Monday, March 30, 2015

Celebration of Women- March 19, 2015

This week I had the opportunity to work with two other sisters to  put together a table as a display for the Women's Conference.  The Stake had chosen the theme of the Temple.  They had decorated the cultural hall with wedding dresses, blessing dresses and baptismal dresses.  On the stage, they created a silhouette of a Temple with the words "Holiness to the Lord".  It was accented by the dresses on each side.  Each ward or branch was given a table to decorate from the theme.  I wish I had pictures of what the whole event looked like, but I only have pictures of our display.

One of our Branch members provided the beautiful skirt, bouquet and trims.

This collage has pieces of the "The Family:  A Proclamation to the World" with pictures of Branch members at the Temple for a wedding, sealings, baptisms and for a new endowment for an outgoing missionary.  The four cards in front were the translations in English.
 The counted cross stitch is of the Sao Paulo Temple.  It was stolen from the Caverni home once, but they recovered it.

The first album that you see had a page for each person who wanted to share their feelings about the Temple.  Unfortunately, I only got a handful, but they were beautiful.  At the back of the book, I put pictures of the Atlanta Temple along with all of the temples in Brazil.  Fortaleza has not been completed and Rio has not begun yet.

In the second book, I put pictures of the Branch members when they were in the Family History Center getting names, when they did baptisms for the dead and when they did endowments, sealings and initiatory.  This Branch is amazing in its commitment to Temple work.  They did the work for hundreds of people, most of whom were their own family names.

It all looked very nice.  Our Stake President wanted to see our books.

This part of the blog will make my good friends Chris and Wendy, laugh.  I have never been good about attending the Women's Conference.  I guess this mission has changed me a lot.

The content of the Women's Conference was beautiful, as well.  I was very encouraged with the message that we must stand strong in protecting the values that are set forth in the Proclamation.  The message was also very clear that there are those who will attend to pull us away and weaken our testimonies.  The counsel was clear that the Lord will let us know if we will sincerely seek to know.

Our Branch also had an Easter activity for the Primary.  It was delightful.  They decorated eggs, ate pizza, played bingo and gathered eggs.

This little redhead is a true Brazilian!  Both of his parents are Brazilian.  You would think he belonged to our family!

We had another Youth baptism trip this week.  These youth are so faithful.  I am amazed.  They are involved in many other things, but make time for the Temple.

We were able to see our sweet Sister Madsen.  She was enjoying a few days with her parents in her former mission areas.  We love her!

Today was the Easter program for our Branch.  There was beautiful music and it gave me chills.  Again, the numbers are not large, but they pull off amazing things.

Please take time to watch the short video "Because He Lives".  I have previously attached it to my facebook site.  On youtube, you can find it at  There should be no doubt that we believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior.  Help spread that message.

Monday, March 23, 2015

A "blessed" week- March 22, 2015

People here will often send one off with a farewell greeting of "Have a blessed week".  Many (if not most) of our missionaries have that as part of the message on their voice mail.  This week was one of those blessed weeks.

We were quite busy this week.  We began with Elder Dixon moving furniture for our friend, Bala.  Since so many missionaries are not being replaced. we find that the mission is closing several apartments.  Bala was able to get a washer, dryer and sofa.  It is wonderful to have those extra things go to good people.

On Wednesday night, Elder Zwick came to speak to our Ward Councils for two Stakes.  His message about the importance of the Ward Council in missionary work was wonderful.  He emphasized that the Ward Council should be actively involved in working with the less active members and part-member families.  He is so right on.  Missionaries come and go.  Their influence does not continue long if the members are not loving the people that they bring into the Church.  Please be kind to everyone you see in the building.  You never know whether a stranger is looking for that "blessed week" and will find it in you.

Elder Zwick also spent several hours in training with our Missionary Zones.  He and his wife have some incredible experiences.  He speaks English, Spanish and Portuguese, and would occasionally address the missionaries of those languages in their native tongue.  He also announced to our missionaries that they will be getting I-pads.  The missionaries have mixed feelings.  They love the fact that they can use media in their teaching, but they still like their paper scriptures and planners and are not certain how that works.

Elder and Sister Zwick shared some amazing stories.  Here is just one.

