Monday, February 29, 2016

Giving thanks

February 29, 2016

We have two of the finest young men as assistants.  I can’t imagine two finer – I think the Lord knew our need for them and blessed us to have them.

Elder Camarillo related this to us this morning during our weekly meeting.  Last week, he and Elder Labra received a referral for a gentleman who might be interested in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  They were told that this man had a daughter living in the United States that had joined the Mormon Church.  He also had other daughters living elsewhere who were active in other religions.
Off to find the gentleman – and the address was correct.  This gentleman invited them in and told them that he would listen.  And timed perfectly by the Lord, the phone rang.  His daughter from the United States was calling.  Dad told her that the missionaries were sitting in his house at that very moment and he was going to listen to them.  She started to cry and asked to speak to Elder Camarillo.

“Thank you for serving a mission” she said.  Elder Camarillo told us how he felt in that moment.  He said he had never been thanked for serving a mission.  He and Elder Labra cried with this daughter and Dad, and made appointments to return.

Sometimes I wonder if I see the folly of 18-21 year olds before I see their dedicated service.  I will try harder in the future to give my thanks personally to each missionary and acknowledge their sacrifice.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

I was brave...or stupid...

February 28, 2016
     I was very brave…or stupid…last week.  In looking back, a whopping 4 days later, I will vote for brave.
     Before coming on our mission, I underwent a fairly rare back surgery.  Surgery was done on the nerves in my spine.  I had started to drag a foot when I walked.  At times I would use a cane.  We didn’t think it could be corrected, but some internet research led me to a doctor in Texas who performed a “miracle” (at least in my mind) and gave me back complete control of my legs.
One of the post-operative procedures was a yearly MRI, for the first two years,  to check on the repair.  Last year I flew to Texas for the MRI.  This year, I meekly asked if I could go to California.
     My youngest son Jeff, and his wonderful wife Stephanie, had their second child just two months ago.  If I could go to California, I could witness the baby blessing.  My other son David, with Lenore and four children, also lives within 5 minutes of Jeff.  Together I could hold and kiss six grandchildren.  That means more to a grandmother than I can write.  Little did I know that my daughter from Washington was too “close” to stay away and so she arrived with two of her children also.
     Permission was granted, and I booked the flight.  My sons live about 2 hours away from Oroville, where we had lived since 1978. However, my doctor appointments were closer to Oroville than where the boys lived.  At times last week, I was within 30 minutes of my home in Oroville.  I looked across the fields and saw Table Mountain.  I drove by the “Buttes.”  I walked in Chico as I went to several doctors.  And I considered, but stuck to my decision, to not enter “my town.”
     What a weird experience to see California after 20 months.  I looked at the Pacific Ocean splashing upon the shore as I flew over.  I watched the landscape to see if the rain was having the desired effect on the state.  I felt the wetness, as I had left the dryness of winters in Mexico.  I watched little TV, chose to hold a baby rather than see a movie at the theater, and ate my favorite sandwich at LaBou’s.  (Favorite:  Walnut bread, goat cheese, apple, and avocado).  I bought brown sugar and makeup and enjoyed the less than busy freeways I traveled on.

     Within a short time period, I boarded the plane back to Mexico.  There was never any doubt about me returning.  It did remind me however, for a time not that distant, that Keith and I will fly into the tiny little airport of Chico, California.  As we flew out of there 20 months ago, our grandchildren were crying their little hearts out.  When we return, it will be Keith and I who will be crying.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

El Papa

February 14, 2016
The Pope is in town.  This mighty man of God has caused quite a stirring in Mexico City.  El Papa (not to be confused with la papa which is a potato), has received quite a reception.  The traffic has been a nightmare however.

As we drove home on Friday afternoon, the city was preparing.  Literally there were thousands of policemen lining the freeway home.  Had we left any later, we would not have made it.  We drove home 3 hours before El Papa landed, but the police had started to line to freeway from early morning.  Little did we know that the freeway they were using to transport El Papa would be the same one that got us to and from our office.

Monday morning El Papa flies to another place in Mexico.  We have two missionaries flying home that day, just about the same time.  We are thinking that we should arrive at the airport around 4:30 AM for the 9 AM flights.  On Wednesday, El Papa flies back to the Vatican with his final goodbye to Mexico City.  Unfortunately we have 3 missionaries flying home that day also.  Airport trips this week should be quite the adventure!

Welcome to Mexico City El Papa!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Elder Olson's experience

Our's is church that cares about each member - even those who are no longer attending.  We have encouraged our missionaries to visit these "no longer active Mormon's" whenever they have a few minutes.  Sometimes the missionaries can bring the Holy Spirit back to a family in need.  This is one of those experiences.

