What an amazing experience we had Friday 21 Apr. The Sydney North Mission had the opportunity to have the Church Historian Elder Snow and wife, along with Brother Reid Neilson and wife who is the Managing Director of Church History come speak to our mission. We had 5 of our 7 Zones in attendance. In addition we had about 10 Senior Couples in attendance making our group a little over one hundred missionaries. About 40% of our Missionaries are "Islanders". From islands such as New Zealand, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Marshall Islands, Tuvalu, Cook Island, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, French Polynesia. They come from so many different islands, and are so loving and kind. Unfortunately the other 2 Zones in our mission were too far away to bring them in for our special Conference.
We arrived 20 minutes early to the Hebersham Stake Center and there was a real buzz in the area. Missionaries, I have learned love getting together and seeing each other. President Checketts did an amazing job keeping everyone in order and semi quiet. When the Dignitaries arrived they asked to shake every missionary's hand. So President had row by row go to the back of the Chapel where the dignitaries greeted each person. As the rows filed back to the back of the chapel they had to pass all us Senior missionaries standing in the side pews. Not too many missionaries went by before the hair on my arms started to stand up as I realized what a force of power was in the room that day. By the time we filed out to shake Elder Snow and Brother Neilson's hands I was starting to well up. There was such an amazing feeling in the room.
Elder Ball, one of our two amazing Assistants conducted the meeting. Such an impressive young man and he did such a good job leading the meeting. I can see him in 10 year filling leadership positions wherever he is living. Something I have learned about serving a mission as a young person are 2 things. 1. The young person comes to Preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 2. Each and every missionary is being trained as a future leader in the church. It is an amazing process to watch and be part of.
While we were waiting to hear from our leaders a young man Elder Bartlett from Texas was playing the most beautiful prelude music. I hope his mother knows that the hard work and many years of practicing was paying off big time. I must say every time I hear a missionary playing the piano I think of all the mothers that worked so hard to get their sons and daughters to play. It is impressive to see them play for meetings and accompany other missionaries sharing their beautiful voices.
Our program was filled with wonderful stories and explanations of Church History. They left about 30 minutes for the missionaries to ask questions and have them answered by these two knowledgeable speakers. I was surprised at how well thought out the missionaries were in asking their questions. One Elder asked how to respond to people of other Faiths like Hindu or Muslim when they responded that their faith already had answers or was the correct church. Brother Neilson had a great response when he quoted a prophet, I think it was President Hinckley. He said he would respond to that type of question with something like this. "You do have a wonderful start to your understanding, we now invite you to let us add on to your knowledge with the Gospel of Jesus Christ." I thought that was a very tactful answer.
The meeting was just so inspiring, I thought I had been extremely well fed. Then, just when I thought it couldn't get any better, we had our mission song start. I had never heard this song before and I was timidly singing along. The words come from hymn #295 O Love That Glorifies the Son, but the music, I am told comes from the Polynesian brown Hymnal and I don't know what song it is. But oh my goodness! After singing two lines I had to stop singing and just listen. The missionaries, especially the islanders with their beautiful way of harmonising were so strong and dedicated to this song. By the 2nd verse I looked up at our invited guests, they had stopped singing and had tears running down their faces as was I. With each verse our missionaries grew in strength and power as they sang. The chorus has a female part with the Elders coming in and responding. By the last verse I thought the roof was going to come off the building. I couldn't see one dry eye around me. What an amazing spirit was present and to be surrounded by this Army of Representatives of Jesus Christ. How grateful I felt to be there serving along side these wonderful young people.
(You were right BP)
The Sisters left to get the last touches on the lunch while President Checketts instructed Missionaries. Sister Checketts and Terry Cox did a wonderful job getting Taco Salad ready for so many hungry young people. I had a fun job in helping deliver mail to anxious missionaries. After about 45 minutes we broke up in to 3 groups of about 30 missionaries where the different groups were instructed by the Assistants for one group, President Checketts for 2nd group and Sister Checketts, Sister Barr (mission nurse) and Elder Ellison instructed the 3rd group. It went very smoothly with us rotating every 20 minutes to a different group. I stayed to support my husband instructing on Flat upkeep, Car upkeep and Bike upkeep. Sister Barr addressed some health issues she called "Teeth to Toes" Because she has a lot of missionaries with problems with their teeth and ingrown toenail. OUCH!
Finally our last part of the day was wonderful instruction from our Mission President. I felt he was really teaching these young people gospel insights
they needed to know, especially when they finished their missions. Then Elder Ball announced the names of the Missionaries they would like to have bare their testimonies as they would soon be leaving the mission to return home. Great! More wonderful spiritual feeding. Then SHOCK, Elder Ball said and we would like to hear from Sister and Elder Ellison. Oh my, I was not prepared for this. I looked over at the next row at Sister Checketts and mouthed to her "WHO" she smiled and mouthed back "Welcome to the Mission Field".
It reminded me of the time my 11 year old son Tyler was asked to bear his testimony at Ward Conference. It just kind of takes the wind out of you. Fortunately there was enough time and I was able to pull some thoughts together and bare a short Testimony. By the time we ended it was close to 6 p.m. It had been a long day and once again Monty and I were drop dead tired.
BUT WHAT A DAY!