Sunday, August 28, 2016

'Un'usual routine in our week!

This week has been out of our usual routine because we had a group of missionaries go home before the regular transfer date, which is this Thursday.  And because the Calgary Temple is closed for cleaning, we took them clear down to the Cardston Temple to go through a session together with them on Thursday before sending them off at the airport on Friday.  But we were glad we were able to figure it out and take this departing group to the temple.  It is always so touching to see them all come into the chapel waiting room dressed in their white clothing.  It is really a bittersweet time for them as they contemplate their missions and what they have done here, and anticipate going home and what the future holds for them.  We think it is a sweet blessing for them to be able to spend that last day of their mission at the temple.  So we left at 8:15 Thursday morning and drove to Lethbridge to pick up 3 missionaries there, and then the rest met us in Cardston.  We were able to have lunch together in the temple cafeteria, and that was fun.  Then we went through our session, after which President Hardy, the temple President spoke with the missionaries for a few minutes.  We then changed our clothes and came out front to take pictures and headed back to the mission home for an absolutely delicious dinner made by Natasha.  Because of the construction going on downstairs at the  mission home we were unable to use the usual training room for our testimony meeting, so we all went together in the living room, nice and cozy, and had our testimony meeting there.  It was actually kind of nice to hold it in there.  We could do it being there were only 10 missionaries.  I love hearing them share their testimonies.  Every single one spoke of how the Savior had changed their lives, and how they had felt of His atonement.  It is pretty powerful to hear them share their feelings of the Savior.  It was a great group of missionaries, and hard to say good-by to them.
Friday morning we went to the airport twice!  Once at 5:30 a.m.. to take Elder Cervantes out to catch his flight to Costa Rica, and then again at 8:45 to take the rest out to catch their various flights.  I am sad and happy all at the same time to hug them good-by.  Sad for me to be losing them, but so happy for the reunion I know will be happening at the other end!
Following the airport we came back to rush to our New Trainer's meeting, where we train all the missionaries that will be training the new ones that arrive on Tuesday.  We have 23 coming!  These new trainers are always a little nervous, and also excited.  It is a big responsibility to train a new missionary--one of the most crucial leadership roles in a mission.  So, we talk about it and train on their responsibilities and talk about how to minister, and love, and help these new missionaries adjust to real missionary life!  We know these trainers will do a great job.
Tuesday of this week we welcomed a new Mandarin speaking elder to the mission.  We still aren't sure why they sent him before everyone else--but we'll take him!  Elder Hatch!  We picked him up at the airport about 12:30 p.m. and grabbed a bite to eat with him and then brought him back to the mission home to meet his new companions that will be training him.  We have a great group of Mandarin speaking elders.  He was tired but excited to get to work!
Tuesday we were also able to attend a District Meeting in the Foothills Zone where Elder King was the district leader.  This district has no sisters--only elders!  It was a great district meeting and had a great spirit about it.  It is so neat to see these missionaries work together, and pray for and with each other to help the work move forward.
Yesterday we were able to attend the sweetest baptism of the Guzman family.  Yes, a family!  Brother Guzman is actually a returned missionary who had gone less active, and he married a non-member with 3 children.  Our missionaries just happened upon their doorstep, thinking they were going there to find someone else.  It just so happened that Brother Guzman was wanting to get fully active again, and his wife and children were very interested.  So, long story short, they were taught all of the discussions and yesterday Brother Guzman baptized his wife and 3 children.  It was so sweet and tender, I can't even describe it.  And today, following the stake conference we spoke at, we were able to attend their confirmation.  To see a whole family come into the gospel is so amazing.  Yesterday as I sat and looked at them all dressed in their baptismal white clothing, I could also picture them in one year from now dressed in white clothing to go be sealed as a family in the temple.  That's what this work is all about!  Binding families together forever.  Our missionaries' role is of course to teach repentance and baptize converts, but they always begin with the end in mind...the temple!  We want every person baptized to receive all the blessings the Lord has in store for them--and those are through the ordinances in the temple.  It is just so exciting.
We know this is the Lord's work and we know He is involved in the details of our lives.  We are so grateful for His great love and that He would perform the atonement so that we are able to be forgiven of our sins, receive His grace to help us throughout our lives, and be able to be resurrected and return to live with our Heavenly Father again--as families!  It is because of our testimony of Christ that we are able to leave our family and come and be part of this great work.  Our testimony of the Savior guides our lives in everything we do.  He has blessed us beyond measure, and we are so grateful to know of Him.
Our Mandarin elders welcoming Elder Hatch (3rd from right)

The mess in our front yard!

