Saturday, September 28, 2013

We are in Missouri

We are in Missouri! (and they Welcome us!)

By Debi:

This is at Winter Quarters
We are here.  We had a great trip across the country and we even stopped at Winter Quarters and visited the historical sites there.  We decided that we wanted the full dose of all of the important sites of the early Saints.
We came into Missouri on Wednesday afternoon and immediately met with our mission president, President Donald Keyes. He is a great man and we had a wonderful visit with him.  He gave us our assignment to find and rescue the Young Single Adults of the Liberty Stake.  There are over 500 young people.  Not all of them are lost but a good share of them need to be found.  President Keyes asked us to spend our first couple of days getting settled into our apartment and visiting all of the Visitor Centers and historical sites.
This is the Mission Office.  It used to be the Mission President's home.

We have been to Costco and Wal-Mart to buy all of our supplies. We feel like newlyweds.  We had to buy all of our spices, toiletries, cleaning supplies, etc. and then after we spent a lot of money we had to ask ourselves if we had anything to eat. Good memories.

We are so amazed how comfortable we are here.  We have a very nice apartment, a nice vehicle (we brought Greg’s truck) and we feel like we already are starting to know our way around.  Life here in Independence is a little bit different than Africa.  I have to say, for me anyway, the biggest difference is the smells and the ease of getting around.
There is real wild-life here as well.  This deer felt safe and secure and posed for us to take her picture.  She lives at Adam-oindi-ahman.

We do miss the people in Africa very much. They will always hold a dear place in our hearts.  They are so humble and so willing to listen to the message of the Gospel.  I am sure we will have wonderful experiences here in Missouri but it will be very different from Africa.


By Greg:

In the pioneer days, and not just the Mormon pioneers, but all traveling west, there was a saying:  “Have you seen the elephant?” That had many different meanings, and is not really used anymore, but it meant to express the excitement and the fears of “seeing” the West and experiencing the frontier.  Well, we spent the first night in Sidney, Nebraska.  That is the world headquarters of Cabala’s.  Their first store was there, but now they have a huge store with a lake out front so you can test your boat or fishing stuff.  Inside is a big stuffed elephant.  So, we can truly say, “We have seen the elephant!”

We went to the Haun’s mill massacre site.  JB tells us the Church has recently purchased this from the Community of Christ Church (formerly the RLDS).  There is nothing there except a sign and a dirt road leading to Shoal Creek.  All around are beautiful farms.  I was interested in the sign on the road.  I know that those opposed to the early Church really just wanted to kill Joseph Smith.  Based on the bullet hole in the sign, there are still people who want to kill him, again.

We went to Adam-ondi-ahman (known here as AOA) and were impressed by its beauty and that it is also a well-managed farm.  We have been able to confirm that it is a mission unto itself.  Although it is “in” the Missouri Independence Mission boundaries, it is not part of it.  President Monson is the Mission President.  Those serving there are in the Adam-ondi-ahman Mission.

Our mission headquarters are across the street from the Community of Christ Tabernacle and Temple and our Visitors Center is kiddy-corner to the Temple Lot.  It is a bit confusing because there are several groups here that all have similar names.  These are the main ones:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (us)

The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (now the Community of Christ)

The Restoration Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The Church of Christ-Temple Lot


We have a mailing address:


Elder and Sister Haws

207 East Sea Avenue #4

Independence, MO 64050


We will tell you more about this place in coming blogs.  There is lots of cool stuff to talk about.



Friday, September 20, 2013

Missouri or Bust!

By Greg: 

            When my Great-grandfather, Archibald Gardner, arrived at the mouth of Emigration Canyon on the 1st of October 1847, he paused to look at his new home.  He turned to his first wife (actually his only wife at the time) and asked, “Peg (her name was Margret), my brave lass (they came from Scotland), how are you?” She looked at the wide valley in front of her, in the distance was the Great Salt Lake, but all between them were acres and acres of sagebrush.  “Oh, Archie” she replied, “After all this wearisome journey, is this ‘the place’?” Then she sat down on the wagon tongue and cried.

