Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Utah Ogden Mission: Weeks 7-8

When I was a young missionary (19 years old) serving in the Hinterlands of the Ohio Cleveland Mission in Ashtabula Ohio in the Kirtland Stake, I remember after 3 weeks of knocking on hundreds of doors and visiting many, many people that I felt like I wasn't having an impact on anyone in my mission. I was homesick, I felt lonely and I didn't understand why we weren't committing anyone to baptism or bringing anyone to church. 

I felt a bit like Joseph Smith, though my experience of loneliness cannot compare to his loneliness in a dungeon in The Liberty Missouri jail for a year. He said in the Doctrine and Covenants Section 121:1 "God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?" I think many people feel this. Many young missionaries feel that way as they enter the mission field. For many, it's their first time away from home. It's a literal wake up to what real work is. A rigorous schedule that begins at 6:30am and concludes at 10:30pm. 

I remember thinking  2 years was going to last forever. I had thoughts of my life back home. College, family, a girl, the mountains etc. seemed to pervade my thoughts. I came back to the apartment after another long day and knelt before God and cried out. "Heavenly Father, where art thou? This is harder than I expected and I feel alone! What shall I do? I'm sad, I'm fearful. Help me!" I was literally crying out to God. As I cried, a sensation started at my head and coursed through my body to my toes. Amy calls it "warm carbonation." An envelopment of love much like a warm blanket filled me. That sensation happened 3 times in a row. I cried more, but this time in the spirit of gratitude. God had answered my prayer in only a way he could. 

From that day forward I was committed to working for Jesus. I laid aside the thoughts of home and I went to work. The days seemed to get shorter and we started finding people who wanted to come closer to Jesus Christ. I started feeling peace and then eventually joy filled my heart. I still had my ups and downs on my mission like all missionaries, but the work became much sweeter from that day forward. 

These days in the Utah Ogden Mission with our family are beginning to blend into weeks. I'm sure the weeks will start blending into months. Time is moving along ever so fast. 

We welcomed 16 new missionaries 3 weeks ago. In 3 weeks we'll welcome another 23. My prayer is that they discover quickly for themselves that we have a Father in Heaven who is God. He loves us and cares for us. He sent his Son to earth to die for us. They called a prophet Joseph Smith in these the last days in preparation for the 2nd coming of the Lord. To help people understand his plan for us, the Lord has given us a Bible. He has also given us another testament of Jesus Christ called the Book of Mormon. In it, His works are revealed. Jesus has called a prophet today, much like he called prophets of old. They lead us, guide us and help us. 

We welcomed Elder Ballard of the quorum of the twelve apostles last weekend. He spoke to the entire mission and conveyed his love and testimony of Jesus Christ. He testified that the Savior is real, and that he lives. We are fortunate to have living apostles on the earth again. 

Over the last 2 weekends I have spoken in 5 stake conferences. (Multiple congregations numbering around 1400 people each). I have enjoyed getting to know the people of the greater Ogden area. They are good. They are generous. They serve in their communities and they love the Lord. 

Mackenzie and Emma started Bonneville High School today. They were visibly nervous last night. Much like the patriarchs of old, I asked my children if they would receive a fathers blessing. They agreed readily. I laid my hands upon each of their heads and through the priesthood of God, blessed each one of them. I'm grateful for the spirit that attended us during Monday family time and the renewed confidence each child had after their blessings. They had a good first day. Josh and Eliza start tomorrow. They are excited. Their school is a science magnet school which makes dad and mom excited. ;) 

We are loving our mission. Though we miss each of you as we serve, a greater appreciation for who you all are and what you have done for us is in attendance. Thank you for your support. 

Monday, 10 August 2015

Transfers: Utah Ogden Mission Weeks 5-6

Last Monday morning we ran the departing missionaries to the Salt Lake City airport early in the morning. As we drove, they expressed their thoughts and feelings about the mission. Many memories were shared. Their feelings ranged from enthusiasm to concern, remorse and fulfillment, sadness and joy. It was a learning experience. Those who had consecrated themselves fully as missionaries left with their heads held high. Those that could've done more questioned the worth of their mission. I hope they all feel that their missions were acceptable to the Lord. 

Monday night we went back to the airport to pick up Elder Jordan who flew in from the Mexico MTC. We waited and waited and after 1/2 hour someone from a different terminal found us and asked, "are you looking for a lost missionary?" We said yes and he said he was in a different terminal. We ran over there and found a distraught missionary who had just disembarked a plane with 17 "returning" missionaries from Mexico. He was just starting and they were just ending and he couldn't find his mission president. What a way to start a mission! ;( We gave him a big hug, took him to dinner and I think he's recovering. 

