Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Lights, 2013

I'll never get tired of the beauty of this view of the temple grounds from the back of the Visitors' Center.  The Temple, flanked by the beautiful lights, is a gorgeous sight.  Over a million people come to see the lights, which are in their 35th year.

We were delighted to be part of a marriage proposal during one of our evening shifts.  Aaron had us hide these signs until his 'intended', ( a young widow) and her daughter came to the temple grounds.  He then 'popped' the question and she said "Yes!"  So FUN!

Outside the north entrance to the center, wonderful Christmas music fills the air.  Many wonderful performing groups from all over the valley come to share their talents and sing about the birth of the Savior.

 This beautiful new sculpture, located in the fountain on the south side of the Visitors' Center, is new this year.  It depicts the Holy Family, flanked by a donkey and some sheep.  Their reflection in the water adds to the beauty of the scene.

Lots of color is used in the lights for the trees and shrubbery.  So pretty!

Inside the Directors' Office there was a fun surprise awaiting me when I arrived last Thursday evening.  Many brightly colored notes were stuck all over my desk and bulletin board from my 'secret sister'.  She wrote a lot of really nice things to me!  How could you not LOVE these girls??
Sisters Longshore, Brown, and Hourrutiner know how to take advantage of the snacks the senior sisters provide to give them the extra boost of energy they need to get through their shifts each night.  They work hard!

These next photos show many of our sister missionaries working with guests in the center.  This is Sister Valladares from Honduras.  Doesn't she have a beautiful smile?

Sister Smith is keeping an eye on things in the nativities exhibit.  This is one of our most popular exhibits at Christmastime.

Sister Rios visits with guests in the back greet.  Her home country is Peru.

Sister Luna is also from Peru, and a wonderful asset to our center.  She's holding up a referral card to hand to the next guest who goes into the theater.  Keep up the great work!

 Sister Taumarawa and Sister Brownell are inviting guests to view the new "Nativity" video that just arrived last week.  It is a beautiful depiction of the events surrounding the Savior's birth.

Sister Weber and Sister Hamstead are working at God's Plan.  Sister Weber takes the Spanish-speaking guests through the six-room exhibit and Sister Hamstead conducts her tour in English.

 It's fun to work in the Visitors' Center during Christmas Lights.  There's never a dull moment!  Elder Beckstrand is smiling because all of the theaters and exhibits are working at the moment. 

Also enjoying their assignment at the Center are the Ballards.  This is their first Christmas Lights, and they've taken to this experience like ducks to water.

Sister Brown was so engrossed in her conversation with this visitor that I don't believe she even saw me take the picture.   She radiates the joy of this beautiful holiday season.
I also got big smiles from these sisters,  Brownell, Finau, and Leon.  They are so much fun!

Sister Andrus is feeling pretty smug about getting the comfortable chairs at the front desk.  Never mind, we'll get even soon enough.

Here we get a glimpse of Sister DeMille in conversation with some non-member guests.

Sister Mayorca is improving her English skills everyday as she works with people during the Lights.  Mesa, Arizona is a long way from Columbia, but she has adjusted beautifully.

Sister Younce had a delightful conversation with this young couple.  They were from out-of-state and were delighted to be in Arizona during the Temple Christmas Lights. 

Our cute Mexican sister, Sister Garcia, is also improving her English skills daily.  These young women have so much faith!   They trust that with the Lord's help, they can accomplish whatever He requires of them.

Sister Jeppson is directing a guest to the nativities exhibit.  With her blonde hair, she really stands out in the Spanish ward where she serves.
All of these beautiful young women are powerful missionaries. They work hard and are having amazing success!  Their ability to show love is boundless. I feel humbled to be in their presence.  I can't believe we've only got a month left in this assignment.   Sigh.....

Friday, December 6, 2013

Happy December, Everyone!

Thanksgiving 2013 was totally delightful because we had so many smiling, charming guests!
The food was spread out on the counter, ready for lots of hearty appetites.

Sister Pickett and Sister Hamstead look like they're ready to feast!

