What's New?

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, August 11, 2013

A Change of Season Approaches

The countdown is now official - we have a release date, of sorts. The past week or two found us in preparation for that event, a change of season in our lives that will coincide with the calendar seasons. And just like those seasons, we are yearning for time to slow down a bit. We just pray the slowdown will not feel like winter (figuratively and literally). We have loved our experiences here in Georgia and the mission field and will leave dear friends and relationships behind. Other changes loom on the horizon for the mission as well; another office couple, the Halls leave for home the first week of November. Elder and Sister Lee, the couple assigned to the Elberton Branch, also leave in early September, and the Barksdales in the Cornelia Ward leave in October. A new couple, the Robert and Vicki Henderson from Cedar Hills, UT, arrived three weeks ago and are sharing their service with both the Peachtree Ward and the Johns Creek Ward. We took the time to make the short drive north and took them to dinner after they arrived. While at the restaurant, we overheard the people at the booth behind speaking in LDS-speak. We introduced ourselves and discovered it was the Stake President of the Roswell Stake and his family. Always a small world in the Church.

It's going to be a busy and emotion-filled seven weeks before we depart. We expect our replacement couple, the Residoris from North Ogden, Utah, to arrive sometime the week of September 16-20. We plan to spend time training them before we leave and have set our release date as September 27. Stay tuned to learn when we'll actually begin the drive home. We're looking at the activities and places we want to pursue in the weeks ahead as well as thinking a bit about cleaning and packing. It feels strange to grocery shop cautiously. It's also easy to tell we have moved infrequently in our lives as we have to think through the process. But there isn't really a lot to do; we've tried to minimize our nesting and shopping while in Georgia.

We celebrated the 24th of July with another Transfer Day. We had to do some serious logistical planning to efficiently man the two Church 12-passenger vans, a mini-van and a rented van, a pickup and two trailers for luggage during the airport pickup and shuttle run to and from the Mission Home/Office. To that we added shuttles to and from the 16 rooms we rented at the nearby Holiday Inn Express on July 23. This transfer meant single seniors in the vans and lots of missionaries! Since the Atlanta Temple was closed for cleaning, the departing missionaries substituted service at the Tucker Bishops Storehouse (one of the largest in the U.S.) in lieu of the normal temple outing.

Things ran well; it was a good trial run for a repeat in September and October. Our November numbers are still unknown. There could be no MARTA run for these large groups. The president needs every minute he can get to do his arrival interviews and make final companion assignments. It was the last airport run for Sister Connors. The Halls will begin driving in September and October along with the Atkins. Bicycles have become a huge job. When we arrived in 2012, only English speaking elders were required to bring/buy and use a bike. Now the pickup of purchased bikes at our recommended bike shop in Duluth, storage, and then bringing them out of storage and having the bikes and helmets ready, along with bike racks forall trainer cars has become a big job for Elder Atkins.

He is training to back up Elder Connors' vehicle job and may have to let go of his other materials and library jobs to take it on. Our vehicle numbers have increased 40%, just like our missionaries. If and when the incoming numbers of arriving missionaries go back to the dozen + rather than three dozen, duties related to bicycles, airport runs and the like will return to a two vehicle task rather than a fleet-feel event.

With the pending changes in office couples, we've been working in the office to look at future responsibilities and workflow. Sometimes we wish we had a crystal ball to see how things will look in 5-6 months. But we felt the same when the announcement came out about the age change and predictions of increased numbers. We've adapted and succeeded. Yes, we may have spent more hours, but the rewards have been well worth it. Elder Stanley G. Ellis encouraged the Assistants to the President to be the examples of hard working missionaries and to get out of the office and away from administrative work. Somehow we graying seniors have picked up the slack. The Lord is helping us succeed beyond our expectations. We pick up and deliver mattresses and shuttle cars throughout the mission. Sister Connors took over all of the spreadsheet reporting of numbers to the mission and stake presidencies nearly a year ago. (When we arrived the assistants would be in the mission office until 11-12 p.m. on Sunday nights to gather the numbers and prepare the reports). We hold a Training Followup Meeting with the new missionaries and their trainers about a month after they arrive. Sister Wolfert used the lunchtime as a formal etiquette teaching opportunity. When she first started, she purchased the food and Sister Weiler (the stake president's wife) helped to cook. We stepped in for a few minutes to help wait tables with food service for about 25 people. We'll have that event again this week, but we'll be serving 60 missionaries and trainers. Seniors are now buying and cooking all of the food, along with Sister Weiler and our new stake president's wife, Sister Frost. See several trends here? We're hoping we can train the Residoris in one week when we now do double what we were assigned when we first arrived. Thank heavens I had lots of practice at Beneficial Life in documenting how-to guides. We're starting on the Vehicle Coordinator's desk manual already.

