Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Seniors, Seniors, and more Seniors

By Greg:

The Missouri Independence Mission is unique in many ways.

First, we claim to be the first mission established in this dispensation.  In 1831 Joseph Smith sent missionaries here and they began to teach and establish what would later become known as "Zion" or the land of the future Zion, or the New Jerusalem.

Joseph Smith also taught that this was the location of the Garden of Eden, and the area known as Adam-ondi-ahman was the land that Adam and Eve were settled in after they were driven out of the Garden.  Thus, this was really the location of the first mission, as Adam and Even began to teach their children the gospel.

It is believed that Christ will come here and hold a very important meeting at Adam-ondi-ahman prior to his Second Coming when he will rule and reign upon the earth for 1,000 years.  This meeting will virtually end the missionary work, as the end of worldliness will usher in a period of peace and righteousness.  Thus, we will be the last mission, as well.

The Missouri Independence Mission is also known as the Alpha and Omega Mission, the first and the last.

We have other ways that we are unique.

We are the only mission in the Church that supports two visitor centers.  We have the Historic Liberty Jail and the Independence Visitor Center.  These two centers are run by Senior Missionaries and Sister Missionaries.

We also have other things here that draw Senior Missionaries.  We have a national archive that has seniors assigned to extract and copy genealogical records.

There are Senior Missionaries that preform physical facilities maintenance and repairs.

Of course, we have Senior Missionaries that are actual missionaries who have a MLS (Member/Leader/Support) assignments.

Then there are the office Senior Missionaries, which now includes us!

Thus, except for the Nauvoo Mission, and the Cove Fort Mission in the summer, we have more Senior Missionaries than any mission in the Church.

Every other month we join together with all of these Senior Missionaries and have a dinner/social/devotional at President Keyes' home.  We did that last night.  There were over 60 missionaries, plus the Mission Presidency.  We enjoy these gatherings.

Like many other places, in nice homes, and especially in the winter, guests remove their shoes and coats and leave them at the door.  This is just part of the stash.  When it was time to go last night, Debi got a new coat.  The one that was left for her was similar to hers, but a bit nicer.  Perhaps we will find who took hers and make the exchange, or maybe she will just have a new coat.  It really fits her well.  We all went home with our own shoes, I think.

Included in this group is Elder Keith and Sister Maureen Flint from Hooper.  Though they are not in the picture, we see them often, and last night Sister Flint brought one of her famous cakes, a banana cake with cream cheese frosting.  It was good to see them, and even better to eat her cake!

Sister Flint and I grew up together in Hooper, and we have lived a little over half a mile away from them all our lives.  For the first period, we were all in the same ward, but you know how that works out, right?  They are serving as FM (Facilities Management) missionaries and live in a home outside Liberty, Missouri.

We are proud of the fact that everywhere we go we are also with people from Hooper.

We had a great reunion last week with two of our dear friends that we served with in Africa.  Elder Mark and Sister Barbara Taylor (now of St. George) came into town for a conference.  We were able to spend some time with them, catching up on Africa, and cementing our friendship.  The Taylor's were among the first to greet and welcome us to Africa, and we so much appreciated what they did for us there.

This was on the beach in Accra, Ghana on our first weekend there.

We all decided that we needed to have a ceremonial feast as we had such a hard time finding meat that we could eat while in Africa.  So we went to the famous Jack Stack's BBQ and oh, did we eat!

We have been told that our allotment of Senior Missionaries will be going down because all missions are needing Seniors, and the supply is limited.  Each Senior Missionary has a different assignment and thus a different experience, but we all share the same love for the Lord and His children and we all want to do what we can to move this work along.

Included in this group are Senior Sisters that come on this mission alone.  They also have different assignments.  The sister on the right is Sister Jan Hipwell.  She is in the office and has many responsibilities.  She serves without a companion, but we see her everyday and enjoy working with her.

The sister in the red is Sister Elma Angel and her companion is holding a camera.  She is Sister Suzanne Billman.  Together they serve as WASS (Women/Auxiliary/Support/Sisters) in a branch in Albany, Missouri.  They are missionaries.  The Elder is Elder Atwood.  He and his wife are MLS missionaries in the Riverview Ward, which is an inner-city Kansas City Ward.

The hymn, Ye Elders of Israel, has a line that says "The harvest is great, but the laborers are few".  This is true and we need more Senior Missionaries, even here in the Alpha and Omega Mission where we have more than any other mission (except Nauvoo and Cove Fort).

