It is time for a “catch up” journal entry to cover some whirlwind time. We entered the MTC in Provo for the New Mission Presidents Seminar on June 22, 2013, the day before our 31st wedding anniversary. Let me just say they were a wonderful experience, with instruction from the entire First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, plus much of the Presidency of the 70, other 70s, Missionary Department Staff, and the Holy Ghost. The other new presidents and wives were all wonderful as well.
On June 27 Sister Bonham and I headed off for Everett, Washington, but with instruction not to report to the Mission Home until Monday, July 1, 2013. We spent some time in Salt Lake City that first day, including a visit to the SLC Library, where we studied our materials and made plans for the first meetings we would have. We made it as far as Brigham City that first night and stayed in a little motel there. In the morning we drove off north and arrived that evening at Connelley’s home in Boise where, as usual, we were made so welcome. We spent the night with the Connelleys and enjoyed walking, talking, and eating with them. In the morning we had a scrumptious and leisurely breakfast and then headed off for Woodinville, Washington to stay with the Foxes, arriving late that afternoon after a beautiful drive through the Cascade Mountains of Washington.
The Foxes, of course, treated us so well and we visited with them. It was a very warm day in Washington and we ate and sat on their back deck until it got dark. The next day was Sunday and we had a good morning for study until it was time to join the Foxes for church. We had another peaceful evening together with them, but could see our big day arriving in a few hours.
We met the Wilsons (D. Keith and Ada Sue) in person for the first time at the Mission Home the next morning, July 1, at 9:00 a.m. They were delightful in person just like over the phone and email even though they were likely as stressed at their move and changes as we were. The Assistants to the President came by to pick up or drop off something and we met them. They seemed very capable and experienced. It is clear that they will be important contributors to our training.
|The Assistants In Front Of The Mission Home|
We then went to the Mission Office about a mile away. It is in one end of a regular church building and we met the mission staff (volunteer senior missionaries who live locally but volunteer 40 hours a week). President Wilson showed me “my” office and his filing system and materials. Then Sister Bonham went back to the Mission Home to await the delivery of our household goods that had been shipped. President Wilson and I finished up and the Wilsons were on their way. Then I had a short “what’s urgent” meeting with the Assistants, but not for much time, however, since I had my first departing missionary interview right then. He was a good Spanish-speaking elder who was leaving a little earlier than the regular schedule to accommodate school deadlines. Then Sister Bonham and I were off for our first time proselyting with a set of elders and sisters.
We met with our teaching companions about 6:00 but Sister Bonham and I had not really been able to have lunch, so we were starving. We left them street contacting in a parking lot and adjoining sidewalk while we grabbed a small burger and fries at a fast food place on the other side of the lot. Then, when we thought we were less likely to collapse, Sister Bonham went with the Sisters to a pre-set teaching appointment. I joined the Elders, whose appointment had canceled, in going to see an “investigator” (someone learning about the church) who was not feeling well and had requested a blessing. She lived in an apartment with her parents and her little son. We visited with the family, some of whom were members, and gave her a blessing. The elders were quite amazing—they were energetic, cheerful, and literally talked with everyone they saw. Some of the interactions were just “hellos” and banter if the person had no interest in more conversation; some were better discussions of religious ideas and an effort to arrange a further discussion. One fellow told us he was a “preacher” but that he could not listen to us because he had to stick solely with the Bible—as though we would take that away!
The Elders later dropped me off to talk with another set of missionaries, with the idea that Sister Bonham would pick me up to give me a ride home, but there was a domestic disturbance down the street which required seven (!) police cars and to stop traffic, so it was a good while later before Sister Bonham could come get me. When she did, she reported a fabulous experience teaching with the Sisters and had all the best things to say about them. They are just the sort of missionaries that we rely on so much. We got home by about 10:00 p.m. and had a nourishing meal of toast and yogurt and went to bed.
Tuesday was, as planned, a day to tour the southern part of our mission and hold four one-hour “meet the new President” meetings with our four southern zones. These meetings followed a pattern: meet at a local chapel with one zone (20-28) of missionaries; Assistants conduct; have a song; a prayer; Sister Bonham uses a big photo to introduce our family to them, then bears her testimony; the missionaries then take about 30 seconds each to tell where they are from, where they are serving, and a goal they have; I remind them that the transition requires faith and just because we are different from the Wilsons doesn’t mean that we are either one doing it wrong—just different; then I teach them that I want them to concentrate on doing what it takes to qualify for (obedience, effort), receive (humility, faith) and act on (courage, ability) the guidance of the Spirit (personal revelation) for the purpose of doing missionary work (see also Sister Julie Beck’s 2010 General Conference talk making a similar point); then my testimony; then a role play where I showed them how we learned to use the Restoration pamphlet pictures to have a good discussion in a short time with people. That was the meeting; then handshakes all around and off to the next one. They were scheduled a little tight and we didn’t get to eat until about 2:00—so by then the Assistants and we were all starving and cruised through a McDonalds for fine Scottish cuisine. Are you starting to see the “no time to eat (right)” theme here? It will calm down.
