Monday, July 30, 2012

Safe and Sound in Hong Kong

For all family members who may be reading this blog. Marcia and I arrived safely in Hong Kong about 5:30 Tuesday morning. It was a long flight from San Francisco but we did survive. We will be leaving in about two hours for our final destination in Manila. We will keep you posted as things progress. I am taking pictures, we are somewhat tired but we are here on the Lord's errand so He will provide and support us on our endeavor....


Hurrah for Israel!!

Hurrah for Israel!!

Next entry....Manila

Leaving Utah!! Next stop...Manila

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Travel day

Today is the day. Marcia and I knew that it would eventually come. At 9:45 pm (MDT) Marcia and I will be on board a Delta flight beginning our last leg of our journey that began at the beginning of this year. Most of those we trained with during the week of July 16th are, most likely, already at their assignments. As Marcia's assignment was medical in nature we spent this past week in Salt Lake City with other medical types as we received further instruction specifically about physical and mental health. On Friday we were in training with two retired psychologists. They both had experience as Area Mental Health Advisers and shared  experiences and knowledge with us for our last day. It has been great with all the training that we've had....but we are ready to leave.

It is not easy. Marcia and I went into this with our eyes wide open. For those who are not familiar with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints let me explain just a little about this concept of serving a mission as a couple. First of all Marcia and I are not getting paid for what we will be doing in the Philippines. This is not uncommon for those who serve in the church. It is also not uncommon for those "seniors" who go on missions either rent out their homes or sell them. We met couples in the MTC who did both.

The long and the short of it is is that with the help of family and friends and our bank account we will be supporting ourselves.

We just finished minimizing everything to two suitcases, one carry-on and one personal item. It is amazing what you can shrink yourself down to when one has to!!

The adventure is continuing. The next blog will be done somewhere overseas!!


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Amazing, if I use this word to frequently it is because there is no other way to describe the intense difficulty and absolute joy we have experienced in these past few weeks.  For those who may not know, learning and studying in a traditional setting may be catogorized amongst the hardest experiences of my earthly life-I process differently than most and reading, copying, writing and studying literally creates a sensation in my skull of pressure to the point that an explosion of my skull cognitively represents the false illusion of a desired relief. (For Max and Kas-that was a run on sentence right?!)  I believe part of me felt that when we left and began serving full time we would be filled with peace and tranquility.  I have looked at some of my notes and realized, in the furry of trying to make my brain process at the speed of the instructors and Jeff's, what I have put on the paper is not even close to the characters we know in the English alphabet.  Even in grad school it was just a few hours of instruction and then out of the classroom.  At these points I sometimes wondered if I was going to drop to the floor in a fetal position and fall into tears-but that would negate the fact I need to be in control, not to mention the pounding of my skull would make it impossible to emotionally run away for awhile... thus I kept going. Maybe the Lord is also allowing me to understand a little of what Jeff experiences 24/7 with his intense pain without a moment of comfort.-yes, I do at times think of borrowing from his coctail of narcatics-relax, I've refrained. The unbelievable thing though is that within moments the spirit burns so strongly, please forgive the dramatic emphasis, I feel a desire to look around and make sure I hadn't left this earth to see if I was in heaven.  The sweet, peaceful spirit of the Lord becomes so strong there are no words, at least that I've ever learned, that would adequately describe these emotions.  
Now today we do our final packing and tomorrow night we go to the Philippines!  We have already fallen in love with people I have yet to meet.  The stories of the Philippines that have been shared, of their humility and dedication to hard work without adequate compensation, and willingness to give all they have, I will be so honored to be with and learn from them.
 Jeff on the other hand has been in heaven, he is one who loves to learn and has the gift of learning and is absorbing everything, this whole process puts him in a comfort zone where he thrives!  It is fun to watch him learn and have his only desire to be that he wants more.  We are so happy and excited to embark on the adventure of our lifes-may Heavenly Father's greatest blessings accompany each of you and know we love you-we have the greatest family and freinds this world has to offer!  See you in a few years!!!  Kumusta po kayo... mahal kita!!!! ( hi and love ya in Tagalog)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

It's a small Mormon world after all...

Seven degrees of separation... it is a concept in which we are all connected to anyone else in the world by just seven people. For example- myself. I know my brother-in-law Max. Max and his family lived in the Atlanta area for a number of years- one of which was 2008. While he was in Atlanta he was a friend of a radio personality who invited him to an interview in which she was going to interview one of the Republican candidates running for the Presidency- Mitt Romney. OK... maybe a bad's only three degrees of separation.

Let me try another one. For example- myself (deja-vu). I know my sister-in-law Charma. (Charma is married to Max-FYI). Charma grew up in Las Vegas where her father, Reen Call, was a dentist for a number of years. Reen Call new a pharmacist who had a pharmacy, the only pharmacy, on the Las Vegas strip. Reen, his wife, and the pharmacist and his wife, were good friends. Since the pharmacist's pharmacy was the only one close to the hotels on the strip his shop was frequented by headliners who performed at the hotels. One of those performers was Elvis Presley. When Elvis had a bad tooth he went to the pharmacist for a recommendation of a good dentist. The pharmacist recommended Reen Call. Reen Call's youngest daughter is Charma. Charma married Max. I married Max's sister. Then me. Now that was a stretch to about 5 or 6 degrees.

