Sunday, October 13, 2013

Missionary Transfer Day

Our week started with several visits to the hospital.  Elder Cullimore of the other senior missionary couple here had a couple of tough days of tests and feeling very ill before they found out he had Salmonella poisoning.  Once diagnosed they were able to treat it quickly and effectively and he is doing well.  We had great fun Monday night feeding six young male missionaries in our little apartment.  Lezlie made a huge pot of chili and a batch of hot fudge.  We had a great time getting to know these excellent young men better and they seemed to enjoy dinner, especially the hot fudge.  We provided a short FHE lesson for them on obedience and had a lot of fun with them. 

Oct 8 – Tuesday is normally District Meeting day where all the missionaries in our zone meet at the chapel for training and information exchange.  However, usually the week of transfers there is no district meeting.  Thursday of this week is transfer day so we thought there was no district meeting.  About 10pm as I had just crawled into bed the text messages started coming in..."Elder Couch, can you please give us a ride to District Meeting tomorrow."  It turns out a lot of the young missionaries thought there was no meeting either, but about 9pm they found out differently.  So beginning at 8:15am we started picking up young elders and delivering them to the church.  We transported 4 pairs and each pair lived at different apartments.  We had a nice district meeting with some photos as well since many of these missionaries will be transferred this week.  Then we started transporting the 8 elders home.  The last pair asked if we could please, please let them change clothes and then drop them off at the food bank 10 miles away so they could do their service work.  And oh by the way, can we please pick up two more elders that are also supposed to help at the food bank.  So we did all that and finally arrived home at 2:30pm after traveling about 80 miles.  Don’t get me wrong, we love doing this.  It is just amazing how much driving we do to help get these young missionaries around.  We love saying yes, and we love having them in the car because they are so much fun to talk to.  But it is a lot of driving, usually in heavy traffic.  Finally we headed for Quantico and visited 2 families off base (2 plates of brownies), 1 family on base (a baby gift for a newborn boy), gave a FHE lesson for a single young marine at TBS, and finally dropped off another plate of brownies to another off base family.  We  made it home about 10pm and tiredly dragged ourselves into bed.  We love being busy, but we do get tired.  Good tired.  This is our District, just a few of the great young missionaries we get to work with.
Our first Family Home Evening for the officer candidates went really well. We had ten attendees, and mom did an excellent lesson based on a Mormon Message video “Flecks of Gold.”  (Thanks for showing us the Mormon Channel Rex!).  In it a gold prospector is about to give up because he has not found any large nuggets.  An old timer teaches him that you can get hundreds of flecks of gold from most of the rocks, and over time those flecks add up to a lot of wealth.  So mom taught about the principle that small things can add up to great things (see D&C 64:33).  She had a game where the words of the verse were hidden under chairs and on windows around the room, and the teams had to find the words and put them together into the verse.  Then at the end we had a bridge building competition (kind of like OM).  They had to build a small bridge over a blue construction paper river using toothpicks and marshmallows.  We wondered if they might find the games too childish, but they really had a ball.  Then we fed them brownies, milk and fruit.  Lots of brownies.  I think one guy ate nine!  It is hard to describe how inspiring it is to be with these kids.  They are being put through the ringer every day, pushed to their mental and physical limits.  To see them smile and laugh, to get tears in their eyes over the lessons or when they talk about family, to see them support each other – it is just amazing.  We feel privileged to work with them.  They are going to be amazing young leaders in the military or in whatever careers they go into.  They are so appreciative of every little thing we do. 
We experienced our first transfer day this week.  Every 6 weeks many of the missionaries get transferred to new areas and get new companions.  This is a common practice to give the missionaries more experiences with different companions and different areas, and to make sure they are continually learning and growing.  Transfer day is a big deal, because almost all of the missionaries are affected in one way or another.  All of the missionaries being transferred go to Richmond and have a big training meeting before heading out to their new assignments.  So first thing in the morning we took some Elders to the church building in Stafford, about 25 miles south of here.  When we arrived there were about twenty missionaries milling around, a huge mound of luggage on the floor, and about ten bikes lined up by the church door.  Then a large van (probably 15 passenger) arrived hauling a trailer.  Amazingly all of the luggage and the bikes fit into the van (a small miracle).  There were hugs, handshakes and tears as the missionaries said goodbye to dear companions.  We had an amusing last minute incident with a fish hook.  One Elder had a small fishing pole.  He had lived at one apartment that had a fishing lake adjacent to it, and on P-day he would fish.  He had laid his coat on top of the fishing pole in a van, and the triple hook on a lure got stuck in the back of his suit coat.  Luckily I was prepared.  I have a small tool kit in the car that had a miniature set of pliers, which were big enough for me to bend the hook barbs back and forth and break them off.  The fish hook crisis was solved and the van took off.  About six hours later we were back at the Stafford building, and the same van and trailer arrived with a new batch of missionaries.  Green missionaries met their trainers and new companions introduced themselves to each other.  It was amazing to see all of this work so well.  We hauled some missionaries home but found that they needed furniture assembled.  They were in a new place with no beds.  I changed into jeans, grabbed my tool box, and headed out to help put furniture together.  We got all the beds together in record time, and that was the end of our first transfer day.  I think I am getting a reputation among the young missionaries as the guy with tools!  I like it.

We made a push at the end of the week to finish visiting all of the Marine families in our flock.  So we set out one day with five plates of brownies and a baby gift.  We found all but one family home and had some wonderful visits.  I met an outstanding young Marine from the Naval Academy class of 2010.  It was fun to chat with him.  All of these great Marine families have been so warm and welcoming, even those that are less active church members.  We feel privileged to work with them.
We had our 3rd Sunday with the officer candidates.  This was a milestone day, because it is the first Sunday morning when they have liberty and can choose not to attend church.  We still had 9 show up at 7:30am, and the other two had told us they would be in town with family members.  We had a great service and were able to provide cough drops and herb tea for several that had developed colds.  After an excellent lesson on prayer by Brother McGrath, our Bishop, who had driven all the way to Quantico at 7am, made some excellent remarks.  He talked to them about being leaders, and encouraged them to marry their Marine leadership with their belief in God.  It was very appropriate and uplifting for the OCS candidates.  Sunday evening we attended a wonderful musical fireside put on by the area missionaries.  There were vocal and piano solos, a cello number, a guitar piece, and finally all 30 of the missionaries sang “I Know That My Redeemer Lives.”  Prior to each piece the performer would talk about the song, why they chose it, and what it meant to them personally.  It was really uplifting and there was some exceptional talent.  The most outstanding number was a young Elder singing “Savior Redeemer of Mankind” with two violinists and a pianist accompanying him.  The amazing part was that the violin players were about 10 and 12 years old, members of the local ward.  As we get to know these young missionaries better and better we get to love and appreciate them even more.  Not only are they dedicated to their work, they are just nice, friendly, polite, respectful young people, something that we do not always see out in public.  It is amazing to work with them.   

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