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, April 30, 2012
Wednesday is a big day in the Mission Office. The day begins before 8 a.m. with a half hour of training by Elder Connors on the vehicles (5 minutes for Sis Connors on mail and baptismal records). More training by the Finance Coordinator and President Wolfert. Then Elder Connors has to do paperwork for switching drivers and cars. Areas (a companionship) that are gaining and losing companions travel to the Mission Office on Transfer Day, so we have lots of missionaries in the parking lot, Church, and Mission Office for several hours. We saw several missionaries graciously leave overcoats coats and bikes behind which were welcomed by some of the new arrivals who came from humble circumstances and had great need. What a happy morning it was. Missionaries leave with bittersweet feelings, and missionaries arrive with enthusiasm and trepidation. (Other companion changes not involving new or departing missionaries take place at additional locations throughout the mission.) About noon the various new companionships team up and drive off to their new locations. President and Sister Wolfert take the departing missionaries to the Atlanta Temple; then back to the Mission Home for dinner.
At 7 p.m. a fireside is held in the Lilburn Chapel. The Wolferts speak and each departing missionary bears his or her testimony. As President Wolfert said, they bore "pure" testimony, with direct and appropriate witness of Gospel truths; their testimonies were sweet, strong, and "pure." Sweet Sister Thomas (from Richfield, UT) sang a solo. She has the most beautiful voice, eyes, smile and spirit. We'll miss her. We were glad we got to meet several departing missionaries we had not met in person before. Outstanding all! Members and investigators are invited to attend these farewell meetings; we had a record turnout this transfer and ran out of refreshments. We helped with the setup and cleanup. Sister Wolfert has asked us (the Connors) to manage the entire refreshment activity in the future. With all else she has to do (they also go home to a private meeting at the Mission Home after the Fireside), it will be a big relief for her.
Thursday night Sister Connors attended the ward Relief Society's Talent Show. Members here seem to love Broadway - quite the performances with hubbies and solos. We also enjoyed refreshments and craft displays. Sister Black (the Atlanta Temple Matron) is the most amazing quilter! The ward member names are finally starting to stick. Friday Sister Connors did a chapel walk-through with another new investigator - Jenny - who had walked into the Mission Office the week before and wanted to learn more about our Church. Using the paintings in the Stake Center, Sister Scott and Sister Harnish (on her 2nd day in Lilburn) taught her and I assisted. We invited her to Church on Sunday and gave her a Book of Mormon. She agreed to begin reading and "try" to attend if she didn't attend one of the other churches she was investigating. She did come Sunday!
We came home Wednesday night late to see that Don Clark (landlord) had started trimming trees. After being gone for so many years, there is much outdoor catch up for the Clarks. Saturday started out with Ray and Don going to the driving range to hit a bucket of balls (with a round of golf planned for a future free day), and Linda shopped for shoes she forgot to pack. By noon we could be found helping the Clarks with raking, cleanup, and creating a small rock-lined path to direct rainwater (that has meandered through the sloping yard and prevented grass growth) to the adjacent flood control creek on the side yard. They have broken sprinklers, a major sink hole, overgrown trees, and tree roots; we want to help them out, and it's a good way to get some exercise, provide service, and be a bit creative, too.
We were introduced to Dos Hermanos, a great Mexican restaurant, Friday evening with the Clarks. It's the strip mall restaurant, and you would drive by it without a recommendation, But it is great! We enjoyed another nice family dinner with them on Sunday. We were promised by our home Stake President that we would make eternal friends on our mission. That promise has already been fulfilled. Saturday night we drove about 30 minutes north to the Sugar Hill Stake Center in Suwanee where the 50-member Stake Choir was putting on a public patriotic concert with the Gwinnett County Band. The band and choir were excellent, and it was a great program. We met several additional missionaries in person and were glad we made the effort. Suwanee is a lovely community.
Now for the Special Moment. After a great experience in our Sunday meetings with a skilled teacher who navigated the complex questions from investigators in the Gospel Principles class, we stayed after Church and met with the Lilburn Sister Missionaries and their investigator, Dana Roca. Dana was referred to the sisters by ward member, Susan Mancilla. Dana was joined by her daughter, Sarai (6), son, 6-month old Jasper, and Joanna (Dana's friend's 6-year old). Dana has been coming faithfully to Church and special events, bringing the children. She has felt the spirit and understands what she has been taught, but is still trying to understand the differences between the Doctrine of Christ and the teachings she has learned in her Catholic faith. Again Sister Scott (and new Sister Harnish on her 4th day in the mission) asked her to pray and invited her to ask for confirmation to prepare herself to be baptized the end of May. Dana is fearful of making a wrong decision, but knelt and offered a beautiful prayer. The spirit touched Elder Connors, and as Dana stood she found him tearful. The spirit then touched her and all of us. He said, "You know it's true." Dana walked over and took our hands and cried openly. Elder Connors was the conduit, and Dana did commit to baptism. We pray she will stand firm in her decision.