OK- so I'm having a somewhat difficult time getting to the seven degrees but you get the general idea. BUT here in Utah it is much closer than seven degrees. Today we sat in a meeting with the other medical experts going around the world. Today we found out that Elder Rose's sister-in-law was one of the people who sent clothing to Africa for one of Sister Hebertson's friends serving a mission in Africa. While we were being tutored in the MTC one of our tutors just happened to be a cousin of Elder and Sister Jackson. It is a SMALL MORMON WORLD AFTER ALL!

The phrase seven degrees of separation may not fit in a modern world but it is fun to observe!


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Counting down- t minus 4 days-Thanks

Living out of a suitcase
As we prepare to leave on Sunday I thought I would post some pictures and some thoughts.

Marcia and I have minimized our possessions to two suitcases each (less then 50 pounds per), one carry-on and one personal item. Senior couples, prior to leaving for a mission, who have homes normally have to rent, sell or close up their homes.
A number of couples we have met have rented their homes. Elder and Sister Rose, going to Orlando, Florida, ended up selling their home. The bottom line is we are all living out of our suitcases until we get to our missions.

Senior Lounge
The Elders and Sisters working in the MTC go out of their way to help the senior missionaries. We had our own, somewhat exclusive, lounge located in building 18m on the third floor. Fortunately there aren't any couches. We didn't want to perpetuate the ugly rumor of seniors and naps!

The people at the MTC are truly wonderful people. Marcia and I have been blessed with having excellent instructors. Brother Hawkes and Sister Reese were our instructors for our week in the MTC studying Preach My Gospel. The week before we had several instructors who we want to recognize and thanks.

They were Jericho Lopez, Preston, Oliver (last names forgotten at this point).


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Celebrating Pioneers

For those who may not be familiar with the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints the 24th of July is a BIG thing. Marcia's brother Max thought it was all about him as the 24th is his birthday. It was just last year, as they were living in Provo, UT, that he realized that this particular day really didn't have anything to do with his birthday. He is in therapy but we believe he will recover.

It was back in the 1840s when the Latter-Day Saints began their migration to the Rocky Mountains. The Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum, had been murdered while being "protected" in a jail located about 20 miles south of the city of Nauvoo called Carthage. The date was June 27th, 1844. At the time of this event Joseph was the mayor of Nauvoo and was an active presidential candidate for the upcoming national elections. At the time of their martyrdom the city of Nauvoo was the largest city in Illinois and it was a place of respite for the Saints as they had been chased out of Ohio in the the mid 1830s and then Missouri towards the late 1830s.

American Expansion 1818-1853 (
During the year following their death the Saints began preparations to move, as a people, to the safety of the Rocky Mountains which were beyond the territorial boundaries of the United States at that time.

To make a long story short- through much trial and tribulations, the Saints journeyed west to settle next to the Great Salt Lake. It was in 1847 when the first pioneers looked at the territory which would become their home. Pioneer Day is the celebration of that event. Here in Utah they call it "Days of 47."

Marcia and I didn't have training today so we were able to go with Bri's husband, William, and his mother and sister. Marcia and I love a great parade. This was a great parade!!

LDS 1st Presidency Member Henry B. Eyring and his wife, Kathleen

It's not a parade unless there are cowgirls straddling two horses!

That is what I would call a BANANA SPLIT!

This is a pop-up book with actual turning pages

Turning the pages...

Did you ever wonder where Santa was in July?

Chinese Dragon

This float won the award for best animation

Utah Valley University cheerleaders and students


Sunday, July 22, 2012


These past three weeks have been a whirl-wind. There has been much to absorb and much to ponder. This morning, as I am waiting to go to our daughter's ward (LDS term- "congregation"), I am looking back further than these past three weeks to these past six or seven months.

Is there a certain time in your life when you should decide to serve a mission for the Lord? I guess the real question is- Does the Lord consider your convenience when He decides to give you the urge or prompting to  begin thinking about serving for Him full time? Perhaps what He is actually seeing is the people that you will impact as you serve Him. We are not the only couple or family serving a mission from the Miles side of the family. Marcia has a cousin who, with his family, is serving on a mission in Spain. For those in the family who may be reading this blog this family is Aunt Betty Johnson's grandson, Jared Stayton with his wife Lora and two daughters- Jara and Laila. As I read their blog this morning I recognized that some of the things that they went through prior to leaving for Spain were similar to what we experienced. There were some differences but because of how well it was written I wanted to share their thoughts here:

                 Three and a half years ago, we began feeling the call on our lives for mission work, but we were unsure what that work would look like. About six months ago, God started burdening our hearts for the people of sourthern Spain. Over time the confirmation of our call to this area became evident through our prayer and devo time and confirmation through others around us. We pray that this blog, StaytonServingSpain, will glorfy God, proclaim His grace, mercy, and love and share the testimony of HIs work in our lives.

