Thursday, November 16, 2017

Mission tour with Elder Von G. and Sister Bernice Keetch

We had our first mission tour with Elder Von G. Keetch of the Seventy and his wife Sister Bernice Keetch! What a treat it was for us to be with them for two days! They were so kind and personable. We appreciated their approach to our mission. 

Elder Von G. and Sister Keetch (of the Seventy); President and Sister Hammon
On Sunday, November 12, 2017, Elder Keetch presided over the Moreno Valley Stake Conference and then came to our home. Once they arrived, we ate a delicious dinner of chili verde and all of the trimmings and had tres leches cake. Divine! We had a wonderful discussion!

One Monday morning, we had a delicious breakfast and then headed to the Grand Building where Elder and Sister Keetch greeted the missionaries from the Riverside, Mt. Rubidoux, La Sierra, Moreno Valley, and Jurupa zones and learned their names and where they were from. It was wonderful to watch the interaction. We followed, and gave each of missionaries a hug, and chatted a bit. 

Elder and Sister Keetch greeting the missionaries.
Once we were finished, we began the Monday session of the Mission Tour.

Riverside, Mt Rubidoux, La Sierra, Moreno Valley, and Jurupa zones
Sister Fortin and Elders Patterson, Dew, Balls, Rodriquez, Dundon with Sister Marks as the accompanist sang “Gethesemane.” It was beautiful and touching. 

Sister Hammon and I trained on "Mission Elevated: Spiritual Self-Reliance." Our six principles of spiritual self-reliance included:

Principle #1: We gain spiritual self-reliance as we ultimately understand and come to know and feel we are sons and daughters of a loving Heavenly Father.

Principle #2: We gain spiritual self-reliance when we come to realize that the Lord will require hard things of us.

Principle #3: We gain spiritual self-reliance as we come to know, understand, and incorporate the Doctrine of Christ into our lives.

Principle #4: We gain spiritual self-reliance as we become worthy and stay worthy

Principle #5: We gain spiritual self-reliance when we read, feast upon, and ponder the scriptures daily, particularly the Book of Mormon.

Principle #6: We gain spiritual self-reliance as we come to recognize, know, and understand how the spirit works through us.

Once we finished, then Sister Keetch spoke about President Hinckley’s ten gifts missionaries need to bring home. She was delightful. Then, we had a musical number from the Mt. Rubidoux Zone. They sang “Lord, I Would Follow Thee.” Elder Treviño accompanied them. He is one of our new missionaries from Mexico. He is a concert pianist, and it definitely showed.

Elder Keetch took the rest of the morning and expanded on what we taught in the morning. After he finished, it was time for lunch.

The Relief Society sisters from the Menifee, Riverside, and Jurupa stakes provided incredible meals for both days--yummy enchiladas, chips, an incredible baked potato bar with all of the trimmings, desserts of all kinds.

Relief Society sisters and brother who prepared lunch for us
Sister Hammon and Sister and Elder McCracken

Sisters Loranger, Reagen, Hammon, Caldes, Fountaine, and many others enjoying lunch
Elders Mounts, Briggs, Casper, Thacker, Ostler, and others

Elders patiently waiting their turn.

Elder and Sister Keetch with Elder and Sister Thorne, Elder and Sister Power, and Sister Fuller
That afternoon, the American Sign Language (ASL) Elders Match, de Mare, Shurtleff, and Gallacher; Sisters Barschi and Winters with Elder Steed as the accompanist provided a musical number using sign to begin the afternoon session. It was wonderful. 

Elder Keetch then asked for questions from the missionaries. They had already sent to me 30+ questions. He added a few of them to the list. Then, he and I took turns answering them. What an experience that was!
Once we finished the question portion, we had a closing hymn and prayer. Elder Keetch began interviewing a few missionaries while we readied for Mission Leadership Council (MLC) and had pizza. During MLC, Joanne and I trained on gifts of the spirit. Elder Keetch discussed why we obey, some leadership principles, rescuing, extremes, weaknesses/challenges, and many, many other topics. 

Elder Keetch's theme was this: "Heavenly Father wants His children home.. You and I have the opportunity to do that. What an honor! We get to bring His children back home!"