From Elder Olson:
A few months ago, my companion Elder Orchard and I were looking through the ward lists for less-active members to visit. We found a name that had 2 members, and an 18 year old daughter that hadn't been baptized. They lived on the same street as some investigators we were teaching so we decided to drop by on the way to a lesson with them. When we got to the door, they said "Oh it's the missionaries.." through the window but they decided to open the door. An older gentleman came out and greeted us, and we began to contact him. As we talked, he told us that he had been inactive for the better part of 13 years, and had no desire to return to the church. Elder Nielsen had recently visited our mission, and told us that we should try asking the members if we could practice the lessons with them. So, that's what we did! We asked the brother if we could practice teaching the lessons with him, and he accepted. We put a date to go back one morning, and then went to teach another family.

Finally the day came to go back and visit them. We went back, and started by getting to know them a little bit better. Turns out, the father had been a Stake Counselor, Ex-Missionary, and had worked in the church school Benemerito. His wife had been an Ex-Relief Society President, and had held several other callings in the church. They quit going because they felt like their callings were consuming their lives, and they didn't have enough time for their families. Over time their testimonies that once had been very strong, started to weaken. We invited them to pray, and they accepted but weren't willing to personally offer it. My companion and I would say them to start and finish the lessons. They would answer our questions honestly, but never really wanted to open up. As we got to know them more, we realized one of their best friends in the ward was the bishop! They started to ask about their family and how they were doing, and we were able to schedule a family night with the bishop and his family.

We kept teaching them for several months, and it felt like we were making no progress. We thought we were feeling the Spirit strongly in the lessons, and that we were seeing a change in their lives, but they still couldn't find the desire to return to the church. Last Sunday, I woke up super sick. We have Sacrament meeting last, and we planned on just going to take the sacrament and see who went of our investigators. We showed up a little late, and hurried and sat in the back. We were just listening to the messages, and we saw a family we didn't know. We texted the first counselor to ask who they were, and he sent us back a message that we never expected. "The C. family. They showed up today by themselves."

The feelings that my companion and I experienced this day were amazing. It is something I will never forget.

Keith's writings

I borrowed this off of Keith's writings.  Thought you'd enjoy seeing into the interview process.  He writes with so much passion - nice break from me!

