Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Meeting the Missionaries

We did a whirlwind tour our first week to the different parts of our mission so we could meet all of our missionaries. We introduced ourselves with a slideshow of our life story, our family, and our interests, and then we had a chance to speak to them one by one. We didn't have any more than one minute with each missionary, but it was a great time to shake their hand, greet each one by name (thank goodness for their name tags!), and tell them we were truly happy to meet them.

We took pictures of each zone!

(Each mission is divided into "zones." We have ten Stakes and two Districts (like a Stake, but on a much smaller scale because there are not enough members to form a full Stake.). That means we have twelve zones.)

It was exciting and fun and tiring all at once. We often had to get by on a few hours of sleep because we were up late at night and then up early the next morning.

To fly to Ayacucho we had to get up at 4 to catch our early flight. But when we got there, the sun was up, and there was blue sky! And mountains! It was wonderful! It was the first time we'd seen blue skies for five days.

We love our missionaries. They have walked away from their "lives" for one and one half (women) to two years (men). They have left families behind. Jobs and careers behind. School behind. And they pay for their expenses themselves (sometimes their families or congregation help them). They study and pray and work hard, and they face constant rejection and frequent ridicule and sometimes even danger. And yet they don't complain (Well. Maybe sometimes. But rarely.) They are my heroes.



San Juan

Villa Maria 

Villa El Salvador

San Gabriel




Friday, July 17, 2015

Day One: Mountains and Motos and Missionaries

JUNE 30, 2015

We arrived safe and sound 24 hours ago. It's 11:30 pm Tuesday and we've been on the go since early this morning after going to bed around 3:00 am last night - a midnight arrival was followed by a slow customs experience. Actually it was not too bad but you need to sharpen your elbows to get anywhere. Weather is cloudy and warmer than usual and the sun actually came out today which is unheard of this time of year. We are loving it.

It was a long day yesterday as well as today and will be another long one tomorrow. We do a mission tour conference in the morning and then drive to Ica (about 5 hours) and then do it again Thursday. We worked all day and then went out with the missionaries this evening. Hermana went with Sisters Bond and Gilar and visted some part member families and taught a new investigator how to pray. He accepted the invitation and offered a very sweet prayer. She rode in a little Moto twice. It's what's called a wild ride - squished into the back of this rickety motorcycle. All this was in Spanish. Hermana understood a great deal of it which is pretty awesome.

Traffic in Lima is everything they promised it would be - full on chaos. I'll update some adventures later but suffice it to say there's never a dull moment at breakneck speed. Pedestrians are well down the food chain and one wants to keep their wits about oneself if one wants to avoid being run over.

I split with two missionaries this evening as well, Elders Davis and Vera. After a long and crazy taxi ride in an Austin Mini wagon (4 of us squished in together) which couldn't muster more than 15 mph, we hiked to what seemed the top of the world. I thought I was gonna die. I finally called uncle and told them I needed to stop to catch my breath. 45 degree streets seemed to go up forever. I decided to take a photo more as a delaying tactic but it was a spectacular view of the city close to a huge statue of Christ. The view was amazing and the poverty stunning and this is not even a poor area. We did find their contact home, had a nice chat and set another appointment for tomorrow. After arriving at Ica tomorrow we will split with the missionaries again. They are awesome, powerful teachers and never miss a chance to share the gospel message. They have been well trained.

Hermana is finishing up our family slide show for presentation tomorrow. I hope she is done so she can go to bed at a decent hour. We are both bagged and we're not even half way through the week. It is a great feeling and a happy tiredness and we are having a wonderful time.

The city where we live is beautiful and full of great restaurants. The Douglases took us to a great burger place for lunch and I had a mango smoothie to drink. It was the best I ever tasted. Nothing on the US side can even come close to comparing. Their fries are really excellent as well. We will be back to that place for sure. The Douglas family left us at the office around 5:00 and are now winging their way back home. They were so wonderful and did everything they could to make us feel welcome. They worked like crazy to make sure the mission home was ready. I suspect we will keep discovering wonderful things they've done for us well into the coming months. We miss them already.

Our Vonage number is not set up yet and it will be Friday before it's operational. No time to do it now. Use email until we advise we are ready for conversations.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Missionary Training Center Experience

JUNE 28, 2015

The traditional picture taken by all missionaries!

How does one even begin to describe this experience? There were 126 couples gathered from all over the world to be trained for our three year missions. We ranged in age from 36 (double eek!) to 68. Together we have 599 children. The youngest is 1. The oldest is 43. So many stories! So much sacrifice! 

It was fascinating meeting and speaking with these people from all walks of life, who have all walked away from their regular lives for the next three years. Selling houses - renting houses - arranging for children and (eek!) grandchildren to live in houses - selling vehicles - closing businesses - putting businesses on hold - walking away from law practices - dental practices - medical practices - you name it - the story was there. Amazing. Boyd and I felt humbled to be amongst them.

There was lots of laughter and lots of chatter - so much so that Elder Bednar gently (but directly) rebuked us and suggested we practice reverence before the meetings began instead of visiting so enthusiastically with our neighbors.

We literally sat at the feet of our apostles and prophets and were taught for four days. President Packer and Elder Scott were unable to attend due to health reasons. But we had a video interview done with Elder Perry shortly before he passed away that was shown. It was so sweet, and so good to hear his voice just one more time.

We were looking for a table to eat at when Boyd called me in one direction. But I had just seen Elder Ballard beckoning to me for us to join him at his table. So I just grabbed Boyd's hand and said, "We're sitting here!" (When an Apostle beckons, you go! No one else was sitting with them at the time - I think everyone was a little intimidated...) We had a delightful dinner reminiscing about the days when he and his wife served as OUR Mission President and Wife back in the day when we were newlyweds, and living in Porcupine. We were all much younger then! But we have several friends in common, and it was fun to remember them.

