Saturday, July 26, 2014

Last Mission Post

                                          There's No Place Like Home

By Debi:

I feel a little like Dorothy from Kansas in the Wizard of Oz.  But I am Debi from Kansas City in the Wizard of Haws!

I have my ruby red shoes on, all of my belongings gathered and I am clicking my heels and saying over and over "There's no place like home." My Wizard is Greg and I am riding home in his nice White Ford Truck!

The last two weeks have been almost torturous.  Greg and I have had so many emotions.  As the missionaries all hug us and beg us not to leave our hearts feel like they are going to break.  Then I talk to my daughters and find out that our grandchildren are marking off the days until Grandpa and Grandma come home from their mission.  

We have said our goodbyes to so many people.  We have had our last transfer and we said goodbye to so many of the young missionaries Two of the Elders that live close to the office had their parents send them     t-shirts saying they love old people.  We see them almost everyday and we have grown very close.

The confusion and chaos in the office the morning of transfers is so crazy.  I tried to warn the Blacks (the couple that we are training who are taking our place) but I think they were a little shell shock by it all. We had a great time though because we were able to see so many of the missionaries and say our goodbyes.

We had a large group of Elders and Sisters going home. Many were the leaders of the mission.  This is going to leave a void for a while in the mission but the next group of leaders are already fulfilling their new callings.

Sister Eriksen is one of the Sisters that taught Jin Bo. The Chinese student who joined the Church.  She is going home to try out for Snow White at Disneyland.  I told her we would come and see her.

Sister Halverstadt is a great missionary and we taught an investigator together. 

 Sister Fuenzilida is such an amazing missionary and a great trainer.  We love all of these Sisters.

And Sister Diedrich and Sister Zito are the two sisters we brought back after their visit to the temple to meet their parents. 

Elder Rea is the Elder that taught the mother and father with the little handicapped boy who smiled so big when the Elders started teaching that families can be sealed in the temple for eternity.  We love Elder Rea.

Last night Greg and I were able to attend the Kansas City Temple for our last time. This temple will always have a special place in my heart.  What a beautiful temple and we feel so blessed to have been able to attend almost every week.  Last night we helped with the Young Single Adult branch with the baptisms and confirmations.  I was privileged to help by the font.  Each YSA that came in gave me a  hug.  It is amazing how our hearts can grow to love so many people. Last night was truly a tender mercy from the Lord.

Now we are going to our last YSA Sacrament meeting tomorrow.  We are bearing our testimonies and then we will say our goodbyes after the meeting.  This will probably be one of our hardest goodbyes.  We have worked with the Branch for our entire time while we have been in Missouri.  We love them all so much.

As Greg and I bring our mission and our blog to a close I want to express my gratitude for this beautiful experience the Lord has given me.  A mission is hard.  That is why they call it missionary work!  But it is a very good work.  It is a work that will forever change me.  A change that I hope is for the better.  I thank my Father in Heaven for the miracles that I have witnessed and the miracles in my own life.  We will never feel like this has been a sacrifice.  The Lord has blessed us and our family way beyond any sacrifice we have made.  

Last of all, thanks to all who have supported us.  We have felt your prayers and your encouragement.  A huge Thank You to our children and grandchildren. We couldn't have done it without all of their help.  And thank you to our extended family and friends. 

I have my eyes closed. I am clicking my heels.  "There is no place like home!"

Greg said, "Follow the yellow brick road!"

By Greg:

This is copied from my journal/essay file.  I realize this is a long piece.  I will understand if few read it, but this is a glimpse into my heart right now.

The last transfer

By Elder Greg W. Haws
24 July 2014

Thursday was our last transfer.

I knew it would be a busy day, but I also knew that I really did not have a vital role to play. The night before, at the new missionary orientation held at the mission home, I began to realize that I have been replaced. We have been training our replacements.  I also knew that we were leaving the mission one week from that day.  It was Thursday, the transfer day.

As I got out of my truck, and Sister Haws and Sister Watts took their stuff (which included homemade treats that they had prepared for the missionaries), I looked at the yard behind the mission office and the grove of trees between the office and the stake center, and decided not to go into the office just then.