            When we consider that they had been born in green Scotland and had come from Upper Canada, and then the fertile mid-west, it is little wonder that the barren desert of Utah must have taken them back, more than a bit.

            Many of the early pioneers had endured the hardships of persecutions heaped upon them in Missouri and Illinois, but my direct ancestors did not.  But many of their neighbors told stories of Zion, and the “Garden of Eden” that they believed had been along the Grand River in an area known as Adam-ondi-ahman.  They also believed that Zion would be redeemed and the promises would be fulfilled.  Most of them believed it would happen in their life time.  Thus, the folk-lore began that the Latter-day Saints would return to Zion, or Missouri, in wagons and handcarts.  It has been said that some of the sisters were even reluctant to unpack their dishes when they arrive in Utah, because they planned on going back soon.

Well, it has now been 166 years.  We are packing our dishes and a whole lot of other stuff, and heading east.  We are not going to drive oxen or teams of horses; we are driving a many-horse-power Ford F150, King Ranch pick-up truck.  It is air conditioned and has GPS to help us stay on the trail.

We are leaving Hooper Monday morning at 8:00 am. We anticipate a 16+ hour drive, unless we encounter Indians or Buffalo.  We are taking so much stuff!  We went to Africa with two suitcases each, now we are filling the truck bed with things “we might need”.

This is what we looked like a year ago when we left for Africa.


We asked President Keyes if we could bring our bikes (to ride for exercise) and he said, “Sure, most of our missionaries ride bikes!” So we are taking bikes (and all the stuff that goes with bikes).  We also need to take winter clothes, which we did not need in Africa.  We did not even take a jacket there.  In Africa I wore slacks and short sleeve white shirts, and Debi wore light skirts and no nylons.  Now I will wear suits and she is upgrading to a new wardrobe.

I am really struggling trying to decide what books to take.  I have narrowed it down to one box; mostly Church history books.  I have, however, slipped our camping BBQ grill in because in Africa Elder Cooper and I never did figure out how to have a cookout. In Missouri we will BBQ.

I also packed our ball mits and a softball.  Maybe on P-day Debi and I can play catch.  If not, I would expect the young adults to play softball.  Besides, I have a nearly new mit and Debi’s is well worn.

Missionaries are not allowed to have guns, so I am leaving them home.  Mormons are safe in Missouri now anyway.  Even though Governor Boggs issued his extermination order on October 27, 1838, which some felt gave legal license to kill Mormons, no one used that as a defense for killing Latter-day Saints after the “Mormon War” ended at the end of 1838.  138 years later, then Missouri Governor Christopher (Kit) Bond (now a US Senator) rescinded that order.  So, effective June 25, 1976, we are safe to enter the state, thus no need for guns anyway.  Here is Governor Boggs

He left Missouri in 1846 (after there was an assassination attempt on his life, and some said he was fearful of reprisals from Mormons) and headed for California with a group that separated and the other group joined those of the famous Donner Party.  He settled in California and died in Napa Valley in 1855.  May he rest in turmoil.

            So, we are ready and willing.  On Sunday we will again be set-apart as Missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we will again clip on our missionary tags, stand up a little taller, and give thanks for this great opportunity to once again be Elder and Sister Haws.  Oh the Joy!

by Debi

Almost exactly one year ago Greg and I took off for Africa.  We were very anxious about all of the new experiences we would encounter there.

As I have pondered the differences of the two places we will have served, I have also noticed that there are some amazing similarities.

In Africa and in Missouri the Church was persecuted in its early years.  Missouri kicked out all of the Mormons from its state.  In Ghana the government kicked all of the missionaries out of the country and made it illegal to hold a meeting.  In Missouri, the leaders of the Church were imprisoned for illegal conduct.  In Ghana some of the priesthood leaders were imprisoned for holding illegal meetings. Now in Missouri the Church is a respected organization and the people appreciate their goodness.  In Africa and especially Ghana the Church is very well respected among the government officials and they appreciate the community service the Church offers.  In Missouri many of the Saints received and witnessed many miracles.  In Africa, the members have and are witnessing miracles almost everyday.  There are Temples in Africa and in Missouri which just a few years ago would have thought to be impossible.

