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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, November 11, 2012

The Lord is Ever With Us

Thanksgiving is just a few days away and there is much to be thankful for, including the Lord's watchful care over the past two weeks. Let's start at the ending.

Aeriel Chase, Matthew, and Victoria were confirmed today, two weeks later than expected. Unexpected illnesses led to emergency room visits and sidetracked them on two Sundays. After their baptism they moved into a rental home near the Lilburn building, but it was exhausting for them. First mom, then Matthew and then Dad all fell ill. We learned today talking to Mom that Matthew (extremely dehydrated and not able to walk while in the ER), was telling everyone he was a Mormon and sharing his disappointment that he was supposed to receive the Holy Ghost rather than be in the hospital. He is a natural child-missionary! The entire family was so happy today. In Gospel Principles class, Brother Chase testified about the blessings that have come to the family since they committed to the Savior and His church. And Sister Chase was laughing with a happy smile when she explained that they had to get ready for Church at grandma's house because their septic system backed up yesterday. You can see the joy of the gospel  in their faces and understand why Elder Williams felt so happy at their baptism. We're excited to be able to continue to get to know and help them more. We're already thinking about a way to enjoy a family experience with them during the holidays ahead. The other happy event from today was to turn around in the hall after Sacrament Meeting and see Dana Roca, our beloved convert who left Georgia in an urgent situation, leaving no contact information. We wondered months ago if we would ever see her again. She's back, doing well, and attended Church while in New York. What joy filled our hearts. No one in the ward knew she was back until she appeared today! The Lord has been with her. Today was a joyful end to a busy week.

The week before last, Ray had a bout with the flu. Halloween came and went quietly (we shared our candy with the Clarks so they could give it out). Hurricane Sandy hit the upper Atlantic Seaboard; we donned our Helping Hands t-shirts and helped several dozen Lilburn Stake members at the Tucker Bishop's Storehouse to pack food boxes for relief efforts. It's wonderful how willing hands work so quickly to help the Church to be ready in advance. The hurricane was so devastating, and yet a sense of resilience and determination surfaced, too. On Saturday morning, we learned that two elders had been in a serious accident about 9 p.m. on Friday night. A woman, DUI, collided with them nearly head on; both vehicles were traveling nearly 50 mph. Another set of elders were traveling in the next lane and witnessed the accident. The woman's car went airborne after the initial contact, rolled on its side, and ended upside down. The four elders got back to their apartments about 4 a.m. after Elder Jones was checked out in the ER. Fortunately he was okay. It was a miracle the elders were not more seriously hurt. The Lord was with them.

We began our Saturday morning with housework, raking leaves and mowing the lawn (exercise felt so good). We then enjoyed an hour watching Cami Ober play soccer, and we got to know her father, Blaine Ober. Blaine came home for a week from Dubai (happens about once a year). Jackie and the girls were so happy to have him home. It was good to see them all together, even Alex flew home from BYU to spend time with them. After the soccer game we drove down to Jonesboro to see Elder Jones and Gisseman.  President Wolfert was at their apartment when we arrived; letting the elders call their parents to assure them they were okay. After a prayer of gratitude for the missionaries' protection and a plea for blessings for the reckless driver, the president left and we took the elders to dinner. They looked tired but were excited for a good meal. Unfortunately, Elder Jones, the driver, was on some medications and had to take most of his dinner home. It was only 7:30 p.m.l when we dropped them off, but we assured them it would be okay to go to bed after an exceptional 24 hours. We saw the elders on Tuesday at Zone Conference, and they are doing well. What a blessing!

The first of three Zone Conferences was held in Lilburn on Tuesday - election day.  It rained much of the morning, making car inspections fun. We experienced the same rain and colder air on Wednesday in Marietta. Ray followed the Assistants to the Stake Center in Marietta; they leave about 6:30 a.m. to be there by 8 a.m. Without traffic, it's a 45 minute drive; but there is always traffic in Atlanta. Thursday was a beautiful, but cold day for the last conference at the Sugar Hill Stake Center in Suwanee. We scraped serious frost from our car windows in the morning; a first for us in Georgia!  Ray enjoys the associations and messages at Zone Conference and also speaks during a session. The Bolts made presentations, too, so Linda was left alone at the Mission Office until they returned about 4 p.m. each day. On Tuesday evening we subbed for Don and Zaza and taught Mission Prep class.

We averaged more than 10 hour days at the office the past week. So when Saturday arrived, we did a quick housecleaning and started a loop through Cleveland, Helen, and the mountains to do some shopping for some locally produced gift items. We realized that Christmas is around the corner. We learned Cleveland is the home to Cabbage Patch, so we figured it was time to visit the Cabbage Patch Hospital to pick up a newborn for our granddaughter, Lizzie.

The fall leaves had peaked, but we did catch one breathtaking moment as we rounded a corner on the winding road to see brilliant red and yellow leaves glittering in the sun and gently dancing in the breeze like a soft veil along our path.  The Lord was blessing us in those few seconds.  It was a nice afternoon drive and we missed the crowds that clogged the roads the weekends before. We have now traveled the beginning of the Appalachian trail and highway.

Ray's hands have been getting worse, and the discomfort and frustration is wearing him out. The fear that he was having additional problems with his neck keeps nagging at him. He's back to doing his computer work with one finger typing. He felt impressed to again call Dr. Smalley, the Area Medical Advisor, to seek counsel. Dr. Smalley is an orthopedic physician and we met him at Zone Conference. We obtained a copy of Ray's pre-cervical fusion MRI from Utah. It was good to hear from Dr. Smalley after he looked at the MRI. He feels surgery is not needed and is convinced something other than pinched disks may be causing the tremors and weakness. In the short term, Ray is trying medications for muscle spasms, and in the one day he's taken them, they seem to help. He's also going to schedule another nerve conductivity test. The Lord is helping us stay here in the mission; he is with us!

The 2012 Presidential elections have been both intriguing and exhausting. Georgians like to talk politics - conservative politics. As missionaries we try to keep our conversations neutral and short, but it was hard to avoid talking about the events. Often it was a conversation starter about the Church; but so much of the talk felt like doomsday, either, or. As a precaution, mission presidents were counseled to sequester or move missionaries in areas that could be prone to possible rioting if election results caused controversy. We moved a few of our missionaries and asked the others to stay in their apartments for the night. Throughout this political year, we stated and prayed with faith that the Lord would direct the election outcomes in His wisdom for what we, as a nation, need to receive and learn. Who should we trust more than the Lord?  We will come to learn and see His hand by looking back in the future. We certainly came to respect the Romneys as individuals, even more than candidate and family. They showed such great fortitude and character in the cause.

There is much talk of the "Mormon Moment" in the press. Will the momentum continue?  Has it peaked?  The SE Area Mission Presidents were recently counseled by Elder Rasband. He affirmed that the Lord is in charge of His work and will move it forward.  We have been told to expect a 50% increase in our missionaries by mid-year 2013.  Missionary applications increased ten-fold in the weeks following the General Conference announcement that elders can now serve at age 18 and sisters at age 19. We are excited to do our part to prepare for, welcome, and build up those missionaries. Elder Rasband explained that sometimes we simply need to get out of the way. The words spoken by Joseph Smith - the Standard of Truth - say it all. The same knowledge and determination should be ours, because the Lord is and will ever be with us and directing His work.

"The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.”

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