Monday, January 15, 2018

A perfect southern California winter week: Torrential rains, beautiful days, interviews, trainings, dinners, a Tongan fireside, and baptisms

This week has been filled with torrential rains, beautiful days, interviews, trainings, dinners, a Tongan fireside, and baptisms. It keeps rolling, and we keep rolling with it, just a bit ahead of the rolling.

The rain and the fog

The beautiful, sunny days--the reason why people live here
We had interviews this week with the following zones: Hemet, San Jacinto, Corona, and Lake Elsinore zones. Just delightful! Yes, they were long days, but the interviews are some of the best moments spent with you all. Elders Baum and Moon who was on exchanges came in soaking wet. They didn’t realize it was going to rain so much. Nonetheless, they came in with a smile on their faces and were happy to be doing the Lord’s work, even if it were in the rain.

The wet missionaries: Elders Moon (on exchange) and Baum.
It really does rain in southern California
 We love this Trainer-Trainee Training! The new missionaries, now in their fourth week, came prepared to discuss their experiences. We discussed their purpose, trainer and trainee expectations, how to come unto Christ. Three companionships presented on topics such as “How have companionship inventory and companion study helped us establish a positive relationship?” (Sisters Harris and Reese); “How have you utilized the Book of Mormon in your studying, finding, and teaching?” (Elders Royce and Moon); and “How have role plays helped us in our teaching, finding, and studying?” (Elders Brown, Francis, and Johnson). Everyone answered this question: “What do we enjoy about diligently following The First 12 Weeks for New Missionaries and Trainer and role plays?” Wonderful trainers! Wonderful new missionaries now in their fourth week and beyond!  You will make this Mission even greater.

New missionaries (Trainees), Trainers, and Assistants
After the Trainer-Trainee Training, we moved to the chapel and watching the funeral of President Thomas S. Monson with some members of the Riverside and Mt. Rubidoux zones. It was wonderful. Ann Dibbs, President Monson’s daughter, initiated the funeral. Some of her words I recorded: “We don’t need to be a prophet to paint a bright spot on someone’s soul.” President Monson said on numerous occasions: “I feel I’ve done some good today.” President Uchtdorf followed. His message was tender and sweet. He said that President Monson loved to get “eye-to-eye” and that he was “truly a prophet for our time. He was a man for all seasons” who went “about doing good.” President Eyring quoted Doctrine and Covenants 84:88. “The love of God and the love of God’s children permeated his life.” Plus, he said, “There will never be another like him.” President Russell M. Nelson, spoke last, signifying, I believe, that this is the order of the Church and the transition is happening.” President Nelson said, “In a world now saturated with selfies, he modeled selflessness” and “Never let a problem to be solved become important than a person to be loved.”

Our beloved, President Thomas S. Monson
After the funeral, I asked the missionaries who were there to share any feelings they had about President Monson. What an incredible learning experience it was for all of us! We were overwhelmed by their comments! It was one of the most tender moments we have had on our mission. They spoke from their hearts, some through tears. They love President Monson. He was their prophet. He was the one who signed every one of their missionary certificates they pack with their in your Missionary Handbook. It was just an impressive few moment, which we enjoyed thoroughly. We thank them for sharing such poignant thoughts and feelings. Then, we enjoyed a quiet lunch together in the cultural hall.

On Saturday evening, Sister Hammon and I along with the Mission Presidency hosted the stake presidents in our mission at the Mission Home for dinner. They are so appreciative of the service the missionaries provide and their willingness to help stakes bring Heavenly Father’s children home.

Stake presidents and their wives getting ready to eat.

Get to know you game!

