Sunday, July 16, 2017

Busy, On the Road, Zone Conferences

I am finally getting a chance to sit down and write about the last 2 1/2 weeks!  I don't think I will recap it all, but it has been action packed!  After transfers we began interviews again, and after our first week of interviews we left on Friday June 30 to drive out to BC, particularly to Trail and Nelson, the farthest west cities in our mission where we have elders serving.  We had set appointments to meet with the branch presidency in Nelson, and with the Ward Council in Trail.  We arrived in Cranbrook late on Friday evening, and then on Saturday, which was Canada Day (celebrating 150 years as a nation!), we decided to take a little detour before getting to Nelson and go to Nakusp, the little town we have skied out of.  It was fun to go see it in the summer, as we have only seen it in the dead of winter when we skied there with our kids. Sunday morning we were able to have our meetings in Nelson and Trail, and we also were able to interview the elders serving there.  Then we left and drove to Creston, BC, and interviewed the elders there before driving back to Cranbrook.  On Monday we attended their District meeting and completed the interviews with that zone.  We stayed in Cranbrook overnight so we could meet with President Anderson, the stake president on Tuesday, before driving back to Lethbridge. In Lethbridge we were able to meet with President Stewart of the Lethbridge East Stake on Tuesday night.  We then did interviews with both zones there and also the Cardston zone the rest of that week.  And Steve and I were both able to go out teaching with missionaries on Wednesday night in Lethbridge, and that is always good!  It's good for us to be out with our missionaries 'right in the work', so we can better know how to help them.  We got home on Friday night after being gone for 8 days.  It was a great road trip, and we put on a lot of miles!  It was so fun to get out to Trail and Nelson in the summer instead of winter!  The scenery is spectacular at this time of year.  We noticed lakes that we have never seen in the winter because the weather is always so bad that you can't see them!
The canola fields are also in full bloom right now in Alberta, and so when you drive from the south up to Calgary you see the beautiful fields of yellow!  They are spectacular!  We have also had some very hot weather!  A couple of days it has gotten to 36!  Which is about 97-98 Fahrenheit!  So hot for Canada!
On July 6-7 we had a mission wide fast to help us in our efforts to find more people to teach.  Each companionship began with a prayer around 7 p.m. on Thursday and would close the fast together about 5:00 on Friday. It was so neat to think that our whole mission was united in fasting and prayer to bring more souls to the Savior.  We designated the hours from 2-5 p.m. on Friday to be hours where every companionship would be outside talking with people, exercising the faith that if they were out working, they would find people who are receptive.  We had so many miracles happen, and we felt very blessed. Steve kept receiving texts from missionaries telling him of the events and miracles that were happening.  It was so powerful!  We truly do know that when we come together unitedly in fasting and prayer, the Lord will bless us, and He did!
We had the weekend home to prepare for zone conferences the next week and then on Monday evening we drove back to Lethbridge for our zone conference with every single southern zone.  We had to do it this way because we had Tiwi's being installed in all of the cars.  Tiwi's are devices to help our missionaries be more safe.  It has a GPS system in it, and it will actually alert the driver if they are going above the speed limit, so they can readjust their speed.  We are excited to have them in our vehicles.  As we've read the statistics from other missions that have them, it is amazing to see how their accidents and speeding violations have decreased.  It will bless our missionaries.
We had our 3 zone conferences, the one in Lethbridge and two up in Calgary this past week.  We focused on Teaching for Understanding, Applying Preach My Gospel more in our work, Having the Faith to Find, and Finding through the Spirit.  We felt like the conferences went really well, and the missionaries were uplifted and inspired.
At the end of our conference in Lethbridge as we were holding our testimony meeting, Joe Paul (the man in charge of the TiWi Installation) came in telling us that a senior's facility right next to the church was on fire and they needed help getting the senior residents out of it and into a safe place.  So, we stopped testimonies and headed outside to help.  The Firefighters were evacuating the people, and our missionaries helped walk them from the facility into the church where we set up chairs in the gym and got them comfortable.  We were able to get them bottles of water, and some snacks, and just visit with them and calm their nerves while they waited for family members to come and pick them up.  The Red Cross came and set up their station inside the gym and began helping with 'triage' and assessing if any of the seniors were in need of medical attention.  It was a great blessing that we could be there to serve and help, and an experience our missionaries won't forget!  It was quite an ending to the zone conference!
This first week of July we also had the difficult experience of informing one of our sweet sisters, Sister Poll, that her dad had unexpectedly passed away.  We have not had to do that before, and prayed for the spirit to be with us, with her, and with her family.  That was one of the hardest things I've done on my mission, is to relay that news.  We let all of our missionaries know what happened, and as it had happened  right before our fast began, they all included her in their fasting and prayers, so that was a sweet experience.
So, we have completed all of our zone conferences and this week we will complete interviews and start preparing for transfers.  There is never a dull moment, and we had a few days where we were literally exhausted.  But we are always renewed to do what needs to be done.  We know Heavenly Father blesses us beyond our capacity.  We were grateful for prayers from our children at home, who sent extra ones our way.  We are so grateful for their love and support.  
Beautiful BC scenery


Elders Hawkins & Bryner helping out on Canada Day!

