Saturday, May 22, 2010
Happy Memorial Day!
This has been a very difficult week, due to some personal and health issues for some of our wonderful elders. As a result, I'm cheering myself up by sharing some of the quotes and stories I've been writing down over the last few years. I hope you like them, too.
As people come up out of the waters of baptism, we hope they see the spires of the temple.
As [missionaries] teach the doctrine of Jesus Christ to the people, they need to apply it to themselves.
Endure to the end, continue in faith, be repentant, be service-minded.
Learn the doctrines of the gospel, and how to extend the invitation, and you will reap the blessings.
In the timeline of the Restoration, the only thing that preceded the Book of Mormon was the First Vision.
Sister Christensen (Uganda
(After commenting on cultural traditions) In the Church we don't have to bow down to men: we stand side by side with them.
Sister Donnelly (Madagascar - she's originally from the UK)
When something niggly happens to the elders, I like to jolly them along. They've got all those knocks: I'm going to be their sunshine.
Sister Taylor (Kenya)
When you go to war, you take your weapon. The Book of Mormon is my weapon in life.
Focus on the Master; anchor to the atonement. Let His spirit walk with the missionaries and make them master teachers.
Somewhere out there is a young Jeff Holland, who doesn't know what he's doing, doesn't know where he's been, and certainly doesn't know where he's going - and your are arriving in the nick of time.
Every truth that a missionary teaches is only an appendage to the atonement.
[Preach My Gospel] was designed beyond the veil and put together here.
(See D&C 8:3) Moses led the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground just as the gospel can lead us through the dangers of today's world in safety. We show [others] the way to the dry ground.
We are here to help sad people find happiness.
Using your agency to be receptive and to participate makes it possible to be taught by the Spirit.
Alma gave up all the power and prestige of being the chief judge...to become a missionary.
When you're on the Lord's errand you're entitled to the Lord's help.
The word "atonement" is mentioned once in the King James Bible - and 39 times in the Book of Mormon.
We can understand the Restoration only as we understand the Biblical doctrines that needed to be restored.
The Book of Mormon restores, underscores, and clarifies Biblical doctrine.
Christlike attributes are essential to becoming a successful missionary [or saint!]; they are a gift from God, and cannot be developed without His help.
An intellectual conversion is important, but not as important as a conversion of the heart.
In Leicester, England, an inscription on the outside wall of an old church reads, "In the year 1654 when all things were, throughout this nation, either demolished or profaned, Sir Robert Shirley, Baronet, founded and built this church. He it is whose singular praise it is to have done the best things in the
worst times, and to have hoped them in the most calamitous."
A sister at Durban Stake conference told a story about a tour in heaven given by an angel. The first stop was a very large, crowded room full of angels writing things down. This was the order center - prayers and requests from people all over the world.
The second stop was another large, busy room, with angels filling packages and envelopes. This was the delivery center - blessings and answers going out in answer to prayers.
The last stop was a tiny room with only one angel. sitting a leisure. This was the acknowledgement center - where thanks and gratitude are recorded.
I'm definitely going to try keeping that 3rd angel busier...
GOOD NIGHT AROUND THE WORLD
NETHERLANDS: Goeden nagt
AUSTRALIA: Night, mate
USA: Good night
GERMANY: Gute nacht
SOUTH AFRICA: Are the doors locked, are the windows closed. is the car put away, is the alarm activated and have you fed the Rottweilers? Sleep tight, and dont worry about the lights, Eskom will put them out.
Friday, May 21, 2010
We just completed our zone conference tour, and all of our elders and couples are doing great. This week and next week I'll put all their pictures on the blog.
Steve asked the elders to prepare ahead of time with scriptures to help them overcome Five Roadblocks to Being an Effective Missionary: Pride, Rationalization, Sloth, Doubt, and Blame. The elders had given it a lot of thought and effort, so the discussions were very good. They also made lists of their challenges in those areas - NOT their companions challenges! - and then the companions discussed ways they could help each other.
