Saturday, December 8, 2012

 Ok- so your getting this about 2 weeks after I wrote it- I just never had time to add the pictures until now.  Hope you enjoy it-  another one is coming!

Hello Dear Friends and Family,                                                                                                  2012
Four more crazy weeks have gone by!  I feel like our whole mission is going to go by in a blur.  I just get one thing finished and start immediately preparing for the next.  

The biggest news - the lowering of the age of missionaries!  It was an incredible announcement and is affecting the entire church.  The compliment of our mission will go from 190 missionaries to 250!  Here they come!  60 more than we have.  We will need 30 more apartments, more cars and bikes, more of everything.  And we will start to receive more missionaries immediately-  our incoming list for December is growing.
We are so excited about this.  Both Elder Holland and Elder Bednar said that the only reason to lower the age is that "the Lord is hastening His work".  We all know that means that the time of His coming is drawing closer and there is so much work to be done.  Huge changes and huge effort will be required.  Not just of the missionaries, but everyone.  We will need so much more member help than ever before in order to do the work-  the work which belongs to all of us-  by covenant!
The announcement sent an electric spark through our mission.  We all feel grateful to be serving at this time.

So here are some of the things we've been involved in the last weeks.

I went out a couple more times with the Sister missionaries.  I am always so impressed with them.  We went to see a 40 year old less active man.  We stopped by his woodworking shop, which was in a terrible state-  broken things everywhere, dust and garbage.  We hadn't been there two minutes before we realized this man had some mental issues-  I couldn't tell you exactly what.  He reminded me of the man on "Rain Man".    He talked incessantly and quoted about 100 scriptures to us-  I'm not kidding!  The poor sister who had a nice lesson planned for him couldn't even get a word in edgewise.  After 20 minutes of this most bazarre behavior, we could all see that it wasn't going to work.  I was curious to see how Sister H. was going to handle it, and I was watching her face.  I literally saw the Spirit working with her.  All of a sudden she asked him an "inspired question".  He stopped short like someone had slapped him.  It took all of the wind out of him.  He sat for a moment and pondered what she had asked and then thoughtfully answered her.  It was amazing to me.  For that moment I know he felt the Spirit.  It didn't take long before he started right up again, but it was a wonderful moment for me to watch our missionaries work with the Spirit.  The man needs some faithful home teachers and a whole lot of nurturing.

After we'd left, I realized I'd left my purse there and had to go back alone.  The man's non-member older father was there with a friend.  They were both friendly to me, but he asked if I was "one of those Mormons".   After I said yes he launched into the reason he thought we were so crazy-  we believe that God has a body!  "Everyone knows God is a Spirit!"   It didn't intimidate me - I was enjoying his charming Oklahoma accent!

On Sunday Oct 14 a new senior couple arrived in the mission.  I was so excited!  He is a Dr.-  I have already asked for his counsel a dozen times.  They came just about dinner time and so we enjoyed dinner with them and also a wonderful neighbor family that we had invited to dinner.
Week of Oct. 15 was another very busy and very enjoyable week.  For two days- on Oct 16th and Oct 17 we held our first Sister's Conference.  President Shumway and the assistants traveled far around the mission to gather all the Sisters in.  We went to the Oklahoma Food Bank and did service for a few hours, dressed in our yellow "Helping Hands" shirts.  The sisters looked like a ray of sunshine.    We had a fireside the first night and 5 hours of training the next day.  We have 22 sisters and they were so excited to be with each other-  lots of squeals and screams when they first arrived!  Some of them hadn't seen each other since the beginning of their missions.  There's a big difference in the pitch of the sound when all sisters are in the home, or we have all Elders for Zone Leader Council.  I love them both!
                                      Our wonderful Sister Missionaries at Sister's Conference

Abby and Taylor had fall break on Friday Oct 19th, so we traveled up to Springfield Mo, because President Shumway and I had been invited to speak in the Republic Ward.   For our preparation day on Saturday we explored a cave and ate at Lamberts- "Home of the Throwed Rolls".  And they really do throw them!  You just put your hand up and they lob a steaming hot roll at you-  the best rolls I've ever tasted, really!  Then they come around with huge buckets of all kinds of southern food- fried okra, black eyed peas... and you just raise your hand and they give you a scoop.  Fun place to eat!
The best thing about that day was that is was Dad's birthday and we got to Skype with all of you.
We loved every darling thing the grandkids did-  you are the best for thinking up such a fun birthday surprise for Dad!
                                           At the cave entrance-
                                          Inside the "cool" cave!