It was such a lovely morning—very pleasant.  I took my camping chair out of my truck and set it up in the grove and sat down.  I wanted to reflect upon the last 2 years.  It was 8:00 am and in one hour missionaries would arrive and the parking lot will fill up with cars and missionaries, but right then it was as pleasant a place as I could possible image existing anywhere on earth.  The following is what I recorded in my journal:

There is a light breeze, birds are chirping, “Scotty the Squirrels” are moving around on the ground and in the trees with such purpose.  Train whistles in the distant even sound like music.  Cars pass by, but are not a distraction.  The sky is so blue.  Even the distant beeping of the warning signal from a backing garbage truck seems to be a song.

This was our 1st transfer, last fall

The spire of the RLDS Temple points heavenward.

Old homes along Walnut Street are quiet—oh what have they seen and witnessed over the years?

In the RLDS campground park, a girl and her father are practicing fast pitch softball.  Perhaps they have a tournament today.

There is still that constant ringing in my ears from damage when I was young, but I can ignore it, most of the time.

A plane flies overhead.

The air smells perfectly clean (not like Africa—which stinks; not like Florida—which is decaying, and paper pulp factories, moisture vs. everything else).  The air here today is sweet.

Wayne sent me a text.  He is golfing; Jan is holding their spot on the parade route.  It is the 24th of July in Utah (actually it is the 24th of July everywhere).

I wonder what was happening on this very spot in 1831, or 1832, or 1833.  Joy in 1831. Work in 1832.  Conflict in 1833.

I woke this morning in a dream that I had died.  I had fallen off a balcony into a lake and drowned.  My first spoken words when I woke were, “I am not dead!”

I wondered, what if I did die today, or in three weeks, would I be happy?  Would I be OK that I spent these last 2 years on a mission?  Or would I have wished that I had done something else?  What else would I have done?
·       Continued teaching—maybe
·       Worried about our finances—definitely
·       Got a job—for sure
·       Kept doing my Area Church assignment—yes
·       Got sick and had surgery—I think so
·       Enjoyed going to Church in our ward where I had no role to play—not so much
·       Appreciated Debi and her greatness—not nearly as much as I do now
·       Loved being with my children—yes
·       Seen my grandchildren grow and attended their activities—yes
·       Attend several funerals-yes
·       Gained weight—hard to say, I have gained weigh anyway
·       Had a feeling that I was doing something significant with my life—definitely not so much

8:25 am.  Missionaries are starting to arrive.  Some drive into the parking lot and not seeing others decide to go up to the office first. Sister Haws said she would call me if I was needed.

Cars arrive driven by members with sister missionaries.  Then another car—it is a missionary car, easy to spot; bike rack and “how is my driving” sticker on the bumper.

Transfers are change.  Change is good for missionaries.  It helps them grow.

Going home from this mission will be different than going home from my first mission.  Then, I had my whole life ahead of me—marriage; a family; school; career; Church service; Wow!  This time, I don’t know.  Growing old and then dying?  What else lies ahead?

The members of the new Ogden Temple Presidency are all my friends.  Maybe I will become a temple worker. I know that one day I will, but I am not sure I am ready to do that just yet.

I will get my first social security check in October.  I am ready for that!  This is a significant milestone, for sure.

I have not had my “calling and election sure” but I know how this story will end.  I am grateful to the Lord for his goodness and mercy.

Sisters are walking up the sidewalk to the office.  Sister Haws will hug them when they arrive.  She will also tell them goodbye.  She loves them so much.

Am I saved?  Definitely.  Why are we so reluctant to say yes to that question when asked?  We should be sure of our future status.

2 more sister missionary cars just pulled in.  Then a car arrived with 4 elders.  No hugs between the elders and sisters—handshakes only, maybe some of these will hug when they are released and get home.  We have already heard of several that are hugging, several engagements announced. They will make great couples and parents.

4 elders get in one car and leave.  They are not going to the office.  Maybe they are going somewhere for food. Elders need food.

8:40 am.  More missionaries are walking up the sidewalk.  They know there are treats in the office today.  The food is waiting.  Also they need supplies and a hug from Sister Haws.  I wish I could hug them all.  Sometimes I hug elders. 

More cars arrive.  Some are white, some are silver, and a few are red.  Elders, sisters, and members are mingling.  Sisters are screaming and hugging.  No one sees me watching them from the grove.

I want to remember this moment forever! 

When I first witnessed this organized chaos, I could not believe it.  That was last fall.  We have now been here for several transfers.  One was so cold we had to go inside the Church.

