What's New?

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, June 24, 2012

June in Georgia

Our days continue to speed up and fill up. Summer has settled in. Days and evenings are warm with an occasional afternoon or evening thunderstorm. We've experienced only one day of significant rain in the past three weeks. The drought continues here, much as it does back home in the West. We were fortunate to experience a real Georgia cloudburst two weeks ago as we headed to the Northridge Hospital in Sandy Springs to pick up Elder Jeffs when he was released. While traveling on the I-285 bypass, we went from dry pavement to deep standing water which slowed traffic to a crawl as many drivers pulled over and stopped. It was a great soft water car wash! Elder Jeffs was excited about getting released. As we entered his room and inquired about the get-well decorations we were delighted to learn they were from the Benson Family. Todd Benson, who grew up in our home ward, is the Ward Mission Leader one of the Peachtree Wards. We committed to connect with Todd and Heather and family soon. We transported Elder Jeffs to his apartment to pick up personal items and clean clothes and then drove him to a member's house for a couple of additional days of recuperation. It was nearly 11 p.m. before we returned home, but it had been a satisfying day. We pray the rash of medical emergencies and emergency transfers and releases will slow down. It's been quite a month, with broken arms and other incidents. One elder had happy news; he is leaving this Monday for Argentina after waiting for his visa for four months!

We decided to explore Georgia a bit on Father's Day weekend and got permission to spend Saturday night in Augusta (outside our mission boundaries), then attend Church in the Elberton branch (in our mission) about 90 minutes north. We tried to take a peek at the Augusta National Golf Course while there, only to find trees and screened fences and learn that the course closes for six months every summer for maintenance. We found no "elite" areas in Augusta and were surprised this exclusive course is located where it is. The references to "tradition" must be real. We enjoyed a stroll along the Savannah River Walkway Saturday afternoon in downtown Augusta.

We awoke early and drove through the woodsy countryside to Elberton. We felt a sweet spirit in the Elberton branch. There were about 70 attendees in Sacrament Meeting and 20 sisters in Relief Society (although they had only 9 the week before). Senior missionaries, Elder and Sister Lee, serve there. She leads the YW and rarely has anyone show up. Elder Lee is in the branch presidency.

We could feel how connected and close members there are. We returned home through Athens, completing a circle of travel and dropping by the Institute Building at UGA to deliver some books to the sister missionaries and zone leaders. We enjoyed wonderful Father's Day phone calls from Dave and Michael and his family. We ended the weekend refreshed and motivated.

Linda enjoyed weekly evening team ups with Sisters Scott and Harnish, and this week, also with Sister Lapin, who was here on an exchange. I'm feeling more confident participating. Last week we had a visit with Dana's fiancee,Will, who is anxious for baptism. He is meeting his Word of Wisdom problems head on, and we anticipate he and Dana (our recent convert) will marry next week, followed by his baptism the Sunday following!  His humble prayers are giving him witness and our prayers stay with him and that sweet family. We look forward to more spiritual highlights with that family in the days ahead. 

We continue to stay busy in the office, taking on new projects. Last week was a calm week, and we were able to catch up on many things and explore some new ways to contribute. Linda is now devoting Monday mornings to preparing the spreadsheets and reports that follow the call in of key indicators. The task has kept the Assistants in the office until nearly midnight on Sundays. So with several hours for those reports, mission staff meetings, and heavy mail, Mondays are busy!  The connections between pieces of information, communication channels, and knowledge are starting to come together, and it's a good feeling. Ray spent some weekday time helping Don (our landlord) finish the final preparations for laying down sod where the former sink hole resided. The sod arrived yesterday morning (Saturday), and we spent four hours helping Don and his granddaughters and friends lay the new turf. Linda loved getting down on her hands and knees in the dirt and setting sod! It was a 95 degree day, but rain last evening helped wet the grass down. We'll continue to help the Clarks spruce up their property. They have pruned enough trees and branches to fill nearly 4 dozen green trash bags, opening up the backyard.

Well, it's off to Sunday services, and anxious for them.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Expanding Our Boundaries

Another busy two weeks.  As we learn and grow, we find ourselves busier and busier.

The Bolts took the opportunity to spend more time at their farm in South Carolina over the Memorial holiday weekend. The farm was inherited from family, so no one lives there full time and they try to drive up there every two weeks to check on the animals and facilities. It's a challenge for them to keep up the farm and their home in Lilburn, chase and manage housing for the mission, and tend to children and family in the area. They do it with happiness and humor. A newborn calf in trouble led them to extend their holiday stay, so we found ourselves solo, holding down the fort so to speak, at the mission office. A flu bug hit several of the missionaries and Sister Wolfert. Elder Connors had more automobile fun. Our printer ran out of ink and the guaranteed delivery on the pre-order was delayed, so plans to finish up the New Missionary Resource Binder fell behind. We we found ourselves still at the Mission Office (along with the Bolts) until 8 p.m. on Friday, May 31. Like old age, missions are not for sissies!

