Monday, September 22, 2014

Transfers From the MTC

We cannot believe how quickly transfers roll around.  (I am sure they are every 3 weeks, but the calendar indicates it really is every 6 weeks)

We were blessed with a transfer of 11 new missionaries from the MTC--6 new Sisters and 5 new Elders.  We recognize the blessing it is from the Lord that we are having our sister missionaries replaced and we will continue to have the same number of sisters serving.  

How exciting to see them arrive in the mission!
Safe and tired, but full of energy and enthusiasm!

Back row  L to R:  President Robinson, Elder Reese, Elder Morrell, Elder DeWitt, Elder Lott, Elder Hirsch
Front row  L to R:  Sister Robinson, Sister Voss, Sister Robbins, Sister Whittington, Sister Thomas, Sister Bush, Sister Watts

Because the group was too large for the Mission Office and Mission Home, we stayed at a hotel near the airport.  So it was a short walk to the conference room to begin the 'paperwork'!

 The first of many forms and sheets.

 The take it all in stride as we get everything done before they go into the mission field.
 How many missionaries does it take to get a PowerPoint up and going?
About four, I guess.  :)

 Elder Robbins, the Financial Office Elder in the Mission Office, instructs on how MSF is distributed monthly, how and what to use it on and other important guidelines  of money and reimbursements they will be required to follow during their mission.

 If the missionary has never budgeted in there life, they now have the opportunity to learn.  Good life lesson.

 Yeah, leave the iPad around and this is what the AP's do--for a little fun!
Way to go Elder Alston and Elder Bishop.

 They are trying really hard to stay awake!  

 In between all this training, President and I interview and talk with them to quickly learn as much as we can about them before we send them into the field.

 Elder Evans, office Elder over transfer logistic, is ready to solve any and all problems that arise.

 Even though it is a little stressful, he still has a smile.  We appreciate all the effort Elder Evan puts into helping the new missionary transfer run smoothly.

 Elder Lyman is the Legality Office Elder in the Mission Office.  He keeps all 150 Elders and Sisters, as well as our Senior Couples and President and I, all legally residing in both the Netherlands and Belgium.

 We appreciate all he does--keeping us legal!

 The paperwork never ends!!

 A break!  Going to be interviewed by President.

 It doesn't matter if you just got off the plane this morning, or you are near the end of your mission, there is a goodness and glow about a missionary that is unmistakable and noticeable by everyone who sees them.  Missionaries get use to 'sticking out' in a crowd!  :0

After all was done, it was upstairs for a well needed nap.

 After dinner, President Robinson spent some time talking about some expectations the Lord has for these new missionaries.

 We are so pleased and impressed with the new missionaries.  President Robinson encourages them to continue developing the Christlike attributes  in their life which they began in the MTC, and to realize that what they will really conquer during this mission will be their own weaknesses.

Then, it was time to open their first call letters!

 Sister Whittington will be serving in Gouda with Sister Schwab as trainer and companion!

 Sister Bush will serve in Antwerpen, Belgium

 …..with Sister Nelson as trainer and companion.

 Sister Watts will serve in Amsterdam with Sister Frandsen as trainer and companion.

 Sister Thomas will serve in Almere….
 with Sister Packer as trainer and companion.

 Sister Voss will serve in Assen with Sister Woodbury as trainer and companion.

 Sister Robbins will serve in Haarlem with Sister Ottison as trainer and companion.

 Elder Morrell will serving in Tilburg….

 …with Elder Sudweeks as trainer and companion.

 Elder Lott will serve in Ommoord with Elder Chantry as trainer and companion.

 Elder Hirsch will be serving in Groningen with Elder Giles as trainer and companion.

 Elder Reese will be serving in Antwerpen with Elder Peterson as trainer and companion.

 Elder DeWitt will be serving in Lelystat with Elder Warner as trainer and companion.

 One happy group of missionaries---they will meet their companions in the morning.

Bright and early, after a hour of training with the AP's, they met their new trainers and companions!

 Sister Frandsen and Sister Watts

  Sister Thomas and Sister Packer

Elder Peterson and Elder Reese

Elder Lott and Elder Chantry

Sister Nelson and Sister Bush

Sister Robbins and Sister Ottison

Sister Whittington and Sister Schwab

Elder Hirsch and Elder Giles

Elder Warner and Elder DeWitt

Elder Morrell and Elder Sudweeks

Sister Voss and Sister Woodbury

By evening, each companionship was back out into the field doing missionary work.  The new missionaries are now the 'real deal'.
We love you and know you are prepared for success and growth. 

