Sunday, December 25, 2016

Welcome to the Australia Melbourne Mission ... and Merry Christmas!

What an incredible, wonderful, whirlwind-of-a-week our first week after leaving the MTC has been! It has taken this long to find a spare minute to write this first blog post from Down Under. So much has happened in the past five days, I can't possibly include it all, but here are some highlights:

We flew (from the MTC) on Monday, skipped a day (crossing the International Time Zone) and arrived at the Melbourne Airport on Wednesday morning. After a somewhat agonizing passport and customs process, we were finally out of the airport and into the warm Aussie air. President and Sister Vidmar were there to personally welcome us! (Bless their hearts for waiting an hour and half for us to get through customs! As if President Vidmar didn't have anything better to do.)

It was wonderful to shake hands with President Vidmar again and meet Sister Vidmar for the first time. They could not have been more gracious, welcoming and loving. Sister Gray and I knew immediately we are going to thoroughly enjoy working with these two incredible people.

Despite some jet lag, that very evening we gathered at the Mission Home for the Senior Couples Christmas  Party. We were grateful for such an immediate opportunity to meet the 15 or so other couples serving in our mission. What an incredible group of people! We already feel like "best friends" with many of them and know that lifetime friendships are in the making.

We have been especially appreciative of Elder and Sister Hyde, with whom we will be working closely in the office. They literally took us under their wing the first 2-3 days and helped us get "settled" in our flat and showed us how to drive on the "wrong" side of the road. (Elder Hyde was a great teacher and by the third day I was comfortable driving.) Trish and I feel like Elder & Sister Hyde are long lost friends with whom we have been reunited! We can't begin to express what their immediate friendship has meant to us.

We've also settled into our new responsibilities in the mission office. Things could change over time, but for now I am in charge of the mission automobile fleet. (That might come as somewhat of a surprise to those of you who know how much I love cars. Not!) But it's going to be a great opportunity to interact and work with the Elders and Sisters who use these cars to further the work and I'm looking forward to diving in. Sister Gray has been assisting Sister Hyde with a variety of office activities, including inputting new baptism records, updating the files and many other things. WE ARE BUSY! And happy to be!

Yesterday was Christmas Eve and our P-Day (preparation  day) and believe it or not, we were in desperate enough need for basic supplies and groceries, that we went shopping. Costco was an absolute zoo! And the grocery store wasn't much better. (Remind me never to do that again!) After three hours of that I was ready for a nap, but we had two parties that evening that we had to get ready for.

The first was at Elder and Sister Myers' flat, where we and four other senior missionary couples ate and visited and just got to know each other. Good times. New memories. Then we went to the Mission Home where President and Sister Vidmar were hosting a Christmas Eve get-together for the missionaries serving in the zone near the Mission Home. It's so great to be with these amazing Elders and Sisters who are here serving the Lord.

Today is Christmas Day here in Australia and it was a wonderful day to remember the reason we celebrate Christmas. And the reason we are here. Trish and I are here in Australia, not to sweat it out in Costco, drive on the left side of the road, or go to holiday parties. We're not even here to manage car fleets or enter records into a computer. Those may be interesting things to tell you about, and even important tasks for the mission, but we are here because of Him whose birth we celebrated today. We are grateful to be involved, even in a small way, with the sacred work of bringing others unto the Savior, Jesus Christ. That is the ultimate Christmas gift.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Tomorrow we fly!

When I was in the LTM (Language Training Mission) over 41 years ago preparing to serve my first mission to Germany, that's how we missionaries referred to departing the LTM: Flying! It was a time every missionary looked forward to, and Sister Gray and I are are no exception – we are ready!

The MTC has been an amazing and spiritually uplifting experience. As with so many other great experiences in life, I found myself frequently saying, "I wish my kids could have been here for this" or "I wish my son or daughter could have heard that." That's how the good things in life are; when it happens to you, you want those you love to have it too.

That happened again tonight when we went to our usual Sunday evening devotional. To our surprise and joy, the devotional featured The Piano Guys! But this wasn't a typical Piano Guys "concert" as one might imagine, rather it was an evening filled with, yes, music, but also with the testimonies of all four Piano Guys members. Their music is powerful and entertaining, but it was their testimonies of the gospel that uplifted us and filled our souls! It was their words that taught us important principles about life and work and love. We thoroughly enjoyed it and came away even more dedicated to be missionaries worthy of our calling.

The MTC has been a great experience for Trish and me. It hasn't always been easy, but it has been consistently educational, motivating and most importantly, spiritually uplifting. We probably won't miss the food (except the chocolate milk), but we will miss the great people we have met here and the way we have felt being around all of these incredible young men and women who are preparing to serve their Heavenly Father.