11 cars are parked.  More are coming.

The instructions are to meet at 9.  I don’t know how 4 sisters and 2 sets of luggage can fit in one car.  Sisters have so much stuff.  It is amazing, because it seems to fit.

Tomorrow some of these will fly home.  3 of them have parents coming to pick them up.  Sister Haws and I will gather these 3 at the temple and deliver them to their parents.  All of the dearly departing will spend tonight at the Mission Home.  They will go to Adam-ondi-ahman today and the Temple tomorrow.

The parking lot is filling.  There is more screaming and hugging.

There will be lots of activity in the “bat cave” this morning, bikes in, bikes out.  Elder Atwood is in charge of that space.

Here comes the mission van and trailer, followed by a rented van.  These contain the newly arrived missionaries we saw last night at the mission home.  I hope they had a good sleep.  They were tired.  They also looked very apprehensive.

The President arrived in his white GMC Acadia.

Some cars have bikes on their racks.  Others have empty racks waiting to take a bike back to the area.  The AP’s are unloading the trailer.  The newly called “Trainers” are moving slowly toward the trailer and their new companions.

8:50 am. 28 cars and maybe 80 missionaries.  Some elders are wearing their jackets, all of the new ones are, but most just have white shirts; most of them are short sleeved.

Tons of luggage everywhere.

The President is moving through the crowd.  This is his first transfer.  He is doing great!

Now there is a constant stream of cars entering the lot.  I see Sister Vest.  She is also working the crowd.

8:55. 36 mission cars plus member’s cars and the vans.  President Hepworth of the Mission Presidency just arrived.  He always comes to these.  He is a great man.

Two of the mission vehicles are small trucks.  Elders are coming down the sidewalk from the office.  The action now is in the parking lot.  Most will go to the office before they return to their area.  That is always a zoo.  I will have to go in and help when that begins.

They are all supposed to be gone by 10:00 am.

Now Elders are running across the lot screaming and yelling and jumping on each other; obviously former companions.  Lots of shouting, hugging and laughter.  Also some male affection expressed by strong physical contact that could misunderstood as fighting.

There are a few senior missionaries in the crowd.  Some have given young missionaries rides. Elder and Sister Rasmussen (the nurse and car man) are working the crowd as well. 

There is a big group of missionaries in the middle, several smaller groups, but no one is alone, there are no stragglers.

Lots and lots of luggage.  How will we sort it all out?

The rental van just left. It was empty.

Now the AP’s are working the crowd.  You can tell them apart from the rest.  They know everyone. These young men are great.  We have loved each one, but these two are really special.  They have had the assignment to help transition a new president.

The RLDS bells are ringing.  It is 9:00 am.

There is Elder Allred from Hooper.  His father is our new Stake President.  Elder Allred is wearing his jacket but I can tell he has lost some weight.  He gained some at first; too many dinner appointments.

I want to join the crowd, but right now I just sit here and observe. 

One of the missionary car’s alarm just went off.

Sister Haws has arrived and stood by my side.  She asks if I want to go down and say goodbye. I don’t think I can, not right now. She gives me the camera—when I am ready.  Then she goes back to the office.

I am crying. I cannot help it.  I want to be strong, but I cannot help it.

This has been a joyful hour.  My heart is full, my eyes are wet, I am so happy!

Elder Cortez told us his father is getting baptized-he is one of our favorites

This is my last transfer!

Doing this blog has been a great effort, sometimes even a burden.  But now it is a wonderful history.  Thank you to all who have read any or all of it.  It will become a major part of our life history.  Let us end where we began.

"We confess, we are strangers and pilgrims in this land."  But not so much as before.  What a great ride this has been!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

She'll be coming around the mountain when she comes

By Debi:

Okay everyone, this is our second to the last blog.  In just a few weeks we will be "coming around the mountain" and driving down Weber canyon into Weber County, and on into Hooper, Utah !!!!!!

We took Katie and kids on a mule wagon ride-glad we are not coming home on this!
We have had a great couple of weeks with the missionaries, the fourth of July,  a visit from Katie's family, and a visit from Wayne and Jan.  We are ending our mission with a bang.
Sam, Lizzie, Debi and Marley at the V.C.
We had a great 4th of July.  There was a concert in the Community of Christ (formerly RLDS) Auditorium the evening of the 4th.  It was co-sponsored by the LDS and Community of Christ Churches.  The George Dyer family came up from Branson and put on a great concert for the Independence community.