At breakfast one morning we met another person that had ties to Timmins. President Leppard, from England, served in the Toronto Mission as an Assistant to the President under President Hardy. President Hardy is the one who called Boyd to be the District President of the Northland District way back when. Again - good people in common. He knows he traveled to Timmins once or twice, but we don't remember him. :-) But it was really fun meeting him, nevertheless. They were making a stopover in Kansas City to visit with President Hardy (currently serving as Temple President there) on their way to their mission field: England Birmingham.

We enjoyed getting to know the Foote Brothers. Both called to serve as Mission Presidents the same year. One is going to Madagascar, and the other to Atlanta Georgia. 

President and Sister Richards - now reunited with their family after faithfully serving for three years in the Maryland Baltimore Mission!

There was a large podium set up at the front, with a curved screen to display the audio-visual portions of the instruction we received. The Brethren taught us well, and we loved being instructed in the principles of the Restoration and the Atonement. They worked hard to provide their instructions in various methods. I tried to make a list:

  • Discussion
  • Question and Answer
  • Lecture
  • Lecture with audio/visual illustration
  • Music
  • Panel Discussion (the three General Presidents of the Relief Society, the Young Women, and the Primary all spoke of their experiences when they were Mission President's Wives, and one also spoke of what it was like to be thirteen when her parents were called to serve - giving hope to those who are bringing teenagers into the field!)
  • Modeling (Experienced returned missionaries demonstrated telling the Joseph Smith story in less than five minutes)
  • The Video-taped Interview with Elder L Tom Perry
  • More videos

Elder Hales and his wife also did an informal chat, where they spoke of their experience as Mission President and Wife. It was delightful (And we were chewed out again by Elder Bednar - this time more direct and less gentle. Elder Hales stopped and asked if there were any questions. There were none. My mind was a total blank! Finally, after more prompting from Elder Hales, Sister Oaks stood up and asked a question. Once she had primed the pump, so to speak, the questions kept coming. After the Hales left Elder Bednar told us to "get over it," and when an apostle with the experience and knowledge of Elder Hales asks if there are any questions, we should have all been jumping out of our seats with questions. And of course, he was right. :-)).

After each day of instruction we were broken into smaller groups and we each had a 2 1/2 hour recap and discussion of what we had learned. That was very helpful, and really helped to solidify the things we had learned that day.

And - the last day was Sacrament meeting. And the only speaker was Thomas S Monson.


We had time Sunday for Alma and family to spring us out of the MTC and take us home with them for one last meal together. Cullen joined us, and we said our good-byes that evening. It was a little bit rough. I'm not going to lie.

Arlo and Megan met us bright and early the next morning at the airport (after flying home from Korea the previous day). They had gotten about 2 hours of sleep, but they said they were fine, because their bodies had no idea what time it was! We were at the airport good and early, so we had a chance to have a good visit with them before we boarded.

Life is good. It's not always easy, but it is always good.

Being Set Apart

In our church, when you are called (asked) to perform any calling (job/assignment) in the church, first you receive a blessing. We call it being "Set Apart."

Mission Presidents and their wives are set apart by one of the Twelve Apostles in our church. It's a pretty big deal, and a rare opportunity.

Boyd was to be set apart by Elder Christofferson on the morning of the day we went into the MTC. He invited Elder Falabella, a Seventy (the Seventies work to help the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in their duties throughout the world), to assist him, and I was set apart by Elder Falabella. We could invite friends and family to participate. It truly was a joy to share it with those who were close enough to attend.

Somehow these pictures were the only two with Jamesy in them.

When we lived in Northern Ontario and our children left on missions, my parents would pick them up and the airport and host them until they entered the MTC. They would take them to Chuck O Rama for their last meal before dropping them off. And so - Alma insisted that we do the same. After being set apart we all headed over to Chuck O Rama for one last lunch.

The Loveland children were entertained on Temple Square by their cousin Katie while we were being set apart.
It worked out perfectly!

We all said our good-byes in the parking lot, and then Alma drove us to the MTC, and dropped our huge pile of luggage and ourselves off at the door! And so it begins.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

So Long. Farewell. Auf Weidersehen. Good-bye.

We started in early June and made the rounds.

First stop - Hamilton and Brampton - to say good-bye to Doug and Jane and Grandpa (and Maeby).

First thing Doug and Jane taught Maeby was how to sit on a couch!
She was a quick study!

Next we had to say good-bye to Stu, since he was going to Europe for a work trip before we were leaving.

Then, of course, we finally had to pack up all our things and say good-bye to Mary as we finally moved out of her house (sort of. She is still storing the things we treasure most - like family history and photo albums).  

Boo Hoo. No. Seriously. Boo Hoo. That was a tough good-bye.

Next - fly to Houston to say hello and good-bye to the crew down there!

The day we left we snuck in a quick trip to the Houston Museum of Natural History. We went to the butterfly garden. Who knew the twins were terrified of butterflies?!?

Covering his mouth and head so the terrifying butterfly doesn't fly IN or ON! 
Both little boys did this.

Meanwhile these three are standing like statues, hoping a butterfly will land on them.
This doesn't even take into account all the good-bye parties, movies, phone calls, and dinners along the way. There have been more than a few tears shed in the month of June.  Three years seems like a long time when you are standing on the front side of it.

We are so grateful for friends and family who have all been so supportive of our leaving them all behind. We are so greatly blessed.