Sunday, April 26, 2015

Our new assignment begins- April 26, 2015

I didn't think it would be this hard to move.  We have been blessed to be able to continue to work in the Clear Springs Branch, so I won't have to leave those lovely people.  It has been a little amusing, however, that the Church changed my records to Lilburn but did not change Elder Dixon's.

We began packing.  I have to laugh, we are probably one of a few senior missionaries who has had their call changed twice, have been called upon to work with other companions and who have officially been transferred.  We always joked at home that they had to change the ward boundaries to get rid of us, and it seems that we are having a similar experience here.  They can't get rid of us, so they change the assignment!  Just kidding!

I was officially called as a counselor in the Young Women's Organization.  I love those young women so much, I was thrilled.  We will be living much closer to the Young Women's President, so it will actually make it easier to have meetings.

We attended what will probably be our last District Meeting on our mission.  My understanding is that when we will be in the office we will not be in a District.  We have thoroughly enjoyed associating with the young missionaries.  We have tried to be helpful, and occasionally even brought treats.  I remember some really wonderful experiences in those meetings.

On Thursday, we were able to have another session with our Brazilian friends at the Temple.  They are so wonderfully faithful about the temple.  They are a great example to me.

On Friday, we had fun taking Richard out for his birthday.  We wanted to feed him Brazilian food.  We took him to a churrascaria, but it wasn't as good as what we eat at Branch parties.  Darn!  I wanted to show off the great food we have.  Maybe we can convince him to come to the Southern Barbeque/Brazilian Barbeque cook-off that we are having next month.  It should be great!

This weekend, we were able to attend another special baptism.  Sometimes, we get to hear the stories as these people progress in the gospel.  This was a mother and daughter who had overcome a lot to be there.  The daughter beamed with joy.  It was a special day.





When the service was completed, they had a lovely buffet including a chocolate fountain!  I haven't seen one of those in a long time.  It made me smile and reminded me of Raf and Megan's wedding open house at our home.  We had a chocolate fountain then.  The open house was outdoors at our home.  The wind picked up and there was chocolate sprayed everywhere.  I was a basket-case about it.  Today, I hope I would laugh.  It seems pretty funny to me now.

We had Stake Conference this weekend.  The sessions were really great.  There were lots of messages about enduring through trials.  There were many people who spoke of the loss of a loved one through suicide, helping people overcome addiction or understanding the addicted, learning humility through loss of a baby and cancer.

We really have no idea how blessed we are to have a gospel that teaches us that there is a plan, a design for us that will be eternal.  We have an eternal purpose.  While it is difficult to understand God's plans sometimes, he is always correct and the plan is always ideally suited for our needs.


Monday, April 20, 2015

Remember that change I was talking about. . . . Addendum to April 20, 2015

After I finished my entry, we got a severe weather alert for a tornado in Roswell.  We called our Cumorah sisters to make sure they would not be going out in it.  This is what it turned into:


 The storm continued for several minutes.  The hailstones varied in size.  The first wave were about the size of a dime.  The second wave was the size of a quarter.  It was an amazing display!  Fortunately, we had reached them before they were going out.  So we all enjoyed the display from the safety of our porch! 
And, when it was over, the sun came out and you would never have known there was a storm.




There is nothing so constant as change- April 20, 2015


  

This week was a busy one.  We began our training with the Jessens.  They wanted us to be able to participate in a transfer period before they leave.  I can't begin to express the love and admiration that I feel for the Jessens and the Residoris.  Those two couples created a very organized, efficient, fun and warm atmosphere in the office. I know that while the Jessens, Residoris and Mortons have served, every missionary knew they as missionaries had value.  I have only begun to see all of the things that the Jessens have taken care of, and they also made the missionaries comfortable and made it fun.  Add to that group the Mortons who live in the area and were supposed to be part-time, but Sister Morton worked full-time on medical needs and Elder Morton took care of bicycles and helped out in lots of other ways,  I love those people.  They have left impossible shoes to fill.

But they have all completed the time of their assignments and are returning to their families.  So, on Tuesday we went to stay with the Jessens so we would not have to commute in the traffic (it is a 45 minute drive from our apartment during non-traffic times).  The first day was spent in getting the new missionaries from the airport.  We didn't have a large group come in this time.  When they arrive, there is an orientation for them to explain how things work.  After the orientation, they spend the night at the mission home with President and Sister Bennion.

