Monday, May 7, 2018

Madagascar, Puerto Rico.....California Riverside Mission missionaries coming and going!

Hibiscus in front of  the Mission Home
Our visa waiters going to Madagascar and one of our missionaries who came to us from Puerto Rico have returned to their islands. We appreciate their grand service while ministering with us here in the California Riverside Mission. One of our missionaries, Elder Hofer, also went home to have an operation for his torn ACL. Hurrah to all of them!

Elder Hofer and Elder Wilder (Puerto Rico)

Elder Whitesides and Elder Dunham, President and Sister Hammon
Recently, we also said huge goodbyes to Sisters Brereton, DiPietro, Flores, Goodwine, García, Harris (Ashley), Harris (Sydney), Mackley, Moran, Reagan; Elders Brown, Clark, Gibbons, Mounts, and Williams on Tuesday morning. On Monday afternoon, they came to the Mission Home where President Hansen and I interviewed them and talked about their MyPlans. They have great plans and will continue to be strong members and leaders when they go home. After a delicious meal, they all bore incredible testimonies. Here are some highlights from their incredible testimonies:
Sisters Harris (Ashley), Brereton, Garcia, Harris (Sydney), Regan, Mackley,
DePietro, Moran, Goodwine, and Flores

Elders Williams, Gibbons, Brown, Mounts, and Clark
Hermana García—"When I arrived, my testimony wasn’t as strong as it is now. We don’t have to be perfect, but we do need to work hard.” 
Hermana Flores—“I have come to know feel the atoning power of the Savior and know I can do all things in Christ.” 
Hermana Moran—“I was able to see many miracles and know that Heavenly Fathers loves me.” 
Sister Reagan—“This does not feel real. I took the Atonement for granted, and now I know it has helped me greatly.” 
Elder Brown—“My testimony is a personal experience. It is not a fuzzy feeling. The Savior is absolutely willing to forgive us.” 
Elder Mounts—“I love to help people and lead them to the Lord.” 
Elder Clark—“These two years have been transformative. It’s not a capstone, but it’s all about progression.” 
Elder Williams—“The greatest miracle has been the change in me. The gospel was a part of what I did; now it’s a part of who I am.” 
Sister Sidney Harris—“It has been amazing to watch what the Savior has helped me become.” 
Sister Mackley—“The mission is not a sacrifice. It has been the greatest blessing.” 
Elder Gibbons—“I have seen His handiwork in the many miracles I have experienced.” 
Sister DiPietro—“It’s been a hard experience, but it’s been the best experience.” 
Sister Goodwine—“We look back, and everything has changed. There is no way better to start on discipleship than to serve a mission.” 
Sister Brereton—“A mission is about change. It rekindles the fire within us.” 
Sister Ashley Harris—“This work is important. We are asked to be selfless. Can we wear His name in our hearts?” 
Sister Hubbard—“You have what you need to go forward.” 
Elder Hubbard—“Remember what you have learned on your missions. We know enough to start although we don’t know what’s going to happen.”  
Hermana Fuller—“I am going miss feeling of your strength. Those who do a lot for the Lord are always happy.” 
Elder Fuller—"Be sure of what you are doing. We know the truth.”

Breakfast with the sisters

Breakfast with the elders and Sister Reagan and Sister Hammon
For us, bidding adieu to our missionaries going home this transfer was especially hard. We have grown to love these missionaries so much. They become part of your family as you share the joys, the tears, their successes, their challenges, their generous spirits,  and their testimonies. Sister Hammon said goodbye at the Mission Home because she remained with the incoming sisters who stayed the night at the Mission Home.

Outgoing missionaries
We then began loading the vans and off we went. We stopped at Terminal 4 and dropped off some of the missionaries there. We then trundled back around to Terminal 2 and dropped them off. Each time I watched them ascend the escalator, turn around, and wave goodbye, lumps came to my throats and tears welled up in my eyes. I knew they were going home to huge embraces from their mothers, fathers, families, and friends. We wish them all well. As I walked to the car and then drove home, I contemplated their missionary efforts and work here in the mission. What came to mind was this: “Well done, thou good and faith servants.”

