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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, June 30, 2013

Change and Testimony

Tomorrow will be July 1st, and Independence Day celebrations are scheduled on July 4.  Happy Birthday, America!  July 1st also marks the transfer of 31 of our young elders and sisters from the Georgia Atlanta North Mission to the Georgia Atlanta Mission. That transfer has kept us busy the past two weeks preparing for a farewell zone meeting, prepping database and paper files for transfer to the Atlanta Mission, and trying to spend a bit of quality time with these departing missionaries while we're able.

Last Saturday we drove to Jonesboro to take five elders to lunch. (Elders Sarniguet, Popp, Gunnerson, Beus,and Wadsworth). 

Yesterday, we drove back there again to take our boxed-up files to the Atlanta Mission Office staff.  On Thursday, a meeting was held at the Conyers Stake Center for the transferring missionaries. We even closed the mission office for the afternoon (we've never closed it before for more than an hour). The meeting included short messages from President and Sister Wolfert, testimonies from the missionaries, and a great lunch. There was a sense of reverence we've never seen at a group meeting as these marvelous young people contemplated their role, responsibilities, and opportunities in historic changes in mission work. Sister Connors felt impressed to share her testimony (along with the love all the office staff have for these young people). Some of the missionaries were anxious about the change. We reminded them that the Lord will bless them with the capacities and strength they need. The testimonies were sweet and strong, as was the spirit of love and commitment to serve where the Lord calls. The luncheon was happy and included lots of hugs and photographs with the seniors.

The Conyers Stake has been the anchor of our baptisms recently, so we will miss these missionaries, but we know they will bless their new complement of missionaries and investigators in the Atlanta Mission. The Atlanta Mission is the host mission for the new Macon mission, so the staff's tasks have included training the new office staff in Macon, letting go of two Stakes, and assuming one. We've been busy with just one stake and its missionaries leaving. We can only imagine how hard it's been for the Atlanta Mission staff. They've had to make use of young elders in the office on a regular basis. It's been a blessing for us to have enough senior power to keep our proselyting young missionaries doing that preaching work. Our housing couples, in particular, are challenged with opening seven apartments for the last new group and 14 for the upcoming July group. All in all, the increased numbers are increasing everyone's work.  Most office days now end at 7 p.m. We lost 31 missionaries in the Zone transfer and another three who had medical releases. Down goes our 200 missionary count, but it will zoom again to nearly 215 net missionaries by October. Truly we are seeing miracles.

Last Sunday night we enjoyed a world-wide broadcast for ward councils, missionaries, and members about missionary work. More changes are in the works as missionaries will soon spend part of their day/week using internet social tools to proselyte and fellowship. They will also give facility tours. We don't know all of the details yet, but hope we'll be able to learn and help implement this change before our September release date. An increased need for member assistance in missionary work was also emphasized by our leaders. We already see actions taken in the Lilburn Stake to increase member involvement. We had a baptism today for Chinesa (Sunshine) Mason. She's reactivated her less active mom. Her ultra soft, delicate voice befits her sweet spirit. Ward members gave the talks and performed the baptism. Exactly what we need! These new converts desperately need immediate ward friends and not just missionary friends who will be gone as is the nature of their call. This ward member willingness has probably already been there; it just took counsel from local and Church-wide leaders to help them step up to this critical challenge. With more involvement at the ward level and more missionaries serving in each ward and branch, amazing things are going to happen. We feel joy and humility as we find ourselves living and laboring in the fulfillment of prophetic promises about the Gospel spreading to all the world.

We've had some missionaries protected from harm in some serious car accidents the past week; others had to return home for medical care. We found ourselves back in Jonesboro again to get a damaged car out of compound for repair. On that P-day trip, we stopped by a small Confederate cemetery where we read the headstones reverently and admired the enormous magnolia tree that shaded the grounds.

Our son, David, surprised us with a text announcing a broken arm. His Facebook post of a lovely motorcycle ride with friend above our home in Bountiful was followed by our mutual gratitude that he was not hurt more seriously several minutes later. It sounds like the healing has not been fun for him, however.

Weather patterns this summer have brought rain nearly every day. Some days it's a few sprinkled raindrops; other days bring thunder, lightning, wind, and fury; all of it happening in a flash with sun re-appearing and then disappearing again. There are no extreme high temperatures yet, so life is bearable. On Friday evening, June 21, we enjoyed dinner with Elder and Sister Atkins and hiked part-way up Stone Mountain. However, our late getaway from the office and evening clouds hid most of our planned longest-day-of-the-year sunset. We gave our son, Michael, a call for his birthday from the mountain and crept down by moonlight. Ray found the footing difficult (signs of a diagnosis to follow when we returned home.) Granddaughter Faith's birthday falls on July 2. We'll see what we can do to give her a novel birthday call as well.

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