Stepping into the Darkness

"You must learn to walk to the edge of the light, and then a few steps into the darkness, then the light will appear and show you the way before you."

Sunday, June 19, 2016

My heart's in Oregon

"Shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. . . . Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad. Let the earth break forth into singing. . . . Let the mountains shout for joy, and all ye valleys cry aloud; and all ye seas and dry lands tell the wonders of your Eternal King!  And ye rivers, and brooks, and rills, flow down with gladness.  Let the woods and all the trees of the field praise the Lord; and ye solid rocks weep for joy! And let the sun, moon, and the morning stars sing together, and let all the sons of God shout for joy! And let the eternal creations declare his name forever and ever!  And again I say, how glorious is the voice we hear from heaven, proclaiming in our ears, glory, and salvation, and honor, and immortality, and eternal life; kingdoms, principalities and powers!"

As we begin this last week of our mission, I am looking toward the future - wondering what is in store for us now?  I don't know what it looks like exactly, we know what we want and what we are looking for.  We also know that we want to continue to be of service.  I am also rejoicing and looking for more reasons to rejoice.  And there are many!   We have had a wonderful experience here in Oregon.   As I read the above scripture I could picture so many of the beautiful places we have seen since being here, and I could imagine the elements rejoicing.

We have been richly blessed by our associations with so many wonderful people.  Our mission has been a glorious experience, one we are most grateful for.  We have loved serving in the Oregon Eugene Mission.  A piece of our hearts will forever be in Oregon.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Good-byes and Hello's

"Before we were born, we lived in a family with our exalted and eternal Heavenly Father. He ordained a plan that enables us to advance and progress to become like Him. He did it out of love for us. The purpose of the plan was to allow us the privilege of living forever as our Heavenly Father lives. This gospel plan offered us a life of mortality in which we would be tested. A promise was given that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, if we obeyed the laws and priesthood ordinances of the gospel, we would have eternal life, the greatest of all His gifts.
Eternal life is that kind of life which God our Eternal Father lives. God has said that His purpose is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39)." (Henry B. Eyring, General Conference, April 2016)
The day before Easter this year, we buried my mother.  I was the most perfect funeral and graveside service I could imagine for her.  Everything she had been so explicit about happening - we fulfilled her wishes to the letter.  It was a sad time, because we all loved her and will miss her here with us.  But I am so grateful for the knowledge that she lives on in Spirit and that I will someday see her again. You see, I believe in that beautiful afterlife where she is - free of pain, whole and surrounded by those she knew and loved here - her parents, her brothers and so many others.
One of the things Mom wanted was a bagpiper to play "Amazing Grace" at her graveside.  We were so blessed to find a wonderful young man who gave up his Saturday of play to come and stand in the hot Arizona sun and play for my mother.  I've thought about the words to that song often these last couple of weeks - 
"Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, 
That saved a soul like me....
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.

Through many dangers, toils and snares...
we have already come.
T'was Grace that brought us safe thus far...
and Grace will lead us home.

The Lord has promised good to me...
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be...
as long as life endures.
Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
and mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
a life of joy and peace.

"Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, 
That saved a soul like me....
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Noble and Great Ones

One of the things we enjoy about living in Oregon is the trees!  There are so many varieties and they are everywhere.  As I type this I am looking out the window and watching the beautiful maple trees softly swaying in the wind.  So their leaves will appear and they will once again provide us with shade and a green canopy over the street where we live.  These maples are tall with beautiful straight branches and lacy leaves.  Just down the street are oaks with their gnarly branches and hard wood.  Just a short 5 minutes from us I can find the mighty redwood trees.  Straight, so tall, reaching toward heaven with their feathery greens, resistant to rot and the dampness that is Oregon.  I've thought about these trees a lot lately.  I've wondered how old are they?  What have they witnessed as they've grown so tall   4 and 5 stories some of them.  How many children have climbed their branches and played in the shade they've provided.  How many birds, squirrels, possums and other critters have made their homes in these trees.  What have they had to endure to live long enough to grow that tall - wind, rain, drought, heat and cold?  The words that come to mind are "noble" and "great".

