NOVEMBER 15, 2021

The first chapter of our mission has ended, and the next chapter has begun.  By the time our mentors drove away from the work center on Wednesday morning, we were all exhausted from the celebrations and tearful goodbyes.  Monday for FHE we had an impromptu Mexican dinner complete with a Mariachi Band. A couple from the temple make the connections for us to have an enjoyable evening. The lead singer also works at the temple.  Darrel and I were asked to show the group around AOA and answer their questions for an hour prior to the dinner began.  We found them to be warm, sincere, faithful people.

Tuesday were our interviews with Elder Walker. I was able to present the completed AOA history to him on a thumb drive.  I enjoyed it, but when Elder Dunford presented the photo history book to him following the dinner than evening, my cup of joy was full because of Elder Walker’s response.  He was genuinely amazed and appreciative. As fate would have it, I was assigned to say the prayer at the end of the dinner.  We had just sung “God Be with You till We Meet Again.”  My emotions were already close to the surface, but with a prayer in my heart I began.  Something truly wonderful happened. I’ve never felt words being given to me during a prayer like I did that night.  We all felt the rich Spirit that came as inspired words were expressed.  It was an experience I will never forget.

The departing 2020 missionaries with Elder and Sister Walker.

Elder Walker’s counsel was mainly to those going home that night.  He counseled them to identify those things they have come to love while serving and record it for their posterity.  Then they encouraged to bear testimony openly of what they have learned and the Spirit that they felt.  Elder Walker spoke of being with the First Presidency just a day or two before coming out.  President Nelson had made the comment that we live at one of the most serene places on the face of the earth.  We know that!  We feel it! We love this holy land truly feels like home!

Wednesday we met at the Work Center for a light breakfast and last hugs.  Our director’s wife received word late the previous night that her brother had passed away.  That added to the solemnity of the occasion.  It was difficult to watch the heavily ladened trailers pull away.  We’ve missed their presence and strength, as well as the spirit they carry with them. 

Thursday we met as couples for our first mission counsel without our mentors.  I was impressed with our new director’s leadership style. There was an air of excitement as we discussed our vision for the future. Our group meshed quickly and in eight months I feel like we have a measure of the “swing” Sister Eubank talked about in Oct. 2020 General Conference.  She spoke of an obscure rowing team from University of Washington who traveled to Germany for the 1936 Olympics and ended up winning the gold medal in that event.  

She said, “There is a thing that sometimes happens that is hard to achieve and hard to define. It’s called “swing.” It happens only when all are rowing in such perfect unison that not a single action is out of sync…Rowers must rein in their fierce independence and at the same time hold true to their individual capabilities…Good crews are good blends—someone to lead the charge, someone to hold something in reserve, someone to fight the fight, someone to make peace. No rower is more valuable than another, all are assets to the boat, but if they are to row well together, each must adjust to the needs and capabilities of the others—the shorter-armed person reaching a little farther, the longer-armed person pulling in just a bit. Differences can be turned to advantage instead of disadvantage. Only then will it feel as if the boat is moving on its own. Only then does pain entirely give way to exultation. Good “swing” feels like poetry.”

We truly feel if we can maintain and improve that “swing,” with God’s help we can set the pace for those who follow in a powerful and positive way. I am still in awe that we are truly here among these amazing Zion-like people.

This is our new home.

In our spare time this week, we moved a little each day until Saturday.  That was our big final exodus from the 4-plex.  We began Saturday by helping with the Jameson Hunter’s breakfast fund raiser. Then we gave a marathon effort to get the rest of our possessions over to the Bohannan House.  It’s a beautiful home that would easily hold three of our little Hobbit home, but it was frustrating to open cupboard after cupboard and find them already full of “stuff.”  It has been said that the Lord can use whatever skill we have.  I consider myself a pretty good de-junker, so I decided to jump in and do what I do! It made getting settled a much longer process, but it will be nice when I’m done for us and all who follow.  We did sleep in our new home Saturday night, but we won’t be “settled” for a day or two.

A bit of history:  Joseph Smith was a brilliant leader.  He was a man of extreme intelligence who had an unquenchable zeal for learning.  He understood and taught that faith in God enhanced his learning ability, and could ours as well.  He spoke openly of a need for locks along the Mississippi River to assist trade travel.  That never happened in his lifetime, but the present-day Keokuk Lock is in the exact location Joseph proposed.

A thought for the Thanksgiving Season:  Gratitude unlocks the fulness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. . . Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.

“Gratitude is one of the sweet shortcuts to finding peace of mind and happiness inside.”

As the Thanksgiving Season approaches, we are more grateful than ever for our family friends.  They enrich our lives, and we love each one!

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