Monday, March 19, 2018

Good byes to Outgoing and a Welcomes to Incoming Missionaries, Trainings, Transition to Smartphones, Baptisms: the ever-changing California Riverside Mission

What a full week we have all had! Missionaries have come and gone! We shed both tears of sadness and joy. We continue to transition to smartphones and technology. We had interviews. We had district leader and MLC training this week. We had a great weekend with the Corona Stake Presidency with President Aragon and Elder Richard J. and Sister Nancy J. Maynes.

This past week the following missionaries successfully completed their missions: Hermanas Coffeen, Hernández, and Schooff; Sisters Wilde, Harris (Shaunté), and Greenhalgh; Elders Andrew and Maughan. They came to the mission home around 3:00ish with all their luggage in hand, some more heavy than they should have been. President Hansen and I were able to discuss their My Plans with them. We had a delicious Chile verde and rice dinner with the traditional Tres Leches cake for dessert. We were all able to squeeze around the big table in the dining room. 

Chile verde dinner with outgoing missionaries and Assistants
 Testimony meeting was another excellent spiritual experience. These are such incredible missionaries. We are going to miss them terrible (and already do). We had a great companionship study. Our topic was light.

Outgoing at the Mission Home: Sisters Harris, Greenhalgh, Schooff, Hernandez,
Coffeen, Wilde; Elders Maughan and Andrerw
The next morning, they were off after a quick breakfast. Sister Hernández stayed the night with Elder and Sister McCracken, and then Elder and Sister Davis took her to the airport early. The rest of them went with us and the Assistants. We shed tears as they each went up the escalator in both terminals. We wish them well!

Outgoing missionaries: Hermanas Coffeen and Schooff; Sisters Wilde, Harris,
and Greenhalgh; President and Sister Hammon; and Elders Andrew and Maughan
A huge welcome to Hermanas Chase, Stettler, and Esplin; and Sisters Bascom and Neerings; and Elders Johnson, Sato, McLaughlin, and Lawler! The flight was on time. We had our new banner, and the Assistants held it proudly. It looked great! After they retrieved their luggage, we headed back to the Mission Home where we had a delicious dinner. Soon, the elders were off to the zone leaders’ apartments, and the sisters stayed at the Mission Home where I interviewed all of them.

Welcome to the new missionaries! Sister Stettler came in a day earlier.
The next morning, we all meet at the Mission Office, where both the new missionaries and the trainers gathered to be trained in their respective groups while I interviewed all the elders. We ate a delicious lunch, and I then announced the companionships:

New missionaries with their trainers
Hermanas Harper and Esplin

Hermanas Harper and Esplin (new)
Sisters Ruggles and Bascom

Sisters Ruggles and Bascom (new)
Hermanas Buitrago and Peters (finishing the training)

Hermanas Buitrago and Peters (newish, just finished six weeks)
Sisters Bartschi and Neerings

Hermanas Grover and Chase

Hermanas Chase (new) and Grover 
Elders Johnson and Willes

Elders Johnson and Willes
Elders Soto and Aland

Elders Soto (new) and Aland
Elders Dew and Lawler

Elders Dew and Lawler (new)
Elders McLaughlin and Osberg

Elders McLaughlin (new) and Osberg
Hermanas Sorensen and Stettler

Hermanas Sorensen and Stettler
Then, these new missionaries shared heart-felt testimonies with us. I am impressed with them all and look forward to their great work.

Elders de Mare and Gulbranson (RM), Laurie and Brad, Elders Jensen, Guymon, and Herald
We also attended the baptism of Mike (father), Jordan, and Alexis (daughters) from the San Jacinto Ward. This was another amazing baptism.

Brother Cattern, Mike, Alexis, Sister Ruggles, Elder de Mare,
Sisters Fountaine and Bulter, Brother Kowallis, and Bishop Rex
We also had the baptism for Leilani 

Elders Komers and Porrazzo with Leilani and her mother and brother
And Alex

Elder Crowther, Alex, and Elder Nelson
Plus, we were able to visit with former missionaries, Elders Dunn (and his father); Elder Gulbranson; and Elder Parsons and his “new companion Sadie” (they are getting married in May). 

