Sunday, May 28, 2017

Zone Conferences

This past week we held our 4 zone conferences and it was a great week!  We always love zone conference and to have our missionaries together to teach and train each other and to feel the spirit.  We had so many great trainings.  We had two Sister Trainer Leaders in each one train on teaching the principle of repentance, and then everyone had to role-play it.  This is such an important principle for any investigator to understand because it is through repentance they come to experience the atonement in their lives and come closer to the Savior.
Then we had two zone leaders in each one train on how to help investigators that aren't progressing to progress.  That was also a great discussion--that we need to re-evaluate our teaching, we need to help them make and keep commitments, we need to be more earnest in our prayers for them, etc.  It is really so amazing to watch the missionaries discuss things, and to hear their insights.
In each conference Steve taught on the spirit, and on love, and he led the discussion on the talk they had all studied on the atonement.  We studied a talk by Elder Oaks that was really powerful, and it is always one of the missionaries' favorite parts of zone conference--to have read and studied a talk on the atonement and then come prepared to discuss what they gleaned from it.
He also taught them about baptism, and just how important it is to invite people to be baptized--and that a person who is sincerely repenting will seek for baptism.  We showed the Bible video of the Savior being baptized and it was really powerful.
I also led a discussion on working with the youth and young single adults.  This was a follow up from our March zone conferences where we had them watch a video from Elder Neil L. Andersen, our apostle, on reaching out to find the youth and young single adults to teach the gospel to.  So, we re-issued a challenge for each companionship to prayerfully determine what they were going to do differently, or better in their area to find them.
At the end of each conference we always have a testimony meeting which is truly a highlight.
We asked the missionaries that are going home in 4 weeks to share their testimonies as this would be their last zone conference, and those were really special.  Each one gave such a wonderful testimony of the Savior.  I think this is one of the most satisfying things for Steve and I in our calling is to see the growth of each missionary.  To see them stand and share such a powerful testimony of Jesus Christ is really remarkable.  We are so proud of them!
Saturday evening we were able to attend a very humble baptism of Emmanuel Mbakewe.  There weren't very many in attendance, but it was still very sweet.  It is always humbling to watch someone enter the waters of baptism.  After Emmanuel was baptized and was changing his clothes, two of our sisters, Sister Dewsnup and Sister Meiners, stood and taught about Joseph Smith's experience in the sacred grove, and bore testimony that they knew it was true.  Then they also bore testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.  There was a great spirit there.   The woman sitting next to me was a friend of Emmanuel's and we chatted for a bit before the baptism and also when Emmanuel was getting changed.  I asked her if she had ever read the Book of Mormon, and she said, 'no, but I would like one'.  So, I grabbed our missionaries and told them to get her one, and then they set up an appointment to teach her.  She had been touched by what she had seen and heard.  It is so exciting!  I just want everyone to know of this  beautiful gospel!  We love the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Our lives have been so richly blessed because of it.  We truly know that the way to joy and happiness is by following our Savior.
Elder Hacking, Emmanuel, Elder Pentz at Emmanuel's baptism.  

Monday, May 22, 2017

Gone all week-Interviews, MLC, more interviews & warm weather!