Inside the RLDS Auditorium
The auditorium is a huge, magnificent building that the Community of Christ uses for their conferences and they open it up for community uses also.  The Elders that are assigned to the Independence area were ushers for the concert.

We love these fantastic missionaries.  They are always teaching, serving, and showing Christ-like love to all those they meet.

These are the 3 Elders that we have mentioned in our last blog. They have the record of passing out the most Books of Mormon in a month.  They wanted a picture with Elder Haws.  They are showing the sign for 401. That is how many they passed out in one month.

Katie (our daughter) and Dan and their children have moved to Las Vegas.  They are relocating from Columbus, Ohio.  They stopped here for two nights on their way to Las Vegas.  We had a great visit and it was so fun to see them. We are so happy to have them in Las Vegas.  They will at least be close enough to Hooper to drive home for visits.  We are planning on spending a lot of time between St. George and Las Vegas.

Jan, Wayne, Sister Haws, Elder Haws

We have also had a great time with Wayne and Jan last weekend ( Greg's brother and wife from Hooper).
They flew in Thursday and we spent 5 days driving around to all of the Church sites and spending late nights visiting about anything and everything.

This is the mill stone from Haun's mill

During the day while we were at the office doing our missionary responsibilities Wayne and Jan went to several of the great museums here and seeing some of the sites around Kansas City on their own.

We also had a great time at a Royals game.  The Royals lost but the Detroit Tigers had a great game. We watched 16 runs come across the home plate for the Tigers.

Sister Haws and Jan are waiting for one of us to hitch up the horses

One of our best adventures was a tour of the Amish community at Jamesport.  We went with a tour guide and visited several homes, farms, and wonderful Amish Country stores.  We learned so much and appreciate these wonderful people.  We had a great lunch at an Amish Restaurant.

The Amish community is very industrious.  They do great wood work.  They make wonderful playground toys, wooden furniture and darling chicken coops. It almost made me want some chickens.

This is an Amish phone booth-they have a phone and voice mail-but in the yard

They don't want to bring the world into their homes.  They need to have telephones to run their businesses but they can't have it in their home so they have phone booths in their yards.  They go to the phone booth to make calls and send messages for their business.  We thought that was so interesting. I think if we could work harder at keeping the outside world out of our homes we would all be better off.

We have had a great couple of weeks.  We enjoyed so much our visitors.  Thanks for coming.

We are passing the baton as we speak!

Our replacement couple is here.  They are the Blacks.  They are from Panquitch, Utah. This is their second mission and they will serve for 18 months.  They are overwhelmed with all of their new responsibilities but I am confident that they will be great and ready to take the lead in a couple of weeks.
We appreciate them so much.

This part of our mission has been great.  We love that we have had really two missions.  We are trying to work hard and endure to the end.  We keep saying we aren't trunky but Greg has already started to load up some boxes!  Yep, I think we are a little trunky!

By Greg:

I feel like I have been here before.

41 years ago it was my birthday, August 20th.  I had two weeks left in the mission field. My mission president let me call home as a birthday present.  A local branch had a fish fry in my honor and so I got back to the office very late.  I was tired (but definitely not hungry) and so I called Debi.  It was the first time in almost two years that we had spoken. It was a bit of a tense phone call.  I tried to be casual, but I totally failed.  I told her that I was not coming right home.  I had agreed to accompany another missionary to Chicago as his traveling companion so that he could report to the ward he left from.  Then we would travel on to Utah where his family then lived.  I think my mother thought I should come right home as well.

When I was in Chicago for four days, I too wondered why I had not gone straight home. Then when I got home, I called her.  It was about 5:00 pm.  This was a great call, but very short.  I said, "Are you busy tonight?" "Can I come see you at 7:00?" Then I hung up and smacked myself.  Why didn't I go up right then?

Well, it all worked out and it is interesting that I arrived home on September 11, 1973. Exactly one year later, our first born son (and only son) was born on September 11, 1974.  So 9/11 has a happy meaning for us.

Debi and I are not coming right home from this mission either.  We are not doing what Columbus did, going east to go west (he went west to go east) but we are going to see Millie and family in West Virginia, then will arrive in Hooper about the second week of August.

