November 4-9, 2013  Missionary Training Center Experience

We were excited and filled with anticipation for weeks at attending training at the MTC.   We arrived on Monday about 10:40 AM and registered.  We received our badges,  missionary certificate, small missionary handbook and other supplies and a parking hanger at the front desk and at the bookstore.  We paid for our meals while we would be there. 

We ate our first meal along with the young missionaries in the cafeteria in the main
building.  It was confusing at first as there were three or four serving areas and not all of them having the same entrees.  There was a salad bar, a wrap area, a grill and the main entrée area.  Considering the large number of missionaries to be served each day the food was adequate and we didn’t need to prepare it or clean up.  Paul thought the portions were small but Gail said they were normal and we could return for as much as we wanted.  There was a standard selection of drinks from milk, chocolate milk, and the carbonated versions.  Desserts were generally tasty.

We were housed at the Provo Marriott Hotel—a lovely room, a lovely place.

Our training took place in the Stadium chapel just to the north of the MTC.  We met every morning in the chapel for a devotional followed by large group instructions.  Then we met in our individual districts for more training and instructions.  Each district of four couples had it own classroom.  We sat at tables using “Preach My Gospel” as our text.

Our group included the district leader, Brother Porter and his wife, the Taylors, the Stecks and us.  Brother and Sister Porter, from Preston, Idaho, were “at home” missionaries who will work with the local  mission full time in Idaho.  The Taylors, also from Idaho, were going on a 6 months assignment to the Atlanta North Mission.  The Stecks were Physical Facilities Missionaries going to the Missouri Independence Mission.

All of our instructors were young returned missionaries.  A few were married.  They were all bright, enthusiastic and were very well-prepared with their instructions.  Our morning instructor was a single sister Amy Fillmore, a very enthusiastic young woman with an infectious laugh.  Brother Meyer taught us in the afternoon. 

Since most of us were assigned to the MTC for only five days there was no attempt to cover the whole manual.  Instead, on Monday and Tuesday we trained on teaching techniques, and how to get to know the investigator.  We were to issue 4 invites:  invite them to church, to pray, to read the Book of Mormon and to be baptized.  We prepared to teach the first lesson to a first “investigator” on Wednesday.  We were to spend at least 15 minutes in getting to know the person and their needs and then, through the spirit, meet those needs with a 30 minute discussion, with Book of Mormon scriptures and with appropriate questions to ask.

The next day, we put our learning into practice.  The cultural center was divided into twelve cubicles where we did our teaching.   The “investigator” was a younger divorcee, accompanied by an older sister from Tonga (she was for real and her father accompanied Elder Groberg as they crossed from one island to another—See “The Other Side of Heaven”).  We were monitored by Sister Fillmore.

We did the same thing on Thursday but the “investigator” had had the first discussion from other missionaries and was challenged to read and pray about the Book of Mormon. We were there for the second visit and, if appropriate, teach the Plan of Salvation lesson.  Our “investigator” was a rather sophisticated woman who moved with her husband and children to Utah from California.  She had several Mormon friends and just wanted to know what they believed.

In both cases we were to teach people--not lessons.  We could use our notes, but not our book.  In the past lessons were memorized word for word, but now we are to teach through the spirit according to the individual’s needs.

On  Friday we dealt with an LDS couple.  She was active.  Her husband had been, but felt no further need to remain active.  They had a daughter who had some serious problems.  We chose to hone in on how they could receive personal revelation in behalf of their daughter.  We gave it our very best, often challenging the husband to resume activity, but he remained the same. His wife was not pleased with him remaining so disinterested.

Friday afternoon was a time for testimony bearing before dismissal and to make our way to our respective missions.  We returned home for the weekend with the plan to leave for Reno Monday morning 

            Eating several meals with a couple from Price, the Adairs.  He was a former coal miner who was the general manager when a terrible disaster happened near Price and many men died several years ago.  She was a nurse.  They were going to New Orleans, Louisiana.
Meeting one couple, the Calls from Canada.  They will serve for a year in New Caledonia to partially replace our friends Mike and Eva Syphus.  They spoke French and anticipated serving in Canada.
            Attending the devotional on Tuesday night with all the MTC missionaries.  The  visiting authority was Elder Craig Zwick, a Seventy.  Paul spoke in his home some years earlier on plural marriage.  Gail can not remember the meeting so probably didn’t attend.
            One night driving past the former Provo Tabernacle, now destined to be a  Temple.  An enormous amount of preparatory work has been achieved on the foundation.  All that survives of the original building are the outer walls.

