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

Monday, December 18, 2017

Christmas devotionals and transfers!

We have had an incredible week with Christmas devotionals, testimonies, transfer calls, and just being with the missionaries. The weather has been delightful!

Sister and President Hammon #LightTheWorld
We love the Christmas devotionals! This week, we experienced our first ones. We had two Christmas devotionals, one for the south zones: Hemet, San Jacinto, Lake Elsinore, Moreno Valley, and Menifee; 

Lake Elsinore Zone

San Jacinto Zone

Hemet Zone

Menifee Zone

Moreno Valley Zone
 and one for the north zones: Riverside, Mt. Rubidoux, La Sierra, Jurupa, and Corona.

La Sierra Zone

Jurupa Zone

Riverside Zone

Corona Zone
Mt. Rubidoux Zone
Sister Hammon had prepared a wonderful story with picture about the Grinch and his epiphany that “Maybe Christmas…doesn’t come from a store. Christmas…. perhaps…is a little bit more.” She focused on Christ’s birth as the reason for Christmas. Her slides were about Christ, His birth, Mary and Joseph, and the Christmas story.

My focus was on how the Christmas hymns also teach doctrine. So, we did an exercise where they chose a phrase from the hymns, discussed how it taught doctrine, and then showed where that doctrine came from in the scriptures

Elders Mohlman, Su'a, and Santos

Elders Osberg, Dundon, Bailey, and Jackson

Sisters Bryant, Sorensen, Tonini, DiPietro, and Wilson

Elder Gibbons

President Hammon, Sister Harris, and Sister Wilde--A selfie
The zones had prepared four musical numbers for each devotional. Phenomenal! We have some incredible musicians in our mission. We were all just in awe. Music does bring a spiritual tone to the meetings.

Elders Aland and Fairbanks

Elders Yang and Match

Elder Frazier and Elder and Sister Thorne (Office)
One of the highlights was hearing the testimonies from the missionaries who came this transfer and the missionaries who are going home. It was a spiritual and teary time for both sets of missionaries. The outgoing missionaries have served well; those who have been here for six weeks have progressed and grown so much. It is delightful to watch them as their testimonies of the Gospel of Jesus Christ are enhanced by their obedience, teaching, and service.

Elder and Sister Fuller with Elder Dew 

Elders Nelson, Medearis, Crowther, Herald, Shurtleff (Williams in background and Elder Clark peeking)

As they were all leaving, Sister Hammon and I were able to shake each of their hands. What a delight to look each one of them in the eyes, wish them a Merry Christmas, and hand out a bag of MMs and a new temple recommend holder that Sister Hammon had someone design. Inside of it was inscribed: “California Riverside Mission, President Darrel and Sister Joanne Hammon, 2017-2020.” 

Front and inside covers of the temple recommend holder
Part of the devotional was eating cookies and oranges, drinking milk and orange juice, chatting with each other, picking up their Christmas packages (which hadn't already been delivered), and taking photos. It was a nice time for many of the missionaries to say good bye to those who are leaving on Monday, re-connecting to old companions, and meeting new missionaries or missionaries they haven’t met.

Cookies, milk, orange juice, and oranges

Selfie: Sisters Price, Fountain, Butler, and Chandler

Elders Loveridge, Cox, Bailey, and Frisby

Elders Goodrich, Saxton, Yeaman, and Revill

Sister Hernandez, Whitaker, Scooff, and Buitrago

Sisters Ford, Grover, Moran, Mackley, and Carson

Elder Mounts, Williams, Hansen, Ostler, Overman, Svensen, Frazier, Holyoak, Braunstedter, Tibbetts, and Wilson

Sisters Greenhalgh and Harris

Sister Caldes, Gray, Begay, Brereton, Ruggles, and Van Quakebeke
One of the highlights of transfers is transfer Saturday. I begin calling at 6:30 a.m. This Saturday, I was on the phone for 2.5 hours with missionaries who are receiving new leadership, training, and area assignments. I love transfer Saturday mornings every six weeks to call missionaries and tell them about their new assignments. Of course, they all say yes and are so excited. They know the transfers are coming and anticipate something happening. One asked when I asked him to train after being here since August: “Is this for reals?” I told him that it really was. They are so delightful, willing to accept any new leadership assignment, new areas, and new companions. They just know this is what they are supposed to do, and I feel this is what the Lord wants them to do at this time. They will transfer on Monday.

 Love these missionaries!

President and Sister Hammon