So even though during this part of our mission we will be able to go to a Wal-Mart, we will probably have some of the same feelings and experiences that we had in Africa.  I know that there will be a strong southern accent to get use to just like we had to get use to the accent in Africa and there will be a lot more green in Missouri than here in Hooper.  But one thing I know for sure is the people in Missouri will be just as wonderful as the people in Africa.

I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to finish our mission.  Greg and I are healthy, strong and ready to serve.

Missouri or Bust!


Friday, September 6, 2013

Transition to the next segment


By Greg W. Haws

September 6, 2013
This just in:

After nearly four months of medical leave, we have received a new assignment.  We have been asked to go to the Missouri Independence Mission.  We will be MLS (member/leadership/support) missionaries.  We will be working with a YSA ward that is from two stakes.  One of them is the Liberty Stake.  In our area will be several historical sites such as the Liberty Jail, Adam-ondi-ahman, the Farr West Temple Site, Haun's Mill, and the new Kanas City Temple.  We leave in two weeks.  We will drive our own car.  We are assuming we will serve out the rest of our mission which is one more year.

            A few years ago, Debi and I trained for and participated in several “Sprint Triathlons” together, and I did a couple on my own.  These events required us to swim 10 to 12 laps in the pool, bike 12 miles and run 3 miles.  These were a challenge for us; especially for me.

            The first one we did was in St. George.  I thought it was pretty cool that they wrote our numbers on the back of our calves and also on our shoulders.  We took a picture of us, “branded” and ready to go.  We were joined in this effort by our daughter, Sunee, and her husband Kyle.

            The officials attached a bracelet to our ankles that contained a special timing chip.  The purpose of the chip was to mark the time that we crossed the line to begin and then again as we advanced from one segment to the next.  At each station we passed through portals which recorded our time and progress.  At the end of the event, we received our total time: the time for each segment, and something we had not focused on before, our transition time, that is, the time it took to transition from one segment to the next.  We were a little shocked when we realized how much time we had used up drying off after swimming, putting on shoes and changing clothes, not to mention physically getting from one segment location to the next.

            As we prepared for our second triathlon, we also prepared to manage our transition time better.  We positioned our bikes, we had a five gallon bucket to hold our stuff—and it also served as a seat—and we determined the optimal clothes needed for each event.  We got our helmets, sunglasses and shoes ready so that we could transition.  We learned that many events are won or lost in the transition.  In swimming, they say it is often how a person executes his or her starts, turns and finishes that determine the winner.  So it is with other things in our lives.

            On September 3, 2012 Debi and I entered the Missionary Training Center in Provo prior to our leaving for our mission to the Africa West Area.  Little did we know that our mission experience would also have segments?

            After 9 very rewarding months in Africa, on May 27, 2013, I became ill.  On June 13, 2013 we flew from Accra, Ghana to New York City, and then home to Hooper (actually the plane landed in Salt Lake City and my brother, Wayne, picked us up and drove us to Hooper, Utah). I eventually underwent surgery and then began what has seemed like a long period of recovery.  I am now healthy and we are waiting to return to full-time missionary service, the next segment of our event.  So, as it has turned out, the last three months have actually been transition time.

            Like our first triathlon, we clearly did not realize how much the transition would play in the total event, something that we were not adequately prepared to manage.  Many things have occurred during this last three months, some of them joyful, and some not so much.  Perhaps if this happened again, we would be better prepared to manage this time.

            In the triathlon, as one segment is finished, you move to the next.  If you do not like your time in the first segment, say the swimming, you cannot go back and do it again.  You live with the time and move on.  As we look back on our “time” for our first segment, we realize that we could have done better, but still, we are pleased with the results.  We were able to assist Brother William Sowah in moving the Area Audit function to a higher level.  We had some great missionary experiences, and were able to help establish an open house program at the Accra Ghana Temple.  We found time to assist in other areas, and we made lasting friendships with other missionary couples, members of the Church, and dedicated Church leaders.  As I said, we are pleased with our time in the first segment.