November 9-10, 2013 Preparing to leave for Mission

Arriving home from the MTC Friday evening we began packing the car. We packed the van and cleaned the house all day Saturday.  Sunday we went to the Parrish Heights ward and was introduced in Sacrament meeting as the ward’s newest missionaries who spent the prior week at the MTC.  Sunday night Sue and Greg Larson dropped by for a visit.  Brandon, Emily and Carson came by and ate with us a dinner of lasagna that Ashley had made. We got to bed about midnight.

November 11-17, 2013 First Week in the Nevada Reno Mission

We left Centerville in our Toyota van about 9 AM and arrived in Sparks at 4:30 in the afternoon.  We went directly to the Mission Home, 1146 Prater Way, where we met the Mellors (whom we will replace) and the Lynns who run the office.  The Mellors took us to their apartment for a tour and we  dropped off some of our boxes that we won’t be needing for the next two weeks.  The Lynns invited us to dinner at the Sizzler in Sparks.  Bonnie and Jay Thiessens and their grandson ate with us.  We will be staying, temporarily, in the Thiessens’ basement apartment until the Mellors are released Nov 27th.  While at the Sizzler eating we met Nevada Reno Mission President Hermansen and his family who were also eating there.
After dinner Jay and Paul went to the home of Jay’s son and gave him a Priesthood blessing as he will be operated on Tuesday for kidney stones.
Then on to the Thiessens’ million dollar home.  It’s a large lovely  home up on the hill overlooking Sparks.  The basement is huge.  Jay visited with us for quite some time.  He was in the sheet metal fabrication business starting out as an employee eventually owning his own business and employing many people.  He bought and sold machinery and property and ended up becoming a millionaire.  He is a very smart business man and the Lord has been good to him. But he has been good to the missionaries.  He had Elders and then Sisters in the apartment at one point. The interesting thing about his life is the fact that he didn’t learn to read until he was in his 60’s.  Few people knew in his business and in the church.  His wife and daughter helped him keep it secret.  He was called to become a Bishop and realized he needed to read in order to deal with the information coming from Salt Lake.  He went through the church’s literacy program and it took him 5 years to learn. He still has struggles with reading and writing but is a big advocate of literacy and talks in the schools and the community about his problem. He got a Blue Chip national award for his amazing achievements and has been featured in several business magazines.

This week we met with the Mission President Hermansen about our assignments, about the mission and just to get to know one another.    He was raised with Jeff Marsh, a colleague of Paul’s at the U of U Institute.  He has 8 children.  He is in partnership with Don Astle, nationally famous for his cleaning techniques.

We met a Sister Burt and her granddaughter at the mission office.  They brought in a large pot of homemade organic chili and it was delicious.  She included carrots, cut small, to avoid gas.  Her granddaughter was once employed by Dustin Hoffman, the famous actor.  She said that he stands just 5’4” tall and was nice to work with.

In the mission office we also met Sister Coy who entered the Bountiful Temple for her endowments the day we got our mission call.  We assisted her getting her endowment that evening.  We were going to the same mission.  It was fun to see her again.

 Our assignment is the Red Hill Ward in an area of Sparks called Sun Valley.  Senior couples are in reality part-time missionaries.  We pace ourselves and do the best we can, but can take time off to shop, go to movies, and so forth.  We are not restricted to boundaries.  Typically a couple assigned to a ward, while answering to the Bishop, is able to reactivate many people and lift the spirits. 

We contacted Bishop Donald Cox of the Red Hill ward and he enthusiastically invited us to visit with him in his office.  We drove to the ward building in the dark but thanks to the GPS made our way without any difficulty.  The building is new and beautiful—an experimental design soon abandoned because, among other things, overhead pipes freeze, thaw and break in the winter. 

The ward has a Spanish speaking branch which meets with them for some meetings. There is a set of Spanish missionaries, Anglo missionaries and us assigned to the ward.   Because of Paul being in Seminary and Institutes the Bishop asked us to teach a Sunday School class, ages ranging between 12 and 18, with a potential of 42.  Average attendance is 6 to 8.  Two or three teachers have been “run out” so far, but we will tackle the problem and resolve it!  The bishop feels if we can get close to them then possibly we can, in the future, work with their families.

