Saturday, February 20, 2016

Tragic News and Peace Which Passeth All Understanding

In Philippians 4:7 we read that "the peace of God, which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus"

It's been a hard couple of weeks.  We feel that we and many of the other missionaries

here have needed and then felt the peace that is mentioned in the scripture quoted above.  On February 9th we received a phone call from home about an accident in our mission that had been covered by KSL News in Salt Lake.  We quickly looked on our email to see a message from President Johnson entitled "Tragic News".  We were then so saddened to read of the passing of one of the sweet young sister missionaries in our mission due to a car accident that day.  She and three other sister missionaries were driving through an intersection in a town on the east side of the mission near Chambersburg, PA.  A school bus carrying 30 or so children ran a stop sign and ran right into their car.  After looking at the picture of the accident most people remark that it is a miracle that any of the girls survived.  Two of the sisters have finally been released from the hospital and are recuperating at a relatives home nearby and one of the other sisters is still in the hospital ICU Unit after having had seven surgeries so far for internal injuries.

Almost all of our thoughts and prayers have centered around asking for peace and comfort for them and their families and especially for the family of Sister Wells who passed away.  We had a mission fast a couple of days after the accident.  Our prayers have also been with President and Sister Johnson who truly regard these young missionaries as their own sons and daughters.  We know that it was one of President Johnson's worst fears that one of his missionaries would die or be seriously injured.

Sister Sadie Wells had been in the mission since last May.  We didn't know her, but remember seeing her at the transfer meeting when she first came into the mission a couple of months before Megan got here.
We probably saw her at other meetings as well, but she always served quite far away from us.  Megan knew one of the other sisters in the accident because they came into the MTC at the same time.

We think that Sister Well's sweet countenance speaks volumes about the type of person she was.  Her parents have expressed that they hold no animosity towards the bus driver or anyone else for the accident which we think also tells much about the type of family she comes from.

There were memorial services held almost every day this week in one part of the mission or another.  President and Sister Johnson have traveled to all of them and they will be speaking at our Stake Conference again on Sunday.  We can't imagine how they have been able to withstand the physical and emotional pressures they have been
under except by the Spirit of the Lord helping them.  We had our memorial service here at the Greentree chapel on February 18th. Both President and Sister Johnson said it has been one of their hardest weeks ever and yet one of their most spiritual weeks ever.  One of the comments made during the service was that when a missionary dies that the whole church grieves.  We really believe that.

At the service in Greentree a few elders and sisters who served with Sister Wells shared memories of her, President and Sister Johnson spoke, and Elder Butler was asked to give a talk on the Plan of Salvation.  It was a meeting that we will never forget.  The highlight of the meeting was the closing song by all of the missionaries.  We all sang a combined hymn of two songs "As Sisters in Zion" and "We'll Bring the World His Truth".  Anyone who has ever heard missionaries sing this arrangement of songs knows that it is hard to put into words the spirit of unity and strength that we felt.  President Johnson also shared a gift that the Wells family sent to all of the missionaries here.

It was a short message with a pair of colorful socks attached.

 Sister Wells loved colorful socks and they wanted each missionary to have a pair to remind us all of her and her example of "following in His footsteps".

As we have felt the loss of a fellow missionary we also had a sad happening at home the day after the car accident.  One of our good friends and neighbors had their oldest 12 year old granddaughter, Brinley, pass away.  We have known her grandparents and parents for years and we know that it is such a loss for their whole family.  She passed away at
her home in Las Vegas and some of her church classmates came to visit the day before.  They brought a picture painted by a woman in the church there.  The likeness of Brinley looks just like we remember her and shows her friends in the background.

Being here in the mission field we are constantly studying and teaching the Plan of Happiness that our Heavenly Father has created for us.  It does help us to appreciate more than ever that all of these trials are really part of that great plan.  They give us the experiences we must go through to progress in the plan.  One of the quotes that Jim used in his talk at Sister Wells memorial service is one of our favorites.  Knowing this truth about the resurrection definitely helps to give us the peace that we sometimes don't understand how we can feel in such difficult circumstances.

"All your losses will be made up to you in the resurrection, provided you continue faithful.  By the vision of the Almighty I have seen it..."                             Joseph Smith  

Thursday, February 4, 2016

When life gives you snowstorms--make igloos!!