Elder Tyler Dunn, Sister and President Hammon, and Elder Ethan Gulbranson

Sadie, Elder Cooper Parson, President and Sister Hammon

New and current district leaders

Mission Leadership Council (MLC)
 I had interviews with the Mt. Rubidoux and Riverside zones! What a delight it was meeting with these wonderful missionaries. Most of them had their copies of their vulnerability plan. Thank you.  Also, if their phones were here, these two zones received them and downloaded their approved apps. 

On the way to the Mission Office from the Mission Home

What an incredible treat we had this weekend with Elder Richard J. and Sister Nancy J. Maynes, of the Seventy. In the Priesthood Session on Saturday, he spoke about magnifying the priesthood. One of his focuses was “teach doctrine, build faith, transition to application, and help people come unto Christ.” He also talked about our “heavenly pedigree.” He talked to the Priesthood leaders about how to help the youth—and even the adults—obtain greater spiritual experiences. He mentioned four ways: 1) Teaching, 2) Ordinances, 3) Sacrament, and 4) Service. In the Saturday evening session, President Aragon discussed the fact that parents need to be the greatest teachers in their children’s lives. Also, he posited that the Lord’s pattern is doing the small and simple things that ultimately lead to strengthen in our own lives and the lives of our children. At the Saturday evening session, Elder Maynes talked about the Sabbath and developing Celestial traditions. He also showed us an incredible rendition of the Plan of Happiness. During the Sunday Session, Sister Maynes discussed the importance of making good choices, big or small. She said our choices each day either lead us to Christ or to Satan. She said that CTR not only means “Choose the Right”; it also means “Choose to Remember.” Elder Maynes told some wonderful stories about one of the missions in Texas he visited. Plus, he talked about how money cannot establish Zion. One of the wonderful quotes he gave was this: “We need to make good decisions so that we are worthy of and sensitive to the Holy Ghost.”

What a week—lots going on, but we wouldn’t trade it. The spiritual awakenings and miracles we have watched and experienced this week combine to create celestial remembrances. We love and cherish them.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Multi-zone and stake conferences, Golden Plunger awards, Mission Leadership Council, and baptisms in the California Riverside Mission!

Our new banner for the California Riverside Mission to greet new missionaries!
The California Riverside Mission is an incredible place. The past ten days have literally been a blur until we go back and analyze what has gone on. We wanted to share a few things that have transpired in our mission. Once we review the ten days, we marvel at the greatness of the blessings we all have received. We love Heavenly Father and how He watches over our missionaries. 

What an incredible weekend the Mission had for baptisms! We attended the baptism for six from one family. It was one of the most well-attended baptism we have been to. Many of their friends were there. Just beautiful! The chapel was nearly full. So many people were involved in the baptism—from friends to brother to missionaries. Elders Holyoak and Nielsen did an excellent job with the restoration presentation.

Austin, Cassidi, Kalie, Matt, Sydni, and Tyler with Sister Price and Reagan
 We also had other baptisms:

Elder Gibbons, Esteban, Elders Parata and Lawes

Elder Medearis, JC, Elder Maughan, and Ray

President Norman attended the baptisms for two brothers from Arlington Heights Ward with Elders Maughan and Medearis. According to President Norman, “It was another great baptism.”

We finished multi-zone conferences with the La Sierra, Corona, Jurupa, 

Hemet, and San Jacinto zones this week. 
Last week, we had two more multi-zone conferences with Moreno Valley, Mt. Rubidoux, and Riverside

Lake Elsinore and Menifee zones
They were wonderfully done! We appreciate everyone who participated and presented. Again, we focused on Elder Bednar’s words: “Am I fulfilling my purpose when I turn on my phone?” We hope that this phrase will continue to ring in all our ears each time we turn on our phone. We must filter everything through our missionary purpose. He also said that “what you learn now will benefit generations of missionaries.” Perhaps, these words: “We trust you and have confidence in you. We pray for you in every meeting. We know you have the capacity to honor that confidence” will help our missionaries understand who they are and why they are.

We gave out the "Golden Plunger Awards" to those companionships whose apartments were spotlessly clean. These are our first Golden Plunger awards. Thanks to Elder and Sister Davis, our housing coordinators.