Two elders, as well as the assistants, also gave talks at each conference. The talks are always a real highlight. Elder Amerikau spoke about the challenges in loving your companion, and said "You can't ask for this-and-such elder as your companion, and even if you're from the same country, at the end of the day you come from different backgrounds." And if they're from different countries, it's even tougher. But somehow they do it, and in many cases an elder going home will say that his favorite companion was the one whose background was the most dissimilar to his own. And once it was the companion who didn't even speak any English to begin with! (Elder Nielson and Elder Feliciano)
One of the elders told a story his "baba" (trainer) Elder N'Ongom had told, about a young man looking out over his wealthy father's estate. His father approached and asked what he thought of it. "It's wonderful! How can I acquire all of that for myself?" The father replied, "When you become like me." (I thought about that, and about all the times in movies and real life where the father is complaining about his "heir" who has grown up expecting to be handed the inheritance, instead of being trained to be a steward over the inheritance. Quite a difference from the gospel approach to rewards.)
Our missionaries are definitely being trained as stewards...and leaders...and companions (husbands, but don't tell them I said that). When someone at the Area Office expressed concern as to where the leaders will come from to handle the growth of the Church in Africa, Steve wrote back and invited him to visit the mission - where he would see the future leaders in action. There are 60 or more missionaries serving right now from our 2 stakes and 4 districts - up from 9 in 2007 - so hopefully the leaders will grow along with the membership.
And on the purely temporal side: Elder & Sister Knudsen introduced the Allreds and me to a new restaurant in Bloemfontein: Coco C. Every dish, breakfast through dinner, has a little (or a lot, in the case of dessert) of chocolate in it. Next time you have soup or vinaigrette dressing, try adding a swirl of chocolate sauce. Sounds peculiar...tastes great! Especially after three days of pizza for lunch!
This weekend is Hillcrest Stake Conference. The theme is Faith, Hope, and Charity, and the Relief Society presidency did a great job speaking on those subjects. Jillian Rieckhof, from Pinetown Ward where I've gone with the boys, talked about staying hopeful through some very difficult times - like having/raising 4 children near the diamond mines in what was basically an abandoned settlement with no electricity, and Church 1-1/2 hours away, when possible. But she talked about all the wonderful things she learned there. What I learned is that I am definitely a wimp. So many members here have gone through very tough situations - and just kept going. I'm learning a lot about endurance here.
This is from Sister JoAnn Wilson's talk: "The opposites to faith, hope, and charity are doubt, despair, and failure to care for our fellowman." (No wonder the gospel emphasizes the former!) My own favorite scripture (out of the many) about faith hope and charity is 2 Nephi 31:20.
President Wilford made us all cry during the session by showing a video from LDS.org called My New Life - go to lds.org and scroll down. (Maybe when I get home and find myself with free time again, I can use it to investigate all the wonderful new offerings the Church has put on the internet.) After watching that, my wimpness became even more apparent. However. if the trade-off for becoming strong is horrible trials... I'll have to think about it.
I also got a great line from President Wilford for when someone starts spouting doubtful doctrine or mysteries: "There's speculation about that, but all we really need to know is..." followed by the true doctrine. Very useful for missionaries. It might come in handy in some situations with kids, too!
ps When a rugby player is tackled, he is "taken to earth". I'm using that phrase next time I trip (it's an inherited clumsy gene...)
pps I wonder if an NFL announcer would ever refer to a really good effort by a quarterback as a "lovely move"?
ppps Yes, we are watching Super 14 Rugby... when we're not watching soccer... or the NBA playoffs...
Monday, May 17, 2010
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Saturday, May 8, 2010
Friday, May 7, 2010
2010 05 16 - Interim Mission Presidents' Seminar here/ Parker graduates from Montana State University in Bozeman, there
Dear Family & Friends:
We got back Friday from the Mission Presidents' Seminar in Johannesburg: it was wonderful. The best part, of course, was spending time with the other couples. I felt just like the elders when they come to zone conference and get all excited over seeing the elders they came out with from the MTC. We came out with the Livingstones (DRC- went home last year), the Taylors (Kenya) and the Christensens (Uganda). The bond has increased as we have sent missionaries to each others' missions - we have a lot to talk about when we get together! And now we're commiserating with each other over having to leave our missionaries. It's always nice to talk with someone who is sharing similar experences.
In addition to very good training and idea sharing, an amazing braii in the Area Office garage (rainy weather) and a temple session, we visited the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens, and Plumari Game Park with it's "domesticated" elephants. I took lots of pictures, and even kissed an elephant.