On Wednesday, transfers take place.  The Assistants have to figure out where each companionship will meet.  That takes amazing logistical planning.  We had so many apartment closures and changes this time that missionaries were coming and going like crazy.  We had to account for phones, house keys, and car keys.  I was responsible for changing the phone assignments on a list.  Thankfully, Sister Jessen is really good at this and had planned ahead so we had a list of the changes.  That helped, but it was still a challenge.

The outgoing missionaries are loaded into a van and allowed to attend a Temple session.  That is one of the things the missionaries most value.

On Wednesday night, our mission serves the outgoing missionaries dinner and then has a fireside in which each of them has a short time to bear testimony and say good-bye.  Missionaries get to invite people they have grown to love here.  The local wards generously bring cookies to serve afterwards.  I heard that we had 250 in attendance, but I counted a lot more than that.
 I made around 100 cookies and so did another of the office missionaries.  I am guessing we had about 500 cookies and they were all gone.

On Thursday morning, we got up early to be at the mission home for breakfast.  We loaded up missionaries and took them to the airport.  We had 21 leave this time, but it was so well organized that it was a smooth trip.  I was not as emotional as usual.  I guess it is because I was trying to learn my job.

Our new home is a house where we live on the upper floors and the Assistants live in the basement.  One of the sweet things that the Jessens have done is establish a good-night ritual with the Assistants.  It reminds me a bit of days when we were raising teenagers, except the Assistants are cooperative and do not complain.

On Thursday night, we attended a Temple session in Portuguese.  This Thursday we will do so again.

On Friday, we helped our Cumorah sisters to get rid of some things other missionaries had left.  Missionaries are notorious for leaving things behind when transferred or going home.  It is amazing what exists in apartments!

DSC01515.JPGOn Saturday, we helped deep clean our Branch building, then helped a family in the Branch move into a house.  We are very happy for them, but sad to have them move from the part of the city where they had been living because they were so helpful being close to the building.  This is a special family who have worked hard to be able to buy a home.  Thanks to our missionaries who are serving in the other ward (our missionaries were already moving someone else) Elder Dixon's back held up and it was done quickly.

altTo top off the week, we attended a production of "Tarzan" done by the CYT (Christian Youth Theater) because one of our Young Men was in it.  I was so proud to see that he had stated in the program that he will be serving a mission!  Great way to start sharing!  We hope to support other activities and productions of the youth in our Branch and the investigators.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Weeks are flying by: April 13, 2015

There are so many things in my heart that I couldn't find a title.  Last Sunday, Susane gave me a huge hug and said "I will miss you."  I was really surprised and asked her where she was going.  She explained that she wasn't going anywhere, but she would miss me when we leave and time goes quickly.  She was correct in two ways.  First, time has gone quickly.  We have been out over 10 months.  Someone said that the days drag on but the weeks fly by.  There is some truth to that.  Some days seemed a little slow, but time is passing so quickly.

What I did not know, but Susane must have felt, is that our call was changing and we would be moving.  We will still be allowed to work with the Branch, but we will not live as close and will be busy during the week.

This week was filled with emotion.  We are beginning to say goodbye to some of the friends we have made.  We have become close to a man who works in the grocery store here.  He is Jewish, and commented once on how we had not tried to convert him.  When we saw him at the store, we told him we were moving.  He wants to stay in touch, and so do we.  We told him we are going to give him a Book of Mormon with our testimony.  He said he wanted us to.

We did the same with our neighbors we have grown to love.  We told Bala that we are moving.  He was thinking of trying to find a less expensive place to rent, and would consider moving closer to our new home.

 We were asked to be ushers for a Rootstech conference here in Roswell.  I was amazed as I sat in on some of the sessions.  For any of you who may think you know how to research, you really should attend one of these.  You can see the sessions at rootstech.org.  I would recommend it.

On the happy side, we celebrated Elder Castro's birthday.  It is so fun to do nice things for the missionaries, and especially on special days.  I have been surprised about how many of the missionaries don't get packages from home.  For some, their families simply can't afford it, for some, the mail is too unreliable.  So we try to look out for the ones serving here.  We had fish because that is what Elder Castro wanted.  It was his first time eating asparagus.

