Thursday, March 28, 2013

Easter Pageant 2013

On Monday, March 18th, the sisters serving in the Visitors' Center enthusiastically accepted the invitation to participate in a service project to clean the walls (and other surfaces) of the VC in preparation for the Easter Pageant.
Sisters Cottrell and Avila are using the chemical solution provided by our custodian to remove the grimey fingerprint line that has appeared along the walls.

Sisters Gordon and Valladares were assigned window duty.  They attack their task with cheerful smiles and lots of elbow grease.

We used awesome teamwork in making the task proceed as quickly as possible.  Sisters Schwartz, Shurtz, DeMille, and Slater work together well.

Sister West and Sister Hartley, two of our new full-field trainees.

Sisters Aquino and Smith smile as they clean the glass around the diorama of the city of Jerusalem.  I think that is Sister Homer with her back to the camera??  Hard to be sure....

Sister Javed pushes the vacuum while Sister Weber scrubs walls.  Sister Weber can't hold back a grimace at the dirt that keeps appearing on her rag.  These walls were disgusting!

Sister Larson and Sister Weber do fantastic work.
Sisters Longshore and Weedman were assigned the windows at the back of the VC.  They aren't shy about making the most of this photo opportunity.
  Following the completion of the project we took a moment to gather for a final picture.  Everybody tried to look tired, but mostly they had a lot of fun and were pleased to have the Visitors' Center looking it's best for the huge crowds that will be arriving during the next two weeks.

Fast forwarding to Saturday, the 23rd, we had the sisters come to the Easter Pageant stage for our annual Easter pictures.  Sisters Noble, Aquino, Arevalo, Weber, and Valladares are looking especially beautiful this morning.

These young ladies are in high spirits!  Front left are Sisters Longshore, Schwartz, and Smith.  On the second row are Sisters Weedman, Lewis, Dashjav, Brown, and Brownell.

I asked the sisters of South American descent to pose with these baskets of flowers.  Aren't they gorgeous?  (Sisters Aquino, Weber, and Avila have Mexican ancestry.  Sister Valladares is from Honduras and Sister Arevalo from El Salvadore.)

Okay, your guess is as good as mine.  Are these the 10 Virgins holding up their lamps?  If so, they seem to be minus two of the number required in the story.

Sisters Gordon and Miller.

The full-field sisters thought they could hide on the sidelines.  No such luck.  We are enjoying having Sisters Knight, West, Hartley, Homer, and Hubmann in our VC this transfer.

These lovely ladies complement the rocky setting on the north side of the stage.  This is the area that is used for the scenes of the Savior teaching the people of Palestine.

Sisters Smith and DeMille, dancers in their former life, enjoy reinacting the beauty of the dance done by the 10 Virgins in the pageant.

Sisters Dashjav, Brownell, Javed, Weedman, and Shurtz.

Sisters Gordon and Avila try to look ferocious but I can't imagine they'd fool anyone.
The girls relax in the shade while our photographer sets up a group photo.  It is a beautiful, sunny morning and we're so grateful to be here at the Mesa Temple Visitors' Center during pageant week.  The opportunity to teach and testify of the Savior and His resurrection is a wonderful blessing.

Elder Beckstrand and I feel especially privileged to serve with these amazing young sister missionaries. 

Sisters Brown and Weedman are here for their first pageant, having just arrived last week.  They have had to learn quickly in order to be ready for our pageant guests.

On March 25th we were delighted to welcome Sister Vargas-Barrick to Mesa and the Visitors' Center.  Sister Vargas is a Spanish-speaking sister who has lived in many places (California and Mexico to name a couple) whose mother now resides in St. George, Utah.  She was recently a student at Utah State University.  Go, Aggies!

Sister Vargas's trainer and companion is Sister Noble, also an Aggie.  They should do very well together.

Our other new sister is Sister Castillo from Santa Ana, California.  She is also a Spanish-speaking sister, for which we're grateful.  This transfer we've had only 5 Spanish companionships and 10 English companionships.  These new sisters will help even out the imbalance.

Sister Castillo is lucky to have Sister Valladares for her trainer and companion.  What a great duo they'll be!  Sister Valladares is such a positive, cheerful missionary.

One of the side-benefits of pageant week is the arrival of personnel from the Missionary Department in Salt Lake City.  The managing director of the missionary department is Brother Steve Allen (on the right).  He was here on Wednesday with Brother Jason Mitchell to observe the pageant and provide training for our Visitors' Center sisters.  It was an inspiring meeting.  Thank you, thank you.
Brother Allen confided that even the First Presidency didn't forsee the huge flood of new missionaries that the lowering of the age requirement has generated.  The missionary department is overwhelmed but grateful for the response from young men and especially young women who have accepted the opportunity to serve.  We have wonderful youth in the church who are valiant and ready to serve.  SEND THEM TO MESA!!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Prelude to Easter Pageant

It's March, and the Easter Pageant preparations are underway in earnest.  The first Super Saturday on March 2nd brought  the cast out for an all day rehearsal.

