Saturday, May 9, 2009

Missionary Service

We have had Conferences in the mission this past week. President Perkins (the soon to be new Area President) came to visit and to instruct us. The current President (President Hallstrom) you may recall was called as a new member of the Presidency of the Seventy this last General Conference.

President Perkins shared some good instruction while here. The General Authorities always do, of course. But there was one thing in particular that he shared which we thought would be interesting to share with all of you -- how senior missionaries are called.

It goes something like this.

Mission Presidents communicate with Salt Lake City and request needed missionaries. In the case of seniors, they include in their request the specific skills needed and what specific responsibilities are to be assigned to the couple in that mission. Those requests are then directed to specific Church Departments, based on what the need is. For example, a need for welfare missionaries is directed to the Welfare Department, a need for Humanitarian missionaries is directed to the Humanitarian Department, etc.

When couples complete an application to serve a mission, copies of that application are also directed to each department. When a particular application seems to match a mission need, the department will ask for that couple on behalf of the requesting mission. Usually, several departments request each senior couple.

The request is then assigned a priority level, with the need deemed to be best met by that couple being given priority one, and so on. Once prioritized, the application is then sent for review by a member of the Quorum of the Twelve and the chairman of the missionary committee. Each missionary application (all of them, seniors and young missionaries alike) then appear one at a time on a computer screen.

President Perkins was given the opportunity to witness this part of the process. Elder Hales was the one assigned on this particular occasion. President Perkins watched as Elder Hales looked at each application on the screen, one at a time. Sometimes he would look at personal information, other times he would just look at the picture. Elder Hales told him that if he can look into the eyes of the candidate (even if it is only a picture) he can see into their soul.

Elder Hales would then quickly announce where the Lord wanted that person to serve. Usually, the mission thus assigned will be somewhere on the list of priorities, but not always.

As he was sitting there, President Perkins offered a quick silent prayer asking the Lord to help him receive a personal testimony of this process. Soon, a name of a young missionary appeared on the screen. To President Perkins mind immediately came the words, "Lubbock Texas Mission." He said that he didn't even know that we had a Lubbock Texas Mission! A second or less later, Elder Hales announced, "Lubbock Texas Mission."

Soon another name appeared on the screen, and the thought came, "Toyko North Mission" immediately followed by Elder Hales assignment of that missionary to that mission.

President Perkins then shared his testimony that he knew people were called to serve where the Lord wants them to serve. And it is always to the best place for them to be. Sister Caldwell and I have felt the verity of our own assignment and know that we were asked by the Lord to serve in Mongolia.

It is not always easy, but it is always worth it. We have had some difficulties since arriving here. If you have been following our blog, you know of some of them (a broken arm, more work than we can keep track of, language frustrations, etc.). We have been taught that where the Lord gives much He expects much. But the reverse is also true. Where He expects much, he gives much. The blessings which our children and grandchildren have received alone, have been more than enough to make this worth any sacrifice we might be making. The blessings we have received ourselves, have been astounding, but seem like only 'icing on the cake'.

We continue to encourage all of you to set a goal to serve as senior missionaries. You are desperately needed. There is work to do here in the mission field that the younger missionaries, as terrific as they are, can not do.

And, yes, if you don't go, the work will still go on. It may be a bit more challenging for those who do go as they try to make up the slack, but it will go on. But those who do go, will be the ones to receive the blessings. Blessings that are more than we have the words or space to describe here.

And you're never too young to set such goals and to begin working toward them. Today is a great time to start!

Page Two.

A new senior couple just arrived here in Mongolia: Elder and Sister Stevens. I first met them in the parking lot. He looked very familiar to me as I started talking to him. We had been told they were coming from California but at this point I had my doubts. So I said, "You're from California, right?" He answered, "Yes." I said, "Well, there's a man in Utah who's last name is also Stevens who looks a lot like you." He asked, "In what city?" and I said, "West Valley City." He said, "Oh, that's my identical twin brother!"

That twin brother and I had worked together many years ago to take a group of 14 Venture age scouts on a boating trip to Lake Powell (that was before such trips were discouraged). We had lived in the same ward and had become fairly good friends, though I haven't seen him for a couple of years, now. He used to work part time at the True Value Hardware store in West Valley after he retired from his career and I would see him there and visit once in a while when he wasn't too busy.

I remember, now, that he had mentioned a twin brother, but never gave it much thought. Now we have traveled half way around the world to meet him.

Go figure.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Down Under

Just a couple of quick notes about Ulaanbaatar.

Before we leave winter entirely behind us (by the way, it has been warmer here than in Utah -- by quite a bit -- 80 degrees today!), we thought we'd show you how some of the men keep warm on the coldest nights.

There are manholes scattered around everywhere here. Men who we would refer to as homeless will sometimes crawl into those holes in the ground at night during the winter, in order to keep warm. It actually is quite a bit warmer down there. Attempts have been made to keep them out by locking down some of the manhole covers or by placing heavy pieces of concrete on them. But them usually manage to find at least a few they can still get into.

And we also thought you might like to see a picture or two of one of the main sidewalks near our apartment. They certainly are not all this bad, but they do seem to have problems maintaining things here. Many of the sidewalks around are topped with ceramic tile, though even they are not kept in really good repair, either.

One of these next posts, we will show you some of the better parts of our fair city!