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/
Sunday, March 11, 2012
A Special Sabbath for Two New Missionaries
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.