Sunday, July 27, 2014

Lead Thou Me On

Entering the Missionary Training Center
   MTC: aka Missionary Training Center.  From the rumors I had heard about the training, I wondered if I would be spending a very long week at the "Missionary Torture Chamber" instead.  I was gladly relieved to find our days filled with laughter, useful information, and testimony building activities.
   We arrived at the MTC in Provo, Utah on Monday morning June 30, 2014.  Ninety-seven senior missionaries were assigned to meet at the LDS church building adjacent to the MTC.  We spent each day from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in devotionals, instruction in Preach My Gospel and practice activities.  The first day we were asked to stand and introduce ourselves and report where we would be serving.  Missionaries were leaving for such places as the Congo, Taiwan, London, Honduras, Chicago, Hawaii, and some would be serving in their home stakes in Utah.
Gale, Smith, Packham, Gittins, Bro. Barney
   We were divided up into districts comprised of four senior couples (or single sister missionaries) each.  Our district consisted of missionaries assigned to Fresno (office), Romania (Member, Leader Support), Church Office Building (missionary department) and ourselves.  Our trainers, Bro. Vance and Bro. Barney, were young returned missionaries that really lit us on fire and taught us well.  One thought we heard many times was, "No growth in your comfort zone, and no comfort in your growing zone."  This experience was definitely going to take me out of my comfort zone.
   What I feared most were the role-play situations. Members of the community had volunteered to play the roles of investigators.  Each day we would prepare a lesson to present to a specifically assigned "investigator."  Most memorable was our second day in teaching.  Linda was an artist.  This was to be her second discussion and she was somewhat familiar with the Book of Mormon.  She especially liked the picture in her paperback copy of Moroni burying the records.  As our discussion unfolded, we asked her to read a verse from the scriptures.  She mentioned that she had a difficult time reading,  She then told us that because of an illness, she was losing her sight.  Our hearts went out to her as we talked about Jesus Christ, the love of God in our lives, and how we need faith when we can't see the road ahead of us.  Michael felt impressed to sing Lead, Kindly Light.  Tears started to form in her eyes and we were so touched at how the words applied to her life, ". . . I do not ask to see the distant scene, one step enough for me."  It was a very special moment.
   Michael and I were assigned to compose a theme song for our District.  We brainstormed for lyrics using a tune we were all familiar with, The Golden Plates.
LDS Church building training
  We golden saints are bidden
          Far off to missions wide
          We pray God finds up faithful
          Our daily steps to guide.

          By small and simple ways we'll testify
          Hast'ning the work of God
          We'll share the Book of Mormon
          And hold to the iron rod.

   We joined the younger missionaries during meal time.  The cafeteria offered all you could eat!  It was entertaining to see the young missionaries interact with each other and feel of their enthusiasm.  We were in the MTC on July 4th.  During one of the meals a few missionaries came in the cafeteria carrying a large American flag.  After getting everyone's attention, we sang the National Anthem.  It was powerful to hear so many strong voices singing of gratitude for our country.  Just as impressive was when we sang Called To Serve in the Tuesday night devotional.

Yes, we are both going to Indiana.  I just couldn't reach that high.
   I was apprehensive going to the MTC, but I departed with the hope that God would help me fulfill my responsibility as a missionary.  There were moments that I didn't think I could do what was being asked of me, but each time, the spirit calmed my heart and allowed me to be at peace.  Those were tender mercy moments.  Just as Michael and I shared our testimony of faith in God with our investigator, Linda, I also came to say: "Keep thou my feet...Lead thou me on."

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"I'll Go Where You Want Me To Go, Dear Lord"

Getting the Call
The thought to go on a mission was always in the back my mind, but it wasn't until last November, when Ann started to consider the idea, that we openly discussed it.

The thought of serving in a temple somewhere was what opened the door.  That seemed possible.  We targeted June 1st as an "available" time, and started working toward that.  We had understood, mistakenly, that we would have to wait until Feb. 1st to submit our application.  It turns out that couples can begin the process much earlier than the young elders and sisters.

It was interesting to fill out the online application--it became obvious how different Ann and I are.  We finally opted to make no preference as to where or how we'd like to serve, leaving it entirely up to the Lord and the needs of His Kingdom.

Between getting everything cleared up in my life, and Ann wrapping up her career as an accountant, things were "on again, off again" with the whole process.  Finally we received word that the Missionary Committee had cleared our call, and the "Big White Envelope" came April 24th.

"You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  You are assigned to labor in the Indianapolis Indiana Mission.  Your primary assignment is to labor with North America Northeast Area Family History Records Preservation as a records preservation specialist."

Luckily, Ann's said the same thing.  They really did find something that would match both of us.

That triggered a lot of questions about the nature of our assignment.  Our best answers came from Family Search, our future bosses.  A Records Preservation Mission proved to be a very prophetic video.  It shows folks doing exactly what we've ended up doing.

Our call was to report to the MTC in Provo on June 30 for a week of general missionary preparation using Preach My Gospel, and then continue specific training in Salt Lake City the next week.  With that kind of deadline, life became a whirlwind of decisions--what to do with the house, the cars, packing, business matters, etc.  But it all miraculously came together, as did the call itself.

We can look back and see the hand of the Lord in every step of the way.  He guided our thoughts, He answered our pleas for support, peace, forgiveness, and He prompted others as they supported and guided us.

And the miracles continue, as we'll share with you, our friends and family.