Friday, December 18, 2015

Sweet Homecoming

By Rodger Dean Duncan

Our year-long missionary service in Texas has come to an end.

We met Jeannette Lane during our first week in Waco. She
was completely inactive. She's now stalwart and faithful in
every way. A native of Wales, she is delightfully spunky,
with dazzling intelligence and a quick wit.
We can honestly say that in our 48 years of marriage, 2015 was one of the very best. We labored together in consecrated ministry in a way we'd never experienced before.

We've served in many church callings over the years, and have often been companions in that service. But being full-time missionaries is different. The focus is intense and constant. The sense of unity is magnificent.

Our final 90 days in the mission were a blur. We've never had a year pass so quickly, and the last three months seemed especially fleeting. Obviously the "time flies when you're having fun" cliche is a fact.

Although our missionary service was wonderfully satisfying, that's not to say it was always easy. We are tired. But it's a good kind of tired and we know we will soon be rejuvenated by other opportunities to serve.

A common question about our mission has been "What was the hardest part?" By far, the hardest part was saying goodbye to our new friends in Texas. We loved being in Waco. Except for the Brazos River and the strikingly beautiful Baylor University campus, Waco is not a particularly attractive town. But the people are kind and generous and very easy to love. We treasure our new friendships, and will forever cherish the memories of what we did, what we learned, and what we felt while serving as missionaries.

Over the past year our blog posts have only scratched the surface in reporting our goings-on. Suffice it to say that we're confident we accomplished a lot of good in Waco for a lot of people. Most of all, the experience was a blessing to us.

We will never be the same.

A few days before our mission's end we drove down through the beautiful
Texas Hill Country. We spent a day and a night in the delightful town of
Fredericksburg, famous for his antique shops. It was all decked out for
Christmas. We especially enjoyed the carriage ride through town. Before
heading back to Waco, we drove over to Stonewall, Texas, to see the
Lyndon B. Johnson Ranch. Because we arrived early in the morning, we
enjoyed a private tour of the ranch house. 
You'll recall our sweet friend Amber Cook. She was baptized in March. She's
a Baylor University graduate and a school teacher. Now she's in graduate
school at the University of Texas. She was originally introduced to us by
Ross Cooper in the Waco Young Single Adult Branch. Let's just say that Ross
takes fellowshipping very seriously. They drove all the way up from Austin
to say goodbye to us on the eve of our departure from Waco.
These eight Elders helped us load the trailer for the move back home to
Liberty. A couple of missionary Sisters helped with final cleaning. Also
pitching in were a friend from one of the Waco wards and a member of
the Waco stake presidency.
Our friends Isaac and Wyndi run The Retreat, the terrific apartment complex
where we've lived for the past year. We will always remember their kindness.
We spent the last night of our mission in Southlake, Texas, at the home of
Kevin Kaufman of the mission presidency. We enjoyed a fine dinner and a
memorable evening of singing and devotional with several other missionary
Upon arrival in Liberty, we had our first meeting with Adeline, our new
great granddaughter (daughter of our granddaughter Morgan). When we
drove up to our home we were greeted on the front lawn by about two
dozen members of our ward congregation. Daughter Rachel had
orchestrated the decoration of a ten-foot Christmas tree in our living room.
There was fresh food in the refrigerator, Christmas candles in the windows,
 and the sweet feel of homecoming.
The afternoon after our return, our stake president visited our home and
issued our formal release from missionary service. It was a heart-tugging
moment. We're of course happy to be home, but we sorely miss our
Texas friends and the indescribable blessing of full-time service in the
cause we love.
Back to Reality: For now, my office (above) and Rean's studio (below) resemble a tornado scene. But in a few
days we will sort it all out and begin to ease back into our home routines. For Christmas we will host a
houseful of loved ones. How could life be better?
Thanks for reading our mission blog these past twelve months. We hope you have enjoyed a glimpse of our joyous journey.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

LeaderSHOP for Saints

By Rodger Dean Duncan

The LeaderSHOP for Saints we organized and produced for the Waco Stake was a rousing success. More than 250 ward and branch leaders attended the event on Saturday.

We started with an opening talk by me, then separated into eight break-out groups that focused on performance issues of particular importance to the organization (Young Women, Relief Society, Primary, etc.).

This was my last talk in the Waco Stake where we've gained
many treasured friendships and cherished memories.
My talk emphasized serving by covenant rather than merely by assignment.

Here's one story I told:

In 1979 my friend Ardeth Kapp (who was then the General Young Women President in the Church) attended the cornerstone ceremony at the Jordan River Temple. She arrived a bit late and was unable to take the seat that had been saved for her near the front. So she stood back in the crowd. 

Most of the people around her were taller than she, so she could see little more than backs and elbows. But then she noticed something wonderful. Off to the side she could see some men in dark suits and white shirts and ties

pouring sand and cement and water into a wheelbarrow and mixing up the mortar. Then as the speakers finished their addresses and it was time to lay the cornerstone, the men quietly took the mortar over to the corner and the ceremony began.

Ardeth realized she probably wouldn't remember many of the things that were said that day, but she would always remember that the mortar that those men almost anonymously mixed would serve to hold that cornerstone in place through the eternities.

When we have a choice, how often are we willing to mix the mortar? How often are we willing to serve anonymously to render quiet acts of love and service ... the simple notes of gratitude and appreciation, the phone calls, the visits that are unassigned and very low profile? These quiet acts of loving service are the mortar that can hold lives together. It's often in the supporting roles that we can offer the most magnificent performances.

Do we serve only by assignment, or do we serve by covenant?

Our friend and mission president Rodney Ames taught the break-out
session for bishops, mission leaders and ward missionaries. As always,
his instruction was first rate.
After my talk we formed break-out groups throughout the stake center. These sessions were 90 minutes.

The stake president spoke at the closing session and emphasized the importance of quality teaching.

The entire event was only 2.5 hours in length, beginning at 8:30 AM and adjourning at 11:00 AM. This gave participants plenty of time for the rest of their Saturday.

When we proposed this event to the stake presidency several months ago they immediately put it on the stake calendar to accommodate our release date. This LeaderSHOP replaced another training event that was originally scheduled for the first quarter of 2016.

To prepare for the LeaderSHOP, we coached the stake council on their responsibilities, then delivered a train-the-trainer workshop for those selected to leader the break-out sessions. Most presenters were members of ward councils who are qualified to teach with credibility on best practices. The result was eight truly excellent break-out sessions. All the trainers were exceptionally well-prepared and participation was lively and engaging.

We are grateful to have had the opportunity to produce this event for the Waco Stake. We're confident it will have a positive impact here for a long time to come.

A Savior is Born

The Church has produced another glorious series of Christmas videos. These are already going viral on the Internet. Click here to take a look.