But we are ready for Australia and ... tomorrow we fly!

    Click here to find out how!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Missionary Work is Amazing!

Sister Gray and I attended a Sunday Devotional tonight with all of the missionaries, both young and old, and were treated to a concert with the BYU Men's Chorus. The music was a combination of Christmas music and hymns and it was incredible!

Perhaps the highlight of the evening, however, was when the choir director asked a young Japanese missionary in the audience to stand. (He happened to be seated on our row just four seats down from us.)

Two young members of the choir then came forward and shared their experience:

They had been missionary companions in Japan four years ago and had met and taught this young Japanese boy the gospel. It took over a year of friendshipping and teaching by a multitude of missionaries, but eventually the young man joined the church. Now he is serving a mission himself.

The choir member (on the right in the photo) then shared his testimony of the experience, which I am paraphrasing. Speaking to to all of the young missionaries in attendance, he said:

"Missions are very hard; if anyone tells you otherwise, they are lying."

Then, pointing to the young Japanese Elder, he continued:

"But if I had to walk ten thousand miles, or knock on a thousand doors, it would have all been worth it to meet that man right there."

It was such an inspirational moment! To see the joy and love they had for each other, and watch their reunion, was an incredible experience we will never forget.

One week down, one week to go!

We have had a very busy week. We have classes every day beginning at 8 a.m. We feel like we just ate breakfast and then it's suddenly time for lunch! Our 20-something instructors are amazing; they are very knowledgeable and have a great spirit of compassion and love. We have continued to be amazed at their teaching abilities. I know they could not do it without the Lord's help. They give us a break about every hour and a half; I guess they are worried about us old folks (of which we are the youngest) falling asleep or needing to use the bathroom.

We were able to go to the Provo Temple yesterday. It felt good to get out and away from the confines of the MTC for a little while. I told Elder Gray I was getting "cabin fever." The temple was spiritually uplifting and a peaceful break from our classroom routine.

On Saturday night we were able to go out to dinner with our good friends Norm and Mel Kester, Rick and Jayne Pugh, and Steve Hard. We had wonderful Italian food and some laughs. It was good for my cabin fever!

We had a wonderful Sunday today. We went to church and in a combined Priesthood and Relief Society meeting, taught a lesson on Elder Bednar's talk on tender mercies. The spirit was so strong.

We feel like we have had many tender mercies from our Heavenly Father that have made it possible for us to serve this mission. Others in our group shared the tender mercies and miracles they have experienced in their lives as well.

We are anxious to get to Australia and glad to be going into our final week. I am NOT a computer wiz and I'm a little worried about the upcoming office and technology training. I will be needing a lot of prayers and guidance from above to master this stuff.

We have a few beautiful outdoor Christmas light displays here at the MTC and that, along with singing Christmas songs in some of our meetings, is helping us feel the Christmas spirit. This morning we watched a special Christmas 'Music and the Spoken Word' with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and it was magnificent! I could listen to the Tabernacle Choir all day, especially when they are singing Christmas music!

I do miss all of my Christmas decorations, trees and the homey feel of the holidays, but love looking at the little "Joy" decoration from my good friend Mel that sits on my night stand and reminds me every day who I am here for. We are truly grateful for this opportunity to serve.

And even after being "confined" here together for a solid week, I am so glad I still love and adore my companion! 😊 💕

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Two days down at the MTC!

It's been a very full two days! We arrived yesterday about 10 a.m., and have been going full steam ever since. We have met some incredible people and instructors. We have spent most of our time studying from Preach My Gospel to learn how to best invite others to come unto Christ. We have been so impressed with these young instructors and the spirit they invite.

Australia here we come!

We took the traditional picture of us at the map, and we also learned that we are the largest group of senior missionaries they have had at the MTC! It is so cool we get to be a part of it!!

Last night we watched a Christmas devotional given by Elder David A. Bednar in which he taught us to think outward and focus on others instead of ourselves, and that that is how we become more Christlike. Tonight there was a devotional with all the missionaries and we had Elder Craig C. Christensen from the Presidency of the Seventy speak to us and we learned about "Taking Christ's Yoke Upon Us", and that being yoked together, pulling together and the strength we get from each other is how we can help bring people to Christ.

It's been an incredible two days, the food....not so much!!! Especially breakfast today. I think I'm headed to the cold cereal bar tomorrow.

Brent was made District Leader right off the bat! I had a feeling it was going to be him the second they announced they were choosing them. He's done a great job making everyone feel comfortable. We are loving the spirit we feel here and the people.