Thank goodness Debi is coming with me so I don't have to go see the Stake President before I can kiss her!

Our adopted stake, the Liberty Missouri Stake just created a new ward in the Liberty area.  They called it the Doniphan Ward.  Now, that is not as cool as our home ward, the Muskrat Springs Ward, but it is pretty cool.  Alexander Doniphan was a great man and a good friend to Joseph Smith and the Mormons.  Our friend, BYU emeritus professor, Susan Easton Black Durant, loves Alexander Doniphan.  She once told her classes if she had had another son, she would have named him Doniphan.  She said the next year, in church buildings all over Provo, little baby boys were blessed and named, Doniphan.

This is General Doniphan's grave marker in Liberty Missouri
Well, as some go, others come.  We have welcomed the Blacks.

We are excited that these two sisters from the YSA branch are both leaving for missions.  One is in the MTC right now.  They are going to Chile and the Philippines.

We are starting to kick it in  for the finish line.  I hope we make it!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Changing of the Guard

By Debi:

Everyday there is a changing of the guard in front of Buckingham Palace in London.  There is much fanfare and people come just to watch the ceremony.

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints the changing of the guard happens much more quietly and with great humility.  We met President and Sister Keyes at the Kansas City Temple yesterday to pick up their car and send them on their way to the airport.  No crowds, no regrets, and no one trying to hold onto their power and position.

President and Sister Keyes' whole focus these last few months has been to make sure that everything was ready for President and Sister Vest and that the transition would happen smoothly for the Vests, for the missionaries, and for the members of the Church in the Missouri Independence Mission.

Mission accomplished.  President and Sister Vest met with the Keyes yesterday morning for two hours and then they met with the Assistants to the President for an hour.  They came to the office and met the office staff for a couple of hours just getting to know each other and get an idea of our responsibilities and callings.

President and Sister Vest, Missouri Independence Mission
Greg has had the privilege of being in the Mission Presidency with these fine men.  For the time being the counselors and executive secretary will continue serving with President Vest until he gets his feet on the ground and know the area and members.

Elder Haws, President Hepworth, President Keyes, President Medina

President and Sister Vest are wonderful people.  They are so excited to be here and start serving their full time mission.  They have been training since last November and they are ready to get going.
They are from Texas and he was an executive for Kimberly Clark.  They have 5 children and 9 grandchildren with more on the way.

They shared with us some of their experiences of being with the First Presidency and Apostles during their week of training at the MTC.  They both bore fervent testimonies of the reality that we have true Prophets, Seers, and Revelators leading our Church today.

It was a wonderful meeting and we are excited to help them adjust to mission life.  They will be fantastic.

I am so thankful for the great faith and diligence these two wonderful couples display. They are truly the Lord's servants and I am honored to know them both and have the wonderful opportunity to serve with both of them.

By Greg:

I have been a party to several transitions in my life, often called "changing of the guard" as Debi said.  In a few cases I have been the "new guy".

When I was a young missionary I was in the office when we said goodbye to our beloved President Hartman Rector and welcomed our equally beloved President Spencer H. Osborn.  I quickly learned that even though they were very different personalities, they were both called of God to lead us and to move the mission forward.

I have been very involved with assisting President Keyes in putting the affairs of the mission in order and preparing every needful thing so that the transition for the Vest's would be as smooth as possible.

I have previously talked about installing the new computers in the office.  In addition, I had to upgrade the computer in the mission home.  I needed to go to the home and have some "alone" time there to work.  This was difficult to arrange, but I saw a window of opportunity on Friday afternoon.

The Keyes spent their last night in the home, Thursday.  Friday morning it was cleaned.  The Vests arrived Saturday morning.  So I went there at 2:00 pm.  I had a key and the code to the alarm.

I had previously noticed that there was a wall safe.  President Keyes had never used it and did not know how to open it.  So I called a safe cracker from Gregg's Locks and Keys (not me) and he came.  It is an old Sears model.

 I guess I had the idea that he would use a doctors stethoscope and listen to the tumblers and open it.  Not so.  He said, "I can drill it or I can bust it, which would you like?" I did not want either.  Well, as I was moving the old printer, a paper feel on the floor.  It was instructions on opening an old Sears safe, and a combination.  I tried it, first going right 4 times.  Then I tried going left 4 times.  The combination did not open it.  But I decided to call off the "cracker" (not a derogatory white male term)  and send him on his way.  We would have to think about it some more.

