Sunday, November 24, 2013

Gratitude for good companions

Transfer week is always interesting and we are kept busy from morning til night as we help missionaries go home and welcome the new missionaries here.  This past week we said goodbye to 7 of our favorites who headed home.  Elder Freitag and Vermeulen have become our friends and we hated to say goodbye.  But life moves on and so do they.  On transfer day, Monday, many of the Elders and Sisters come to the office as they prepare to head back to their new areas with their new companions.  They fill the office asking questions, needing help, having fun and telling stories.  It is crazy and disconcerting as we strive to be patient, cheerful, and helpful.  As old people, we are getting better at multi-tasking amid chaos.  That should be good news for the grandchildren and the children who are worried about their parents getting Alzheimer's.  We are building the synapsis in the brain and serving all at the same time!  

 Elders Tangi, Afu, and Vatuvei are lots of fun.  They were all changing companions.  We are glad we don't have to change companions.  It sure makes our work easier and Elder Feil knows just what to say to keep me calm.  I don't want to train another!
My cubicle gets invaded and I struggle to keep order!  But, having children and grandchildren has been great training for this job and both Elder Feil and I are finally starting to feel comfortable with these busy weeks.

 Elder Simeavao, from Samoa has been learning English.  He can now talk to us on the phone and we can understand him.  He told us of his greatest miracle last week - frozen rain fell from the sky!  Then he also mentioned that while studying the Book of Mormon he learned about the "Iron Man" that we should all hold to.  Of course, we have translated that to be the "iron rod"!  He is really a great missionary. We love him and enjoy watching his growth.
Some missionaries are lucky enough to have family come and get them.  Elder Barnes' family came from Idaho.  His father had also served in Australia.  We enjoyed dinner with the Freitags on Sunday night. They also came to get their son.  It is enjoyable to meet their families and reminds us that we sure miss all of you!! 

And then the new ones all come in.  President and Sister Howes go to the airport to take the leaving missionaries and go back again the next day to get all of the new ones.  They make sure that all feel their love and support. We appreciate their amazing example.

We have shown you in the past, the training that happens with the new missionaries.  What we were able to do this time was get pictures of the process of getting their trainers. The trainers are chosen before transfer Monday and while we are finishing paperwork with the new missionaries, the trainers are preparing to meet their new companions.

 The moment finally arrives when President announces who their companions will be.  He has each trainer stand and tell about his area and then he tells them who they will be training.  It was fun to watch the emotion and excitement as they stood and gave their new companion a hug and then sat together while President announced the next companionship.  It was really fun to watch and I felt the excitement for each companionship.  A new start, a chance to be in a new country, new opportunities to serve all contribute to the moment.

3 of these missionaries had been waiting 6 months for their visas and they were ready to be here and move forward.  I still haven't figured out all of the ins and outs of visas but I am committed to learning as much as possible so that I can help in any way possible.

Sister Sonbudnak is from Thailand and learning English.  She is so kind and humble.  Elders Cecilio and Clemente are from the Philippines.  Elder Clemente's house was destroyed in Tacloban and his father is still there.  My challenge this week is to find a way to get information to him that his son is here and safe.   

Elders Moore and Arona came to dinner on Wednesday and taught us a lesson.  When they taught, it was if they had been teaching together for several months.  

  So after we get the missionaries all off to their new areas, Elder Feil and I work hard to clean up the details.  We love all of the missionaries and have finally achieved the ultimate.  We know all of their names and can even remember most of their areas where they serve!  That has only taken six months to achieve.   While it is Thanksgiving week, we won't be celebrating it here.  But we are grateful that we are healthy enough to serve here and appreciate being together as companions.  We are learning a lot about each other and our duties.  We appreciate each other's strengths.  It helps us be successful in our service.  We love each other and every one of you.  Enjoy your companions, enjoy your children this week, and enjoy eating lots of good food.  Elder Tom Turkey and Sister Molly Pumpkin Pie

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A world wide sisterhood

We have had a good week. We are always  busy and this week, it rained, and rained, and rained, and rained.  Probably the most rain we have seen since June.  Apparently, August, September and October should get rain, but we had none.  Hence the fires were the dominant news story, but the rain has come and the fires have been extinguished, and we have very few pictures to show you but we can tell you all how and what we did this "smokeless" week.  

Sister Thaong is from Cambodia and will be released at the end of December.  She is so gracious and should be and is a global representative of her country.  Everyone in the mission loves her. Sister Feil wants to grow up to be just like her :)

For two days the Sisters gathered for a training conference. All of them will soon be training new missionaries arriving in November and January.  They are a wonderful group of dedicated servants of the Lord. They are age 19-33 and are from many different cultures and represent 9 different countries and  7 languages.

After a little bike accident Sister Alvarado continued using her time to spread the gospel message.  She gave a Book of Mormon to the doctor who stitched her cuts.  

Sister Ariki has used her talents to represent her culture.  She's a professional Polynesian dancer who gave up a very good job opportunity to become a full-time missionary.  A great example of dedication to the Lord and wanting to do his will.

The Sisters love the photo opportunities.  What great smiles! Who's taking the photos? Could it be Elder Feil since Sister Feil is actually in some photos? Another old dog can learn new tricks!

The Chinese speaking sisters are helping Sister Feil learn some words and phrases.  New tricks can be learned by old dogs:)

Sister Leader Trainers are part of the Mission Leadership Council.  Over time there likely will be additions to this group as the mission receives more full-time sister missionaries. These sisters travel in order to visit the other sisters throughout the mission.  Their goal is to assist missionaries to become more effective teachers as they go on exchanges and help them develop their skills.  Sister Raitt and Sister Bambrough are two of our highly skilled Chinese speaking missionaries.  Sister Bambrough's ability to write Chinese very well has resulted in requests to use her skills by native Chinese speakers.  Sister Raitt played softball in college and was thrilled when her mom sent her mitt about a month ago.

Sister Feil had the great opportunity to teach one of the mini-workshops. They did role playing, worked on their missionary skills.  We also had the opportunity to help with serving the meals.  It was a great association.  We missed the second day due to Sister Feil's stay in the hospital (see the previous blog).

The Sisters are always willing to learn new things and here they perform with precision the wonderful song "Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree".

Now you can see the reward for their grand performance-popcorn!!!

Most of our week was spent in the office making preparations for the incoming missionaries and those leaving.
We will be getting 15 missionaries this week.  So we are looking to sign more leases, buy more beds, and activate more phones.  Next weekend we will be on the road again.  Our days and weeks have finally become a well rehearsed pattern.  That helps old dogs to retain the new tricks they have learned.  We are studying the gospel each day, reading the scriptures and memorizing them, learning to talk to strangers about the gospel and getting better at  answering questions by people who stop at the office.  By December 1st we should be prepared to take a turn at the Nativity and Art Show Display that is in front of our offices.  We will be talking to people who come to see the Christmas lights and art displays.  Heavenly Father is using our growth and learning of new skills to benefit not only ourselves but also other missionaries and people we meet, as indicated in Ether 12:27.  These Sisters are an example of that process and we are blessed to be a part of the same great work.  Love to each and everyone of you.  Elder and Sister "Old Dog" Feil