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We witness tender mercies and mini-miracles every day as we find joy in pressing forward. We are immensely grateful for our time of service as missionaries in the Georgia Atlanta North Mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Life and opportunities continue. See our missionary and life story in pictures by clicking here: http://rayc.shutterfly.com/

Monday, March 26, 2012

On Our Way

We're on our way to Georgia! It's Monday evening, and we are in Denver. We enjoyed another four days and evenings at the MTC last week, learning the software programs used in mission offices. A highlight for the week was the Tuesday evening Devotional. Elder Dallin H. Oaks was the guest speaker. His counsel to us was that missionaries can only teach through the Spirit. He suggested a simple formula for retaining the Spirit - take the Sacrament. Give your all, as did the Savior, and prepare for the sacrament each week with the same humility as for baptism, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. A powerful message that clarified the blessing and significance of a weekly ritual.

We returned to Bountiful on Friday, finished up multiple errands, helped Nephi on Saturday to start the sprinkling system at the house (it's already a dry and warm spring). The task can be a bit tricky, so we were glad we were there to assist. We stayed at Mike and Wendy's and enjoyed our grandkids. Ray particularly was grateful for a couple of days of well-needed rest; a cold and fatigue had caught up to him. Linda attended the YW Conference broadcast with Wendy, Faith, and Hailey. It was a nice outing.

On Sunday we attended the Orchard 6th Ward and enjoyed a very spiritual Fast and Testimony Meeting. (Our former) Bishop and Sister Wall expressed thanks for the miracle of his remission from Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. His faith, along with the fasting and prayers of the ward family and many others, led to outcomes his physicians insisted would not and could not happen. We heard many other sweet testimonies from newer and fellowshipped members.  It was a great day. With the good news came concerns for the health of our dear friend, HD Call, and our prayers have been with him and Ann. A quiet evening on Sunday with our sons, daughter-in-law and grandchildren was a perfect way to spend our last hours in Utah.

Stormy weather and heavy winds made the travel to Denver a bit tedious. We hit snow and freeway closures in Utah County. The skies cleared but the winds in western Colorado were raging. We passed time for several hours listening to audio recordings from the Book of Mormon (Mosiah). As we passed the continental divide and saw how very little snow remained in the Rockies, we could feel firsthand how dry the summer ahead will be for the Denver vicinity and Colorado drainage. In fact, a large wildfire was burning out of control in the hills west of Denver as we descended the eastern slopes. The skies were dark and thick with smoke. We had a good dinner and settled down for the night.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Wonderful Week at the MTC - More Fun to Come

We enjoyed a wonderful five days at the MTC in Provo. We are now name badge-wearing missionaries! Ten single sisters headed to Nauvoo joined nearly 30 couples heading for Nauvoo, Russia, Georgia, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and many other places around the world at the senior missionary training sessions. It seems to be the week for Visitor Center and Historic Site and Member and Leader Support missionaries.  Last week, it was thirty "teamsters" who began their MTC experience to prepare for the summer in Nauvoo as hosts and wagon operators.

Thursday afternoon we received a message from the MTC staff to first call the Missionary Department and then President Wolfert in Georgia. He decided to change our assignment and needs us to serve in the Mission Office to kick off our time in Georgia. So we will be returning to the MTC next week for four days of additional training. We'll serve where we are needed!

We've recorded spiritual experiences and many details of our week(s) in the MTC in our journal, so we'll record just a brief summary here. Housing in the Jacob Hamblin building for the seniors is terrific - newly furnished apartments, private, quiet (almost too quiet), and comfortable. MTC elders met us upon arrival and carried our luggage to our room and gave a quick tour of the campus. We were treated with such courtesy all week long. By 11:30 a.m. we had administratively checked in and enjoyed a large group meeting; it would be the way we started every day. Great instructors! Then we headed to lunch. The cafeteria and the variety and volume of food served and consumed there is amazing! We enjoyed another afternoon session, followed by evening study and settling in.