Last Sunday night we drove to Lethbridge and on the way down we stopped in Claresholm and Fort Macleod to interview our elders and sisters serving in those areas.  They are part of the Cardston zone, and we are kind of interviewing their zone at different times, rather than all on one day.  We have become quite creative in our scheduling to fit everything in!
Monday we spent the day preparing for our Missionary Leadership Council and on Monday night we drove to Raymond and Magrath and interviewed our missionaries there.  Tuesday we spent the day interviewing our Lethbridge zone, and then on Wednesday we held our MLC down in Lethbridge.  We trade off every month on where we hold MLC, so the same missionaries don't have to do all the one month it is in Calgary, and the next month in Lethbridge.  Some of our zone leaders always have quite a bite of travel time, like our BC elders and our Medicine Hat elders, but this is the best solution for most. Anyway,  it was an incredible day together.  There was such a strong spirit the whole day.  We had many different missionaries give trainings, and each one was so prepared.  These leaders have such a great desire to do the work, and to help and inspire their zones.  We love working with them and are so proud of them.  Since the directive given in April to no longer hold Zone Training Meetings we had to discuss how we will best utilize our zone leaders now, and how their roles in zone conference will be more prominent.  Also with the Sister Training Leaders.  They always participated in trainings in zone training meetings, but now those don't exist.  But for all the leaders, their greatest opportunity as a leader is to minister one on one in their exchanges.  So we discussed how to minister and what an effective leader is and does.  Steve led that discussion and it was great.  He always points them to the Savior's example and how He ministered.
I am always in awe of Steve and all that he can teach our missionaries.  He gives them the best examples in the scriptures, and helps them see how it applies in real life.  I love learning from him.  He's the best mission president ever!!  I'm so glad I'm his companion and that I can never get transferred!!!
On Thursday we interviewed our Lethbridge East zone and then drove to Medicine Hat to do their interviews on Friday.  Our only two sisters serving in that zone were in a bad car accident two days earlier, and we know they were watched out and blessed, because they only had a few little bruises and bumps, and yet their car was totaled.  We were so grateful for their safety, and it was good to see them and hug them!  We got back to Calgary on Friday evening, and then on Saturday we did interviews with our Confederation Park zone.
Sunday we were able to attend the Spanish ward with our 4 sisters and 2 elders serving there.  We love the feeling in the Spanish ward-those people are so loving and fun and kind!  They didn't have any translation going so we didn't understand much, ha ha, except it was the day for the high counselor to speak, and he spoke in English, so we did understand one talk!  But it was good to be there.
Even though doing these interviews and zone conferences  every transfer makes us much more busy,
we see the wisdom in it.  To see the missionaries more often is a good thing--we feel like we can discern their needs better and help them more.  We are so proud of our missionaries.  They are working hard and trying their best to find and bring people unto the Savior.  It is hard work and we are grateful for their commitment.  We really love them.
Our weather the past few days has been great--around 70-75.  And tomorrow it could reach low 80's! We did have a really cold, rainy Wednesday last week, but then it started to warm up.  Everyone is enjoying this better weather.
My Mother's Day flowers from our kids arrived on Monday after Mother's Day and  we were in Lethbridge so Elder Sefcik took good care of them!

Elders Johnson and Jewkes riding their bikes to interviews!

Sisters Leonard, Hansen, Williams, Burns at interviews

Our entire Mission Leadership Council

All of the Sister Training Leaders

Hamming it up with the STL'S!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Another transfer week come and gone!

