Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Our Welcome Home!

Our final decent into the Ohio Valley. It was quite different scenery
than we were use to during the past three years.
In fact, it was a real contrast between greens and browns;
and both were beautiful. We had about 3 1/2 hours of
reflecting on what had just occurred that day, and our mission
experience. Emotions were on the surface and it didn't take much
for the tears to start flowing. But, we knew the Lord had
accepted our offering of serving in the Arizona Phoenix Mission
and that our family was awaiting our arrival.

As we came down the long corridor, in anticipation of seeing 23 members
of our family awaiting our arrival, I realized how much we had really given
up over the past three years. Off in the distance, behind glass doors were
13 grandkids jumping up and down. Some were dressed in white shirts and
ties and dresses but all with big smiles on their faces as they ran up to us
to give us big hugs. We were now just "Nana" and "Papa", and we were ready
to begin a new chapter in our lives with our family.

Papa was the Prize!

Lots of helpers to carry our luggage.

Home Sweet Home!

This was the last link of the countdown chain that Izzy & Katelyn used
the last couple of weeks of the mission. We both took it down from the
mantel in celebration of our arrival home!

Our good friend Carl McDonald was awaiting our arrival at home. It was
so good to see him as we arrived. Celeste and Rick (Ryan's parents) served
as surrogate grandparents while we were gone and took good care of
all the grandkids. They had pizza and salad awaiting for all of us when we
got home from the airport and the celebration began.

It is Finished-Bitter Sweet Endings

President & Sister Taylor and their son Braydon arrived as the
New Mission Family on June 29th. As we greeted them,
President Beck & I took off our mission badges and told them
their was only room for one President of the Arizona Phoenix Mission.

We traveled to the mission office to introduce them to the
Office Staff and show them around and we said good-bye to
all our wonderful office couples who had been so instrumental
in helping us during our mission term. Then it was off to the mission
home for a quick lunch and tour of the house as we tried to give them
all the in's and out's in a brief time. Before we knew it, it was time to
depart. Jany Matsen came over with a dinner for them. It was to
give them a burst of quick energy before they began their journey.
As we walked out the door and turned to say good-bye to them one
last time, we saw a look in their eyes of uncertainty and heavy
responsibility upon their shoulders. It was now their mission to lead,
but they would have the Lord by their side to lead them in this
glorious calling.

We said good-bye to our dear friends the Matsen's and
drove to the temple for one last temple session. It was a
way of telling the Lord that we had given our all to the
Arizona Phoenix Mission and to thank him for the countless
blessings we had received. The sacrifice of leaving our home,
family and our friends for three years really wasn't a sacrifice
as the blessings we received were far greater.

Departing Letter of our Service in the Arizona Phoenix Mission

It is hard to summarize the experiences we have had over the past three years in a short letter. I would have liked to share with you play by play the tender mercies of the Lord during this time, but I had to choose from the good, better and best way to spend my time. There is urgency in the work of sharing the restored gospel of Jesus Christ to all of Heavenly Fathers children. Each day is important as we invite others to come unto Christ be baptized as he was, by someone holding that same priesthood authority that was on the earth so many years ago.

We have had only a brief window of time to serve here in the Arizona Phoenix mission, but it has been a life changing experience. Just like the scriptures say, “When ye are in the service of your fellow men, ye are only in the service of your God. “ As we have served, we have felt joy in our hearts as we have seen lives change. We have been very humbled by the overwhelming responsibility of watching over the Lord’s young servants. We have had over 640 missionaries pass through our doors, and it has been our deepest desire to touch each one of them so that when they leave the mission they will have a deeper personal relationship with their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and know of our love for them. It is an amazing experience to see young men, nineteen years old, and young women, twenty one years old, come into the mission as the weak things of the world, and watch them grow into the spiritual giants.

There are stories that have made us laugh, others that have made us cry. Some of our missionaries have lost parents while serving, but have had the faith to endure to the end of their mission. We have seen those whom have entered the waters of baptism and come up with hands over head, saying “I am finally baptized”. We have seen miraculous healing of missionaries, investigators and within our own family. We witnessed those who have only been members for a short time dedicate two years to serving the Lord only to find great blessings come to their families at home. We have seen difficult trials in the lives of our missionaries where they have overcome great adversity only to have their weaknesses turn into strengths.

