Thursday, April 25, 2013

April Transfer

This past week was crazy!  We met on Friday morning to have a farewell breakfast for our sisters who are returning home.  This is always a bittersweet occasion.  Breakfast, of course, starts the morning off on a positive note.

Sisters Noble, Vargas, Andrus, Javed, Weedman, Schwartz, Brownell, and Knight are extra smiley for 7:00 am in the morning.  I'm always buoyed up by their happy spirits!

These sisters enjoy visiting as much as they enjoy eating.  They truly love each other, whether they  are assigned to the Visitors' Center of to serve in the field.

The predominant age around this table is definitely over 60.  Sister Schwartz and Sister Hartley do their best to keep things lively.

I was laughing while I watched Sister Dashjav fill her plate.  How can she see what she's putting on it?

Our lovely Sister Shurtz, who has been such a wonderful asset to our mission and especially the Visitors' Center, will be returning to Clearfield, Utah.  She has been a marvelous trainer and a very loving companion to so many.  What a strong testimony she shared with us.

Sister Javed shows deep emotion as she shares her testimony with us.  She will be returning to Pakistan, but is hopeful that she can return to the states and study at BYU.  We'll keep our fingers crossed....

 Sister Dashjav also shares a fervent testimony - she has been a stellar example of an obedient, dedicated  missionary.  Her home country of Mongolia will be so richly blessed by the things she has learned and the testimony she has gained.

This is Sister Livingston's second time serving in the Arizona,Mesa Mission.  She worked in the mission office during her first 18 months and then she and her husband applied for a second 18 months and were assigned to the Visitors' Center.  Lucky us!

Elder Livingston is such a friendly, personable man.  It has been fun to see him interact with people as they come into the Visitors' Center.  His testimony and love for everyone he meets has been a wonderful asset to our center.  We'll miss the Livingstons!
 We gathered at the Christus for our traditional 'end-of-transfer' photo.  Thus is a lovely group of missionaries.  Their testimonites shine in all they do and say.  We currently have six full field sisters as well as a sister from the Temple Square Visitors' Center in Salt Lake City.

Goodbye, Sisters Shurtz, Dashjav, and Javed.  You are AWESOME!

It's hard to lose 5 outstanding missionaries at one time.  We'll feel a gigantic hole here at the VC for quite a while. 
The same evening as our farewell breakfast, the senior couples in the mission met at the mission home for a get-together.  This is also a wonderful group of missionaries.  So many couples are needed to help keep the mission running smoothly.  We're especially grateful to President and Sister Ellsworth, who keep everyone anxiously engaged in a great cause.
Sister Ellsworth shared a funny experience with my husband as they visited before dinner.
When this many seniors sisters get together there is always a lot of great food.  We enjoyed pulled-pork sandwiches and all the trimmings.  Mmm....Delicious!
It was nice to have President and Sister Castenada at the party.  President Castenada is Second Counselor in the Mission Presidency.

President Porter (right), First Counselor in the Mission Presidency, and his wife visit with Elders Nilsen and Livingston.  The Porters live in Heber and will no longer be in the Mesa Mission after July 1st.  He'll certainly be a blessing to the Scottsdale Mission, however.

Fast-forwarding to Monday morning, the sisters gathered at 7:00 am to do a service project on the temple grounds.  It is time for the spring flowers to be pulled up and the summer flowers planted before it gets too hot for them to get a good start.
Sister Gannon and Miller pull huge bunches of petunias.

These sisters are certainly getting into the swing of things.  It's unusual seeing them in casual clothing.  I know from experience that it feels good to occasionally get to wear something besides a skirt.

Sisters Dashjav and Avila show their muscles as they heft a crate of daffodil bulbs to the truck.

Each of the bulbs have to be carefully dug up so they can be re-planted in the fall.

Sisters Larson, Avila, and Lewis start on the plants around the reflecting pool.
Hey, even Sister Beckstrand put her camera down long enough to help out.  Living on temple grounds, we aren't allowed to do any of the gardening around our house.  This is kind of a nostalgic opportunity for me to get to work in the dirt again. 
Sister Slater has both hands full of daffodil bulbs.  When they were in bloom, they were GLORIOUS!

Many hands make quick work.  It was just a little sad to see these beautiful flowers go into the dumpster.  Sigh....

Sister Gordon has been filling this little truck that was parked here by the gardeners.
Don't get too close to the edge of the pool, Sisters Valladares and Smith.  Even in Arizona that water would probably be cold at 7:00 in the morning.

