Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Gearing Up for Easter Pageant

The stage for the Easter Pageant 'sprouts' new props almost every day as pageant nears.  The excitement is mounting and the preparations are moving forward quickly.

One morning as I was looking out the Visitors' Center doors I saw the arrival of an actor of a different variety.  This pretty horse came to help with the animal contingency in the production.

A donkey was being coaxed to go up the ramp, but she wasn't the least bit enthusiastic.  In the scene depicting the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem the donkey is supposed to carry the Savior up the ramp midst the excited multitudes waving palm fronds and singing hosannas.  Sorry to say, this actress was being "as stubborn as a mule" and didn't want to cooperate. 

To the east of the Visitors' Center large trailers have been set up for restroom facilities.  Because the Visitors' Center was built lower than the temple so the temple could be seen from the main road, the sewage pumps can't handle the increased volume of 'material' that has to be pumped up to the level of the city's sewer system.  Thus, the Visitors' Center restrooms are closed during the pageant.

When evening rehearsals commenced the technicial people added large spots to the towers so that the stage would be illuminated when darkness fell.  There are three of these huge light stanchions across the front of the stage.

On March 17th there was a meeting for all the cast and full-time missionaries who were involved in the pageant.  The two mission presidents in this area spoke and pageant officials gave instructions to those present.  After the speakers got everyone 'pumped up' about doing missionary work, the attendees were given an opportunity to practice what they had learned with the people sitting next to them.

The pageant director, Jeannie Prince (right)  took a quick minute to pose for the camera before heading to the 'bowl' for an all-day rehearsal with the cast.  Her staff is well trained and very efficient in making sure everything runs smoothly.
Don Evan is the Pageant President.  He is the priesthood leader who brings everyone together and handles the million-and-one details that ensures the pageant's success.  This will be his last year because he has accepted a call to serve as a Mission President in Norway beginning in July.

Inside the Visitors' Center, Theater #1 has been cleared of chairs and is being transformed by Jon and Becki Jackson into a photography studio.  A couple of years ago Brother and Sister Jackson came up with the idea of offering free pictures with the cast for pageant visitors, and it has turned into a wonderful missionary tool.  People willingly give their home address and agree to let missionaries bring the picture to their home 'with a short message' in order to get their free picture.   Once the missionaries have their address and permission to visit the door is open for further teaching.
Lots of props are used to transform the room into a scene from ancient Palestine.

Family members are recruited to help put everything into place.   A local artist donates beautiful pictures of the Savior's life to add a special spirit to the room.
Lots of urns and greenery add beauty to the setting.
These are the three areas where pictures are taken.  The Jackson family match each developed picture with the guest who was in the picture.  It is a laborious task, done with great love and sacrifice, but the resulting referrals are their reward (along with many other blessings.)
On Saturday morning, March 24th, 10,000 chairs magically appeared in the bowl.  It seemed like they just sprang up overnight.  I wish I had been here early enough to see the whole thing unfold. 
Next year I'll remember to get up with the chickens so that I can watch the chairs being set up.  Many, many wards and stakes donated chairs from their buildings to make seating available for the nearly 90,000 people who are expected to attend the pageant.

Part of our assignment as directors is Public Relations.  In keeping with that charge, we spent Monday and Tuesday prior to pageant at Arizona State Univeristy meeting with the faculty and students at the Tempe Institute.  Our goal was to encourage the students to bring their nonmember friends to the pageant and visitors' center.
We were impressed with the lovely institute building available for the students right in the center of campus. 

During the lunch hour we took a short walk through campus to enjoy a program presented by the Institute choir.  We passed the student union as we walked.  Students had just returned from Spring Break, and were hurrying to their next class.
This is "Palm Walk," which extends for several blocks through the center of campus.  We were amazed to learn that ASU has 70,000+ students, which makes it the largest university in the United States. 

The Institute Choir was already singing when we arrived, so we quietly tip-toed inside and enjoyed their beautiful music.  The choir is directed by Brother Hofeling, one of the teachers on the institute staff, who does an excellent job training the singers.
The chapel is a non-denominational building built and funded by the Danforth Foundation.  There is some talk of having it torn down, so campus groups are rallying their forces to debate the issue.

Right beside the chapel were these beautiful trees covered with brilliant fuchia flowers.  The campus library is through the pillars and down some steps into a huge underground facility.  It was a pretty spring day - warm and sunny.  I LOVE Arizona! 
We were delighted to receive a visit from some of our long-time friends from Bountiful.  We enjoyed taking them to the Visitors' Center and sharing some of the exhibits and films that are available there.
As a P-day activity we invited the Bearnsons to join us in a visit to the famous Arizona Swap Meet.  I couldn't resist getting a picture of these 'unique' toilet paper holders!  I haven't ever seen anything like this before.  Never. 

Just pick your favorite animal and they will cheerfully hold your TP in any bathroom in the house.  I don't know how I've managed all these years without one! 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Four New Arrivals!

We received four lovely new missionaries this week to replace the four that went home.  This is Sister Schwartz from Atlanta, Georgia.

Hailing from Kaysville, Utah is Sister Cottrell.  The sister missionaries who have been here a few months knew her cousin who also served here at the Visitors' Center.