Mission Leadership Council (MLC) with Elder and Sister Keetch
On Tuesday morning, we were back at it early after a delicious meal of baked French toast topped with apples and carmel sauce, juice, and fruit. We headed to Sun City to be with the Menifee, Lake Elsinore, Hemet, San Jacinto, and Corona zones. We repeated yesterday’s trainings, and the spirit was strong once again. The musical numbers were a musical number with Sister Van Quakebeke’s arrangement of “Meditations of Oh My Father,” with Elders Beal and Ly singing; Sister Bryant’s piano solo “Nearer My God to Thee”; and the Menifee Zone sing a hymn with Elder Esobar at the piano. 

Menifee, Lake Elsinore, Hemet, San Jacinto, Corona zones
Another delicious meal!

Elders Heward, Baum, Saxton; Sisters Fountaine and Price; Elders Laws, Perata, Hansen, and Morris.
After the meeting, Elder Keetch interviewed six more missionaries. Then, they and we sat down and had a wonderful conversation. They said such nice things about us, our training, and being mission president and spouse. It was nice to hear. I asked him what we need to do, and he said that it seemed like we had been out for 18 months. We just hope we can continue as strong.

Friday, November 10, 2017

November's Beginnings: Outgoing, Incoming, Training, Interviewing!

Another sunset from our backyard
Sister Hammon and I have had an incredible week or two. We have not been able to blog about every single detail, unfortunately, but we wanted to share a few highlights. As you can guess, the life of a mission president and his wonderful wife--in my case, Joanne--is filled with incredible opportunities to serve, observe, speak, train, travel around the mission, and just be with missionaries. We have been blessed this week with lots of events: baptisms, incoming and outgoing missionaries, district leader and sister training leader training, and other wonderfully-spiritual events.

Hermanas Roque and Alvey; Rosaana and Jesus

Elders Briggs, Simpson; Karolyn and her children; Elders Avei and Yang

Sister Davies, Suzanne, and Sister Harris
Also, what a special week this has been with transfer week conversations. So many things go into determining who goes where. We have to look at: thinking last transfer and the next several transfers at the number of missionaries going home; the number of missionaries arriving; and the potential leaders, including sister training leaders. Then, you throw in the number of visa waiters who might be coming, the number of potential new areas needing to open, the different housing situations, the number of trainers you will need, who can drive and who cannot, those who cannot ride bikes, mileage. We methodically look at every single companionship and area, the leaders needed, and any other special circumstances. The Assistants bring their thoughts and suggestions. We have three formal meetings for a total of 12 hours and that doesn’t count the various phone calls and texts before and after the meetings or any of the ponderings at home. Plus, we do a lot of praying to make sure we know exactly where the Lord wants you all placed. Once we finish, then there is the part where the Assistants input all this data into the computer. Then, they make the call list.

I love Saturday transfer mornings because I have the privilege of making transfer calls and discussing the missionaries’ new assignments. I had 45 calls to make on Saturday morning. Some of you were ecstatic; others say, “Really, Me?” Most of them just said, “President, I will do it.” The spirit that comes with the calling is almost overwhelming because of your willingness to do the Lord’s will. It is truly a miracle to me. Thank you, parents, for raising incredible missionaries, for just wanting to do the Lord’s work because you love Him and Our Father in Heaven.

With transfers come incoming and outgoing missionaries. And Monday meant missionaries going home. Around 1:30 p.m., the missionaries began arriving: Sister Diamond; Elders Pennington, Anderson, Olsen, Dunn, Langley, and Walker. I visited with each of them about their “My Plan” and then just a wonderful visit about their missions and future goals. These are incredible young men and young woman. They have made their families proud of them.

Elders Walker, Olsen, Langley; Sister Diamond; President and Sister Hammon; Elders Pennington, Dunn, and Anderson

Dinner traditional: street tacos and all the fixings and horchata, one of the traditional Mexican drinks. Once dinner was done, we then shared testimonies. It was wonderful to hear their testimonies and feel their spirits. They have grown so much over the past two years and 18 months. They came on the mission as great young people who had the desire to serve; they are leaving even greater young men and young woman with a desire to serve the Lord, no matter where they go or what they do.

