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.
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.
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!