Monday, May 28, 2012

I HATE to Say Goodbye

Summer has come to Mesa, and  the grounds around the temple and visitors' center have taken on a new look.  The petunias and daisies are gone, replaced by more hardy summer flowers.

The grapefruit are growing quickly in the brilliant sunshine.  We still have some yellow, over-ripe fruit on our tree alongside the new green crop.

These pretty marigolds make me feel right at home - I had them in my garden at home in Bountiful.   I love their cheery, vivid color.

Some of these flowers are new to me.  I don't know the name of these pretty fire-engine-red flowers, but they seem to like lots of sunshine.  It has been over 100 degrees here for about three weeks. 

Along the north side of the temple there is a row of pretty purple flowering bushes.  The temple gardeners told us they replace the spring flowers with the hardier, sun-friendly types before the temperatures get too hot for the new flowers to get a good start. 

These bright red flowers remind me of the ones we saw when we were in Hawaii in 2002.  We were surprised but pleased when we learned that the temple gardeners buy all of their plants from a nursery in Beaver, Utah.  That's only about 50 miles from where we grew up.

The 100+ degree temperatures are brutal for the missionaries who are on bikes.  Sisters Shurtz and Lewis came in red-faced and exhausted from biking to the center in 106 degree heat.

One of our sisters' regular assignments is to make phone calls to people who are 'referred' by guests who come into the visitors' center.  Sister Fors and Sister Cottrell are calling their referrals and inviting them to learn more about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

Another proselyting tool that our sisters use is 'chats' through  These young
missionaries talk to people all over the world via the computer, and they are having good success in helping people become more familiar with our church and its teachings.

Sisters Noble (left) and Larson are studying Spanish together by reading aloud from their Spanish Books of Mormon.  They are working hard to become proficient in Espanol.

On Friday, May 26th we had a farewell breakfast for the three sisters who are returning home on Tuesday.  Sister Jenkins (left) and Sister Livingston are masters at flipping pancakes.  Sister Jenkins credits her ability to 55 years of practice while raising her family.

Because of the beautiful weather we were able to set up a serving table outside.  The sisters have to rise early to attend this event - we start serving promptly at 7:00 am.  The menu of pancakes, ham,  scrambled eggs, and juice seemed to be enjoyed by everyone.

 Some of the young women sat along the curb of the sidewalk while they ate. The day is going to be another hot one!  It's already over 80 degrees at 7:15 am.

Sisters Dashjav, Lamb, and Larson pause to smile for the camera.

             I love working with these amazing young women!  They are such dedicated and capable      missionaries - they serve with all of their energy, their love, and their faith.

These girls decided to bring their food into the break room.  It's already getting uncomfortably hot outside.

Eat quickly gals - we need to start our meeting in just a few minutes.

As we gather in the theater for our farewell prep meeting, Sister Burton plays quiet prelude music to set a reverent tone.

Our very capable trainers are ready to conduct the meeting.  Sister Carlson (right) was recently called to fill the position soon to be vacated by Sister McKee (center) who is going home on May 29th.  We're really, really going to miss our lovely Sister McKee.  She has been such a blessing to us and to the other sisters in the Visitors' Center.

 The three departing sisters from the Visitors' Center, and Sister Juarez, who has been full-field, shared their testimonies with us during the prep. meeting.  We also enjoyed hearing tributes from some of their former companions.  Afterwards we adjourned to the Christus for a group photo. 

 Sister Hartvigsen, Sister McKee, Sister Hansen, and Sister Juarez listen to the other sisters (and elders) sing "God Be With You Till We Meet Again." It is always impossible to hold back the tears as we say goodbye.


 Following our prep. meetings we always have choir practice before the sisters leave to resume their regular missionary duties.  I love working with these talented young women.  Their voices blend so beautifully, and they are a joy to work with.  We are preparing "Consider the Lilies" for the Mission President's Fireside on June 3rd.

Goodbye, Sister McKee!  God Bless.

Goodbye, Sister Hartvigsen.  Be Happy!

Goodbye, Sister Hansen.  We Love You. 

