|This picture was taken at the Christmas Conference-Missouri Independence Mission 12/11/13|
Today our sweet granddaughter, Eliese Eardley, is getting baptized. She is just one of many of our beloved grandchildren who have been or will be baptized while we are on our mission. Several years ago I wrote a list of things I wanted to do before I died (not all bucket items however). One of them was attend all of my grandchildren's baptisms.
Here is Eliese at a family reunion held before we left. She is holding onto a string that represents the "Iron Rod" of Lehi's dream. We hope she will always hold to the rod.
This morning I told Eliese to always remember that I was on a mission, or I would have been there for her!
Today we also attended a baptismal service. The man being baptized is named Jinbo Ma. He is from China. He was taught by Sisters Erickson and Kang.
There is a story here.
The first apartment that I was assigned to find was for sisters in the Plattewood Ward. This is north and west of Kansas City. We had a hard time finding a suitable apartment, but finally we located one. The landlord (it was a big complex) was not very flexible. They did not want to rent to a "corporate" tenant. They are apparently afraid of terrorists or "safe-houses" so they want only to rent to the actual occupants. This is a problem for us as we move the missionaries from time to time. So the Church becomes the lessee and pays the rent and utilities.
They finally agreed to give us a try, but required that they be allowed to do background checks on our missionaries. This was my next problem as I did not know which sisters the President would send there. In fact, he would not make that decision until the new ones arrive and he interviews them.
We were able to determine that Sister Erickson was going to be one of the sisters, so we got her information and submitted it. Then we crossed our fingers.
When the new sisters arrived, President Keyes was inspired to assign Sister Kang to be her companion. Sister Kang, I learned, is from South Korea. I just about swallowed my tongue. I asked Elder Lillywhite to call the President and ask him if an American could be assigned to Sister Erickson so we could get off on the right foot with the landlord. Bad idea. The President told Elder Lillywhite the Lord wanted these sisters together in Plattewood and we needed to make the apartment work for them, not the other way around. I felt bad for Elder Lillywhite, as it was me that was balking.
Well, the new group arrived and Sister Haws and I were asked to take Sisters Erickson and Kang to their area and get them settled in. To my great relief, I found Sister Kang had dual citizenship and a US drivers license. We help them move in, took them to Walmart shopping, then took them to lunch. As we drove away, we both had a lump in our throats, just like we were dropping a daughter off at college. But these sisters were both strong, and they had both been to college themselves. Sister Kang majored in international studies.
Well, the absolute amazing thing is that immediately after arriving in the area, right after we left them, the sisters met Jinbo Ma. He is a student from China living just a floor and a couple of doors from their new apartment. He speaks little English and has a limited religious background. They began teaching him. He was fellowshipped by the ward. The other amazing thing is that Sister Kang speaks Chinese!
The Lillywhite's and us attended his baptism together.
Today we went to his baptism. What a special day it has been. We are humbled to have played a small part in this, but also very humbled that we doubted. The Lord is in charge, this is his work. While in Africa we met a group of Chinese, also from Mainland China, who were baptized. This is how the work enters a country. Who knows what will happen in the future as Jinbo Ma and many like him, return to China?
This is me and two sisters with President and Sister Keyes on Christmas Morning. I thought a sweater was appropriate, but I was the only Elder not in a suit coat. We love President and Sister Keyes and will do what ever we can to lighten their load and move the work forward.
Oh, one other thing, this week I received another calling. I am now a member of the Mission Presidency. I am the Executive Secretary to the Mission President. Sister Haws and I, in this role, have been assigned, among other duties, to go into the homes and apartments of each set of missionaries and have companion study classes with them. We will inspect their apartments and offer assistances while there, but the main purpose is to help them be more effective by having companionship training. We hope to visit each missionary set while we are in this calling.
We took our Christmas tree and decorations down the other day. As I was thinking of our Christmas here in Missouri I decided that if you can't be home for Christmas being on a mission is probably the next best thing. The spirit of Christmas was strong here in the Missouri Independence Mission and the love and service were every where.
We had the wonderful opportunity to play Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. Most missionaries received their Christmas packages from their families in time for the Mission Christmas Conference. But as the days got closer to Christmas packages kept coming to the Mission office. President Keyes asked all of the office staff to work Christmas Eve and help deliver packages to the missionaries so all would have a wonderful Christmas.
We offered to take the Liberty Stake area as we are very familiar with this part of the mission because of our work with the Young Single Adults. We started from the mission office at 12:00 after the mailman had made his last delivery. We had a word of prayer asking for protection and we were off in our Ford Truck sleigh packed with gifts for all of the girl and boy missionaries.
The day was sooo cold. It was down in the teens all day. We delivered packages from Kansas City all the way to Chillicothe, Trenton, and Gallatin. We made our last stop at 8:00 pm and arrived back at our apartment tired but happy around 8:30.
Here is a picture of Elder Hart. He is a cousin to our niece, McKenzie Hart Haws who lives next door to us in Hooper. He is a wonderful missionary and he has a great attitude. Every time we see him he is happy and full of enthusiasm.
We made it to Chillicothe at the end of the day.
These Elders are in the Kearney area and they baptized this sister this month. They are doing a great job. We see them a lot as they serve in a ward that meets in the same building as our YSA branch.
The great thing that we found out during the day was that all of the missionaries were out doing missionary work on Christmas Eve. We would call them when we were almost to their apartment and they would be somewhere else teaching or finding. We were very proud of them all.
On Christmas morning we had a breakfast for all of the Senior Couples and the young Sister Missionaries that serve at the Visitor Center. We had great fun together and the Sisters put on the Nativity Scene and story for all of us. They also sang and performed several musical numbers.
They had to make due with what they had for a stable. Without Elders, we were short on donkeys.
They all sang like angels.
Shepherd girls and wise girls.
Elders are prohibited from dressing up as a women, under any circumstances. But like the hugging rule (Elders can not hug, but sisters can--however sisters can not hug elders) sisters can, when needed, dress like men. Note the Joseph sister has made a beard out of her hair--it was pretty cool.
We were thinking back on last year. It has been one year since we met and baptize our friend Paul. We have had some contact with him, but we are not sure where he is or what he is doing. We understand that he is going to church. Our other African friends struggle with their lives, but are still committed to the Church. We pray for them all on a regular basis.
We then spent 7 hours Skyping with all of our Children and their families. It was fun to see their faces and to visit with them. We were blessed to see everyone of them.
Life seems to be getting busier and busier. With Greg's new calling added onto our other callings our heads are spinning a little. We decided that we will just take one day at a time and just do our best. We know that the Lord will bless us with the strength we need to fulfill our callings.
We wish you all a Happy New Year.