Sunday, July 26, 2015

More Than One Road to Walmart

One of the perks of being a Senior Missionary is that we are allowed visitors.  Two of my sisters flew to Terre Haute for a few days to see what their little sister was up to.  One afternoon, I was feeling proud of the fact that I knew my way around town as I showed them the sites.  I was maneuvering out of the Vigo County Courthouse on the way to Fairbanks Park and made a right hand turn onto Cherry Street.  I saw two cars heading my direction and immediately I knew.  I had turned wrong onto a one-way street.  I jerked the steering wheel to the right and got back into a parking lot before any damage was done (except heart failure for my sisters).

Which way am I supposed to go?

Several thoughts emerged from this experience.  The first is that I can testify of the influence of the Holy Ghost in our everyday lives.  I truly believe it was the Spirit that instantaneously alerted me to the danger and the error I had made.  I was able to "repent" and navigate to safety.

Secondly, there are some roads in life that need to be traveled in the right direction, at the right time, and in the right vehicle.  Jesus taught, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."  (John 14:6)  The gospel of Jesus Christ is the right way to happiness now and eternally.  We put ourselves in danger if we venture in the opposite direction.

At the open house for the Indianapolis Temple

A third thought, there are times in our lives when we encounter multiple, acceptable routes to a destination.  I could have chosen from several different options to get to Fairbanks Park: over to Ohio and south on 3rd Street; down to 1st Street and straight on; meander through several parking lots and there I am.  We could have even walked to the park.  Agency includes learning to choose between many good things as well as between right and wrong.

A few weeks into our mission, our field supervisor, Chuck Titus, reminded us that there is "more than one road to Walmart," implying that we have the freedom to choose whether we use a tight crop on our probate image or a large crop.  We can use a pointer or a weight to hold down curled paper edges.  We can limit our folder size to 103 images or expand to 947.  He didn't really care.  As long as we achieved the desired results, we could choose our "road to Walmart."

Mortality, with very few exceptions, is a one-way street.  Everyone is required to eventually leave this earth, yet, no one's journey through life is quite like another's.

One man's documents...whew, what a task.

Several weeks ago we found records...and more records...and even more records for a man named Levi G. Warren. In total we captured approximately 3,000 documents related to the guardianship of his children. We were able to learn a little about the Warren family and their personal road to Walmart.

The L. G. Warren Mausoleum in the Woodlawn Cemetery
Terre Haute, Indiana

Levi was born in New York in 1816. When he was just four years old, he and his family moved to Vigo County, Indiana. He was a bachelor until the age of 38 when he married Martha Ellen Clark in 1854. Levi had his hands in several ventures. He owned a dry goods business and engaged in pork packing. He was active in community affairs and was among the organizers of the City's first Hook and Ladder Company. He and Martha bought a large farm south of town which was called Warren Park and is now the site of the Honey Creek Mall. A director of the State Bank of Indiana, Warren was elected president of the Terre Haute branch and also the president of the First National Bank of Terre Haute.  In the 1860 United States Census, Mr. Warren's real estate holdings were valued at $58,000, with personal property valued at $79,000.  In today's dollars, he was a millionaire. Three daughters — Sallie, Jessie and Mary Alice — were born to the couple, but Martha died in 1863 at age 35, when the youngest daughter was a little over a year old. In 1865, Levi became suddenly ill and died at age 49. The children were all under 10 years old and were raised by an aunt and uncle. The oldest daughter, Sallie, married and prospered in the community. Jessie passed away in 1882 at the age of 22. Mary Alice lived 75 years but never married.

Final resting place for Levi, Martha,
Jessie and Mary Alice

Compare the road the Warrens traveled to that of Florence M. Doll, daughter of J. & V. Doll, who was 3 years old in 1866 when she died.  She is buried in the Woodlawn Cemetery just a few feet away from the resting place of the Warren family.

"Though hard to you, this journey may appear..."

Our journey through life is unique to each of us.  Sometimes we get detoured, take a wrong turn, or get stalled.  We may reach that eternal destination quickly, or it may take us many decades to arrive.  We do not judge another's road, but teach, encourage, serve and love each other along our way.

The temple has given us a clearer vision of our ultimate destination.