There is one more unexpected, departing sister, but we're not saying goodbye to Sister Lamb.  She is returning to Panama while her arm heals, but we'll be counting the days until she returns to us.  She has seven months of her mission remaining and we're hoping to see her back here very soon.  Rest, heal quickly - we'll be praying for your swift recovery!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Weekend Seeing Arizona

Zone Conferences for our mission began on Friday, May 4th.  Elder Beckstrand and I decided we would enjoy attending the conference in Snowflake, in the northern part of our mission.  On the way we enjoyed seeing that the cactus had blossomed and were sporting pretty flowers.  It almost seemed like they were lovely ladies wearing their new spring hats.

This pretty yellow blossom grew on a cactus that was more of a bush.  It only grew about 3 feet high.

 Once in Snowflake we attended the zone conference (which was wonderful), then went to the temple to do a session.  We had never seen this pretty little temple before.  It is the first one we have seen  with two colors of exterior tile.  The layout inside reminded us of the Zoetemeer Temple in the Netherlands, which made us a little homesick.  We thoroughly enjoyed seeing the northern part of Arizona where mountains and lots of pine trees reminded us of Utah.  The temperature was about 20 degrees cooler, too.  I'll bet the missionaries fight to be assigned to Snowflake in the summer months!

 On Saturday we had a huge group of Primary children come to the center for a tour.  Our sisters showed them the Christus Statue then divided them into smaller groups to see God's Plan for His Family, the Armor of God Presentation, and an outside tour around the temple.  We love having ward and stake groups come to the center, and were surprised when the Primary President told us that some of the children had never been to see the temple before.  We felt privileged to be the first ones to introduce them to the beautiful Mesa Temple.

The sisters were pleasantly surprised later in the afternoon when a group of Young Women brought them several boxes of snacks.  Sister Burton is taking advantage of her break to sample the treats.  The YW brought Chex mix, cookies, Capri Sun drinks, and also healthy snacks like apple slices and carrot and celery sticks.  The girls LOVE to be spoiled by the members!

We are a strong believer in the saying, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" so we took Saturday night off and went to the Rockin' R Ranch Dinner Theater for an evening out with the other senior couples who serve in the Visitors' Center.  This crusty old cowgoy met all of the guests with freshly baked dutch-oven biscuits.  Mmmm...

 Elder Beckstrand visits with Elder and Sister Jenkins while we wait for the Livingstons to arrive.

It wouldn't be an authentic western town without a saloon.  Being here was like taking a step back in time about 150 years.

The Apache Indians were a big problem for the original Mormon settlers of Arizona.  Things in the territory got a lot more peaceful when Geronimo was finally captured.

 This was the building that contained the dining hall and stage.  On the right was a Drug Store that sold homemade fudge and other delicious treats.  They also produced some delicious homemade ice cream for the guests' dessert after dinner.

 This young lady provided part of the pre-dinner entertainment.  She was the daughter of the owners and had sung in Nashville prior to her mission in Brazil.  She was really talented, and we enjoyed hearing her yodel like a pro in some of the numbers she performed.

 The Livingstons (on the left) arrived in time for us to get a group photo before we were called into dinner.   It's not often that we take off our missionary attire and relax in casual clothing.  The badges still helped us feel like missionaries, however.

The multi-talented biscuit maker was also delightful as a peddler of Pecos Pat's Cure-all Elixir.  He told stories and assured us that his magic elixir would cure anything from a tummy ache to a broken arm.  Pretty powerful stuff!

Once inside the theatre, Big Jim Robson welcomed the audience and told us about the evening ahead.  We received detailed information (in cowboy speak) about what we would be eating and how it would be served.  He reminded us several times to hold onto our tin plates with two hands.  We could understand why when they just kept heaping it with baked beans, biscuits, applesauce, barbequed beef, barbequed chicken, a baked potato, and raspberry dutch-oven cake.  What a feast!

Doctor Dan on the fiddle, Sweet Mary (Big Jim's Wife) and Big Jim on guitar really made the hall ring with rousing western music.  They were tremendously talented and fun to watch.  We were treated to the "Orange Blossom Express", which Dr. Dan did on his fiddle, and many wonderful cowboy tunes with lots of yodeling and western dialect.  The Robson's great-grandfather was one of the original settlers of Mesa, and was called by Brigham Young to help settle Arizona.

When they saw our missionary name-tags after the show, they proudly announced that their Mexican cook had just been baptized that morning.  It sounds like they aren't too busy with their business to do a little missionary work of their own.   What a fun evening!