 Speaking of feasting, I think we'll all do okay.  Look at all of the matching blouses - it's going to be a 'peachy' day.
Sister Orr (right) insists my rolls and strawberry jam taste just like her grandmother's.  (Isn't that a sweet compliment?)  Sister Mayorca is brave enough to try pretzel salad, even though she's never heard of it before.  This isn't a salad that is served in Columbia, obviously.
Everyone is cleaning their plates.  It's so fun to have these beautiful young women share our home at this time of year when we are counting our blessings.  Left to right:  Sisters Jeppson, Leon, Rios, Finau, Weedman, and Brownell.
The sisters at the Visitors' Center are definitely at the top of our list of blessings.  They're AMAZING!
   From the left:  Sisters Luna, Mayorca, Taboada, Orr, Miller, Avanesjan, and Longshore.

We only had 20 of the 28 who are serving with us this transfer who were at dinner today, but we're grateful for each and every one.  It has made our last Thanksgiving in Mesa very special.
Surrounding this table are Sisters Carmack, Pickett, DeMille (standing), Hamstead, Taumarawa (standing), Beaudette, and Younce.

We also enjoyed having four of our grandsons (and their parents) here for the holiday weekend.  These boys were pretty impressed with these HUGE lemons that they picked right off the tree.

Jared and Amy felt it was worth the long drive from Layton, Utah to bask in this beautiful 74 degree weather. 

We had fun seeing the dollar bills papering the walls at this restaurant in Tortilla Flat - the last stagecoach stop on the Apache Trail.  We also spent some time at the Goldfield Ghost Town and at the Mesa Swap Meet.  Now that's an experience! 
The Christmas Lights Concerts began on December 1st.  The stage and risers for the choirs have been in place for over a week.

Inside the VC we are proud to share this lovely nativity display with our guests.
Each year Sister Fuller shares over 100 nativity scenes from places all over the world.  She owns enough different sets that she doesn't need to repeat any of them more often than every four years.

These depictions of the Saviors' birth all differ in their cultural adaptation.  I was fascinated to see the variety of styles and materials used.

This picture made out of wood uses over 500 different pieces of wood, all in their natural color.  The artist used no stains to achieve the many different colors in the scene.
The opening night on Friday, November 29th brought the largest number of guests on record.  Sister Finau is inviting some of the guests to view a video of the Savior's birth from Luke II.

Sisters Rios and Avanesjan are 'floating' in the back, with Sister Brown talking to some guests on the right and Sister Clark waiting to start the next showing of God's Plan for His Family. 

We love to share the beauty and spirit of the Christus with guests.  Sisters Garcia and Beaudette are waiting to make the presentation when the room is filled.
 Big smiles by Sister Jeppson and Sister Hamstead encourage our many guests to feel welcome to come into the center and enjoy the spirit and tribute to the Savior that is prevalent here.  It's going to be a great month!  The Mesa Temple's annual 'Christmas Lights'  event is well and truly underway!  Already the sisters have garnered over 400 referrals - Way to Go, young ladies!  You're doing a wonderful job!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

We Lose Two Sisters & Gain One

Friday, November 15th started bright and early at our home where the three VC senior sisters prepared a farewell breakfast for our Visitors' Center missionaries.  Sister Andrus, left, and Sister Ballard, center, are such a huge help when these occasions roll around.

Elder Andrus was also drafted to help out.  He did a masterful job of cracking eggs (one-handed, no less!) to scramble for our meal.

The line forms around the corner as sisters stand in line for French toast, sausage, scrambled eggs, and juice.  The sisters always seem to enjoy these early morning breakfasts.

The y enjoy socializing with each other almost as much as cleaning up their plates.

Big smiles are shared all around.
We have such a great bunch of young women who work with us at the Visitors' Center.  It's always a pleasure to have them gather here for our farewell prep. meetings.
 Sister Gordon has served well and faithfully for the past 18 months.  She shares a big smile as she stands to bear her testimony and share her feelings about serving here in the Arizona Mesa Mission and especially the Visitors' Center.  These will be large shoes for new sisters to try to fill after she leaves.  Sister Gordon will be returning to Orem, Utah on Tuesday.  She has been a Sister Trainer Leader and has kept our center bubbling with laughter and the joy of doing missionary work while she's been here.  We will miss her!

