Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Called to Serve

By Greg:

This past week has been an incredible experience for us.  After spending a couple of weeks finding, renting and furnishing missionary apartments, we were able to see the end result as we welcomed 22 new Elders and Sisters into the mission.  I am sorry that I did not take pictures of this, it really was incredible!

This is a picture of me preaching a sermon in "the grove" in Nauvoo.  Debi will talk about our trip to Nauvoo with Joni.

We were asked to join in the receiving effort.  President Keyes, our mission president, called the senior office staff together and gave us some counsel.  We could tell that something was weighing on his mind as he taught us RULE # 1: Take care of the missionaries—make certain they are safe.  RULE # 2: Take care of the Mission (and by extension the Church).  RULE # 3: Never let rule number 2 get ahead of rule number 1.  We later realized that he was really concerned about what was going on in the Philippines, and perhaps how he would react to some emergency if it happened here.


He gave us an example of his rules.  He said a while back he was impressed that a set of sisters needed to change apartments.  There was some push back from the staff because it meant that we might have to pay some money to get out of the lease.  We all were taught that impressions and inspiration from a mission president trumps all other concerns.  This was great counsel.  He said this is not a business. Some of us have to start thinking with our hearts more, and our heads less.


As I said, we received 22 new missionaries.  Sister Haws and I took our truck to the airport.  We all had different missionaries to pick up.  They all did not come on the same flight.  In fact, some were coming from the Mexico City MTC.  Some are what we call “visa waiters” in that they are called to either Brazil or India, but their visas have not come through, so they will serve here until they do.  The Brazilians usually take a few months; the ones called to India sometimes take a year.  In the meantime they are Missouri Independence Missionaries.  We do not distinguish them in anyway.


We got our missionary.  It was fun to be on this side.  There were no farewell tears of goodbye, only happiness, excitement and a lot of apprehension.


We all gathered at the Temple and then the new missionaries went to the Liberty Jail.  We met back up later at the President’s house.  The Senior Missionaries who are part of the office staff join in the orientation meeting and give instruction regarding finance, cars, housing, phones, medical etc.  The new missionaries all introduced themselves and told where they were from and why they had come on this mission.  This was so touching. Then we left them and they had their pictures taken with President and Sister Keyes, had dinner and interviews.


In the morning we all gathered at the Stake Center.  All the missionaries that were being transferred were also there.  It was wild.  Everyone was greeting former companions, the sisters were hugging each other, and it was a site of pure joy!


We took two sisters to their area.  One of them was new.  She is from South Korea.  She and her companion are opening a new area in one of our new apartments.  We took them to Walmart, then to lunch and then helped them get settled.  They will share a car with the Elders.  We do not have enough cars so many areas share; some have two cars for three sets.  Then we bid them goodbye and good luck.  I felt like we were leaving a daughter at college for the first time.  I had a lump in my throat, but they seemed confident.


It is such a blessing to be part of this great work.  We will do more of this when we go into the office full time; sometime in February or March.


By Debi:


Last Saturday Greg and I were on the war path.  We set out to visit the homes of 25 Young Single Adults in one long day.  We have been off doing other assignments for a while and we have really gotten behind.  As we were hunting for addresses I thought about visiting three sisters in a month.  I decided I would never complain about visiting teaching again.  Three or four sisters in a month sound a lot better than 25 in a day. I am happy to report that we did it.  We went to all 25 homes.  It was our best day ever.


Two weeks ago our daughter Joni came to visit us.  Her very kind husband kept the kids at home and let Joni come for four days.  Greg and I were so excited.  It is not very often that we have alone time with one of our daughters since they have all married and have children.


We picked up Joni at the Kansas City airport late Friday night and brought her to our humble apartment.  After a good night rest we headed out to see the historical sites.  We took her to Richmond to see the 3 Witness monument and the graves of David Whitmer and Oliver Cowdery. 

The picture is at the cemetery where David Whitmer is buried.  We also wanted to show the bright red tree in the background.  It was so beautiful. This picture does not do the tree justice.

