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!!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

November Happenings

 It's exciting to see how quickly the Christmas lights are appearing on temple grounds.  Sister Jackson (holding the ladder) is the chairman of this huge event.  She works all year to coordinate the hundreds of volunteers who help get the grounds ready.

Many stakes in the area send willing workers to lend a hand.

"Get the lights untangled first, then arrange them among the flowers," says AM Eagle man to his complement of workers.  (They look like YSA's, don't they?)

Meanwhile, a group of young men are attaching ropes to the huge star that will shine above the stable where Joseph, Mary, and the Christ Child will be placed.

This crew chief is insuring that all of the ropes are secure and properly aligned.

Okay, HEAVE!

                                             Keep it coming.....Steady......Steady......Pull!!

Whew!  They did it!  This star contains 10,000 led lights.  When lit, it shines so brightly that it can be seen many blocks away. 

 Fast forwarding a couple of days we noticed that palm fronds had been added to the roof of the       stable. Every step adds beauty and authenticity to the scene.  

I arrived at the VC on Saturday, November 9th to find a fun surprise awaiting me.  Two lovely former VC sisters were here to visit - Sara Cottrell and Holly Larson.  It was soooooo good to see them.

 The VC sisters on shift that morning were equally excited to welcome these good friends.  It seems
perfectly natural to see 'Sister Cottrell and Sister Larson' back in our midst.
Additional preparations for Christmas Lights have been happening inside the Visitors' Center.  Monday morning, Nov. 11th, the humanitarian exhibit that has been in our large theater came down.  Elder Andrus helped Bruce and Sean carry the large pieces outside to be packed for shipment to Salt Lake City.

What a big job it is to repack all of this equipment.  We really appreciate the help from our temple engineers in getting this room cleared out so the Nativity Exhibit can be set up next week.

This is the scene that met our eyes when we looked out of the north doors of the Visitors' Center on Saturday night.  Are the wise men already on their way to find the baby???
As a nice prelude to Veteran's Day we were pleased to have the Air Force Academy LDS Cadet Choir come to our center and present a program on Sunday night, November 10th.  They sang a variety of hymn arrangements and reminded our quests of the great service the men and women in the armed forces provide for the safety and well-being of our country.

Before we are released in January from our calling here at the Visitors' Center in Mesa, we have been trying to see some of the beauties of the state of Arizona.  This is one of the magnificent scenes that greeted us when we took a day trip to Sedona.

This formation is called Bell Rock.  Quite impressive!

Two of our daughters, Traci and Cami, have been visiting from Utah.  I have enjoyed showing them the sights - they especially loved the balmy weather.  80's in November is not what they're used to in Utah.  It is going to be tough to return to Bountiful in January.    Sigh....