The president of the Pageant committee, President West (right) pauses for a photo with his right-hand-man, Sterling Baer.  These two men make sure all of the pageant committees come together for a successful production.  A HUGE job!

Lawn tents and awnings spring up in the bowl prior to the all day rehearsal.  These young men are pageant cast members - the cast consists of members and non-members from many walks of life and many cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

Saturday morning, March 16th, trucks start arriving early from the various stake centers in the region with chairs for the pageant.  It is 6:30 am and already there are over 200 chairs in the bowl.

 By 11:00 am the bowl is almost filled.  This sea of chairs (nearly 10,000) wil make if possible for pageant attendees to enjoy the pageant without having to provide their own seating accommodations.  I reflected on the wonderful organizational skills that our church provides.  A letter or e-mail to the stake leaders and voila!  - the thing is done.  Truly amazing.

Inside the Visitors' Center we have been preparing Theater 1 for an art exhibit centered on the life and resurrection of the Savior.  Susan Fuller (on the ladder) is being assisted by Sister Miller in hanging this beautiful painting. 

I love this rendition of the Last Supper done entirely in wood.  Each piece of wood is presented in its natural color - no staining was used to achieve the individual hues. 

Here we see a beautiful rendition of the Savior with children of all nationalities and physical or mental challenges.  He loves them all equally.

This beautiful display case holds various pieces of smaller artwork depicting events in the Savior's life.  We are waiting for a shipment of sketches by Liz Lemon Swindle which are due to arrive from Palmyra any day.  We're hoping they are available before the pageant opens on Tuesday evening.

Saturday, March 9th we held a farewell Prep. Meeting for Sister Kranendonk.  She will be returning home on Tuesday, March 12th.  The sisters need to be at the Udall Chapel at 8:45 am to train the Easter Pageant cast so we held the breakfast at the Visitors' Center so that we could finish everything for our prep. meeting and still be at the church on time.

Here Sisters Cottrell, DeMille, and Valladares share a hug and big smiles! 

During the meeting Sisters Schwartz, Shurtz, and Avila conducted training for the Easter Pageant.  Sister Schwartz will be the new VC trainer to replace Sister Shurtz who is going full field to train a new 'greenie'.  We'll miss her!

Sister Lewis, who was trained by Sister Kranendonk, gave a beautiful legacy for her 'mom'.

Sister Kranendonk responded with her testimony of the Savior and how her mission has changed and strengthened her.  What a beautiful spirit was felt by everyone in attendance.

 Our traditional picture by the Christus was attended by 28 sister missionaries.  We've had 14 companionships in the VC this transfer, with 7 of the sisters being full field sisters.  The president has a lot of confidence in our VC sisters - they make great trainers! 

Another tradition - the group hug.  Everyone gets into it with enthusiasm.

Sister Kranendonk poses with these sisters who have been among her former companions.

Here we snagged a moment to take one final picture before Sister K. leaves for the mission home.  Please note:  Elder Beckstrand is smiling!  Sister Kranendonk has kept after him about remembering to always look happy.

 It's Tuesday, March 12th, and we have a new record for the mission - fifteen sisters have arrived to serve in the Arizona, Mesa Mission on the same day!  That's the largest number EVER!  How wonderful it is to have these bright, smiling young sisters here in our mission.  The two on the front row, right hand side are assigned to the Visitors' Center - the others are either full field of visa-waiters.  ALL are going to be a wonderful asset to our mission.

Sister Brown is a new VC sister from St. George, Utah.  She is assigned to be English-speaking.  Her musical background and her enthusiasm for missionary work will be invaluable to our center.

Sister Brown's trainer is Sister Dashjav, our Mongolian sister.  They will only get to work together one transfer since Sister Dashjav will return home in April.

Our other new Visitors' Center sister is Sister Weedman from Henderson, Nevada.  She also has a musical background (yeah!) and will bring many additional talents and skills to contribute to the success of the Visitors' Center

Sister Weedman will be trained by Sister Javed.  They make a fabulous team!  They have already had a baptism on Saturday, and sang a duet for the service.  Now that's what I call 'hitting the ground running!"  Again, sadly she will only be with Sister Javed one transfer because Sister Javed is  returning home to Pakistan on April 23rd.  However, looking on the bright side, there is much she can learn from this seasoned, dedicated missionary in six weeks time.  Lucky girl!