Last week was our transfer week, and this time we had our smallest number of missionaries leave and come in.  We had 3 leave, and 3 come!  I think our smallest number prior to that was 6!  But it was a great week, as usual.  On Tuesday morning we were able to attend a district meeting in the Fish Creek Zone, and it was so good.  These missionaries just do such a great job of teaching and training each other, and trying to help each other succeed in the work.  I am uplifted after every district meeting we attend.
Then Tuesday evening we had our 3 departing missionaries at the mission home for their farewell dinner and testimony meeting.  It was very small and intimate, but very nice, as well!  We are so grateful for these missionaries that complete honorable missions and go home with such strong testimonies.  Our sister missionary, Sister VanBloem, was actually being picked up by her mom that evening, so it was fun to see that reunion.  It brought back memories of when we got to see our boys after 2 years, and how I just couldn't quit hugging them!!
Wednesday morning we took Elders Rausch and Peihopa to the airport and sent them on their way home.  Then about 1 1/2 hours later we picked up our three new ones. We went to the mission home with them and did our usual training with them, and then had another yummy dinner (made by our fantastic cook, Natasha).  Following dinner we did a little more training with them, and some fun stuff with them that our assistants do, and then we got them to bed early.  Although this group wasn't quite so tired because they had a direct flight from SLC to Calgary, so they didn't have to get up at 2:00 in the morning to catch their flight!
Thursday was our regular transfer day and our new missionaries were able to meet their new companions, and then any of the other missionaries being transferred were all taken to their new areas and new companions.   Transfer day is always pretty exciting.  And there are always some tears, too.  The sisters have a hard time saying good-by to each other!  But it all went smoothly, and Steve and I had to stay down in Lethbridge because he had his Coordinating Council Meeting with Elder Evanson and all of the southern stake presidents that evening from 5:30-9:30.
And then on Friday, we actually took a P-day for the first time in about 5 months!  We decided to go to Waterton Lakes Park and spend a little time there.  And of course because we decided to take a P-day, it was rainy and cold!  So, we weren't able to get out and hike or anything like that, but we did see gorgeous scenery and some wildlife.  And it was just a good break!  The schedule here is grueling, and so it's nice to have a little bit of a breather, but your mind is still constantly on the work.
We know how much the missionaries need their  P-days!  Everyone needs a day to unwind and be rejuvenated.  I just hope they unwind with no sprained ankles or broken bones!  I'm always grateful at the end of P-day to have not had any calls!
Our weather has been so up and down.  Last week we had some really beautiful days--about 75-80!  It was wonderful!  Then it will drop down and be cold and rainy.  But, it is definitely getting warmer and spring is here, and we are all loving it!  This last winter was so brutal, that we are all very ready for nice weather.
Sunday, Mother's Day, we attended the ward where the mission home is located, and then at 11:00 we had to be in the Coventry ward's 3rd hour as they had asked us to come speak on member/missionary work.  Following that we went home and had some time to plan and prepare for our upcoming MLC and our zone conferences.  Then our assistants came about 4:15 to meet and we had dinner together with them before leaving for Lethbridge at 7:00, to do some interviews on the way down.  We were able to talk with all of our kids for about 10 minutes that night while they were all together having dinner.  It is always so fun for us to see them together, and to see the little boys playing and having so much fun.  We are so grateful for our incredible family and for their support and love.  We miss them terribly, but at the same time, we are grateful for this wonderful experience to serve at this time.  We recognize that we will never again serve in a calling where we are together 24/7 and are so focused on just one thing.  It is a great privilege.  We pray that we can guide these missionaries and help their testimonies and faith grow and help them succeed in this great work.
We were grateful to think about our Moms on Mother's day.  We love them and are so grateful for the wonderful women they are, and for the beautiful homes they made for us to grow up in.  Both of our mothers always put their families first, and did so much to bless our lives.  We love them!  And we love watching our daughters and daughters-in-law be mothers.  They are amazing women, and we are so grateful for how they are nurturing and raising our little grandsons.
Elders Davis & Murdock doing role-plays with Sisters Burnside & Rowberry in district meeting.

Sister Hathaway & VanBloem and Elders Whicker and Paletu'a  doing role plays.

Departing picture with Sister VanBloem, Elders Rausch & Peihopa

Mom VanBloem picking up her daughter!

At the airport while waiting for new missionaries to arrive, Steve and Elders Stringam & Assily taught Justus, a pastor from Nigeria.

Our assistants, Elders Stringam & Assily taking selfies!

Our 3 new missionaries- Elders Wiwchar & Hansen, and Sister Hansen

Found this big horn sheep right in Waterton town eating grass!