Next we have Sister Slater from Tulsa, Oklahoma.  She was a surprise arrival, coming a full six weeks ahead of her scheduled time.  Learning Spanish was a snap for her.

Our fourth arrival is Sister Larson, who calls Houston, Texas home.  She admitted she played tennis non-stop for a full month before she came to get enough to hold her for 18 months.

Sister Schwartz's companion is one of the VC Trainers - Sister Falcon.  She's very lucky to work with such a seasoned, capable sister.

Sister Cottrell is being trained by Sister Fors.  This will be a dynamic duo!  Sister Fors is one of our most enthusiastic missionaries.  She LOVES this work.

Sister Slater is learning the ropes from Sister Hartvigsen, who will just finish the 12 week training course when she is released in May.  She has a lot of experience to share with her new 'greenie'.

Color coordinated and a perfect match, Sister Larson will enjoy having Sister McKee for her trainer.  Sister McKee is one of our VC Trainers and charms everyone she meets with her million-dollar smile!  You can't help but feel happy around Sister McKee. 

And speaking of training - Elder and Sister Beckstrand were grateful to have President and Sister Ellsworth tutor them, along with the mission zone leaders and the VC Trainers, at a special Zone Training Meeting on March 9th.  We learn so much from our Mission President and his wife.  They love missionary service and they love their missionaries!

The sisters come for weekly training each Friday morning at the VC.  After the meeting we enjoy eating breakfast together.  The room comes alive with chatter when the young women get together.

Yesterday the sofa and window was piled 4 feet high with clothing that the sisters didn't want any longer.  The recycled clothing is brought to the break room to be gone-through by the other sisters and is free for the taking.  (It's always a big relief to the tidy senior sisters when it eventually goes on to Deseret Industries for distribution to the needy.)

Sister Hansen models one of her new acquisitions.  Very snazzy!  She'll sleep pretty tonight.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Spring in Mesa

Spring arrived in Mesa back in January.  The temple gardeners planted thousands of flowers the week we arrived.  Now in March they have grown into glorious displays of color.
The stage for the Easter Pageant continues to grow daily.  We're just three weeks from opening night.

As we walk from our home to the Visitors' Center we pass these gorgeous flowers.  They perfume the air with a smell that is indescribable.

The beauty of the different colors and varieties is candy for the eyes.

I would like to know what these beauties are called.  Anyone out there know?

The daisies grow waist high.  If my daisies in Bountiful could see these they would hang their heads in shame.

All sides of the reflecting pools are lined with flowers.

Notice the white flower inside the violet flower.  Soooo pretty.

We took a drive out to Gilbert on Saturday to see the progress on the new temple that is being built there.  The Mesa Temple is very crowded.  This new facility will be a welcome addition to the valley.

The north side has quite a lot of the outside wall in place.  It looks like this will be a good-sized temple.  It will be beautiful when it is all finished!

Natives of the area warn us that summers here are brutally hot.  For now, however, we're lovin' life in Mesa. 

Goodbye to Four Exemplary Missionaries

A farewell breakfast was held at the Director's home on March 2nd for our four sisters who will be released next week.  Sisters Kranendonk and Falcon are enjoying the orange knots.  (Sister McKee said they were the best tasting knots she's ever had in her stomach.) 

These sisters have to rise early to be here for a 7:00 am start time.

Sister Burton looks like she's been up for hours!

Two of our departing sisters - Sister Vause (left) and Sister Arias (right) share a kodak moment with Sister Tejada (center).  She will be returning home in April.

Our senior couples are a wonderful support for these young sisters and the Visitors' Center.  Elder and Sister Livingston do their job cheerfully and well.

Two other hard-working couples are the Jenkins (left) and Pecks.  We'll only have the Pecks one more month - they will be released after the Easter Pageant concludes.

Four smiling faces from Sisters Dashjav, Anderson, Vause, and Fors.

Sister Beu shares a hug with Sister Hartvigsen.

Sister McKee and Sister Solorzano.

Sisters Sordes, Avila, McKenna, and Lamb pause while finishing their breakfast to smile for the camera.

These sisters become very close during their service together.  Sister Parker shows her love for Sister Javed.

Yes, they're happy now, but wait until the companion legacies begin.  Then the tears start to flow.

Our Visitors' Center Choir will be performing at the Mission Fireside on Sunday.  This morning we took advantage of the opportunity to have a 'dress rehearsal'.  This group of young women love to sing and create beautiful harmony together.

These are the four sisters who have completed their service here.  They have become very dear to us in just the two months we have been here.  From the left they are:  Sisters Vause, Arias, Beu, and McKenna.  I'm guessing that their families are going to love seeing them come home to the same degree that we're going to hate seeing them leave. 

Elder Beckstrand and I are going to feel a huge void at the Visitors' Center when these fine missionaries leave us.  They have been a huge help to us and have set an amazing example of hard work and dedication for all of the young missionaries who serve here.

All of the VC sister missionaries (and some of the senior couples) meet at the Christus statue for a picture and the song, "God Be With You 'Til We Meet Again".  Most of us had trouble getting through the song. 

Group Hug!  We'll MISS you!  We LOVE you!