Monday, July 30, 2012

Mesa Mission Senior Couples Activity

Monday, July 23rd - This evening could be called a Family Home Evening
Activity or a 24th of July Party.  Either works for me!  We hadn't met all of the senior couples in the mission after being here 6 months, so I decided we needed to rectify that situation! 

We brought tables from the Visitors' Center and set them up in the living room of our home here on the temple grounds. The pretty yellow cloths and sunflower candle rings look bright and cheerful, don't you think?

For the rest of our group we used the dining table next to the kitchen.  We planned for 24, but the Capaneras (2nd counselor in the mission presidency)  weren't able to make it. 

As soon as she arrived Sister Nilsen went right to work putting ice and water in the glasses. 

To help everyone get acquainted, we played a game where we each had to find someone in the group who shared the same number of children, grandchildren, birthday month, etc.  It allowed us to learn interesting facts about each other as we asked the questions on our papers.

Sister Livingston (left) visits with Sisters Chase and Hansen.

Mmmm.  We have some great cooks in this group!  There were a few at the table who hated to put down their forks long enough for the photo.  Everything was delicious!

President and Sister Ellsworth visit with the Chases and the Phippens over dinner. 
We had a pirate at our table - Sister Pyrah recently had surgery and is required to wear a patch over her left eye.  It makes her look quite mysterious.....

Our fearless leaders - President and Sister Ellsworth, are by far the youngest in the group.  They come from Carey, Idaho, and have just completed their second year as leaders of our mission.

The Pyrahs also come from Carey and were recruited by the Ellsworths to work in the office.  Sister Pyrah is the mission secretary and Elder Pyrah takes care of the missionary housing and finances. 

Also working in the office are the Nilsens, who come from Hailey, Idaho.  Elder Nilsen is in charge of Mission's fleet of cars  and Sister Nilsen is the referral secretary.

These next three couples serve at the Visitors' Center.  First we see Elder and Sister Livingston from Ogden, Utah.

Next are Elder and Sister Jenkins from Vernal, Utah.  They arrived the end of January, just a couple of weeks after us.

Elder Beckstrand is enjoying being the Director at the Visitors' Center and I feel very blessed to be his companion.  We love working with the other couples and the 23 sister missionaries that are serving at the Center.

These next couples serve throughout the mission as member-support couples.  The Phippens are currently assigned to Kay's Creek.

Elder and Sister Camp are here from St. George, Utah and serve in Apache Junction.

The Chases are the newest couple in the mission.  They came from Syracuse, Utah and have only been in the mission about two weeks.

Elder and Sister Hansen are residents of Gilbert, Arizona, and are serving as member-support missionaries for the Robson Ward in Mesa.  Sister Hansen and I share a love for quilting.

Elder and Sister Vorwaller hail from Tooele, Utah, and are serving in the northern part of the mission at Heber, which isn't too far from Snowflake, home of one of Arizona's four temples.  Since the trip down to Mesa takes about three hours, they stayed the night with us before heading back to their assigned area.

We thoroughly loved getting to know these wonderful couples but the Ellsworths stole the show when they related Sister Ellsworths experiences as she tried to learn how to be the wife of an Idaho farmer after being raised a city girl in Seattle, Washington.  We all laughed until we cried! 
What a fun evening!!!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Mesa Visitors' Center - July 2012

Two new sisters arrived at the Visitors' Center on July 11th!  Sister Aquino is a lovely young woman from Mexico City, Mexico.  She has been a member all her life and says she has always wanted to serve a mission.  We're so glad she was called to our Visitors' Center!  She will be a tremendous asset in helping our American sisters learn to speak Spanish better.  She is from a neighboring stake to Sister Falcon, who is also from Mexico City.  Welcome, Sister Aquino!!

Our other new sister is Sister Gordon from Orem, Utah.  She was called to speak English here, but we hope to also use her Spanish-speaking skills at the VC.  Sister Gordon spent some time in Central America and her companion says her Spanish is quite good.  What an asset both of these sisters will be to the Mesa Temple Visitors' Center!

On Friday morning, July 13th, Elder Beckstrand and I traveled to Scottsdale to Zone Leader Council.  President and Sister Ellsworth presided at the meeting, and spoke to us about being obedient to the mission rules.

Our trainers, Sister Falcon and Sister Carlson prepared and presented an overview of all the Visitors' Center exhibits and taught the zone leaders how each exhibit could help them teach gospel principles. They encouraged the elders to come to the center with their investigators.  Our statistics show that over 80% of the investigators who come to the Visitors' Center make the commitment to be baptized!

These handsome young elders are the Zone Leaders in our Mission.  They are enthusiastic, dedicated young missionaries!  We're so lucky to have such exemplary leaders to keep everything running smoothly.  President and Sister Ellsworth rely heavily on each of them.