More excavation!

The departing sisters at the Cardston Temple

All of the departing missionaries at the temple.

Monday, August 22, 2016

One busy week!

This week we were able to attend two great district meetings.  One in the Confederation Park Zone, where Elder Davis was the district leader, and one in the Calgary Zone with Elder Cajilig as the district leader.   It is so neat to sit in on these meetings conducted by the district leaders and watch these missionaries in action.  They gave such great training, and involved many in their district to help, and had great discussions.  I am really so proud of them.
We were also able to have our Retrainer's Meeting on Friday with all of the missionaries that came in 4 weeks ago and their trainers.  It was also a great meeting where we had a lot of good discussion on what we have learned in the last 4 weeks, and how we can improve as missionaries going forward.  This group had lots to share, and everyone went away feeling edified.  It is so awesome to hear them speak about how they have learned the value of a companion--how they support and lift and help and love each other.  And how important it is to communicate lovingly, and how they are learning patience.  We always tell them that a mission is a great training ground for marriage--you get thrown into a companionship not of your choosing, and have to learn to work together, and get along and be with each other 24/7.  You have to learn patience, and love, and compromise, among many other things! The difference in marriage is that you actually get to choose your companion!
We also this week had our interviews with all of our departing missionaries which will be going home this Friday.  We drove south and interviewed the 3 down there on Thursday, and then interviewed the ones in Calgary on Friday afternoon.  We had 3 leaving early, for unique reasons, so one sister,  left last Tuesday, and 2 left on Saturday.  The other 10 leave this Friday.  It's always hard to say good-by to these missionaries we have grown to love, but we are excited for what the future holds for them!
Our mission home is under full construction now!  At least the basement, and outside.  Bathrooms are torn out, and excavating is going on around the side of the home to put in new drainage systems.  All of the carpet downstairs is torn out and its kind of a mess--but it will look great when it is complete.  So, it does mean that all of the new missionaries coming in, and the ones that are leaving won't be able to sleep at the mission home as they have done in the past.  It will be a few months before we can do that again!
As I write this blog I usually write about all of the wonderful things going on.  But I do need to address a real issue, and that is missionaries that need to return early for mental health challenges.  We have had a few needing to go home for various reasons--depression, anxiety, panic attacks, not being able to sleep and others.  We do all we can to keep them here--working with doctors, our therapists at LDS Family Services and others.  But sometimes their challenges are more difficult and they need more help than what can be provided in the mission field.  And besides that, they need to be in a different environment than the stressful environment of missionary work.  We send them home with our love, and tell them that they have served an honorable mission and that they can answer proudly when someone says, "Did you serve a mission?"  They can say, "Yes, I served in the Canada Calgary Mission."  We tell them they don't need to then add, 'but I could only serve 3, or 6 or 8 months', whatever the case may be.  They served as well as they could, and the Lord was proud of their desire to come.  We always hope that when they return their ward families and friends will embrace them and put their arms around them and give them all of the support they need. They need people to give them hope and love them.  We watch with them a video produced by the church under the Mormon Messages on the church's website called, "Like a Broken Vessel", with Elder Holland.  I would encourage everyone to watch it.  We all need to become more aware of those facing mental health challenges and their feelings and what we can do to be of support.
The weather is so funny here--it can be 85 one day, or even one morning, and then drop to 55!  We have had both the past week.  So warm on one day you want a short sleeved shirt on, and the next day was cold and rainy!  It keeps you guessing!  We've been told that they are predicting the winter to be a rough one.  We will see!
Sisters Allphin, Ratliff, Schnebly, Padron (saying good bye to Sister Allphin)

Saying goodbye to Sister Allphin at the airport

District meeting in the Confederation Park Zone

District meeting in the Calgary Zone

Our oldest grandson, Miles, starting his first day of First Grade!