And off they go....

The ride up and away! I feel tears coming....
Ah, the beauty and the wonder to greet new missionaries to our mission. On Monday, we also received new missionaries: Hermana Maxfield from the Mexico MTC; Sisters Dorny, Myers, Grillone; and Elders Jorgensen, McConahay, Maxwell, and Saville. They worked in the field on Tuesday and came to the Mission Office on Wednesday morning for their orientation. It was wonderful to greet and interview them all. They are a wonderful group of missionaries who want to serve the Lord.

New missionaries: Sisters Maxfield, Dorny, Grillone, and Myers;
Elders McConahay, Saville, Jorgensen, and Maxwell
Elder Maxwell arrived on Tuesday evening and stayed the night in the Mission Home. On Wednesday morning, we headed to the Mission Office where I interviewed all of them during their new missionary orientation. After the orientation and lunch, we introduced them to their new companions and then participated in a testimony meeting. Their testimonies are strong. I want to share a few snapshots from their testimonies:

Sister Myers—“The Lord does guide our lives. I know the Lord puts you in the path of people who are ready.” 

Sister Myers (new) and Begay
Hermana Maxfield—“I want to spread happiness because of the gospel in my life.” 

Hermanas Maxfield (new) y Buitrago
Sister Grillone—“Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ mean everything to me.” 

Sisters Price and Grillone (new)
Sister Dorny—“I love my Savior so, so much.”

Sisters Dorny (new) and Palmer
Elder Saville—“This is where I am mean to be.”

Elders Balls and Saville (new)
Elder McConahay—“I know I will change if I put in the work.” 

Elders Phister and McConahay (new)
Elder Maxwell—“In the plan that the Lord has for us, we need to be okay with change. We can change others through this experience.” 

Elders Nelson and Maxwell (new)
Elder Jorgensen—“This is where I am supposed to be. I want to bring joy and happiness to others.”

Elders Jorgensen (new) and Steed
We took pictures and then sent them off to the areas.

Incoming missionaries
Being with missionaries is truly a delight! It was very sad to see some of them return home, but we knew their parents were on the other end with banners and signs and great anticipation and love, loving arms open wide to receive them. Simultaneously, it was so exciting to meet the new missionaries. We have seen them in the field, and they are doing well, adjusting to missionary life, which is definitely different than their lives before. We know as that they are obedient and turn their lives to ministering to others and forgetting themselves in the work, they will be blessed with “light, energy, and joy….and will be uniquely fulfilled…and transformed from being selfish to being selfless.” (Elder Kearon, YSA Fireside, May 6, 2018).

Sunset in our backyard
President and Sister Hammon

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Multi-zone and stake conferences, brownies, testimonies, and Golden Plunger Awards--Hurrah for Missionary Work!

The entrance to orange groves near the Mission Home
What a delightful week this has been! Being with all the missionaries in the California Riverside Mission multi-zone conferences is always wonderful, inspiring, and insightful. Our agenda was full and robust, with trainings, from “Online Proselyting Training” to the “How Do I Fulfill My Missionary Purpose?” (the new Chapter 8 in Preach My Gospel) to following the Safeguards for Using Technology to using technology to better accomplish our missionary purpose to setting goals and making plans for individuals in order to help us use technology effectively to using the Area Book Planner app to help us become accountable to the Lord and to mission leaders and even to yourself. 

San Jacinto Zone

Hemet Zone
 We also focused on a “voice of warning” about using technology, always remembering that fulfilling our missionary purpose is the only safe way to use their/our smartphones and technology. Plus, we had a heavily dose of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and how we make Christ our Center by believing that the Father and He are the sources of all light, understanding, inspiration, revelation, and eternal blessings.

