Every hot afternoon, when you really can't even breath outside, a cute little squirrel climbs up in the tree at our back window and flops himself over the branch. At first I thought he was dead, but when I got up close he opened his eyes and went "on alert". He's just trying to stay cool like the rest of us, and he's made me smile.
We've had so many experiences in the last few weeks, I hardly know where to begin. Some nights as I crawl into bed I can't even remember everything I did that day- the days are so packed. And though this is hard work, it is wonderful work. I'd have to say my favorite part is the association we have with our missionaries. They are incredible! We love each one.
I've also been completely overcome with admiration for President Shumway. He has had to deal with some very difficult circumstances and has known what to do. It is easy for me to see the Spirit at work with him. He is absolutely being guided and I'm so grateful that I have the privilege to watch it. He was so worried about this first "transfer week", but it all worked out just the way the Lord planned it.
The transfer process started last week. Each day President Shumway spent pouring over "the board"- a huge magnetic board with all the missionaries names and pictures, divided into the zones and areas they are serving in. I felt overwhelmed for him as I thought about the task of praying and making sure that all 190 missionaries were in the right place, with the right companion. But again- the Lord was in charge.
I'll admit that I had a pit in my stomach about transfer week. I guess I'm always a little worried about things I haven't done before. There was so much food to prepare, the mission home to be ready, and training to prepare for. So now we've done it once, it will be easier next time.
Here was the schedule:
Tuesday about 1:00pm- the new missionaries arrived at the airport. There were only six this time, a very small group. And that was just perfect to break us in. We stopped at the mission office to do some paperwork, took a short tour around Tulsa and then came to the mission home for lunch and training. Our amazing assistants did a couple hours of training- working through a packet of details for each missionary- signing papers for permission to drive vehicles, missionary medical documents, all kinds of things. President Shumway and I took an hour to do some training we felt strongly about. In 5 short weeks, we've already seen some things that missionaries need to really be able to function well.
Then dinner. I have a wonderful assistant that I really could not do without. She and I cooked for some days last week to prepare for all the meals we'd be feeding missionaries this week. No time in the middle of the transfers for any cooking.
After dinner a testimony meeting. Oh these new missionaries are so sweet- they have such a desire to serve and find souls to bring to Christ. It was very touching to me.
Wednesday morning- up at 5:15am to get breakfast out for the missionaries. They had to be ready by 6:30 to get into the big mission van that would leave to start transfers. It pulls a huge trailer we call "the bull" that takes all their luggage and picks up all the luggage of the transferring missionaries.
So transfers begin. The van and another large truck go on two separate loops moving missionaries all around the mission and gathering the missionaries that are returning home. The drivers of those vehicles are just exhausted by the time they pull back into the mission home about 5pm. They've driven hundreds of miles.
Wednesday night- What a very special night. We had 12 returning missionaries. 11 Elders and 1 sister. We fed them dinner on the china- they deserved it! The mission office staff joined us- they are some of the wonderful mission family that have served these missionaries for the last 2 years.
After dinner we listened to the testimonies of each returning missionary. They have given all they could, they've grown up in numerous ways, their testimonies are strong, and they are reluctant to return home. There were lots of tears. I think it was a sacred moment for all of us.
The office staff and assistants left and President Shumway and I took an hour to give some counsel that we hoped would help in the huge transition ahead for the missionaries. Our office staff makes a special binder with things that will help them.
Thursday morning- up just after 5:00again to get breakfast ready and load up for the airport. We had to leave before 7am to make it for the first flight that would go out.
I don't like the airport experience much- We've only been here a short time, but it hurt our hearts to say goodbye to this first batch of returning missionaries. We'll try to stay in touch with them and we'll always be interested in them. We're happy for them too- they've served honorably and have blessed the Lord's kingdom, and now they move forward. I just remember the hard time it was for my own boys to make the transition from full time service to being home. I'm praying for them.
I'll never write all that much detail about our transfer week again- but I thought you might be interested to see what we do.
I've had several opportunities to go out with the sister missionaries. I'll share one experience and then I'll be done with this long blog. The first time I went out with the sisters, we visited one part member family with a 9 yr. old boy that hadn't been baptized. I loved watching the sisters teach and help this family (he was baptized a couple of weeks ago). After that visit we tried to visit another family that weren't home and as we walked back to our cars, we met a very nice older gentleman who said he would allow us to come to his home the next week and share a message.
The next week we did visit him- and his dogs. He was so nice to us and very friendly- and so were the dogs. While one of the sisters was trying to teach the first lesson, those two dogs climbed all over us. The very nice man said we would know if one of the dogs liked us, because he would bite us on the wrist! That very dog came over to lick on me and I thought, "Oh just pet him Anne and get it over with!" Some of you know I am not very fond of large dogs and even quite a bit afraid of them. After I'd stroked his back a couple of times, he opened his big mouth and chomped down on my wrist! Oh dear- he liked me! It didn't hurt, but it was a little frightening. He drooled doggie slime all over my arm and then climbed right up on my lap and licked my cheeks. It took all my will power to keep smiling. Thankfully, his owner finally lifted him off my lap, and we went on with the lesson.