This week has begun wonderfully.  A new teacher was called for Primary and she will have the children from 8-9.  I will have the ones 10-11.  That makes it much easier because their levels are so different.  We also have a new young man and he does not speak English.  Since the new teacher speaks Spanish, they were able to communicate and she loves it because she is learning Portuguese!

Brittani + Jaron + Karen + Jessica + Daniel + Julie + Brian + Alyssa + Makelle



Our Young Women's President has returned from Brazil.  I have not been asked to continue with the Young Women, but I would like to help them.  The President has never been in Young Women in her entire time in the church.  She welcomes help.  Besides, I would miss these Young Women.  They are amazing!

And three of them are going to Girls' Camp!  I am so excited for them to have that experience.




Then, after church we had a baptism of Fabricio.  He is a choice man.  He was found while he lived in Tennessee.  The mission there does not have missionaries who speak Portuguese, so our missionaries were asked to teach him.  They taught him by Skype on our internet.  He eventually moved here and is working for a member.  He is a really wonderful person.  He had given up smoking and drinking before he ever met the missionaries.  The Branch is trying to help him with a better place to live.

The baptism was beautiful.  Elder Dixon performed the baptism.  He holds a special place in Fabricio's heart.  I am so grateful to have the opportunity to see these great things happen.

Monday, April 6, 2015

If you only have the interest to read one post of mine today, make it this one- April 6, 2015

Elder Dixon and I have had interesting experiences in our lives.  When living in North Salt Lake, we lived in the same home but were "transferred" to a different ward, and then returned to our original ward.  We have joked that they couldn't get rid of us, so they would change the boundaries!

Most Senior Missionary couples remain in the same assignment for their entire mission.  Our call was originally English-speaking, but was changed to Portuguese-speaking when we got to the MTC.  That has been a tremendous opportunity and blessing in our lives.  We expected that would remain our call for the duration of our mission.

But the Lord apparently had other plans.
 One of our wonderful office couples is completing their mission in less than a month.  Our Mission President, President Bennion, has been trying for months to get a replacement couple for them.  In the meantime, we had time during the day and indicated that we would be happy to help out.  We have helped with an occasional project.  We were asked about coming into the office and we indicated that we thought it would be okay as long as we could continue to work with the Branch at nights and on weekends.

Finally, when President Bennion made one last call to Salt Lake, he was instructed to bring us in.  It turns out that office help is hard to come by in Senior Missionaries.  Many of those who are computer literate are being sent outside of the country to help where the people in those countries do not know how to do the computer stuff.  To our friends who are contemplating missions- YOU ARE NEEDED!

So, our mission call has been officially changed as of the end of the month.  We will be relocating to Lilburn, about 45 minutes from here.  Elder Dixon will be responsible for the finances of the Mission, and I will be responsible for leases and apartments.  Because of the reduced numbers of missionaries, there are a lot of apartments being closed out.  Fortunately, Elder Dixon is great at pulling trailers, because that is part of it.  We will be traveling across the Mission a bit.

I am very grateful that we will be able to continue to work with the Branch.  We will be able to continue in our callings as long as we are needed and will be there to help with events and activities.  I am hopeful that another couple will come to our mission as member leader support so that someone else can join us in helping the Branch.  So, if you are thinking of a mission, request the Georgia Atlanta North, Member Leader Support (especially if you speak Portuguese)!!

A growing family- April 6, 2015

No, it is not what you were thinking.  Meghan has not yet had her baby and none of the others are expecting.

My "family" expands as I grow to love people here.  There are so many people that I consider are my close friends and family.  As young missionaries come, I have grown to love them like family.  Of course, I have been especially close to the Brazilian missionaries and the missionaries living in our complex.  Each has a special place in my heart.

So, what a fun experience to have our current "neighbors"!  When Elder Dixon first saw Sister Abram, he said "It's Kaitlyn!"  As we have gotten to know her better, the similarities are even greater.  She is funny, a thinker, hard working, and obedient.  She also loves "Peeps"!

Sister Martinez, her trainer, has similarities to Andreia.  She is feisty, funny, proud of her heritage, is a fashionista and has grown, gotten stronger and learned from her experiences.  In this picture, she is showing off a skirt she does not wear often because it makes her feel like a cupcake.

Andreia always wanted a little sister.  I think we found two that fit perfectly!

