You’re not in Kansas anymore!
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.
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.