Tuesday morning dawned way too early. The leaving began with breakfast of egg bake, French toast sticks, yogurt, fruit, and orange juice. After eating, we began loading the vans. Just as we loaded everything, Elder Walker’s mother and brother came to pick him up. What a heart-warming event, the same event the rest of them received later in the day.

Traffic was thick, but we arrived at the airport in pretty good time. We unloaded the vans, got them all check in, and then we watched them climb the escalator and beyond security. The lump continues to rise in our throats as we watch these missionaries—our missionaries—leave the California Riverside Mission. What a life they have to lead!

And away they go! Tears flowed freely!
Later that afternoon, we retraced our steps and headed back to the airport to pick up the incoming missionaries. We hadn’t been their three minutes when they began descending: Sisters Peterson and Sister Fortin; Elders Ballard, Egbert, Heilbut, Lance, Morris, Santos. Elder Treviño arrived on Monday evening and spent Tuesday with the Spanish elders. It was definitely a sight to see: eager missionaries ready to do the Lord’s work.

Elders Treviño (new) and Moloney

Elders Heilbut (new) and Watson

Elders Castro (new, came mid-transfer) and Eldridge

Elders Gibbons and Santos (New)
They all came to the Mission Home for dinner. After dinner, some went to the zone leaders’ apartments; the sisters went to the McCracken’s home; and five of the elders stayed at the mission home.

Sisters Fortin (new) and Marks

Elders Ostler (new) and Mounts

Elders Morris (new) and Simpson
Sisters Palmer and Peterson (new)
Wednesday dawned bright and early. The missionaries arose, readied themselves for the day, helped set the table, then ate breakfast, and off we went to the Mission Office where we spent the next four or so hours in trainings, interviews, lunch, assignments to new areas, and testimonies. 

Elders Herald and Whitesides (new)

Elders Egbert (new) and Cousineau

Elders Day and Ballard (new)

Elders Rollins and Lance (new)
Elders Lewis and Dunham (new)
What a whirlwind of a day. Before too long, they had loaded up all their things—and they had a lot of things—and headed out to their areas.

Christmas comes early to the incoming missionaries. Bikes, package, and the luggage they came with.

Close up of the piles. Elder Egbert with his pile
We had District Leader and Sister Training Leader Training on Friday. We trained them on being new leaders, emerging leaders, and seasoned leaders. We also discussed becoming disciples of Christ as it relates to our new theme “Mission Elevated.” 

All district and sister training leaders
The Assistants spent time of the purpose of district leaders and how they should plan, develop, and execute district meetings. Sister Hammon spent time with the sister training leaders, discussing their responsibilities. We have such incredible district leader and sister training leaders.

New sister training leaders and district leaders
We love interviews, and we started this transfer’s interviews this week as well, between incoming and outgoing and leadership training. There is something about one-on-one conversations with our missionaries. I learn so much from them.

One of the best parts of the week was being able to visit with our family: Anna Rose and her family and Hailey and her family. There is nothing better to hear those sweet little voices, telling us about school, counting to twenty in Spanish, giving his first oral report on trees, talking about coming in second in the “planking” contest in her class, and just hearing the goings and comings of these two busy little families. We love them!

Our time continues to fly by. We personally do not understand it, but it happens, and we will do the best we can.

We love our missionaries!

President and Sister Hammon

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Leaving, Arriving, Conferencing, Speaking, and Training: The Fun Continues

Sun peeking through the pine trees overlooking the Mission Home
On Monday, October 16, one of our visa waiters, Elder Gassant left for Ghana after receiving his visa. Once we arrived at the airport and check him in, we took a few pictures, gave Elder Gassant a big hug, and sent him up the escalator. Even though he has been here just three weeks, a lump came to our throats. It’s like our children leaving. We wish Elder Gassant well. We did receive a note from him that he had arrived safely

President and Sister Hammon, Elder Gassant
Around 5:00 p.m. that same Monday, we headed back to the airport to pick up Elder Castro from the Mexico MTC. We arrived and drove into the parking lot. There were zero spaces for us to park. Consequently, Sister Hammon stayed with the van, and I walked in and waited. I didn’t have to wait very long before he came down the stairs. We grabbed his bag and then headed outside to the van. We loaded up and headed to grab a bite to eat. Then, we drove home where Elder Castro and I had our personal interview. He is a good young man with a good heart who wants to serve well, which I know he will.