Sisters Ence & Williams dropping me off after going out teaching with them!

Canola fields in full bloom!



Lunch at zone conferences in Lethbridge



Love these sisters!


Missionaries celebrating birthdays getting their 'gifts'

The seniors our missionaries brought to the church from the fire

The senior facility on fire in Lethbridge

Zone conferences in the north

More cute sisters!


and more cute sisters!


Spanish speakers!

We always enjoy lunchtime at zone conferences!



Selfie with Sisters King and Carillo

Monday, June 26, 2017

Another transfer complete!

Last week was our transfer week, and as always it was busy, fun, and exciting!  We took all of the departing missionaries to the temple on Tuesday evening and then came back for our usual yummy dinner and testimony meeting at the mission home.  This was a hard group to lose!  They have been just wonderful missionaries, and we will miss them!  But as always, as soon as we send them on their way--which was Wednesday morning-- we receive another great group of missionaries!  So Wednesday we said good-by to 12 and hello to 10!  We love getting our new missionaries at the airport and seeing their excitement to be here.  We had to wait quite awhile though for this group to get through customs!  We didn't even get back to the mission home until almost 5:00, and usually we get back about 3:00.  So we had to change up our schedule and training with them, but it all worked out.  That night the sisters stayed here at the mission home and the elders went to a hotel for the night.  Then on Thursday morning we began training at 8:00 a.m. with the new missionaries and then at 8:45 their new companions came to meet them and go to their areas.  That is always so fun!  I think the trainers are just as nervous as the new missionaries!  Then we met at the Willow Park church to begin the regular transfer, with everyone going north, south and every which way.  Our new couple, the McNary's were there to witness their first transfer and it was a little overwhelming for them I think, mostly because they know they will be so heavily involved on the next one and the Thorley's won't be here to help.  But, they will catch on and it will be great.  It's really quite a remarkable thing when it's all said and done!  We are always grateful when transfer day is over and no one has lost luggage, or no accidents, etc.  Especially when missionaries are going to areas to 'purge in' where they have never been before.  And there are always some tears, as missionaries say good-by to companions they have loved.
Friday we were able to meet with our Mandarin speaking missionaries to discuss the work and help them, and that was a good meeting.  And then later that afternoon we were able to take a little p-day for a few hours and we went to Glenmoor Park.  It is right by Glenmoor Reservoir in Calgary, and the Thorleys had told us it had great trails to walk on, so we went to check it out.  Once we got there and got walking on the trails, we wished we had our bikes!  Because it had great paved trails for biking all the way around the reservoir--it was beautiful, and relaxing.  We enjoyed a long walk outside--we love getting outside because we feel like we are inside 95% of the time!  And then we went to catch a bite to eat before going home.  We are trying to be better at taking a p-day or afternoon.  We have figured that once a transfer we can get one in, and it is the day after transfers are over.  So, we are aiming for that!  We don't know how any mission president gets a p-day once a week.
We have loved getting pictures of our new little grandson Jake--it has helped with the little bit of heartache I've had in not being able to be there to snuggle him.
Saturday and Sunday we participated in the Fish Creek Stake Conference which was really good and Sunday afternoon we began planning for our upcoming MLC on Wednesday and our Zone Conferences coming up the middle of July.  There's always something to plan for!
Today we were able to attend district meetings in the Calgary West zone, Steve went to one and I went to another.  In these meetings we had all read a talk on the atonement by President Faust and came prepared to discuss it.  As always, I love to hear the insights of the missionaries as they learn more about the Savior and His atonement.  We love being in meetings with them--they are so inspiring.  They truly are disciples of Christ and we are so grateful for their decision to serve missions.
Our sweet little Jake surrounded by big brothers Sam & Drew and Mom & Dad

At the temple with our departing missionaries

Elders Stringam & Assily taking selfies with my phone while at the airport waiting for new missionaries

Our new missionaries 

District meeting in the West Zone

My friend Jackie came up on her motorcycle (with friends) and stopped to see us!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Incredible Week!!