Elders at Retrainers Meeting

Cute sisters at Retrainers Meeting

More elders at Retrainers Meeting

and more elders!

Saying good bye to Sister Tilley

Saying goodbye to Elder Weidner

Monday, August 15, 2016

Mini Zone Conferences

Last week we held a series of mini zone conferences.  We began in British Columbia on Tuesday, then did the rest of the southern zones on Tuesday in Lethbridge, then came back up to Calgary and did two different conferences with them on Thursday and Friday.  It was a great week.  We have our regularly scheduled full zone conferences coming up in September, but we just felt there were things we wanted to train on and help our missionaries with before then.  So, we scheduled these, and we are so glad we did.  We trained on and discussed 'Finding People to Teach', which is the biggest challenge all of our missionaries have.  We spoke about finding through our members in the wards, and also finding on our own, and the main point is asking Heavenly Father for help in this area.  There is a phrase in Preach My Gospel which states, 'finding through the spirit is as important as teaching by the spirit'.  So, we emphasized the importance of going to the Lord to find out where to go--even in visiting members, and less active members.  We also discussed our visits with members and taught the importance of teaching simple, powerful lessons with the spirit to build their faith and meet their needs.  And then to help them prayerfully consider who they know that would be interested in and benefit from this wonderful message we have to share.  We also trained on keeping all of our lessons short.  We want to have our lessons no longer than 20-30 minutes.  As we do this, we feel that everyone, investigators, members, anyone, will be more receptive.  And we have already seen miracles from this!  Steve just let me read one letter from an elder that spoke of how after the training they were contacting a man they had been trying to reach for a long time and when they finally got him on the phone and asked if they could come teach him, his first response was, 'no'.  But then the elder said, 'we only have 20 minutes'.  The man then said, '20 minutes?  The last missionaries took over an hour.  If you can do 20 minutes you can come right now.'  So they went over, and now he is an investigator and they have a return appointment to teach another lesson.  The elder is so excited!
We are really trying to refocus on Preach My Gospel and all that it teaches.  It is such an inspired manual.  We really don't need any other training than what it contains.  We just need to study and apply it!  So, we were happy with our mini zone conferences, and felt they went well and were beneficial and motivating for our missionaries.  We want so much for all of the missionaries to find more people to teach.  They are so happy when they can teach--we know there are more people out there for us to find, if we will work hard and have the faith to find them.  We are so grateful for their desire to serve.  It really is a phenomenal thing to think about that these missionaries leave everything behind and come out here to do hard work!  You have to admire them so much.  They truly have good hearts, and want to bring people to Christ.  We love them so much.
Our BC zone having lunch in the gym before zone conference--they all brought their own!

We got a kick out of the big jar of peanut butter!

BC zone.  Since they are so far away, we do theirs alone--all the others are combined.

Us with Sister Kendrick and Leonard

Sisters Rasmussen, Smith, us, Elliot, Meyer at zone conference.

Sisters Brown, Blake, us, Lane, Sears at zone conferences.

Sisters Elliott & Meyer- selfie on my camera!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Busy, great week!