Current Prophet- Thomas S Monson
Marcia and I have had similar feelings- we call them promptings- from the Holy Ghost. We had previously served two local missions in the Indiana area and felt that we should again serve the Lord where He would have us be. As Marcia, a therapist (LCSW- Licensed Clinical Social Worker), had a thriving family practice her initial desire was to serve again locally. Just as the Staytons prayed for confirmation regarding their desire to serve in Spain, we prayed to our Father in heaven whether or not we should submit paperwork to serve a full-time mission away from our home in Fishers, Indiana. The process is a little different in our faith as we submit paperwork to our church leaders indicating our desire to serve. That paper work is then sent to Salt Lake City where the mission work for the church is coordinated as it is a world wide effort. There was a good possibility that we would be serving a mission using the talents that Marcia has as a therapist. In fact we were told that she was an answer to prayers as the Philippine area presidency had been praying for someone to replace their existing therapist who was in the last months of her mission their. The end result, though, is we will be sent to where the Lord needs us. Even though their is a need in the Philippine area for someone of Marcia's skills the final determination would come through a living prophet- Thomas S Monson. (Our faith believes in Prophets in a similar manner in which ancient Israel did. We believe that they receive revelation from God to direct the Lord's church in these modern days.) Through revelation he would know where we were to go and what we would be doing. It was possible that we would end up somewhere else in the world in a proselyting mission- and some day we may. This time prayers were answered for the people of the Philippines and the Lord responded in directing His prophet to issue a "call" to us to serve in the Philippine's area.

After a week of additional training in Salt Lake City, Marcia and I will be leaving a week from today for the Philippines to continue our adventure! Excited times ahead.....


Saturday, July 21, 2012

One more week

 What a week! Monday started with 70 some couples going around the world to serve the Lord in various capacities. One of the first things that was done was to split the large group into smaller "districts." It was in these districts where we were taught how to teach.
From Right to Left- Me, Marcia, Sister & Elder Wallace, Elder & Sister Dabell, Sister & Elder Moon,  Instructor Brother Hawkes

Elder Wallace's district with Instructor Sister Reese next to Elder Wallace
Our district was an international one. Elder and Sister Wallace are serving a medical missionary to support the mission area of Vanuatu located in the South Pacific. Sister Wallace is a RN and will be serving in that capacity for the mission and Elder Wallace is a civil engineer who will be assisting her in this adventure. This is their third mission together having served previously for the church in Pakistan and Australia.

Elder and Sister Moon are also on their third mission. I'm not sure where their previous ones were. They are heading to the Democratic Republic of the Congo on an employment mission. They will serve in helping members of the church and others who may be looking for employment. They will also assist in counseling those who may be receiving assistance through the Perpetual Education Fund.

A short explanation on the Perpetual Education Fund or PEF may be warranted at this time. This fund was set up in 2001 to assist those who were seeking an education or training to further themselves and their situation. This assistance isn't a grant but a loan to be paid back. Since its start it has been a tremendous success. It was initiated by a modern day Prophet- Gordon B. Hinckley in April Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The clip to the right shows the success that it has had over the past 11 years.

The third couple of the group is Elder and Sister Dabell from Montana. They, too, will be serving an employment mission in Africa. They will be serving in South Africa covering a large territory. This is their first mission as a couple having recently retired.
Starting on Monday we will continue training in Salt Lake City. This will be training that will be specific for Marcia's assignment as the Area Mental Health Adviser for the Philippine area. As of yet we're not sure quite yet what I'll be doing but I know that I will be put to work!! We are ready to hit the ground running when we get there. We will be leaving on July 29th and arrive in Manila on the the 31st. Exciting times ahead...
Marcia and I saying goodbye, for now.


Friday, July 20, 2012

Day 5- Preach My Gospel- Farewell to new friends

Today was a sad day for Marcia and I as we left the MTC this evening. Many of the people that we were in training with will be leaving this weekend, at some point, to their missionary assignment somewhere around the world.

As Marcia and were leaving we were able to see Elder and Sister Jordan just before they left. They were packing there car and heading home to Taylorsville, Utah before they fly to Samoa on Monday. They were scheduled to leave today, the 20th, but their granddaughter was getting married and they didn't want to miss the wedding. That is quite understandable.

Elder and Sister Rose- the Area Medical Adviser for the South Eastern United States, are beginning their car ride east. They said that they would be stopping at the church historic sights in Missouri as they travel to Orlando, Florida.

I had a chance to sit down and talk with Elder and Sister Herrero who are from Miami. Sister Herrero is originally from Cuba. They will be serving a proselyting mission in Madrid Spain. As I talked with them they shared exciting news about the work that is going on in Cuba.

