Len & Kit's Missionary Adventures in California

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Missionary Assignments

Len has done a wonderful job of organizing us to get going on another round of apartment visits.  We finished 25% in April.  He has become the one who moves the smoke/CO detector up higher as part of those visits and about 75% of that chore is complete.  Kit and Sister Bradshaw participated in a stake Just Serve event Saturday morning by making fleece blankets for charitable uses in Fresno.  There was quite a crowd and at least three different projects were done.  The picture shows part of what was going on.


Missionaries have various designations, depending on assignments during their missions.  Each one begins as a trainee of course.  The ones who are teaching the new missionaries are designated as trainers.  It is a big responsibility to help new ones learn how to manage all the details of daily life, and especially to help them increase in their own spirituality and also learn how to serve and teach people in a Christlike way.  Many times, training one new missionary is the maximum, and not everyone has the chance (or the desire) to be a trainer.  Occasionally someone is called to train more. 

In a pair of missionaries, a junior companion is less experienced and a senior companion is more experienced.  In addition to their regular responsibilities, sister training leaders and district leaders are in charge of helping 4-6 pairs of missionaries in an area (usually 2 district leaders per zone).  Zone leaders are missionaries who have responsibilities for 8-12 pairs of missionaries (we have 8 zones in the California Fresno Mission).  They may have a small truck or SUV to help them deliver supplies and mail from the mission office to the people in their zones.  Missionaries in larger areas drive cars, while those who are in small towns or compact areas of a larger city may use bicycles to get around.  The ones with vehicles help the ones on bicycles with grocery shopping or rides to places where bikes are insufficient.  In our mission there is one assignment where missionaries go by train to get to district or zone meetings.  Sometimes senior missionaries also regularly provide transportation for young missionaries. 

There are always two missionaries who are Assistants to the President.  Their assignments are more varied than others since they pretty much do whatever the president needs them to do.  That includes helping to teach the other missionaries at training meetings, helping with any sort of emergency problem, such as picking up or taking someone to the airport whose travel schedule doesn’t fit the usual.  They help organize special meetings, sometimes generate new computer files that streamline mission work, host new missionaries overnight at the beginning and end of missions, and many other things.  They still do service and teach people who want to know more for some hours each week.   The assistants are among the missionaries we get to know best since they are in the office several times a week.

Typically, zone leaders and assistants are chosen toward the end of their missions and serve until they leave.  Sometimes they are needed earlier on, in which case they may serve for up to about four months and then have other assignments. 

There is now an assistant who will be finishing the last weeks of his mission in a small town.  His mission was in English, but he always dreamed of being a Spanish missionary. He has now been given a brief opportunity to work in a Spanish-English area.  Having seen him performing the duties of an assistant, it is very interesting to see him noticeably becoming a more introspective, meeker young man as he prepares to serve in a much different way.  Perhaps coming full circle will be the most meaningful time of all for him.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Snips and Snails

Last week was mostly swallowed up in the routine of Zone Conferences. In church they announced a project in the vineyards to “sucker” (or could it be “succor”?) the grapes.  We thought it must mean pruning off suckers.  It is very green as we travel around now that trees have set their fruit and the blossoms are gone. Some entire orchards are covered with netting.  We are guessing it is to protect from birds eating the fruit, but we don’t know what kind of fruit it is.  We sometimes see crops growing that are unknown to us.  We need a native guide!  In some areas, old farmhouses have a three story tower built into one corner – likely to view the crops.  The houses with towers are nearly all very old and dilapidated, so we wonder what sort of technology made them completely outdated

My assignment at transfer time entails standing near one entrance to the stake center parking lot and waving to Len to signal when it’s time for him to send along another group of cars so missionaries can transfer their belongings and go off to new assignments.  It takes about an hour, which was a perfect opportunity to observe an industrious snail.  We have not encountered many snails in our lives.  

Escar, the friendly little snail who used to move so slow!

When I got to my post, the snail was very near the curb, but making his way across the sidewalk toward some lush grass.  I loved watching him propel himself along, leaving a neat series of almost square damp “footprints” as he went.  The trail reminded me of a place to cut-on-the-dotted-line.  I wondered if he had truly crossed the entire expanse of driveway to reach his present spot. Would he be able to store enough water to make all those wet marks?  In addition to being his portable, exquisitely designed dwelling, was his shell also a water storage reservoir?  His progress was undeniably slow, but so steady that he actually reached the lawn by the time the first cars got there.  It was a sermon to me about the power of perseverance.

