Thursday, April 13, 2017

It's All About Love

Our last week in California was busy with a final senior missionary family home evening at the mission home,

comforting a widow and attending the funeral,
zone conference and final goodbyes with members and missionaries alike.

We are going to miss all of you! Thanks for opening your hearts and homes to us!

Then it was time to repack our suitcases and fly home to a warm welcome from Elder’s siblings at the airport.
Probably the hardest part of that day for me was when our Stake President released us as full-time missionaries. Of course I cried as I took off my badge. What an honor and privilege it was to wear that badge every day of our mission!

Two of our daughters (one solo and one with her family) came in town over the next few days, as did a couple of Elder’s cousins from Utah.  You add in my brother and his family
along with Elder’s siblings and their families

plus some friends outside our ward and it was a full house at church on March 26th. The support felt great—thanks for coming!

Since that time, we have been very busy visiting our dear family members and friends.
We’ve been able to spend a couple days with each of Elder’s siblings, my brother and sister, and a full week with my parents, where we got some much needed rest.

Reconnecting with them all in person has been a sweet experience.

Since it is springtime here in Colorado, we even got some snow to play in!

A few people have shared that I seem changed. I certainly hope so! Our mission was a powerful experience in my life. As I reflect back over our mission, I am filled with gratitude, appreciation and love. Yes, it’s all about love.

I think back to our decision 2 years ago now to go on a mission—mainly because we love the Lord and want to share the love we feel from Him with others. Or as John says it:

1 John 4:19:  We love him, because he first loved us.

I didn’t know two years ago how much I would experience and grow in my understanding of the power of love, especially the power of God’s love for each one of us individually—His children here on earth. I believe it is the motivating force behind everything He has done and will yet do for us. The more fully I open my heart and soul to receiving it and sharing it, the more joy I experience in my life—even during the challenging times.  And thankfully we don’t have to be perfect to be lovable—nor do we have to be perfect to be useful to the Spirit in helping to do His work here on earth. And though I loved being a full time missionary, living that simple and focused life, I also know that all of us can receive His love and help do His work wherever we might be.

Thanks for letting us share our missionary journey with you. We have felt your prayers and support. God bless us all, everyone!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Time's Up

Here it is Sunday, March 12. We are speaking in church today and again in two weeks but that one will be post mission. It is hard to believe we are down to our last week. I have loved the simplicity and focus of our mission. I have loved making visits with Elder and getting to know and love so many people and make so many memories. Here is a glimpse of the last two weeks.

We continue to meet with and take pictures of people in our ward.
Our bishop's wife, preparing breakfast the morning of our ward conference
An older sister who is recovering from foot surgery and her beloved grandson
A faithful sister, her son in the back and her inactive but very loving grandson next to her. Our next visit, she was the only one there. Bless the faithful women of the church!
The Young Men's President, wife, 2-year old son, and new baby sister. They say they will start attending church again soon, now that the baby is 3 months old.
This is the previous ward mission leader and his family. They have started attending church again. The 12-year old is now deacons quorum president but the 20-year old recently bought a new car, has a new girlfriend and isn't sure he wants to go on a mission, at least not right now.
A very faithful couple. He was recently put in as Executive Secretary. He had his second kidney transplant in December and is returning to work this next week.
This is the Primary President and her husband, the First Counselor in the Sunday School. He is an excellent teacher.
This is a single mom and very hard working sister. She has three or four jobs: nanny for 2 different families, caterer, and financial planner. It's great to see her at church most weeks now.

Our mission president encourages us to look for and share the miracles in our work. I will share three with you.

One afternoon about a week ago we were out trying to find some of the less actives on the ward list. When we got to this one apartment, the door was open and a man inside—the brother of the member we were looking for. He invited us in and we got to know him. He is also an inactive member and living with his sister following a recent divorce. He had run home from work for just a few minutes to get something. We were able to offer him support (he was nervous about seeing his 3 year old daughter the next day—the first time in ten months), inspiration from the scriptures and an invitation to come to church the next day. He accepted and said he might even bring his sister and mom as well. Now I would love to tell you they all came, but none of them did. We stopped by again the next Saturday and met his sister and she invited us back for an appointment on Tuesday and even made it a dinner appointment. She also shared that his meeting with his daughter went well. Hopefully this story will continue to unfold.

Another miracle from last week happened again when we were out finding and ran across a man out cleaning his truck. When we went over to introduce ourselves, it was the man we were looking for. We ended up visiting for about an hour and it was even the man who made the observation ‘what are the chances of you coming by just at this time?’ We were able to give him support and encouragement and an invitation to church. Even though he said he still believed and wanted to come, he also shared that he would be embarrassed since it had been so long since he had attended. We still encouraged him to come—but he didn’t. It made me wonder how welcoming we are to those who have wandered. It made me wonder how many growth opportunities we miss because of what we think others are thinking (a pocket of pride?). Hopefully with a few more visits from members and missionaries alike and feeling more accepted by them, he will decide to attend once again.