Our MTC District:
Sister Betty Purtell and Sister Cheryl Fowers, headed to Nauvoo
Elder Bart and Sister Barbara Christensen, headed to the Oakland Temple Visitors Center
Elder and Sister Connors, headed to the Georgia Atlanta North Mission Office
Elder and Sister Halford, headed to Nauvoo
Brother Chinn, our instructor
On Tuesday morning we met our MTC classmates and our a.m. instructor, Brother Chinn. In the afternoon, Sister Clarissa Thomas was our instructor. We love them all and are learning so much from them. Our days included study of lessons and teaching techniques from material in Preach My Gospel. Evenings included more prep and study. On Tuesday we began preparing 45 minute lessons. On Wednesday and Thursday we knocked on a mock apartment door where we taught to the needs of a volunteer convert/past investigator while we were monitored remotely by camera by our instructor. It was intense and fun, exhausting and motivational. The week included additional group meetings and an MTC fireside where we enjoyed the wonderful choir of elders and sisters and Elder Craig Cardon of the Seventies as the guest speaker. Seniors can leave campus in their evening free time, if desired, so we took a short getaway on Thursday to see the progress on the Provo Tabernacle-Temple reconstruction. All is all it was a marvelous and tiring week. Our briefcase full of scriptures and missionary books was heavy!  The spirit of camaraderie and kinship and shared love of the Lord was so evident. We met so many fantastic people, even former friends or professional associates.* The spirit at the MTC was strong so many times; happiness continually. Mild spring days added to the positives. Daffodils were blooming by the time we left.

Today we did laundry and packed the car for Georgia; Nephi and Lilla moved some of their things into the basement so they can move in on Monday. Tomorrow we'll be able to attend meetings at our Orchard 6th home ward (and also Mike and Wendy's ward since the girls are singing and Wendy is speaking). We'll spend next weekend sleeping at Mike's house, meetings in the 6th Ward, then off to Georgia on Monday, March 26.

*Notes about unique friendships from the MTC and mission:

·         Barry and Carol Ellis are local volunteer MTC coordinators, and we were pleasantly surprised to see them leading meetings at the MTC. Barry was a Beneficial Life agent, and Carol grew up in Linda's home ward and went to school (K-12) with Ray’s class.)
·         We also visited with Shirley Morby, a high school friend and Ted DeMars, a Beneficial life agency manager at the MTC.
·         One the couples we enjoyed visiting with during meal breaks was Susan and Robert Larsen. We sadly spotted Susan's obituary while checking the Deseret News online while in Georgia. She had died while serving in Nauvoo. We went to high school with Bob and Susan; their son was Ray's physical therapist after knee replacement; Linda worked with Susan and her father at Beneficial.
·         We also spent time at the MTC with Corrie and Garth Moore, who were on our temple shift team. They were preparing to serve in the Hague after two years of medical setbacks that had delayed a mission call. Linda had worked with Corrie at Beneficial Life, too. Corrie would pass away in the Netherlands just two months into their mission. When Ray visited with Garth by phone from Georgia, Garth expressed such hope and positivity.

·         Death would again impact our mission friends. Sister Ann Tewalt and Brother Bill Tewalt of Loganville, GA, worked so selflessly as local service missionaries to help the office staff out with housing and mission luncheons. Ann succumbed to a devastating stroke about six months after we returned home. In notifying us of her death by email, Bill shared his testimony:  I do not understand all that I should about the timing of her death, but I trust heavenly father....The mission was one of the high spots of our life of nearly 47 years together and we were so blessed to know you.

We are so grateful for our missionary interactions with these wonderful people; they are truly our brothers and sisters. They so freely shared their gospel light; their desire to serve the Lord lit up their conversation and our lives. What a blessing to have shared precious time with them as we bonded in the joy and dedication that surrounds missionary work.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Special Sabbath for Two New Missionaries

We were set apart this evening by our Stake President, David Webster, as Missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. What a thrilling and sweet experience. It has been awhile since we witnessed a missionary being set apart. The mention of authority from the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve was humbling and comforting. The mission is finally here. 

We will enter the MTC in Provo, Utah, tomorrow morning. Soon we'll don missionary name tags! We are so excited. This morning as we were reading scriptures and talking about the upcoming events of the day, we mentioned that it would nice if were were already sitting in a classroom at the MTC. Perhaps that stemmed from a bit of nervousness about speaking in Sacrament Meeting, but it also reflected our desire to just get going. We have been blessed greatly, however, in our seven months of preparation. We wouldn't want to trade time with family and friends and physical healing for an earlier departure.

Before continuing about today's events, we need to step back a few weeks, however, and mention that we returned last Thursday from a delightful vacation. Seeing that our preparations were wrapping up, we took the opportunity to spend time with Ron and Leslie (Petersen - Linda's brother and sister-in-law) in their lovely home in Pine, Arizona the last days of February. After our visit we drove down to Tucson and over to San Diego where we spent several days with Marie and Garrie McLaws, wonderful friends from our Friday temple shift team. We met them when we all entered the temple together for our first shifts in May 2010. We enjoyed beach and Sea World time as well as a session in the San Diego Temple.

