Thursday, July 30, 2009
There were 4 different baptisms being held on the evening of the 5th of July. We wanted to make it to all of them but it was impossible to schedule. We did attend 2 of them though. The first one was in Mt. Vernon at the Spanish ward. Two people were baptized: 1st Berenice Huertas and then Jaime Mendez. It was very touching for President Albright and I since it was the first baptism we attended in the mission field. Our missionaries Sisters: Johnson, Bunker, Thompson, and Winborn were all there and there was a great spirit. We rushed from that baptism to the Annandale ward where there were two more baptisms for Brother Daniel Bower and Bro. Milton Campos. Bro. Bower first got interested in the church from driving on the freeway and seeing the beautiful temple and knowing right away that it was a holy place. And Brother Campos was met by elders in the parking lot of an H-mark store. The elder felt inspired to ask a soul searching question "Do you believe in angels?" And amazingly it brought up the perfect conversation which led to the lessons and his baptism. Both of these baptisms were exciting for us to see the fruits of the missionary work. Baptism is the purpose of the work. To invite others to come unto Christ through baptism. It is what missionaries do. I have come to understand more and more in just three short weeks and have a testimony of the power of that purpose. We are so excited when the missionaries get commitments for baptism. Our Zone conferences have been all about how to invite investigators to be baptized. And we have had many miracles as they focus on this purpose.
Today was our 6th zone conference. It was in the zone farthest north in a beautiful area called Ashburn. We had another very successful conference. The zone leaders are Elders Esplin and Redford and again very confident, good leaders. They led a great council discussion. We had a wonderful meal prepared by the sweet RS sisters. They even decorated the tables and had nice tableclothes and everything. They fed us taco salad in tortilla bowls, fruit, and lots of desserts. It is always fun to sing to the sisters and hear about their missionary connections. One sister said she was a convert and encouraged the missionaries to return to doors that were closed to them, because that is how she was converted. The Iron Man award went to Elder Nielson who has been a bike for 11 months now. good job! This zone includes: Elders Nielson, Jones, Lee, offer, Fukui, Bullock,Esplin, Redford, Nelson, Grundvig, Smith, Freeland, Loppe, and Simmons, and Sisters Le Sueur, Bennett, Jordan, and Banks. Good job Ashburn!
I wanted to put a map of our mission on the blog so that when I'm talking about places you can see where I mean. This map shows the 8 zones which correspond with the names of the stakes. Each one is a different color on the map. The largest one at the bottom is Fredericksburg. The others are: Woodbrigde- blue, Centreville-purple, Ashburn-dark green, Oakton-light green, McLean-pink , Annandale- orange and Mt. Vernon- yellow. We live in the Annandale Stake in a City called Fairfax Station. The office is also in Annandale in a place called Burke. The home and office are only about 10 minutes apart.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
We attended a baptism at the Crystal City Ward last week. This was for a young woman named Kendra on July 25, 2009. What a wonderful baptism. Sister Lau and Sister Murray were some of the missionaries involved in her teaching. There were many young single members present and although the ward is not a singles ward, there are many young professional singles who live in this ward as it is near DC and attracts a lot of young adults. Kendra was introduced to the gospel by a friend who is a doctor at the place she works. It was fun to meet many of these young outstanding people. We met Spencer Wixom, the son of Pres and Sis. Wixom, the former mission President. He is a very nice young man and it was fun to meet him after hearing so much about him. We're glad we made it to this baptism and could meet Kendra and feel her spirit and testimony as she joins the church.
I know this is a mission blog mostly. But I thought I would also put in things about our family now and then. Our five married children and 9 grandchildren and parents all live in Las Vegas. We are so grateful for video phones, cell phones, email, and texts. Isn't modern technology wonderful? We miss them, but it is fun to get pictures and calls regularly. Thanks kids. I really love to see those darling pictures. This are the ones we got today of Dakota, one of our little angels. Could she be any cuter?
On Saturday we went to Arlington Cemetary and the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. What an incredible place. It is a spiritual and moving experience. It represents the cost of our freedom that we take so much for granted. We love Elder Gradin and miss him. He has been sick with severe migraines and has gone home to get better and return to us as soon as possible. He is an outstanding young man and reminds me of the young men we saw there at the changing of the guard.
Last night after the Return and Report, President and I drove to McLean to a baptism in the Bella Vista Ward which is one of our Spanish wards. Two sisters were baptized. Sister Roxanna Prado and Carolina Sandoval. It was all in spanish, but the spirit was wonderful and we were very touched by the whole thing. The spanish people are so warm and friendly. Very affectionate and give lots of hugs and kisses. Elders DeHoyos and Miller performed the baptisms and we saw Elders Schnapf and MacFarlane, and Sisters Thompson and Alvarado. President and Sis Burton were also there and are two of the nicest people ever. Pres. Burton is as warm and affectionate as the spanish people and they love him.. He is Pres. Albright's councilor and speaks spanish so he oversees all the spanish wards. We have been blessed to attend 4 baptisms of 6 people this month. There have been many more that we have not been able to attend. Wish we could make it to all of them.
This evening Sister Bay and Sister Munkhnaran came by and spent some time visiting with me. It was really fun to spend time with these two darling sisters and get to know them better. I was making cookies for zone conference tomorrow and so they helped me with the oreo cookies. I really don't wear bright clothes on the mission, this is just an apron in the picture.
What a wonderful week we are having again. A zone Conf. on Monday and the our first Return and Report. This is a wonderful meeting when the new missionaries who have only been out 2 1/2 weeks come back for some training and to report on how they are adjusting.
