Monday, December 26, 2016

More Christmas Zone Devotionals, Baptisms, Christmas!

Last week we held our last two Christmas zone devotionals--one in Lethbridge with our Lethbridge, Lethbridge East, Medicine Hat, and Cardston zones; and the other over in BC with that zone alone.
Both were just great.  In the Lethbridge one we also had some wonderful musical numbers by our missionaries--we had Elder Austin on the cello for one number, and Elder Crockett did a great piano medley where he used the  music from the #LighttheWorld Initiative, and combined it with some other Christmas hymns.  He did a beautiful job with it.  We also had 3 different solos which were beautiful as well.  I love hearing our talented missionaries!  Our BC devotional was small, but really nice!  We were so glad we hadn't had them drive to Lethbridge because as we drove there on Tuesday night, the visibility was terrible because of blowing snowdrifts, and the roads weren't very good at all.  So, it confirmed to us that we were wise in not having them travel the long distance to Lethbridge.  So, instead they got their very own devotional.  The Stake Relief Society president of the Cranbrook Stake provided the lunch for them, and she served a delicious lunch on nice plates and real cloth tablecloths!  We are used to paper plates and cheap plastic tablecloths--so we felt spoiled!  It was so nice of her to do it for us-there were 14 of us altogether, plus her husband and President Andersen, the stake president.  It was small, but so fun!  We have one senior couple in that zone, Elder and Sister Ebert, (from our home stake), and they are such a great influence in that zone, and the missionaries just love them.  They serve in the small Columbia Valley branch, and Elder Ebert has been called to serve in that branch presidency.  They do A LOT of work with less active members, and without them there, that branch would die.  We are so grateful for them.
After our devotional in BC, we drove the almost 5 hours back home to Calgary, getting in about 9:45 Wednesday night.  But the roads were better coming home.
Friday we held our retrainers meeting at the mission home for all of the new missionaries that came out 4 weeks ago and their trainers.  It was a great meeting, and we had such good discussions on companionships, on teaching people to pray, on following the spirit as we plan, and striving for our Standards of Excellence.  I love this meeting.  The missionaries are so enthusiastic and ready to learn and go do the work.  After the meeting we had sandwiches for lunch and then sent them on their way.
This week Steve also interviewed all the missionaries that are leaving to go home this Wednesday.  Normally they wouldn't be leaving until next week with the regular transfer, but because of schooling, this group all are going home this Wednesday.  So, we had interviews all throughout the week, ending Friday afternoon about 5.  After interviews were done, we put on our casual clothes for our date night, and went out to do a little Christmas shopping (our only Christmas shopping), to get a few little things for our kids coming next week.  We also grabbed a bite to eat, too.  It snowed all day on Friday, and the roads weren't very good, but we were excited that we would have a white Christmas!
On Saturday, Christmas Eve day, we attended two different baptismal services.  One for Vicki Moorman, who is truly a converted soul!  We had her at our home last week with the sisters who taught her, and she told us her conversion story, and it is just so inspiring and incredible to hear how she has come to love the gospel, and to hear how happy she is because of it, and for the peace and joy she feels.  Her baptism was awesome!
Then following that service was the baptismal service for the Ngwenya family.  Theirs is an equally incredible story.  Some of our elders tracted out the dad, Thulani,  months ago, and he really wasn't interested, although he was very nice to them.  They thought nothing would come of it.  Then, a few weeks ago, our sisters in that area came upon them again, and this time they decided to listen to the message the sisters gave...and this time their hearts were ready, and they loved learning about the gospel.  Thulani's wife, Thandi, wasn't always able to attend the lessons because of work, but their two children living at home, Michelle (17) and Ryan (12) were.  And they began coming to church and reading the Book of Mormon, and the kids also began attending YM and YW.  Thulani even downloaded the Book of Mormon on his phone so he could listen to it.  Then Thandi began to listen to the lessons, and she is a very spiritual person, and the spirit began to touch her.  And finally she began to read the Book of Mormon as well.  