Note:  We spoke in Assen Branch on September 21, 2014 and spent the morning with Sister Voss and Sister Woodbury.  It was Sister Voss' first Sunday in the land and she did a fantastic job sharing her testimony in Sacrament Meeting.  We had a 'boordjes' with them before we left.  They are doing wonderfully.

Working with Elders in St. Niklass, Belgium

September 9, 2014 President and I worked with Elder Endicott and Elder Blackhurst in St. Niklass Belgium.  It was a great day with a little of everything.
We taught a first lesson with a Belgium Family.  The husband and wife are really looking for answers to help 'keep our family safe in these scary times'.  

It was wonderful to have the Elders share Helaman 5:12

"And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon with ye are build, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fail."

We all felt the Spirit and both the husband and wife were touched with such a 'plain and precious' truth.

 President Robinson, Elder Endicott, Elder Blackhurst

That first lesson went so well, the Spirit testified to the truths that were taught.  With smiles and grateful hearts we all acknowledged who was in charge in that lesson.  It was not us--This is truly the Lord's Work!

We enjoyed doing 'look-ups' and knocking doors.  Later we taught one of the final lessons to a dear sweet lady who will be baptized on Saturday, September 13, 2014.  What a humble and 'pure in heart' women.  We loved her immediately. 

Later that evening, President and I went to Antwerpen Chapel to watch the broadcast from Germany of Elder Bednar and Elder Ballard to the women eight years of age and older in all of Western Europe.  We loved it!

Aaaaah!  What a great day! 

Note:  That sweet sister was baptized on Saturday, September 13, 2014

President's Weekly Letter #106

Small Decisions
When I served as a Bishop, I had a young man in the ward who was 20 years old and needed to go on a mission.  But, he was not inclined to hurry or even to put in his papers.  He was too busy goofing off with his friends, especially at night.  He was not a bad kid but was worldly and adolescent.  He came in my office one Sunday afternoon and announced he was ready to apply to serve a full time mission.  I asked him what had changed his mind.  He stated that he was riding his motor cycle late the night before out in the Sink, an area in Flowell.  He lost control of his motor bike and crashed on the gravel road.  He told me that he was laying there on the gravel in pain and thinking, “I should be on my mission right now.”  So, he made the decision right then to begin his application to receive a mission call.  At that time in his life, he had many distractions and could have decided to do other things, but that small decision has been a blessing to him his whole life.

When I was preparing to go on my first mission, the Viet Nam War was raging.  The Selective Service was drafting young men into the army to go fight in the war.  Many worthy young men who would have served missions did not get the opportunity but had to go to war.  Because of the draft, 2 young men each year in each LDS ward could receive an ecclesiastical deferment from the draft while they served full time missions.  Two of my friends who were my age lived in our ward.  I had plenty of things in my life that were going on and I actually considered in that situation not to serve a mission.  It turned out that one of my friends waited a year before going on his mission and the other friend decided not to serve.  That opened the opportunity and I eventually decided to submit my papers for a mission call.  I am convinced the Lord’s hand was involved as things worked out for me, but at the time I made the decision, it felt more as a decision of duty than a big revelation from heaven.  It seemed to me like a small decision.

(As a side note, the draft changed when the Selective Service held a lottery drawing on 1 December 1969, while I was serving my mission, to determine the order via birth date in which men were called to report for induction in the military.  I drew 361 out of 365.  The highest lottery group called during that era was 195 and all men assigned that lottery number or any lower number were called to report for induction.)  It appears I was not meant to serve in the military.

I look back from my vantage point now 44 years later and see the many blessings in my life that came as a direct result of my mission.  I sometimes shudder to think how easy it would have been to simply have passed by that decision.  Hardly a day goes by that I do not think of something I learned while on my mission that helps me.  The blessings are still rolling in.  For example, serving now as Mission President in the Belgium Netherlands Mission is bringing enormous blessings to me and my family.  This would never have happened without the first mission.

I know many people who regret making that small decision to not serve a mission.  Consequently, they have lived a life without the experiences, relationships and lessons learned that a mission would have provided.  Truth seen too late is sure to almost always bring regret and remorse.  Small decisions make a difference.