This past week has been a great and busy week.
Monday, as usual, we went into the mission office and met with our senior couples there.  Can I just mention again how amazing these couples are, and how invaluable they are?  We have 3 couples serving:  The Peppinger's from Utah, The Thorley's from our ward in Sandy, Utah, and the Sefcik's from Calgary.  We are so grateful for each of them and all that they do.  There is so much that goes on  in the office to make our mission run efficiently and smoothly--and these incredible couples do it all.
And besides all of the administrative things they do, they are great 'nurturers' to our missionaries.  They are wonderful examples of couples that love the Lord, and love each other.
On Tuesday morning we drove to Lethbridge to attend a Zone Training Meeting there with our Lethbridge Zone.  It was a great meeting.  The zone leaders, Elder Dredge and Elder Purvis did a wonderful job of teaching what we had learned in our Missionary Leadership Council the week before.  We were proud of them.  We love being in any zone or district meeting with our missionaries and hearing their insights and hearing of their faith, and listening to how they encourage and help each other in the work.
After that meeting we met with Elder Evanson, our Area Seventy for southern Alberta.  Actually, he and his wife, Jody, invited us to dinner at their home with their family.  They have become dear friends to us, and we love them.  Following dinner we were able to discuss the needs of the mission and how we feel we can improve.  Elder Evanson is always so supportive of us.  After our meeting at his home in Lethbridge we drove to Magrath to meet with the new stake president there, President Maxwell.  We had a great meeting with him--he is just brand new, and is anxious to get the work going.  We just love the stake presidents we get to work with.  Then we drove back to our hotel in Lethbridge.
On Wednesday we attended the Lethbridge East zone training meeting with Elders Linford and Pugh, who also did a wonderful job conducting and training.  Also, in both meetings, the Sister Trainer Leaders, Sisters Dean and Trimble did training as well, and also did an awesome job.  It is so cool to watch these young adults stand up and teach and train.  They are the future leaders of the church, and they will be awesome.
After that meeting we had dinner with Steve's two counselors and their wives at the Gedlaman's home in Lethbridge.  It was great to be together the 6 of us.  They have also become dear friends.  After dinner, Steve and Pres. Gedlaman and Pres. Stephen met to discuss upcoming Ward Mission Leader trainings they are going to conduct in the stakes, and discuss Stake Conference schedules and who will be attending what conference.  After having July off from Stake Conferences, they will begin again in 2 weeks, and we had to reassign who is going where. After that we drove to Raymond to meet with the stake president, President Jensen, and his two counselors to discuss missionary work in Raymond.  Raymond is a predominantly Mormon town--but there are still those who don't have the gospel, or those who have had it and have fallen away.  Magrath is also similar to Raymond in this respect; so the work is different there than in the city of Calgary.  But they are great towns, and we want to find those who are prepared to hear the gospel either for the first time, or  again in their lives.
We drove back to Lethbridge from Raymond and got to our hotel about 10:45.  Then on Thursday Steve did some weekly planning with some elders in the morning, and I was supposed to go with sisters about 1:00, but there was a miscommunication, and it didn't work out.  I was disappointed because I wanted to be with these cute sisters.  Then that evening I went out teaching with Sisters Shaffer and Caldwell, and Steve went with Elders Larson and Mecham.  I was so excited to go on this teaching appointment because they were teaching a less active man and his new little wife who is a non-member.  The lesson was going to be held in the bishop's home.  So, we drove there and waited, and then the sisters received a text that the couple will have to reschedule because they were running so late.  I was really disappointed; but it happens!  So, they will be teaching them this next week.
I at least got to meet this bishop and found out he was a dentist, so he said he would be willing to see missionaries when they need dental help.  The LDS doctors and dentists in our mission are so kind and willing to help our missionaries!  I am so grateful!!!!
We drove home Thursday night late and Friday I was able to catch up on some laundry, grocery shopping and things like that.  It's always nice to have a catch up day!
Friday night for date night we drove to Bragg Creek and ate at a little Italian restaurant there that was so yummy!  We've now found two restaurants in Bragg Creek that are great-this Italian one, and a German one!
Saturday we had a day full of planning and preparing for not only our upcoming mini zone conferences this week, but for the next few months.  It's crazy to see the next few months so planned and booked up with transfers, interviews, training meetings, zone conferences, etc.  It never stops!!
There is never a dull moment!  And there is never a 'typical' day!  But it is all great work, and we love trying to help our missionaries grow in their faith and testimonies.  We are trying to help our missionaries seek referrals more often from everyone they meet, and the golden question they are to ask is: "Who do you know that would be interested in and benefit from this message?"  So, I throw that question out to anyone who reads this..."Who do you know?"  We are all so blessed to have the gospel of Jesus Christ in our lives.  Look at the happiness it brings.  So, we have to ask ourselves, 'just who do I know?'  If we prayerfully consider that question, I know someone will come to mind.  Now just act on that prompting!  We have the most wonderful message in the world to share.
We've had some crazy hailstorms the past while-this is our back patio table.