A couple of days later, as I went up the walk to the mission office building, the morning sun shone on the concrete picking out beautiful silvery arcs which I realized for the first time, were snail paths.  They made a stunning design –intertwined softly curving patterns.  Fuzzy recall told me I had uncomprehendingly encountered literary descriptions of this phenomenon.  I asked a couple of the missionaries what they thought we were seeing. “I think they’re snail tracks,” one promptly answered.  Shocked, I asked how he knew that and he replied that he grew up where there are lots of snails.

By Googling, I found that some writers definitely take a more romantic view than others.  Wikipedia reduced it to: “Snail slime is a kind of mucus, an external bodily secretion which is produced by snails.”  They went on to declare that it had qualities of both glue and lubricant.  Ouch!  It didn’t look slimy or mucus-y in the least, just damp.  Perhaps these are the words of gardeners who see snails as the enemy.  A children’s gardening site in UK yielded, “Snails make interesting learning tools for kids and can be easily located by following the path of the snail trail, which is easily spotted glistening in the sun or shining under a flashlight at night.”  In 1845, Blackwood described someone, “His cloak was of rusty orange, embroidered with the slime of snail tracks…”My clear favorite was Truman Capote:  “I went up through the Quarter to the old market, where at that time of year are . . . Closed windows looked on blindly; snail tracks glittered silver on elephant ears, nothing moved except his shadow.”

Now I see snail paths of various sorts daily.  I’m so glad I can learn new things all my life!

Here are some favorite quotes from general conference:

Children are great imitators so give them something great to imitate.  –Joy D. Jones

It is better to follow the Creator than the crowd.  Gary B. Sabin

The Lord promises to direct our paths, but the Him to do that, we have to walk, trusting that He knows the way.  –L. Whitney Clayton

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Quotes from Some of our Young Missionary Friends

It was a good week for us with General Conference this weekend, which we were able to watch on TV at home as we do once every April and again in October.  The speakers are church General Authorities (including the Prophet and the Apostles as well as others), and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir provides the music.

When I had the calling of writing twice monthly to the missionaries from our Scottsdale ward, a couple of times I sent letters made up of quotes from all their letters. To protect their privacy, I never identified the writers and sometimes tried to make sure place names or foreign references would not reveal who each one was.  I have decided to send a similar letter for this week’s blog.  The things they write really do show some of what it is like to be a young proselyting missionary.  I am often impressed with their wisdom and sincerity.  Sometimes they are also very funny. I still write (but less often) to the missionaries who left before we came on our mission.  Here are a few things from recent letters.  I see them as being somewhat representative of experiences that are common to missionaries everywhere..

With love from Len and Kit

           Wednesday we had a meeting for elder Johnson because he is new, so all the greenies met together and all the trainers met together and talked. It was really, really good and I learned a lot. The best part was that afterwards we got to go through to temple! And we had a recent convert get her Endowment on Saturday as well, so we Chinese language missionaries have been so lucky the past 2 weeks! We have gone through the temple 3 times!! Such a huge blessing. The temple is my favorite place.
            Another fun thing happened on Wednesday night at 10:30, right when we got in bed for the night, the fire alarm goes off in our house!!! And we had to evacuate and they made us go OUTSIDE at night!! I wasn’t expecting that so I was ill equipped to face the cold. But I survived barely. That actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because there are a TON of Chinese people in our apartment complex, and while we were standing outside we talked to this guy who said he has read the entire Bible before and is really interested in learning about religion! A little blessing for us having to lose sleep and stand outside in the cold. It was well worth it!

            Well, this week hit me like a wall. For some reason I thought everything was going well and everything was awesome. But then my kind companion opened my eyes. During one of our planning sessions, he brought up something that made me really think. He talked about how it seems I'm not motivated as much as I should be. How it seems I'm just going through the motions as a missionary and that he was trying to change and wants me to help him change as well, but first I was in need of changing. Was my motivation there? Was it truly? Have I really been going through the motions? If any of my previous comps, read this, I want to say I'm so sorry if I truly wasn't the best example as I should have been. And anyone else who reads this, I want you to know that this week was a Spiritual Crucible for me. If anyone is out there that needs to be more motivated in any aspect of life I want to tell you to get on it! More motivation is what makes changes happen, large and small.
Elder John Foss        As Jesus in Bible videos