Stake Presidents and their wives and the Mission Presidency and our wives
We had the incredible opportunity to attend a fireside in the Moreno Valley Stake on Sunday evening. President Eric B. Shumway was the keynote speaker. President Shumway was the President of BYU-Hawaii for many years. President Shumway and his wife served as President of the Tonga Nuku’alofa Mission and the President of the Nuku’alofa Tonga Temple. So, the Moreno Valley Stake invited all the Tonga saints from the surrounding area, their friends, two Tonga church choirs, the Methodists and Baptists, and others to the fireside. The Hiva Kuaea Choir also sang. It was a marvelous event. I was able to bear testimony of the gospel and what our missionaries are all doing here. Afterwards, we were able to greet and visit with the choirs and their members and the Tongan saints and sample some of the food. What wonderful people they are! Elders Braunstadter and Dalmas were there to answer any questions that the visitors had.

President and Sister Hammon with Tongan leis--gorgeous!

Tongans in line for delicious food!
We had baptism this week in Hemet, Mt. Rubidoux, and Moreno Valley. We attended the baptisms of Alva, Ana, and David (Hermanas K. Hern├índez and Whitaker and Hermanas Coffeen and M. Hern├índez). We met them just after we arrived at one of the first baptism we attended in Hemet. Such a wonderful family! Every time we went to Hemet and saw them, David made sure to say “hello.” President Norman attended Rafael’s baptism (Elders Loveridge and Bailey) in the Nuevo Ward. He said Rafael is a “humble man who the missionaries found street contacting.”  President Hansen attended Jon’s baptism (Elders Jackson and Carlisle). He said, “His sister introduced him to the Church a few months ago, and tonight he was glowing and so grateful for her and all of his new friends.”

Alva and her children David and Ana. Plus, Hermanas Whitaker, Hernandez (M),
Hernandez (K), and Coffeen; and Hermano Garcia.

Elder Loveridge, Rafael, and Elder Bailey

Elders Baum and Jensen did the restoration talk for Alva and family's baptisms
How exciting it is to serve the Lord! 

President and Sister Hammon

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Leadership, Tears, New Year, Visitors, and Revelation!

Happy New Year to Everyone!

What a start to 2018! Part of our New Year’s Day was visiting missionary apartments. In the California Riverside Mission, New Year’s Day is “deep cleaning” day, meaning missionaries receive a list from Elder and Sister Davis, our housing coordinators, on what they should be cleaning. Elder and Sister Davis had assigned us certain apartments in Jurupa, Riverside, and Moreno Valley to visit and told the missionaries that the Mission President and his wife would be doing surprise visits to some of the apartments. So, there was some trepidation throughout the mission as to whose apartment we would be visiting.

Cool Cactus in front of Mission Home
It was fun to knock on the door and hear from the inside as they began to scurry about: “It’s President and Sister Hammon.” Let’s just say all apartments and their cleanliness are not created equal. Some had been cleaned well; others needed serious attention to them; some missionaries had been working diligently; and others were still—emphasizing the “still”— working on it. We didn’t take any pictures of the apartments so as not to discriminate….or share any secrets. Parents, your missionaries know how to clean and were diligently trying to work on their apartments. Those parents of missionaries yet to come to our mission or any mission, please help them understand that “deep cleaning” does not mean just washing the dishes and putting them away.

We also had interviews this week with a couple of zones: Moreno Valley and Menifee. Next week, we have Hemet, San Jacinto, Corona, and Lake Elsinore zones. Interviews are some of the best moments spent with our missionaries. I love one-on-one interviews. I learn so much in 15 minutes. We share stories, miracles, testimonies, tears, and laughter. They are doing well and striving to do everything they can to be the best missionaries possible.

One of my good friends from Menan, Idaho, visited today with her husband, son, and daughter-in-law. Renae and I have been friends since we were six-years-old. When she turned six, I had just moved to Menan, and she invited me to her birthday party. She brought pictures to show us. There I was at the far-left end, not really paying attention with my birthday hat on. We tried to name everyone in the picture, but we couldn’t. Odd. We thought we knew everyone. We had such a nice visit at the Angel Thai restaurant on Brockton. We had a nice reminiscing chat and catching up. They had lots of questions about the mission and being a mission president. The surprise of the lunch was she did not know that I hadn’t been a resident of Menan since birth after all these years. I told her I had moved in when I was six. That blew her away. When I told her that, she just looked at me with this shocked look on her face. She said, “What? You moved to Menan?” It was good to see them.

