Pictured above is the reaction of the Arizona Crew to Mark’s big announcement. “Our home will be sold and we will go on a full time 23 month mission having no ‘house’ concerns. “
Pres. Nielson owns the missionary apartments in Cody and reserves them for the exclusive use of the Mural missionaries. We contacted him asking if we could move into one early and stay a little longer after the summer mural mission. He had one question for us, “Which apartment do you want?” We now had the perfect opportunity to prepare for that planned full time mission!
Our call came on Saturday July 9th. Previous to submitting our mission application, Mark had explored the Current Opportunities for Senior couples site and had discovered that an assistant area auditor was needed in the Caribbean, in Trinidad. His experience seemed perfect. We had lived in Puerto Rico for several years and thought that Trinidad would be similar in many ways to Puerto Rico. Mark contacted the church-auditing department. They contacted the Area Presidency in the Caribbean and after several rounds of emails and phone calls our names were flagged for that assignment.
There is a box in the final step on a mission application for Sr. Couples that questions, “Will you go where the Lord wants you to go?” We checked the box because - other than a personal preference - there really was no need to stipulate an area of service and we were willing to go where the Lord wanted us to go. So we were surprised.
Our call came as a surprise!!
We immediately called the church audit department and were told they were as surprised as we were about our call, but that this did happen. Most likely we wouldn’t be in the Philippines long before we would know why we had been called there’
Now Filipino connections came into our life. We met a returned missionary who many years earlier had served in the Northern part of the Philippines in a Vietnamese refugee camp. She said, “Expect miracles.” Our Granddaughter had married a young man of Filipino descent. We could not have more love, respect and admiration for him and his family.
We met a couple who had spent much time preparing power point presentations for the training of branch auxiliary leaders during their much loved mission in the Philippines. They sent us a memory stick with all their presentations on it. What a marvelous tool they gave us.
We were told that we would experience a cultural shock when we arrived in the Philippines, but the greater shock would be when we returned. One friend suggested that our sentiments might echo Dorothy's . . . "Toto, we're not in Kansas (Wyoming ) anymore!"
We were told of wonderful tropical fruit but because of parasites it would have to be washed in Clorox and rinsed in boiled or filtered water before it could be eaten. Our clothes would be washed by hand and air-dried.
Easy solution, our daughter Mindy thoughtfully provided us with “The Breathing Mobil Washer”. It is a revamp of an old patent from the late 1800s. It looks a lot like a toilet plunger. There is a metal one on display with other Pioneer artifacts in the Big Horn Basin Room adjoining the Cody Mural.
One day Elder Vaughn Featherstone and his wife visited the mural. Elder Featherstone had served many years earlier in the Philippine/Micronesia area Presidency. It was a heart softening opportunity to speak one-on-one with Sister Featherstone about their Philippine experiences. She began by saying; “We send our green barets to the Philippines.” My thought was “But I was applying for an office job.” She concluded by saying how wonderful the people are. How eagerly they accept the gospel, but how very much they need guidance in making it a real part of their lives. She said, “Love them, just love them.”
When last in Utah, we had dinner with a friend whose son, Kit, had recently completed a mission on an island just West of Cebu. Our daughter, Meghan, and her husband went with us. As Kit told of his mission experiences and showed pictures of the country side and the people’s living conditions, Meghan’s mouth visibly dropped. Finally in a hushed voice she stated, “ Mom, you are so in trouble.” I could laugh, knowing that my heart was softening and that we would certainly not be alone in our service. Later we were deeply moved by Kit’s testimony of love for the people, the work and of God.
We received a letter from our mission President counseling us to continue preparing for missionary service through prayer and gospel study.
Reading the book, Yearning for the Living God, by Elder Enzio Bushe, who was for many years a member of the 1st Quorum of Seventy, was another heart softening experience and I believe I found at least one reason for our call to the Philippines. Before joining the church as a young man in post war Germany, Elder Bushe had set two conditions: 1 - that he never have a calling and 2 - that he never be asked to give a talk. In the book he states:
I have since learned that Heavenly Father has His own ways to educate us and lead us toward growth. Everything we do has to come step by step, but it does not come without sacrifice. We may feel serving is a sacrifice. However, when we really submit ourselves to the will of God, we learn that, in serving Him, He immediately turns our sacrifices into blessings. When we are on a spiritual plateau, it is necessary for us to understand that we cannot go beyond that plateau until we increase our level of sacrifice and our ability to move one step further. Such was the case with me when I finally gave my first talk, which led to a new level of spirituality and understanding , accompanied by a greater level of faith. P. 92
We prepared a special “Why we are going on a mission Box” for younger grandchildren who may ask, “When will Grandma and Grandpa be back? It explains that we want to teach others what is of most value to us: that Jesus is our Savior and that Families can be together forever. We filled the boxes with little candies that the children know are always found in Grandma’s bag. Each Sunday, they may have one candy. When the candy is gone, they will know that we will be back soon.
We have tried to be in touch with friends to let them know of our plans. It has been fun to get their responses.
On Sunday, October 30, 2011, we were set apart by Elder Fred Hopkins, Stake President of the Cody Wyoming Stake, as full time missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to labor in the Philippines, Cebu Mission. It was an inspirational experience. We are grateful for blessings promised as we serve.
|Mark's new mission suit|
This suit was put on for the first time to wear when we were set apart. Mark will wear it in the MTC and on the plane. Once in the Philippines, the coat will be hung in a closet in the mission home and given back to him to wear home 23 months later. Do you like me taking the picture in the background? I couldn't figure out any other way to quickly get us both in a "setting apart" photo.
We will enter the MTC on Monday, November 7 and begin week one of our mission and this Opportunity of a Lifetime (title of the October 2011 Priesthood Session General Conference address of Elder W. Christopher Waddell of the Seventy).