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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/

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Each Day Brings a New Experience

It's been just two weeks since we posted, and another holiday is on the horizon.  However, the 24th of July in Georgia will be a full working day. To celebrate, we hope to take the Howard family on a picnic after the office closes (if the thunderstorms don't spoil it.) We will explain the reason we celebrate the holiday in Utah and continue to fellowship them. The family has a 6-person baptism scheduled for July 29.  Both Elder and Sister Connors joined the Assistants in a teaching appointment a week ago. Jerry and Marcy are great spiritual leaders for their children (age 8-14), and we are so excited to have them join the Lilburn Ward and Church family. Jerry's father has some "preacher" background, and Marcy was the one actively looking for a new congregation when Elder Hanny and Elder Astel met them. They are learning and accepting the gospel in word and in spirit. After the lesson we reaffirmed the invitation to be baptized and challenged the Howards to join us in the Atlanta Temple in a year. The same evening we also met with Richard. He is from Guinea in Africa and has been in the U.S. for about 12 years. He's been a member of the Catholic Church since the 1950's and is cautiously proceeding. We really enjoy his happy, gentleman-like personality and enjoyed picking him up for Church last week. We feel he will continue to attend and learn and feel the spirit with continued support.

Richard with Elder Astel at the Howard Baptism
The evening of those appointments was the end of a rainy day, and we got soaked running from car to front doors. We've had a lot of rain in the past two weeks. After a dry spring and record setting heat, we seem now to have rain every day or night. Last night around midnight, we had a lightening and thunderstorm that roared for about 40 minutes. Storms move faster in Utah. We laid in bed and watched and felt the room-lightening jolts until after 1 a.m.

This (preparation day) morning was dedicated to housecleaning. We vacuumed and cleaned; then Ray walked back into the living room to repair a loose bolt and watched dry wall tape slowly peel itself off the ceiling. Somewhere water has been coming in, and the saturated drywall could take no more. We helped Don open a relief hole and clean up; he called a friend who has helped him in the past to come and check it out. Unfortunately, we can't locate the source easily; it's raining lightly again tonight, so no repair can be made until the leak is sealed and the ceiling dries. Fortunately, the forecast is promising a drier week ahead. We have lawns to mow, additional fixes to the flooding runoff water, and now a ceiling repair to assist with. 

I'm typing on a new laptop and having a hard time keeping my thumb off the pad, so the cursor frequently skips around. (Hopefully the resulting typos have been corrected with after-mission edits.) Son Dave was good enough to find and set up a new laptop for us; an expensive battery was dying on our old laptop so it was time to replace the entire system. As we have time, we'll put photos on the internet now and include a link to them from the blog.

There will be no more teaching appointments with Sister Scott. She returned home this week along with nine other of our missionaries. We surely love these missionaries (Elders Anderson, Caplin, Maughan, Ryan Smith, Wasden, Sisters Scott, Coleman, Taylor, and Williams). As Sister Scott prepared to leave for Arizona, I called her "mi teacher." She showed Sister Connors what preaching the gospel is all about. The Assistants are showing Elder Connors, and we really look forward to teaming up with them. We have come to know Sister Taylor better in the past few weeks due to a change in assignment and will miss her a lot, too. She wants to study Human Resources at Utah State, so I hope we will stay in touch. Last Saturday Sister Connors drove Sister Bulouniwasa (from Fiji), Sister Scott, and Sister Taylor back to Monroe for a baptism. Nine missionaries who have been involved in teaching Sister Reusmann or others in her family who have joined the Church were at the service. Patience is required for conversation; nine missionaries equates to a lot of transfers with change of companions. New member Brittany is a new mother; her dad who is also a convert said they were targeting her husband next. The spirit was very strong and sweet.