            We did find that coming home from a mission in the middle is very hard.  At first we thought that perhaps this should be an option for all senior missionaries.  We wondered if it would hurt if couples were all given an option to take a vacation and go home for a few weeks and visit their families.  Perhaps more would serve if the separation did not seem so long.  But coming home sick is an entirely different story.

            When we arrived home, I was very sick, but Debi was not.  Our grandchildren and children were not sick either, and they all wanted to see us—especially their grandmother and mother.  My grandchildren had all been praying for my health.  They all fasted the first Sunday in June, and friends and other missionaries placed my name in many temples across the world.  When I came home, some of my younger grandchildren interpreted our return as an answer to their prayers. After all, Grandma and Grandpa had come home!  But still, I was sick.

            The challenge was that our home was being occupied by our daughter, Judi, and her husband, Mike, and their three little boys, William, Thomas and Nathan.  We determined to try not to disrupt them any more than absolutely necessary, so we moved into the guest room and tried to take up as little space as possible.  Judi and Mike have been so gracious and kind, but still they did not plan on us coming home for three months in the middle of our mission.

            Our dear Stake President, President Matt Malone, thinking we would be a valuable resource in recruiting other couples to serve missions, asked us to speak in all 13 wards in our stake while we were home. We have one more ward to visit, but several Sundays we have spoken in three wards in one day!  This was while I was trying to recover from surgery.  We understand that our efforts may have paid off as several couples in our stake have begun the process to enter full-time missionary service.  An unexpected result of this “stake tour” has been that we have developed a renewed love and connection to our friends and neighbors in our stake.  We realize that Hooper is truly our hometown.  After all, I wrote the book on Hooper!

            All of our children do not live near us, so we have taken two extended trips to visit two families in St. George and two others in Ohio and West Virginia.  I asked the doctor what I was supposed to do while I was recovering after he told me not to do anything strenuous, his reply was what I supposed is standard for terminally ill patients: Take a vacation. So we did.  But we had to fit them in around our speaking assignments.

            I have done a couple of “projects” while in this transition period, however.  On two occasions I visited the Church History Library in Salt Lake and donated original historical material to their collection.  Among other things I gave them some of my father’s journals and records from his mission to Canada before World War II and his service in the Pacific during the War.  They were very happy to receive this valuable information.  I also donated the missionary journal of my grandfather, James G. Widdison Jr., which he recorded during his mission to the Northwestern States (Washington, Oregon, etc.) in 1902 and 1903.

            Debi’s first priority was to take care of me and help me heal.  I am so grateful for her service.  Besides this, she was not sure what she was supposed to do so she just reverted back to her former roles, almost the first day after we returned.  Even though Mike and Judi have done a remarkable job maintaining our home and yard, still Debi has helped cleaned the house, pulled weeds in the yard and garden, and helped prepare the food.  She has done her very best to cover for the fact that she is also in a transition period.  Unlike me, she has done strenuous work and has been busy helping her children and grandchildren but this period has been very hard for her as well.

            When I have been able, we have attended the Temple.  We had grown accustomed to going to the temple at least one time each week while we were in Africa.  Our temple, the Ogden Temple, is undergoing signification modifications and is therefore closed, so we have had to visit other temples.  With my health challenge, sitting through an entire temple session without a break has been very difficult.