One of the profound thoughts
sent to us by text by one of the elders on a day when it was snowing quite hard here....
When life gives you snowstorms....make igloos!

We experienced our first really big snowstorm of the winter the middle part of January.  The storm hit really hard east of us near Washington DC and New York, but here in Pittsburgh we only got around 8-9 inches.  Other parts of Pennsylvania were hit alot harder and the snow stayed a lot longer there too.  We heard on the news that cars and buses were stranded for more than 24 hours on part of the Pennsylvania Turnpike (76) where we have occasionally traveled.  We were so glad that we were relatively warm and cozy.  Within a few days, the snow melted in Pittsburgh and we experienced thawing temperatures of 50 degrees and above.  On one of our P-days Elder Butler went to play basketball with the elders and I took a walk around Highland Park.  It was so nice to get out of the stuffy apartment and into the crisp winter air.  While we were thawing out here in Pittsburgh we got some pictures from Sister Wall and Sister Welch in Monongahaela.  They got a lot more snow in Monongahaela than we did.  They ended up doing a lot of "service" snow shoveling and just plain
playing in the snow.

We also had a fun experience of visiting and eating dinner with the Reyes family in their home.  They are just a great Spanish speaking family who recently joined the church.  We have a feeling that they will be a great strength to the Spanish group here in Pittsburgh in the years ahead. They have an inspiring conversion story and they feel so blessed to be part of the church.

They invited us for chicken and mole sauce which was very good......but also quite spicy for the taste of Elder Butler.  He is especially sensitive to anything with a very hot flavor.  But he went ahead in true missionary fashion and pretty much cleaned up his plate while silently sweating and swallowing hard.  When he was all done someone mentioned that he has a hard time eating spicy food and the mom said "Oh, I have some on the stove without any spice at all"!!  He then had a second helping which he enjoyed much more.

Enjoying dinner and the company of the Reyes family

We also enjoyed hosting our district here in our apartment on January 20.  The occasion was a Worldwide Missionary Broadcast to all 75,000 fulltime missionaries who are now serving around the world.  It was inspiring to hear words from apostles and other leaders about the most important principles of missionary work.  One of my favorite quotes was from Elder Dallin H. Oaks when he said "You are not called to preach what is politically correct or personally comfortable.  You are not called to invite people to join a social club whose rules are made by its members.  You are called to testify of Jesus Christ and to invite people to do what He has required to come unto Him and walk the path He has defined by His doctrine to reach exaltation in the celestial kingdom."  We had lunch for the elders after the meeting and discussed the things that had been covered during the conference.

Another new thing here in Pittsburgh is the initiation
of the website  We have heard that Pittsburgh is one of the last places in the U.S. to start using this website, but it is a wonderful tool to help church members partner with other churches and community groups.  We participated in our first project with a Presbyterian church in a neighborhood close by us called Shadyside.  The project was making personal hygiene kits for girls in underdeveloped countries.  The sponsoring organization is called Days for Girls.  I took my sewing machine and 6 or 8 elders showed up to cut, iron, and assemble kits.  The ladies there gave Jim the "Ironman" award for doing the best job of ironing bags for the kits.  We also got a tour of this beautiful old church by the assistant pastor, Kari.

We finished the month of January off by helping to organize a Senior Missionary Conference here in Pittsburgh for President & Sister Johnson and six other couples besides ourselves who are serving in the office and in outlying areas around the state.  We began with an activity of walking to the Cathedral of Learning on the the University Pittsburgh campus. Then we had the treat of taking a tour of the Heinz Chapel which is so beautiful and inspiring.  Sister Johnson was even able to play the organ which was a very unexpected blessing since we were previously told they do not allow outsiders to play the organ.  We joked that it is probably the first time some of our LDS hymns have ever been played in this chapel....Come, Come, Ye Saints....Praise to the Man...etc.  Then we finished with all of us singing together....Called to Serve.  We are hoping there will be a way to hold a missionary fireside or something similar in this chapel before we leave.

After the activity we went back to the church for lunch and get-to-know-you introductions.  We went around the circle with missionary highlights (short experiences or insights about our work) and then President and Sister Johnson gave us inspired counsel and teachings.  Their messages were just what we needed to strenghten our resolve and keep us going when times get tough.  Everyone really seemed to enjoy themselves and loved getting to know each other better.

What an amazing work that we have a privilege of being a part of -------------we are so grateful that we came on our mission!