In addition to the evening fireside and busy duties in the office associated with transfer week, we substituted for the Clarks this week in teaching their Stake Missionary Prep class so they could take their daughter Jackie to the airport. She is off to Dubai to spend ten days with her husband. Her daughters were at girls' camp. A week ago Friday, Jackie, Cami, Maddie, and Izzie stuck their heads in the mission office and invited us to go to Chick-Fil-A with them for dinner. "Sure," we said; then learned we were going dressed as cows for free dinner on Cow Appreciation Day at Chick-Fil-A. The girls provided us with a white t-shirt, blotched with black spray paint and cow ears. We saw dozens of ward members at the restaurant, along with hundreds of other cows.  It;s hard to imagine the cost of the thousands of free $7 dinners given throughout Georgia with fun and cheerfulness. We're impressed with the management of Chick-Fil-A. All that success and they are not open on Sundays!  And for us, it was a fun and memorable "new" experience for sure!

On Thursday, the Wolferts invited the Bolts and us to meet them at Kurt's Bistro, their favorite German restaurant, for a "thank you" dinner. We enjoyed amazing red cabbage and a re-introduction to authentic German food. We laughed and shared mission stories and decompressed a bit. President Wolfert has a great sense of humor. We'll long remember his recounting the story of having to keep his head face down on the table in front of elite general authorities at the MTC because of eye surgery. It was great to get better acquainted with these eternal friends, several of many our Stake President promised we would make while on our mission.

Preaching the gospel, helping new and seasoned missionaries to be successful, serving where and whom we can, and discovering more in the roadways of Georgia, we're anxious to see what new experiences await us in the weeks ahead.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Flexibility and Holiday

Missionaries need to be flexible!  Situations change; investigator progress ebbs and flows. Word of Wisdom problems challenge both Will and the Howard family who we expected to be baptized. We expect short delays as they continue to study and attend their meetings. Emergency changes lead to companion and residence changes overnight. Our missionaries here are wonderful in accepting and adapting. Their dedication and obedience are great examples to us. Each new day brings a new experience as we continue to get better acquainted with our amazing elders and sisters and our job duties.

On Friday evening, June 29, we drove to Loganville and took the sisters who serve there and the Monroe elders to dinner. The Friday night meal was a result of Linda mixing up the names on our phone list of the sisters serving in Loganville with those serving in Madison and making the invite to an unplanned companionship. Loganville is a short half hour drive, and we really enjoyed the evening. We would have double fun as on Saturday, one of several record breaking temperature days (106), we took the 90-minute drive to Madison. Sister Coleman is one of the missionaries going home in two weeks. We had promised a lunch date weeks ago. We had originally expected to serve in the Madison Branch before President Wolfert called us at the MTC.

Madison is one of the few towns in Georgia and the South where pre-Civil War homes are still standing (most were burned). General Sherman had a friend in Madison who convinced him to go around the town on his long march. We discovered that the sisters live in only one of two apartment complexes in Madison. That felt surprising since Georgia is filled with mega apartment complexes. Surrounded by the first real farmland we have seen in Georgia, the primary business in Madison is tourism. People flock there to tour several streets of historic homes. The sisters gave us friendship bracelets they had braided. We enjoyed lunch at a popular street side cafe and learned about their challenges and work. They do a lot of volunteer work at the art and tourist center and are well-known in town. The Madison branch has few new members, large boundaries, and few young families, but Sister Coleman and Waterworth cheerfully serve there. We were fortunate to find branch members cleaning the Branch building (in an industrial center; the only identifying marker allowed is a sign in the window of the refurbished brick home.). The building was immaculate and a great feeling resided there.

After taking the sisters back to their appointment, we took a limited walking (too hot for much walking) and driving tour of the historic homes; then headed back to Lilburn on the same quiet back roads we had taken to get there.

We were back home about 5 p.m. and had time to finish our grocery shopping and washing before our Saturday prep day was over.