Marcia and I will be training next week for what our specific assignment will be. We are excited to get underway but we will have to finish that training first. I will try to convey more of the stories and locations of the Senior Missionaries who were here this past week. There were over 140 senior missionaries. Marcia and I were the youngest by a few years! The energy that was at the MTC was tremendous. The love of the younger missionaries for us old folks was palpable. They were excited to see us and when we told them where we were going their enthusiasm increase tremendously.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Day 4- Preach My Gospel

The Book of Mormon-Another Testament of Jesus Christ
 Another day has come and gone. Marcia and I are resting comfortably in our room here at the MTC. This place is truly amazing. We have met so many people, young and old, who are here preparing to share to the world their testimonies of Jesus Christ and the Restoration of the Gospel through a modern day prophet- Joseph Smith. They are also preparing themselves to share The Book of Mormon- Another Testimony of Jesus Christ. It is an exciting message that they are sharing. One of the most amazing things is that it is being done in the languages of the countries in which they will go. Marcia and I have met missionaries who are going to all the continents of the world- with the exception of Antarctica. One of the great things about these missionaries is that they are not only proselyting but also serving in capacities as health advisers, humanitarian missionaries, educational missionaries, family history missionaries, employment missionaries and so on. I am sure that there are others that I haven't mentioned.

Front Row- Reen and Marjorie Call Back Row-Samantha, Max,
Mckenna, and Charma  Mount
 Missionaries can't go out there without knowing that they have support from home. We have so much support from both sides of our family. We are grateful for their prayers and support. We surely will continue to need them as we continue our language studies and as we begin our assignment in the Philippines. This past weekend Marcia and I had a chance to drive to Las Vegas and say goodbye to Marcia's brother Max and his family. We had a great, but short, time with them. I enjoy stories and we were able to listen to a few of those as we shared dinner with their family and Charma's parents, Reen and Marjorie Call. As we will be gone two years and McKenna will have graduated from high-school during that time, we informed her that she couldn't get married in the next two years!
Marcia and I being dropped off by Kasi for our official
entry into the MTC

Elder and Sister Jackson, Sister and Elder French
   During the course of the week we found out who some of the other missionaries are that are also headed to the Philippines. Elder Brent and Sister Debbie Jackson are serving as the Area Medical Adviser(s). Brent is  a doctor and will be working with Marcia from the Medical side of things. Debbie and I will find out more of our assignment when we get to the Philippines. We also met Elder and Sister West. They are going to the Manila Mission in the Philippines. They will be leaving this weekend to begin their assignment.

As our week draws to an end here we will be sad to see all our new friends leave. We know they will be in good hands as they are on the Lord's mission.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Day 3 "Preach My Gospel" or OUCH!

For those of you who didn't understand the title of this post- today was shot day. This is a good news bad-bad news type of thing. Good news- it's over. Bad news- it hit the pocket-book (between Marcia and I we had six shots). Good news- it's over. Bad news- I had to have all three shots in one arm (Because I have no lymph nodes in my right arm). You get the idea.

Today was an exciting day as we were able to teach a discussion to an "investigator." These are volunteers who come to the MTC and allow the missionaries to teach them. They bring in real life experiences and portray those to give the missionaries experiences. The person that Marcia and I taught was an older gentleman. We received limited information regarding his background so we had to do some inquiry to determine what his needs were and how to address them. The limited information that we received indicated that he had  3 of his adult children pass away. As we talked with him he almost immediately informed us that his wife had recently passed away as well. Now some of these people are pretty good in their ability to portray a certain character. One of the things that we have been taught is the necessity to focus on the Holy Ghost and to discern the needs of the investigator. Marcia was very quick to listen to the Spirit as she listen to this man give us his recent history. She was able to share with him some of our beliefs about the life that will follow after we have passed away. That is something that we have a personal background in and Marcia has done grief counseling in the past. He did mention a concern about the three in one philosophy that religions practice. That is where I focused. Marcia and I were able to team teach well but I should have listened a little better in the direction that she was heading. We got through our lesson, were able to obtain a commitment about prayer, and scheduled a follow-up appointment. Following the appointment, as we talked, Marcia indicated that this gentleman was sincerely either one of the best actors that she had seen or he was grieving for the loss of someone close to him. Our instructor, Brother Hawkes, informed us that he was under the impression that the scenario had been made up. Marcia was surprised as to how well the older man played the part if it was truly made up.

During lunch we found out the rest of the story. As we sat next to another couple prior to an afternoon class, Marcia conveyed to the Sister missionary what had happened that morning. The Sister informed Marcia that the older man was someone they had known. When they entered the MTC they saw this man and talked with him to get updated in how he and his family were. He was a man whose wife did die three weeks ago and did have three adult children pass away in the past seven years. He was man who truly was grieving.  Marcia, through her skills and the Spirit, was able to pick that up and give him some comfort in the short time that we were with him.

This is an exciting time. Tomorrow we will teach another "investigator." We can't wait.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Day 2- "Preach My Gospel"

What an exciting day. Today was a culmination of learning how to teach, challenge and share. First things first.