The Golden Plunger Award for clean apartments!
We celebrated a few birthdays:

Birthdays! We shout Hurrah!
And then we took a few other pictures that represent our missionaries:

Fun photos--Sisters Adams and Wilde with matching dresses; Elder Mohlman with a tie
e hand-stitched from three different ties; missionaries who helped with the Corona mudslide with a token of appreciation from those whose homes were involved.
Our great Relief Sisters and Priesthood who provide all of the meals during multi-zone conferences
What an incredible Mission Leadership Council (MLC) meeting we had on Thursday of this week. Sister Hammon spoke on “We make Christ our Center by believing that the Father and He are the sources of all light, understanding, inspiration, revelation, and eternal blessings.” President Hansen talked on “Do we trust Him? Hard is good!” He helped the missionaries understand that we literally asked if we could come on a mission. The Lord said, “Yes, please come!” And now we are here. Sometimes we learn things during the most difficult time. He quoted President Monson when he said, “May we ever choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong.” Elders Balls and Sorensen helped us understand the New Chapter 8—“How Do I Fulfill My Purpose”—in Preach My Gospel. My comments hinged on “Centering on the Whole—All In.” We spent a bit of time talking about our eyes, heart, head/mind, feet, ears, and mouth and how each of these things is important individualy, but when they are combined they make the great whole—Us.

Mission Leadership Council (MLC)
Sister Hammon and I attended and spoke during the Hemet Stake Conference this weekend. Elders Taniela B. Wakolo and Elder Jay D. Pimentel were the General Authorities for this conference. They came to reorganize the stake. Elder Pimentel talked about Doctrine and Covenants 43:8 and Ephesians 6:13-18. He also urged us to “dream big and then work big” while “beginning with the end in mind” (President Monson). Elder Pimentel counseled us to “hold tight to our core beliefs” in times of trials and challenges, just like we used to do with our teddy bears and blankets. Elder Wakolo urged us to develop “holy habits” and always “remember who we are.” He quoted Elder Bednar: “Your testimony will not save you in the last day. Your continuing conversion will save you.” He said he no longer calls his trials and tribulations as such. Rather, he calls them his “learning experiences and development opportunities.” We also met many of the missionaries’ investigators! It was just wonderful! We also had a delicious dinner before the Saturday evening session. The dessert was fabulous!

They were so pretty we dared not eat them, but the temptation to eat them was way too strong!
Not only were we able to witness a leadership change in the Hemet Stake on Sunday, but I was also able to talk to the wonderful saints in the Mountain View Ward as part of their missionary week. Sisters Greenhalgh and Marks had invited me on behalf of Bishop Tippetts. This ward had spent a week in fasting and prayer to help with their missionary efforts. My fireside topic was “The Joy of Leading People to Christ.” It was a good discussion with lots of participation. The sisters were able to do a role play with an 11-year-old young woman. She wanted to invite one of her friends to activity days. She chose to talk about unicorns to help transition to the invitation. Sister Marks and Sister Greenhalgh were magnificent in the navigation. Afterwards, Sister Greenhalgh said, “I have never had to transition from unicorns to an invitation before.” Sister Tippetts had made cinnamon rolls for refreshments. It was definitely a sweet experience!
Snow this week on the far mountains! Rained here. Beautiful!
Sister Hammon and I had the opportunity to be with some of our missionaries in teaching opportunities. We were able to participate in a missionary discussion with a new investigator who Elders Jensen, Guyman, and de Mare are teaching. Her name is Debbie, and she had come to conference to find answers. They taught her the plan of salvation and answered her questions. Her highlight was having the privilege of talking to Elder Wakolo. He promised her that if she read and studied the Book of Mormon, she would receive a powerful witness of its truthfulness. She said she had never had a feeling so strong in her life when he testified to her. She knew that her question had been answered.
Just down the street! Don't you love the clouds!
On Tuesday evening after multi-zone conference in Corona, we went with Sisters DiPietro and Carson to a family’s home they are teaching. Their 20-something son was baptized last fall. We had an incredible time participating in the discussion and discussing the Book of Mormon and the Prophet Joseph Smith. Prior to his surgery, the father’s friend from church gave him a blessing. He said, “I felt the tingling from the top of my head to the bottom of my toes. It was powerful.” We explained it was the power of the Priesthood and the Holy Ghost working in him. Sisters DiPietro and Carson left them with the invitation to read, ponder, and pray about its truthfulness. It was a delightful experience.
Gotta love early morning walks down our lane! Something every morning.
We love being with our missionaries! Their excitement about life and the gospel propels us forward and engulfs us in immense love for them and their growth and progress.