"...You have a responsibility to remain firmly focused on your eternal destination. Yes, life's journey can have many ups and downs. Yes, there will be days when you will feel the going is tough. But as you stay on the right path, the reward at the end of life's journey is well worth the moments of adversity you experience along the way."
                                                                      Elder Ben Banks 
                                                                      General Conference April 2002

Sunday, July 5, 2015

To This End Was I Called

Many of us pause on New Years Day to make an assessment of the old year and to set resolutions for the next.  Birthdays and anniversaries of any kind prompt the same reflection for me.  Ann and I have now been on our mission for a full year, and I'm doing an internal audit.  What have been the results of that year of service?  Am I "filling the measure of [my] creation"?  Am I magnifying my calling?
A week's worth of work ready to go back to the stacks

First I looked at the hard data regarding our "primary assignment" as "records preservation specialists":
  • Work Ethic--We've been at our post to the extent that the counties' hours allowed us, taking minimal breaks for lunch or rest, and only a handful of days off for mission conferences or gatherings.
  • Productivity--We have sent 447,529 images to FamilySearch to be added to its online resources
  • Quality Management--Just one of those images has been sent back to us for "rework," and that was because we failed to rotate it 90 degrees to make it "right reading."
  • Team Involvement--Volunteers have supported the projects.  In Crawfordsville, the documents were all prepared for us to image before we ever arrived--3 weeks of 8-hour days by dozens of church and community members.  Here in Terre Haute, Ann has organized a pool of fifty-eight individuals to come a few at a time to help at the warehouse.  These fine folks have clocked 442 hours of service, with a few of them coming regularly each week to do a shift.
  • Developing New Procedures--Volunteers across the globe, friends and family members, have been extracting the data from the large index book of the probate records to make our work of identifying the images easier.  That project is 70% complete, with 10,881 names so far in the database.
The missionaries always bring the Spirit to the warehouse when they drop in for a minute.

Hard data, though, is not a totally accurate measure of success.  We pray each day that the Spirit of the Lord will be there to guide us and to touch the hearts of those coming to help us.  How can that spiritual influence be quantified, other than to say that it is real.  There is a peace there, a reassurance that the work is meaningful and needful to building up the Kingdom of God.
I learned to love this book a few years ago.  Now I can share it with others.

Our call included an additional open-ended phrase, "Your assignment may be modified according to the needs of the mission president."  He as approved our being "group leaders" in the Addiction Recovery Program sponsored by LDS Family Services.  Since April we have met every Thursday night with folks seeking that support here in Terre Haute.  Attendance has ranged from 4 to 10, with 8 being pretty regular.  There again, numbers may not reflect the value of that program, for if just one soul is aided in his or her recovery from addiction, then it is a success.
We've learned to Pull Together with the members of our Indiana wards
We've enjoyed being members of three different wards during the past year.  "We'd be glad to serve in any way you would need us, Bishop," and they put us to work.  How our lives have been enriched by the good saints with whom we've labored.  We are grateful that they've given us opportunities to share our love of music, to teach, and to fellowship.

There is a paragraph in our call that puzzled me at the time, and causes me now to ponder on its meaning and if I am measuring up:  "Your purpose will be to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end."  That's straight from Preach My Gospel's introduction.  Ann sees our imaging as making that conversion and ordinance work possible for those in the Spirit World, and I agree.  But we have also been blessed to help in the teaching and fellowshipping of wonderful folks here in Indiana.  I'm sure that there is MUCH more I could do to magnify this part of our calling.
Salvador Ponce, our newest brother in the Family of Christ
Looking at the past year in a broader sense, I see that there have been some outcomes promised by the closing paragraph of our call:  "Greater blessings and more happiness than you have yet experienced await you as you humbly and prayerfully serve the Lord."  Being here has been a growth experience for me.  I've learned humility doing the imaging because it is often so routine and repetitive.  My faith in the Lord has been reaffirmed.  My testimony of the divinity of this work and of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been strengthened.  All of this has brought the blessings and happiness that were promised.
Four years and holding
Ann and I are still married!  We actually celebrated our 4th anniversary just a couple of days ago.  She had serious concerns about the prospects of being together 24/7.  Despite the curves I continually pitch her, she chooses to stay in the game.  I'm so blessed for that faith she has in our marriage and in the inspiration we received to make such serious and eternal covenants with each other and before the Lord.  This mission experience is proving to be the refining fire to weld us together.  I love her more each day.
Celebrating a year of blessings
I have six months left to accomplish the purposes of my call.  The imaging will go on--that much I can do.  It's "between the lines" that I need to focus on now, bringing myself and others closer to the Lord.