One of the lunchtime stories swapped: In Uganda baby boy was adopted by the Tar family, and given his new father's name: David. A few years later, Mom Tar had a baby boy. Dad Tar wanted to give this boy his name. so he split it. David became Da, and the new baby was named Vid. So now David Tar has his sons Da Tar, and Vid Tar. Pretty effective recycling...
Elder & Sister Van Blankenstein are heading home from Lesotho, as Elder & Sister Knudsen move there from Newcastle to continue the good work. The Van Blankensteins have done huge amounts in public affairs, as well as practically everything else, and this is their report of their last event - very exciting!
"We here in Lesotho have been very humbled and well-taught as we put the principle of faith and fasting into practice last week. We held a special fasting day for missionary work to go forward in this country, so the top leaders would be moved to attend our "Appreciation Dinner" where we could better introduce them to the Church and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
"We know that 'faith precedes the miracle' and a true miracle happened. We had an outstanding evening at the best hotel in the country, sponsored by the South East Africa Public Affairs and attended by Elder Watson, of the Area Presidency. But the miracle was that the government leaders came, even the King, His Majesty King Letsie III. Other Honourable Ministers, Prime Minister of Foreign Relations, Principle Secretaries, Clerk of the Senate, NGOs and Ambassadors all came and were introduced in a variety of ways to who we are, what we believe in and what we can do to help the people of Lesotho.
"During the evening, several dignitaries asked for information and where our church was located. President Watson even invited the King and Queen to Salt Lake City for October Conference! I know that our prayers were heard and that hearts were touched...
"The news camera was there (Lesotho has only one channel) and it was broadcast last night. Also, yesterday we taped an interview for a weekly Christian show to be shown on TV. Our Government Relations Director from Johannesburg, our local member of our branch presidency, Public Affairs Directors and Humanitarian Directors were all present, which started another chain reaction of contacts and future publicity.
"I know that our prayers were heard and that hearts were touched. Van and I feel so blessed to have been an instrument in the hands of the Lord to help bring this to pass. What a great way to leave the mission field!" (Amen!)
Elder & Sister Mickelsen left today. They were our first ever PEF couple, and over their 18 months (and thousands of kilometers) managed to get more than 100 students through the 2-3 month loan process and into school. They have a dozen or so still in process, and hated leaving any unfinished. We miss them already - but I think Sister Mickelsen and I will be able to keep our little "book group" going even at a distance. And now we have yet another reason to visit St. George!
We had two unusual robberies in Richards Bay the last few weeks.
1. At the Pier's boarding: Sister Pier heard some unusual noises outside, and when she opened the drapes to see what it was, someone had stolen...their front gate! It may be the same group that vandalized an early 20th century cemetery in New Germany and chiseled off or wrenched off the name plaques and every other piece of metal on the gravestones, the fences, etc. They sell it all to scrap metal dealers - who should be at least a little suspicious when a cemetery plaque in Afrikaans is offered for sale?
2. Someone broke into the Richards Bay building, and took... baptismal clothes, tablecloths and cutlery. Better than computers and organs - which has happened here!
Elder Davis has a very poetic way of encouraging elders to drive more thoughtfully:
"I have concluded it is time to promote a 'gentler touch' in driving our vehicles. Some of you, probably most of you, drive too harshly, brake too hard, corner too fast, and accelerate too strongly... If you were riding a horse, I would say 'She was rode too hard and put away wet'." I'm already paying attention to his advice - and nagging Steve about his driving.
ps Steve had a little free time last weekend - and spent most of it whinging about moving from beautiful, lush, warm Durban, to the deserts of Idaho...
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Monday, May 3, 2010
Dear Family & Friends:
The wait, and even the longer drive were worth it: the new King Shaka International Airport is amazing. It's big, spacious, full of stores and restaurants, there are glass doors so you can spot the missionaries (always recognizable) as they look for their luggage, and plenty of parking. We liked it so much we went there 4 times this week! First the eagerly awaited Blackburns arrived on Sunday night. The only glitch in their arrangements was actually om the U.S. side, as their plane was delayed in Atlanta; although they made the connection in Johannesburg, their luggage didn't. Our newest couple handled jet lag beautifully and drove to Swaziland their second day here.
The next trip to the airport was a sad one - saying goodbye to the wonderful ladysmithWilsons. We'll miss them a lot! (Fortunately, you'll be able to see them in the new senior couple recruiting dvd...)