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Missionaries coming and going-a very busy week

By Debi:

Last week we had "Break the fast" after church.  Every month after Fast and Testimony Meeting the Branch has a potluck and we enjoy some great food and socializing.  This is the group we had to the Branch last week.  Our numbers are growing and everyone is getting very excited. We had over 50 YSA's to Sacrament meeting last week.

We also had some exciting things happen this last week in the Mission.  We sent 8 missionaries off to their foreign missions.  They all had been waiting for visas.  President Keyes was so happy for these Elders.  Elder Weatherford had been waiting for his visa to India for 17 months.  He was afraid he wouldn't get to go.  Everyone was so thrilled for him and he was so very excited. This was the largest group of Visa Waiters that the Mission has ever sent out at the same time.
                      This is the picture of the Sisters going home to their families that afternoon.

This week was also transfer week.  We had 28 new missionaries arrive Wednesday afternoon. It took two rented vans and 4 vehicles to pick up all the missionaries and their luggage.  It was pretty crazy here for two days getting everyone where they were suppose to be with their right luggage and their right companion.  The transfer involved 104 Elders and Sisters.  Everyone met at the Stake Center by the Mission Office and found their new companion and said goodbye to their old companion.  It is a pretty emotional time. In the midst of all of this commotion we had one of the worst storms of the year.  We received a foot of snow and sub-zero temperatures.  Somehow we all survived and nobody crashed!  We all prayed very hard for the missionaries safety.

We also had 8 sisters and 3 Elders go home on Friday.  These are fantastic missionaries (Sorry, I don't have a picture of the Elders).  They have all served so faithfully and have brought many people into the gospel.  The Sisters also have served at the Visitor Center and the Historic Liberty Jail.  They have worked hard and now they are home with their families.

New ones come and the seasoned homes go home.  The growth from being a new missionary to one who has served faithfully is amazing.  They change so much physically and spiritually.  They are much more confident in themselves and sure in their testimony.  It is such a blessing to be involved with the young people of the Church.  We are surrounded by the Young Single Adults and the young missionaries.  We are in awe of the strength of the Youth.  They are truly a mighty army for the Lord.

By Greg:

This week we were hit with a terrible snow storm that shut down the airport, stranding a lot of travelers, and closing most of the businesses and schools.  We have a couple of feet of snow on the ground.  It is also very cold--near zero or even below.  But it will warm up, and then the snow will melt and if it rains while the snow is melting we will see flooding.

The terrain here is up and down through little valleys.  This, it appears, is caused by all of this moisture and the flooding that follows.  We have seen some pretty cool bridges.  The big ones that cross the Mighty Mo are all different and magnificent, but the smaller ones are also very interesting.

This bridge is made of cement and carries the rail road over the traffic

This is a stone bridge--a road over a road

There are lots of levies around the cities that are near rivers.  Here this one in Ottawa also has a flood wall and flood gate that they can close if the river rises that far.  It is amazing that this little creek can rise high enough to need this flood wall, but it has several times over the years, even killing several people and destroying property and the city.

There are lots of signs on dips in the road warning us not to try to cross in high water.  We will keep an eye out in the next couple of months.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

You’re not in Kansas anymore!

By Greg:

During the decade prior to the American Civil War, the Territory of Kansas was a bloody battlefield where bushwhackers from Missouri crossed the border to loot, pillage, ravage and kill, all in an attempt to intimidate the mostly pro-northern, anti-slavery and free-soil residents who would eventually vote to enter the Union as a free state.

Well, in the past several weeks, we have also been crossing the border into Kansas.  We have not killed anyone yet, or even ravaged anyone, and to be sure we have not stolen anything, but we have penetrated deep into the state as we have carried out our assignments to help build the Kingdom of God in this the Missouri Independence Mission.

We have 13 zones in our mission and 5 of them are in Kansas.  Prior to last July 1st, most of Kansas was in this mission.  But the Brethren created the Kansas Wichita Mission by splitting off half of the mission and missionaries.  Actually, a bigger land mass was cutoff, as the population is more spread out in Kansas.

We have been in towns and cities such as Overland Park, Kaw River, Lenexa, Olathe, Ottawa, Iola, Chanute, Louisburg, Shawnee Mission, Indian Creek, Chapel Hill, Hickory Hills, Paola, Gardner, and the vast spaces in between these towns and cities.