                                             Exploring the area
                                             Dad's Birthday dinner at Lamberts

The week of October 22nd two amazing trainers arrived from Salt Lake to spend for days training us!-  Dad and me.  The church provides every help imaginable for mission presidents and missionaries.  They think of everything.  It is a testimony to me that the Lord places high priority on missionary work.  We are constantly grateful for all the help we receive.
Monday and Tuesday we sat in Dad's office at the mission home with the trainers, and they went through pages and pages of  documents regarding our mission-  statistics that show how we are doing.  We evaluated what our strengths and weaknesses are and then on Tuesday we made a plan to go our and train the leadership of our mission in those areas of our weaknesses.  So- Wednesday and Thursday we traveled out and spent pretty much the entire day in training missionaries.  Really it was training for us, because though President and I did some of the training, we watched as the brethren from Salt Lake trained and we learned so much.  There is always something for us to improve on.

October 31- November 2-   Transfer Week
I've already described to you how intense this is.  In those three days we cooked 5 meals for incoming and outgoing missionaries, and we have hours of training.  It is getting easier, because we are training new missionaries always on the same things and giving the same counsel to the outgoing missionaries.  But there is so much to prepare.  The day the new missionaries fly in we pick them up at the airport, drive to the Mission Office for some paperwork, drive by Oral Roberts University to see the praying hands,  have lunch at the mission home, then about 5 hours of training including each missionary having a personal interview with President Shumway,  a health visit with me, and a visit with our fleet co-ordinator.  Dinner and then more training.
Sometimes the new missionaries are so tired by afternoon (they usually got up at 2am at the MTC to make their flight), that we let them have a very short nap before dinner.  We've found that if we don't do this they fall asleep during training-  their heads are nodding and they are snoring!

Our Shiny New Missionaries

 It was Halloween Night so we made Jana's traditional graveyard cake and had Shumway sloppy Joes and bloody eyeballs (deviled eggs with an olive).  The missionaries enjoyed it!

President Shumway and our dear assistants, Elder Davies and Elder Treasure, helping to oversee transfers.

Loading up our big mission trailer to get all the new missionaries out, all the transferring missionaries around, and all the returning missionaries back to the mission home.  It takes about 12 hours!

We love having the returning missionaries in the mission home-  they come in worn out - their clothes tattered and holes in the shoes.  But they shine-  they have deep testimonies of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  They have been tested and tried.  They have two years worth of testimony growing experiences.   It is a time of deep reflection for them.  They want to know if the Lord has accepted their offering and we feel the reverence and sacredness of this time-  the Spirit comes to give them peace and the mission home is filled with it.  It is also a time of celebration-  for the wonderful work they have done.  We try to make it very special so they know the gratitude we feel for their service.  President Shumway and I always feel so proud of these missionaries as we put them on the plane, but a little melancholy too.  We are saying goodbye to our sons and daughters.  And we miss them.

                                    Farewell to four wonderful missionaries!