Easter and traditions- April 6, 2015

It was a delightful Easter.  Since we work with the Brazilian missionaries, we try to see that they have some truly American experiences.  We had them come over for lunch and taught them how to color Easter eggs.




On Easter Sunday, we then used those eggs for deviled eggs (along with other things) for a brunch for the Sister missionaries who live in our complex and later for the Brazilian missionaries   There is a rule that the Elders and Sisters cannot be together for a meal like that, so we had them come at different times.  Since General Conference didn't start until 12:00 noon here, it was easier to do Brunch.

We attended all of the sessions of conference at the Stake Center.  All of the missionaries did so.  After the first session on Easter, we had lunch for the missionaries in our building because most of them had no plans for Easter lunch, and some didn't have plans for dinner, either.  Elder Dixon fixed up a nice table for the Sisters, but the Elders just ate in the Cultural Hall!  It was nice, but not your typical Easter fare.  We made sloppy joes and had meat and fixings for ham sandwiches.  Didn't matter.  The missionaries were gracious and grateful.

So, for those of you who may want to help missionaries but don't know how, here are some ideas.  I don't think many of our missionaries got anything for Easter from home.  Some families can't afford it and some are from countries where they do not have our traditions.  If they have similar situations to ours, it might be helpful if you would volunteer to provide food between conference sessions on Sunday.

The joy I feel in working with the missionaries and trying to help them is tremendous.  I know you would be happy to help them.

Easter-the Real story April 6, 2015

Happy Belated Easter, everyone!  I hope your Easter was wonderful.

Yesterday was a beautiful way to spend Easter.  Sometimes, Easter coincides with the General Conference of the Church and this weekend that was the case.  So the weekend was a celebration of the greatest event on earth, the atonement of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Yes, he lived, and lives still.  That is a hard concept for some to understand.  He is the most remarkable person to ever walk the earth.  He had power over death, His and ours.

He chose to live His life perfectly in order that He could save us.  He endured taunting, those who bore false witness against Him, those who only followed when times were good, unfaithfulness, sorrow, loneliness, pain, sadness, weariness, torture and death.  He never faltered.  I can't imagine the feelings of our Heavenly Father as Jesus was enduring the suffering in Gethsemane and on the cross.  The scriptures do not explain what exactly took place when Jesus cried out to God, "Why hast thou forsaken me?"  Was it that Jesus also had to feel the anguish of wondering if God was there (a feeling that so many people feel), or was it the pain of a parent who just could not watch a child suffer even with the understanding that the child had to do so?  Let there be no doubt, God did not leave Jesus.  Our Heavenly Father was always there.

Depite how difficult it was, Jesus Christ never lost sight of His mission.  We were all counting on Him.  Because he completed his mission, we WILL be resurrected.  I loved the conference talks, and especially President Uchtdorf's talk about grace.  If you were confused about grace and works, I thought President Uchtdorf explained it well.  If we love Jesus Christ and accept His atonement, we will want to follow His way.  Really, it is not about us earning some eternal reward, it is about us accepting the gift of grace given by Jesus Christ.  We can't earn our way into the Celestial kingdom, neither can we expect to get there simply by declaring that we believe in Christ without being willing to live the commandments.

I was talking to two of our beautiful young sisters yesterday about a contact they had with a member of another religion.  The woman asked our missionaries if they knew the REAL story of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Our sisters were bold and indicated that they did, and would return to share that with the woman.

So I have been thinking about the REAL story of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Those who feared Jesus Christ and His message did their best to destroy that message.  They persecuted and killed the believers, believing that in doing so, the path established by Jesus would cease to exist.  What they did not then understand, is that the path of Jesus Christ is an eternal one that cannot be destroyed by men.  Those with evil designs were able to destroy people, even churches.  For a time, their actions caused confusion and dissension among those who believed in Christ.

God is a God of order.  dissension and disputations are not part of His gospel.  He was not going to leave the world in that condition, and He did not.  He set things in motion so that the priesthood could be restored, that there would be prophets on the earth once more.  He called upon a boy, Joseph Smith, to translate the Book of Mormon, a second testament of the truth that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world.

So April is a special month for us.  It is the month that God has sent his Son, and then reestablished His word.  That is the Real story.  Like the Church while Jesus Christ was here, there are those who deny that it is true.  Their denials do not change truth.

Don't forget to check out #BecauseHeLives.  It will continue for quite a while.