From the condo in Escondido, we traveled home through St. George and spent time with Thyce and Harriet (another Petersen brother and sister-in-law). The get-away renewed our energies and our enthusiasm for our mission. A few days of house organizing and mission packing and a great dinner out with dear friends and neighbors, Ann and HD Call and Ruland and Karen Gill, led us to today, a most special Sabbath day.

We spoke in Sacrament Meeting at 1 p.m. Linda spoke on gratitude and Ray's message focused on service and missionary work. We were amazed and truly grateful for the many friends and family members who supported us. Some who came are not regular Church-goers; it was so wonderful to feel their spirit. We love them all, and we'll list their names at the end of this post so readers won't have to look at them all but we'll be able to remember. The chapel was packed and it was wonderful to look into the faces of our ward family, friends, and family as we spoke. We felt warm, mutual love and respect today, and in many emails and visits before today. We will carry the spirit and influence of all these great people with us every day as we serve. 

After the meeting, we had many family members and friends come to our house where we were able to visit more. It was a beautiful early spring day, and the young children were able to go in and out, helping to keep them entertained in what became a crowded house. Daughter-in-law Wendy brought rolls and a crockpot of warm meat, neighbors contributed cookies and other treats. Ward members also stopped by after the block was finished and later in the evening. We so appreciate their love and support. Amazingly, after a long day the food was pretty much gone. Our grandchildren enjoyed way too many sweets today, but they were so patient with all of the strangers and commotion. Linda's Aunt Merle was able to visit with Thyce who drove up from St. George, and we were happy to see her. In her late eighties, we hope she'll be here when we return - we have important family history work to still accomplish!

President Chad Gardner, 1st Counselor in our Stake Presidency, arrived at our home about 7 p.m.; followed by President David Webster. We began a family meeting with prayer and then each in the room, including the grandchildren, bore their testimonies. It was wonderful to hear both growing testimony from the grandchildren and sure testimonies from Mike and Wendy who learned while living outside Utah the importance of sharing testimony and "standing tall" in a degrading world. They have been an example to us in so many ways. David gave us good advice on sharing our message with confidence because of its truth and his words confirmed that his still-sure testimony of the Gospel has not wavered despite inactivity. Both our sons expressed appreciation for lessons learned in our home. It was payday for Mom and Dad. Their words of acknowledgment became great gifts of the heart that will sustain us and assure us. We love our family and are so blessed!

After bearing testimonies, Linda was set apart first, followed by Ray. President Webster did a wonderful job, providing us with counsel and reassurances about good health, spiritual gifts, sharing the message of the Gospel using the Spirit, and an assurance that Heavenly Father is a better father and grandfather than we can even imagine. We knew already that the Lord will care for and bless our family while we are gone, but President Webster's simple explanation was a powerful witness of personal relationship and experience.  After the blessings, President Webster revealed that because of visa issues, he spent the first year of his young elder mission in Georgia before moving on to Portugal. He gave us some excellent advice about things we can expect and encouraged us to remember to walk hand-in-hand. As Mission President in Brazil, he saw the impact that the demeanor of the Redds, a senior couple from our stake, had on the success of the work in his mission. It was a wonderful hour that we will always remember.

It had been a long day (8+ hours since we first met at Church), so we tidied the house quickly and gave the family hugs. Since we are scheduled to return home next Saturday and Sunday after five days in the MTC to pack the car, and then depart for Georgia on Monday, March 19, we knew it was not our last goodbye. A quiet house allowed us to savor the day and finish our packing for tomorrow. Ray is in bed; Linda felt this was a Sabbath Day to remember and record. We will sleep well tonight, content with love from many sources, and we'll awake with anticipation and happiness for the events of tomorrow and the week ahead.  God is real; this is His work; it is sweet!

We want to record our visitors on this special day: Ray Olsen and Jim Stover; friends from both Ray and Linda's work (I'll list last names only as I recall them just so we don't forget:  Horrocks, VanAdrighem, Weaver, Godwin, Peterson, Nisogi, Warners, and others than may come to mind later); other Orchard Stake friends (Bishop Davies, Webbs, Fay Wade, Nephi and Lilla, Brockbanks, Pantelakis, Wilmore); family (Jeff and Kathy, Marcia, Thyce and Harriet, Sara and Betty, Laura and her children, Merle, Matt, and Julie (Reid/Kidman), Christopher, Cameron, and Carson); temple friends (McLaws, Tattons, VanderWerve, Lewis, Midgley), son's friends (Thorne, Davis, Webster, Fillmore), and I'm certain others. Of course, the list of ward member is too long to mention, but dearest friends are among them, too.We love and appreciate them all.