Sunday, December 4, 2011

Getting Settled In

It continues to be a small world in the Church, although I haven't met anyone who knows Mollie yet, but I suspect that will happen.  But the first night we were here we went to a missionary farewell, 2 Elders were going home after completing their missions.  After the fireside we were introduced to some other senior missionaries.  Elder and Sister Christensen are the seminary and institute missionaries.  Did you know there is a pilot program for online seminary?  It reaches outlying areas, which here it is vast, some people are 6 hours away.  Anyhow, Elder Christensen is a former FBI agent, but that is not the interesting part.  He was the agent sent to Samara Russia when Andy Propst was kidnapped.  Now it gets interesting.  He has a picture of their meeting, Andy looked terrified still.  He was in the clothes his captors put him in, but being a photocopy it was not a good photo.  The KGB interrogated both elders, 14 hours a day for 3 or 4 days, I forget.  Elder C.  talked with the elders and asked them was there anything in their conduct that he needed to be apprised of. Thankfully, the answer was no. The story Elder C.  related was pretty exact to what Andy told in his fireside.  Elder Tuttle had gotten out of his cuffs, they could have overpowered their abductors but the Spirit told them not to.  This ended up to be a great blessing to the continuence of missionary work in Russia.  The head of the KGB said he had never met young men so pure and without guile.  Both Elders had forgiven these men, even though they had been severely beaten with a baseball bat.  In fact the KGB told Elder C.  if you ever have any trouble or need anything in Russia, you come to me.  Also, Elder C. said before he left for Russia, he asked (because he was required to) the First Presidency if they would pay the ransom.  President Faust's remark was, Jesus Christ has already ransomed them.  The timeline of when Elder Tuttle and Propst were released instead of being shot was when the Prophet was in the Temple praying for these two Elders with no guile.  They probably don't even know the missionary work they did in their short time in Russia or the hearts they softened in the KGB. 

I have to tell you one more story that Elder Christensen related in a YSA fireside.  You will be too young to know anything about this.  But some Croatian men who wanted to start a revolution back in Yugoslavia hijacked a plane going from LA to NY.  Well, this plane was not equipped to fly overseas so the Air Force sent a plane to lead the way.  They had to land in various places to refuel.  When they got to France, the police shot the tires out.  The hijackers demanded a direct phoneline to someone of importance in the USA.  As the workers were laying this line they cut into a conversation unaware to the people.  It was a man and a woman.  He was trying to convince her to rendevous with him and he was sure no one would ever know.  Little did he know that several hundred people heard the whole set up; in many countries.  His point to the young adults, what do you do when you think no one else is listening or watching?  The clean hands and a pure heart scenario.  Just so you will know the rest of the story.  These hijackers were not mean, they released everyone.  I don't know about the adulterers!

We have been to our ward once now.  It is a sister ward to Sweet Home, very, very friendly.  It covers a huge area.  Yesterday we drove 40 miles to visit 3 homes.  Then when I pressed home on the GPS, Sarah (GPS) got the USA in her sights.  I didn't catch on we were going the wrong way until she said, "go 73 miles"  what?  Oh well, it was a nice drive.  Our Bishop's name is Heieie, pronounced Hi yi.  We visited his parents yesterday, he was also one of the past bishops.  They are originally from Scandinavia, but their name was Petersen.  Well, one of his ancestors somehow joined up with Jesse James and somehow killed a little girl.  Well, Bishop H's grandfather was so embarrassed that he packed his family up and moved to Canada and changed his name.  The word Heieie has special meaning in his native tongue.  That is how they ended up in Winnipeg.

We visited a sweet Guatamalan family.  They moved from their beloved homeland to escape the Gadianton robbers.  They said it is too dangerous to live there anymore.  But they have a desire to retire there.  They showed us a beautiful picture of their dream location which he is sure is by the Waters of Mormon.  His wife Alma goes to the Catholic Church because it is in Spanish.  He is trying to get cleared to teach math, science and physics here like he did in Guatamala.  Just a lovely couple.  Then we visited a Filipino couple, and her name is also Alma.  Well, I have been told that many of the Lamanite and Nephite descendents named their sons and daughters after the great prophet in the Book of Mormon, (but these people are converts??)  I wonder if the Philippines were also discovered by Hagoth?  Filipino's insist on feeding you and then send more home with you.  It is delicious but I know expensive.  I feel guilty visiting them if it is going to cost them.

We have visited 4 other families and are trying to get acquainted with the ward members.  They asked dad right off if we were from Salt Lake.  They don't like people from Salt Lake coming here and telling them to do things differently.  We had no intention of doing that anyway.  But....missionary work would go better if they would follow the outline of the Church.  For instance, they don't believe in having ward correlation or PEC unless someone has something specific to bring up, then they will call a meeting.  We had to invite ourselves to ward council just so we could get a ward list and some recommendations of people to visit.  I get the impression that they don't have consistent YW's or YM's, and I don't know if they have a scouting program.  They only have 18% hometeaching and I don't know the statistics on visiting teaching.  But as I said, the boundaries are huge and petrol is very expensive.  The cold and ice don't seem to slow anybody down.  This is a warm winter for them, so far, but the bishop said hold on to your seat.  They actually call it "balmy."  Lots of people get around on bicycles.  They are dressed in black, no helmets usually, and just pedal amongst the cars.  Crazy.   Our mission president who is a wonderful brother, plans to leave us in London Ward for the entire time, unless he gets another senior couple.  He will have us work in the mission office during the day, after his brother and wife go home in 6 months.  Then we will have evenings to visit and reactivate or teach discussions if we ever get that privilege.  (sure hope so).  I have to tell you about our mission presidents brother and wife.  What a dynamic couple.  He was a Captain in the Air Force and a Major in the Army and served lastly as an air traffic controller.  He is built like a wrestler, with a Roman nose and can charm a snake.  I have never heard anyone handle people on the phone like him, but don't get me wrong, he is so kind but ???? at a loss for a word.  He gets things done now.  His wife, the mother of 9 is so soft-spoken and gentle but she can call a sloppy elder to repentance before he knows what hit him.  When President Paulson and Elder Paulson tease each other, it is hilarious.  They have me in stitches.  I had no idea the work, money and time that goes into running a mission and watching out for all the Elders, Sisters and Senior Couples.  The Lord is definitely the overseer, it would not be humanly possible to correlate the missions throughout this vast world without His Divine influence.  The Temple has been held up by the Jewish community.  They are next door to the mission office where the temple will be built.  The rabbi was afraid of the traffic that it would bring and the streets are very narrow and congested.  So that was understandable.  He influenced the commission to rezone.  I think that has almost been worked out now, but there are still some hoops to go through to get final approval. 

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