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."

Saturday, March 28, 2015

"Angels Round About You"

Thursday, March 26, 2015
"Tonight, grandma and I have been blessed to participate in a remarkable event. At 10:35 PM our phone rang. We were asked to join an emergency conference call to take place at 10:45 PM. We were very curious as we waited and the dialed into the conference.
Elders Hyde and Boyd, assistants to President Russell and acting under his direction, first explained the event that triggered the conference and then led some 210 missionaries in a mission wide prayer.
One of our fellow missionaries had just received word about the unexpected passing of his father. President and Sister Russell were with him as we joined in prayer. We sat transfixed and amazed as we participated in this event. We marveled at the blessing and strength that was brought together. We are so blessed to be in the mission field at this time, to have tools and technology that allows this joining together possible. We are blessed beyond measure to be privileged to have these choice experiences.
We find ourselves naturally drawn to any possible avenue to move this work forward. These are truly the last days, and we have been sent forth, clothed in the spirit with power and light to share.
Join with us in constant prayer for ourselves, this great mission, even all the missionaries who labor in missions around the globe.
To our grandchildren, we invite you to strive to prepare. Learn to seek the spirit, even the Holy Ghost as your constant companion. Learn to submit yourselves to the will of the Father. He will teach and guide you. You will experience joy beyond anything you have yet or even that you can imagine.
We love you all. We think of you often and pray for you always. We miss you all terribly, and as a testament to the nature of this work, know that this service to our God is the only thing that could separate us from you at this time. Know that Grandma and I KNOW that this Church and this work are true. We have felt the heavens open. We have seen the miracles with our eyes. Our spiritual eyes have opened and we have witnessed the magnitude of this work. We pray for God's hand to be over all of you".

Greg wrote the above Thursday night I'd like to add a few thought of my own now.  What we experienced was an amazing and wonderful even though it was born of tragedy.  I was reminded tonight that joy always follows sorrow.  The  joy we felt was the power of prayer and the presence of the  Comforter as 200+ missionaries all knelt together all over the State of Oregon. Even though we were alone in our living room it was as if we were in the same room as all the other missionaries.  In my minds eye I could see angels surrounding our dear Elder who had so recently learned of the  passing  of his father.  He has made the decision to stay in the mission and continue the work.  I don't know this Elder but I love him and his valor.  We are so blessed to be here at this time.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Greg has done the last few blog posts.  He suggested today that maybe it was time for me to write about some of my experiences and feelings about this first 6 weeks as full-time missionaries.

I'm not sure what I expected, but I didn't expect it to be as difficult as it has been.  The MTC was amazing!  The Spirit there is so strong it's a tangible presence.  And it's exhausting!  We made great friends.  We were pushed out of our comfort zone (especially me!) and we were forced to rely on the Spirit in ways I have never before experienced.  We left there on a Thursday afternoon, drove to Rexburg, spent the next day packing our car, and then drove 12 hours to Eugene on Saturday.  We arrived here on a cold, dark, rainy night.  Unloaded our car with some help from young, energetic missionaries, went to Walmart to get necessaries supplies to make it through Monday and then fell into bed too tired to move.  We hit the floor early the next morning since another mission couple was meeting us to take us to church for 9:00am meetings.  As I think about it now, I wish we had been able to take a couple of days to get settled, that would have made the next 2 weeks much easier.

We reported to the mission office at 8:00 Monday morning for our first staff meeting.  And then our training began with the couple we were replacing.  They were dear people finishing their 5th mission!  After just a couple of days, Greg was turned loose to do his job.  My experience was much different.
We started our first week with transfers, departures and arrivals.  The former mission secretary played a part in all of those activities - mostly letter writing.  The first three weeks were not pleasant - I hesitate to even say that because there were bright spots but most of my day was stressful and frustrating.  It wasn't the work, that was simple and straight forward.  My trainer was slow, methodical, deliberate and ever-watchful of everything I did.  I tend to be a high-energy person.  I work fast and often knew of a quicker way to do what she was doing.  She was not very computer literate so much of what she did  was printed out with check-lists for EVERYTHING!  I spent most days with an 80 year old woman hanging over my shoulder while I typed on the computer.  I broke out in hives twice and left most days near tears.

Now the bright spots - the missionaries!  They are wonderful.  They have so much energy and enthusiasm for missionary service.  Their testimonies shine on their faces and they work so hard.  In this mission, President Russell has dubbed it an "Love you" mission.  We say it to all the missionaries, they say it to each other and to us.  I found out very early on that I do love them.  They were my bright spots every day.

Greg just asked me if I knew what my first few weeks were going to be like, would it have changed anything before we put our papers in.  "NO!"  I would do it again, and again and again.  I know without any doubt that this is where we are supposed to be. And working in the mission office is what we are supposed to be doing.  Yes, the first few weeks were rough, unpleasant even at times, but the last 2 weeks have been fantastic.  I look forward every day to going in to the office.  I love answering the phone and hearing the voice of one of our dear missionaries, or sometimes one of their parents.  I love hearing from the missionaries about the tender mercies of the Lord that they are experiencing as they serve Him.

