Sunday, December 28, 2014

Settling In

We are beginning to get settled into our apartment in Waco. Although we weren't scheduled to report to the Provo Missionary Training Center until December 15, we moved into our Waco apartment right after Thanksgiving.
Our "welcoming committee" in Waco. The world would be
a much better place if there were more young people like this.

We're the first senior couple ever to serve here, so we started "from scratch" in establishing a place to live. We found a nice apartment, purchased furniture and household items (kitchen, bath, etc.) and "set up shop" in Waco.

On November 23 we spoke in sacrament meeting in our home ward in Liberty, Missouri. Although the Church does not have official "missionary farewells" anymore, this was indeed a farewell of sorts. In addition to members or our own congregation, the meeting was attended by more than 60 of our friends from other LDS congregations as well as other faith communities. The entire Independence Stake presidency also attended, as did the entire mission presidency. We were touched by the show of support.

A number of people who attended, as well as several who did not, have requested copies of our talks. They were recorded for family history purposes. If you're interested, click here to read the transcripts of the talks.

The weekend prior to reporting to the MTC, we hosted four friends (two from Liberty, two from Colorado) at the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's Christmas Concert.

We always love seeing live performances by the MoTab and the Orchestra at Temple Square. This year's concert included Santino Fontana and the Sesame Street Muppets. A real treat. We also took our friends to the Sunday morning broadcast, which included an abbreviated version of the previous night's concert.

As scheduled, we arrived at the MTC about 10:00 am on Monday, December 15. Our daughter Rachel and grandchildren Duncan and Hannah provided transportation. We were warmly greeted by a couple of senior missionaries. Our first stop was in the main foyer where we received our missionary name tags and other information. We then were greeted by four young elders. They served as porters and took our luggage up to room 313 where we would be quartered for the week.

After lunch we joined 28 other senior missionaries (including four single sisters) for a welcome session with the MTC presidency. The presidency included our good friend Jim Hacking who previously served as president of the Independence Missouri Mission. We were introduced to our trainers for the week. Three or four of them were roughly our age, but about twenty others were young returned missionaries (both elders and sisters) who had served in areas of the world ranging from Hawaii, Illinois, and California, to Sweden, England, Cambodia, Central America, and Ukraine.

Our group of senior missionaries at the Provo MTC
Our week at the MTC was a wonderful, spirit-filled time of instruction, learning, and fellowship. The trainers were very well prepared, kind, and helpful. We are pleased and honored to join the ranks of our church's other 88,000 (yes, 88 thousand) full-time, volunteer missionaries serving around the globe.

Two key learnings from the first day at the MTC remain in my mind:

“And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.” Matthew 19:29

“I don’t want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed, and with long, perfectly manicured fingernails. I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels from taking kids to scout camp. I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbor’s children. I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed someone’s garden. I want to be there with children’s sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of a friend on my shoulder. I want the Lord to know I was really here and that I really lived.” Marjorie Pay Hinckley

Traveling missionaries with Tom and Becky Gray
After an exhilarating though tiring week at the MTC, we flew back to Kansas City, got in our SUV, and immediately headed south for the mission in Texas. We spent Saturday night in Oklahoma City with our dear friends Tom and Becky Gray. Tom was one of my counselors the first time I served as bishop, and he served faithfully in other callings when I was stake president nearly 30 years ago. He is now stake president. The Church has grown a lot in Oklahoma over the past three decades (as it has worldwide), and it's good to see that many of the people we knew and loved in the 1980s are still in the saddle of stalwart service.

On Sunday we spent the night in Colleyville, Texas, with our friends Rodney and Kimberlee Ames. Rodney presides over the Texas Fort Worth Mission where we will serve. By every evidence I can observe (though both my professional consultant eyes and my priesthood eyes), Rodney is an absolutely marvelous mission president. It will be a pleasure serving with him.

A modest Christmas in our
apartment. It was great.
On December 23 we had a Christmas Devotional with all the missionaries in our area. (The mission has a total of about 285 missionaries.) In addition to enjoying some Texas barbecue (what else?) and watching the George C. Scott version of "The Christmas Carol," we had wonderful Christmas music and some excellent talks by President and Sister Ames. It was a good opportunity for us to get acquainted with some of the missionaries with whom we will serve.

On Christmas Day we attended a District Meeting in the city of Temple, about 35 miles south of Waco. We took four of the young missionaries with us. That evening, we invited a couple of the missionaries to our apartment to watch a DVD of the Tabernacle Choir's 2013 Christmas concert. Then on Saturday we hosted the mission zone leaders for a brunch at our apartment.
When you attend meetings in three
congregations in the same day, you
need to take time for a snack in the
meetinghouse kitchen.
It provided a good chance to get a good briefing on activity and progress in the mission. These young missionaries are really, really impressive in their devotion, maturity, and absolute focus.

Today we attended meetings in the Waco 2nd Ward, the Hewitt Ward, and the Young Single Adult Branch. Because we're assigned to work with all three units, we thought it would be a good idea to meet as many people as we can as soon as possible. 

We were positively impressed with all the meetings we attended. And we certainly do feel welcome here. We were greeted (literally) with open arms, lots of huge smiles, and even some hugs. We received multiple invitations for dinner and other activities. This will be very hard work, but it will definitely be among friends!