President and Sister Hammon with Elder  LoganWood
Also, Elder Logan Wood came back to visit this week! He is doing great, working on his grandfather's farm, completing courses online, and doing other incredible things with his family and friends.

Missionary Leadership Council (MLC
This week we had Missionary Leadership Council (MLC), comprised of zone leaders and sister training leaders. They are such an incredible group of missionaries. 

Elders Steed and Cousineau

Elders Osberg and Beal (Spanish)
President Hansen spoke on administering vs. ministering and how they are on parallel tracks. He quoted President Monson: “Never let the problem to be solved be more important than the person to be loved.” 

Elders Bailey and Rodriguez (Spanish)

Elders Hallows and Sanchez (Spanish)
Sister Hammon shared “Overcoming and Working Through Fear.” She shared Alma 17:10: “…The Lord did visit them with his Spirit and said unto them: Be comforted. And they were comforted.”  

Sisters Marks and DiPietro

Sisters Harris and Brereton

Hermanas Coffeen and Grover (Spanish)

Hermana Schooff (Spanish), Sisters Mackely and Ruggles
Elders Dew and Balls, the Assistants, discussed the hows of “Contacting and Navigating with the Book of Mormon,” How to teach the Sabbath Day,” and “Having Great Faith.” These topics and Sister Hammon’s will be those taught by the Zone and Sister Training Leaders during Multi-zones in a couple of weeks.

Elders Ly and Gregory

Elders Briggs and Heward
My topic was “Focusing on Christ Through a Change of Heart,” utilizing the story of the People of Ammon. 

Elders Guymon and Jensen

Elders Willes and Nelson (Chinese)

Elders Phister and Maughan
Probably the biggest revelation to all of us was this: Every leader in MLC will be going home this year, most of them within the next six months. See. Big. Crocodile. Tears!

Elders Balls and Dew, Assistants
We also had several baptism the past couple of weeks. Here are just a few of the people who were:

Shelley, Mikey; Elders Jensen, Steed, and Cousineau

Elders Williams and Goodrich with Peter

Elder Crowther and Yang with John

Sisters Carson, Mackley, and Goodwin with Greg

We look forward to an incredible 2018, watching our missionaries grow and develop.

A Christmas gift from Sister Anderson, Elder Broadhead's mother. We love it!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Missionaries coming and going: a bitter-sweet Christmas week!

Merry Christmas: Go Ye Into All The World
For Christmas, some mothers will be greeting their returned missionaries after 18 or 24 months of faithful service in the California Riverside. This week was one of those bitter-sweet ones, where missionaries left, and missionaries arrived. We love them all!

President and Sister Hammon with Outgoing: Sister Chandler; Elders Thacker, Fairbanks, Doi,
Gulbranson, Simpson, Peterson, and Match.
We went to the Redland Temple the week prior! What a sweet experience that was, especially greeting them as they entered the Celestial Room. Wonderful, wonderful missionaries!

Elders Thacker, Gulbranson, Peterson; President and Sister Hammon;
Elder Simpson in the back; Sister Chandler; Elders Match, Doi, and Fairbanks

By the manger scene
On Monday, the outgoing missionaries arrived at the Mission Home. Sister Chandler started it all. Then, they all began arriving: Elders Thacker, Fairbanks, Doi, Gulbranson, Simpson, Peterson, and Match. Soon, I was visiting with them one-on-one about their My Plan, their post-mission strategic plan, which we hope and pray they will follow and enhance.

Elders Peterson, Doi, Simpson, Gulbranson, Fairbanks, and Thacker; Sister Chandler
After they all arrived, we had a delicious meal: street tacos, all the trimmings, and tres leches cake that has become a tradition for each outgoing dinner. We had a nice time visiting with them about what they were about, reminiscing about their missions and the incredible journeys they have had.

