Dear Family & Friends,
First—we hope you all have a very Merry Christmas next Sunday!!
Last Sunday we spent the evening putting missionaries’ names on Christmas cards from the First Presidency and sealing them up to be handed out at the Zone Conferences. Also had good phone visits with Lois and Christi.
Monday I was busy all day doing 16 Departing miss letters. I also had to forward more child photos and work on my Christmas story for the program here in Arkansas. Our new Office Couple, Orval and Callene Sorensen from Layton, Utah, arrived about 4:15 and met with President Wakolo. Then he had to leave and asked us to use the Mission credit card to take them out to dinner before showing them their new apartment, which we were happy to do. They are great people and will take over for Elder Green—Vehicle Coordinator, and Sister Hugentobler—Referral Secretary/Recorder/and Mail Handler. After we helped them unload their van, we headed to the movies to see “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” It was quite whimsical and even scary, but well done and we enjoyed it!! Came home to visit with Shelley while we got more envelopes ready.
Tuesday the missionaries helped set up tables to be decorated in the Cultural Hall, the Sorensens came in for their first day of training, I printed up Mission Histories to go in the “Mission Memories” binders, updated the 4-year Miss. Address List, and printed up the letter that goes into their binders. Went home at 4:30 to exercise, eat dinner, then went back to the chapel for the rehearsal of the program for the Zone Conference. It was a bit rough but we do have some good singers.
Wednesday was the highlight of our mission!!! What an incredible 3-Zone Christmas Conference it was!!! We had Little Rock, North Little Rock, and Searcy Zones for the Arkansas side. It started with missionaries arriving starting at 7:30 a.m., trying to take care of stuff in the Office before going into the meeting. We were in there by 9:15 and it started at 9:30. Elder Beheshti was presiding. The Assistants conducted the meeting, starting off with hymn, prayer, and then recitations (the missionaries were impressive with how much they had memorized!!), then President Wakolo spoke and gave a great Christmas message. Then Sister Wakolo had put together a lovely Christmas program with narrators reading scriptures, songs presented by solos, duets, and trios. Wow, what an improvement from the rehearsal the night before!! I have a 6-minute Christmas story talk at the end of it and felt such a good Spirit. Then Sister Beheshti gave a short talk about changing O to E—Got to Get, as in “I got (have) to do missionary work” changed to “I get to do missionary work.” The change of attitude can make such a big difference. Then Elder Beheshti spoke and gave a really inspirational message and told some great stories. Jim: for me I am most touched by the Spirit thru stories and so the two stories that Pat shared and the story at the end of Elder Beheshti’s talk were the highlights for me. Good speakers like these are able to paint a great picture of the events they are speaking about by the way they share the stories. That helps me to internalize the story and feel the principles involved.
Then we went into lunch put on by the North Little Rock Ward—it was beautifully decorated and had fancy serving tables with sisters serving us with love. The food was delicious!! And the desserts plentiful (enough to put in lots of baggies for the missionaries to take home). Then the missionaries got into Zones and were given their Christmas bags that had been collected from all the wards and branches in the Mission by their own Stake President or a Counselor, and their First Presidency Christmas cards. Next a couple of games were played, the missionaries did a talent show (very fun!!), then they played lots more games of the Minute to Win It variety. Some were hysterical!! Last but not least, they all sat on the floor in front of the stage while childhood pictures were put up on the screen and the missionaries tried to guess who each person was. They LOVED IT!!!!! So cute!!
While they were watching that, we brought out the gift boxes that had been coming into the Office from their families, and had 25 that were made by a group of Mission Moms to give to the missionaries who did not get any gifts from home. These were mostly foreign missionaries. They were so surprised and pleased—you should have seen their eyes light up after walking to the tables thinking they would get nothing. What a great feeling it was to see their delight!! Then everyone had to clean up and go home, which took about an hour before everyone was gone. As they left, there were so many hugs and Thank You’s, tears and more hugs!! There was stuff left, and thank heavens for the Office Elders who went around to all the rooms and the chapel to collect all the stuff and the garbage. It is so wonderful to have young men who are so committed in their service!! Then we went grocery shopping, home to do laundry and eat a light dinner, and just sit in amazement at the wonderful day we had had!! (Sorry if you are tired of the exclamation marks—but that is how it was!!)
Thursday was the Zone Christmas Conference of the two Zones in Tennessee—Memphis and Memphis North. Jim and I and the Sorensens were the only ones in the Office and the phone hardly rang all day. But we were filled with the glow of the warm Spirit we had felt the day before. I sent letters to the missionaries in the MTC who would be coming on January 3rd. Had to get stuff ready for another missionary who had to be sent home to have a surgical wound that wasn’t healing get some treatment at home. Went home to exercise and work on Christmas gifts and cards.
Friday was a flitting day—a little of this, a little of that, going from activity to activity. Everyone was back and we were all busy. Sister Wakolo came in for about an hour and told me about some stories of some of our most faithful missionaries and the struggles they had had early in the mission field, wanting to give up and go home. One even wanted to commit suicide and they watched him around the clock for two days, but finally he turned himself around and was one of the happiest missionaries I have seen. Jim took me to dinner at a Greek restaurant called Tazikis—such good food! Then we wandered the mall and enjoyed the Christmas decorations, did a little Christmas shopping, stopped at Bed, Bath, and Beyond on the way home, then put our feet up and watched TV.
Saturday I made more cinnamon roll wreaths, we cleaned the bathrooms, exercised, ordered Christmas presents online, sent out more Christmas cards, etc. The temperature on Thursday was 40degrees, on Saturday it was 70 degrees, and today was 30 degrees! Incredible!!
Today we had talks in Sacrament meeting about Christmas memories, enjoyed SS, Priesthood meeting, and RS. Michelle and another sister in the ward were rear-ended on Thursday and are both hurting with back, neck, and headaches. Please pray for them. Went to the Office to work on photos in the afternoon, then home for naps and watching Music and the Spoken Word. Had a good birthday visit with Joseph, and a good dinner, and visits later with Christ and Shelley.
In our latest President’s letter, he shared a quote from a missionary: “We were having a rough night with little success last Monday, and we were heading to the church to sync with 15 minutes left and all of a sudden the Spirit told me, “stop.” And so we got out of the car and knocked on a door. No one answered. But then we went to the next house and we got talking to this couple. The next day, we got a text from a member saying that this lady we had talked to had told her of the night before. She and her husband had been at ‘rock bottom’ talking and crying over their son who had passed away, when she said, there was a knock on the door. She said ‘God sent these two missionaries.’ That made me so happy to know that we really ARE on the Lord’s errand.” There are some great stories that President shares each week. That helps us stay connected with why we are here, to support the missionaries so they can have these teaching experiences.
Today at the North Little Rock building when we stopped to do some photos in the Office, a sister stopped me. Her name is Sister Edgar. She has lived here a long time and remembered years ago when Larry and Holly moved here and became a part of their ward. She was Relief Society President and Holly was RS Secretary. She said, “Holly is one of the sweetest people—she is a great mother and has a wonderful husband and family.” It makes me feel so good to get complements about our children and the wonderful people they have married. This kind of thing happens whenever we visit their wards. We are so grateful for the positive impact they have on those around them!!
We really love the feelings of love that abound this time of the year, and are treasuring every memory and event that we get to be a part of. We wish you all a most wonderful Christmas season, and may the feelings of love and service be a big part of your 2017.
Elder & Sister Hartzell