Her heart was touched and they all wanted to be baptized!  We had one lesson with them in our home, and they are an amazing family.  They had one roadblock to getting baptized--Thandi and Thulani were married traditionally in Zimbabwe, their home country, but that isn't recognized legally here in Canada.  And as you know, to be baptized you have to be legally married.  Well, they were willing to do so, but because of their culture, they wanted to get approval from their families still living in Zimbabwe.  They didn't want to move ahead without their family's consent.  They really wanted to get baptized on Christmas Eve, and we told them that with everything going on, they could wait until the next week.  But, they are actually moving to St. George, Utah this very week, and they wanted to be baptized before moving! Thulani had received a grant to attend a university to further his education, and there were about 200 he could choose from.  So, as he got online, he chose Dixie in St. George!  This is even before taking the missionary discussions!  The Lord definitely works in mysterious ways!  So, they were able to get approval from their families in Zimbabwe, and so on Friday they obtained the marriage license, and on Saturday, as part of the baptismal service, the bishop married them legally right before their baptism!  It was really just so incredible to see it all come together.  After they were married, the 4 of them changed into their white clothes to be baptized.  Ryan, the 12 year old, hit it off with Steve when they were at our home, and he wanted Steve to baptize him.  And he wanted to be the ONLY one Steve baptized.  So, one of our elders baptized 2 of them, then a brother in the ward baptized the other, and Steve then baptized Ryan.  It was such a special service.  I wish I could describe to you how happy they are to have found the gospel.  They just beam!  Being here and seeing these new converts and their joy in the gospel of Jesus Christ makes me realize that much of the time we take this marvelous gospel for granted.  We forget just how blessed our lives are because of it, and I don't think we sometimes fully appreciate how it guides us and gives us such great happiness.  I have come to love our Heavenly Father's wonderful plan of salvation, or plan of happiness, even more since being out here on our mission.  I have come to know even more, that it truly is a plan of happiness.  My life, and our family's lives have been so blessed because of it.  That's not to say we haven't had our share of trials and challenges, but we have been strengthened and uplifted and guided and blessed every step of the way.  And we have felt our Heavenly Father's love and the love of our Savior.  I do 'stand all amazed' at the love our Savior offers me.
After the baptisms, I ran to the grocery store to get what we needed for our Christmas brunch with our assistants, and when I got home I made Steve get off his computer, where he was working on the next transfer, and we relaxed and enjoyed Christmas eve together.  We had a pre-made turkey dinner, that actually turned out quite delicious!  And we even watched a bit of a Christmas movie together.
Christmas Dad we attended the 11:00 church where were able to see the Ngwenya family confirmed and given the gift of the Holy Ghost--another wonderful experience.  Thulani was also ordained to the Aaronic priesthood to the office of priest.  He was then able to participate in blessing the sacrament with our two elders, Elder Manarii, and Elder Miller.  It was SOOO neat to see him up there at the sacrament table.
After church we had brunch with our assistants, Elders Stringam and Moffitt.  We love these two elders and are so grateful for their hard work, obedience and enthusiasm for the work.
Then two of our sisters, Sisters Lane and Blake, came to our home to call their families.
Throughout the day we spoke with each of our kids and grandsons, and were able to see what Santa had brought them all.  It was a great Christmas day.  We can't believe it has come and gone--thinking back now, it seems like we just had Christmas last year.  The time has really flown!
Sisters HoChing, Taylor, Messick, King, Meyer, Belmonte

Showing off white elephants!

Noisemaker white elephants!

And more white elephants!

And more!

Lethbridge, Lethbridge East, Medicine Hat, and Cardston zones

Our luncheon in BC!

Getting ready to pass white elephants in BC!

Showing off the white elephants!

Our British Columbia Zone!

Lunch after retrainers meeting

Our entryway when the  missionaries arrive!

Sister Blake, Vicki Moorman, Sister Lane

The Ngwenya family before their baptism with Sisters Stash, Black

Ryan Ngwenya and Steve

White Christmas in Calgary!

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