Sunday, January 31, 2010

We're here!!!....rh

We have enjoyed being here for this first week. I know that I should feel that the time has just zipped by, but with all the introductions to both people and procedures it seems like forever since we arrived last Sunday evening. We am very impressed by the other office couples, the Gunthers and the Betournays. They are efficient and they know the importance of the work in which they are engaged. I am grateful for their guidance.

I am overwhelmed by the young missionaries – they have so much enthusiasm and desire to work. How can the Kingdom falter with such fantastic energy as displayed by these young men. They do not engage in the boisterous horseplay that I observed much of the time at the MTC. Perhaps this is because they are on their best behavior at the mission office. I prefer to think that they have matured and realize the importance of the work they have been sent to do. I have seen this transition in the letters I read from my oldest grandson since he began his missionary service – he has gone from being a 19 year-old boy to a 20 year-old missionary. His focus is shifting from himself and the things of the world to those he teaches and the work he has been called to do among people hungering for the truth.

I am so thankful for the sweetness and hospitality shown to us by President and Sister Poulsen. Never have I felt that we were strangers imposing ourselves in their home (we are staying in the mission home since there is no flat yet available for us.) Sister Poulsen is a sweet, kind, loving person who surely brings joy into the lives of all with whom she comes in contact. His fantastic energy is impressive. I grow weary just thinking of his schedule. Wehave returned to the mission home every night just worn out after 8-10 hours. I know his schedule is much longer and more pressure-packed than mine but I see no signs of fatigue in him. I told Georgia that his handling of our staff meeting was most impressive. I have dealt with businessmen throughout my career – most of them, even church members, are crass and abrupt as they deal with others. His quiet leadership throughout the week reminds me of the way the Savior would deal with things if He were here in Johannesburg. I am thankful for working with the kind of man I want to be when I grow up.

I have felt the Spirit many times during the week as I have engaged even in the mundane things that are required of those that work in the office of the Kingdom of God. I know that we are here to assist President Poulsen, Sister Poulsen and all the missionaries in the important work of taking the Good News to the people of South Africa. I know that I have been sent here for a reason. I want to be sure that I do everything possible to achieve the purpose the Lord has in mind for me. I thank Him for this opportunity to serve and the president for his patience with me as I learn the duties to which he has assigned me. Below are pictures of our first few days. President Poulsen fixed us breakfast one morning! The Guinea hens are outside the kitchen window at the mision home and have become Sister Poulsen's favorites. Rusty during our first visit to a Johannesburg market. WOW! and there are beautiful flowers are everywhere!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Graduation Day -gfh

Today is graduation day! Or our last day of training in the MTC. We will fly out Saturday at 11:00AM. A layover in Atlanta Georgia and then arrive in Johannesburg at 5:00PM Sunday.
There is such a mix of emotions going through me. Several times so far today I've suddenly gotten butterflies and I realize how close we are to arriving in South Africa.
Every day at the MTC has been filled with spiritual experiences. We have met so many amazing people who are here as instructors or trainers and others who are venturing out to places all over the world to invite others to come unto Christ! Rusty mentioned how the MTC reminds him of a temple. I've thought of that and I know that the MTC has been dedicated to the preparing of God's missionaries to go ..go unto all the world to bear testimony of the restored gospel. The MTC is a very happy place. It seems everyone is trying to be their very best, to be kind, polite, patient,loving. It isn't difficult to do because the Spirit is so strong and it is wonderful! The young missionaries have been told to let the senior couples in front of them in the long meal lines...and the lines are really long sometimes. It's a sweet privilege I've taken advantage on occasion.
We have been here long enough to see two groups of young missionaries arrive on Wednesdays and a new group of senior couples on Monday. Imagine the diversity. Coming from all over the world, literally, and from all circumstances of life to serve the Lord. Some very excited and others very apprehensive. Some ready to "hit the ground running" and others who are still stumbling. But I know the Lord magnifies whom he calls. I have felt it in my own life!
We've been staying at the Super 8 motel about a mile away because the senior couples housing is being remodeled. There is shuttle service literally at our beck and call. We can call for a ride any time we need it. No schedule to wait on and it doesn't matter if there is only one couple and ten minutes later another couple calls to be picked up. We really have been spoiled and pampered. One of the elders in our group just said "where else could one go on vacation and be treated like we've been treated, experience what we've experienced and for so little money."

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Book of Mormon reminder...rh

Last Tuesday, we heard from Elder L. Tom Perry and his wife at the MTC devotional. He told us much of the same things we were teaching earlier that day as we practiced giving lesson one from "Preach My Gospel". Last night, Elder David Evans of the Seventy and his wife spoke to us. She told a story of a missionary who served in the Japan Nagoya mission while Elder Evans was the mission president. He struggled with the language the whole two years. Near the end of hsi time in Japan, Pres. Evans called him to be a zone leader and promised him there would be one more baptism before he finished his mission - this was in an area that had not seen any conversions in many months. The elder worked his hardest, but no baptisms and the elder departed for the USA. When he got home, his non-member father asked him if he would baptize him. Of course the young elder complied with his dad's wish and baptized him just minutes before he was released by his Stake President. He got the ONE baptism promised to him by his mission president - probably the most important one to him.