Recently we attended a Couple's Conference for the mission.  It's a wonderful quarterly activity that gives us the great opportunity to spend some time with the other senior couples of the mission.  We get to know each other better, re-connect with friends, offer encouragement, share ideas, laugh, eat and above all share our testimonies of truth.  We left this conference uplifted and feeling blessed to be in the company of these "noble and great ones"!  These 8 couples have left home and family to spend 6-18 months here in Oregon sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  They have sacrificed the comforts o home and time with friends and family.  They are not unlike the trees - they have endured much and have grown straight and tall! They are noble and great. It's humbling to be among them. We are so blessed.

Monday, December 28, 2015

I-5 Miracles (again!)

It seems the opportunities to grow and learn, at least for us here in Oregon take place on I-5. This past week was no exception. We got the opportunity to take Christmas packages that have been collecting at the mission office for missionaries, to many of them in four of the zones. We counted somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 presents.  On Christmas eve, we transported Christmas to Roseburg, Grant’s Pass, Central Point, and Medford. It was fun to meet with the missionaries at each location and share in their joy and excitement of the holiday. Weather was a concern and we had lots of rain, and some snow going over the passes along the way south.

Heading home, we encountered increasing snow/rain going over the pass between Medford and Grant’s Pass. Between Grant’s Pass and Roseburg there are three passes to cross. We made the first two okay, but the third, the snow was coming down very wet and heavy. With about 2 inches of wet slushy snow, traffic began to slow and finally came to a stop about a mile from the summit where two trucks had jackknifed and blocked the road. Where we were, left us going uphill into a curve with a fairly tall super. As you can guess, when we tried to move forward in our rear drive van, the back end slid around toward the guardrail. We had been there for about 30 minutes when the snow plows arrived and had us move out of the way by backing up a few feet. This resulted in our rear bumper being about six feet from the guardrail and a drop-off.

Most of the other drivers were putting chains on, but the van we were driving didn’t have any and we figured we would have to wait until the plows came back around and could put down some sand for us. Over the next 30 minutes we watched as one after another, the cars around us slowly pulled out and disappeared over the pass. At last, the back log of cars were all gone and we were alone.

During the wait, we said a prayer and asked for help and safety. Looking back in the side mirror, I could see a “line” that traveled level across the road and onto the plowed and sanded lane. The thought occurred to me that the best thing to have in snow is a front wheel drive vehicle. I also realized that in reverse, my rear wheel drive van would have “front wheel drive”. It was one of those light bulb moments. We decided to try to go in reverse, downhill across the super and onto the plowed, sanded lane. In just a few seconds, we were back on the road and driving forward over the pass.

A scripture came to mind regarding the Holy Ghost. It teaches that the Holy Ghost will bring all things to our remembrance. I was shown the “line” to follow and reminded that in reverse, I would have the traction I needed. As we drove away, I also remembered several scriptures that command us to ask for what we need. I wonder if the apparent increase in miracles has to do with the increase in my asking. Joseph Smith taught that we should “ask for something better” when lead by the spirit. We have done this while we have served and have been astonished at the answers that have come. The Lord hasn’t done it all for us, but continues to remove the obstacles and make easy the way.
Nephi said, “…the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”

In the end, Laurie and I had a wonderful day together. We saw breath taking scenery, enjoyed the company of many wonderful missionaries and were privileged to bring some joy and happiness to them. We witnessed again the blessing of the Lord and miracles he brings to pass for our benefit. We were taught and reminded of blessings and lessons. We also walked in the door of our apartment right on the dot of 9:00 PM just as the mission wide teleconference devotional started and were able to dial in and listen with our fellow missionaries.

We are grateful for this experience of being missionaries, for the opportunity to be part of this great work and to spend full time in the service of others. It brings indescribable joy and happiness. Our testimonies have grown and our understanding of the gospel has increased. We know that God lives and that He loves us. We know that this is His work and it is a privilege to be a part of it.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Transfers, Arrivals, Departures, Training, Oh MY! ! !

