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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, September 30, 2012

A Hint of Autumn

It's another Sunday for catching up on our mission blogging. We took a couple of hours to venture out on new roads yesterday morning. Unfortunately  freeway construction pushed us off the I-285 north perimeter. We tried to rely on an overview map and found ourselves quite disoriented and heading back east rather than west as we had planned. That doesn't happen to us often, but in suburban Georgia with no vistas and snaking roads, it's easy to do. Once back on track, we took a short loop to see Lake Allatoona. It's an older reservoir; the shoreline is bordered with older homes, including many molding, derelict mobile homes. Unfortunately with traffic and a narrow, winding road, we couldn't snap a photo - some residences were right out of a "scary" movie. We also couldn't snap a picture of our latest favorite Church marquee quote:  "Eat of the bread of life, or you're toast."  We're cheered nearly every day in Georgia by a clever catch phrase. Once at Red Top Mountain State Park on the lake, we saw a lovely deciduous forest with its natural floor blanketed in leaves and ferns. It was a contrast to residential forests which have become choked with attractive, but invasive weeds and vines.

September has not felt much like autumn.  The days have cooled a bit, to be sure, and we've enjoyed lovely days with little rain and temperatures in the 80's. There has been some reddening and falling of tree leaves. The yellows will surely follow, and we expect it to be quite spectacular. Sister Connors enjoyed Women's Conference last night. It really feels like fall now. It was a wonderful meeting.  I took Sister Howard (other investigators were unable to commit to the long evening that ran from 6 to 10 p.m.). We enjoyed a Relief Society dinner, half hour local program, and then the televised conference at 8 p.m. Members had tried to explain to Marcy what a general conference meeting would be like, but she really didn't understand until she participated first hand. She really enjoyed it and mentioned that she could feel the strength of the prayers lifted up by such large numbers of women around the world. As we sang hymns, I had to remind myself again to sing melody and not my usual alto. There's so much for converts to take in all at once, they should at least be able to hear the melodies of our hymns! We are looking forward to enjoying next Sunday's General Conference meetings at the Stake Center as we did last April just after we arrived. Where has the time gone?!

Last weekend was busy. We traveled to Roswell Friday evening and attended the Festival of Nations hosted by the Cumorah Spanish Branch. All of the Elders from the Zone (and a few from the Marietta Zone) were there. Members served generous servings of yummy ethnic food from six Latin countries; loud music and mariachi dancing provided great energy and happiness. Nearly two dozen GANM elders stood on stage and sang Joseph Smith' First Prayer, alternating English and Spanish. They spent the night greeting, visiting, hosting, and eating! So glad we made the effort to attend.

We really enjoyed our outing to Stone Mountain with our senior friends. Stone Mountain is the most visited place in Georgia, and we now understand why. In addition to the recreation offered there, thousands attend the laser light shows that run nightly during summer and Saturday nights in spring and fall. The carvings on mountain come alive with a half hour or more of patriotic, popular, and Georgian cultural music and images, along with lasers and fireworks. Georgians love the American flag, and as the show reunited the North and South into a single flag mid show, the crowd roared. Like the many families and dating couples there, we carried in lawn chairs and blankets and ate our picnic before the show. We could see hikers atop the mountain, and they looked like specs at the top of the 1000 foot wall.

We definitely will get back to make the one-mile hike to the top and see the viewpoint from that perspective. It was interesting to compare the carvings of the Confederate leaders to Mt. Rushmore (especially since creator Borglund started the Stone Mountain project and relief before moving on to the Rushmore area). Stone Mountain's relief is about 50% higher than the figures at Rushmore but broader in scope. It was hard to believe when we heard that a man could stand inside the forward horse's nostril. Next time we visit, we'll get closer to appreciate it more.

Sister Sanders had to return home to recuperate from an aggravated leg and foot; she is determined to return as soon as possible.

So for now, the Lilburn Ward is without sister missionaries. I've helped the elders with teaching and reaching out to Cerus Martin so she can continue to have a female friend. She is from Liberia and is a home seamstress with a middle-of-the-night part-time job. She is very curious, but has so many questions. We will need to be patient so as to not overwhelm her. We enjoyed taking Elder Frietas (Brazil) and Elder Goodman (Mesa, AZ) to lunch during the week.  Elder Freitas is learning English and doing a great job. Elder Goodman is an English speaking missionary who made the effort to learn a bit of Portuguese when he was housed with Portuguese speaking elders. He will leave the mission speaking Portuguese and training a Portuguese elder. They are blessing each other and have such a great attitude. Elder Freitas is learning English so quickly and is so enthused. We are so impressed with our missionaries who dedicate themselves and stay so happy. We had four elders to dinner last Sunday, the Young Single Adult branch missionaries and those from the Stone Mountain Spanish Branch. Elder Amaro is from Mexico. We invited Don and Zaza "down" to dinner to join us, and the elders enjoyed so much speaking in Spanish with them. The Clarks plan to have Elder Freitas to dinner soon and nurture him with some Brazilian conversation. 

The missionary highlight from the past weeks was the baptism of Jim Grayless. Brother Grayless has serious health issues due to diabetes and will be transitioning to assisted living soon. His legs are tenderly wrapped, and he can't bear slacks or shoes. Elders Hanny, Astel, and now Williams have taught and served him with devotion, helping him dress and get to Church where he sits in his wheelchair with a blanket over his bared lower legs. He was baptized on September 23. A member of the ward who is a nurse carefully wrapped his legs in plastic wrap. Prior to the baptism, Brother Grayless bore his testimony that he recognized truth when the elders explained he needed to be baptized with the proper authority. The program was short, ending with the baptism itself. Using a chair in the font and many helpers to help him into the font, it was a sweet moment and humbling for the young elders who assisted him. Brother Hoskinson, Jim's neighbor, performed the baptism last week and also confirmed him today. Elder Connors has been able to help teach, transport, and fellowship Brother Grayless and was honored to be a witness at the baptism. 

It's so important for these young elders and sisters to have these missionary paychecks. We know the Lord has blessed us with a calling to "support" the young missionaries as they grow in skill and testimony. We see them acquiring the skills and experiences that will serve them as future leaders of quorums and auxiliaries and congregations. It all works for good. 

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