There are about 40 or so senior missionary couples go through at this time. There mission assignments range from proselyting missions, Church Education System, Facility Management, Medical, and Humanitarian. All are here this week to participate in the Preach My Gospel experience before they go on to additional training specifically for their assignments. This morning we were broken up into study groups based on our district that we had been assigned to. Our district leader is Elder Wallace. He and Sister Wallace are serving a medical mission, Sister Wallace is a RN and Elder Wallace is going to be her assistant, to somewhere in the South Pacific. This is their third mission having previously served in Pakistan and one other area that escapes my memory at this time. He is the 6th great-grandson (or so) of Heber C Kimball, an early leader in our church. Another couple, Elder and Sister Moon, are similarly serving their third mission. They are serving a humanitarian mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This being their third mission, with a busy life, they thought that they might not have to spend the week in training with the other senior missionaries. They called a general authority, who's name escapes me (it is becoming a habit), who informed him it was "all or nothing." They didn't understand initially and Elder Moon asked for some clarification as to what that meant. The person explained to him that if he wanted to go on the mission he needed to be in it all the way, including attending the MTC again. Elder and Sister Moon are sitting in our class and are actively participating it the discussions.

Tomorrow we will be teaching an investigator(s) in the TRC (Teaching Resource Center). Marcia and I have studied Preach My Gospel and they are now throwing us in to teaching right away. Although this isn't the focus of our mission being the Area Mental Health Advisers, we still will have opportunity to share the Gospel so we are being prepared to do so. I will write more of our experience tomorrow.

In the category- It's a small Mormon world after all- Marcia and I sat next to a Senior Couple who are from Maryland. When they found out that we were from Indianapolis they remembered way back 30 or so years ago that they were in school about that time with a Steve and Mary somebody who moved to the Indianapolis area. They said Steve was working on his doctorate. I gave them the last name of Larsen and I hit the jackpot. I told them that the Larsens are now serving a church service mission at the Bishop's Storehouse. Since I still have my phone I was able to give them their email and home address.

The day ended with a devotional where the speaker was Elder Vaughn Featherstone, emeritus member of the Quorum of the 70. I was amazed at his memory as he recited from memory poems, quotes and stories. It was a very uplifting experience.


Monday, July 16, 2012

Day one- "Preach My Gospel"


  • Seeing about 40 or so couples and 9 single sisters who will be serving the Lord around the world.
  • Brother Peterson informing 40 or so couples and 9 single sisters that there will be no heart attacks during this week of training.
  • Meeting a missionary couple who are going to Richmond, Indiana. This is where Marcia and I served our first church service mission about 4 years ago.
  • Learning how to strain insects out of our rice so we don't have extra or unwanted protein. Thank-you Elder Wells. He and Sister Wells are serving their third mission. This mission they are going to Fiji to serve in office support. Their two previous missions were in Singapore/Malaysia mission and in Russia. They learned how to strain out insects from their rice in Malaysia. It takes about six times to do an effective job!
  • We met Elder/Doctor and Sister Jackson. They are serving in the Philippines with us as the Area Medical Advisers.
  • Walking back to our dorm room and running into about 20 missionaries who were leaving for the Philippines this evening. They were excited and nervous at the same time. They were a great looking bunch of missionaries! We will be looking for them when we leave on the 29th. For those who have been keeping track of our itinerary that will be a day sooner than expected.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Unbelievable week!  I am chalking this week up to one liken unto returning family members back to our Loving Heavenly Father, having the home burn down and scratching my way through grad school.  So hard but so wonderful!  We put in about 16 hour days and I attempted to read more than I have since grad school.  Image the thrill of getting through the heart attacks and then having my baby's here and alive-but with nothing but positive, helpful and loving supportive teammates.  Never an angry word, or a negative comment, no one even frustrated or irritated and hundreds of people learning new languages and in an environment of complete love and happiness.  Only like heaven could this be comparable to.  After 4 days we can now pray, bear testimony-which is stating our understanding of how we feel about our Savior, Jesus Christ and his life and how his love influences us, making purchases and getting the basics of communication with transportation all in Tagolog.  We had about 6 natives from the Philippines come and communicate with us on top of our private tutors who were absolutely incredible!  I know that this was nothing we did on our own, we felt the prayers of our family and dear friends who promised to pray for us and the assistance of spirit of the Lord sustaining us.  As we left the MTC, I could feel spirit of peace change in the environment of the world.  Then after this incredible experience we went and watched Max and Charma in Vegas where we observed the most loving care giving  of them caring for her parents, as they struggle with Dementia and kidney failure.  Never a frustrating word of a job that is 24/7. Charna's attitude making them feel like she wants to be one where but there caring for them was so inspiring.  I kept thinking of the Savior caring for the sick and afflicted only because He wanted nothing more than to love and serve them.  How grateful I am for a family of members who set this example for Jeff and I always!  I love this experience and thank you all for your prayers and love!!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Sharing our testimonies

Elders French, Johnson, Horsley, Sister French
 A common occurrence around the MTC campus is missionaries sharing their testimonies to other missionaries. Marcia and I were put on the spot and challenged by both of our primary tutors to do so in Tagalog. Marcia's vocabulary and understanding is much better than where I'm at, but I was able to stammer through.