The last miracle I will share has effected the whole stake. Early in the morning of March 1, our stake center caught on fire. This is a huge building with two chapels, two relief society rooms, two primary rooms, one huge gym, one huge kitchen, stake offices, family history center, etc. It is home to four wards. The fire was electrical and started in the wall between the kitchen and one of the classrooms. Some firemen driving down the adjacent freeway about 2 am on the way back from a blaze smelled a structure fire but couldn’t find it. They called for an eye in the sky helicopter from the police department with an infrared sensor and they found our church’s fire. Over 70 fireman had it out in 50-55 minutes. A few rooms were badly burned and there is a lot of smoke damage, but fire doors had closed and sprinklers had turned on so we are lucky. We later learned of a second miracle: there is a 4 inch welded gas line running under the kitchen that was not compromised. If it had gone, the whole building could very well have been a loss. In one interview, according to the mission president, the fire chief said that while he wouldn’t say it was divine intervention, there were some things that happened that they just couldn’t explain. We have had two of the wards meeting with us the last couple of weeks but heard last night that even though it will be 3 months before the whole building is usable, they are hoping to be able to return to at least part of the building even this next week. Pretty amazing!

We have continued our p-day excursions the last two Mondays. Elder chose to visit City Walk at Universal Studio.
It was a cool, windy day so we about had the place to ourselves. Definitely lots of atmosphere. Then we drove to Griffith Park and its public observatory
and view of the downtown,
the valley and the Hollywood sign .
It was crowded, even though the observatory is closed on Mondays.

The next week, I chose one more trip to the coast. We walked the canals
and boardwalk of Venice Beach, just south of Santa Monica. Lots of interesting people and houses on a cool windy day.
We even noticed this vertical garden.
Then we drove along Sunset Boulevard at sunset and on through the mountains home, avoiding the traffic on the freeways.

As we start our final week here, we feel very blessed to have finished our mission here among such welcoming and loving people. It’s hard to believe we’ve only been here 4 months. It’s harder to believe that we will be home next week.

Monday, February 27, 2017

February in Pictures

I know that February is a short month but it has passed especially quickly this year. So much to do and so little time to do it. I did take lots of pictures along the way.

Once a month we have a mission office meeting with the mission president and his wife,

the senior missionaries who work in the mission office,

us senior missionaries who work in the different wards (there are three couples now that the Dowells are here),

the mission nurse who works so hard trying to keep us all healthy,
and a few dedicated church service missionaries who serve as counselors in the mission presidency,
help find, furnish, and maintain apartments for us full-timers to live in,
 and even one sister who cooks or arranges the food at mission events/zone conferences.
We love them all!

We have also started taking photos of some of the families we work with. Here is Elder with the Bishop of our ward.
Here is the High Priest Group Leader and his wife, along with the yummy food we ate.
This brother was just released as a stake high councilor and put in as a counselor in the bishopric.
Here is a former bishop with his wife, currently serving as RS President, son, wife, and much adored daughter.
Here, just like in India, households are often multigenerational. Or brothers/sisters and their families can be sharing a home,
or live next door.
These two sisters recently decided to become roommates.
This sister from Guatemala sells imports from back home to supplement her income.

Our ward had a valentine’s dinner and dance.
Latinos love to dance! People of all ages were having fun moving to the music, partners not required. Toward the end of the evening, we did a line dance and almost everyone there was out on the floor. Even after the tables and chairs were put away and the decorations taken down, the music was still playing and I noticed an older sister out on the dance floor still dancing. It’s like there is music in their souls. I love it!

We had two service projects this month: our zone helped in Burbank to count and box up toys, books and games for next Christmas
and one boxing up 10,000 boxes for active service men/women through Operation Gratitude that us senior missionaries supported before our monthly get-together last Saturday.

Last week we were invited to a FHE hosted by one family in our ward
and attended by some young investigators
as well as another family in the ward. A wonderful lesson by the elders and pizza is always a hit.

Elder and I have started taking turns choosing activities for our weekly p-days. Last week I chose visiting the Nethercutt Museum with its wonderful collection of about 150 restored antique cars,
music boxes (notice the violin inside the box),
a fire truck and even a private train car.
Pretty amazing to see, even if you don’t know much about cars. This family made their fortune from the cosmetic company started by their aunt, Merle Nethercutt Norman. They share it with the public free of charge.

The week before we visited the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library,
complete with the Oval Office
and Airport One.
Again, it was very informative and interesting, even displaying a part of the original Berlin Wall.

A couple of weeks ago, we had our Ecuadorian daughter and her family come for a short stay.
We visited the Getty Center, which was perfect on a rainy Saturday afternoon. We loved that all three grandkids got to spend the night with us.
We showed them our favorite Indian Bollywood movie, complete with popcorn! Thanks for coming!

Tomorrow is tranfers for the junior missionaries with about 10 going home (including 2 from our district so are in mourning) and only 6 coming.

Since we are going home before the next transfer in 6 weeks, we got to go to the temple with them last Friday.

The LA temple is so beautiful! The sun was even shining that day!

Friday evening, one of the families in the ward invited us and one of the sets of elders to their home and it ended up being a going-away party for us and one of the other elders!
Three weeks early for us, but the young elder is leaving this week! Several other families came and after eating and a short program, the tables and chairs were cleared and it was dancing again! I found out at church that they didn't get to bed until 1 am! All of us missionaries left quite a bit earlier than that!
I tell you, they have music and love in their souls and we have loved getting to know them and feel of their spirits. It's been a privilege to serve here and we're not done yet!