Tuesday, January 22, 2013


I apologize for such a long space between posts.  There have apparently been some technical difficulties on the blog site recently.  Today was the first time in over a week that I have been able to download pictures.  Happily, it seems to be fixed.  Yeah!  
Elder Beckstrand entered his office a couple of weeks ago and found an unusual sight awaiting him.  Almost every surface was pasted with smiley faces and balloons sporting BIG smiles.  One balloon contained the slogan, "Don't worry - be happy! Sister Kranendonk has been encouraging Elder Beckstrand to smile more often - (he sometimes looks rather stern.)  Since the girls don't want their director to look like 'Grumpy Gus' they decided he needed a motivation to smile!

There was some quality time spent on this activity.  Every balloon had a smiley face that was a virtual work of art!

Pictures of the sisters and couples demonstrating the difference between a cranky, frowney face and a happy, smiley face made us laugh with delight.  Some of these sisters had a very hard time coming up with a convincing frown.

"Am I going to let them get away with this?" ponders Elder Beckstrand.

The balloons didn't answer him.  Their facial expressions said it all!

Sister Avila and Sister Lewis added their 'in person' encouragement to look happy.  Yes, missionary work is a great reason to be happy.  Making it through Christmas Lights is another reason to be happy.  We were able to get a TON of referrals - now that's something to smile about!

Baptisms bring a big smile to our missionaries' faces.  Here Sister Brownell and Sister Javed show their happiness at the baptism of this investigator and his daughter on January 12th.

Sisters Lewis, Shurtz, and Hamstead wear big smiles at this young man's baptism.  He was a golden contact from the beginning.

Getting a new hairstyle makes Sister Mackenzie smile.  She found a woman from Kenya who lives in our mission.  On P-day they came to our house and spent 8 hours weaving a combination of red and black artificial hair into her own hair.  I would never have believed that anyone would be willing to sit that long for a new hairdo!

When I saw what tiny little sections of hair the stylist put into each braid, it was easy to understand why it took so long.  Even with Sister Sordes' help it was a very tedious process.

Woo Hoo!  A NEW Sister Mackenzie!  That's a smile big enough to light up the whole country of Kenya when she returns home next month.

A view from the back.  Quite a big change from how she looked when she came in this morning.
These Sisters (Cottrell, Kranendonk, Smith, and Hollady) received lots of smiles when people at the Visitors' Center saw their look-alike outfits.  The navy polka-dot was planned, the turquoise and black was quirky coincidence.  It certainly seemed like we were seeing double all day.
The recent cold snap, however, did Not make us smile.  Many plants were frozen and will probably have to be pulled out.  These lovely big flowering plants outside our back door were lovely and green just a couple of days ago.  Temperatures in the 20's three nights in a row were too much for these plants to tolerate.

The ferns on the east side of the temple didn't fair any better than our flowers.  Only a tiny bit of green remains.  Thank godness the cold snap lasted less than a week.  Today the temperature reached 80 degrees!  Now THAT makes me smile!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Magic of Christmas Lights

December was a wild, wonderful month at the Mesa Temple Visitors' Center!  I intended to do a blog post two weeks ago, but life just got too hectic.  During the run of Christmas Lights 2012 there have been over 160,000 visitors at the Center.  Yes - you read that right - 162,005 as near as we were able to count.  On the Sunday night before Christmas there were over 8800 visitors in the center just that one night.  Amazing.....

The sister missionaries and the senior couples have worked very hard to be sure that everyone felt welcome and enjoyed the spirit of the season as well as the spirit of the Visitors' Center.

Sister Gordon, wearing her biggest smile, greets people in the south end of the center.

Sister Schwartz visits with a man and his daughter who wish to learn more about the church.

Sister Carlson elected to stay an additional month to help with Christmas Lights.  She has been such a dedicated missionary and invaluable as a trainer in the center.

Sister Shurtz introduces God's Plan for His Family to visitors who have come to see the lights.  She is the new trainer who took over when Sister Carlson returned home on Dec. 18th.

These guests are receiving referral cards from Sister Noble as they enter the theater to view the video based on Luke II - the story of the birth of the Savior.

Sisters Holladay and Mckenzie pause between showings of the movie to smile for the camera.