I know we have mentioned miracles and tender mercies before, but lately it just seems they are an everyday occurrence. This week there were three that deserve a mention here:

This last Tuesday as our 22 departing missionaries got to the airport (late) the agents in trying to get them all on the plane tagged all the baggage to Salt Lake City under the names of 3 missionaries.  The unfortunate thing was 4 were going to Phoenix, 1 to Saint George, 1 to Houston and 1 to San Francisco.  And President had given me their bag tags.  I was able to work with Delta and Alaska Airlines to locate most of it and by Wednesday morning everyone but our Elder from San Francisco had their bags.  He called me on Thursday and was beside himself.  English is his second language - Chinese being his first.  My 12 years in the airline industry came in handy and with some prayer and a mention to a couple of agents about how many TSA violations were involved in them mis-tagging that many bags, Alaska Airlines was able to locate the bags and deliver them to our Elder.  Whew!

Thursday while the missionary choir was singing in the choir loft at the Stake Center a light fixture from the very high ceiling suddenly fell.  This was probably a 40 pound acrylic fixture handing above our new missionaries.  It feel, shattered and not one piece touched a single missionary.

After training on Thursday Greg and Elder P had a van load of missionaries going south.  About half way between Roseburg and Grants Pass it started raining - HARD - and continued all the way into Grants Pass.  Greg was thinking what a mess that was going to be when they got there and needed to get the missionaries out with all their luggage that was in the trailer.  They pulled into the parking lot and the rain stopped.  Everyone got unloaded and on their way and the rain started right up again.

Some may say that we were "lucky" or that those were just coincidence, but I KNOW better - I know that "the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance"  (I Nephi 1:20)  These wonderful young missionaries are so often watched out for and protected, it's humbling to behold.

This last week was "transfer week" - our busiest week of the 6 week cycle that is a mission in the office. Here's a rundown so you can see what we do.

Monday is transfers - this means that at least 2 or the Elders in the office are gone ALL day diving missionaries from one end of the mission (Corvallis) to the other (Medford or Klamath Falls) and back to Eugene.  Meanwhile, the sisters in the office hold down the fort and also shop for the 8 meals that will be provided during the week for 12 - 40 people. That night is a dinner for the departing missionaries at the mission home - we don't attend or cook - just shop.

Tuesday is departure day for those missionaries going home at the end of their 18 months or 2 years.  It's exciting and sad all at the same time.  We're excited to see them go on to the next phase of their lives - school, marriage, etc.. but some of these young people walk into our hearts and stay and it's hard to see them go!  We truly love them and are grateful for the time we get to spend with them.

Wednesday is arrival day - the new missionaries fresh from the Missionary Training Center.  We fix them lunch and greet them.  I always feel like I know them already since I receive their information in the office and communicate with them with a welcome packet, answering questions, and preparing their notebooks for training.  They spend the afternoon training and then there's a dinner for them that night.  Meanwhile the office staff are feeding their trainers dinner.

Thursday begins with breakfast bright and early for the trainers and any other missionaries who come to sing in the welcoming ceremony choir (usually about 40-60).  This is one of my favorite times.  The choir is always amazing!  They sing the same song for each group - a medley of "As Sisters in Zion" and "We'll Bring the World His Truth".  After the ceremony the office staff does our training.  Then the moment they have all been waiting for - who is my trainer and where is my first area.  It's always fun and entertaining to watch this process.  So much energy and enthusiasm!  Often on Thursday after training the brethren again hit the road to Corvallis and Medford to deliver missionaries to their areas.  It's a long day, but a wonderful experience.

Friday we play catch-up to all the work that we didn't get to during the week.  And then we drag ourselves home to collapse!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Teaching and Inviting

We continue to be very busy in our missionary work. There doesn’t seem to be an end to the problems that need solving in the administration of the mission and taking care of the missionaries. With the seemingly constant travel needs to get missionaries and necessary supplies around the mission, we are often traveling around the state of Oregon.

The amazing thing is that as we are going about our duties, there is a constant stream of miracles taking place. We are awed to be a witness to the many miracles the Lord has brought to pass. When we first started attending the Springfield 2nd ward, I met with the husband of an inactive member. He was dealing with problems with his foot and so I gave him a cane to help him as he went through surgeries and recoveries. We have taught him, and he finally healed enough to be baptized. That took place last Saturday. His name is Curtis.