So, you are here now serving.  But, each of you still make small decisions every day which likewise have far reaching effects on you.  These decisions I refer to involve distractions.  It is OK to have fun and enjoy yourself but when the fun becomes a distraction from the work, it is inappropriate and becomes a small decision that has a large negative effect on you.  Recognizing where the line is between harmless fun and a distraction is not easy to define plus there are too many circumstances to describe them all, but you know where that line is. 

Distractions naturally come in many forms and present themselves all the time just by living life, i.e. problems at home, death in the family, home sickness, etc.  You must see them for what they are and avoid or deal with them. But the real shame comes if you choose distractions that you created; distractions of your own making.

For example, missionaries for many years had kept a manikin in the Arnhem apartment with decorations from each missionary who served there, decorations that may not have been uplifting.  Or an unauthorized sleep-over justified by a P-day or something which then becomes a dorm party and cuts into the work schedule of missionaries.  I do not know where this tradition came from, but some missionaries burn something every 6 months.  This “shirt burning” has brought complaints from neighbors and in some cases have resulted in damaged furnishings in apartments.  We have had missionaries find unexploded fireworks on 1 January, then light them off at night on 2 January which is not only stupid but clearly is a distraction for any level of spirituality.  Rough-housing in apartments result in breaking of things.  Flirting between missionaries or with members has been known to occur.  Doing transfer brackets and making a time consuming game out of transfers, not getting up on time, listening to 'not approved' music, and non-compliance with the daily morning study schedule by beginning study at 8:00 am with scheduled personal, companionship and language study.  And the list goes on.

For the most part, I believe all our missionaries are diligent and faithful and do the work as intended.  But if this applies from time to time, it is time to stop making those small decisions that bring distractions.  You must always do your job as a missionary because the time here is sacred and short.  Avoiding distractions are small decisions, but just as your decision to come on a mission, it has a great effect on your experience as a missionary.  Most missionaries are young and come here right out of high school or after just one year of college.  It may be a chore, but now is the time to behave in a more mature and professional manner.  The apostle Paul wrote:

11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.  (1 Cor 13: 11)

President Robinson

President's Weekly Letter #105

Just Do the Work
My experience working with the Young Men (YM) in the church got off to a rocky start in my life.  I moved back to my boyhood community, Flowell, Utah, in the fall of 1982.  I was soon called as the YM President in the ward but I made it a low priority for my time.  I was starting my engineering business in the most unlikely place of Fillmore, Utah, I was establishing my home plus my family was young requiring attention.  I am ashamed of my poor initiative and little effort with that calling.  I was terrible.  I would report in ward council that things were good, but some of my boys’ mothers were sitting there in the meeting and knew differently.  As with all callings in the Church, I was eventually released and I swore an oath that if I were ever given the opportunity to work with the youth again, I would give it my best effort.

That chance came several years later in the same ward.  I served as Varsity Scout Coach and later again as YM President.  I could talk for hours about the things my boys and I did and the lessons we learned during those years.  I also supported my wife who was always active in young women and stake young single adult activities.  And really, my time as a Bishop, serving in the Stake Presidency and as a Mission President have been a continuation of marvelous experiences with the youth and young adults in the church.

Most of you will be called to work with the young women or young men at some time after you go home.  I want to share some observations and things I have learned that are also tied directly to what you are doing here on a mission.

I ask the question, “What is the calling of a Scout Master (SM) or a young women leader (I will focus on the SM to be brief)?  Is it camping, advancement, uniforms, summer camp, merit badges, Tuesday night activities, quartermaster, transportation, trip permits…?”

The answer is simple but none of those logistic activities.  The Scoutmaster’s calling or purpose is to assist each of his Boy Scouts to internalize the attributes of the Scout Law:  Trustworthy, loyal, helpful, Friendly, courteous, kind, Cheerful, thrifty, obedient, Brave, Clean, reverent.  (For young women leaders, to instill the 8 YW Values)

The SM would burn out if he had to do all the other stuff required to operate his troop along with his primary assignment.  It would consume him.  The ward scout committee takes care of all the logistics and mechanics listed above.

In doing his assignment, suppose a SM posted an announcement on the bulletin board that early next Saturday morning the boys can hear a lecture on being trustworthy.  How many 12 – 15 year old boys do you believe would line up at the door to listen?  Only the ones with the toughest mothers.  On the other hand, if he announced:  We are going camping to the lake this Friday night and staying to fish Saturday morning, how many boys not only would line up but would line up with enthusiasm?