Nov. 5th and 6th-  Zone Leader Council-  Every month!
I won't share any details about this- our outline is always pretty much the same.  The training changes and the missionaries change, but we always love it!  These are some of the finest missionaries we have- the Zone Leaders.  It's a pleasure to be with them.  This time we did try one new thing.  The Zone Leaders came in about 4 hours earlier (1pm instead of 5pm)  and we went to "Oklahoma Emergency Infant Serices"  to do a service project.  20 Elders and President and myself dressed in our yellow "Mormon Helping Hands" shirts.  We packed diapers and formula, moved boxes here and there, hung used clothing on hangers, etc...  It's always a good feeling to be able to help someone.  We have decided to add a service project to every Zone Leader Council.
The Assistants and Zone Leaders surprised us at our November Zone Leader Council by covering our fridge with about 50 different versions of OTM.  We usually say Oklahoma, Tulsa Mission, Only True Mission, Open Thy Mouth.  They came up with about 50 more OTMs-  Overly Tired Missionaries, Overflowing Truth Mission, Orchestrate The Miracle, One Terrific Mission, Obey the Mission President!  President Shumway liked that one best!  He also said he wondered how long it took them to come up with all of these clever OTMs, and shouldn't they have been out teaching!  We LOVE our missionaries.  It was very clever!

We put our "Helping Hands" shirts to work again with a service project for Oklahoma Infant Services.

Our fantastic Zone Leaders and Assistants!

My breakfast helpers-

November 8- 17
President Shumway has been on the road for days.  He interviews every missionary in the mission quarterly,  and it takes him nine days.  It's very intense for him- he probably interviews 20-30 missionaries a day and he loves it.  We've been here long enough now that he knows these missionaries well-  he loves each one so much and this is a special time for him to listen, to counsel and help.   When the Zone he is interviewing is close by, I like to go too during the hours Abby and Taylor are at school.  I sit in the hallway outside his door and visit with the missionaries just before they go into their interviews.  I can catch up on health concerns and just get to know them better.  It is always inspiring to me.  Our missionaries are so great!

While President Shumway has been on the road, I've been catching up on Missionary Medical recording and paperwork,  took a four hour drive out one day to inspect one of our apartments,  went proselyting with the Sister Missionaries,  did some cooking in preparation for Thanksgiving and am trying to keep up with Abby and Taylor.

Taylor has been so busy-  State playoffs for his Jenks High School football team.  The entire team colored their hair blonde for the playoffs.  I did my best for Taylor but it turned out orange, so I had to take him to a sister in the ward for some repair work.  Taylor has also been involved in several orchestra concerts lately-  one for Veterans Day-  it was very touching.
The whole team lined up with their blonde hair

Taylor's 2 LDS football friends.  BIG Jacob Oakley and Sam Edmondson.

Oakley is the one the coaches call Tabernacle-  because he's big and he's a Mormon!
"Tabernacle" and "Utah" (the name the coaches gave Taylor!)

Abby is still taking tennis, and she likes it ok, but she loves her art lessons and I've sent you a picture of one of her latest pieces.
Both kids are making some progress in our adjustment here.  It's been a little rough at times,  but I see that the Lord is blessing them with great friends and new experiences.
Last week our Bishop got a big bus to take all our youth to the special morning youth session of Stake Conference - one hour away at our Stake Center in Barlesville.  They showed "17 Miracles" on the way up and fed the kids juice, fruit and donuts.  Our Bishop goes to great effort to make things special for our youth.  He is our hero!

We are sooo  excited for Thanksgiving as Nathan, Jisoo and Jenevi are coming.  We'll also have 10 missionaries (some of them office staff) and an investigator family.  We are looking forward to this special day to have an opportunity to focus on the multitude of blessings the Lord has given us every day in the last year.  We are so grateful for the knowledge we have of the glorious gospel,  for the Savior and His atonement that made all things possible, for an opportunity to share this "good news",  for each of you- dear children, family and friends,  for 190 choice sons and daughters of God-   our missionaries young and old, for their testimonies, their hard work, their safety.
We are thankful for the wonderful people in the Oklahoma Tulsa Mission who are prepared to hear the Gospel message,  for the temple, the Book of Mormon,  Preach My Gospel....
I can never list all that I am grateful for-  But lastly - I am grateful for a personal testimony of the truthfulness of the message we share.  It is true-  The Lord is in charge and He is coming.

Happy, Happy Thanksgiving!  We love you all!
President and Sister Shumway
Abby and Taylor