This morning we awoke to cloudy skies and wet grounds at the MTC. It was cold! It has been chilly all day. I’m the girl whose clothing suggestions for Guatemala said, “no suits, no jackets, take 2-3 cardigan sweaters.” I never dreamed that the weather in Utah would turn cold. The high today was 62 degrees. It is supposed to be in the seventies for the rest of the week.
More senior missionaries arrived today. They had to house14 of them at the nearby motel because there is not enough room in the senior housing building. The only time we associate is at the cafeteria or the senior lounge because our training is in different phases. Today we began three days of CES (Church Education System) training. Besides Seminaries and Institutes, CES is responsible for the three universities plus 15 other schools, many in Samoa and the islands. There are 21 couples in training. We found out today that one couple had 5 ½ months from the time they got their call till the time they entered the MTC. One couple had only 11 days to prepare. CES missionaries enter the MTC for training once a month and our teachers come from Salt Lake. It has been a very intense day, starting at 8 am, talking about principles, doctrine, and the “how to” of teaching Seminary and Institute classes. I went into the classroom this morning feeling pretty confident of my teaching ability. I have taught Seminary twice and Gospel Doctrine twice, plus all the other years in positions that required teaching. I came out of that class at 4 pm feeling like I really don’t know much about teaching. But, I’m not the only one. I heard others voice the same thing.
We talked about teaching the scriptures by surfing and scuba diving. Some parts of the lesson we skim the surface and briefly speak of something, and other times we dive right in and dissect the scriptures. We talked about SST (sequential scripture teaching) and EST (explain, share and testify). Our heads are pretty full right now. We have spent almost 3 hours preparing a 30 minute lesson that we will team teach tomorrow from the Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 16.
Some other thoughts from today: the Church is very close to having cell phones issued to every missionary (over 52,000 missionaries serving throughout the world). Someone asked how you keep them from calling home and the reply was, “we rely on their integrity.” That speaks volumes of the quality of the young men and women who serve. Calls home have to wait till Mother’s Day and Christmas. Of course, we senior missionaries can actually call and do not have all the restrictions that young missionaries have. I don’t know how many actually write letters anymore as they can e-mail weekly.
President Harold B. Lee said that as teachers we must prepare this generation to meet the Savior when he comes. President Lee was prophet when our children were the current generation. That tells me something about the urgency of this work.
Scriptures we used:
Doctrine and Covenants 4 1 Nephi 10:21 Doctrine and Covenants 41:5
3 Nephi 26:14 Mosiah 1:17 1 Nephi 8:38-39
Alma 17:2-4 1 Nephi 3:1-21 1 Nephi 16
September 2, 2008…..Tuesday
It has been another good day. It is still chilly, though warmer. We didn’t present the lesson we prepared as there wasn’t time for all to teach when we formed into small groups. Names were drawn and one third of us were told we won. However, I would have liked to have presented what we had prepared. Certainly, the time spent in preparation is such a valuable experience even if we don’t teach. One of the thoughts expressed in the lesson we heard was: “Murmuring and complaining does not solve life’s problems.” How true that is. In the afternoon we all had time to work on a twenty minute lesson on teaching skills and then we taught each other in our small groups.
Our last class today was taught by Church Security. He started by asking each couple where we are going. We have three couples in our group going to South Africa. He told them South Africa was the most beautiful of all the places but also has the highest crime rate. He told us Guatemala is the next most beautiful place with the second highest crime rate. That doesn’t scare us. We have heard many comments by a variety of people about the danger there. We are not afraid. We will be careful. One thing that was stressed, no matter where we have been called to serve is, keep your car doors locked and your windows up at all times. That’s what I did in Lancaster! One interesting fact he told us is that there are more Latter-day Saint missionaries in Russia than there are Russian Orthodox priests. Next to Islam, we are the world’s fastest growing religion.
We just returned from the Tuesday night Devotional. The front and center seats are reserved for the senior missionaries so we always have good seats. Tonight, five minutes before starting time, they put a picture on the giant screens to announce who our speaker will be. Tonight it was Elder Quentin L. Cook. It was a wonderful surprise to know that we would be hearing from an Apostle of the Lord. When he and his wife came in and were seated on the stand that beautiful feeling of the spirit came over me and testified that he was truly a chosen apostle. Sister Cook spoke first, followed by her husband. He was very instrumental in the writing of Preach My Gospel. He said after the committee and written all of the chapters it was reviewed by President Hinckley and the First Presidency, then by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The end product was literally re-written by these chosen servants of the Lord. It became the document of the First Presidency and the Twelve. It is a marvelous teaching tool. He used Doctrine and Covenants 31 about missionary work throughout his talk and ended with Doctrine and Covenants 29:7…..”gather the elect, for the elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts.” The MTC choir of several hundred always stirs my soul. When we sing I have trouble getting thru the song without tears. I am so grateful to be a part of this work.