One set of missionaries we ran into had a Fisher's 1st ward connection. As we conversed with Elders Johnson and Horsley we found out that they were going to Columbus Ohio. We mentioned that used to be the temple that we attended since we were from Indianapolis. Elder Johnson than told us he had an aunt and uncle in Indianapolis- somewhere. Since Indy is soooo small we asked what their names were. He wasn't sure about the last name but was definite that the first names were Dan and Allyn. Marcia and I told him that his Aunt's last name is Baker and that we did know them. It is a small world....
Brian Buchner (tutor), Sister French, Elders Lyybert, Bliss going to  Romania
 For those not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon), our church sends missionaries to about 160 some countries. Before they go into the "mission field" they are sent to a Mission Training Center (MTC) to learn how to share the gospel and also a language if they are leaving their home country. While Marcia and I are at the MTC we will try and post pictures, names and where they are headed....  jsf

Hermanas Chavez and May

Hermanas Folland and Whitaker- Guatamala

Sister Belnap and Dolan- Japan

Soeur Garrett and Stahly-France

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Old friends and new friends

Sister French and Elder Kirkeiner
 Another exciting day here at the MTC. Our language skills continue to increase with the help of the Spirit. Our focus for the entire week has been learning Tagalog. During lunch and dinner we have been able to talk with other Senior Missionaries who have a variety of assignments to which they have been called. Each training is a little different as it focuses on what those missionaries will be doing.

At lunch a young Elder recognized us and came up to us as we were looking for a place to sit. That Elder is pictured to the right. Yes, for those who may not recognize him it is Elder Philip Kerkeiner from the Fisher's 2nd Ward. Marcia wanted to hug him but rules are rules- I, on the other hand, did get a hug!
Sister French with Hermanas Chavez(l) and May
 A common thing to see around the MTC campus is missionaries testifying to other missionaries in the language that they are learning. Today our primary tutor, Brian Buchner, challenged us to go out and bare our testimony to two sets of missionaries. The first set that we encountered were Hermana Chavez and Hermana May. They listened intently as Marcia bore her testimony to them in Tagalog and they were very patient as I stammered through mine. These Hermanas will be going to Ecuador in a few weeks.

Elder Mock (l), Elder Goodwin (c), and Brother Beck (r) with Sister French
 The next set of Elders we found sitting on a bench and were eager to listen to us as we shared our testimony with them. Elder Mock and Elder Goodwin will be leaving in a few weeks to go to Bulgaria. They are sitting with one of their tutors, Brother Beck.

Meanwhile at the cafeteria more people that we knew came up to us and said hi. One such person was Lindsey (Baer) Miller. Those who have been in the Fishers area more than 12 years ago would recognize the name as
she is the daughter of Neal and Cindy Baer who were in our ward when we moved into Fishers 14 years ago. Another person that we saw was Sister Bushman. She is probably not familiar to most who read this blog. Marcia and I met her at our daughter's wedding in May. She was in Bri and Kasi's ward and is now finishing her time in the MTC leaving for the Philippines on Monday. I am sure that we will see her again after we get to the Philippines.

The time is flying as we study Tagalog. The Spirit continues to lighten our minds as we study our language. Marcia and I are having fun and will continue to share our experience with you....  

Sister French with Lindsey (Baer) Miller

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Where in the world is Elder and Sister....?

Study Buddy- Joti Shepard
 Today was another study day. We met new missionaries serving for the church around the world. We also met new people who are assisting us in learning Tagalog.

The morning started off with a "study buddy." This is a volunteer from the community who is either a native speaker or is a return missionary. Our first study buddy is a native speaker, Joti Shepard. Our session is an hour long (from 8-9) and it is self directed by either Marcia or myself. Not only is Joti a very effective tutor but is impressive with a number of additional languages. In total she speaks 10 languages, most of them fluently. She is also in the process of learning Dutch as her 11th language. Now that is impressive!

During the course of the day we had another study buddy, Jimmy Brady. We also had a new tutor who came home from his mission a year ago. His name is Oliver Am Hu.
Tutor Oliver Am Hu with Marcia (don't quite know where the diet coke came from)
 Not all people employed or volunteering at the MTC are native Utahans. One of the senior missionary coordinators, Holly Anderson, is from Appleton, Wisconsin. For those cheese-heads who are in our home stake of Indianapolis, North, they will be glad to know that there are Packer Backers in Provo.
Holly Anderson

Jeff in missionary uniform
I find that one of the highlights of the day is sitting down in the cafeteria with other senior couples. At lunch we met a couple from Oregon who will be serving in the newly formed Salt Lake West mission. The other couple we sat next to at lunch, Dennis and Susan Jordan, are from Salt Lake and headed to Western Samoa.  Sister Jordan and I hit it off quickly as she is a retired Facilities Manager for the church. Having worked for the church for nine years we had some common background. One of the interesting things that some (most?) may not be aware of is that President Monson raises homing pigeons. The interesting things people learn while eating lunch.

During dinner we sat with two other couples. Both couples have been called to serve CES missions. Elder and Sister Vargas are from Las Angelas and have been called to serve on the island of Cyprus. Elder and Sister Noel are from Bountiful, Utah (if I remember correctly) and have been called to serve in Siberia.

