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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 16, 2013

The Lord is Hastening His Work

It's Father's Day. We're back in our apartment, resting after a long and busy week and hoping to hear soon from Mike and Wendy.  We enjoyed a nice phone visit with Dave a few hours ago. We also have a call in to Elder Tarver. His father was found dead on the couch this morning. Elder Tarver has not been close to his father, but despite his assurances to President Wolfert that he will move on without interruption because of the news, our hearts go out to him. He had to grow up so early, leaving home as a teenager. He calls us at least once a week to check on our health and well-being. We just love Elder Tarver and are happy to hear he is putting plans together to attend school in Utah and "date" a sister he met when they were both in the MTC. The Gospel can change lives and families and future generations!

We can't believe it's been a month since we made an entry. Where has the time gone?  It's been hastened as the Lord has hastened His work with the surge of missionaries that are flooding the world. We've just ended another transfer week, highlighted with the arrival of 24 missionaries that include Elder Poole returning from surgery, four short-notice Australia-visa waiters, 12 sisters and 8 elders. Our missionary count hit 200 for the first time!  It was a dry run for the 30+ who will arrive on July 23 and again on September 3.

Each group of missionaries that arrives amazes us with their resolve and competence. And somehow, all of the logistics work for the many of us teaming together to welcome them:
  • Arranging extra vans and drivers for the airport run
  • Having a stranger (a young woman chauffeur for the Walking Dead production team) with the right skills in the cell phone lot at the airport unlock one of the vans when poor Elder Tewalt closed the door unintentionally by taking off a car antenna and inserting it into the door lock; that meant we didn't have to leave new missionaries stranded at the airport waiting for transport
  • Finding a great price at a convenience Holiday Inn Express to lodge the new missionaries since we've over-run the capacity for sleeping in the Mission Home
  • Opening seven new apartments on short notice (they are hard to find and negotiate in short time periods)
  • Having wards and stakes happily help find and furnish the apartments
  • Feeling more confident that we can open and furnish fourteen new apartments for July and again in September
  • Coordinating the pickup, delivery and distribution of bicycles
  • Adding 14 new vehicles, hitches, and Tiwis to the mission fleet
  • Dealing with several "fender-bender" reports and repairs each week
  • Preparing letters and 100-page mission binders and the luncheons for the missionaries coming in and the eleven missionaries who returned home this week
  • Saying good-nights with love to our co-office couples when duties keep us in the office until summer twilight.
We see the Lord's hand in all that is happening. He is directing the efforts and the resources. Our capacities are stretched, yet it all comes together.

And, we also add "change" to the surge. On July 1st, the Macon Mission will re-open as one of the 58 new missions opening world-round. The Conyers Stake will move under the Georgia Atlanta Mission, and that mission will turn over two stakes to the Macon Mission. So we have a project with a June 30 deadline to complete and transfer database, paper records, and business requirements for the missionaries assigned to the Conyers Stake who will transfer in that change. Linda's become the project manager (recognizing more and more each day how the Lord blessed her with professional experience we need to fill in the technical gaps with our senior-only office team). We also have a luncheon to organize, a binder of memories to prepare, and other items for these 30+ transitioning missionaries that we need to squeeze into a very busy last two weeks of June. So we will have long days in the weeks ahead, but our collective energies will be motivated by love for these wonderful young missionaries who will leave our ranks a bit sooner than planned. We can feel the sense of urgency and are so grateful to be part of the team responding.