Then Elder Evans gave a powerful address on the Book of Mormon. Anyone remembering the fervent testimony that Elder Holland gave last conference on the Book of Mormon can liken the feelings they had at that time to how I felt last night as Elder Evans spoke on the power of the Book. He said that if a convert does not recieve a testimony of the Book of Mormon, more than likely he/she will drop out before long. It is our (your) responsibility to get folks to read the book, THE WHOLE BOOK, so that they can properly test it by applying Moroni's promise at the end of the book. He reminded us of the powerful promises of President Ezra Taft Benson and President Gordon B. Hinckley concerning the Book of Mormon. I wish that everyone could have heard Elder Evans give this powerful discourse and testimony.

I am so thankful that I was there to witness this address. I am so thankful for this call to serve in South Africa. I pray to be up to the tasks I am given while serving.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

We got 'em (missionary badges)...rh

Well we’ve finished our first week at the MTC. AnneMarie and Gary (my daughter & son-in-law) delivered us here and helped us unload into our room. Gary carried 3 of our 50 pound bags up to the second floor for us – Thanks Gary!
The only other time that I’ve been here was as the dad dropping Chris off, so I found a little about what it is like being the droppee. There were some tears and heartstrings were tugged. I am also not a 19-year-old leaving home for the first time so I guess I still don’t really know what it is like for them.

What an amazing time! There have been so many spiritual experiences. I remarked to Georgia after the first day that this place is like a temple, we don’t whisper all the time but I feel a real reverence for this facility. It really is a facility, 19 buildings, I think – and we are not even housed there. They are remodeling the senior part of the MTC to make more room and so many, if not most, of the senior couples are housed in a Super 8 motel about 1 ½ miles from the facility. We have some advantages – bed is made each day, room is cleaned and clean towels are here for us – but we have to get a shuttle to get us to the MTC and back so we miss the closeness of all the conveniences of the MTC, especially on weekends like today.
We were greeted by the MTC presidency in a meeting shortly after we arrived. Elder and Sister Buchanan are set apart missionaries who are specifically assigned to the senior missionaries. They answer questions, give us directions to get places and generally serve as our MTC Mom and Dad. We have one mature brother who is the director of training for the seniors but most of the instruction and help come from young men and women who are our instructors in sessions both large and small. They are all fairly recently returned missionaries with strong testimonies and a missionary fervor to help us ignite our own internal fires. These young folks are just wonderful to associate with. We gave them a little gift yesterday as they finished up with us.

We have met folks who will serve medical, family history, temple, proselyting and office assignments in Switzerland, Spain, Ghana, Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina, the Philippines, the Marshall Islands, Chicago, Denver, Boise and several more that I can’t remember. (PmG):
Our grandson Aubrey Hatch is in the MTC at the same time we are! We caught a visit with him one day at meal time - a rare and special opportunity. The young missionaries are on a different fast track schedule, Have so much more to learn, even a language in Aubrey's case. He is going to the Germany Berlin Mission. Lookin' good, Aubrey!
The picture above is of Sister Henrichsen getting "cuts in line". We were told that the young missionaries were instructed that the senior missionaries got to move to the front of the line. However, it wasn't happening at all until about the fourth or fifth day when this young man invited me to step ahead of him. I told him I needed a picture of this because he was the FIRST young elder to be such a gentleman. I told him his mother would be proud! This week has been training for new MTC Presidents and Visitor Center Directors and we met the new MTC folks that will be in Johannesburg. There are some couples here awaiting visas as well as several younger missionaries heading to Brazil. Our visas were in our mailbox the first day we checked so we’re ready to fly out next Saturday at 11 am. We won’t reach South Africa until about 6 pm the next day. We’ll be crossing nine time zones.

I thought that they would only emphasize the first lesson from Preach My Gospel, but not so. We worked on lesson one on Tuesday, lesson two on Wednesday and lesson three yesterday. I talked with our grandson, Elder Hatch, during dinner on Thursday and he said that they had only worked on lesson one so far, and he has been here five days longer than we have. I guess they give us the quick method and expect us to learn what we need to on the job and/or in our personal study time. We have felt the Spirit in all of our teaching exercises. Georgia and I are getting our timing and smooth transitions down as we do this – we will do better as time goes along.

One of our sessions was a couple who had served a couple proselyting missions both in and out of the country. They told us of their last mission in Wisconsin. They were assigned to a branch that was 90 miles from corner to corner with lots of little towns. Their goal was to visit every member of the branch whether active or antagonistic. From what they showed, they got to about 70% of the members in the 5 ½ months they served there. They were able to reactivate several families and felt that they were successful. They remain in contact with those families with which they worked.

I’m sure this doesn’t convey the excitement that I feel but rest assured I am very excited. I wish we were leaving today as originally planned. We have another week of office training to get us ready for our first duties after we arrive in the mission.
This last picture is of the "MTC BUMP". We had been asked not to shake hands because of the colds and flu that were going around. The handshake was replaced with an elbow bump. One day in the hallway I met Elder Nelson of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles. I reached out to shake his hand and he gave me the MTC Bump instead! Wish I had a picture of that.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Ready For the Black Name Tags - gfh

Sunday Jan 3, 2010
What a wonderful way to start the New Year! Rusty and I were set apart as missionaries this afternoon in Corvallis by our Stake President , Pres. Haslem. The Morgans and Natalie and Elle were there. Just that small part of our family filled up all the chairs in the high council room! We are certainly a "royal army" to behold when we all get together!! Rusty and I both received very special blessings with the setting apart. It feels real now and we're ready for those little black name tags!!!
We flew out of the Eugene airport on January 7,2010 very excited to begin our next "Best Eighteen Months" of our lives. The Magnussons and the Morgans were there to send us off with lots of love and prayers. We are so grateful for their love and support!