The Zwicks have a son, Scotty, who almost died when he was born (he has spoken of that in Conference) who is now impaired.  I struggled just now, to find a word to describe Scotty.  While he may be impaired by the world's standards, by the Lord's he is a powerful force.  He cannot read or write, and so, was unable to serve a mission.  When he and his parents went to pick up his youngest brother from his mission, Scotty was allowed to serve as a missionary with his brother for a week.  It was not an English-speaking mission and it was not until the last day that Scotty and his brother came across a couple speaking English.  Scotty immediately used his charm to speak to them.  He gave them a Book of Mormon and explained that, because he could not read it, his family read it to him, He knew that it was true and it would bless their lives.  That couple joined the Church.

Scotty is an awesome example of someone who understands the wonderful gift we have been given in receiving the gospel.  He knows that it will bless their lives.  He loves people enough to want them to know that.  I need to be more like Scotty!

On Saturday, we had lunch for Elder Cruz's birthday.  He loved the chocolate cake and ice cream.

He and Elder Castro are such sweet young men.  I had them come to my Sunday School class last week to talk about the power of prayer.  The spirit in the room was awesome.  Love these young Elders!

On Saturday we also assisted in the Family History Center.  Our little Branch attends faithfully once a month.  We had about twenty people come.  In  Sacrament meeting, they said that there were 258 names found and cleared for Temple Work.  The picture was taken before they all arrived.

Friday night was a little difficult for me.  We had scheduled a reception for a non-member in our building and were there decorating when we learned that the other Ward in the building had planned to use the building that night for babysitting, had a pinewood derby planned the next day, and planned to decorate for their Visiting Teaching conference after that.  I have to say, that the other Ward was gracious and kind in helping resolve the mess.  They moved to rooms other than the cultural hall, did not disturb the decorations when they were in the building, and waited until 9:00 p.m. to set up for the Visiting Teaching conference.

So, we were able to set it up for her reception.

Except this picture of the mother of the bride (one of our members) My pictures didn't turn out, so I will have to wait to include more in the blog.

It was quite unusual.  The bride and groom were married at another church, then came to our building for the reception.  It all worked out, but I was worried for a while.  The reception was scheduled to begin at 6:00 p.m., but did not begin until 6:45 because the bride and groom did not arrive until then.  We were supposed to be finished by 8:00 p.m.  Fortunately, the other Ward worked with us and came in later.

That's it for now. Have a blessed week!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The challenges of a mission- March 15, 2015

This week I have pondered a great deal about missionaries and the challenges that they face.  Having the young missionaries serve is incredibly inspired.  We get to see them when they first arrive.  They are so young and untried.  Some have that new missionary zeal that makes them ready to conquer the world.  Others are nervous, some insecure about their language, some insecure about their gospel knowledge, some insecure about their own testimonies.  Those insecurities get challenged on a mission.  These young people learn to stand on their own.  They learn to believe in themselves and in Heavenly Father.  They overcome in order to serve.

And serve, they do.  I have seen them go out in a rainstorm that was so bad that Elder Dixon's suit got soaked just running to get an umbrella from the car.  I have seen them work when they were tired, hungry, discouraged, even sick.  Recently, our young Brazilians have been switching out of the Branch in order to have more experiences and improve their English.  So, now I have been able to see the difference as they return.

We have also seen many of them when they leave after serving a valiant mission.  They are older, spiritually and chronologically.  They have a maturity that is notable.  They value things that they did not before.  Most leave with the greatest gift of all- the knowledge that they did their best and a testimony forged in the fires of trials.

As the Prophet Alma said:

“Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.
“And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls” (Alma 37:6–7).

Some mission assignments are more challenging than others.  In some assignments, the missionaries are doing a lot of sowing of seeds, but seeing little in the way of harvest.  In others, thing are really going well.  Many people, even entire families, are coming into the church.  We receive a lot of guides and helps in ways to try to reach the people.  But, sometimes, missionaries are there to warn a people who have grown so hard in their hearts that they are unwilling to be taught.  We see a lot of those.  There are people who even advise others not to pray about our message.

The latest rumor about us seems to be that we are implanting a chip in our right arm.  Usually I can figure out where the information comes from, but other than being the sign of the beast from Revelations, I am baffled where they formed that belief about us.