            When we left, we moth-balled our three cars and reduced the insurance to minimal coverage.  So when we got home, we had to activate them, which meant among other things, getting them serviced and registered.  Two of our car’s batteries failed over the cold winter and had to be replaced.  When I took our Mustang in for inspection, I was told that the battery failure had wiped out the history on the car’s computer, so we would need to drive it for 100 to 200 miles before it could tell whether it was polluting the air or not.  The shop manager kindly offered to have one of the mechanics drive it and put on those miles, but I thanked him and declined the offer.  I barely let them pull it into the stall at the shop. So Debi and I determined instead to take a short road trip, maybe even stay overnight somewhere.  We drove up to Logan, attended the temple, and then found that all hotels were full due to a festival in town.  We then put the top down and ventured up the canyon and found the Bear Lake Valley full in preparation for an open-water triathlon that was happening the next day.  So we completed our journey by going through Woodruff and Randolph and over Monte Cristo and back down to our home in Hooper.  We put on the necessary 200 miles in our unlicensed (but insured) Metallic Red 2005 Mustang Convertible without being arrested.

            We have spent a great deal of our transition time discussing our future.  We are facing questions that we were not planning to have to deal with for another year, as we originally were planning to return in August of 2014.  We have several issues.  What should we do for health insurance?  Our missionary insurance expires three months after our release, and as we were released when we got home, after September 30, 2013 we will have no health insurance, unless we return.  We have spent a lot of time talking about our financial situation.  We have discussed options for future employment, or full retirement. I have checked out several job options. What to do about Social Security (I just turned 61 so I am one year away from taking early benefits).  Our home and yard is so big.  We even have considered building a smaller home.  But if we did build a new home, then what should we do with our current home and yard.  This has occupied much of our attention.  As I have had more time than I had uses for that time, all of these uncertainties have grown way out of proportion. I admit that I have been overwhelmed and confused.  I should not have had to even consider these issues at this point.


            We have tried to stay focused on returning to full-time missionary service, but even that has been a question.  Should we call it good for now and prepare to serve again sometime in the future?

            Last Monday, while we were in Ohio, we received word that a good friend of ours from our ward took his own life.  Devin was a great man, and perhaps the type of person that would seem to be the last one to take such a dramatic life altering action.  His death has had a terrifying impact on his family, our ward, our town, and us.  We attended his funeral Saturday, and he was the subject of much of our ward meetings on Sunday.  Most people stated that they could not understand how he could come to that point in his life.   The disturbing thing for me is that I do understand his feelings.  I have had a small glimpse into the dark side of life, and how a person’s mind can be impacted by events that seem to be beyond control.  Fortunately for me, I have not gone any further down that road.  But he did, and it has been a tragedy. 

            One night, in frustration, I told Debi that I felt like I was a ship on the open sea without sails or a rudder, and being carried by the currents, not knowing where I was or even where I was supposed to be going.        Debi agreed that she too had similar feelings.  We wondered several times if returning to full-time missionary service was even what we were supposed to do? Did we do what we were called to do? Also, did anyone really even care what we did next?  Except for President Malone, we have had no contact with the Church; no calls to see how we are doing, or even if I survived the surgery and treatment. We received no encouragement, no counsel, and no instruction.  But we are big people and there are others who need the attention of the institutional Church more than us.  But, a call would have been nice.

            Last Thursday, August 29, 2013, I received a clean bill of health from Dr. Tyler Christensen, my Urologist, and President Malone has been in contact with the Missionary Department, so we are hoping for a reassignment this coming week.  Then our transition period will end and we can begin the next segment. In a triathlon, we would know that after swimming we would get on our bikes and ride.  But as far as our mission event is concerned, we do not know what we will do next.  We will not repeat the first segment however; we do not anticipate an auditing assignment.

            All in all, if we serve a full 24 month period, and 3 of those months have been transition time, then we are looking at 1/8th or 12.5% of our mission as transition.  This is significant!  How will this time stack up when the entire event is finally judged? 

            In my talk, that I have given 12 times, I have said that “we are all enlisted until the conflict is over, and the conflict is definitely not over!” 

So we are anxious to get back in the race. Together we are singing:


            There’s surely somewhere a lovely place

In earth’s harvest fields so wide,

Where I may labor through life’s short day

For Jesus, the Crucified.


So trusting my all to thy tender care;

And knowing thou lovest me,

I’ll do thy will with a heart sincere,

I’ll be what you want me to be.

I’ll say what you want me to say.

            I’ll go where you want me to go!