Friday, July 22, 2016

Pot Luck at the Grahams

Tonight we gathered with many of the Senior Missionaries from Takapuna to enjoy an evening of good food and friendship for a pot luck supper over at the Graham's apartment.  It was a wonderful evening.
Elder Morris and Sister Winnie Graham
The Grahams live in Hawaii.  Morris is a psychologist and his assignment here is Mental Health adviser for the whole Pacific.  He does phone consultations with young missionaries all over the region. Winnie assists him with the intake files and notes, but also does other projects.  They are both delightful people.

The meal at their place had a Mexican theme, so there were several different batches of enchiladas, there were tacos and Winnie had made a huge crock pot of Cafe Rio and Rice which was absolutely delicious.  There were many desserts as well.  We have some great cooks in our midst, so there was no shortage of yummy foods.

But the real feast was the fellowship. Before and during the meal there was a lot of animated visiting going on.
Elder and Sister Collins

Left to Right - Sister Crane, Sister Jackson, Sister Spencer and Sister Garth

Then after, Winnie had us all sit in a circle and go around the room with each person taking just a couple minutes to share something about themselves or tell of a mission experience.  That part was powerful.

First we heard from Elder & Sister Garth (from Australia) who had some very tender words to share.   Sister Garth is needing knee replacement surgery so they will be headed back home to take care of that.  They work in the Mission Office and are both amazing people.  I got to know a little bit more about them both when I rode with Sister Garth to the special Sister's Conference that Sister Balli organized.  I've had tremendous respect for them both ever since.

Elder Pat and Sister Judy Garth from Victoria, Australia

Elder Scott and Sister Cheri Loveless from Provo, UT.
Elder Loveless told a story that reminded me all over again about how the Lord knows each one of us personally and is mindful not only of our needs, but of our heart's desires.  When Elder Loveless was a young missionary he served in Frankfurt, Germany.  He loved the people and had many wonderful experiences there.  Throughout his life he worked hard to retain his fluency in the German language.  He was hopeful that when it came time for he and his wife, Cheri, to serve a Senior mission together they might be called back to Germany where he could use those language skills again.

He said he was happy to go anywhere the Lord wanted them to serve, but there was some disappointment when he learned he would not be using his German on this mission.

Then, when it came time for them to go, there was a delay of them getting their New Zealand visas.  So they got permission to begin their mission in Hawaii, since that would get them part of the way here and they had family living in Hawaii they could stay with while they waited for the visas to arrive. This was a special blessing for them as they had a grandchild born there during the time they were staying there.  It gave them some special bonding time with that baby and the opportunity to be of service to their family at that precious time rather than waiting for almost two years to meet the new one.

While in Hawaii they wore their badges and did what they could to be of service in that area.  On one particular day they were at the visitor center at the Laie Temple when Elder Loveless overheard a conversation between the young missionaries who were trying to answer questions of a couple who had come through.  The couple spoke some English, but it happened that their native language was German. They were struggling both to express themselves in English and to understand the things they were being told by the young missionaries who were serving at the visitor center.  So Scott Loveless stepped in and was able to relay the story of Joseph Smith's first vision, tell them about the Book of Mormon and answer the questions this couple had in their own language.  The got quite excited when they had someone to talk to that they could converse with freely and were very appreciative of his time with them. As they left, they filled out a card saying they would like to have missionaries contact them in their home area to teach them more.  Their home happened to be in Frankfurt Germany.  Scott knew then that the Lord put him in exactly the right place at the right time to use the abilities he hand to touch a life for good.

There were many other experiences shared by members of the group  - here are just a few I want to be sure I remember:

Elder Maughan spoke about the man in Tonga night fishing to help feed his neighbors. Also his wife, Anne, told a very touching experience of finding an answer to a personal concern through the scripture "Oh that I were an angel..."  from Alma 29:1.
Elder David and Sister Anne Maughn from Richland, WA
Elder Crane told a story of showing up late for a church meeting and not wanting to stay since the meeting was already going.  At the prompting of his wife he relented, deciding to go ahead and go in.  At this meeting he met a young man who was preparing for baptism.  That man asked the question later what it meant to have a dream you were going to meet a certain person and then the next day at church to meet that very person he had seen in the dream.  The person he dreamed of was Elder Crane. Elder Crane talked about still not being sure what he was to learn from the experience, but knowing that the Lord's hand was at work.  

When Larry's turn came he shared the scripture that we chose for our mission plaque: 2 Nephi 29:7 which says:  "Know ye not that there are more nations than one?  Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea..."  He talked about the special love we have felt for the island people we have met and how we have seen the Lord's hand so many times throughout our mission.
                                                                               Elder Bennett and I enjoying the evening
When my turn came I said that my main high point of the mission has been the closeness I feel to the spirit when I help people identify family names to take to the temple.  I asked for anyone in the group that night who either of us had helped with FamilySearch to get a family name to please stand up.  I was astonished when I saw how many people there were!
Standing up together with us were the Spencers, Jacksons, SisterCollins, Praetors, Champlins, Sister Maughan, Lovelesses, Hendersons and Sister Olsen - 15 people in all!

There have also been quite a few other missionaries we have helped who didn't happen to be there that evening.  Then when you add up all the Stake Presidents, Bishops, and others we have worked with during our many training trips, plus the people back home we have done through email - we are up to well over 100 people who have had temple experiences with their family because of this mission.  That's a huge blessing in our lives.

I feel so humbled and honored to be serving here in this remarkable place with these good people.

Over and over in this mission I have felt the truth of the gospel in so many ways.  I have learned to feel the love of my Heavenly Father and the Savior more personally than I ever would have dreamed possible.

Feeling so very blessed!

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