Sister Noble isn't as generous with her smiles.  "You have to give me a referral before I'll give you a smile," she told me.  The girls set goals every night to help them reach their fullest potential as missionaries.  Sharing the gospel is the reason they're here.

Sister Mendoza enjoys visiting with guests prior to their viewing of God's Plan.

Sister Sordes is always a favorite with the guests - she has so much vitality and enthusiasm!  She is also one of the VC trainers that we rely on tremendously.

Sister Avila talks to people in the Savior of the World exhibit.

It was hard to believe that the time arrived so quickly for two of our seasoned missionaries to return home.  On Dec. 13th a Farewell Prep. Meeting was held at the directors' home to say goodbye to Sisters Carlson and Fors. 

Sister Javed shared some of the wonderful missionary qualities that she admired about Sister Carlson.

Sister Cottrell took a few minutes to share what she had learned from Sister Fors. 

Followin the legacies, Sister Carlson responded with her heartfelt testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel and her profound love of the Savior.

Sister Fors next shared her sincere testimony of the gospel and her love of missionary work.  They will be sorely missed in the coming weeks.

 We adjourned to the Visitors Center for a group picture in front of the Christus statue.  It is a                          tradition that we love and will continue through the coming year.

Another tradition is for everyone to sing "God Be With You 'Til We Meet Again" to our departing sisters.  It is always a teary moment.

Goodbye, sweet sisters!  What an asset you have been to the Visitors' Center and to the Arizona Mesa Mission!  Come back and see us often.

Although transfers happened the week before Christmas, there was certainly no time to regroup - the guests just kept coming in.  This is an example of the lines that formed every night to view the nativity exhibit in Theater 1.  It was a popular enticement to bring people into the Visitors' Center. 
The Andersons from the Bountiful 17th Ward enjoyed having Sister Kranendonk show them the nativity exhibit.  What a surprise to see them here in Mesa!

Another former ward member, Nathan Wainwright, came into the center during the 'lights'.  He is currently serving a mission in Phoenix.  Welcome to Arizona, Elder Wainwright!

As always, when we lose missionaries we always receive delightful new sisters to step into their shoes.  This charming young lady is Sister Weber from Mexico.  She arrived December 18th.

Sister Weber has the huge advantage of already speaking Spanish as her native tongue.  Sister Schwartz will be her trainer, and will have the challenge of bringing Sister Weber up to speed very quickly.  Arriving at the center during Christmas Lights would be quite intimidating for a new sister.

Our new English-speaking sister is Sister Smith from St. George, Utah.  She was a dancer growing up, but now she'll be using some of her other talents in her role as a missionary.

She is lucky to have the very capable Sister Kranendonk as her trainer.

On the morning of New Year's Eve, the sisters came to our home for an 'end-of-the-lights' party.  The goal was for them to relax, kick back, and unwind after 6 weeks of intensive work and stress.

Breakfast was the first order of business, and they take their food seriously!

Next, they knelt around the table and painted their nails, gave their companions manicures, or just visited with each other.

In the kitchen I caught Sister Sordes applying a mask to Sister Mendoza's face.  She and Sister Shurtz made up three recipes: one for dry skin,  a second for normal skin, and a third for oily skin. 

Sister Avila shows great courage in putting herself at the mercy of Sister Sordes.

Everyone is excited to be almost through with Christmas Lights.  It has been an exhausting 6 weeks!

The lovely Sister Noble demonstates the facial mask for dry skin.  Avacados were the main ingredient.  I can't imagine any enticement great enough for me to put that gunk on my face!

Sister Javed adds the final touch - cucumbers over the eyes.  It's so professional looking that you could almost believe you're at an expensive spa.

A "lovely" group picture of the sisters in their facial masks (or is that masques?)  Either way, I'm glad the people who come to the Visitors' Center can't see them right now.  There is no way that anyone seeing them this morning would believe these young women have a serious thought in their heads!

 Obviously the whole idea is for everyone to relax and unwind.  It has been a LONG run, but they have worked very hard and had amazing success.  You girls are WONDERFUL!

One more night and we're back to our normal routine.  Each of the companionships will be grateful for more time in their areas.  Working every night in the Visitors' Center has required that they sacrifice the time they would normally spend with their investigators and the wards they have been assigned.  2012 has been a busy, productive year.  Thank you, thank you for your dedication and hard work.  We love each of you sooooo much!