The number one thing we learned while serving here was that God is in charge of his work and nothing will stop it from progressing. When we are in tune with the spirit, then we know those things we must do to further the work. As our prophet, President Thomas S. Monson said, “We are participating in a great rescue of our brothers and sisters so that they may have the opportunity to return to his presence.” After all, that is why we are here on earth; to receive a body and learn and apply the gospel which will help us return back to Him. We also learned that the success of the mission was because of M&M’s. Not the candy M&M’s, but I’m referring to Members and Missionaries. They cannot be separated and have it mean the same. They go hand in hand. When our members share their friends and family with the missionaries and invite them into their home, the miracle of conversion occurs.

We have grown to love the people in Arizona, this is truly Zion! We have made many friends that have helped us along this journey and we are grateful for each one of them . One of the greatest blessings has been serving side by side with my eternal mate, and my best friend, as we have lifted each other and share sacred experiences together in the Arizona Phoenix Mission. There is nothing better than to feast upon the words of Christ together and strive to apply those principles to our lives.

We knew our mission was going to come to an end sooner or later, but we have been sprinting to the end. It will be hard to leave our 192 mission sons and daughters that we have grown to love as we have served together. Our hearts have been woven in purpose and meaning. I won’t lie, we are tired and have truly worn out our lives these past three years. We have given our all. Now, are days are numbered as we turn the baton to another chosen man and woman of God to build on what we have tried so diligently to do.

As we turn the page to a new chapter in our lives, we are anxious to see our children and almost 14 grandchildren once again. They have been an enormous strength to us and have made us proud as they truly carried on in our absence.

I would like to close with my testimony of this work. I know that we are all spirit children of a Heavenly Father who loves us and that He is anxious to have us return back to his presence. I know Jesus Christ is his Son and he atoned for our sins. I know that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God and he was instrumental in the restoration of the same church that was on the earth at the time of Christ. I have grown to love the sacred records of the ancient people of the Americas that are found in the Book of Mormon. It is another testament of Christ and as we abide by its precepts it will change our lives. I know that God has called a prophet today, President Thomas S. Monson to lead this church, just as he called ancient prophets to lead his people. I am grateful for the experience we have of “sharing the living water to a thirsty land.

So we say good-bye to Arizona for this season of our lives and hello to our family and friends awaiting our return.

More Homecoming Pictures

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Our Final 3 Zone Conferences

Friday was our last gathering of the mission. We had a wonderful day of
learning about inspired questions and how critical they were in knowing
the needs of our investigators. Those questions were ones that
they needed to come from heaven.
To close the meeting we bore testimony and expressed our gratitude for
the many lessons we had learned as we had served in the mission.
President authorized a hug to each one of our missionary sons and daughters.
It was a very emotional week for me.

In President Beck's closing remarks about change and transition he
presented a bowl of ice cream containing one scoop of chocolate and
one scoop of vanilla. He then told our missionaries that working with
President Beck had been like eating plain vanilla and now they were going
to enjoy the deep rich chocolate flavor of President Taylor. For those
missionaries who only experience one mission president, they will
never know the richness and benefit of being led by two chosen leaders.
He then proceeded to say that the had been working with the second
string and that the first string was about ready to join them.

Enjoying both flavors of ice cream.

Whose got the best watch tan?

Elder Peck wrote the last verse of the mission fight song and the assistants
sang it for everyone. I'll post the song later.
Our President is awesome
He owes it to his Wife
They teach us by example
How to navigate through life.
They'll leave the mission stronger
Than they found it when they came,
If we don't succeed.
they're not the ones to blame.
Arizona, thirsty land
We'll serve the Living Water while we can.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Master Gospel Scholar

Many thanks to Jany & Trey Matsen for their continuous service to the
Arizona Phoenix Missionaries. Trey and Jany served in the office for the
first 18 months of our mission and they became dear friends. After, Trey
continued to be a part of the Level Six Study at his house using his library.
He is truly the Master Gospel Scholar. Jany and I would fix the breakfast
before the study. It was a labor of love for both of them. Thanks Matsen's!

Elders Garin, Posado, Sieverts, McBride, & Wren
received their Gospel Scholar Awards

Monday, June 20, 2011

Your'e Fired President!

I guess this means we have to go home. It was one of those events that
made me realize that it was really going to happen.

Moving day was sandwiched in between transfers and Zone Conferences
and not much time to prepare for the separation of where things were
going to go. We had a small load going to Salt Lake, one to Cincinnati.
We also had to leave some things to carry us over for two weeks. There
was one day before the transfer that we had to do the separation. I told
President that he had to reserve that day to help me, but he got lost and
it wasn't until late that afternoon he appeared to help. We scattered to put
things in the right piles and hoped we had remembered all that we would
need, especially given the fact that we had a Zone Conference, ZL Council
and a Stake Conference still to speak at. The next morning came along with
the movers and things moved fast. President was in his office doing his
weekly emails while I directed traffic. Mid afternoon I had to leave for a
doctor appointment and put him in charge. Bad choice!!! When I returned
they had gone, he had signed the papers and I found that not only did they
not finish packing some things, but that they had packed all of the clothes
that were to stay with us for the remainder of the time.