Elder Castro and President Hammon at the Mission Home
One of the special times we have with the missionaries is in multi-zone conferences. We have divided the ten zones into four different groups. So, we began on October 17 with Corona and Lake Elsinore;

Lake Elsinore zone
Corona Zone
October 19 with La Sierra, Riverside, and Mt. Rubidoux zones; 

La Sierra Zone with President Norman and Elder and Sister Fuller
Riverside Zone

Mt. Rubidoux
October 20 with Jurupa, Moreno Valley, and Menifee zones; 

Jurupa Zone 
Moreno Zone

Menifee Zone
and finished on October 24 with the Hemet and San Jacinto zones. 

Hemet Zone

San Jacinto Zone
It was delightful! Our topics included everything from “Emergency Preparedness” to “Companionship Study” to “Short-and Long-Term Planning” to “Asking Inspired Questions” to “Obedience and Recommitting to the standards found in the Missionary Handbook” to “Finding Joy in Our Trials” to “Mission Elevated.” We also had inspired music throughout the meeting with each zone providing one musical number. What talented missionaries we have in the mission! 

Moreno Valley, Menifee, and Jurupa zones
One of the highlights of each session was the testimony meeting of the incoming and the outgoing missionaries. We are happy to see those coming into the Mission and both sad/happy for those who are leaving, sad because they are leaving and happy because they are going to be embarking on a new adventure. Plus, we ate delicious food from Hawaiian to Mexican to BBQ.

Hemet Relief Society Luncheon
Hermanas, Bartschi, Flores, Hernandez, Coffeen, and Schooff
And the stars of the multi-zones are the Relief Society who always put on an incredible luncheon for the missionaries. 

Hemet Relief Society sisters

Jurupa Relief Society
Also, we sang happy birthday to several missionaries:

Happy birthday to Sister Loranger; Elders Hofer, Andrews, Gulbranson, and Baum

Happy Birthday to Elders Gregory, Sanchez, and Mounts; Hermanas Troncoso y Buitrago

Happy birthday to Elder Dundon; Sister Bartschi; Elders Tobiasson, Briggs, and Kocherhans

Happy birthday to Elders Bailey, Clark, and Darling
Sister Hammon and I attended both sessions of the Riverside Stake Conference. We had the privilege of speaking during the Saturday evening session. We had a great time speaking together. Our topic was “The Role of Temple and Family History in Convert Retention,” based on the Mission’s Missionary-Member Relations goal of “Enriching relationships with bishops, ward mission leaders, temple and family history consultants, and members We also attended the Sunday Conference Session although we did not speak. Elder Paul G. Watkins, Area Authority Seventy, spoke on a variety of topics. One stood out. He said that the Sacrament is a sacred event each Sunday, a memorial service where we contemplate what Jesus Christ did for us and honor Him who paid our debts. Another topic was the importance of patriarchs, both those who give Patriarchal Blessings and those patriarchs in the homes, the fathers. We sat by Patriarch Merrill and his wife, and we felt blessed.

The missionaries singing to the Relief Society sisters in Lake Elsinore.
We had a large group of trainers and trainees come to the Trainer-Trainee Training. As you know, we had 28 new missionaries last transfer. After four weeks, they come to the Mission Office where we do additional training. What a delight to see the progress of the new missionaries. Many of their trainers said, “They came ready to work and learn.” We loved that about them. Five companionships discussed how the 12-week training was going and how using the Book of Mormon has enhanced their training, and what they were going to do differently the next eight weeks. Almost 60 people attended the meeting in Grand Building. (We apologize! For some odd reason, we did not take a picture of this wonderful group.)

We continue having a great time. We have incoming and outgoing missionaries again on November 7. We love these missionaries!

Outside the front door of the Mission Home