We then drove up to the Far West Temple site.  We made a quick stop at the cute Far West bookstore that is owned and operated by a member of our Church. Joni got some cute souvenirs for her family there. 

We stopped for a short time at the site of the Haun's mill massacre.

We then started our journey to Nauvoo.  Now some of you might be wondering if that is in our mission.  No, it is not.  President Keyes gave us permission to take Joni to Nauvoo because she spent a semester in Nauvoo while she attended BYU and she really wanted to go back and see the temple finished. 


Saturday afternoon we were able to go to the Nauvoo Temple and attend a session there.  It was the first time for all of us.  The Temple is so beautiful and somehow they have made it feel like the original temple.  We loved it there and the murals painted on the walls were so gorgeous.   After the session we took pictures of the Mississippi River and the town from the Temple hill. 

This picture is from the temple steps looking out over the river.  The statues of Joseph and Hyrum on their horses is just in front of the temple.

This is a replica of a ferry boat that took wagons and animals across the river.
We are told we should not spend so much time looking back, but look forward.  We wondered as the Saints stood at this very spot, how much time did they spend looking back at the City of Nauvoo, the beautiful temple, and their hopes and dreams.  Did they have any idea what they were looking forward to?  Do we? 

That night the town of Nauvoo had a pumpkin walk down Main Street.  The senior missionaries made yummy kettle corn and handed it out to everyone for free.  We had a great time.  We also ate dinner at the Nauvoo Hotel restaurant and had their grand buffet.



Sunday morning we went to church and met Sister Susan Easton Black Durrant and her new husband Elder George Durrant.  They know J.B. and several of our girls took her class at BYU.  She invited us to dinner and we were very happy but nervous to accept.
We attended the Senior Missionary sacrament meeting.  The chapel was completely full as was 2/3 of the cultural hall.  They were all senior missionaries!  With the Visitor Center couples, and the Temple Missionaries, and the FM Missionaries, this was quite a sight. 

We spent the day walking all through the Nauvoo Pioneer town.  We took a lot of time walking the trail of Hope to the Mississippi river reading all of the journal entries. We went to the shops and heard all of the history and stories from the Senior Missionaries.  The weather was beautiful and the leaves were all turning.  Some looked like they were on fire.  It was a perfect day. 


We had a great dinner with the Durrant’s and we enjoyed their company so much.  Sister Durrant is a great cook and I know that she is a great teacher.  What an amazing person.  Elder Durrant is a sealer in the Nauvoo temple and they are on a mission there as temple missionaries.  Just a side note, Elder Durrant knows my brother-in-law, Warren Johnson.  They worked together for the Church for many years.  He loves Warren and he told us that Warren named all of his children after him.  Actually, Warren and my sister Mickie, did name their last son, George Whitfield Johnson.

We also visited the Carthage Jail.  This is a very solemn place that always brings strong emptions.

The brethren were in the room in the picture below when the mob burst in.  Hyrum died here from a gunshot to his face.  Joseph was shot and fell out the window behind us and landed near the well in the above picture.  There he died.


Monday we headed back to Missouri.  We went to Adam-ondi-ahman on the way back to Independence and spent a lot of time there.  It is beautiful there and we really felt the spirit.


Tuesday morning we took Joni to the Liberty Jail and Visitor Center and spent an hour or so learning about the jail and the suffering and heartache that the Prophet Joseph Smith and others who were locked up there for 5 months.  That was a special experience to share with Joni. 


We then took her to the airport and said our goodbyes.  It was so fun to have Joni here but it made me very homesick.  I can see why the young missionaries shouldn’t see their families while they are on their missions.


Missouri and Illinois are so full of the Church Historical sites.  It is amazing to be here and to see and learn about the early Saints.  We are thankful for their sacrifices so we can be here enjoying our mission in the year of 2013.

 At our home in Hooper we have a David Jackson painting hanging above our fireplace.  It is of the first Nauvoo temple.  The setting is much like this picture of the second Nauvoo temple.



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