La Sierra Zone

Jurupa Zone
 The incoming and outgoing testimony meetings were incredible! The spirit was strong as these new and “mature” missionaries bore solemn testimony of the truthfulness of what they have been teaching and what they have learned. I wanted to share a few of the quotes they shared in their testimonies:

§  Hermana Esplin (new)—"The gospel has been a light in my life. I have seen a light in the eyes of those I teach. I am here because I have been given much.”
§  Elder Dunham—“The Lord has changed my attitude.”
§  Elder Clark—“I am definitely not the person I came out as.”
§  Elder Whitesides—Regarding his assignment here in California: “It was learning to do what Heavenly Father wants me to do.”
Sister Harris (Sydney)—“The Book of Mormon has refined me.”
§  Sister DiPietro—“The gospel has change my life and me as a person. It has made me more confident.”
§  Sister Harris (Ashley)—“I learned how to come to know Christ.”
§  Hermana Flores—“Heavenly Father has made me (us) into incredible creatures. When we turn our wills over to Him, he can truly transform us.”
§  Sister Goodwine—“This is the work of the Almighty God…and if it doesn’t change your life, then you aren’t doing it correctly.”
§  Hermana Stettler (new)—“I am here for everyone else…to share the love with other people.”
§  Elder McLaughlin (new)—“God protects us and watches over us.”
§  Elder Johnson (new)—“My testimony has changed my life.”
§  Hermana Moran—“We are here for a reason. Faith in God is faith in God’s timing.”
§  Elder Williams—“No matter how badly we have messed up, Heavenly Father has a plan for us. I have learned this through the spirit.”
§  Elder Brown—“I believed it before I came out, and now I know that Jesus is the Christ.”
§  Elder Mounts—“If I have learned anything, it is to lose yourself in the work. I was so afraid of changing; now, I am a different person.”
§  Hermana Chase (new)—“It is wonderful how the gospel can change us as we try to become like Jesus.”
§  Sister Neerings (new)—“I love sharing light and talking about the truth and the gospel.”
§  Elder Lawler (new)—“It is so amazing how investigators grow. I try to picture them in baptismal white.”
§  Elder Sato (new)—"I am glad to be here and grateful to share the gospel.”
§  Sister Reagan—“I wouldn’t trade these 18 months for anything. I have loved every moment of my mission.”
§  Elder Gibbons—“I have come closer to the Savior.”
§  Sister Mackley—“I would not change the last 18 months because of what I have learned.”
§  Hermana García—“The mission is the hardest thing I have ever done. My life changed because of missionaries.”
§  Sister Hubbard (senior)—“For the things I have learned on my mission, everything has been reaffirmed today. Watching you is impressive.”
§  Elder Hubbard (senior)—“You’re good spirits. You’re good souls. Don’t be shaken. Go forward, and He will be there for you.”
§  Sister Bascom (new)—“My dad asked, ‘How far can you go without pedaling’? I have lots of hopes to learn while continuing to pedal forward.”
§  Sister Brereton—“We cannot be slow to remember Him. We need to focus on miracles and tender mercies. Blessings will come because we are obedient.”

Mt. Rubidoux Zone

Lake Elsinore Zone
I thought Sister Peterson’s comment probably summed up the feelings during entire multi-zone conferences: “We have received a special dose of the Holy Ghost.”

Menifee Zone

Hemet Relief Society sisters who prepared a wonderful meal
We were spiritually enlightened and fed this past weekend when we attended the Lake Elsinore Stake Conference. Elder Paul F. Watkins, an Area Authority Seventy, presided over the conference. Sister Hammon and I both had the privilege of participating. Sister Hammon shared her testimony about being a child of God. I spoke on “What attributes of the Savior can missionaries and members develop that will make us more effective ministers?” President Wilson spoke on numerous subjects but a couple of thoughts I would like to share. He said, “The gospel of Jesus Christ is one of invitation. He wants our personal prayers to become more fervent. Reading of the Book of Mormon will bring more clarity. As we make a careful, meaningful study of the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon, there will come a depth of conversion in word, declaration, in heart and in your actions. Through a Prophet of God, we are seeing a hastening of the work in these times. The Lord’s message of peace and new form of ministering will come by and through us. The message will be provided to us for those who are in need.”