After the “meet the president” meetings we sent the Assistants with half the zone leader team in Snohomish (yeah, that is the real name of the stake and zone) and we went with the senior zone leader to visit an investigator. The investigator was not home, but we went to a less-active, part-member family’s home two houses away and there had a great meeting with them. He had joined the Church while in the Air Force years ago and had been a strong member, serving as Stake Young Men’s President in Alaska and on a high council. He read Jesus the Christ as an investigator and was clearly smart and capable. He taught school locally. He said he had always wondered how a strong member like Oliver Cowdery could ever drop out of activity, but now he was that guy. He and his wife (not LDS) were good people. The elders said they’d let the bishop know about the couple—I think he would be willing to help on a service project or something (she might too if people don’t pester her).
That all took place half-way northeast in the mission and so it was late when we got home. We took the Assistants to the office (they are great and so hard working) and then went to an actual grocery store so we could get some basics. Hey, its Joe Albertson’s supermarket! And there’s a dry cleaner and a nails place in the same parking lot. I bet they don’t have that in Uganda. Home and collapse.
Driving to places in the mission right now is interesting and scenic. The interesting thing is the Washington drivers. They are incredibly obedient—like right at the speed limit or below 99% of the time. None of this “five over” stuff. I’m going to have to get used to it. The scenic part is looking around. At the south end it is suburbia with plenty of (slow) traffic, but tons of greenery and lots of tall trees of different types, including small (100’) redwoods and lots of maples and so on. Lots of bushes and wild berries, and the grass is green too. The price for all this is lots of rain, of course, but we have yet to see it—a good reason to start here in July. When you go north or east, you run into farms and fields and barns and farmhouses and little towns with names like Granite Falls that look like they are in a 50-year time warp (like central Utah) and have populations much smaller than Alpine. Off to the east are the mountains, but in the distance like in Denver, not close like in SLC. Off to the west are the San Juan Islands. The beaches are more like big lake beaches, not ocean, since the whole sound buffers the mainland from the big waves. I’ve done one ferry ride out to Whidbey Island and back ($19!) for an interview—more below, and the 18-minute trip over the water was very nice.
July 21, 2013
We have now been in the Washington Everett Mission for almost 3 weeks. We are driving from our home at the southern end of the mission up to Bellingham in the northern end of the mission for two confirmations.
We spend quite a bit of time driving throughout the mission to attend meetings with our missionaries, meetings with our Stake Presidents, and do baptismal interviews and to see missionaries who have a need to speak with the President or who are sufficiently ill that we feel like a personal visit is in order. Mission Presidents don’t usually do baptismal interviews, but when the person has had certain serious problems in their past, an interview with the President is required. President Bonham did not expect to have very many of those interviews, but he has had at least six of them in these last three weeks. The good news is that most of those people were prepared to be baptized.
When we drive around, it is generally up and down I-5, similar to driving up and down I-15 in Utah. However, it is flanked by thick and beautiful trees almost all the way, and when it doesn’t have trees, it might have a river or a lake, or occasionally green fields. Last night we were driving on a little country road going east, we passed by a little county fair; by hot air balloons and parasailers, and in the company of a big, almost-full moon. It looked like a scene from a story book. I think I might like reading that story. We rely heavily on our GPS, “Sister Garmin.” In the southern end of the mission it is Seattle suburbs and occasional shopping, planned neighborhoods which include little green-belts and neighborhood redwood forests, as I call them. I love those! Toward the north it is more farm-ish, small little towns that remind you of central Utah, like Spring City or Mount Pleasant, or maybe Mayberry, but greener. Lots of places have native American names that are fun to figure out how to pronounce: Snohomish, Stillqamish, Skagit. We are repeatedly puzzled by the place along the way where they have poured a concrete pad in a field, put a boat on it and built a chain link fence around it. It looks like the boat has misbehaved and is being punished in time-out. President Bonham also recently noticed that the same place has an old-fashioned airplane further back, but it is not locked up. Justice for boats!? Free the boat!! We’ve just driven over the bridge over the Skagit River that was the one knocked down by a semi-trailer and was in the news a couple of months ago. You might not even notice, but there is a new section of pavement in part of the bridge. For one of his interviews, President Bonham had to ride the Mukilteo ferry out to Whidbey Island. To accomplish this, you drive your car into long lines in a parking lot. Then you drive right onto the ferry boat which has two levels of parking. You can just stay in your car, or you can get out and sit on the deck which gives you a beautiful view of the water and the island. And you can have a “delicious?” meal from the vending machines. At the end of the crossing you drive your car right off onto the road. Crossing takes 18 minutes, and the cost for a round trip is $19. President Bonham thought that was pretty steep!
