Thursday, June 27, 2013

Historic Event at the VC!

Friday morning, June 14th was an historic day at the Mesa Temple Visitors' Center.  Our sister missionaries were at the center by 8:30 am for a special training session.

The big smiles on our sisters' faces indicate how excited they are to be chosen by the Missionary Department to participate in a test designed to integrate i-pads into their daily missionary work, both at the Visitors' Center and in their areas.

Elder Beckstrand assists Brother Watson in setting up for the training.  Theater 1 has been transformed into a giant media center.  (We even have WiFi!)

Extensive diagrams and instructions help the sisters identify the ways in which they can use the i-pads in their teaching.  The area books from their individual full field areas have been downloaded into their devices and they will also have access to their connect accounts here at the VC.

Okay.  Ready, set, GO!

Brother Watson answers questions and makes suggestions as to how the sisters can implement this technology into their daily missionary activities.

Our sisters listen intently, feeling the importance of this huge shift in direction.

 Following the training the sisters display their new 'teaching tools' (alias i-pad minis) for a photo.  They will be experimenting and reporting back to Salt Lake as they discover any glitches that arise in the technology.  We feel so lucky to be entrusted with this revolutionary change in direction for proselyting around the globe. 

 Using technology isn't new to this generation, thank goodness, and the use of it in appropriate ways will be a great blessing to missionary work!

Once the specialized training was completed and Theater 1 cleared out, our new humanitarian exhibit could be unloaded and set up in that room.

Monday morning, bright and early, the temple engineers arrived en masse to uncrate the boxes.

 It took seven men most of the morning to move the new exhibit into our large theater.

I was in charge of photographing the contents of each box so that it could be repacked correctly when it was time for it to be moved out to make room for the nativities display in November.

Once set up, the beautiful panes showing humanitarian service around the world has been enjoyed by many of our VC guests.

This station allows our VC patrons to suggest additional ways in which they can be of service in their local wards and stakes.

It is humbling to belong to this wonderful church that daily practices the admonitions of the Savior to serve one another and make their burdens lighter.

A large screen TV in the final room summarizes the exhibit and captures the rapt attention of this group of young people.
During the week the exhibit was being set up at the Center, our mission was holding daily temple sessions and farewell tributes for the Ellsworths.

Following the spiritual feast at the temple and the meeting held in the chapel, we enjoyed a feast of a different, but also much enjoyed kind.

The elders very kindly let the sisters go first, which was generous of them.  It looks like there is plenty of food for seconds.

Sister Hansen and I enjoyed working on this wall-hanging quilt as a gift for the Ellsworths.  I would love to have one exactly like it when we finish our assignment here in Mesa.
President and Sister Ellsworth have been such wonderful leaders in our mission.  We will miss their warm smiles, their love and concern, and the friendship they have shown us as we have served at the Visitors' Center.  God bless you both.  We'll certainly miss you!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Onward and Upward

The June 4th transfer brought the largest number of missionaries to the Arizona Mesa Mission in its history.  This is the beautiful sight that greeted us as these missionaries posed for a picture in front of the Visitors' Center.
Of the 33 missionaries who arrived this morning, 17 of them were sisters.  Wow!  They're going to be such an asset to the mission!
We were thrilled to receive 7 new sisters to the Visitors' Center - also a new record for the number to arrive in one transfer.  We are delighted to welcome them to the BEST Visitors' Center in the world.

This is Sister (Hermana) Hourrutiner, who was born in Cuba, raised in Venezuela, and lastly living in Florida.  Sister Hourrutiner is a convert of only 2 years!  She will bring a unique perspective to her missionary work as she teaches new investigators, being so recently one herself.

Sister Avanesjan was born in Armenia and raised in Germany.  After a couple of months serving in Germany while waiting for her visa,  we're excited to have her join us here in Mesa.

This is Sister Luna, who is our new Hermana from Peru.  She is making good progress in English, but wants to learn more so that she is comfortable conversing with people in the Visitors' Center.

Sister Beaudette is our new "English" sister from Massachusetts.  She will find the hot summers here in Arizona a bit of a shock after living in a much cooler climate.

Sister Pickett, also assigned English-speaking, hails from Idaho and has a background much like Elder Beckstrand and I.  Her family owns and operates a ranch which qualifies her for the title 'country' girl.

Sister Jeppson is a new Spanish-speaking sister from Utah who will definitely be a stand out in the Spanish-American community with her blond hair and fair complexion.

Sister Leon is also a Spanish sister who comes to Mesa from Springville, Utah.  She has ties to the Spanish community through her parents, so she speaks Spanish like a native.

Part of the success of any new sister is the wise choice of a trainer.  President Ellsworth puts much thought and prayer into making these decisions.  He felt Sister Brownell would be just right for Sister Avanesjan.

The trainer for Sister Hourrutiner is Sister Longshore, who brightens all of our days with her big smile and cheerful attitude.

Lovely Sister Hamstead from Georgia is Sister Pickett's trainer.  With seven new sisters this transfer, and two being trained from the previous transfer, all but one of our companionships are currently training.  That's a first for us!

Working with Sister Jeppson is Sister Valladares from Honduras.

Sister Leon has been assigned to Sister Weber, from Mexico.
 Sister Luna is lucky to have Sister Slater as her trainer.  Sister Slater is on her very last transfer before returning home to Oklahoma in July.