The airport journeys continued as we picked up our 8 new elders on Wednesday - to the music of the Beach Boys singing "Kokomo" - and dropped off 8 seasoned priesthood leaders on Friday. We always have a dinner and testimony meeting for each of these groups of elders, and I thought Elder Hamilton told about coming out to South Africa with Elder Summers, and sitting by a man who was very harsh with them about wasting two years for a meaningless cause. They had no idea what to say to him - then. We're all hoping they will sit by him on the way home, too: it will be a very different story!
Elder Hamilton also gave a very good "last lecture" when he said, "I know the gospel is true. The Book of Mormon is true. In fact, it's all true - and that's all that matters."
For those of you who are not (yet) deeply immersed in Preach My Gospel, here is a message Elder Davis shared in devotional, from page 120. See if it isn't worth your time:
"Patience is the capacity to endure delay, trouble, opposition, or suffering without becoming angry, frustrated, or anxious. It is the ability to do God's will and accept His timing. when you are patient, you hold up under pressure and are able to face adversity calmly and hopefully. Patience is related to hope and faith - you must wait for the Lord's promised blessings to be fulfilled...You must be patient with all people, yourself included, as you work to overcome faults and weaknesses." PGM p120
Every so often Steve sends a special email out to all the missionaries. I thought you might like to see what your elder has been reading lately:
As we have travelled this cycle we have often started skills & interviews with the song "Come Come Ye Saints". Each time we sing it I think of my own great, great grandparents and the sacrifices they made as they left their homes in Europe knowing they would never see their families again and made their way west. They made their way filled with hope and a burning testimony that the gospel of Jesus Christ had been restored. It was hard, they suffered through hunger and thirst and fatigue. They buried children along the trail, but still they made their way west to the Promised Land where they could practice their religion, partake of the saving ordinances and raise their children in righteousness.
How grateful I am for their commitment and sacrifice. What a legacy they have left as their children, grandchildren, and great, great, great grandchildren have grown to maturity in the gospel and gone on to serve the Lord.
Each day as we make decisions to serve the Lord we too are leaving a legacy. As we live and honor the mission equation we leave a legacy. As we strive to build and support and encourage and love our companions and those in our districts and zones we leave a legacy. We leave an enormous legacy with the brothers and sisters we teach and baptize as they change their lives and start on a path that will unite them with their families forever and allow them to return to their Father's kingdom.
We leave a legacy with the people we serve as they observe missionaries from all over the world serving others rather than pursuing their own selfish interests. We leave a legacy for our own children and grandchildren, for in some future day they will read our journals and hear our stories and come to know the trials and joys of their grandfathers as they served the Lord on full-time missions.
Most importantly we leave a legacy for ourselves as we serve with all of our heart, might, mind, and strength and learn to live by the Spirit and by revelation. This legacy is built each day and each moment as we make choices to serve the Lord. This legacy is built with two-mite days, obedience with exactness, one more doors, tailored lessons, and enthusiasm, and hope and faith, and tired bodies and joyful hearts. It is a legacy that sets the foundation for the rest of our lives and a legacy that will bring us and our families back to our Father.
What a joy it is to serve with you and be part of your legacy. You are magnifying your callings and your priesthood and as you do so you are fulfilling your part of the covenant made in D&C 84 that promises you all that the Father has. I love you, Elders. Go out and make this the best week of your mission. Go out with joy. Go out with boldness and courage. Go out with faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and a determination to invite all to enter His kingdom.
This week is the interim Mission Presidents' Seminar in Johannesburg. It will be great to see all the other mission presidents and their wives, as well as the Area Presidency and their wives. (Let's be honest: for me it's especially the wives!) The downside, of course, is knowing we won't see many of them again for years. I guess that's one of the advantages of living in the Wasatch front - there are always a lot of people you met on mission who live within reach for reunions. I understand part of the post-mission adjustment is discovering that after the first few minutes, no one else is really that interested in talking about your mission memories - except the other former missionaries!
ps I was surprised last week to see a truck with the bumper slogan: "Say no to crack", as I hadn't seen any anti-drug projects around here or heard anyone talk about specific drugs. Good for you! I thought...until I looked at the logo on the truck: T&R Paving...
pps For those if you who have been asking, we were just invited (via email) to give a homecoming report in our River Heights Ward (Eagle, Idaho) on July 25th at 11am.