The bishop introduced us to several ward members—most a bit low on the economic scale but very friendly.  Bishop Cox proudly took us on a tour of the building.  It is very nice.  Sunday we will attend class as observers, then undertake to teach in a week’s time.

Friday we decided to do some sight-seeing.  We drove to Virginia City, an old mining town, once quite large, high up in the mountains west and south of Reno.  It looks like Park City did years ago before the money arrived.  The day was quite cool.  Years ago we visited Virginia City with Helen (Paul’s cousin) and Milt Gold.  Today main street is filled with seedy “antiques” shops—typically a mixture of few old American coins and the sorriest collection of posters and cheap t-shirts and nick-nacks as can be imagined.  We went in the Bucket of Blood Saloon for the view through a rear window before realizing we probably shouldn’t be there as we were missionaries (but didn’t wear our tags).  The bar, you see, is fully operational.

Paul visited the basement of a store where Sam Clemens (Mark Twain) worked for a time for a newspaper called the  Territorial Enterprise.  Paul saw the large desk where he labored and, it is claimed, wrote “Roughing It” as well as a marble-topped table, badly cracked, where he wrote “The Jumping Frog of Calabasas County.”

We went on to Carson City where we enjoyed a visit to the Nevada State Museum. It featured an old replica silver mine in the lower level.  We followed rails laid down for the ore cars.  We saw various techniques for mining the silver and shoring up the mine.  We also saw the State Capitol which is very old and for a capitol building, much much smaller than Utah’s.  We walked through a self-guided tour on the second floor.

Our concluding visit was south and west to Genoa, a Mormon way station on the California Trail.  Genoa was the first settlement in what would become the State of Nevada.  It was presided over by Elder Orson Hyde in its day.  The original buildings were destroyed in a fire in 1921. A replica was erected in 1947-1948.  Unfortunately it was closed for the winter until May of next year.

This week we are watching the missionary training videos we were given in the mission office. One set called “The District” are actual missionaries visiting real investigators.  Their teaching is very impressive. They focus all their efforts on the “Preach My Gospel” manual, it’s lessons and suggested procedures. It encourages preparation before a visit and then after, recording your notes regarding the visit with  follow-up plans and goals.
We can see where a successful missionary will follow these guidelines.

Today we received the sad news that Ashley has had a miscarriage.  She wasn’t far along but we didn’t know she was pregnant. We hope she  gets pregnant again soon.

Sunday, 17 November 2013,  we arrived at the Red Hill Ward about 9:30 and were warmly welcomed by everyone.  Attendance was sparse for sacrament meeting—they average about 16%.  The organist did her valiant best, playing as best she could on both the piano and the organ.  It was clearly evident that many folk were of the lower income. The ward was situated near many trailers and was built in that location so members without cars could walk to church. 

The first speaker was a young sister Wolff and did a very fine job.  Then the counselor conducting explained that the other speaker did not show and they would like to invite the  new missionary couple, Elder and Sister Smith,  to talk to us.  Saturday Paul had had a premonition that we might be called on but thought it would be just for our testimonies.  I prepared a small talk just in case.  Thank goodness.  Paul took up the remainder of the time. 

We visited the Sunday School class we will be teaching. They meet in the Cultural Hall and there were 6 students in attendance.  Michael Moore, a fourteen year old and his sister, Kelly were both big pains.  They were in constant motion, making “funny” comments and giving wrong answers.  They left class and returned without any explanation.  They talked to each other and another girl, Brittany, during the whole class. 

We later learned that Michael’s condition is undiagnosed—perhaps a cross between autism, asbergers and ADD. His sister shows signs as well.   We later spoke with several who know him, including prior teachers and his mother, for clues as to how to deal with him.  The answer—lay down the rules, be consistent, and don’t get mad at him.  It doesn’t help.  We worried all week about our first class with him.

Novermber 18-24

Monday, Gail assisted Sister Lynn in the mission office all day.  She assembled binders for new arriving missionaries.  After leaving the office we ate dinner with Elder David and Siser Sally Mellor, the outgoing couple whose apartment we will claim next Tuesday.  They invited he Huff couple, (serving in Carson City) as well.

Tonight, on voicemail, Carson spoke!  He had several things to say including “I love you”  and “grandpa” and “grandma”.  We miss him and all our grandchildren.