With all of the labors that now bless us, we have fewer opportunities to teach, but we try to stay involved. The Lilburn Stake goals this year are for members to complete study of the Preach My Gospel, spend more time with the full-time missionaries, and get involved in temple work. The Lilburn Ward, where we reside, is really focusing on member involvement with missionaries by sponsoring splits with the young sisters and elders. Occasionally we are included, but we've come to see the wisdom. These members and ward missionaries are the long-term fellowshippers of these investigators and converts. And in looking back, those baptized here are still attending (except those who have moved). Bishop Baron is inspired, indeed. We've enjoyed working with Brother Sanders; the former Ward Mission Leader and a great instructor of the Gospel Principles class. He was recently released. Brother Boyd is the new Ward mission leader, and we look forward to getting better acquainted with him and his family. They have six children, and have lived in the ward less than a year; his wife is in the RS Presidency. They are great examples to everyone of Christ-like action and dedication. 

Okay, I'm rambling. It must be triggered by the long list on our minds of things we need and want to do. The daily rain finally came to a stop in late July, but this may have been the wettest July in a long time. We heard flood warnings nearly every day. Now it rains only 3-4 times a week. Between showers we've been able to mow lawns and help the Clark lay additional pavers and finish up a few other yard changes that came after they had a new partial driveway poured and their house trim painted. We just put our patio back together last weekend after two months of projects. It's nice to finally be able to sweep it and keep it dry and clean for at least a day or two.

A North America Southeast Young Single Adult Conference was held at the Lilburn Stake buildings this weekend. There were over 900 attendees. Our dear senior friends, Doyle and Eulalia Kotter, were heavily involved in the planning and arrangements. The Conference meant the Lilburn Ward would have only a late afternoon Sacrament Meeting today. We used the opportunity to drive up to the Peachtree Corners Ward for Church. We have been promising Todd and Heather Benson that we would attend Church there for many months. We've seen them a time or two at departing missionary firesides (Todd was a former Ward Mission Leader). Their son spoke in Sacrament Meeting today; it was good to see them and learn they became grandparents two months ago!  How does that former Cub Scout of Sister Connors' become a grandfather? It seems that relative time and age gaps compress in our youth and expand with aging. Most curious! And the Hendersons attended the Peachtree Ward today, so it was fun to continue to build on the dinner date we had with them a few weeks ago. 

We'll end this entry with the beginning of a future entry. Our dear friends, Jerry and Marcy Howard and their children, will soon launch a blessed season of their lives. The parents will receive their endowments on August 17, and the family will be sealed on August 24. We are so grateful for their example and love. I can still remember sitting next to Marcy on the first day she attended Relief Society as an investigator last spring. We have picnicked with them, gone apple picking in the Appalachian foothills, and shared testimonies in their living room as Elder Astel and Elder Hanny taught them. Yesterday we took Jerry and Marcy to the Distribution Center on the Atlanta Temple grounds to purchase temple clothing. As Marcy stated, it feels like waiting for Christmas!  She's been looking for work for nearly a year and has found a substitute school janitor job that is a perfect fit and will help them financially. Her goal is to back to school and obtain a degree. She loves photography and wants to study that. Both Marcy and Jerry have Church callings. They are eternal friends and testaments to us of the blessings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A thought just occurred to me. Marcy's name is really Marcelia. We shouldn't forget to mention that Ray's Aunt Marcella celebrated her 101st birthday on July 22. What blessings!

All of the sister missionaries serving the Lilburn Ward were asked to share a few minutes in Relief Society two weeks ago and explain how to prepare for a mission. My suggestions were simple: Just do it!  Commit; be flexible (your call and experiences may not be what you expect); and exercise faith. The Lord is in charge and will help you succeed in the ways He needs. We are so grateful that we had the opportunities to spend time inviting others to come unto Christ early in our mission and that we can now devote the necessary time and our talents to help support the swell of work associated with a swell of arriving missionaries. We look forward to temple experiences with the Howards over the next two Saturdays. We gratefully acknowledge the Lord's hand in their lives and in our lives and service!  

No comments:

Post a Comment