Marcia and I thought that we had a ways to travel when it came to getting to our mission. We aren't even close to the farthest to travel! After talking with the Elder and Sister Vargas and Noel we have come to appreciate the short time that it will take us to get to Manila- about 20 hours of travel time just under 24 hours total. Elder and Sister Noel are leaving next week after their CES training. They will take a 5 hour, or so, flight to JFK in New York City. From there they fly 10 hours to Moscow. In Moscow they will have a 10 hour layover as they have to go to the US Embassy to apply and attain a visa. Apparently that is something that has to be done in Moscow. From Moscow they fly 5 hours to some city in Siberia that I cannot pronounce. The city that they fly to is where the mission president is at. They will spend the night at the mission home. From their they will board a train on the Trans-Siberian Railroad and travel 12 hours to their final destination. I got exhausted just trying to add those numbers together!!

As I proofed the above I realized how complacent that I may have become. By no means should the above be read as a complaint against the time that is needed to travel. As I re-read it my thoughts went to the pioneers who struggled to go west. In those struggles what they couldn't put in a wagon or a handcart had to be left behind. There leaving their homes wasn't on their terms but was dictated to them by the mobs that were surrounding Nauvoo, Far West, and Kirkland. Marcia and I have truly been blessed to have been able to leave on a mission at this time in our lives and at this period of time during this last dispensation. We are thankful to serve.

Tomorrow will be another great day to meet new people and share with them their excitement to serve the Lord around the world. We can't wait!!


Monday, July 9, 2012

Tagalog 101

Brother Brian Buckner, our main tutor, and Marcia
 Today we started our "immersion" experience at the MTC. We woke up early and were picked up by our oldest son, Josh. He drove us to the MTC and dropped us off at Building 1M. We checked in and sat down in the foyer with two other couples to wait for our orientation instructor. (As a side note-Marcia and I soon noticed, as far as "senior" missionary couples go, that we are on the rather young side. This was confirmed during the course of the day as we joined other couples at lunch and dinner in the cafeteria.) One couple from Las Vegas, Elder and Sister Wood, are here to study Mongolian as they will serve in Mongolia. The other couple from Southern California, Elder and Sister Bohan, are here to learn Russian. They will be leaving in August for a CES (Church Education System) mission in the Ukraine.

Sister Anderson, from the Senior Missionary Language Department, soon came by to pick us up. Marcia and I needed to get an ID badge so she directed us to where we needed to be. We met up with her shortly after that to finish our orientation.
Marcia using the TALL program to learn Tagalog
Marcia vs. TALL- who will win?
Then the fun began. First of all our schedule in a nutshell. During the course of the day we will have two 1-hour sessions with a native speaker. Marcia and I will self direct this time for areas we need work on. We then will have two 2-hour sessions with a Tagalog tutor. During those sessions the tutor will primarily be speaking Tagalog. Interspersed during the day are three 2-hour self study time that Marcia and I use to work on the computer program named TALL or working on assignments that our tutors have given us. The total day is a 12 hour day.

We have found with the tutor that we are picking the language up quicker than we had expected. It is intense but the spirit is strong here. One of the unique things that we did this afternoon was sing a couple of hymns in Tagalog. Even though the hymns were in Tagalog we were able to feel the spirit as we sang.

Marcia and I have truly been blessed. We hope to be able to share some of those blessings with those who follow this blog over the next few years.
Our excitement to serve the Lord in the Philippines continues to burn strong in our hearts!