Elder Watkins spoke on a variety of topics. Some inspiring thoughts from his messages include: “The staggering task of it all and the Lord’s confidence in us as His feet and hands. Inspiration comes incrementally. The Church is alive.” He then asked the question, “Are we alive?” In essence, we are “a living Church with living Prophets and a living Christ. Let us hope that miracles happen more quickly. The days ahead will be more challenging, and no one will survive on borrowed light.” One of the things he talked about on Sunday morning is how we are all prophets (lower case) vs. the Prophets (upper case). We act as prophets as we stand and testify of the Prophet (See Numbers 11:29; Luke 2:36; Enos 1:22). He ended with this profound statement: “A good life lived is a witness for Christ.” 
Riverside Zone
The last few days, we have been spending on upcoming transfers. We have a few visa waiters coming to our mission; fifteen missionaries who are leaving; two elders who have been here waiting for Madagascar who are returning, and six missionaries coming to our mission. We look forward to the new ones coming but shed tears of both joy and sadness to see 15 return home with honor and two go to Madagascar now that it has reopened its borders after the plague. They are incredible young people.

Moreno Valley Zone
Overall, the past couple of weeks have been full of incredible spiritual experiences as we have interviewed, trained, attended stake conference, and visited with members and investigators. We love serving our missionaries.

"Golden Plunger Award" for the cleanest apartments: Elders Victorino,
Yeaman, Elder/Sister Dickensen, Elders Su'a, and Carrillo

"Golden Plunger Award" for the cleanest apartments:
Sisters Winters, Adams, and Price with Elder and Sister Davis

""Isn't the food great!" L: Sisters Wilson, Reagan, Peterson, and Grover;
R: Sisters Garcia, Fortin, Bascom, and Parker
Stay tuned for next weeks’ comings and goings!

"Gotta love all this food, right?" L: Elders Gallacher, Guymon, Nielsen, and Balls;
R: Elders Revill, Holyoak, Wlson, Frazier, Sorensen, and Broadhead

"Brownies: the staple of missionary life."
President and Sister Hammon

Monday, April 9, 2018

Happiness is being with missionaries in the California Riverside Mission

Dusk at the Mission Home
We can only describe the last two weeks as being busy, busy, busy! We believe firmly the best time we have in the mission field is being with missionaries. They are wonderful. They are smart. They are spiritual. They have testimonies. They are innovative. They want to serve the Lord. They want to do good things. They want to progress and grow. They are some of the finest young men and women in the entire world.

Sister Hammon talking to sister missionaries in the Corona Stake.
We had two missionaries leave us in mid-transfers: Elder Wilder who is returning to Puerto Rico after having blessed our mission since the hurricanes; and Elder Hofer who is returning home to repair a torn ACL. What wonderful missionaries they are! We will miss them both.

Elder Wilder and Elder Hofer

Elders Rivas, Royce, Sorensen; President Hammon, Elders Balls, Wilder, and Hofer
Over the past few weeks, we have interviewed about 165 missionaries in ten zones, located in Riverside/Mt. Rubidoux/La Sierra, Jurupa, Menifee, Moreno Valley, Hemet/San Jacinto, Corona, and Lake Elsinore. Think of it this way: I meet with each set of zone leaders for 15 minutes to discuss their zone, goals, miracles, and challenges. Then, I meet with each missionary for about 15 minutes. This time we discuss their vulnerability plan they create as they begin using their smartphones (more on this later). We have time to discuss other goals, how they are getting along with their companions, and answer any questions they might have. Just do the math: 165 missionaries x 15 minutes each + ten zones x 15 each = 45-50 hours of interviews, not counting the drive time and the time that I go over. We do this every six weeks. I can tell you it is some of the best time spent with missionaries, getting to know them, hearing about their great miracles, understanding their challenges, feeling of their incredible spirit, laughing and crying with them, and listening to the testimonies. These interviews are enlightening and revelatory.