Sunday, we were teaching another of our investigators (Frank), with the Elders in our ward. Frank was at the baptism. As Elder Chapman was teaching, he inadvertently called him Curtis. Elder Chapman was embarrassed, and apologized. A few minutes later he did it again, and again apologized. When it happened a third time, Elder Chapman was beside himself. It was then that Frank spoke up. He said, “I was waiting to see if you would say Curtis a third time. Then I would know.”

It seems that Frank had a cousin named Curtis who was killed a couple of years ago. Frank indicated that Curtis has been on his mind since learning about Temple work, and he felt Curtis wants his work done and so Frank took it as a sign when Elder Chapman said his name three times. After that exchange, Elder Chapman didn’t call him Curtis again.

It is exciting to witness the changes that come into people’s lives. I first met Frank about 4 months ago when the Sisters asked me to sit in on a lesson. Frank is coming from 25 years of drugs and alcohol and rough living. He is untangling himself from a lifetime of bad associations. Lessons were difficult and often got off track when he talked about issues and people trying to oppose him. 4 months ago, while he wanted to talk, he stated he wasn’t interested in baptism. At that point I took over with him. Not long after that, even though we had appointments, he would always cancel. He did however, continue to text and call me. Then two weeks ago, he called and said he was finally ready to learn about the church, so we scheduled a lesson. I had the Elders with me to teach him. He was still quick to get off topic, but we listened to him, and kept moving him back to the gospel discussion. During that lesson, we invited him to be baptized and he accepted. We set the date for January 9th, and told him that at our next meeting we would go over the requirements for baptism so that any problems could be dealt with. That lesson was the one related above and went very well. It was the first lesson we have taught that Frank stayed focused on the topic at hand and didn’t wander all over the map. Frank is on track for his date of January 9th and we are all working to get him there.

Being a missionary is one of the greatest things you can do. Being a senior missionary is even better. Besides the time in the office, we work with members and investigators as well as helping missionaries. Sister Christensen spends time sewing and mending clothes for missionaries and cooking for lots of people. I make and share my canes around the state. I am up to 135 canes placed and at least one baptism that I know of. We love the work and the Lord, and plan to repeat the mission experience again in the future.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Coasting Uphill

During the transfer on October 22, 2015, we experienced the continuing blessings the Lord sends to his missionaries. Driving north on I-5 about 3 miles from Grants Pass, OR, we ran out of gas. The van, pulling the mission trailer, came to a stop as far out of the lane as the road allowed. This resulted in a distance of 5 to 7 feet from the many semi’s and tractor trailer rigs that were zooming past at 65 miles an hour.  We contacted missionaries in Grants Pass to bring us some fuel, and when it arrived we thanked the missionaries who volunteered to put the gas in but declined and Elder Phipps, one of the senior missionaries took the gas can and made the attempt.

In order to access the gas cap, you have to have the driver’s door opened, so I held the door against the constant pull of the wind created by the traffic as Elder Phipps tried to get the gas poured into the tank. It seems with this late model van, there is a special funnel that you need to get the gas in the tank. We couldn’t find it, but we tried as best we could, and despite our efforts, the gas only ran back out and onto the ground. Giving the can back to the elders, Elder Phipps asked them to get more gas, and suggested to me that we try the engine. It started and we moved back onto the road way, almost immediately we ran out again. We were coming around a corner and I decided to just let the van coast until it stopped, hoping to find a better place to work on the problem.

When the van finally came to a stop, I turned to Elder Phipps and asked him if he had just seen what happened. He had, and was trying to process it. The van stopped running as we came around the corner, but continued to roll, uphill pulling a trailer for about 300 yards. It coasted at a constant rate until it arrived at a wide area where we could safely work. As I sat there, I had the impression, almost hearing the words, “okay, you are now safe, solve the problem.”

While Elder Phipps worked on the problem of how to get the gas in the tank, I contacted the missionaries in Medford and asked them to come and get the two sisters we were trying to deliver there, and we already had missionaries from Grants Pass to help with the Elders going there. Elder Phipps discovered a method that opened the access pipe to the tank, and when the gas arrived, was able to slowly get some gas in the tank. The Medford elders arrived, baggage was transferred and we were all on our way, humbled and amazed at what had just transpired.