Thursday, July 5, 2012

I truly don't know where to begin.  We had our first formal training this morning.  We were invited to one of the leaders homes and made to feel completely welcome.  A sweet soft sell to becon us to the area was heard.  Not a bad neighborhood with President Uchdorff, some of the twelve and seventies living in a quiet area and very homey neighborhood, but out of our budget I'm sure. To our dear friends and family not of our faith, this would be a congregation of the 'who's who' in the Mormon world, without the arrogancy or pride you would expect from a leadership group.  One of the strongest messages came through when I heard them say we are paving the way for our immediate children as they too will have opportunity to serve as leaders in the world.  How easy that was to understand, for I must say I honestly feel they are all so much more qalified, confident and capable than am I feeling, but as Brig quotes...'The Lord will qualify us.'
We've been reminded now a few times to share our story and will be doing so this Sunday as we have been offered a farewell opportunity to speak.  I pray the spirit will testify and help us to feel what we did in Fishers with President Kinard, one of the few times in my life I felt the spirit of my Savior and loved ones so strong.    
Our story
Earlier this year I casually mentioned to Jeff I was putting in my papers to serve another LOCAL mission, and asked if he wanted to serve again with me.  He said he would like us to fast and pray about it, I thought that an odd request but could see no harm, so I agreed. (Note this wasn't done reluctantly...yet!) 
The following week after fasting and praying, I asked Jeff again, '..well I feel the same way, I'm putting in my papers and would you like to join me in serving another mission here?' 
His response was as one woud expect, kind of... 'Yes, but just not the end part of that sentence'.
This took a second but I now got it,  the 'here' is what he AGAIN was going to challenge me with.  For those of you who may not know, I love my house, my bed, my friends and I HATE change!  Quickly, I began with the most logical arguments for the 'here'; his team of doctors I trusted, his health, my lack of desire to go anywhere but here, get the picture. 
He then was without question inspired as he said, 'Let's fast and pray about it again and just see.'  Now I knew my desires were good and I'd already spoken to the gentleman I'd worked with on our last two missions and he was happy and ready to have us back so what was one more week to get Jeff on board?
At the end of that week, again we both felt pretty strong in our own perspectives, and right before I was going to use the gold card to say this was one of 2 or 3 times in our marriage I just needed him to support me, he said casually, 'let's leave it up to the Lord'.  Yes, that was the ticket!  I had a 6 year plan.  In 6 years our home would be paid off and we'd begin living our dream.  I implemented this plan and was on track in preparing myself to be ready to serve a full time mission within the states, the Lord knew of my plan and I'd been keeping up my side of the bargain beautifully:
  •  100,000 names indexed
  • Reading the complete Book of Mormon each month for a year
  • Gain expertise in books of Isiaih and Revelations-tutored by RuthEllen Homer-a genious in the scriptures
  • Memorize 'Preach My Gospel'- a wonderful book about missionary work,  anyway you get the picture
The day we were to go into the bishop for an interview Jeff had to work, I promised I'd give him both our perspectives and we'd see.  The interview went fine but certainly nothing definitive, just as I'd expected.  Nice. He'd asked us to do the physicals and dental work and then meet with the stake president.  With my OCD, we had those all those appointments done within a week.
We had a large meeting called Stake Conference, where multiple congregations meet with the Stake President who presides and typically speaks.  Jeff wasn't feeling well and was struggling that day,so I went alone. 
After the meeting I approached the Stake President and asked if the bishop had contacted him about meeting with us?  I said nothing about a mission - here or anywhere.  This man looked directly into my eyes and I felt like he could see into my heart and just uttered the words, 'What are you going to do with your practice?"  Now I knew this man was inspired and I have the utmost respect for him but this threw me!  My response was even more shocking.  You see, when you deal in crisis management and work with people who sometimes share things that shock you, you're job is to remain calm and respond without elevated emotions.  I am very good at this part of my job.  I responded by stating, 'Well I suppose I will close it'.  He didn't look shocked or surprised but just shared his genuine joy and instructed me to get an appointment made with the executive secreatary.  I quickly left the church, drove home and had a melt down like nothing I'd ever experienced.  I cried and then thought of my daughter who often shares with me she and the Lord are fighting and decisions are still out. She always gives in to His counsel but now I was not happy.  I think I've only fought and yelled a few times in my life with the Lord, I grew up not thinking it respectful to argue or fight with your Father, but at this moment I didn't care.  I worked myself up to such a state I could barely breath.
 I spoke a few minutes to a dear friend who promptly said in no uncertain terms it wasn't about me and to get on with things-(interesting tactic Rich). 
After, I found myself still sobbing on my couch and fighting with the Lord about how this was one thing I didn't think I was capable of doing, then Jeff woke and came down stairs.  He was shocked and worried as he saw me falling apart in a real sense.  He asked if I'd like a blessing, which is a special prayer he offers as one holding the priesthood, acting not of himself but of the Lord.  In this blessing he shared with me very sacred and solemn things only the Lord knew that immediately gave me comfort and knowledge all would be well.  As soon as he closed the blessing I was fine and he was hurting for me, holding me and stating we could serve a mission in Fishers and we didn't need to leave.  I coudn't believe it, he just blessed me to know things that put me at ease and his heart was bent toward supporting me and making things well. I reminded him of what he Lord had just told us and thus the adventure began. 
After interviews and going to Utah I realized that going out of the states was a huge possiblity but in my heart I figured we'd end up, especially after sending in Jeff's medicl stuff, getting called to serve in Utah and could see the kids at night and on all holidays!  The call came and we were called to the Philippines.  I can't say we hadn't had discussions about this and that it was a huge possiblity but in the back of my mind I really did think Jeff's health and our personal finances would NOT allow us to leave this county.  Never have I seen my husband so thrilled and happy.  How grateful I am to serve the Lord and thus, as for me and my house, WE WILL SERVE THE LORD whereever He calls us, let the dream we've talked of for 30 years begin...       

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

This month's Ensign has a great article in it about Martin Harris. It is titled- "The Life of Martin Harris: Patterns of Humility and Repentance." For those who may not have read it yet I highly recommend it. As today is the 4th of July our thoughts reflect back on those who have bravely served and fought for the freedoms that we enjoy. In reading this article I was able to develop a different perspective of Martin Harris and understand the crucial role that he played in the restoration of the gospel

As today is July 4th recognition should be given to those who founded this great country. These men and women paved the way which enabled the gospel to be restored, the Book of Mormon to be published, and the return of the Lord's church in these latter-days.

After spending a wonderful weekend in Cache County with the Fullers, Marcia and I returned to Taylorsville. We are staying at our daughter Kasi's home for the next few days. This morning we were able to go to the parade in Murray with our daughters Kasi and Bri and Bri's husband-William. The pictures below come from the parade.

William, Bri, Kasi, Marcia, Jeff

Kasi catching some rays or sleeping(?)- She didn't get in until 4 am  following an all night fund raiser for a woman's shelter in Provo.

Bri and William

Marcia, Bri, William, Kasi

Marcia seeing Cindy Porter-White who she was in Mutual with growing up