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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, April 28, 2013

A Treat for the Senses

It's spring in the Southeast. Sunshine, rushing wind and pattering rain, along with fragrant, beautiful flowering trees and shrubs have filled our senses. We've been told that every plant in Georgia flowers openly and abundantly.

A film of pollen continues to coat our cars each day. And then every few days the quiet is punctuated with thunderstorms and heavy rain. Tornado warnings have sent our missionaries to "shelter" three times in the past month. Several weeks ago we had driven to Alpharetta to take Elder Jackman to his apartment. He had just returned from Utah after knee surgery. When we arrived, we picked up Elder Sarniguet and Elder Astel and took the three to dinner (Elder Jackman had been all day without food). While in a wings' restaurant, we saw the sky change color; then flashing warnings popped up on the restaurant's flat screens and Elder Sarniguet (Zone Leader) received a "take shelter" text from President Wolfert. He began texting the missionaries in the zone to take shelter immediately. Pouring rain and thunder stormed for nearly an hour, but fortunately we had no hail where we were. Several zones in our mission saw hail, and areas outside our mission experienced serious tornado damage. It's a quiet Sunday afternoon today. After fixing dinner for Sister Ferguson who had fallen and injured herself (must have been those very high heels this tiny, ex-military single sister wears), extreme weather warnings are out again. We see only steady rain here in Lilburn; hope all is well elsewhere.

It was nice to be back to six weeks between transfers; it was a breather and catch-up for Sister Connors. Elder Connors, however, had a half-dozen fender bender reports from our missionaries. Most of them were not the missionaries' fault, but the paperwork and repair hassle is the same for him. The Halls, Tewalts, and Assistants have been very busy preparing five new apartments for the 20 missionaries that are joining our ranks on Tuesday. Twelve are sisters, and until our proportions change, there will be multiple sister trios and "twins" for training as we absorb these wonderful boon of sister missionaries.

Last Sunday we drove to Athens for Church. Elders Hanny, Vandertoolen, Brown, and Owens had baptisms - Chris Burton and Ewart Leslie. Brother Leslie had family travel all the way from Brooklyn to support him. The Gospel Principles class was moved to the Relief Society Room to accommodate everyone. What a wonderful problem!  Upon returning home we visited the Chase family. Brother Chase is doing relatively well. His speech is back, but he is still having trouble getting his arm to work. We're optimistic that his determination will get him back to productivity soon. We were comforted to see a greater calm in the home and especially with his wife, Ariel. She has been blessed through her conversion and faith and her more calm influence will bless her family. Today we were delighted to see Lila back in Church after her travel. AND, her husband attended Sacrament Meeting with her! That is so promising. Brother Boateng and Sister Okuko are at Church every Sunday, tired from their long night shift at Walmart, but dedicated. The elders are now teaching Brother Boateng's girlfriend and another co-worker that Elder Connors and Elder Atkin split with the Assistants on Friday to teach. Brother Boateng may bring his entire Walmart stocking team into the Church! These dear people have spiritual eyes and gifts that are such blessings to those around them.

Yesterday we accompanied the Halls and Atkins on an outing back up to Cornelia where we picked up Elders Bowers and Yellowplume. They had permission to visit a Yonah Mountain Cherokee pow wow near Cleveland, GA. Elder Yellowplume is from the Washakie reservation outside Green River, Wyoming. He was optimistic that they could make some teaching contacts at the pow wow. And they did successfully schedule three return appointments. He was also excited to eat a Navajo taco again!  Unfortunately, it was a drizzly, muddy day, and the turnout was small. We visited the craft booths and watched four dances, but gave up into the 4th hour.

Since we were only three miles from Helen, we drove there for a short visit before heading home. This Bavarian inspired community is a tourist hot spot in northern Georgia. The cool weather made it the perfect day to visit. The rain had stopped so we senior office couples strolled the shops as the young elders contacted for about an hour.

From Helen we headed back to Cornelia for dinner. We had an interesting conversation over dinner with Elder Yellowplume. He is Sioux and Arapaho; his family joined the Church through his great-grandfather, Chief Red Cloud. Brigham Young and a companion sought out the chief to warn him of military troops coming to massacre the tribe. The stories passed down say that once the Chief received the priesthood he felt his duty was to lead his tribe in the Lord's way, and most of the tribe was baptized. Because of his heritage, Elder Yellowplume had to choose between the opportunity to become medicine man in his tribe or go on a mission. He testified that after pondering and prayerfully studying the Book of Mormon, he found the scripture holds the same truths that his people tell in legend. Elder Yellowplume felt the Spirit tell him to follow in his grandfather's example. That's why he is in Georgia, to share his testimony of the commonality and consistency of native cultural tradition with the eternal truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He shared many feelings and observations that we have not heard before because we've never had an in-depth gospel conversation with a Native American.

After dinner, we stopped by to visit with the Barksdales, Ruth and Glen. They are new senior couple in Cornelia, and friends of the Halls. They were not able to go to pow wow for the longer day with us. Wonderful people!  This is their fifth mission, but the other missions were CES callings. They find Member Leader Support very challenging! We encouraged them to be patient. They've been in Georgia only two weeks (and one Sunday was Stake Conference).  They'll find their niche as promised, we're sure. (And they did, both as fellowshippers and for Elder Barksdale's skilled teaching in the ward.)  We were so glad we spent a rainy day getting to know yet again two wonderful young missionaries and another dedicated couple. Yesterday was another memorable treat for our natural and spiritual senses.

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