Sister Longshore is pretty handy with that shovel.  She seems to have had some previous experience.

Sister Weedman carries a big load of flowers to the truck.  There are muscles on that girl!
Don't you just love these happy smiles?  This will be Sister Dashjav's last activity with the mission - she leaves tomorrow to fly home.  Left to right we see Sister Castillo, Sister Dashjav, Sister Valladares, Sister Aquino, and Sister Weedman. 

We couldn't stay long enough to help with the replanting - the young women have a lot to do on their P-day but they've been a big help getting the beds ready for the new flowers.  Thanks, eveyone!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Easter Pageant Wrap-Up

The Easter Pageant was a huge success, attracting 78,672 visitors from all over the country. 
Of that number we counted 25,521 who came into the Visitors' Center.  Yeah!

This handsome fellow posed for a quick photo before the play began.

I was fortunate to snag this picture when the Roman guards were off duty.

This intimidating soldier wanted me to know he wasn't putting up with any monkey business!

Sisters Lewis and Hubmann worked outside in the bowl, talking to as many of the pageant guests as possible.  Their happy smiles were infectious.

Some of the guests waited over 5 hours for the play to begin.  Now that's dedication!

Sisters Noble and Vargas enjoy speaking with the pageant attendees.  Sister Vargas has only been in the mission a few days, but she hasn't let her newness slow her down - already she's a great asset to the Visitors' Center.

Sister Ellsworth was here every night with President Ellsworth.  They didn't just relax and watch the performance - they actively talked with people.  President Ellsworth garnered an on-site referral - now that's what I call setting a good example!

Inside the Visitors' Center Sisters Avila, Hamstead, Larson, and West wait outside the theaters to show the 'Witness of Christ' movie to guests who come into the center.

We had a beautiful art exhibit showing scenes from the life of the Savior.  This was a perfect place for Sisters Schwartz and Hartley to visit with guests and bear testimony of the divinity of Jesus Christ. 

The final scene of the pageant was amazing!  All of the cast came on stage and sang, "I Know He Lives!", repeating it over and over.  The angelic choir overhead repeated the refrain.

It was especially inspiring when the Savior rose through the midst of the angelic choir and stood suspended in the air above the stage.   It was a moment that brought tears to the eyes of most of the pageant observers.  I feel so blessed to have been here for two years to experience this event.

After the pageant many guests came inside the Visitors' Center.  Sisters Cottrell and Schwartz introduced the Christus presentation in Spanish.

We loved the busy, chaotic, wonderful two weeks of the pageant.  Hearts were touched and lives were changed.  Our hard working sisters were able to obtain 430 referrals during the 10 days of the pageant.  What a blessing!

But all good things do come to an end.  Monday morning the trucks were at the temple grounds beginning the dismantling process.

The towers that held the spotlights were lifted off their concrete supports and hauled away.

Down to just the steel skeleton, the work proceeds more quickly.

After the last piece of stage was removed the gardeners quickly moved in and cut out the grass in the sections that were beneath the stage.  By noon they had put down new sod in the first two areas.  Piles of sod at the back of this bare piece show that more work has yet to be done.  The temple grounds are always beautiful, and we're continually impressed at how hard the gardeners work to maintain it.

With the advent of spring I've really enjoyed the beautiful blossoms on these trees.  The bright read 'flower brushes' look so pretty.

There are hundreds of narcissus and petunia plants.

What's more cheerful than the color yellow?

All along the west side of the temple the flowers are glorious.

 We walk in front of the temple every day on our way to the Visitors' Center.  I can't imagine a more beautiful place to live or to work!  We literally live and work in the midst of a heavenly garden on sacred ground.
This sign, made by Sister Larson, welcomes our new senior couple to the Visitors' Center.  The Andruses arrived in the mission on April 11th.  They will be a tremendous asset!  Elder Andrus was a professor at BYU in the School of Business.  Sister Andrus is the mother of 10 children, 9 of whom served missions.  They are truly a missionary couple!

Welcome to the Arizona, Mesa Mission, Elder and Sister Andrus. and especially to the Mesa Temple Visitors' Center. We're so glad you're here! 
You may have heard from the sister missioaries that we're shooting for an "Above Average April".  Our goal at the Visitors' Center is to increase our baptisms from the average 15 per month to a whopping 30 this month!  Wow!  That's an amazing goal!  With the hard working missionaries we have here at the center I am confident that we can achieve this goal.  On April 12th there were 17 names on the left side of the chart.  Only half way through the month we're already over half-way to our goal.  We can do this!  No question!!