When we have General Authorities visit President makes a point of telling the elders to look their very best! Clean suits, fresh hair cuts and shined shoes! We feel that advice applies to us as well. In the last two weeks we have had the great opportunity to have TWO visits from GA's: One of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Jeffrey R Holland, and one of the 2nd Quorum of the Seventy, Elder Lowell (Rusty) Snow.
There were myriads of details to take care of for Elder and Sister Holland's visit! The schedule seemed to be planned right down to the minute. He came 15 October just five days before October Transfer which made things even more hectic because there are always so many things to do to finish up transfers. But What A Welcome Interruption!
I've never seen the young elders look finer or behave more reverently and respectfully. Well, of course! They were meeting and Apostle of The Lord! A "hand shaking" line was formed from the mission office to the chapel doors and each missionary had his hand shook by Elder Holland and his wife, Patricia, by Elder and Sister Steven E Snow of the Presidency of the Seventy and Elder F Michael Watson of the Presidency of the Africa South East Area and his wife. There was no chit chat among the elders and no fooling around (that happens often however). After shaking hands the elders turned and filed back into the chapel and remained standing until the visiting authorities were seated on the stand. I know President Poulsen could not have been more pleased! I know I was very impressed! To confirm the wonderful impression that the elders made Elder Holland started his remarks by sharing an experience he had about 30 years earlier when he had visited this mission and found "squirrly, irreverent, poorly groomed missionaries." He said our elders had redeemed him because he had "been angry" about that visit "but today this is the BEST meeting of missionaries ever"..."most reverent, and well groomed."
Earlier in the meeting Sister Snow commented that "there is nothing like a room full of missionaries to bring The Spirit". I have felt that over and over again every time I have joined a gathering of missionaries. I am reminded of the authority and the commission they have been given and I thrill to be in their midst!
Sister Holland shared her testimony of the Book of Mormon and how much she loves it! She held it to her breast, gave it a big hug and said "The Book of Mormon has become my most beloved possession." She really touched our hearts.
Elder Holland impressed on my mind that far more than serving a mission we are witnesses of Jesus Christ in word and deed. I have come on a mission to declare myself a disciple! I have come to convert myself. He said "You are lucky to be here at this day at this time." As he ended his comments he pledged to stand shoulder to should with the missionaries....with me....til this is over. Somehow I knew this was a pledge he would keep and that my Savior has made the same pledge to me.
I didn't get any pictures of this never to be forgotten visit from an Apostle of The Lord but I have it locked in my heart.
Just yesterday, 28 October, we had a sort of surprise visit from Elder Lowell (Rusty) Snow and his wife. This visit was not on such a large scale. The mission had only about a week's notice. There was some email communication between our office and the Area Office and Elder H mentioned that he knew Elder Snow as Rusty and had gone to high school at Granite High with him. One email came back "I can't believe there were two Rustys in the same high school."
As we were literally getting ready to walk out of the office Thursday evening in comes President Christensen and his wife from next door at the MTC with Elder Snow and his wife. He was walking in and chatting a little when Elder H walked out of his office. Elder Snow saw him and declared so enthusiastically and excitedly "RUSTY HENRICHSEN!!!" He threw his arms around him and gave him a huge hug! They hugged and chatted about days at Granite High! I wish I could have captured that moment!! I did run for my camera and got a posed picture. Elder Snow was concerned because he was out of uniform (no white shirt or tie).
Elder Snow said he had about two hours that he could spend anyway the President would like. A Zone Leader/Distric Leader meeting was organized and the office couples were invited. The office was closed and everything came to a stand still while we were given another very special experience to be instructed by one of The Lord's servants. I guess I would have to say that the message I got was how important and precious The Gift of The Holy Ghost is in our lives! He shared that The Holy Ghost will not teach anyone who will not authorize Him to do so....that is done by worthiness and desire! Do I give Him permission to guide me and teach me? Elder Snow asked "How much faith do we need?" "Just faith enough to repent".
I know I am not doing justice to these two rare and wonderful visits we have had in the last two weeks! There are many more notes in my journal and the really important messages are in my heart!
What a privilege to be part of this "Shoe Shined Team" here in South Africa Johannesburg Mission!