We have been told that Johnson County Kansas, where Overland Park is located, is one of the richest counties in America.  It is the corporate headquarters of several companies, and there is a substantial new development of office buildings, shopping centers, and hospitals.  We have learned the traffic patterns, freeways and highways, but we are still highly dependent on our GPS system. Still most of the Kansas we see is rural farm country.

One of the things that is striking in these smaller towns, is the preservation efforts that have been made.  Yes, there are Walmarts, but still, the downtowns are remarkable intact. Most of the towns that are also county seats have a courthouse and square in the southern style.  Many of these courthouses are remarkable buildings.

We have also seen libraries.  When we were young we often went into Ogden to the library that used to be on the square where the municipal building stands.  This is also the location of the Christmas Village.  Our library, like so many we have seen here, was a Carnegie Library.  Mr. Carnegie was a rich steel tycoon who amassed a huge fortune but decided to give it all away.  His foundation helped build hundreds of libraries across America.  The one in Ogden was built by Carnegie, and so was this one in Ottawa, Kansas.

We went to Chanute, which was a 2 ½ hour drive one-way, and visited the Elders there.  We found a lovely little town.  We also found this was the home of two very large Portland cement plants.  We often get the terms cement and concrete mixed up.  Our sidewalks are actually made of concrete, not cement.  Cement is one of the ingredients of concrete.  When cement is added to sand and gravel, it becomes concrete.  Cement is made of crushed limestone, clay, and a couple of other ingredients.  These things are mined, crushed and “cooked” there in Chanute.

The downtown of Ottawa was a lovely example of preservation of the typical main streets Walt Disney tried to depict at Disneyland.

We found in nearly every town they have taken the old railroad station and made it into something.  Usually it is a museum.  In Chanute it is a “Safari Museum” which at first seemed strange.  We visited this and found that a young girl from Chanute married an adventurer named Martin Johnson.  Together they traveled the world, especially the South Pacific and Africa, and filmed the natives.  They then returned to America and toured the country showing their films.  At first the films were all silent, but later they had sound.  These were some of the earliest views of the “uncivilized world” on record.  The museum was pretty cool.

In each of these towns are at least two, sometimes four, missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  There are also many small chapels.  The missionaries are faithful servants of God.  It is our purpose “To invite others to come unto Christ and help them receive the Restored Gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and his Atonement, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end.” “In the Missouri Independence Mission we find, teach, baptize, confirm, retain and reactivate.” Our numbers are few.  Nephi wrote:

“And it came to pass that I beheld the church of the Lamb of God, and its numbers were few…nevertheless, I beheld that the church of the Lamb, who were the saints of God, were also upon the face of the earth and their dominions upon the face of the earth were small…and it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the power of the Lamb of God, that it descended upon the saints of the church of the Lamb, and upon the covenant people of the Lord, who were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.”  (1 Nephi 14:12-14).

Nephi saw this, and so have we.  We have seen this, both here in Missouri, and in Kansas.  And we also saw it as well in Africa.  We too are witnesses.

So, in the words of the hymn, “Ye Elders of Israel” we sing and do:  “We’ll go to the poor, like our Captain of old, and visit the weary, the hungry and cold.  We’ll cheer up their hearts with the news that he bore, and point them to Zion, and life evermore.  Oh Babylon, Oh Babylon, we bid thee farewell, we’re going to the mountain of Ephraim to dwell!”—even if that means traveling hundreds of miles into Kansas.

By Debi:

Now, you are probably wondering why Greg and I are driving all over Kansas.  Even though it sounds like we are tourists we truly are missionaries.

Our mission president, President Keyes, has asked us to visit a missionary companionship study hour each morning.  At the first of the week we sit down with our list and pick out the Elders or Sisters that we would like to visit during the week.  Each morning at 9:00 we are in one of our missionaries' apartments observing and participating in their companionship study.  This is a great blessing to us and we really enjoy being involved with the missionaries. 

We take some homemade cookies and enjoy being taught by some of the brightest and most devoted young people in the world.  We consider this a great honor and we are excited about this assignment.

Here are some pictures that we have taken of the missionaries.  We try to take a picture each morning and include that with our report back to President Keyes. 

Because of Elder Haws’ love of history we have to read about some of the little towns we go to and take pictures of some pretty amazing places that most people don’t even know about.  We really have learned to love the people of Missouri and Kansas.  We have seen love and kindness and faith displayed where ever we have visited.