We went to the Portland Temple last week for a mission temple trip.  That was more than a bright spot, it was blinding sunshine!  Going through a temple session with a room full of young missionaries was amazing.  It was worth any frustration or stress I may have felt during my training period here.  And that's why even if I knew how hard it was going to be, I would have done it.  On even the hardest day, I experienced those tender mercies of the Lord that kept me going. My testimony of the Spirit has grown.  My testimony of the truthfulness of this work is stronger than ever.  I know the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true, the Book of Mormon is God's word as is the Bible.  I have tasted the bitter and the sweet - I had to experience both so that I could know the difference.  And I'm grateful for both experiences.

It is amazing to us the many ways the Lord blesses us in his work. the training and experiences we started in the MTC are continuing in the mission field. As we go about our work here, we will often be prompted by the spirit. it often happens in our working with the Elders and Sisters. The other day, we were sorting through stuff that came from an apartment that we just closed. (As the numbers of missionaries drop after the quick rise from the age change) in that stuff were some jars of baby food. Sister Christensen called the Salvation Army and asked if that was something they could use in their food bank, and they said of course. Then rather than one of the senior couples taking it down she called the Elders whose area included the food bank to see if they could. They said they could, but that they were busy and it would have to wait a day or two. Just 20 minutes later, they were in the mission office. It seems the appointment they had fell through. As they were leaving, Sister Christensen suggested that while they were there, they should let them know that they could help out in other ways as needed.

Last night, two of the Elders whose area includes our apartment, dropped by. They were going to visit our neighbor who has been investigating and was sick. Sister Christensen again was prompted, and suggested they offer to give her a blessing.  When they offered, she responded with a yes. After explaining what they were going to do, one Elder anointed, and the other sealed and blessed her. She is from Spain, and speaks Spanish and the missionaries were able to anoint and bless her in Spanish. She was visibly touched and said she felt warm and loved. It was a sweet experience the Elders had to come by afterward and share with us. We talked about how the Lord will bring us where we need to be so that we can do what He needs done. His hand is in this work.

One of the twelve recently in teaching and training Mission Presidents, read a scripture to them. Jacob 5:62. It reads, "...Let us go and labor with our might this last time, for behold the end draweth nigh, and this is the last time that I shall prune my vineyard." This is the allegory of the tame and wild olive trees. He then said that the hastening of the work now is what the Prophet Zenos was talking about. This is the last time that the Lord will send out his servants. It is humbling and wonderful to be apart of this great work.

We are thankful for all of the many things that have happened that brought us here. It started with my car accident in 1993 that resulted in the need for spine surgery in 2013. That caused me to take a serious look at what our finances would look like if I stopped working at 60. The plan was always to work to 65, then go on a mission. It showed that while we would not be rich, if we were careful, we could do it. Through out this experience, we continue to have enough and to spare.

We pay our tithing through Settlers Bay ward, but we are instructed to pay fast offerings to the ward we are assigned to here. The first fast Sunday, I intended to reduce what I had been paying before I retired, since our income has been significantly reduced, but my pen refused to write that check. I can testify to the great blessings that come from paying a generous fast offing. Again, when the Lord asks and we respond to Him with faith, He keeps His promises.

Over a year ago when we seriously started talking about getting our papers in, some consideration was give to my health and ability to walk and work. I felt strongly that I would have all the abilities I would need. The six months we were given to prepare saw great improvements to both. I slowly increased my abilities to stand, walk and move. My health has been better than it has in years. 

When I was set apart by a member of the MTC Presidency, he likewise promised, in the name of the Lord, that I would have all of the abilities and strength I would need to serve. Those six months before  the MTC were needed and by pushing myself, when we got to the MTC I was up to the work. That place was exhausting. I walked more there than I had in years, and though it was difficult, it was possible. Likewise, here I am continually blessed in the abilities that I need to do this work.  

We have been blessed in our housing. Missionaries don't live in plush apartments. Where we have been assigned, is a nice but old one bedroom apartment. Between us and the mission Housing Coordinator, we have been able to bring this place, especially the bath room into compliance with ADA requirements. We have a small covered patio that I have screened with a tarp. It also has a closet for storage. I have been able to set up a shop of sorts and continue to make canes, and continue to refine the techniques to reduce the amount of equipment needed to make the canes, so I continue to make and donate them. So far I have found homes for 7 or eight here in Eugene. I have a contact with the Lane County Senior and Disabled Services office. I am working to get an appointment to see her and offer canes for those who can't afford them. I have also told the missionaries, in their travels to watch for places they can go. President Russell has even been able in his travels to place one.

This gospel is true, of that I have no doubt. The richest blessings are available to us as we learn to be obedient and exercise our faith in Him. As we read and study the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon, we will be taught from on high, by the Spirit straight into our hearts and minds. We do not have to do it all, just those things he has asked us to do. I can bear this testimony in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