We attended our first zone and district meeting this week in the “Rock” chapel.  Our Zone leader is from Orlando, an Elder King.  Gail didn’t get to talk with him to find out about his family, etc.  Our district leader is Elder Alvarez, a good looking elder and  a new convert from Mexico.  He did a fine job training.  Following our meeting we went to In-N-Out for lunch with the Mellors and to the Mission Office for he mail.

On Wednesday we toured the B & J Tool Company factory with Jay Thiessens, our host.  The 56,000 square foot plant is an amazing operation.  It has several pieces of equipment worth millions of dollars.  It was interesting to watch the latest, from Germany, rapidly stamp out and stack parts.   Another cut and designed products, both large and very minute, with a laser beam. Afterwards Jay presented us with a Grabber—an item they produce at the plant—and another plastic item that holds bags apart for trash or whatever.  We were then treated to lunch at Wendy’s with Bonnie and their granddaughter.

We got a light snow this week.  From our window in this apartment it is a beautiful sigh looking over the valley of Sparks and Reno.  One morning when the sun was just right we could see he spire of the temple. 

On Saturday we attended the Reno Nevada Temple.  We did sealing and initiatories for a number of Gail’s ancestors.  The temple is small but beautiful.  It is perched on a hill overlooking Reno.  Because of occasional high winds an entrance was added with heavy doors that can be easily secured.  The workers joked that because of the addition it is the “biggest little temple in the world’, a play on Reno being the biggest little city in America.   

This week we have prayed, fasted, attended the temple and prepared  for the long awaited day when we would teach our class.  We were able to move the class from the cultural hall to one end of the Young Women’s Room.  We arranged the chairs in a circle.  Five attended, 3 Latino girls and 2 Latino boys.  The Moore family were not there.  Paul suspected that Sister Moore kept them  home to give us a break from our first class.  Gail thinks they were out of town.  Class rules were presented on he chalk board but they were hardly needed with that group.  The lesson went smoothly—presented by he two of us. 

After church we hosted Jay and Bonnie for a delicious dinner of pork chops and biscuits.  As feared, they talked until 8PM—nearly four hours and could have gone on when Jay took mercy on us (and Paul kept falling asleep).  Great people but how they loved to tell us about their mission to the Heber YW Campground.  They were there for two summers, 6 months each summer.

November 25-Dec  1  Moving into our Apartment, Thanksgiving

Monday morning we packed up and started cleaning our basement apartment in order to move to our permanent place.

Tuesday we left the Thiessens’ home with the van packed.  We went to the Mission office for transfer day.  All the new missionaries arrive and are instructed in several areas. The old missionaries who have completed their mission bare their testimonies in a farewell meeting.  And transfers occur.  It was an exciting time.  We helped with the lunch.
That evening we went to the apartment.  Just our luck, the old missionaries didn’t have time to clean it-fridge, stove, bathrooms etc—so Tuesday night and Wednesday morning we cleaned.  The mission office was going to send in a cleaning crew but we would have had to have waited to get in and we were anxious to get settled. ( The OCD in Gail would have re-cleaned it anyway) 
Thanksgiving morning Gail made cranberry relish, p-nut brittle and 4 pies to take to Pres and Sis Hermansen’s for dinner.  They also invited another office couple and 5 sister missionaries.  The mission home is in Reno overlooking the valley and is beautiful.  We enjoyed the day.  That night we finally got the TV and antenna working.  We get CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX and PBS.  Paul can satisfy his news craving and Gail can watch Downton Abbey in January. 
Friday we helped with the Mission Leaders Zone Conference and prepared a lunch.  While at the church we got the wonderful news that our Lexus had been stolen Thanksgiving night.  Rob had gone to Brandon and Emily’s for dinner.  We talked to them all that night about 9 PM—even face timed little Carson.  They watched a movie and at 2 AM Rob went to leave.  The car was frosted over and he turned it on to warm it up.  He went back inside to get some leftovers from Emily—was in the house a good 3 minutes—and the car was gone.  They called the police immediately.  It has not been recovered as of Monday.

Sunday we had 9 kids in our class—it’s growing.  All were the Hispanics except for the one sister, Kelly, who was such a troublemaker the first Sunday when we visited the class.  Without Michael there, she was perfect and even answered questions.  We have yet to teach Michael.  He has been gone the last two Sundays.  So each week the class has been perfect.  We love the Hispanic kids but they are mostly new in the gospel and need just the basic principles taught.  The older kids know more and so we will have them help us in the teaching if we feel they already know what we are teaching. 

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