The genius of scouting is that the boys come willingly and enthused.  The SM can then help them learn to internalize the attributes of the Scout Law in an atmosphere of ADVENTURE AND FUN.  Scouts just need to go do the work of being scouts.  Up at the lake during a planned evening activity and sitting around the camp fire; those boys are open and as impressionable as freshly made clay, ready to learn from the SM.  His example is probably the biggest teacher.  So what does this have to do with you on a mission?

About 3 years ago my wife and I came home together one afternoon after work.  She punched “Play” on the telephone answering machine.  A pleasant vice came on the recording, “This is Carolyn at Elder Ballard’s office.  He wants to meet with you.  Would you please call me to schedule an appointment?” We looked at each other.  Our lives had just changed forever.

A few days later, on 3 Feb 2012 we spent 50 minutes with Elder Ballard in his office in Salt Lake City.  We found him to be wise and purposeful with simple directions and most of all loving.  That started a chain of events which landed us eventually at the New President’s seminar at the Provo MTC later that year in June.

One of my biggest take-aways from that seminar was learning what our primary responsibility is with our calling as Mission President and wife.

·      Send missionaries home who are productive and responsible citizens anchored with a strong testimony of Jesus Christ and his atonement, the reality of our loving Heavenly Father and the restoration of the fullness of the gospel.
So, just like in Scouting, you are here on a mission in an environment of ADVENTURE AND FUN.  God is the SM and you just have to go do the work.  Just go do the work and the Lord will bless you with the attributes of being productive and responsible citizens anchored with testimony which are some of the “riches of eternity.”  Teach the lessons in Chapter 3 of PMG using the methods of missionary work outlined in PMG.  I will help you train and will work alongside of you.  If it is not adventurous or fun, change your attitude, look for the good and make it fun.  What you learn are life skills and, oh by the way, the skills work on a mission too.

In addition other “riches of eternity” are given to you as you just go do the work.  You cannot internalize Christ-like attributes by studying the Christ-like attributes.  You internalize Christ-like attributes by just going and doing the work.  The return missionary shine comes indirectly.  So do not work on the shine, just go do missionary work and your blessings of the shine will come.  The Lord said he would give you the riches of eternity if you go do the work: 

39 And if ye seek the riches which it is the will of the Father to give unto you, ye shall be the richest of all people, for ye shall have the riches of eternity; and it must needs be that the riches of the earth are mine to give; but beware of pride, lest ye become as the Nephites of old.
40 And again, I say unto you, I give unto you a commandment, that every man…go to with his might, with the labor of his hands, to prepare and accomplish the things which I have commanded. (DC 38: 39-40)

I realize serving as a missionary in the Lord’s service is much more than scouting.  It is, “…the thing which will be of the most worth unto you…” (DC 15:6) because the gospel provides a way for God’s children to experience joy in mortality as well as blessings of eternal life.  The Lord has called you, “…to labor in my vineyard, and to build up my church, and to bring forth Zion, that it may rejoice upon the hills and flourish,” and has promised you, “…that power shall rest upon thee; thou shalt have great faith, and I will be with thee and go before thy face.” (DC 39: 12-13)  The largest factor in fulfilling these expectations is to, “…go with the labor of your hands.,,” and just do the work in this environment of adventure and fun even though you experience at times sacrifice and adversity.

President Robinson

President's Weekly Letter #104

Clarity and Power
I am impressed with PMG because it helps you have clarity and power in your missionary work.  Upon arrival in Holland on my first mission, I was given a small book containing the 6 Missionary Discussions which I was to memorize plus I had to purchase another small book, Hugo’s Dutch – Self Tuition in Three Months, at a book store to use to study the language.  I came here not even knowing how to say, “Goede dag.”  My senior companion kept track of me.  That was it!  Six months after arriving in Holland, I started feeling comfortable with the language and participating in lessons; I was then about where today’s missionaries are after the MTC plus one transfer in the country.  From the first day, we worked a full schedule of proselyting and teaching.  My first city was Den Haag and my trainer was Elder Britton from Salt Lake City, Utah.  It was tough.  I studied while biking and even during appointments.  It was a flat footed, difficult start. 