            I truly feel I was called here to be an older sister, my favorite calling! I have so many little brothers and sisters here that love me and take care of me.
            We had a truly inspirational experience yesterday. A former missionary named Elder John Foss came to visit the branch. He was a branch president here 17 years ago and is now Jesus Christ in the Bible videos (see lds.org/biblevideos)!! The people loved him so much. So many foreign faces showed up to welcome him back home. They cried and laughed and formed a line to take pictures with him and talk to him (IN LATVIAN). I have never seen the branch so alive. I was worried he would be mad at us missionaries, as this branch used to be the fastest growing in Eastern Europe. It was filled with youth; it was happy; it was alive. I was scared he would take one look at what was left and ask us what on earth we were doing to ruin something so beautiful. But he didn't. He told us it was a different time now, and we were doing all that we need to do: love the members. And I realized that everything is going according to plan. 17 years ago, the missionaries had to come here and convert a ton of youth so that the strong ones could grow up and raise families in the gospel. We are now teaching and raising their children to be the generation that will solidify the roots of the gospel here. We may not have any youth, but boy oh boy do we have a primary. We follow the same model as the growth of the church in all other areas of the world. South America used to be the same way. We are right on track. This country has a bright future.

            A really cool experience happened earlier this week. My companion and I were opening up a few barangays (neighborhoods) here. We met some really cool people but the best part is how we were feeling. We had an outpouring of the spirit on us and we basically had no fear. We talked to everyone we saw and were very bold when we talked to them. We met some people from a certain local church that is usually very rude and won't even let us talk or say even mention anything about our church. We would say hello to them and like usual they would say they were members of this church. A common thing missionaries do here is they just don't talk to them because they don't listen. But my companion and I were so filled with the spirit we were bold in declaring what we believed. The awesome thing is that they were all willing to listen to us and were very good investigators. One prayed that we would be able to come back and share with him more and asked if what we taught was true right there in the prayer. Super awesome.
            Then there was New Years night, which was super loud. The way they celebrate it here is they just try to make as much noise as possible either by fireworks or sometimes even dragging metal roofing behind their cars. At Midnight it was insanely loud! New Years day was mostly just church and then eating food. But we did have an investigator who is now ready for baptism. So this Saturday is going to be his baptism. 

            So we had our final lesson with Zee and here’s a direct quote from his closing prayer, "Thank you for these sisters. They are pretty annoying, but they say what needs to be said."
            Chris – Chris just randomly texted us and was like “Hey, what time is church?” We let him know and then he told us he was a nonmember who was tracted into a long time ago and now he is interested! We gave him a church tour and explained what fast and testimony meeting was. I let him know if he felt impressed upon by the spirit he was more than welcome to get up and share his feelings, AND HE DID AND IT WAS AMAZING!!!!! He later told us he doesn’t have time to meet with us but he will be coming to church next week, so pray he will make some time to learn!!

            This past week we had a baptism!!! An awesome young lady named Bianca. Her boyfriend, Caue had just starting coming back to church after he moved back in with his parents. They are an awesome family and we created a great friendship. Their son Caue wanted to get his life back together. Eventually he introduced his girlfriend to his family. Bianca was so impressed with the feelings of love that she felt in their home, she knew there was something different and she wanted to have that! Caue was a little hesitant at first but his family made sure Bianca knew she was welcomed at church and could find peace and happiness! Since we became good friends with Caue's family. We got to meet and chat with Bianca, she then came to church and loved it! Bianca's mom is a pastor (yep you heard that right) so Bianca had a very religious background. But she was one of, if not the most prepared investigator I have taught on my mission! It was amazing experience teaching her and seeing her progress so quickly and truly immerse herself in the gospel. We went to teach her about the Book of Mormon and she goes, "Oh yeah, I’m in 2 Nephi already. I really like it!!" We were in shock! But it was so good. Her future father in-law baptized her and it was a great experience for the whole family! Cause not only did Caue come back to the family and church, now they have Bianca too! The thing that Bianca, and I as well, love so much about the church is the emphasis we put on families and that we know families are eternal. Everybody was in tears as we sang the closing hymn, ‘Families can be Together Forever. The friendship I have made with this family has been worth every second of hardship I have passed through here and I’m so grateful to have played a small part in Bianca’s conversion. Caue is preparing to receive the priesthood and they plan on getting sealed in the temple a year from now, and everyone (including me) really hopes I can come back to be a part of it!!!!