President and Sister Hammon

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Hiking, Training, Serving, Enjoying, and Eating--It's What Missionaries Do

What an amazing week plus we have had. Lots of announcements and upcoming changes, trainings, and community events. Yes, missionaries have experienced sickness, sprained ankles, colds, running noses, and a few digestive challenges. The weather has been good, a bit chilly for California, but the sun seems to continue to shine each day.
Sisters Parker, Mackley, and Hammon 
Probably the biggest upcoming change is that the California Riverside Mission is this message from the Missionary Department: “We are pleased to inform you that your missionaries are now authorized to fulfill their purpose using smartphones, social media, and other technologies.” Just like that. Well, we knew it was coming. When the letter came, I had to read it a couple of times to make sure. In Monday’s weekly letter, I sent it to the missionaries. Plus, at the Monday multi-zone activity (more later!), I announced it. Most everyone seemed to be happy. A few who are going home wondered whether they would be able to participate.  We will begin our first conversation and training during the upcoming multi-zone conferences. Please note that this will not happen immediately. It will be a two month process. I will be sending out a letter to parents and family this coming week to explain the details.

On Wednesday, we met with the trainers and trainees who have been here now for four weeks. We had a great morning with them. We had discussions about the First 12 Weeks pamphlet that they follow religiously. A few of the companionships talked about their experiences with role plays; using the Book of Mormon in the studies, contacts, and teaching; their feelings about the First 12 Weeks. We also discussed expectations of new missionaries and their trainers. I finished with how we center our lives on Christ to help us elevate our mission.

Trainer-Trainee Meeting
On Monday, we traveled to Menifee where we met all of the “south” zones. We made the announcement of the transition to technology and were greeted with “Hurrahs!” Then, they began to play a variety of games, from four-corners to garbage ball to Jenga to ultimately basketball. Some made thank-you cards; others just went from one set of missionaries to another and greeted them. Some of them didn’t know each other or hadn’t seen each other for several transfers. They love being together!

Sisters Reagan, Hammon, and Price

Elders Royce, Rollins, Sorensen, Lance, Evans, and Victorino

Crafty ones: Sisters Marks and Brereton and Elder Baum 

Elders Saxton and Yeaman

Elders Akana, Carter, and Nielsen with Sisters McDaniels, Parker, and Hackley
Last week, we hiked Mt. Rubidoux with all the missionaries in the “north” zones. This is a fun hike to the top of Mt. Rubidoux, which is mostly paved to the top. It was early morning, and we hiked noisily to the top. Once there, we took pictures, basked in the son, and enjoyed being together. Missionaries like being with one another, especially seeing their former companions. It’s like a big reunion every time they come together in groups, which is not that often. We do multi-zone activities every other transfer—so every 12 weeks.

North Zones on top of Mt. Rubidoux

Hermanas Moran, Hernandez, Flores, Harper, Hammon, Coffeen, Troncoso, and Roque

Elders Lewis, Jackson, Phister, Medearis (b), Tobiasson, and Balls

Elders Hale and Steiner; Sister Wilde; Elders Lowry and Porrazzo
Feeding America honored the Riverside and Rubidoux zones during a soup luncheon for their service there. Missionaries from these two zones go to the Feeding America warehouse and sort food and do other service. Sharon, Director of Volunteers, is an enthusiastic supporter of these missionaries. Many from these two zones were able to attend the luncheon. We took pictures with Sharon and Stephanie, the Food Bank Executive Director.

Receiving a service award from Feeding America
We have some incredible baptisms this past month—families, individuals, and one 86-year-old woman who is just delightful. We love going to baptisms and feeling the spirit of those who are going to be baptized and the members who have helped them along the way.

Elders Heward, Briggs, Baum, and Jensen with Matt, Vanessa, Kristiannah, Kristian, and Isabella

Elders Moon and Royce with Raquel--86-years-old and going strong

Kalebh's father, Elder Lewis, Kalebh, Elder Dunham, and Brother Masico
We love being with our missionaries, no matter what they are doing. This is what we love to do:

“And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins” (Book of, 2 Nephi 25:26).

There is something spiritually uplifting being with them, whether it is having interviews, which we have had the last couple of weeks; attending church and baptisms with them; hiking mountains; taking pictures; participating in trainings with them; attending community events; and teaching them the doctrine of Christ. Every day, Sister Hammon and I feel so blessed to be here, serving these phenomenal young women and young men.

President and Sister Hammon