More sheep in Waterton town!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Temple with the Missionaries

Last week was a great week!  Monday night we held a meeting with all of our Spanish speaking missionaries to discuss the work and see how they are doing.  We love these Hermanas and Elders!
They are so enthusiastic about the work and are really working hard to find people to bring into the gospel.
Then on Tuesday and Wednesday we were able to attend the temple with all of our missionaries!  On Tuesday we had two different sessions to accommodate all the ones in Calgary.  We had one session at 9:30, then we all had lunch together provided by the Calgary West Stake Relief Society, and then we had another session in the afternoon.  There is nothing like seeing the chapel in the temple filled with missionaries.  It is quite a sight, and they bring quite a spirit.
Then on Wednesday we drove to Cardston early and met all of the southern missionaries for a session at the Cardston Temple at 10:00 a.m.  We had about 80 missionaries on this session.  It too, was a wonderful day with our missionaries.  They really love being able to go to the temple.  They can go every quarter if they are fairly close--which basically means everyone except those serving in BC or Medicine Hat can go.  Those two areas are too far away, so they have to wait until they are serving in an area that is closer.  Following the session we had another yummy lunch provided by the Cardston West Stake Relief Society.  These sisters are so nice to feed us!
While there we had a call that one of our missionaries needed to go to the ER room in Calgary, and so we left Cardston to get up there to be with him at the hospital.  One great blessing we have in this mission is wonderful LDS doctors that take good care of our missionaries.  This missionary was actually at the doctor's office and his symptoms worsened so the doctor sent him to the ER.  They do things a little differently here in Canada--and then the doctor called me and told me what was going on.  So, we got there and they had run some tests, that came back negative, so they released him.  We never like it when the missionaries need to go to the ER, because it can be a long, long wait.  This same missionary ended up in the ER again on Friday night and waited through the whole night- 7 hours!-before being seen!  I was up all night texting back and forth with he and his companion to see what was going on.  We were down in Lethbridge attending a Stake Conference when he had to go in the second time, so we were trying to keep in contact with the doctor and the missionaries from there.  But after a second round of more detailed tests, they determined they could release him.  We think he is starting to improve.  And our doctor is monitoring him.  We are so grateful for these great doctors!
Wednesday night after being at the hospital, we had a meeting with all of our Mandarin speaking missionaries to discuss their work and how it is going.  Great things are happening in our Mandarin branch.  They are regularly getting about 70-75 people attending, and if they can maintain these numbers they get to move from having sacrament meeting in the Relief Society room to the chapel.  This is their big goal, and they are almost there!  We are so excited for them!
Thursday we had a day to begin preparing for transfers, and then Friday we held our 'New Trainers' meeting.  Since we only have 3 new missionaries coming in this week we only need 3 trainers!  This is the smallest group we have ever had!  But these new trainers were excited about this new assignment and we had a great meeting with them.   We had a quick lunch with them and then Steve and I had to drive to the airport to pick up Elder Matthew L. Carpenter of the Seventy who was coming to the Lethbridge West Stake Conference.  We had a wonderful visit with him as we all drove to Lethbridge and had the best dinner ever at President and Sister Steed's home.  They served a beef tenderloin that he had smoked in his smoker, and it was to die for!  We had just a great night with that stake presidency and Elder Carpenter, and then we went to our hotel.
Saturday evening we spoke in the session of stake conference and we also stayed to be in attendance for the Sunday session.  It was a great conference, and it was very missionary minded!  Elder Carpenter really emphasized the responsibility we have as members to be sharing the gospel whenever we can.  Following the conference we drove Elder Carpenter up to the airport in Calgary to catch his flight home.  It was really fun to visit with him, and we discovered he also attended Olympus High School, graduating one year behind me, so we made some good connections.  He grew up just a few blocks from where Steve grew up...small world!  We really admire these Area Seventies.  They are gone 3 out of 4 weekends each month on assignment--so Elder Carpenter is gone from his wife and daughter at home almost every weekend!  That would be so hard.  They truly are dedicated servants.  Each one we have had the opportunity to be with is just so nice and genuine.  We have really enjoyed meeting them all.
This week is transfer week, and we will send 3 missionaries home, and welcome 3 new ones.  It is always a fun week that we look forward to.  And then we start all over again with interviews!
All of our Spanish Speaking missionaries with a great view of downtown Calgary!

Lunch in Calgary after the temple

The wonderful people who made our lunch!

Elder Higashi cleaning up!

Lunch in Cardston following the temple.

Meeting with all of our Mandarin speaking missionaries.