September 3, 2008…..Wednesday
We had another great day and our final day with CES. We will work with CES in our calling but it is unlikely that we will actually teach religion classes because the Perpetual Education Fund will keep us so busy. However, we will be doing classes and firesides to prepare our young people for PEF. Tomorrow we begin PEF training and we can hardly wait to get more details of what we will actually be doing. Our group of 23 couples has thinned out as some left this afternoon for their assignment at an Institute of Religion in the States. Others will be flying out tomorrow for foreign assignments. The only ones left from our original group are PEF, mission office, and military outreach couples. We are now in the laundry room. There has to be 150 Maytag washers and 150 Maytag dryers. Right now we are the only ones in here. We have internet connection and tables to do our homework for tomorrows training in Salt Lake so even the laundry room is a fantastic place at the MTC. Soft music is playing.....”The Spirit of God.” Even in this room the tears come as the music touches my heart. Many of our friends and family have sent brief emails of support and prayers and as I read them to Dick he, too, had to pull out his handkerchief and wipe his eyes.
Today was “ice cream” day with various toppings. At lunch, as I was making a sundae, an elder asked me what I was putting on my ice cream. It was caramel. I asked where he was going and he said, “California San Fernando.” I told him that was the mission where I live. Then I asked where he was from and he said, “Argentina.” I told him he had to meet my husband, so he followed me back to the table. He and Dick spoke in Spanish for a few minutes about Argentina and the areas where he served 50 years ago. Dick has a great love for the Argentines and so do I because of his love for them and also because of the times we had Argentines in our home for several weeks……Clarita Boltiansky spent time with us in 1964, the Ruben and Carroll families in 1975 and German Ruben came two other times after Doreen died in childbirth. That baby was named Ricardo, for Dick, and the little girl after he remarried was Myrna. My favorite thought of the day, “A mission prepares a couple for eternal life together.”
September 4, 2008…..Thursday
We were on the road today at 7 am for Salt Lake to have Perpetual Education Fund training. There were 7 couples. The Church rented two vans for us to travel in. We met in a media room at the Conference Center. It was a beautiful setting, looking out the windows into the Conference Center that holds 21,000 people and seeing the organ pipes. I felt so strongly the blessing of a living prophet. President Hinckley’s inspiration for the Conference Center and for the Perpetual Education Fund all came together for me today, as I was sitting there being instructed in that great edifice. We met and spoke with Elder Carmack who is the administrator for PEF. He recalled seeing our resume. He was the one who had to approve us for the assignment. As they talked about the various countries that we would be serving in, they expressed how well the fund is run in Central America. One brother told us we were blessed to be going there. CES is being given a new title and it appears on our papers that we got today. It will soon be known as SI for Seminaries and Institutes. One thing we learned today is that none of us could be told exactly what we will be doing. It will depend on how the PEF directors choose to use us.
We have been greatly enriched by associating with the other senior couples here in the MTC. Driving together today allowed us to be with two other couples that we had not interacted with very much before. It was a very pleasant experience. When we arrived back at the MTC we shared words and hugs with Jim and Lynn Brink who will be leaving for Germany tomorrow to serve as a mission office couple.
Some facts: The last meeting President Hinckley attended was a Board of Education meeting that directs the affairs of PEF. He died four days later. There are 31,000 people who now have PEF loans to help with their training or education. All of the money has come from donations of Church members.
Scriptures of the day that really speak of the purpose of PEF:
Doctrine and Covenants 38:24-27 Doctrine and Covenants 42:39
Doctrine and Covenants 104:14-18 Moses 7:18
Doctrine and Covenants 64:29-34 Doctrine and Covenants 31 (missionary work)
“When they don’t pay their tithing, faith fades.
When they do pay their tithing, faith blooms.” President Gordon B. Hinckley
September 5, 2008…..Friday
We were up early again today so we could leave for Salt Lake for more training. I didn’t feel well and didn’t know how I would do on the hour drive up. I was feeling that I should stay here and Dick go with the group. He gave me a blessing and told me I would do fine on the trip. I was worried about going because I didn’t want to be sick on the drive, but I knew I needed to exercise my faith and go. The trip went fine and I was feeling much better by noon. We had a lot of administration things to learn today. We learned about the role the Church Employment Centers play with the PEF. There are over 300 employment centers around the world. Over 500,000 people each year are assisted in finding jobs. It is not limited to Church members.
Elder Carmack joined us for awhile today. We all went to the Church Office Building for lunch in the cafeteria and enjoyed walking around the temple grounds. We also got to meet Daniel de Almeida who Dick had talked to many months ago and he is the one who had taken our information to Elder Carmack and he approved us to work for PEF.
Two interesting things happened today. We have a couple, Elder and Sister Myers from Dallas, Texas who are going to the West Indies Mission. They were told that there was a missionary couple in the Dominican Republic who would be a big help to them. Their last name was Pettingill. I had to ask what his first name was. It was Lewis. Everyone got a chuckle when I told them I had gone steady with him when we were 13. I wore his ring on a chain around my neck for about 2 weeks. Of course, we didn’t date at all because we were too young. As I remember, my friend Nancy had worn that same ring around her neck for awhile before I got it. The other “small world” experience was with the same missionary couple. I asked her if she knew Alan and Pat Linford. She gave me a “Yessss. We sit on adjoining pews every Sunday.” She said the evening they were set apart by the stake president, the Linford’s youngest son was also set apart for his mission. Their oldest daughter is 41, their youngest of their 10 children is 19. Linfords lived next door to us when we lived on Stanton St. in Pomona.
We did some laundry tonight and are now all packed. We leave here at 10 am tomorrow morning for our trip to the airport and we should arrive in Guatemala City tomorrow night shortly after 8 pm central time.