I had worked the new laptop in the office, and had it ready to go.  I ordered a "docking station" and a larger monitor, as well as a wireless mouse and keyboard.  He was to have a better setup than President Keyes had.  President Keyes had a little board, like a kitchen chopping block, that he pulled out and put his laptop on.  I even found a table that we could use temporarily.

I ordered a new printer.  His was a standard black and white.  The handbook called for a multi-function color printer.  I got a HP Wireless printer.  But I did not know how to set up a wireless printer.  I called the Salt Lake Global Help Line and after an hour and a half, we gave up.  I then called HP's global help desk and got my new best friend, Jayco, in India.  I thought of the Rudyard Kipling poem:

Now in Injia's sunny clime,
Where I used to spend my time
A-servin' of 'Er Majesty the Queen,
Of all them blackfaced crew
The finest man I knew
Was our regimental bhisti, Gunga Din.

He was the "finest man I ever knew"

Well, maybe Jayco was a relative, but after only another half hour I had a fully operational wireless printer connected to the laptop that was sitting in a docking port that was hooked to the internet and was supporting a large color monitor, a wireless mouse and a keyboard.  It can scan, copy, fax, cook breakfast and all of this without any wires connected.  And my mother wanted me to explain to her how a cell phone worked!

We also put this big 3-ring binder together with everything we could think of that President Vest might want to know.  It was a huge effort by the office staff, and President Keyes wanted it just right.  He really wanted to leave the mission with no loose ties.

Well, we got them to the airplane, and we met the Vest.  We love them already.  I only got one call from them last night.  They were sort of lost, and they wanted to know if we had a GPS navigation devise, or do their smartphones have a data plan?  I hope they got home safe.

Today I called the Sprint help line and yes, they really should be smart (the phones that is) and even though they have not been fully used in the past, they will soon be sending and receiving texts, email, internet, pictures and other data.

When I was a public official, I attended several public relations training sessions.  One man said that we should all memorize three things, and when faced with any disaster or emergency repeat the following:

1.  We are here
2.  We are assessing the situation
3.  We are prepared to take the appropriate actions needed

We are servants of the Most High God.  It is an honor and a privilege to SERVE!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Turning the corner

In every race, the racers "turn the corner" and enter the "home stretch".  As we approach our final month we feel like that is what we are doing.  In the Book of Mormon, Jacob said these words:  

"And it came to pass that I, Jacob, began to be old; (we, Greg and Debi also feel old!) and the record of this people being kept on the other plates of Nephi, (our personal journals) wherefore, I conclude this record (our blog), declaring that I have written according to the best of my knowledge, by saying that the time passed away with us, and also our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream, we being a lonesome and a solemn people (only Greg is loathsome) , wanderers, cast out from Jerusalem (Hooper), born in tribulation, in a wilderness, and hated of our brethren, which caused wars and contentions; wherefore, we did mourn out our days."

Well, we don't know about the mourning out our days, but we have wandered a bit these past 23 months. Soon we will "settle down" but not yet!

And this is not our last post.

By Debi:

Greg and I have a lot of different assignments in the office and one of them is the supplies for the office and whole mission.  This is a picture of our supply closet.  It is full of Books of Mormon in English and about 20 other languages.  We have shelves full of all of the pamphlets the Church produces, DVD's the missionaries show to their investigators and the daily planners that the missionaries us everyday.

These three Elders are assigned to the Independence area.  They live close to the office and we see them often.  Starting in the back they are: Elder Brasseaux, Elder Elwood, and Elder Huston.  They are great missionaries and very excited about preaching the gospel to the world.  They found out that President Keyes holds the mission record of handing out 323 Books of Mormon in a month when he was here as a young Elder.  These three decided to accept the challenge and are on their way to breaking his record. (Notice the picture above.  Those are cases of Books of Mormon. The picture below we are almost running out!)

There are some rules they have to follow.  It has to be a good contact and a promise that they will read the book.  They can't go to a home and hand out five books to one family.  They have to stay in their area.  So far when I saw them on Friday they had handed out 275 books. If they continue they will reach their goal.  We are all cheering for them.  They are getting exhausted but still have the fire!