Home sick and na├»ve, I entered the Mission Home in Salt Lake City on 17 June 1968.  The Mission Home then was way different than the MTC today.  It was located on North Temple across the street from the Salt Lake Temple on part of the lot where the Conference Center is now located.  All missionaries going somewhere in the world stayed there for about 6 days while most of the 12 Apostles came in to speak to us along with other speakers.  I remember flying to Amsterdam with a lay-over in New York.  My life had changed forever and I could not even contemplate 2 ½ years away from home.

On the plane, I sat next to a social worker from Chicago.  Somewhere over the Midwest, after settling in, finishing small talk and eating the peanuts, he said, “Well, we are going to be here a while, you might as well tell me about your church.  What do you people believe?”

That question is a missionary’s dream but I am embarrassed to admit, I muffed the shot.  I did not even hit the rim.  I remember wishing I had paid more attention in priest’s quorum while I fought to think of something interesting to say.  Even reciting the 12 Articles of Faith did not come to mind.  I said, “Well, we believe people go to one of the 3 degrees of glory after they die…”  The whole discussion went quickly down-hill from there.  He was patient but soon realized I was incoherent and he went to reading.

I was not prepared.  I like to think that I would have presented the Gospel of Truth much better to him if I had studied and followed PMG.  But, PMG did not exist back then.  The 13 Chapters in PMG contain wonderful doctrine and training in all aspects of a missionary’s life and when you learn and do the material taught, you will be a successful missionary.  Effective study is where good teaching and excellence on your mission begins.  The Lord gave us the following mandate as we do his work:

15 Again I say, hearken ye elders of my church, whom I have appointed: Ye are not sent forth to be taught, but to teach the children of men the things which I have put into your hands [Scriptures and PMG] by the power of my Spirit;
16 And ye are to be taught from on high. Sanctify yourselves and ye shall be endowed with power, that ye may give even as I have spoken.  (DC 43:15-16)

During the 7th Transfer this year, beginning 16 September 2014, the mission will be studying Chapter 2 of PMG, Effective Study in accordance with the annual Mission Training Schedule.  You have received a brief outline of some of the training material that I want you to focus on along with the other parts of Chapter 2 during District Meetings and Zone Trainings this transfer.  This is a great opportunity to improve your study time thus improve your teaching.

The target you are shooting at during study is: effective teaching for understanding.  As you study remember to stay focused on a few specific concepts during each teaching session.  Teach from the scriptures.  During each teaching session, teach concepts in the order presented in PMG so you build on the foundation of knowledge that your investigators already understand.  Realize your planning is inspired so trust that inspiration during teaching by staying on the planned teaching topic.  Keep it simple by telling them what you are going to teach them, teach them and then tell them what you just taught them.  Use a written lesson plan.  Again, your target during study and preparation time is effective teaching for understanding.  Knowing this will improve your accuracy as you nail your lessons.

I enjoy playing golf.  The sport is difficult to do well and requires a commitment of preparation time and effort by the golfer to achieve excellence.  Think of the precision required to control a small ball with a small club head mounted at the end of a long shaft.  The physical inputs required in the golf swing include mental, body position, muscles, balance and hand/eye coordination.  Everything in the body must fire at the right instant and in the right order for a successful golf shot.  Once the ball comes off the club face, its landing spot is all decided.  To take a golf shot, I step back and look down the fairway visualizing the shot, I take a practice swing and then I set up my stance for the shot.  I can see that small ball down there on the ground and the small club head.  If my target is the ball while being perfectly struck with the club head, I will spray the balls I hit all over the fairway.  The target in my head must be the area on the fairway that I want the ball to lie after the shot or the pin in the hole on the green.  Your target in an effective planning session is effective teaching for understanding not what you are learning.

After teaching lessons, always evaluate your performance.  Be tough on yourselves.  Ask yourself: Does the investigator know what they learned?  Can they tell you afterwards what you came to teach them? – Why would they invite you back?  It does not have to be complicated.  Someone once asked Slick Willie Sutton, the famous bank robber in the 1930’s, why he robbed banks. “I rob banks because that’s where the money is,” he said.  The simplicity of this answer is obvious and even today in Medical School, students learn Sutton’s law:  when diagnosing, one should first consider the obvious.  It is applicable to any process of diagnosis, such as debugging computer programs or assessing missionary lessons.  With your companion, you should diagnosis your lessons.  Then use your study time to create better teaching for understanding.

President Robinson