Following the morning meeting a luncheon was served in the cultural hall.  Here we see Elder Beckstrand and Elder Pyrah setting up tables.  President Ellsworth also lends a hand.

Each of us enjoyed chicken enchiladas and green salad, with watermelon and sherbet floats for dessert.  The elders spent a few minutes visiting with the other zone leaders following their meal.

The Arizona Mesa Mission Office is across the parking lot from the church where we attended the Zone Leader Council.  It is not a large building, but don't let that fool you - a lot of very important
work goes on here to keep the mission running smoothly.

Next to the Mission Office is the Mission Home, where President and Sister Ellsworth and their family reside.  They currently have two daughters and a granddaughter who live with them.

And here we see the church where the ZLC meeting was held.  All of these buildings are on the same property within easy walking distance of each other.  We don't come to Scottsdale that often since our primary responsibility is the Visitors' Center in Mesa, but we enjoy attending these leadership meetings whenever we can arrange our shifts to come. 

Back at the VC I asked Sisters Burton and Lewis to share a conversion story for the blog.  I hope you will enjoy hearing some of the missionary experiences that our sisters are having.

Sister Burton:
I met Brandon in the nativity exhibit during Christmas lights.  He was here with his girlfriend and her family who are members of the church.  He was sort of interested in learning more, but was about to leave to go to Georgia for basic training in the military.  I got his address and told him I would try to see if missionaries could come visit with him at the base, not knowing that missionaries are not allowed there.  I encouraged him to go to church, and he said he would try and check it out there.  A couple of months later I found out through referral manager that Brandon had gotten baptized!  I called his branch president there in Georgia and got the whole story.  The mission couldn't send missionaries, but Brandon decided on his own to attend the branch there on Sunday and ended up loving it.  The branch missionaries taught him all the lessons and he was baptized, confirmed, and received the Priesthood the same day.

I have never actually met Ruthie.  She went to the Family History Center last September and checked the box on the sign-in cards saying she would like to learn more and put her phone number down.  The missionary there brought the card over to the Visitors' Center and I happened to be the missionary at front greet, so I was given the card.  I called Ruthie and testified to her about how the message the missionaries would share with her could bless her life and she gave me her address.  She got baptized in March!

Sister Lewis:
I first met Austin through a call that came to the front desk at the Visitors' Center.  He had questions about the church and I told him we could answer his questions over the phone or he could have missionaries come to his house and teach him.  He said he wasn't ready to receive missionaries in his home, so I offered to teach him.  Over the next several weeks Sister Shurtz and I had several occasions to talk with Austin.  We told him about the purpose of life and that our church contained the fullness of Christ's gospel.  He accepted the challenge to read the Book of Mormon and knew immediately that it was true!  He started attending the ward in his area and soon was sharing what he was learning with his sister.  We told him about the Word of Wisdom and even though he said it would be hard to give up coffee, he knew with God's help he could do it.  On June 29th we received a call from Austin in which he announced that he was going to be baptized on July 21st!  We were so excited!  He has truly been an example of someone who was prepared by God to receive the gospel, and we felt so grateful that we were able to be help him make this life-changing decision.

Sisters Fors and Cottrell spend quality time on phones and chats during each of their shifts at the VC.  These are their stories.

Sister Fors:
I became acquainted with Caitie during an incoming chat.  She was referred to us by her pregnancy coach, who was LDS.  When she told us she was interested in attending our church we looked up the nearest ward building to her - which was 45 minutes away.  She went to that ward the following Sunday but didn't have a particularly wonderful experience.  The following week she attended church with her friend and she thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  When we next talked with her over chat, we challenged her to read the Book of Mormon.  She was THRILLED with it!  She told us she always felt that the Bible had things missing, but that the Book of Mormon seemed complete.  She knew that it was true immediately.  She then started reading the Doctrine and Covenants, and really felt the Spirit as she read.  After several weeks the local missionaries finally showed up at her house and she was so prepared that they gave her four lessons in one sitting!  She had some health issues, along with Word of Wisdom challenges, but after the Elders gave her a blessing she was able to quit smoking and her health made a dramatic turn for the better.  She asked to be baptized right away, and they gave her the baptismal interview and baptized her the next day!