Lethbridge Zone Training Meeting

Lethbridge East Zone Training Meeting

Monday, August 1, 2016

Visit from Brother Mike Hemingway

I'm always happy at the end of each P-day when I haven't had any calls about injuries!  Last Monday about 5:00 I was thinking we made it through the day without incident and then I received 2 phone calls--one from an elder that had badly sprained his ankle, and another from a group of elders in the West zone stating that Elder Johnson had broken his nose colliding with another elder.  So, Elder Whicker, the one with the sprained ankle came to our home to get crutches, and I gave him an ice pack and some ibuprofen.  Elder Johnson was taken to a walk-in clinic where they told him he had to go to the ER!  For a broken nose, really?  So, he got to the ER and they put in a couple of stitches where he was split open, but they wouldn't reset his nose--which I thought was odd.  They said they usually wait for 10 days to 2 weeks to do that.  So, as Steve and I got to the hospital, we looked up and out walked all 4 elders out of the ER, and one of the elders had the bishop of the ward where he is serving on the phone, and this bishop is an ER doctor.  He told us we could come to his home and he would reset Elder Johnson's nose.  So, that is what we did!  Thank heavens for the good doctors we have in the wards here in our mission.  They help me out a lot with  medical issues!  I had to call one yesterday (Sunday) down in Raymond to help me with a sister missionary there who was in severe pain--and he had her come to his clinic and diagnosed her and got her taken care of.  So, I am very grateful for their help!
Last week we had the blessing and opportunity to have Brother Mike Hemingway, who is the Director of Proselyting for the Church, in our mission with us for 3 days.  He brought his assistant, Garret Beeston, with him.  They met with Steve and I for 2 days discussing the needs of our mission, and giving us suggestions and ideas.  On Tuesday evening they went out teaching with different missionaries- our assistants and some zone leaders, and Steve also went with zone leaders, and I went with two of our Sister Trainer Leaders, Sister Earnhardt and Sister Frandsen.  It was great to be out with them.  We taught 3 different lessons--one to a gal who is a member but has been less-active, but is wanting to come back into full participation.  The other two were nonmembers who are investigating the church.  It is always great to see the missionaries give the lessons they have prepared, and to see them share their testimonies of the gospel and of the Savior.  All of the women were wonderful women, and you just want so badly for them to feel how the gospel could bless their lives.  I'll be anxious to hear how they progress.
Then on Thursday we held a Mission Leadership Council with Brother Hemingway and Beeston.  They did most of the teaching and training at this council, and all of it came from Preach My Gospel.  We have been emphasizing Preach My Gospel the past transfer in our mission, and trying to get our missionaries re-focused in this inspired book.  So, this was great to have Brother Hemingway just train from it.  He shared wonderful experiences he has had being out with missionaries all over the world, and also shared so many insights from Preach My Gospel that we can use to be better missionaries and bring more people to Christ through baptism.  It was a great MLC, and the missionaries went away from it so inspired and motivated!  We want so badly to find more people to teach and baptize here in our mission, and we know they are there if we will work hard and exercise our faith to find them.  We also discussed that we need to involve the Lord more in every decision we make as missionaries, and have the faith that He will guide us.  Too many times, we want to do it our way, and we don't rely on His guidance.  So, we are going to continue to implement the things we have learned into our Zone Training meetings, district meetings, and zone conferences.  We are so excited to raise our vision of what this mission can do!  We want everyone to know what we know, and have the happiness we have because of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Sunday we drove to Drumheller to meet Elders Smith and Crockett so Steve could do a baptismal interview for their investigator.  It was great to meet with them for a bit after the interview and talk about the work in their area.  Drumheller is about 90 minutes from Calgary, and it is a city known for its' dinosaur findings.  We feel like there is so  much potential in that area!  We can't wait to see what these two elders can do.
We've been having crazy weather!  One day will be warm and sunny, and then the dark storm clouds will roll in and it will rain  and hail so hard!!  In Drumheller they have had 28 of the past 31 days with rain.  There is nothing like a thunderstorm here!  I kind of like it when I am inside and can watch it!
Elder Johnson after having his nose reset--Elder Parker is the supportive companion!

Us with Mike Hemingway and Garret Beeston.