The amazing thing was this. Even with all the doggie distraction, the Spirit was there. When one of the sisters quoted Joseph's vision, the brother lifted his head and listened intently. You can't talk about that most incredible event without the Spirit attending. It was amazing to watch.
The next week, the sisters and I had a prayer before we went in to teach this man. We asked the Lord to help the dogs be calm so we could teach without distraction. For the entire time we were there, they laid quietly on the floor. It was truly an answer to our prayers.
That was going to be the end, but we have just come back from a football dinner for Taylor- the first with the whole team and families. Probably a thousand people there- it was incredible. And this morning was Taylor's first team scrimmage- so fun to watch. As we drove home tonight, Taylor said he was really hurting and thought he might have a hernia. Our dear new ward friend, a doctor, has just left our home. Taylor does have a hernia- a bad one. We'll be having surgery next week- so much for football. Taylor is going to be so disappointed. We'll see what the Lord has in store for Taylor.
We love you all so much- and miss you. We are learning and growing into this incredible calling. We spend a lot of time on our knees and the help always comes. We've learned that no one could really do this without divine help- it would be impossible. We are so blessed and so grateful.
Please keep in touch with us.
Love, Sister Shumway
(I talked President Shumway in blogging! Below-)
I heard one mission president describe his first month as the longest year of his life. There may be some truth to that. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just unbelievably packed with non-stop activity including, but not limited to, meetings, interviews (over 110 of them) emergency calls, dinners, Elders, Sisters, couples, conferences, travel (over 4,300 miles in four weeks) , speaking, preparing and finally, transfers. Not to mention one small crisis after another followed by a few big ones which have been thrown in for good measure.
Through all of this we watch miracles happen every day and we hear about many more that are happening with our missionaries. In the end and on balance, this whole mission thing is overwhelming….and fun….and fulfilling….and frustrating. We love it and wouldn’t trade these experiences for anything in the world. At the end of every day we wonder how we did it all and we know that it will start right up again the next day. At the end of the week we look back and realize how blessed we have been and what a great time we are having. It really is fun.
As some of you know, the thing that has frightened me the most has been the transfers. I have spent hours either on my knees or standing in front of the transfer board trying to know the Lord’s will for 190 souls. It is the most intimidating thing I have ever done. I would listen to what my wonderful Assistants had to say, then listen to what Anne had to share, and yet I was still looking into the faces of hundreds of missionaries that I had never personally met. I cannot express the promptings that I felt in words but it was miraculous to sense the Lords approval with every move or non-move that was made. If it wasn’t right, I would immediately know that there was something wrong and change it until the puzzle pieces started to fit together. Later on, as I began to receive the weekly e-mails from the missionaries it was amazing all of the “coincidences” that had occurred. I’ve had two thoughts about this entire process. One of them was a simple confirmation of what I have said dozens of times. This is not my mission. It is the Lords and he is in charge and ready to guide the affairs of everything.
The second thought I had was that I think somebody has a “big” transfer board somewhere and the Lord’s plan for us is laid out with all the pieces coming together. I think Neal Maxwell said, ‘’there are no coincidences in the Lords church,” and I am more certain than I have ever been that He is in charge and it is our reaction to the directions that we receive that will measure out success.
It has also been very interesting and fulfilling to me to actually see some of the reasons that I have been receiving impressions since last November regarding specific things that we need to work on in this mission. ( I know that was a complicated sentence but if you read it enough times you will get the point) Before we came here I had some strong feelings about directions we needed to go and training that would need to be emphasized. It all turned out to be exactly right and I don’t know why that continues to amaze me. At some point I suppose I just have to realize that it isn’t so amazing, it is just the way it works and if I stay in tune, it will always work this way.
One of the things that I continue to watch with wonder is Anne. She is balancing so many things but her responsibilities over missionary medical is astounding. I believe she will be qualified and should be certified to work in any ER in the country when she is finished. She has seen more “stuff” and diagnosed more weird ailments than I can even count. From broken bones to rashes and everything weird in-between. Her phone never stops ringing. You should see the picture of one of the sisters legs where she has ringworm!!
I have given countless blessings and said so many prayers that I wonder if the Lord is getting tired of me. I have Him on speed dial but sometimes that isn’t fast enough. However, in a very real way, I sometimes feel like I am on a direct Skype connection with Him and I cannot describe how wonderful that is. One other thing that you may find interesting. I have felt the presence on more than one occasion of mom, or dad, or both. Anne has felt the same thing at different times and I continue to remember that Elder Holland told me it was okay that dad was no longer here. He felt that dad would do more for us where he is that anything he could have done if he were still here. Elder Holland’s words were both prophetic and accurate.
Taylor and Abby are doing well. We went to Taylor’s first scrimmage today and there were more people there for the scrimmage that you will see at any sophomore or JV game in Utah. We go to our first football dinner tonight which is being funded by the booster club and we are being encouraged to buy season tickets so that we won’t have to sit in the end-zone seats. Really…..they have end-zone seats. Abby is anxious for school to start and she has made some very good friends here. That has been a great blessing.
I hope you know how much we love you all and we miss you more than we can express. We love hearing from you and we pray constantly for everything to be alright with you.
I Love You all !!!