grateful to know that He is the one directing the work, and if we will trust Him, He will  guide us in it.  He truly does.  And we also know that through the atonement He strengthens us beyond our capabilities.  You can't do this on your own.  It is only through Him that you can.  And so, we are looking forward to our next 2 years.  We have calendared out the rest of 2016 and can see that it will go by fast!  So, we are trying to cherish each day and each moment, and this time to serve together.   Our love for each other has grown so much as we have served in this assignment.  We will always be grateful for that.  You think you have seen the potential in your spouse, and then you see them rise to new heights, and it is amazing.  I have watched Steve become this even more incredible person than I already thought he was!  But, I also know, he is being blessed and guided to do all that is required.
We have seen ourselves stretched beyond our own limits, and we have also felt the Lord carrying us and helping us as we put our trust in Him.

Steve playing a little round of 'lightning' on a p-day while we were waiting to do an interview.

One group of Zone leaders and Sister Trainer Leaders at MLC on  June 23.

Another great group!

And one last group at MLC!

Elders Hopoi and Ince who dwarf Elder Yang!

Elders Hopoi, Mecham & Ince wanted to see if a church sofa would hold all 3 of them!

Sister Blazer and Sister Earnhardt

Saying good-by to Elder Nawahine!

Elders Fong, Todd & Ajeman in their color-coordinated ties!

Steve hugging the little boys at the airport

Best birthday present ever-to be with our 6 grandsons!

Elders Cervantes and Lee teaching a lesson to the little boys

The boys loved these missionaries!

Loved being with my girls!

The little boys loved sleeping on the pads in the basement just like the missionaries do!

The joys of our life! Sam, Wyatt, Beck, Finn, Miles, Drew