We have attended several baptisms. We like to get to the ones that we can, usually on Saturday. Yesterday we attended the baptism for a young single adult who has been investigating for about a year. He reminded us of many YSA’s we have seen before. He was well supported, especially by ward friends. Later we went to a woman's baptism. She was very excited that her turn had come, and she was eager to bear her testimony in the meeting. She talked about how she had been so depressed and discouraged and anxious at the time she met the missionaries, and how she had many trials and hardships that were plaguing her. In a lesson a bit later, Elder Parke read with her Helaman 5:12, putting her name in the scripture. The spirit touched her heart, and from that moment she began to build faith and move forward. The challenges didn’t all go away, but she felt the Spirit give her peace and strength to be able to handle her challenges. Earlier this week while President Bonham was having an interview with an investigator, Sister Bonham got to sit on on a new member lesson with his wife. This is a couple, recently married, with a small son. When I think about where these people have come from, and picture the family that they can become and what their lives can become, I get teary and excited. He had come out of the gang world in LA, and that is a rough beginning. He is darling with the son, he is covered in tattoos, but there’s a lot of good happening. President Bonham says the gangs are just like the secret combinations in the Book of Mormon. If you grow up in that environment you either join the gangs or they turn on you, so there is not much chance to get out.
It feels like two weeks ago, but it was really only one, we had a farewell dinner (roast and mashed potatoes) for our departing missionaries, 12 of them. Surprisingly, later that week our one departing sister landed in Larken’s chair at the Salon for a haircut. That was a tender mercy, because I wanted the two of them to get connected. Anyway, Monday morning we took the load to the airport and sent them on their way. Then I went home and cooked much of the rest of the day to be ready to feed our big group arriving on Tuesday. That was fun to go to the airport to greet the 35 of them. We had worked hard with flash cards so we could recognize them and greet them by name, even without looking at their name tags. The biggest advantage of that was that we could know who they were when we had interactions with them through the week, and it will continue to pay off. Can’t wait until I know all the names and faces as well as I know these new ones. It Is coming along. The first day was good, but REALLY LONG! They arrived exhausted and starving, so we took them right to the mission office (cultural hall) and fed them ham and cheese rolls and salad and a yummy dessert. Then President Bonham spent until about 8:30 interviewing each one of them while the Assistants and the Office Staff and Sister Bonham did training. We had way more time than we had material, so we gave lots of breaks and even gave them 20 minutes at one point for a “nap break,” because everyone was so exhausted and they were looking a little glazed. We also sent them out for a little walk in the woodsy area behind the church. By the way, they were so exhausted not only because they had traveled, but because they had gotten up at 3:30, which was 2:30 local time. We fed them, but not loads. Turns out that it is hard to have enough food for 32 Elders and 3 sisters, even when you have tried really hard! But they were pleasant, polite, long-suffering and good natured. After all those interviews, President Bonham had the responsibility of praying for inspiration to assign each of the new missionaries to their trainers. He had all their names and pictures on little cards on the big transfer board in the office. He would take each one and look at the available spots, put it in the place next to a trainer and see if it felt right. If so, he would leave it, but if not he would take it back and keep looking. Once he felt that everyone was in the right spot, he asked the Lord to bless him with peace about those decisions if they were pleasing to the Lord. When they all felt right, he copied all those assignments into a notebook and came and joined us in the chapel. In the chapel all the new missionaries were seated together in one side section, and all the trainers were together in the other side section. When the companionships were announced, they would meet and then sit in the middle section. I loved when they finally got to meet their trainers, they were greeted with tremendous joy and excitement, much hugging and back-patting, especially with the Elders. I know that must feel good. Once they were all matched up, they gathered their luggage and bikes and stuff, and the Assistants and Zone Leaders worked out the logistics to get everyone delivered to their places. It was pretty late when the farther away ones made it home. That was Tuesday, and we had them all back for training on Friday. They had, by then, had a little bit of experience to help the further training make more sense.
There will always be more news, but that’s enough for now. We love these missionaries to pieces!