Sunday found us enjoying another great session of testimonies. Bishop Baron grew up in England and bore an amazing testimony about America and freedom. Testimony meetings are great in Lilburn, and we never knew Gospel Principles could be so interesting!  Sunday night the Clarks invited us to travel to Tucker (15 minutes away) to the TNT Fireworks tent that their daughter, Jackie Ober and friends, Dora and Sandy, were running several miles away. The labor created long, sweltering days for them, and the Clarks wanted to give them a few minutes of emotional support. Jackie is trying to earn airfare to Dubai to visit her husband. A rainstorm hit about 8 p.m., and we were glad we were there to help them pick boxes up off the ground as the running rain flooded the tent floor. On the 4th of July we enjoyed a dinner at the Kotter's, where we and other older members of the Lilburn Ward shared "testimonies" of America, it felt like an old-fashioned American Independence Day. There were few fireworks, however, in the Clark's neighborhood (unlike the neighborhood main attraction we celebrated at home on Heritage Drive in 2011.)

We found ourselves back at the fireworks stand on the evening of the 4th of July. People watching was most interesting. Dora speaks Spanish as does Jackie a bit (from the Portuguese she learned as a child living in Brazil), and it was a perfect fit for their primary customers. Jackie and her daughters worked an exhausting five days; we were impressed. We enjoyed helping a bit, meeting and watching people. We caught a bit of the Stone Mountain fireworks show from afar through the trees. So no official fireworks for us in 2012. We didn't have to fight the 200,000 spectator crowd at Stone Mountain, but we were slowed by those leaving the Lilburn fireworks about 10 p.m.

Ironically, we enjoyed noise and falling white ash at the Mission Office. On the 2nd of July, roofers came to tear off the old shingles and put on a new roof on the meeting house (to which the Mission Office is attached).

Fortunately, we worked from home on the 4th to complete what little followup was needed with Church Headquarters because the Postal Service and deliverers were on holiday. We missed the tearing of shingles right above us as the roofers worked in the a.m. of another hot day. However, Thursday and Friday we enjoyed periodic showers of ceiling tile flakes that soon covered surfaces and papers as bundles of shingles were dropped (bang!) and then nailed in place. We moved our vehicles to safer locations; the scheduled mission meetings were moved to the Annex building (stake offices and cultural center on the same property) where quiet and spirit could teach. The Bolts were in South Carolina all week for a family reunion, so we found ourselves very busy and faced the inconveniences with humor. Saturday found us back at the office for three hours, dusting every surface, vacuuming, and straightening so we could begin the week ahead in order.

In the Sound of Music, the nuns cheerfully sing, "How do you solve a problem like Maria?"  Mission leaders must carry the same love and humor in helping the young elders and sisters succeed. Here are some examples of recent trouble calls to Ray, the car czar:  Tire and front-end damage by driving into the curb (and there are not many in Georgia) while using the GPS. $500 to repair the fuel system because elders filled up with diesel fuel. Sisters called to say their tire pressure was low. Ray advised them to drive to Pep Boys or another location and have the tire checked. Unfortunately, the pressure was more than low; the tire was flat and the trip to the dealer ruined the tire. There is no warranty when you drive on a flat tire.

Every day we realize how clear we need to be in our communication to the missionaries. This generation talks, listens, and texts in sound bites. We're working hard to communicate well in the same way and help them learn and improve with patience and a sense of humor. On Friday evening, Linda and Zaza Clark had the sister missionaries to dinner. It was an enjoyable ladies' hour. Saturday we prepared dinner for the Assistants (elders). They have been dieting and getting up an hour early to run, but they gave in to a salad dinner and the lemonade ice cream pie that followed. Must have been the heat!

President and Sister Wolfert enjoyed a peaceful week the last of June. So their parents could participate, their entire Wolfert family came to Atlanta for the sealing of the Wolferts' son and daughter-in-law and their children. Although very few missionaries were aware of the Wolferts’ activities, for the week or so the extended family was here, the mission phones were quiet. We noticed a difference in the volume of issues and events, as did the Wolferts. It was tender mercy for the family. The day the last family member caught a flight, the phones and incidents and medical issues were back on their table.

We experienced first hand the past few weeks how missionaries need flexible hearts and muscles and cooling mechanisms, and we saw how the Lord graciously makes up the difference.