One week ago today we found out that our ninth grandchild coming in December (Les & Jord) is going to be a GIRL!!! The streak of boys is broken!  We will have 8 grandsons, and one granddaughter!  We are thrilled!  But we would have been just as thrilled had it been grandson #9!
And then today, little Jacob Ashton Miles was born to Katy and Brad (#7 grandson).  We are so grateful he is here and healthy and everything went well!  We have been looking at pictures being sent all afternoon!  I have to admit, it is really difficult to not be there.  I know by now I would have been to the hospital snuggling him, and also helping out tend Sam and Drew.  So, I will just send my love and hugs through texts, and send prayers of gratitude for this sweet new addition to our family.
We have been blessed this week, too, to have another new senior couple arrive in our mission--the McNary's who will be replacing the Thorley's serving in the office.  They arrived late Saturday, and we were able to meet them Sunday, and we are so thrilled to have them here.  They will be a wonderful addition to our office.  So, our office is really turning over, with the Stephenson's on board, and now the McNary's.  They are all 'training' and trying to learning their various responsibilities, and feeling a little overwhelmed, but they will be super.  We are so grateful for the service of senior couples.  They are invaluable!  Next week the Thorleys will be headed home, and we will miss them. They have been of such great service in our office, and have given their all to serve, and we are so appreciative.
Tuesday we attended a district meeting in the Foothills zone, and it was such a great meeting. I know I say it every time, but I am so inspired by our missionaries as they teach and train each other.  They really have such an incredible spirit about them.  I learn from every meeting I go to--I learn from them, and I love it.
Friday we had our New Trainer's meeting.  These missionaries will be training the new ones that arrive on Wednesday.  There are 10 new missionaries coming, although 2 are visa-waiters, so we won't have them for long.  The new trainers are always so excited to receive the assignment to train a new missionary.  It is a lot of trust placed in them.  We realize that a new missionary's mission is impacted greatly by their trainer, so we pray hard to determine who is to train.  We are excited about this group of trainers, and know the Lord will bless them in this assignment.
Saturday we participated in the Calgary Stake Conference, Steve in the priesthood leadership meeting, and both of us in the Saturday evening session.  We brought up all of our missionaries to the front and had them recite their mission purpose and our mission scripture.  It was quite a powerful sight to see these disciples of Christ all stand together.  We are so proud of them.  They really have such a great desire to share the gospel.  While Steve was in the priesthood session, I was able to teach an investigator with Sister Burnside and Hatch.  It was a 17 year old girl named Bethel from Ethiopia.  She was the sweetest thing, and we taught her the Plan of Salvation.  The sisters did a great job, and there was a sweet spirit there.  Bethel had even been reading the Book of Mormon on her own, and she had written down questions she had!  That is amazing!  And the sisters were able to get her a copy in her native language, and she was so excited about that.  It was a great experience for me.  I love to be able to teach with our missionaries.
Sunday we were able to attend the baptism of Olivia and her 12 year old son, Rain, in the Mandarin branch.  It was such a sweet baptism, and she was so excited.  Olivia moved here from China last year, and within one month, she had met the missionaries and they began teaching her.  She has been taught for a little over 6 months, but she finally chose to be baptized, and she was so joyful.  She leaves to go back to China in July--so I can see the Lord's hand in her conversion.  I believe she really came to Canada just to find the gospel, and now she will go back to China and tell others about it.  And the cool thing is, the city where she lives, actually has a branch there, and the missionaries here have already found out the details for her so she can go when she gets home.  It is so amazing--these little miracles.  I have come to know on our mission that miracles happen all the time as we exercise our faith and believe and trust in the Lord.
Sunday being Father's Day, we had a bbq with our assistants, after they met with Steve to talk over the transfer.  I made Steve potato salad--his favorite--which he hasn't had in 2 years.  And then 4 of our sisters, Sisters Carillo, Caldwell, Bodily and Johnson surprised us with a decorated front door, and a scrumptious chocolate cake!  Sister Bodily makes cakes professionally, and it was delicious!  They are so good to us, and we loved their doorbell ditching!
Tomorrow we say goodbye to 12 wonderful missionaries that we love.  They have been dedicated servants, and we will miss them all!  But we are excited to see what lies ahead for them, and then on Wednesday we welcome our new ones.  Our treadmill just keeps on going--it never stops!
This is great work, and we love it.  We love being with our missionaries and feeling of their faith and testimonies.  We are grateful for this time to serve here, to serve them, and to serve together and be instruments in the Lord's hands.
Elders Tate & Ibanez wishing Steve Happy Father's Day

Elders Lee and Boss directing traffic at stake conference

Elder & Sister Stephenson, coming to serve in our office

District meeting in Foothills!