Tuesday morning we picked up the other 15 missionaries from Union train station in Ogden. The missionaries take the front runner train from Provo. They all came off the train happy and smiling and had placed a few Book of Mormons. Their enthusiasm was infectious. Their commitment strong. I sat one on one with each of them and they shared their desire to be great servants of the Lord. They bring a wonderful spirit from the MTC. I know they will be outstanding. We did a bit of training, fed them, had a testimony meeting and the 3 sisters spent the night in our home while the Elders spent the night with some senior couples. 

Wednesday morning was transfer meeting. Every missionary being transferred came to the chapel at 8:45am. They stood up for the new missionaries as they arrived. Sister Jaggi and several of the Zone leaders shared wonderful testimonies. We paired the trainees with their trainers and you could feel their energy ready to explode. After the meeting we went into the cultural hall where the seasoned missionaries welcomed the trainees with cheers and smiles and even lifted up one of our Thai Missionaries over their heads and he smiled from ear to ear. I love the spirit the new missionaries bring. 
The rest of the missionaries went to their new areas and begun the work. Only 13 companionships were not affected by this transfer. It was big. 

Sister Jaggi and I attended our first stake conference yesterday. One of 59 we will attend in the coming months. It was held in the beautiful Ogden Tabernacle, immediately adjacent to the Ogden Temple. It is a new, beautiful facility. The new stake presidency spoke on the importance of the Sabbath day, the law of the fast and forgiveness. It was a beautiful Sunday morning session. 
This last Friday we had the opportunity to visit with Lisa Jacobs after a meeting in Salt lake. We love her and miss our friends in Newbury Park, but we know we are in the right place. 

After we met with Lisa we had a chance to grab lunch with Scott and Jana DeReuyter. They shared with us their experience being sealed in the Provo temple last Thursday. Their daughter Shanti was in the MTC and leaves as a missionary to Mongolia next week. It was so sweet to meet with them and feel their spirit and their love of their family and the temple. 

We are looking forward to welcoming Elder Ballard of the quorum of the 12 apostles this Saturday. The missionaries are ecstatic about the opportunity to meet an apostle. 

This is an amazing work. Never a dull moment. I'm grateful the Lord sustains our bodies and minds as we continue helping our brothers and sisters find greater peace and joy in this life. 

Sunday, 2 August 2015

1st Group of Departing Missionaries

My heart is full. Four weeks have passed since our arrival in Ogden. Each day new miracles have occurred. One of the miracles I'm reflecting on this evening is how the capacity to love can build exponentially when the spirit is present. It certainly "teaches all things and brings all things to our remembrance." John 14:26

I love our departing missionaries. I don't know how I can really love them after interacting with them just a handful of times, but I do. Elder And Sister Merx from Roy, Utah who served in the office. Elder Gallagher from Texas. Elder Gilland from Virginia, Sister Forte from Florida, Sister Boman from Texas, Sister Magsayo from the Phillipines, Elder Vetuski from Texas, Elder McGrath from Arizona, Elder Jones from Georgia, Elder Sheppard from the UK, Sister Goormastic from Connecticut, Sister Pitt from Hawaii, Sister Katich from Alabama, Elder Gordon from Washington, The common thread in each of their departing testimonies is the love and testimony of the Savior Jesus Christ. They love Him, they know Him, they teach of Him and they testify of Him, and there is tremendous power in their testimonies as a result. I am privileged to serve alongside them. 

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Weeks 3 and 4 in Ogden

Zone conferences with the missionaries are a sweet experiences.  Each zone composing 24-30 young missionaries and 18-24 senior missionaries make up a zone. 3-4 districts of 6-8 young and 4-6 senior missionaries make up the districts that build the zones. 2 young zone leaders who are generally more seasoned lead the zones. And they teach their zone how to find new people, teach them the gospel,  baptize them, retain them and get them to the temple and reactivate those that have lost their way.  

I have been delighted to experience that the Utah Ogden Mission is full of powerful teachers who are committed to bringing people closer to Christ through the ordinance of baptism. I go out with the Elders twice a week and Amy has gone out with the Sisters weekly. Teaching with them is a pleasure. They know the doctrine and the teach with the spirit of God as their companion. There are so many people who are struggling to find peace and joy in life. They find hope, faith and smile again when they learn and employ the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

I already love the people here. I love the missionaries and their desire to do what is right. They can improve their obedience and their teaching to get to the temple after baptism. We are working on these things. Sister Jaggi has connected with the Sisters. They went on a hike and had a sleepover. She loves them and they love her. She taught the importance of stress management and reaffirmed that "adjusting to missionary life" is an ongoing endeavor. The church has put out a great resource to help missionaries in their transition to 16 hour work days. They rise at 6:30am and are planning, exercising, studying and practicing and working till 10:30pm. It is not easy. They learn skills and discipline that prepares them for life. I'm grateful for their commitment.