 Recently we have been active in interviewing the missionaries. We have been asked by the Church to interview all Elders and Sisters quarterly.  It is really a big job, and I try to spend 15 minutes with each missionary.  That 15 minutes, times 165 missionaries means over 40 hours kneeling, praying, talking, listening, wiping tears, comforting, rejoicing, and many more sentiments.  I wish I could spend more with each missionary…and in fact, some who need to talk take a longer time. If they have a serious problem, I reschedule them so I don´t have all the missionaries waiting for their turn. 
      We interview in meetinghouses in the different zones in the mission.  I find a room, set up a table and place my computer, keyboard, scriptures, Preach My Gospel, note pad, phone, etc.  Susan greets them in another room, and visits with them as they wait for their turn. This time we found pop tarts at Walmart, so we brought a toaster, and they have a treat as Susan talks to them about many miscellaneous subjects, from the 2nd coming, the tribes of Israel, to hair loss, marriage, food, and happiness, etc. 
       I like to interview about 4 hours at a time, trying to be done before the “comida” (the time the missionaries get fed by the members…about 2 PM).   So, it takes about 10 days to finish the interviews.  We give each missionary a time to be there, then ask them to just come 15 minutes prior, and leave as soon as both are done, thus not wasting their missionary time.  However, they still get there in bunches and love to visit with “Mama Stutz” as she is affectionately known in the mission. Plus, they just love to see each other.  When Mom has a non English speaker, she talks a mixture of English and Spanish, and so does the Elder, so they visit and laugh. 
      I have to tell you that it is an honor and privilege to be with them. The times flies by. I have to have a clock on the table to help me stay on schedule.  I kneel with the Elders, but we have been asked not to kneel with the Sisters.
       I always like to offer the prayer, because I like to ask Heavenly Father for blessings for this Elder or Sister, as they listen and pray with me.  What I have learned is to ask them, before we pray, what particularly I can ask Heavenly Father in my prayer for them.  This, sometimes, is a poignant moment.  They have asked me to pray for their Mom who is having surgery, for a sibling on a mission, for their disabled brother, for their Grandma in a coma, for a Dad who lost his job, for their parents because they are getting a divorce, for a dying brother, for a sister with anorexia, for investigators, for their companions, for their ward and their area, for peace in their heart, for forgiveness, and etc, on and on.  Often we both have tears in our eyes, before we pray.   Many times, as I listen to them, I have written a list, and have to open my eyes and peak during my prayer.  Most often, we feel a particular spirit during the prayer and I am prompted to say and ask things that I would have never thought of myself. 
       Often, during interviews, I imagine I am with Jake, Zach, Luke, or Gunnison, soon…in the not too distant future, to be on missions, and think of their Moms…far away, hoping that they are being taken care of.  Every Mom wants the best for their missionary son, so when I am with their missionary son, I think of images of my daughters. 
      One thing I have learned on the mission is more awareness of the promptings of the Holy Ghost, and then acting on them.  I can´t even count how many times He has whispered to me to lay my hands on their head and give them a blessing.  These are “tender mercies”.  
       A while back in an interview, after the prayer, an Elder told me about his disabled brother, and talked about him with tears in his eyes.  I asked many questions, then decided that we needed to kneel again together, and each took a turn to pray for his brother.  It was such a great feeling to do this with him.  That took up the whole interview. I hugged him and he cried on my shoulder!  He reminded me of that moment when I interviewed him for the last time just before he left on his mission. 
      The other day, as I interviewed an Elder, nearing the end of the interview, I felt like there was something he was not telling me.  As I talked to him, more, I just asked if there was anything he needed to tell me.  Tears rolled down his face as he related to me a transgression.  We talked and I helped him through it.  We were both blessed by listening to the Spirit. 
       Today, I interviewed a new Elder from Monterrey, Mexico.  He has been here for 4 months.  He was born “in the covenant”, and lost his Dad at the age of 9.  He just wanted to talk about how much he loved and missed his Dad. He said that is Dad was so kind to him, was a Bishop who everyone love, and was being interviewed and considered to be the Stake President when he passed away.  Elder C. cried as he told me how he would just love to see his Dad again. Then he related the following to me. 
      “Last week when you gave us the chance to do a temple session, I was hoping to just feel my Dad´s presence, just for a moment. Before going to the temple, I prayed so fervently.  During the session, there was an empty chair by my side.  For a time during the session, I was so surprised and blessed to feel my father´s presence, like he was sitting in the chair beside me.  I could hardly believe it, but I felt like it was real.  That night, I had a dream, and in the dream, I saw my father.  My Dad always called me “mi niƱo” (my little child).  In the dream, when he saw me he called me “mi muchacho” (my boy) because I was grown up.  He told me he knew I missed him, then told me that he has always been by my side.  He told me he was so proud of me for coming on a mission, and that he walked with me each day.”
      I needed a box of Kleenex for both of us!! It was very sweet.
      So many times as I visit with Elders and Sisters, and listen to their concerns, many scriptures come to mind.  We read them, and discuss what they mean, and what do we think the prophet writing them really wanted us to know.  One sister today was stressed that she was going as hard as she could go, she was weary, she was not seeing the success she wanted, and was worried about pleasing the Lord.  I shared with her D & C 10:4, and Mosiah 4:27.  It is pleasant to help the missionaries come up with their perceptions of the scriptures and way to solve problems.  I try to be a good listener.  Mom (Susan) always reminds me to let them talk!!
        One sister, so wonderful, told me  today that she has been sick for almost 3 weeks (stomach stuff), but has not wanted to tell me. She has just been working as hard as she can…sick!!  We felt so badly for her.  She tries to “press on” feeling yucky, not wanting to bother anyone.  Gave her a blessing, and tonight I called a gastroenterologist that we have been using, so we can get her healthy.
       An Elder today, told me he was teaching a family who wanted to get baptized, but they aren’t married.  He has been talking to them and encouraging them to make the commitment to be married, but the Father is not sure he wants to marry his “wife.”   The Elder said, “I did not know what to say because I´m just a kid and know nothing about marriage or marriage counseling.  I have no life experience of marriage.”  Then I asked him if he had a Mom and Dad!  He was puzzled and said, “sure”!!  I asked, “Did they love each other?”  Were they kind to each other, kind to you, did they dedicate their lives to their family, etc. etc. ?”  Then he caught on…” I do know about marriage, and family life, and the blessings that come from a family with commitments and love!”  I reminded him…Heavenly Father has given you lots of experiences from your own life…use them!! 
      Well, I could go on and on with the stories and concerns they share.  They all come from so many backgrounds, families, countries, cultures, and even types of “Wards and Bishops” (many being disfunctional!!), so I have to listen a lot, pray, follow the spirit, and act and help as the Lord would have me. 
      Many many times after the interviews, I share and consult with “Mama Stutz”, and we jointly ponder and make decisions to subsequently help particular missionaries.  I am so thankful I am not alone in this calling.  She adds a “fullness” to what we do.  Yep, she is great!!!
       Well, that is enough for now.  Sorry it is so long.  Susan and I are very blessed.  We often just do not know how we keep going on so hard.  Often after a short night, we head out the door again in the morning, telling the Lord that we cannot go on without his blessings. 
       What gives me strength is know¡ng that all my kids, little grand kids, my family, my friends, parents and missionaries pray for us.  Many put our names in the temple….for which we are so grateful. 

       We are on the Lord´s errand, and we know we can do this…we often have to remind ourselves that we can.  I rely heavily on Susan, the Lord, and just “sure will”.