Lunch after New Trainer's meeting

Olivia and Rain's baptism--the two Elder Chen's baptized them.

Father's Day door decorations!

Cake made by Sister Bodily

Elder and Sister McNary-coming from Sandy, Utah

Jacob Ashton Miles!!!! So sweet!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Difficult trials

I don't know if I've mentioned before some of the difficult trials some of our missionaries face with their families.  We have several missionaries whose parents are all battling cancer, and we know the worry and concern this leaves a young missionary.  One sister's mother passed away just last month, and this sweet sister was able to go home and be with her mom for a few days before she passed, and then she came back out into the field.  What faith!  Our hearts ache for them as they go through this and we pray for them and their families every day.  Many of our missionaries deal with very tough challenges at home, and yet, here they are, out trying to serve the Lord and share His gospel and bring joy into someone else's life.  It is really quite remarkable.  As they face these challenges we see their faith grow, and their love for the Savior and His atonement deepen.  They come to know in a real way what the atonement is and how a loving Savior can bring them the peace they need.  Saturday we put Elder Todd on the plane to go home 10 days earlier than his true release date to be with his Dad who has been battling cancer.  We are so grateful for his selfless service and his testimony.  He will be such a strength for his family.  We love and admire these missionaries so much.  They are valiant servants.
Saying good-bye to Elder Todd

Interviews complete, Family visit!

We've had a great busy couple of weeks, so I'm finally getting a chance to sit down and write!
We completed all of our interviews for the transfer, held our Retrainer's meeting and then had our family come up to visit!  We have enjoyed our interviews and are really seeing the value of having them every transfer.  And we feel our missionaries are working hard and are trying to be the best missionaries they can.  This is hard work, and we are so grateful for their righteous desires and their enthusiasm to share the gospel.  In our zone conferences we initiated a 'walk one day a week' policy, where they park their cars one day each week and are completely on foot.  This gives them great opportunity to be out and about talking with whoever comes in their path, and so far we are hearing so many good things coming from it.  Having cars is good, but in reality, they can be a detriment to the work, because we can spend too much time in them and miss the chance to talk with so many people on the street.  And with the good weather, there's no better time than now to be outside!  So, the elders and sisters get to plan which day they will park their car, and then plan for that day so they can be as effective as possible.
We had a great Retrainers' meeting with our 3 new missionaries that came one month ago and their trainers.  We are so proud of them and their progress and excitement.  We love the enthusiasm of new missionaries!
It was so fun to have most of our family up to visit.  We were able to spend time in Waterton Lakes Park with them, hiking, biking, and just being together, which was the best!!  To hug each of our children and then our little grandsons, was absolutely fantastic.  We missed Brad and Katy and their two little boys not being here; but we understand 'doctor's orders' that she needed to stay close to home since their little baby is due June 24.  Our little grandsons are the joy of our lives, and we had so much fun playing with them, and being with them, and seeing their fun personalities.  We love these 6 little grandsons of ours and are so excited to welcome one more grandson in 2 weeks, and then one more in October!  8 boys!  And then in December, we will welcome one more grand baby-yet we don't know if that will be a boy or girl--we will take either!!  We love our family and are so incredibly blessed to have each one of them.  They are remarkable people, and we are grateful for their faith and testimonies, and for their love and support for us.  It's hard for children to have their parents gone for 3 years--and we are so grateful for all they do for us!  We are so blessed to have them all!  While they were with us we had our missionaries serving in Cardston come have dinner with our family and leave us with a message.  It was so great to have our little grandsons with these missionaries and to be taught by them.
Saturday afternoon we drove to Taber to participate in the stake conference there with Elder Larry R. Lawrence of the Seventy and his wife, Laurel.  President and Sister Baldry invited us to stay in their home, and they treat us like kings and queens.  Sister Baldry is a wonderful cook and prepares these scrumptious meals for us--it's the best bed and breakfast in Canada!  We have so loved the friendships we have made with the stake presidents and their wives.  They are wonderful people.
President and Sister Stewart in Lethbridge let us use their kayaks at Waterton Lakes so the kids could go out kayaking--and they had such a blast.  Everyone is just so generous and kind!
Our Retrainers Meeting June 2

The family getting ready to hike to Crandell Lake in Waterton

Playing with Beck and Wyatt by the lake

We were able to see 3 different bears in Waterton!

Doing selfies with Finn and Miles!

Found two of our elders in Waterton--their Ward Mission Leader took them hiking on P-day!

Dinner with our Cardston missionaries

Our Cardston missionaries gave us a great lesson!
Sister Stash, Sister Rasmussen, Elders Wilgar, Harrison, Ajeman, Sisters Smith & Ence

We also found two Mounties!  First time ever!