Our landlords, the Clarks, left for a full-family vacation that Friday.We decided it was time to explore a new region of the mission. We got up early, hurried through housework, and drove to Lake Sydney Lanier, about 45 minutes northeast of Lilburn. It's a very lovely area, filled with marinas, private homes, countless small islands, and twisting shorelines. With nearly 700 miles of shoreline, it was an early TVA project, the main water supply for Atlanta, and a fresh water (rather than muddy water) recreation area. Again, it was a beautiful Saturday, but few boats were on the lake. Recreation is not the passion here it seems to be in the West. However, from the number of private homes and boats in the area, it appears property ownership is a driver. We explored the lake(s) a bit from the east to west across Buford Dam, and then back east mid-lake toward Gainesville.

 We called one of the local missionary companionships to see if they were available for lunch. Good fortune, they were on exchange in the city of Flowery Branch with the Spanish-speaking missionaries from Buford, so we were able to meet them at the lovely new chapel there and take them to lunch. (Elders Andreasen, Evans,  and ???.....)  It was the highlight of our day to get to know them and be lifted by their youth and enthusiasm. A week has since passed, and a new apartment has been opened in Flowery Branch and a companionship moved there.

From Flowery Branch we traveled to Gainesville and northwest to Dahlonega. At the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Appalachian trail, it was the site of Georgia's gold rush. It's a popular getaway, with a mini-tourist business, shopping and restaurants, a gold mining exhibit, Northern Georgia University, and a concert playing in the town square.We walked the square and then headed down US 19 to Cumming to finish our loop around Lake Lanier. As we traveled south, we passed the LDS Chapel in Dawsonville, but no one was there. Having seen some of the best of Georgia's recreation areas in our 150-mile loop, we headed back to Lilburn. Our afternoon task was to finish digging additional ditches for water control in the Clark's back yard. We stopped at Home Depot for some supplies and wrapped up our trench digging about 8 p.m. It had been a busy and satisfying preparation day. 

Dana Roca was confirmed on Fast Sunday. The testimony meeting was rich with true testimony and spirit. Testimonies were primarily doctrine based (and less experiential as we usually hear in Utah). It was a feast!  We prayed for Elder Jeffs who had been hospitalized for two days with a bowel obstruction. On Tuesday, eleven new missionaries set foot on Georgia soil. We also said goodbye to Elder Kellikoa (torn Achilles tendon) and Elder Chisholm (knee injury) who had to return home for surgery. Wednesday was Transfer Day.  Always busy, busy, with training of new missionaries, exchange of companions, and evening Fireside for the departing missionaries. We host lots of missionaries in the office to meet, greet, and assist with supplies and questions and handle lots of mail in the late afternoon. (We hold the mail for five days before transfers so we can address all of it with the correct destination address in one afternoon after the transfer finalizes in the Church's software.) We had a quick half hour to run home before the Fireside, and after setting up and cleaning up from the refreshments, we arrived home at 10 p.m.

We enjoyed the missionary testimonies at the Fireside, and said goodbye to each of the missionaries with love and thanks (Sister Teisina, Elders Crandall, Garcia, Waters, Vergara, Asher, Montez, May, and Briggs). We'll especially miss Elder Briggs who has been an Assistant to the President. There to be our example and teacher to us since Day One, he is an excellent leader who bore a powerful testimony. Sister Teisina gave and received love from the beginning with her Hawaiian warmth and humor.

Thursday found us Macon bound. Sister Wolfert needed assistance driving two missionaries to an LDS therapist for a routine prescription refill appointment. A long drive for a simple process, but the member counselor is a plus and it gave us a great opportunity to again see more of Georgia and our mission. Macon is outside our mission boundaries, and we learned on the two hour drive there that there is little variation to the Georgian landscape. Again, the highlight of the day was getting better acquainted with two of the Lord's fine servants. We returned one missionary all the way back to Roswell where we also dropped off a bicycle part that one of the new missionaries had left behind in the mission office. One of our missionaries, Elder Cram, spent two hours of the drive reading the Liahona aloud to practice his Spanish. Love their dedication! We arrived back at the office about 4 p.m. to achieve a couple of hours of accomplishment there. Elder Jeffs was blessed with the best of outcomes. Since he had surgery prior to coming to the mission, doctors feared surgery would be extensive and mission ending. When the surgical "have-to" decision was made on Monday evening, doctors discovered the band from the original surgery had come loose. The intestine was healthy, the repair made, and we anticipate he will be back serving soon. His sister lives in Tennessee and is able to act as his companion during his recovery. The Lord truly knows and blesses!

Saturday we received permission from President Wolfert to attend a session in the Atlanta Temple (outside our mission boundaries). The oldest temple in the Southern States, it is now dwarfed by the tall business and apartment dwellings that surround it. As with all temples, the grounds are impeccably landscaped. The temple received a major refurbishing in 2011; the re-dedication allowed some of the missionaries from our mission to serve there during open houses. It has two ordinance rooms, nearly a dozen sealing rooms, and a very peaceful, intimate feeling. More local Saints need to support this temple! There are only six sessions a day on weekdays (3 morning and 3 evening), and on Saturdays the temple is open for only five sessions. We attended the last session that began at 3 p.m. We joined by maybe a dozen patrons, most of whom were set apart temple workers. Despite the limited attendance, the spirit of the workers there and the peace and reverence was a renewal for us after a hectic, yet joyful week.