I am writing this blog from our room at the MTC. It is Wednesday night and we are finishing our third day, only two more to go. Let me back up to Sunday to give a better summary of our time as missionaries.
On Sunday we had a special moment as we were set apart as full-time missionaries in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. This was our first formal meeting with our stake president, President Sofft. First, a few interesting side notes:
- Our original mission papers were submitted by President Naylor of the West Jordan Heritage Stake, before we moved to our condo. In our final interview, President Naylor told us that his wife's grandfather was one of the early converts in Frankfurt, Germany. He shared with us a copy of the story of this grandfather who was introduced to the gospel by Leonhard Rueckert, my grandfather's brother. His history identifies Leonhard Rueckert as the first member of the Church in Frankfurt, Germany (back in 1892 or 1893). I have since shared this history with members of my extended family, including several descendants of Leonhard Rueckert who received this document with great joy.
- Our current stake president, who set us apart is President Sofft. His wife is a descendent of Leonhard Rueckert also. He has been to the home of our great grandfather and his wife's native home in Germany, the same ones that Debbie and I visited some 16 years ago. We were able to catch up on some family history stories with President Sofft before the setting apart.
My mother was in attendance at the setting apart, as was our son Sam and our daughter Beckie and our granddaughter, McKenzie. So that included at least 4 generations of our family together at this special time. I was set apart first, with my son, Sam, being part of the circle. That is special as I remember being in the circle when he was set apart as a full-time missionary. After my setting apart, I was able to stand in the circle as my sweet wife Debbie was also set apart.
The blessings were wonderful and the spirit was strong as we were promised physical, emotional and spiritual health as well as many other specific blessings. However, I felt the spirit the strongest as I was formally set apart as a full-time missionary. It was as if the Holy Ghost landed directly on me. I had the same feeling repeated as Debbie received the same pronouncement. Finally we were missionaries after spending the past six months acting the part without the official setting apart. As we went home, we put on the missionary badges that we had received in our Self-Reliance missionary training that we had participated in during the month of November 2015.
Monday morning, after holding a video meeting with our management team in Europe, we drove ourselves down to the MTC in Provo, Utah. We were part of 90 senior missionaries that entered into the MTC that day. Since then we have been involved in a wonderful MTC experience, including a recorded devotional with Elder Bednar and a devotional in which Bishop Dean Davies of the Presiding Bishopric spoke to all of the missionaries at the MTC. We have been trained in key principles of Preach My Gospel and given missionary lessons with other senior couples and to volunteers that come from outside the MTC.
One thing that I have found, is that the spirit down here is amazingly strong. I have been overcome by the spirit on many occasions. Most know that my emotions are very much on the surface. It started when we sang Called to Serve that first day and has repeated every chance that I have to teach gospel principles or share my testimony. I know that this gospel is true! I am so thankful that I can represent my Savior as a full-time missionary. This is the fulfillment of a dream that I have had for over 40 years since I returned home from my mission to Brazil. I have the most wonderful companion in the world as I serve with my wife. It can't get much better than this!
It is great to get to know many of the other missionary couples. Each has a different story and a different calling, but all are dedicated men and women who are consecrating their lives. We are in a district of 4 missionary couples for our role playing opportunities. One is going to Australia on a medical advisor mission, another is going to Texas to work in a mission home and the third is going to Rochester, New York to work as MLS missionaries, working with members and leaders. We are asked to step out of our comfort zone as we learn to teach the gospel in the Lord's way. Of course, this only helps us to grow, which is one of the key activities for all full-time missionaries.
Prior to this week, we were able top make final preparations for our mission. It is amazing how things come together when we do our part and the Lord fills in the gaps. We had a wonderful New Years Eve with many of our children and grandchildren. On January 2, we had a party with Debbie's siblings and all of their posterity. This was the final farewell for some of our children that live further away. During this party, we were able to bring Camila and her kids and they had a wonderful time together. For me, this was the highlight of the party, seeing the wonderful love between children and their mother!
On Sunday, besides the setting apart, Pollyanna and I were able to visit Camila and celebrate her 33rd birthday. I was also able to give Sam a father's blessing. Several of the family came over a one last game night on Sunday night. Before it got too late, we went to bed as good missionaries do and got ready to go to the MTC the next day.
Tonight we participate in one more meeting with Europe at our midnight. Tomorrow we will celebrate Debbie's birthday while here in the MTC. This will include a visit to the temple tomorrow night and a dinner out. We will finish up our time here on Friday afternoon and then have one more weekend at home before taking an early flight on Monday morning to Germany.