When it happens, I just have to remind myself of the lies and mistreatment our Savior endured.  People called him names and denied that He was the Savior.  He simply continued to quietly serve them.  Some recognized He was the Savior, but were unwilling to follow because of worldly riches, titles, or peer pressure.  Some followed and were subjected to abuse themselves.  Still, He never stopped trying.  And that is the message for all of us.  We cannot stop trying.  There may be one who is willing to listen and receive the greatest message ever.  We just need to find them.

The church is going to have a great social media program for Easter.  It is #BecauseHeLives.  One of the benefits of a mission- we got to see it already!

Last week was a little slow, but this coming week will be busy.  I am glad.  I like to be busy.  It feels more like I am doing something good.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Because he loved him as him own soul- March 8, 2015

Happy birthday tomorrow to Drei-bay!  We sent some money in her card so that Titan would be able to buy her a present.  He chose a loofah and was very happy.  Love that boy!

I have often spoken in this blog about how I hate transfer day.  President Bennion made it clear that it will only become more difficult as I have had a longer time to love these missionaries.  I can certainly see how that would be true.  This transfer we had 22 missionaries return home.  We only have 10 who have come in.

Our wonderful Elder and Sister Residori went home.  They have been such a delight to work with.  We will miss them, in fact, we do already.  Their replacements, the Underwoods, are already hard at work.

The last few weeks, some of the young Elders and Sisters we have grown to love have also gone home.  Two extended for a time to help other missionaries.  Unfortunately, some have had to return for health reasons.

That brings me to the sweet story for today.  President Bennion has been sending the Brazilian missionaries out of the Branch so that they can work with an English-speaker.  That meant that Elder Sousa was transferred to Lilburn and was assigned to be a companion with Elder Aubrey.  Elder Aubrey had previously been his Zone Leader and Elder Sousa was uncertain about being companions with him.

Elder Aubrey is an amazing young man and a great missionary.  He very quickly convinced Elder Sousa that he really loved him.  Elder Sousa felt an amazing bond with Elder Aubrey.  He had fun, did great work, and loved being on his mission.

We laughed when we were talking to Elder Aubrey  one day and he said something incorrectly in English.  He turned to Elder Sousa and asked "What have you done to me?"

A new Elder arrived from Brazil who is struggling with English.  Elder Aubrey (the tall one in the picture) and Elder Sousa were assigned as his companions and Elder Aubrey extended on his mission to help train the new Brazilian.  

But the Lord had other things in mind.  Elder Aubrey was injured in a rugby game and had to return home before the plan.  Elder Sousa will now be the trainer.

When Elder Sousa told us how sad he was and how much he loved Elder Aubrey, I reminded him of the story of David and Jonathan in the Old Testament.  Most people remember David for killing Goliath or for his actions with Bathsheba.  But one of the beautiful stories of friendship is that of David and Jonathan.  Jonathan was the son of King Saul and so was the rightful heir.  He had no jealousy over the successes of David and the people's love for him.  In the scriptures it says "Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul."  Jonathan put his own life in danger several times as he worked to save David.

That kind of devotion and friendship is truly inspirational.  Elder Sousa intends to return to Brazil and so he is worried he will never see Elder Aubrey again.  There will be a way.  Friendships like that continue.

When we speak about the amazing young missionaries, it is because we know people like these two.  Elder Aubrey is very American, about 6 foot 4 inches tall and has a testimony that has been nurtured in a home where he had the gospel.  Elder Sousa is very Brazilian, around 5 feet 3 inches tall and was converted to the gospel as a youth.  Together, they became a force to declare His word among His people that they might have everlasting life.

The other young man in the picture is Elder Coleman.  He was an Assistant to the President, then was our Zone leader, then became a traveling missionary who helped other missionaries before he went home.  Another power-house.  I don't have a picture of his companion in the traveling missionary assignment.  Elder Smith was his equal.

Our sweet Elder Castro has returned to the Branch to work with Elder Cruz.  They have both learned so much in their last assignments.  It is so great to see them grow!

We haven't seen any roaches for a few days and had begun to sigh in relief.  Then, one morning, I went into the bathroom to see this:

There was, literally, a swarm of bugs about the size of ants with wings.  Turns out, we were infested with a "termite swarm", which is apparently not uncommon in Georgia.  Termites generally live in the dirt, but when the young ones break off to form a new colony, they will seek a higher location.  They are not very smart, and get confused.  So, instead of getting to a new spot, they landed in our apartment where they quickly died because of lack of water and not being in the dirt.  I guess we are just appealing to bugs!  Don't let this dissuade you from serving a mission.  It is just us.  Kaitlyn reminded us the other day that when our sons served, our appliances broke down, when she served, we had a fire and our car was totaled.  It is just life for us!