Sister Beaudette has been assigned to Sister Smith, our 'dancing' sister from St. George, Utah.  They will make a very effective companionship.

We arrived at Elder Beckstrand's office on Sunday, June 16th to find Sisters Pickett and Hamstead putting these cute Father's Day signs up for him.  He definitely loves the position of standing in place of a father to all these delightful young women.
Elder Beckstrand enjoyed a great Father's Day with the warm wishes he received from his new 'daughters' (or I should probably say granddaughters.)

On Monday we enjoyed watching this intrepid young man take on the assignment to trim the palm trees on the temple grounds.  He first climbed up the tree to the top of the ladder.....
Then he continued the climb by pushing shoes imbedded with long nails into the side of the tree.  A chain saw dangled from his belt as he made the climb to the top.

Once in position he started cutting the old growth from the trees with the saw.  You can see the falling branches off to the left of the tree trunk.  It was a fascinating process to watch.

I will never tire of looking at the beautiful scenery on the temple grounds.  The palm trees are breathtakingly beautiful with their flowering branches falling gracefully from the center of the foliage.  I will miss these desert plants when we return to Utah.

P.C.  The next blog will highlight an exciting new direction for the Arizona, Mesa Visitors' Center. You won't want to miss the unveiling story of our new missionary tool!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Miracle May

For our May 17th Prep. Meeting we continued the tradition of having birthday cake for breakfast (I know, moms at home, it's not the most nutritional choice, but it only happens once a month).  Sister Avila and Elder Andrus celebrated their birthdays jointly on May 19th, and Sister Younce on May 21st.  Happy, happy birthday!

The upkeep and maintenance of the Visitors' Center is managed very ably by the temple engineers.  I was VERY impressed at the amount of effort it took to change a light that had gone out in front of God's Plan For His Family.  Yes, he first had to remove a ceiling tile.  Then....

He literally had to crawl up into the ceiling to get to the problem.  How's that for being willing and able to do whatever it takes to keep our center running smoothly?

Unfortunately, not all of our sisters' health runs smoothly.  Sister Vargas-Barrick has had trouble with her stomach for about a month.  Continual pain and inability to eat has kept her at home most days. This sweet sister has stumped the doctors and after a miserable month the President has made the decision that she should return to St. George, Utah and get well at home.  We hope she'll be able to rejoin us very soon.  We love you, Sister Vargas - we're praying for you!

Last week this is the sight that met our eyes when these sisters came on shift.  Did I miss the memo?  I guess we were supposed to choose turquoise or purple with black. 
The very next morning Sister Hamstead and I both wore identical lace shells.  What's with the mental telepathy that is invading our center?

We have loved the art exhibit that has been in Theater 1 since before Easter Pageant, but alas, it had to come down to make way for a new exhibit.  Sister Fuller, pictured taking down the stands, has been our exhibit specialist and does a beautiful job gathering art work from local artists.

Elder Beckstrand and Mr. Fuller disassemble a sculpture of the Savior.

Thank goodness for a dolly to help move it - it's HEAVY!

The main artist for the exhibit was Liz Lemon Swindle whose sketches of 'The Redeemer' were beautiful.  These pictures will go next to the Mormon Battalion Historic Site in California.

Fast forward to Friday, May 31st and you see the three senior sisters, aprons in place, preparing a pancake breakfast for the sisters.  Sister Jenkins (left) is a pancake flipper extraordinaire.  And Sister Andrus (right) is quickly showing her expertise in the kitchen.  These sisters are such a big help.

Come and get it!  Sisters Noble, Slater, and Aquino are first in line.
Everyone seems to be happy to help us get rid of this food.  Pancakes, scrambled eggs, link sausages, and juice round out the menu.  Sister Weber asks:  "Can we have two?"

A room full of sister missionaries is such a beautiful sight! 

Even at 7:00 am they all have big smiles on their faces.  They love being together (and the hot breakfast is a big draw).

The departing sisters each bear their testimonies at this final prep. meeting.  Sister Lewis will be returning to Salt Lake City, Utah.  She is amazingly bold when testifying of the truths of the gospel.

Sister Cottrell will be going back to Layton, Utah.  How will we get along without her?  She has been such a dedicated, hard-working sister.

Sister Larson will be returning briefly to Houston, Texas but plans to join Sister Cottrell in Provo next fall to continue school.  She has learned to really love the Spanish people.
Sister Avila is not exactly sure where she will be going home's kind of a mystery.  It could be Wisconsin, or Texas, or France, or.....  Sister Avila has been a VC Trainer, and Elder Beckstrand and I have really appreciated her hard work.

The sisters congregate at the Christus for a final picture and the traditional "God Be With You".  We're always so sorry to see these beautiful young sisters finish their 18 month assignment and have to leave us to return to the "real" world.

Sisters Cottrell, Avila, Lewis, and Larson -  Goodbye!  WE LOVE YOU!

Neither wind nor rain, nor sleet (nor farewells) prevent our VC choir from completing their weekly rehearsal.  What lovely voices these girls have!  I'm in heaven during the too-brief time we sing together each week.  I think the Lord knows that all Visitors' Center sisters who come to Mesa MUST have beautiful voices so that Sister Beckstrand can get her weekly 'music fix'!  Hearing these young women sing is one of my greatest pleasures!