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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/

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.

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