Vulnerability Plan

Vulnerability Plan
We are transitioning to a technology/smartphone mission. During the last Mission Leadership Council (MLC) in March, the members of the MLC received their phones and download the approved apps and began utilizing them in proselyting. They have been using them in unique and spiritual ways. More will be coming as we maneuver forward. Plus, during interviews, we handed out the phones that had arrived from parents and others to the missionaries. 

Elder Castro: "I think if we push this button, it should do what we want it to do."

Sisters Carson, DiPietro, and Begay: "Seriously, we are trying to figure out these phones."

Elders Frisby and Tippetts: "Are you sure that's how
we are supposed to download these apps?"
While I interviewed, they downloaded the approved apps, cleaned up or created their Facebook pages. Some were very tenuous about this. One of the missionaries refused to open his telephone box while he was at interviews. Our understanding is he is now using it. The bottom line is this: They should only be using their smartphones when they are engaging in their missionary purpose. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Elder Hansen and Sisters Bartschi and Mackley: "Try this number, Elder McCracken..."
as these three try to figure out phones and register them with Elder McCracken in the Office
Elders Herald, Overman, and Jensen: "We think we know what we are doing.
It's been so long since we touched one of these things. It's a bit scary!"
We also had Mission Leadership Council this past week. President Norman, from the Mission Presidency, discussed “Divine Discipline” and they can correct in a kind and loving way. After discussion “Accountability: The Lord’s Way,” I trained on the “Patterns of Obedience.” We spent lots of time on “Area Book Planner,” a new app that goes with our transition to technology. It is an amazing app that will truly revolutionize how they input and download information about their investigators and others. Plus, they will be able to use Facebook to help them with their missionary purpose. We had a delightful time—almost an overload of information. At least, Sister Hammon and I felt overloaded.

Missonary Leadership Council (MLC)--Incredible leaders!
Plus, we had our Trainee and Trainer Training this week as well. The new missionaries are here for approximately four weeks, and we bring them back into to receive additional training. After a light breakfast of bagels, yogurt, oranges, and orange juice, Sister Hammon trained on “The Purpose of Missionary Work; the Assistants trained “Companion Study and Inventory”; and I trained on “Expectations of Trainees,” “Obedience,” and “Centering your Lives on Christ.” Among the many quotes we all shared, one from Sister Wilson, one of our sister missionaries, is simple, yet profound and poignant: "I believe when we are obedient it makes it easier for God to grant us miracles!” I, too, believe that as we are obedient, miracles will flow into our lives, many small and some larger—but all wonderful.

Newest missionaries (trainees) and their companions. We are excited to have them here!
We had two of our missionaries return to their mission with their families. Sister Harris returned with her mother, younger sister, and younger brother. Elder Maughan brought his mother and father to the mission. I don’t know if there is a better way to tell someone about your mission than to show them where you served and meet the people you taught, baptized, and served.

The Harris Family 

The Maughan family 
 Spring has sprung in southern California! The orange trees are in bloom. The aroma from the blossoms is hard to explain. If I could build an app that would encase you in the smell, you would just stand there and soak in the smell. It is wonderful! Plus, some of the trees still have oranges on them as they bloom. 

Orange blossoms--They smell heavenly!
Mother nature is amazing! You have to applaud while simultaneously standing in “wondrous awe” of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, the Creator and Organizer of the world. The Creation is truly an amazing blessing and miracle for all the world to see.