Monday, March 2, 2015

A virtuous life- March 2, 2015

Yesterday, I was able to share the gospel message of a virtuous life with my Young Women.  We read from Proverbs 31:10-31:

10 ¶Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
11 The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.
12 She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.
13 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.
14 She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar.
15 She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.
16 She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.
17 She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.
18 She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.
19 She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.
20 She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.
22 She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothingis silk and purple.
23 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.
24 She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.
25 Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.
26 She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.
27 She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.

29 Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.
30 Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.

I added the red for emphasis.  We are so in need of virtuous women rising up and speaking out.  I explained to the class that women used to hold tight to values, and that kept us on a higher plain.  I don't know what happened in the 1960's in this country, but we went from women holding tight, to "make love, not war".  In a cry for freedom, we gave up some of the greatest freedoms that we had.  

It hit me this week especially because I was planning the lesson and also am very concerned about books and movies that glorify inappropriate sexual relationships.  I read an interview from the author of the current "hot" book.  She denies her book is pornographic.  Based on the critiques I have seen, it is not only pornographic, but is also glorifying violence against women.  Because of that, I decided not to go to a movie anywhere that movie is being shown.  

Elder Dixon and I don't often take a "preparation day" or a date night, but we decided we would like to see the current movie about migrant workers who become track stars.  We could not find a theater close to our home that was not also showing the pornographic movie.  So, instead, we just went to a dollar movie where the pornographic movie was not being shown.  My little stand is not much, but I feel good about not supporting an industry that is destroying lives.

You may wonder about my statement that pornography destroys lives.  It destroys marriages, gives people false ideas about the sacred nature of sexual intimacy, makes exposure to those things almost a given to children who use the internet, and can lead to child pornography and even other crimes.  It is a sad commentary in our country that you can be prohibited from saying a prayer, but you can produce filth with no prohibitions.  

I hope that women will care enough to lead the charge to try to change our world.  We have children and grandchildren who deserve better than this.  

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Setting righteous goals- March 1, 2015

The Clear Springs Branch is a wonderful place.  The members are faithful and work hard.  They are some of the kindest people one could know.  They appreciate and value the Temple and take the opportunity to go at least once a month.  Most of the adult members have Temple recommends.  They have the gospel of Jesus Christ and serve others.  With so much to offer, why don't the Brazilians flock to join them?  I wish I understood.

Elder Galvez will be leaving this week.  It has been a privilege to serve with him.  He has a real commitment to missionary work and to this gospel.  He bore his testimony today and talked about how the past three months (his assigned time to our Branch) have been the most difficult of his mission.  He had to learn the language (his first language was Spanish, he then learned English, and in this three months, learned Portuguese), and also found himself in a different culture.  Too many of us assume that South and Central Americans are all alike.  They are not.  Their cultures are very different.

He had originally set a goal to baptize every week of his mission.  He then felt that any goal he set should be done with prayer.  After doing so, he set a goal for a certain number of baptisms.  He was well on his way when assigned to the Branch.  But we have not had people accept the invitation to get baptized in the Branch.  His goal seemed like it would slip away.  He prayed to the Lord and put it in the Lord's hands.  Today, one of our terrific investigators who had struggled to make the decision, went to Church and decided that he wanted to be baptized today-after Church.  That baptism was the final one to complete Elder Galvez' goal!  Righteous goals can result in amazing results!

More importantly, Josh is now a member of the Church.  He is a wonderful man who had married one of our Portuguese returned missionaries.  He waited to be baptized until he was sure.  I am certain that because he listened to the spiritual promptings he received, he was able to bless Elder Galvez and enable Elder Galvez to complete his goal.

Having Elder Galvez leave will mean big changes for us.  We don't yet know what the changes will be exactly.  We do have two new Brazilians in the mission.  They will be trained by English-speaking Elders.  Elder Cruz passed his driver's test and got his license!  Look out on the roads!

Yesterday, we had a Valentine/Friendship party.  We had 26 non-members of the Church there.  It was fun.  Bala and Sravanthi and Varnika came.  The Branch has really accepted them.  They had a good time.  Varnika made friends with many people there.