Sister Cottrell:
I met a girl in her 20's at the Visitors' Center during Easter Pageant.  She came up to the desk and asked if we had any movies about families.  I told her yes, and the Spirit prompted me to ask her why she was looking for movies about families.  She told me her dad had passed away recently and things didn't end well between them.  She wanted to know if she would ever see him again so that she could make things right.  All I could say was, "I can help you."  I took her through God's Plan for His Family and testified that we can be with our loved ones again after this life if we accept baptism into Christ's church and live worthy of that blessing.  She told me she had met with pastors and preachers of all kinds and nothing felt right, but she had never in her life felt like this before.  The grandpa who died in the movie looked exactly like her dad, and she said somehow she had a special feeling that what she had seen was true.  I told her I would like to keep in touch and be there for her, but she didn't leave a number or address for me to follow up.
About four months later I was taking a family through God's Plan and the experience with that girl came to my mind.  I thought, "I wonder whatever happened to her. I hope she found her way."  My shift at the back greet ended and I went into the Art Exhibit for my next assignment.  I caught a familiar face as a few people were walking around the room, but it didn't register for a minute that I knew her!  All I could think to say was, "Hey!"  She turned around and when she saw me she came up to me and gave me a great big hug and told me thank you.  She was with some missionaries and her boyfirend, and she said that even though she had a long way to go she was going to church and she was on the right track to become a member.  She told me, "It's true, so it's ok."  I know if the spirit hadn't put her face in my head a few minutes before I saw her, I wouldn't have recognized her because it had been a long time and there had been a lot of people at the Visitors' Center the night I first met her.  How blessed we are to work here and see the tender mercies of the Lord first hand.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Service in the Sunshine

Well, we have good news and bad news.  Sister Taylor's visa has finally come thru after 44 days here in the Arizona, Mesa Mission.  That's the good news.  The bad news - she has to leave us.

We gathered the sisters on shift Monday night to say a final goodbye.  Have fun in Taiwan, Sister Taylor.  Don't forget us!

On Thursday, June 28th, all of the sisters in the mission were invited to the Visitors' Center for Sisters' Training.  Some of the young sisters who arrived early got out their scriptures to study while we waited for the other to arrive.  In all, we have 40 sisters serving in the Arizona, Mesa Mission.

Sister Slater plays some beautiful prelude hymns while we wait for the President to arrive.  It was a wonderful meeting and we enjoyed cinnamon rolls and fresh fruit following the training.  Yum!

Our next activity was a gardening service project on Monday morning, July 2nd.  These early birds got up at 5:30 am to be here by 6:00 to start working.  I'm impressed!

Our assignment was to remove all of the ground cover that had turned yellow from the excessive heat.  Sister Shurtz and Javed go right to work.

Sisters Hollady and Larson are excited to be here - really.....

With this big crew we'll  be done in no time.

I'm sure you're earning lots of blessings in heaven.

Sister MacKenzie - Is that you? 

Elder and Sister Jenkins worked right along with the 'youngsters.'

Sister Dashjav volunteers to distribute shovels and rakes.

Ah, our fearless leader - Christine- from the temple gardening staff. 

"I can't work with this hair falling in my eyes," complains Sister Noble.  Sister Falcon already had hers taken care of.  Good idea.  

 Sister Dashjav - did you really have to bring this cart up the stairs?  Going over on the lawn would be MUCH easier. ( Or did you want to see if Elder Beckstrand and Sister Noble had enough muscle to push it up the steps?)  "Ready?  Push!!" calls Sister Slater.

I had sister Kranendonk take a picture to prove that Sister Beckstrand was also there, but I'm usually behind the camera, not out in front.  Our Sister Avila came looking gorgeous enough to enter a beauty pageant, but it didn't stop her from working just as hard as the others.

You're doing a great job, girls!

Sister Pen from the Temple Square Mission shows us she knows how to handle a shovel.

Sister Fors and Sister Schwartz do their best work sitting down.

Keep up the pace - we've only got an hour to get the job done.

Sister Anderson works steadily on the back half.

Sisters Solorzano and Lewis have to dig out the roots of some of the bigger plants.

Introducing Hercules Noble! (Just how well do you think she could heft those garbage cans if they were full?)  Fill 'em up, Sister Sordes.

Sisters Avila and Cottrell ride with Christine to empty the cans. 

"Bye",  waves Sister Larson.

"We shall return,"  they cheerfully call back.

Elder Beckstrand looks a little different today in his jeans and cowboy shirt.  The young sisters don't usually see him without a white shirt and tie.  As a matter of fact, neither do I!

Oh, Oh.  Our first casualty.  Sister Burton has given her life's blood for this project.

"It's okay - no sacrifice is too great,"  she says.

We're about through, girls.  All that remains to be done is to sweep the cement and clean up the dirt.  Wow, you've worked fast and accomplished a lot.

We called everyone together for one last 'group' shot, but a few of our young women had already escaped.  It has been such fun to start our week doing service for the temple gardeners.   We also appreciated the overcast skies which kept the temperatures cooler than usual.

                               All in all - a great beginning for this new week and new month.   To all you Americans out there -  Happy Independence Day on Wednesday!