Last week President and Sister Keyes sent their last group of missionaries home.  Each transfer the President and Sister Keyes takes the Sisters and Elders to the temple on their way to the airport.  It is a very special day for all of them. This is a picture of them just coming out of the Kansas City Temple. This is a very special group.  One that will be remembered by all.  Some of the best of the best are in this group.  It was a very emotional day for the Keyes.  They are very involved with each missionary and love them with a pure love. We have all been blessed by their leadership and love.

In the middle of May we had a very special two days.  President and Sister Keyes had all of the missionaries of the mission come to the temple.  The missionaries were divided up into 4 groups.  The President and Sister Keyes went with each group through the temple.  This is a picture of one of the groups entering the temple.  What a picture of a magnificent group of young men (the Sisters had already entered the temple before I could get my camera ready).  As I watched them enter the temple I was over come with gratitude to be able to have the experience of seeing the strength of the youth in this Church in action.  We love these missionaries.

Even though I am so excited to see my children and grandchildren and to have them in my arms I will always cherish the memories of this mission and the blessing it has been in my live.

By Greg:

I still am amazed at this area.  Independence has so much history.  There are old neighborhoods that seem to speak out to me.  Also, the greater Kansas City area is so cool.

Debi had an assignment a couple of  Saturdays ago and I had some time alone.  I went to the annual Independence Strawberry Festival, which wasn't that great, and they did not really have any strawberries, but it was at this old mansion, and that was pretty great.

There is a lot of what some people call "Old Money" around here.  Some of that money was used to build nice houses.  This mansion is on the road that used to come from the docks on the Missouri River to the center of Independence, which is about 2 miles long, up hill from the river.

Independence claims to be the trail head for three trails: the Santa Fe, the Oregon, and the California. The Mormon Trail west did not start here, but rather from here  went to northern Missouri, then to Nauvoo, then to Winter Quarters Iowa, and then west.  But the three trails got their supplies and goods from the river, and then loaded them on wagons and off they went.  Thousands and thousands of men, mules and wagons, and wealth.  Hence, Josiah Steed. Later, the main port moved west a few miles to Westport, or really, Kansas City.

Last Saturday we went on a bike ride back to the river park by the plaza.  They were having a Dragon Boat Festival, like a Chinese New Year.  It was cool.  We cheered on the local Rotary team as they went on to victory.  None of them were Chinese, but hey, I used to be a Rotarian!

One more thing about Independence.  This is a "Latter-day Saint" town.  I have come to love and admire the sons of Joseph Smith, the Seer.  I am not happy about the "restoration movement" and I wish Emma had gone west with Brigham, but her sons were good, kind and gentle men who sought to establish Zion through preaching peace.  I hope this story has a happy ending.

The RLDS established a college here, lots of churches, a hospital, and a cemetery.  We drove through it and realized it is the final resting place of more people than just deceased RLDS, but it contains the bodies of a lot of RLDS people. Here we found the "Sons of the Prophet".

This is the grave of Joseph Smith III, 1st President of the RLDS Church (that is me on the right)
Frederick Madison Smith, son of Joseph III, was the 2nd President He died in 1946
Israel A. Smith was the younger brother of F. M. Smith and was president until 1958

In 1958, (I was 6 years old) William Wallace Smith, half brother to Israel became president. He served until his son made him emeritus and assumed the role of president.  He was Wallace B. Smith.  In 1996, he ordained W. Grant McMurray as prophet and president, and all the hoop-ta-la about lineal succession seemed not as important as it once was.

We attended a baptism yesterday.  A young adult, who will be part of the branch was baptized.  A lot of the branch was there.  Six sister missionaries, one set of Elders, us, a bishop and the branch president.  It is so important that people come into this Church with support.  We saw it yesterday.

Oh, that many more, hundreds, even thousands, perhaps millions, will hear this call to "Come unto Christ".

"In the Missouri Independence Mission we find, teach, baptize, confirm, retain and activate."  That is our motto.

Our purpose as missionaries is to "invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end."

As we approach the end of our mission, we feel to join with Moroni and declare:

"Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.
 And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.
 And now I bid unto all, farewell. I soon go to rest in the paradise of God, until my spirit and body shall again reunite, and I am brought forth triumphant through the air, to meet you before the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah, the Eternal Judge of both quick and dead. Amen."