Late that night we had to undo about 11 boxes to find what we needed.
The next morning the movers came and found that the packing
still wasn't complete and they had no boxes in the truck. The
were not very happy campers! Way to go President!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

More Good-byes

The office staff wanted to get everyone together for a good-bye dinner before
we left. One problem....President isn't big on that kind of stuff. So, they
did it anyway. They had all the senior couples we had worked with in the
mission meet at the Olive Garden. It was a tender moment for us as we looked
at each couple and the contribution they made in the Arizona Phoenix Mission.
The Loftgreens, Pecks, Lopez & Matsens were the only ones missing. A lot of
kind words were said and they presented us with an Arizona Mission Logo,
framed with all the signitures of our dear friends. It will be a real treasure.
They also gave us an original print out of the temple ground breaking that
was on the front of the Church News. We will never forget such dear
friends that we served the Lord with.

Millers, Skonnards, Morris, Terry's, Eagers, Zyas, Cherry's,
Lyons, Clarks, Ely's and Williams

Dr. Hawks and his wife Kathy were not only our doctors, but they were our
therapists who gave us comic relief, and also our dear friends.
I found early in the mission that a nursing degree should have been one of the
requirements as a mission mom which I didn't have. I have learned a lot about
medical problems missionaries have since then, but I admit, sometimes, I just had to fake it,
or call our trusty Dr. Hawks. He truly is "The Great One"! We love and appreciate
all he has done for the mission . We will miss you Jack & Kathy!

These are my dear friends from the West Wing Ward. Each of them touched
my heart and kept me connected since I didn't attend a lot of meetings in the
ward with our speaking assignments. Becky & Vicki were my wonderful, loving,
caring, visiting teachers. JoAnn was a FHE friend and shared our last name.
Ellen will be my eternal friend. Our paths have crossed here in Arizona for a
second time. She was my shopping buddy and took good care of me. Thanks
to all these special friends in my life.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Return Missionary Surprise

What a fun surprise for us when we walked into Applebee's. We were expecting
to have lunch with 3 missionaries who were down for a visit, only to find
eleven of our returned missionaries there. It was so fun to have
lunch together and catch up on each of their lives. It was suppose to
be a lunch with E. Grayson, Jenny Matthews, & E.Bullock but Elders
Noyce, Price, Reading, Bratt, Sweeny & his girlfriend, Sisters Corless
and Sepulveda surprised us also. (Sorry, I haven't quite broken away from
the Elder & Sister part yet)

As we departed, Aaron Bratt gave us a
CD with testimonies of many of our missionaries. It was truly a labor
of love for him to do that. As we got into the car and waved good-bye they
all began to sing in spanish, "Hasta Vez" or "God be with your till we meet again".
Once again the tears began to flow with feelings of gratitude for being able to
serve with so many of the Lord's missionaries.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Transfer Day

I love this one! Elder Rivas
(dynamite comes in small packages)
and Elder Condie.

Off to their new areas.

Elder Martin bought a suit at the Goodwill and keeps it
for signing when he is with the missionaries.

Our wonderful assistants Elders Perkins and Brase as they circle the
airport (6 miles worth) waiting for the arrival of our new missionaries.
It is quite the system them have as they drop off each missionary at
their different terminals, gather their expense cards
and then rush in to greet the incoming missionaries.
By the time the transfer is over, they are ready for a long.......nap
which they never get.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Our Last Missionary Group

Welcome Elders!
Elders Hilton, Hall, Jensen, Hastings, Pollmeier, Griffin, Harline

Our newest Elders arrived in Phoenix a half and hour early, but we found
them at the baggage claim excited and ready to start the journey.

A group of happy elders on the way to the mission home for lunch!

President giving his introduction and welcome to the #1 mission in the
world. "The hour of your mission has come" D&C 31:3 & 5. A reminder that
the white handbook are the "rules" of conversion,
Preach My Gospel is the "how" we convert and the Scriptures are
the "what" we convert with. Also a brief reminder that deportment and
demeanor are an important element of being an ambassador of the
Lord Jesus Christ.

A small portion of our office couples that came
for the orientation. They are the best!