Our other departing sister is Sister Aquino from Mexico City, Mexico.  Like Sister Gordon, this young sister shared a strong testimony of her faith in the Savior and the blessings of being a missionary.  Though not very big, she packs a TON of ability into her small frame.

 We met in the Christus after our meeting for a traditional group picture before saying goodbye to our departing sisters.  They will leave a big hole in our hearts when they go, but they've promised to stay in touch.  They'd better!!

One more shot includes the full-field sisters who are serving with our sisters this transfer.  (It was my turn to be out in front taking the picture.)

Following a verse of "God Be With You 'Til We Meet Again" we launched a spontaneous group hug!

Sister Gordon gives her diminutive departing sister a big hug.  They have been here the full 18 months without serving together because Sister Gordon was English-speaking and Sister Aquino was Spanish-speaking.

These are some of the sisters who served as companions with Sister Gordon.  Of course, others have already gone home and are anxiously awaiting her return to Utah. 

Sister Aquino's companions share a last photo with her.  All of these sisters come from Central and South America.  What a wide cultural diversity we enjoy here.

Back at home I am busily engaged in one of my most consistent activities - mending and altering clothes for the sisters.  Especially during transfer week there are a lots of outfits that need lengthening, shortening, taking in, or letting out.  I enjoy anything to do with sewing, so I'm okay with that.

Out in front of the Visitors' Center (on the north side), a crew has started to prepare the stage for the Christmas Concerts to begin December 1st.

Once the platform was put in place they nailed carpet to the base.  A canopy will soon be erected overhead, but that's a picture for a different day.

Our Visitors' Center Choir is diligently working on four numbers that they will be performing for the outside concert on Christmas Day.  We are working hard to perfect and polish our program.

Helping with that process is our guest conductor, Samantha Allen.  Sister Allen has added energy and enthusiasm to the sisters' efforts, and Sister Andrus ably accompanies them at the piano.

In a different area of the center, (Theater 1 to be exact) an important transformation is taking place.

Many local volunteers have come to help Susan Fuller set up the annual nativity display.

They decorated several Christmas trees which will add beauty to the exhibit.  Each year these wonderful sisters spend many hours setting up over 100 nativity scenes for our guests to enjoy.

Sister Fuller, right, is the chairwoman of this annual event.   She discusses with her helpers how these ceramic figures would be placed most advantageously.

I can hardly wait for the job to be completed so we can open the display to our guests.  Each year this exhibit brings thousands of visitors into the center.  (Watch future blog posts for the beautiful finished product!)

A new exhibit has also appeared outside the Visitors' Center to the south of the reflecting pool.  These beautiful sculpted pieces of the Holy Family, a donkey, and a lamb have been set in the middle of the fountain.  With strategically placed lighting, they will be spectacular!

Sister Weedman is helping Sister Hamstead get ready for Christmas Lights by giving her a hair trim on their P-day.  All of the sisters want to look their best for this upcoming event.  Only 5 more days!!
 Twenty one new missionaries came to the mission on Tuesday, November 18th.  These bright and enthusiastic new elders and sisters will add a fresh element of focus and excitement to the mission.

We were thrilled to welcome a new Visitors' Center Sister from Bolivia - Sister Taboada.  She will be a great asset as a native Spanish-speaking sister.
Sister Taboada's trainer will be Sister Orr, who will not only need to orient her into the daily schedule of a VC missionary, but will also need to bring her up to speed very quickly on the procedure to be followed inside the Center during the "Lights".  Time is running out, but we'll be ready! 
 In the meantime, we are planning to spend an enjoyable day Thursday celebrating Thanksgiving together.  So far about twenty of the sisters are planning to commemorate the holiday with us in our home.  We're feeling very blessed.   Very blessed indeed.  Sooooo much to be thankful for.
                                                             Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!