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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, February 24, 2013

Sweets and Sorrows

The past two weeks have been filled with many happy and busy minutes, along with moments of reflection on death, that bittersweet event that is part of our eternal progression. While we acknowledge that we're in the "associates are dying" stage of life, we certainly feel we have sent a greater number of condolences during our time as missionaries. Neighbors have lost parents; in the past month nieces Laura and Michele have both lost a parent-in-law, Tom's mother and Dave's father. One of our missionaries lost his mother unexpectedly this week! A week ago yesterday, our former bishop, George Wall, was particularly on our mind. Then the next day we learned by email that he passed away after weeks of hospice ending a valiant fight against pancreatic cancer. We remember vividly the ward fast over two years ago in which Bishop Rapp led the ward prayer and pronounced that Bishop Wall would be healed despite the 2-week to 2-month prognosis physicians gave when the cancer was diagnosed at an aggressive Stage 4. Several months later, Bishop Wall bore testimony of pure faith and witness from the Lord that he would survive. There was no doubt that he trusted fully in the Lord. We're not certain we have ever witnessed a greater example of personal humility and pure faith. A year later, he had amazed the experts at Huntsman Cancer with a miracle remission. The year allowed him to prepare his home and family for future possibilities. He even had the energy to travel and see grandchildren enter the world. The cancer was surfacing again as we prepared to leave for our mission. He blessed our Orchard 6th Ward family so much with his example!  Ray was so grateful to have been home teacher to the Walls for several years, to share in their highs and lows, to spend a few hours each week with neighbor Gary Thorne helping at the Wall home before we left for Georgia. Our shared knowledge of the plan of salvation has helped our ward family back home rejoice in faith and lessons learned, and it has made comfort available along with immense gratitude for knowing this great man.

We had an excited fourteen missionaries arrive on February 12, and Sister Sanders returned after her long medical release! Only three missionaries went home this month - two by schedule and one with a bit of sorrow again. Next month we have 18 scheduled to arrive and only five going home. Our numbers are climbing, and Elder and Sister Hall and our local service couple, the Tewalts, have been busy working on new apartments and furnishings to help us grow. Then sweet surprise, just this weekend the Church announced 58 new missions to accommodate the increase in missionaries! One of those missions includes the reopening of the Georgia Macon Mission. Time will tell what that will mean for the Georgia Atlanta North Mission. Another big change for us is that Elder Hanny, the 1st Assistant to the President, was transferred to Athens after six months in Lilburn. We learned so much from him, but it's a blessing that he can spend his last months free to preach full-time. Elder Chugg is the new 2nd assistant along with Elder Edmunds. We surely love our assistants and missionaries!

Last week included a Valentine's surprise  It was to be a simple day for us because it was a busy week. However, about mid-day on February 14 a young mother and two sweet young sons walked into the Mission Office. She introduced herself as Natalie Ormond, Mike and Wendy's dear friend from the Yonker's Branch in New York. Her husband is in residency at Emory in Atlanta, and she came bearing roses and candy to wish us Happy Valentine's! What a sweet and happy expression of Christ-like love. Then we had a carrot cake surprise in the office and elders singing Feliz Cumpleanos for Sister Connors birthday. Later flowers came from the Clarks after attending a somewhat cold evening double overtime winning soccer game with them for granddaughter Maddie. More gifts arrived by FedEx from our children. Sweet February!

On Sunday we drove to Cornelia and attended Church with the Lundgrens.  They will be released in April. This is their fourth mission, one as mission president in Norway. Elder Lundgren is 82 years young!  We stayed and joined Sister Lundgren as she led choir practice and watched Elder Lundgren, the skilled CES instructor, lead Gospel Principles class. We toured the tiny town a bit, and enjoyed dinner together. It was a surprisingly cold day in Georgia (frozen fountains are rare), and a great Sunday. 

We worked in the Mission Office on the President's Day holiday to help with the mission audit and then left a bit early with Elder and Sister Atkins. We drove to Kennesaw to visit the Southern Civil War and Locomotive Museum. It's great satellite museum under the Smithsonian's oversight. The jewel of the museum is the General, whose factual story was told by Disney in The Great Locomotive Chase. The visitor's center at the Kennesaw Nat'l Battlefield was closed after our hour at the nearby locomotive museum, so we decided to return there another day. A light dinner killed some rush hour traffic delay time and ended a nice day.

Yesterday we attended a baptism in Roswell. We love Elder Astel and Elder Sarniguet and promised to visit them there before Elder Astel is released. They taught and baptized two Haitian families and five individuals after two months in the area. The Joseph family simply walked into the building one Sunday morning looking for a Church after the family had joined Dad who was already living in Georgia. Young Finley, a member for only a month, bore powerful testimony. Yesterday, the Pierre family (grandma and grandpa, 86 and 83, and in the US only two months) joined their daughter and two grandchildren in a truly "sweet" baptismal ceremony. Sister Connors enjoyed visiting with them a bit; they were pleased to meet someone who had been in their homeland. It was a time I wished I could remember my college French; but only words here and there surface. So many people in Georgia speak two languages that we often feel inadequate; hopefully as Utah becomes more diverse, the general population (and not just return-missionaries) will be bi-lingual. Wouldn't that be great?!

After the baptism we found our way to view the historic Morgan Falls Dam that backs up the Chattahoochee River as it approaches Atlanta.

Busy days, heavy rain, sun, and wind filled our week. Daffodils and a few pink blossoms hint that spring is on its way. Like life, our mission is web and flow, pace fast and slow, emotions sweet and sorrowful. All provide good and blessed gifts from our loving Savior. 

1 comment:

  1. That family got baptized?! Yes! I'm so glad to hear that. Thanks for the wonderful updates Sister Connors. I truly appreciate it :)

    Sister Candace Smith