Whew! It was a busy week! Things are starting to hum and our fellow missionaries are reaching out to us for assistance in many areas. It's a great and grateful feeling. Only a sure knowledge of the importance of the work could accomplish the wondrous good we see around us.
Sunday, April 22, 2012
Inspired by that evening, I talked openly on Friday evening to the owner of a local salon while there as a patron and Gloria accepted my offer to bring by a Book of Mormon. I'm personalizing it for her tonight and will deliver it to her on her on Tuesday when she works again along with information about golf in St. George. (She and her husband fly to Sedona, AZ to golf, and I suggested she check out St. George). Today we attended a baptism for the newest member of the Lilburn Ward, Sister (Yaman) Smith. We look forward to getting to know her personally in the weeks ahead. It's starting to feel like missionary work.
|To The Rescue|
Saturday, April 14, 2012
After a week of cooler weather (we had to use a space heater in our bedroom for a couple of nights), warm spring has returned. Sunny and nearly 80 degrees; it's been a beautiful day. Bit by bit we're doing the deeper apartment cleaning after our initial settling in. We noticed an unusual flower on the grass this afternoon after washing off the winter-dirtied patio. It had fallen from a tall, stately tree with beautiful white and yellow flowers in the top branches. It's a Yellow Poplar, also called Tulip Poplar. Beautiful! The trees here grow so tall and so straight with no mountains to create growing shadows. We're going help the Clarks with the lawn mowing (both have bad backs) while we're residents.
After getting more settled, we decided we'd better start exercising and found a great walking trail at the nearby Gwinnett County Mountain Park. Gwinnett County seems to have many parks-clean, busy and fitted with nice walking trails. They meander through groves of trees, curve around ponds, border rail lines or near- dozen baseball diamonds. We're living in a class A community. An average building lot here is probably 2 acres! The new subdivisions are more like the west with 1/2 acres lots; but any house 20 years or older is dwarfed by its large acreage with trees and rolling lawns. There is little flat ground in Gwinnett County (unless flattened for structures). We see winding roads, gullies, and rolling hills everywhere we go, but few high spots (except Stone Mountain). Everything has a very woodsy feel. We walked a couple of times this week and plan to make it a regular habit. The ongoing youth baseball, bonnet ball, and whatever ball games give us chances to stop and watch the eager sportsmen and supportive parents. We enjoyed a short walk this evening.
We took Elder and Sister Coe to lunch yesterday; it was their last full day of service in the Mission Office. They will return to help on our first "transfer" day experience and want to attend all of the departing missionary firesides for the next year or so to say goodbye to the missionaries they have come to love so much. We love and appreciate them. It was a tearful day for Sister Coe who has no children of her own (some stepchildren) and knows each of the missionaries well. Elder Coe and Elder Connors have much in common, and they've brought out the "character" in one another. We'll miss them but plan to connect from time to time. We'll take a prep day in the future to drive the hour to their home and see Elder Coe's car collection.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Saturday, April 7, 2012
After short introductions, President and Sister Wolfert took us to our apartment – in the basement of Brother Donald and Sister Zaza Clark’s home. We were flabbergasted at our comfortable and large apartment. Two bedrooms, large kitchen and eating area, and a living, sitting room. The Clarks’ daughter and family had lived her for a while, and it has been rented to other senior missionaries. Sister Wolfert had already purchased some get-started groceries, and the list of urgent shopping needs was short. We were encouraged to take it easy and report to the office on Monday. But we have 18 months to get settled, so we quickly unpacked the basics and returned to the office on Friday afternoon to get better acquainted and start training. The Bolts and Coes invited us to go out to dinner with them that evening; it was great way to get acquainted with the former IBM Project Manager and nursing home staffer (the Bolts) and the retired military vet and school teacher (the Coes). Both couples live locally and have been serving part-time for a year (often full rather than part days).
We met the Clarks last night. They had been in Salt Lake for General Conference. They are wonderful, warm people who have invited us to share Easter dinner with them and visiting friends from the Czech Republic. Zaza is originally from Czechoslovakia. She met Brother Clark in Iowa, and they spent their early married years in Brazil with her parents (Zaza's family relocated to Brazil as refugees from the Communist takeover of Czechoslovakia). Don has been both a mission and MTC president there in Brazil. The couple just returned earlier this year after serving for a time in the temple presidency in Madrid. We're humbled by our generous living circumstances.