Dear Bishop Carter,
Wow, it’s been six months ago today that we checked in at the MTC! The time has just flown by and it’s been exciting. We do love the physical environment here as the temperature here is consistently in the 60’s-80’s. Contrary to our expectations, the skies here are not sunny all the time; it is typically overcast in the morning and then clears to sunny skies mid-day. Oh well, our lives are busy enough with mission activity that we very seldom get out to recreational activities such as the beaches, etc.
California continues to be in a drought; we had rain the very first day of our arrival on March 12th but not a single day of rain since then! Forest fires are again plaguing us.
We have had some poignant news with one of our less-active members who we got very close to, a man named Jake Miller. Jake got heavily into drugs and alcohol in his late teens and well into his 30’s when we met him. However, he was beginning to show real interest in renewed activity when his body just gave up from all the alcoholic abuse it had received. He died here but we, as well as the Bishop and the EQ President, did have some success in teaching him of what to expect when he died. Sister Iverson especially was able to assure him that he wasn’t going to the traditional “hell” that he believed was his fate. He died with some peace that Jesus Christ loved him dearly.
We had another investigator, Devin, who we and the proselyting missionaries met with numerous times and taught him lessons all the way through his commitment to baptism. However, his mother, a practicing Buddhist, stepped in days before his baptism date and told us to stop visiting and teaching him. He does have somewhat of a disability and she does control his life in many respects. We’re trying to have her reconsider to the point of letting him just continue to socialize with us without us teaching him one-on-one. Pray for her to have a softening of her heart. I know that he wants it. His life has improved and we hope that his mother realizes it and lets him continue with us. She’s a very loving and protective mother; a good woman I’m sure.
We’ve had great success with three other investigators who have been baptized and who are totally active and are on a steep curve in having their testimonies grow. Anthony and Loreen Godinez (married) and Fred Ward (single man) have callings, pray in Sacrament, are Ward missionaries or Gospel Principles class teachers, and on and on. Very fun times!
Our role in the Ward is changing in some ways. Sister Iverson and I have been called as the new Stake Self-Reliance Center Specialists Coordinators. The Self-Reliance program is gradually being instituted in place of the LDS Employment program. The employment program has been non-existent in the Stake for several years so this is a new experience for the Stake as well as Sister Iverson and myself. Very exciting and challenging. With this new responsibility, we will be visiting other wards quite a bit so our time with our Ward will be changing.
We continue to be totally active with our Mission Office duties. We work with another great Senior Missionary couple, the Floyd’s, who also work in the office with us daily. We have the best of worlds in one way; most of our waking hours are in association with either the other Senior Missionaries, the Mission President and wife, and the proselyting missionaries. All of them are people with vibrant energy, priesthood experience, and testimonies. I spoke to a lady at a local fruit stand recently. She is a seasonal worker and will shortly be looking for more work. I gave her a pass-along card (sort of my church business card) attached to an ldsjobs.org instruction sheet. I only know her as “Linda from the fruit-stand” so far! I hope to hear from her sometime to help her with employment.
While we certainly knew that Californians surf a lot, it’s been a surprise of how very common it is with all ages here. I believe surfing here is much like snow-skiing or snow-boarding is to Utahans. We see surfboards on car tops all the time here. It’s also a bit different here of seeing so very many tattoo shops and we see many many people here with extensive tattoos on them. With the warm temperatures here, clothing is a bit sparse and so tattoos are very evident. However, our friend Jake was also one that had major tattooing, some rather indecent clothing, and looked like a pretty rough character. We grew to love him as a brother. He also was a child of God as are all others here.
We do love our missionaries here so much. In our contacts with them, they are such an obedient group. They report to me with their vehicle situations and letting me know when they’ve complied with some task I’ve given them. They’ve called me when they’ve gotten a traffic violation and feel very broken-hearted when this has happened. We’ve had accidents but, thankfully, none with injuries. I have 74 vehicles to manage. Sister Iverson continues with her Mission Secretary duties and is super with it. Our missionaries love coming to the Office mainly to see Sister Iverson I think! She is always a step or two ahead of the requests from President Felix or his wife. I think that Sister Iverson and Sister Felix almost are competing to see who can be the first to think of something the furthest ahead of in the calendar to plan for. So far, Sister Iverson is winning! I believe she now has letters to missionaries, their parents, Stake Presidents, and Bishops ready for the Mission President to sign as far out as November!
It’s been curious to watch the development of Sister Iverson and me working together in a sort of professional setting. I have gradually been learning how to delegate some of my duties to her to help me stay abreast of my duties. We work well together.
As I know you’re aware, the Flandro’s will be moving out of our house in a week or so and the Bruce’s moving in. We’ve heard that the Flandro’s may be able to move into another house within the Ward boundaries. That would be so great. They are such good people.
Our families are doing well. Little Henry is coping with his cancer. The recent surgery went well with about 95% of the tumor removed and he’s now coping with the rigors of radiation treatment. It’s tough but he’s developed into a very tough little boy. We’ve seen the Lord’s hand in tangible blessings to our family members with better and best job developments, successful house moves, and spiritual growth, evidenced even in our youngest grandchildren.
When I consider that we have four Senior Missionary Office Specialists (the Floyd’s and us) who put in about 160+ hours per week and that some missions have to use proselyting missionaries to try to do what we do, it’s so evident of how valuable Senior Missionaries can be to a Mission. We free up the time for our missionaries to do what they do best – find and teach – while we do what we do best (admin tasks). Whatever the specific assignments that Senior Missionaries receive, we so highly recommend any Senior in our ward there to make that commitment. Whether their circumstances are such that they serve an at-home mission or can serve away from home, Seniors are vital to the work of the Kingdom. We do indeed feel so very needed and useful here. I don’t think I’ve ever had a six-month period of time fly by as quickly as these past six months have done. We do admin duties, we visit the sick in hospitals, we’ve visited a prisoner in jail here, we’ve helped an alcoholic find peace, and we’ve helped a man with a mental illness feel more at home in social situations as well as with his relationship with God. We will be helping people find means to be more self-reliant. Perhaps most of all, we’ve increased in our testimonies and our love for people.
Our ward here does something different than what I’ve seen before. There are almost zero announcements at the beginning of Sacrament service. But after the closing prayer, the Bishopric member conducting takes about five minutes and makes basic announcements. I believe the intent is to keep a smooth transition of reverence before and into Sacrament and to save the temporal announcement time for after the Sacrament service is done.
Enough for now. Please let the Ward know of how much we miss them but of how much we’re enjoying being here and serving.