This time we had the 5 Sisters and 5 Elders who arrived on July 10th. They are Sisters: Baxter, Bennett, Ferry, Banks, and Murray and Elders Gillihan, Scott, Brogan, Jones, and Karren. They are our first group that is completely under our care. When they arrived they receive some training, but they are so overwhelmed that it's good to have them back after they have had some time to learn the schedules, meet their trainers, and experience some missionary life.
They began arriving at about 7:45 a.m. and we have fruit and bagels while they visited since many of them had not seen one another since the MTC. They really enjoyed getting together and sharing experiences. We went downstairs to the meeting room and started at 9:00. They all sang "Called to Serve" the anthem of all missionaries and sounded wonderful. Pres. Albright welcomed them and gave a short greeting. Then each of the office workers gave training on their area. Cars, Safety, mail, how to do referrals and they got packets with lots of information. Then our Assistants gave their training. Elder Gifford talked about setting goals in the mission field. WAGs- Wildly Aggressive Goals. Setting smaller goals to help reach the bigger goals. And Elder Ganaway taught about Studies. He emphasized 3 things: scripture memorizations, a Study journal, and standards of excellence . He said he only had 1 goal for his mission: to be able to go home and hug his dad and tell him " I did my very best and have no regrets". Both Assistants are master teachers and are shinning examples of everything they teach.
After the training, the new missionaries each gave beautiful testimonies telling about their first couple of weeks and how they had grown and challenges they had faced and what they had learned. All of them have grown closer to Heavenly Father as they have learned to lean on Him more as they have felt homesick and faced trails in just 3 weeks. They are all going to be great missionaries. I feel a special bond to them since we arrived at about the same time and are growing as missionaries together.
Then Pres. Albright and I each had a presentation to encourage and motivate them. We showed a video clip from the movie: Facing Giants' which shows the courage to persevere to reach the final goal even when things are really hard. And a video of the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the unknown Soldier, which encourages devotion and commitment even when things are tough. It was a wonderful meeting. But the highlight was the testimonies and stories of things they had experienced in just 3 short weeks. Most of them expressed how very happy they had been even when rocks were thrown at them, people said unkind things, and literally slammed doors at them. They still felt happy and had "learned more in 3 weeks than in my entire life". One specific story told by Elder Karren. He and Elder G-C were at the library on Pday to write emails and they saw a man reading a French magazine. Since Elder Giraud-Carrier is from France he decided to approach the man. When he visited with him, he said he had taken the lesson in the Ivory Coast, but his parents would not allow him to baptized and so he told himself that when he got to America he would let the first missionaries he met baptize him. WOW. So they set up an appointment to begin visiting with him. What a miracle.
The pictures are of all the new missionaries mingling for breakfast and during the training.
Monday, July 27, 2009
It is Monday evening, the 27th of July. It is 11:15. We just finished shopping for fruit and bagels for the "Return and Report" meeting that is here at the mission home tomorrow morning at 8:30. The Assistants and office Elders will be here around 7:00 to get set up.(And they just left an hour ago) This is a meeting for the new Missionaries that arrived 3 weeks ago to for some training and to report on how they are doing.
We were with our four Elders this evening to plan the meeting. Putting together videos and ideas for the meeting. They are so fun to be around and so creative and excited to put together inspirational and uplifting materials. It is a joy just to feel the spirit of these 4 young men and the love they have for the work. We spent the morning at the Centrevile Zone Conference. Got home around 6:00. Worked on mission medical making calls and appointments and updating records.
This evening, our new Stake President Erickson, dropped by see us and brought some yummy peaches. Everyone is so kind and welcoming and we really feel very loved and accepted already.
Our neighbors, Robert and JoAnn Bollig are exceptionally nice. They left a flower arrangement for us the first day we arrived and we have visited with them many times since then. They are such a good couple and we look forward to a friendship with them during the next 3 years. We share a driveway and they are a wealth of information when we have questions about anything from directions to how to take care of poison ivy. So far we've had 2 cases of poison ivy. (We also have had jiggers and ticks. Part of the culture down here in the south)
It has been another long, tiring and wonderful day. Hopefully I'll be in bed by midnight. Pres. tries to be, but usually gets phone calls late in the evening. He spends hours on the computer reading missionary letters and responding to each of them. It is a constant job, but one he really enjoys and which helps him get to know the missionaries personally. He really loves them all and cares about everything they all write or say to him. He has them sharing miracles or tender mercies with him whenever they want and usually hears many wonderful and touching stories every single day.
The missionaries love the work and try so hard. They are really devoted to the Lord and the Gospel and are examples to me each and everyday of how our lives should be centered on the Lord. What a great opportunity and blessing it is to be here in the mission working with this Helaman's army right here in Northern Virginia.
We were invited to a wonderful 4th of July party in Ashburn by Lisa and Lewis Lyons. This couple is a missionary minded couple who really know how to have a great party and include everyone. We had never met them and they called us just 3 days after we arrived inviting us to attend their party. We were thrilled to be invited and really excited to see Ashburn. It was absolutely spectacular. The area is rolling hills and forests with large plantation type estates. It really was something spectacular. I have included pictures of the area. The Lyons home was truly a plantation. The home was majestic and the grounds were so incredible. There were a couple hundred people there, including about half members and half nonmembers. The Lyons are very friendly and down to earth. They are always inviting non-members to church and to hear the gospel. We met so many nice people there. The Sister missionaries, Sister Jordan and Arnett were there and visiting with lots of non members. This was our first taste of Virginia hospitality and it was very warm and lots of fun.