The "last supper" in the mission field
Testimony meeting was delightful, spiritual, self-reflecting. They were all amazed how fast the time had flown by. Yes, there were some regrets. Yes, they could have done things differently. But, yes, they felt they had all grown and learned much on their missions, especially the knowledge that Jesus Christ lives, that they have a loving Heavenly Father, and that the Book of Mormon is true. They will be great assets when they arrive home and then spread their post-mission wings to college and/or jobs and ultimately marriage and a family and careers.

Adjustments for pictures
On Tuesday morning, we were up early and fixed breakfast for them: muffins, egg/ham bake (delicious!), oranges, bananas, yogurt, and orange juice. I think they all ate their fill and were ready to go, a bit skittish, full of anticipation of home and a different way of life--yes, even a different mission. They all took off their bed linens and re-made their beds. They did a very nice job. Their mothers—and hopefully their spouses—will be pleasantly surprised with the domestic skills they have learned. Hurrah!

Terminal 2: Elders Fairbanks, Gulbranson, Peterson, Thacker; President and Sister Hammon

Terminal 4: Sister Chandler; Elders Doi and Simpson
Off we went about 7:40 a.m. to the airport. Missionaries left from both Terminals 2 and 4. We saw each of them slowly ascend the escalators, closer and closer to home and family and friends, yet farther and farther away from the California Riverside Mission and their past 18 and 24 months of incredible experiences. We will miss them all.

And off they go in Terminal 2!

And off they go in Terminal 4
Elder Gregson came from Canada on a 1:00 flight. We met him there, and the Assistants whisked him off to work until the rest of them arrived around 6:00 p.m.
Sister and President Hammon; Elder Gregson
We returned a third time at the airport for the missionaries coming from the Provo MTC around 6:00 p.m. Well, we arrived early, and we kept checking the flight schedule on the way there. It said that they were still in flight. When we arrived, we were met by President Dixon, Redlands Mission President, who informed us that our missionaries had already arrived and were at the baggage claim; so, we trundled down and greeted them: Sisters Adams, Brown, and Reese; Elders Evans, Moon, Nelson, Quinton, Victorino, Johnson, and Francis. 

Elders Patterson and Elder Nelson (new)

Elder Brown (m) with his two trainees: Elder Francis (l) and Elder Johnson (r)

Elder Holloway and Elder Quinton (new)

What a saga! Fortunately, the Assistants were waiting in the call zone. I called them and told them the missionaries had arrived. We soon had them in the vans, truck, and our van on our way home to a delicious baked potato dinner. Once they were finished, they were off to their respective beds for the evening until training the next day.

Elder McCracken and Elder Evans (new)

Elder Royce and Elder Moon (new)

Elder Victorino (new) and Elder Cox
The next morning, we arrived early for the incoming missionary training. Sister Hammon and I did mission basics and purpose, and then I  and then began interviewing them one-by-one while the rest of them stayed for training about health, finances, teaching, training, cars/bikes, letters home, language, housing, and general missionary things. I had great interviews with the new missionaries. They are such good young men and young women. The visa waiters will do well here and then off they go. I would love their mission presidents to say, “Wow, you were trained so well, I think we will redshirt all of our missionaries in the California Riverside Mission.”

Sister Adams (new) and Sister Harris

Sister Harris and Sister Reese (new)

Sister Brown (new) and Sister Goodwin

The Trio: Sisters Gray, Brown (new), and Goodwin
After making the assignments, we had a wonderful testimony meeting. These are strong missionaries with great goals and aspirations. After the testimony meeting, we shook their hands, handed them a packet of MMs, and gave them our new temple recommend holder for our mission. And off they went with their piles of things they brought, Christmas presents sent by family members, and their bicycles.

the stuff
California Riverside Temple Recommend holder
What a wonderful week we had with outgoing and incoming missionaries. Sadness mixed with tears of joy for the outgoing missionaries. Happiness mixed with elation for the new missionaries who are vigorous and ready to do the Lord’s work in the California Riverside Mission. We love them already and look forward to serving with them.

Go Ye Into All The World!
Merry Christmas!

President and Sister Hammon