While there has been lots of joyful work, there have also been spiritual moments and fun times, too. Heather Strickland was baptized two weeks ago. Sister Connors was able to help the elders with some teaching sessions. In our first meeting with Heather, her acknowledged anxiety about life and coping was very evident. After her confirmation, she bore sure testimony of her trust in the Lord and the rightness of her decision. She does have a new sense of calm; her husband has been open to our short interactions and is letting the children attend church with her.  When investigators receive witness from the Spirit and act upon it, many tender mercies happen. The challenge now is to help them fully "convert" which is to change the lives to new patterns as they continue to grow in knowledge and faith. This is evidenced as new members no longer solely rely on "missionaries" but on their own testimony. Linda visit teaches a sister who continues to have problem after problem.  A recent widow and former foster parent, she recently fell and has not been able to work. She has only the resources to rent a "room" in a widow's home. It's not an ideal situation, but they make it work. However, the sister says she has difficulty trusting anyone except "missionaries."  Prayers are that she can feel the trust she needs to lean on ward members, too. Today we had no new converts or investigators in our Gospel Principles class. It was because of Father's Day, we suppose. Many of them come from non-supportive relationships; many work multiple jobs. However, some were at the Bishop's office door today, needing help from him.

Several investigators we've worked with were at the fireside for the departing missionaries on Wednesday. It's a sweet one-hour meeting where the departing missionaries bear a final testimony, followed by refreshments. The guest missionaries invite investigators and recent converts; other missionaries are not allowed. The room was as crowded as a Sacrament meeting. The testimonies at this week's fireside were particularly insightful, mature, and poignant.  Three of the twelve, Elder Hanny, Elder Edmunds, and Elder Chugg, have been assistants to the president and we have worked closely with them. All twelve of the departees (also including Elders Cole, Owens, Phillips, Thompson, Rogers, Clark, Ball, Spear, and Sister Waterworth) are wonderful, and we are so grateful for our association as we humbly learned from them and served with them.

Now we need to do our part to insure those they taught become fully engaged in activity. Our goal as we wind up these next few months is to spend family home evenings and other opportunities with the converts in the Lilburn Ward to bear testimony and to encourage them to take another leap of faith and fully engage themselves in activity. Today started off on a spiritual note as we enjoyed some of the best talks we've had in Sacrament meeting here. All of the speakers introduced themselves as "poor speakers", but they were living examples of how the spirit fills mouths to teach and lift. They nailed it!

We've also enjoyed a couple of fun outings in the past month. We worked in the mission office for part of Memorial Day and then all of the office couples drove to Social Circle where we enjoyed dinner at the Blue Willow Inn with Sister Iketau and Sister Markowitz. It was the first trip there for the other seniors. They, too, enjoyed the intimate, historic feel of this small town.

We drove the long way home, circling south and east to Monticello and Greensboro. We now appreciate the huge boundaries of the Monroe Ward. We added two sets of missionaries in the area over the past two transfers.

Two weeks ago we took another long drive after a Saturday of mowing lawns, grocery shopping, and cleaning to see the Etowah Indian Mounds near Cartersville in northwest Georgia. We arrived shortly before closing, but fortunately had enough time to view the displays and learn the story, then walk out and climb to the top of the highest mound (a constructed, earthen flat-topped pyramid) and view the complex defensive trenches. The area conjured images of Book of Mormon stories. Like many sites in the Mississippian plains, a sophisticated culture thrived in the Etowah Valley for centuries before discovery by the Spanish explorers like Cortez in the 1500s that eventually led to disease and decline.

As we exited the state park, we checked out a lovely golf community and then spotted large cooling towers and smoke stacks a few miles away. We drove to Stilesboro to catch a photo. We checked the spot out online when we arrived home and discovered that it is Plant Bowen, the largest coal powered power plant in North America!

Last Saturday we loaded up the mission trailer with the Atkins and delivered mattresses to five apartments in a 200-mile loop so new missionaries arriving this week would have beds. Our highlight was lunch from the Subway at the Walmart in Jasper.

Yesterday?  It cooled a bit from very hot, humid temperatures earlier in the week, so after the lawn-mowing we took our the shoes and enjoyed hand-washing the car in our bare feet. The soaking was badly needed and helped both the car and our spirits.  It's good to be young-at-heart. Minor errands and house-cleaning wrapped up our preparation day. It was a busy day that fit right in with a busy week and month. And with our release date now on the horizon, we surely need to hasten our efforts. (We can't keep up with downloading, uploading photos from the camera, so someday I'll go back and add some photos to these entries.)

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