Then there was the mail. I totally botched this one. Because it's Christmastime and lots of packages have been coming into the office, we thought it would be a great idea to get as many as we could out to missionaries coming to transfers. I knew it would be pretty chaotic but planned on getting passing it out after the meeting. I'd sorted it into zones and districts and put it on the stage. Simple, right? I'd hand out mail while other worked in the kitchen. They wouldn't miss one body. Wrong! The Bible's didn't come because his mother passed away and they're in AZ for her funeral. Sister Fontenot didn't come because her 99 1/2 year old mother had a stroke and was in the hospital. The Keller's didn't come because they were released last week. So while I was in the kitchen before the meetinghad even started the missionaries were in the cultural hall rummaging through bags of mail and some of them (I hope not too many) even figuring out where they'd be transferred to. That's a huge NO NO! No one is supposed to know that information until the President announces it. Yikes!
Sister Hansen always speaks after the opening hymn and prayer, and she always has something important and memorable to say. Today she quoted Neil A. Maxwell who said that we are to understand that the reality of life is that this is a gospel of growth, and life is a school of experience, God as a loving Father and will stretch our souls at times. The soul is like a violin string; it makes music only when it is stretched. (Eric Hoffer).
Elder Maxwell also cited on of my favorite C.S. Lewis excerpts about the remodeling of the human soul and a living house. "Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on. You knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently, He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of--throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottate, but He is building a palace."
Then Sister Hansen told the missionaries to think about their missions as a huge remodeling.
The meeting closed with the missionaries' "things I've learned."
Sister Allen ~ This is the Lord's work. If we want to be happy we need to do it His way. Be obedient.I was the happiest when working hard.
Elder Burch ~ Working the hardest was when I had the most fun. With the Atonement, everything is possible. The work's hard enough, so avoid drama!
Elder Jones ~ I've loved my mission, all of the experiences, my growth and conversion. This IS a marvelous work. The Lord could do it by Himself, but he gives us the opportunity to help Him.
Elder King ~ Trials stink, but the blessings will follow. I have a testimony of the Atonement.
Elder Soper ~ I'm grateful for this experience. It's changed my life forever. Never pass up an opportunity to make a memory. Use the Book of Mormon every day. Prayer works! Heavenly Father hears you.
Elder Myers ~ Let your mission change you. I didn't understand that until I applied the Atonement in my life. It can help you overcome anything. Heavenly Father knows and cares about you. Each of us has a story to tell. When you're obedient you can help those who need your help.
Sister Wily ~ Lose yourself in your mission. You'll only serve once as a young missionary. Learn who you are. The Lord already knows who you are.
Sister Ogden ~ Briefly told the story of Charles Blondin, who crossed Niagara Falls on a tightrope. After crossing, he asked it the crowds watching believed he could push a person in a wheelbarrow across the Falls. They all shouted "Yes, yes, yes!" Then he asked for a volunteer. No one did. Sometimes we need the faith to "get in the wheelbarrow" and meet our challenges head on.
Sister Thornley ~ Sadly, I was called out to help with the kitchen crises but was told that Sister T's comments focused on patience.
Here's just a few pics of our mighty missionaries.
|Elder Ruesch, Elder Erickson and Elder Benson having a drink of water|
|Elder King, one of our go-homes, flanked by Elder Stewart and Elder Sargeant|
Elder King and Elder Morrell were in Plaquemine when we first started attending there last January. Now he's on his way home and Elder Morrell is an Assistant.
|Elder Jones, another go-home, and Elder Haynie|
We're really sad to see him returning to AZ. It took a bit of time to get to know him, but what a great missionary he's been.
Elder Jones' mom should get an award for the best letter writer of the mission. While Elder Jones served his last several months in Baton Rouge his mail came to the office. (They were having mail delivery problems because the mailman wouldn't deliver due to hornets' nests.) She never missed a week, and usually there were 2 or 3, not just 1. I was even the fortunate recipient of one, and it made my day!
|Adorable and fun--Sister Thornley and Sister Wily--both returning home to Utah tomorrow|
UGH! The tears just keep coming
|Elder Hale, feeling so much better after his shoulder surgery and Elder Andrews|
|A very sad Elder Bracken, who'd just spilled chili on his tie, and Elder Gillen, the football player|
|2 more beauties--Sister Roberts and Sister Allen|
Siter Allen also goes home tomorrow. Her family is picking her up in their motor home.
|Former companions--Elder Navitikula, now in Luling, and Elder Abbott, still in Baton Rouge|
|One of our brand new sisters, Sister McMullin, replacing Sister Ogden in Natchitoches, with her trainer, Sister Arntz|
|After transfers, back at the office|
Elder Elison, Elder Ralph, Elder Whittier and Elder Schaffer