Sunday, May 26, 2013

Missionary Farewell Talk - Gerry

“Your Holy Places”

There’s a Primary song that goes, “I hope they call me on a mission, when I have grown a foot or two.” When I told Judy Wood about our mission call, she said that I would be caught for false advertising. I’m certainly glad that they don’t make mission calls based on height.

How did we begin this page of our lives? Paul and I have always talked about going on a mission when we were retired. When we both retired in 2011, a mission was still in the back of our minds, however, there were a few reasons why we thought we should wait. One of the things that I was having a difficult time with was leaving my grandchildren. (My children were a consideration in there too--however, the grandchildren were a little more prominent.)

Sometime last year I reached the conclusion that I really would be okay being away from them and I was at peace with that. But we still didn’t actively pursue a mission and things were left pretty much status quo. Every once in a while we would talk about it, but with no results.

Then in January of this year, I was reading an article from the Ensign. In this article a young woman was trying to decide whether to go on a mission or not. Then one day in her religion class, her professor said something that changed her life. He said, “The Lord can’t drive a parked car.” That was an aha moment for me. I went to Paul and said, “Paul, we’re parked cars!” Of course he didn’t have any idea what I was talking about. So I explained to him that we have been dragging our feet on deciding when to go on a mission and we have been parked cars that the Lord can’t drive. So we decided that we would leave this fall on a mission. But I think the Lord had other plans.

We went on a trip to Tokyo Japan to visit my younger sister and her husband who are serving a mission there as well as to do family history on Paul’s side of the family. We ended up having an informal interview with the newly called Mission President for the new mission, the Tokyo South Mission. We returned home on March 13, met with the Bishop on March 17 to begin our application process, turned in our papers to the Bishop on April 23, met with President Hodson on April 24, and received our mission call on May 6. We enter the MTC on June 3 and arrive in Japan on June 15. We are no longer parked cars, we are in drive.

Sister Ann Dibb, in the General Young Women Conference earlier this year, gave a talk entitled “Your Holy Places.” She stated that “Holy places include our temples, our chapels, our homes, and the stakes of Zion, which are . . . for a defense, and for a refuge.”

She went on to say that “In addition to these, I believe we can each find many more places. . . . holy places can also include moments in time—moments when the Holy Ghost testifies to us, moments when we feel Heavenly Father’s love, or moments when we receive an answer to our prayers.”

I  began to reflect on some of the holy places that I have experienced.

A holy place moment when the Holy Ghost testifies to us.
I obtained a job working in Washington, D.C. shortly after I graduated from BYU. I was a small town girl from Utah. This was my first time living away from home. I attended a singles ward, with most of its members either working professionally or students working on higher level educational degrees. I didn’t feel like I fit in socially let alone intellectually. It seemed like most people had their own little groups and it was hard to get to know people. In order for me to get to church I either had to take a bus, which took a long time or take a taxi, which could become very expensive over time. I didn’t know anyone nor did I feel comfortable asking someone for a ride. It became an effort to get to church. It would have been so much easier to just not go.

I remember lying on my bed one day thinking, “What am I doing?” And I began having this conversation with myself. I could have very easily decided that no one would miss me if I stopped going to church. It was much easier to just skip church. But I finally came to the conclusion that I would only be hurting myself if I stopped going to church. If things were going to change, then I needed to change. I needed to put forth the effort to find a way to get to church. I needed to get out of my comfort zone and reach out to people even if they weren’t going to reach out to me. And so I did. That was one of the biggest decisions of my life. I probably wouldn’t be standing here today if I didn’t make that decision.

Another holy place that I’ve experienced is at Young Women Camp. At camp you can experience the grandeur and beauty of God’s creations. You are removed from the world and all its trappings and are free to feel the quietness and peace of a dark starry night and the inner strength of daughters (young and old) of our Heavenly Father.

I had been called to be a counselor over a group of 12-year-old girls, which was a very challenging group. There were girls that didn’t get along, girls that were excluded, girls that weren’t happy. I had girls crying every night. I remember leaving my group, finding a big rock that I could hide behind and having a good cry. But through the help of the spirit, you find the words to help comfort the ones that are hurting, show the ones that are causing hurt how they might approach things differently, and in the end helping them all realize that they are a daughter of our Heavenly Father who loves us one and all unconditionally.

A holy place moment when we feel Heavenly Father’s love
As most of you know our grandson, Ethan, who is 8 years old, was born with brittle bone disease. Ethan has been a true inspiration and shining example to those who know him. His mother shared this:

“Ethan cried for Brandon one night after we had put him down.  Brandon went to talk to him.  Ethan told him he couldn't stop thinking about what would happen if he breaks and no one was there.  So Brandon told him, someone will always be around to help.  It breaks my heart to know he is already worrying about stuff like that.  And we thought that was the end of it.  Then a couple of nights later, Ethan called Brandon on his walkie talkie again.  Brandon went upstairs.  Ethan confessed he was reading in the dark, again! He was reading the October Friend, and came across a scripture, D&C 68:6  "Be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you."  He told Brandon that this scripture applies perfectly for what he was worrying about, and he had marked it in his new scriptures he just got, so he can always remember it.  It’s the first scripture passage he marked in his own scriptures.  It’s the answer to his prayers, I am sure!  Needless to say, we are very proud and grateful!”

His mother wrote us one other:

“So we had Ethan’s annual IEP today, and his teacher gave us an update on how Ethan is doing in class.  She shared that they had an assignment in class asking them to write down three things they wished for.  This is what Ethan wrote, ‘I don't wish for anything, because I am happy.  I have a PERFECT life.’   This comes from a child who has constant pain, many fractures, and many surgeries and painful rehabs.”

Ethan realizes that our Heavenly Father loves him and will always be there for him. This is reassuring to him and helps him to have a positive attitude and to be happy. He loves life.

A holy place moment when we receive answers to our prayers
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” James 1:5

Sister Dibbs stated: “Throughout Joseph Smith’s short but magnificent life, he truly “[stood] in holy places” and was not moved. As a young teenager, he was troubled by the religious turmoil in his community and wanted to know which of all the churches was true. The wooded area close to his home became a holy place as he knelt among the trees and offered his first vocal prayer. His prayer was answered.”

As Paul and I begin this journey together as a couple missionary, we know that we will visit holy places and have holy place moments. We know that this is what we need to do at this time. It will be sad to leave those we love. We know we will miss out on special moments in the lives of our family and friends. But we also know that our family will be blessed.

I’d like to close with the scripture that we have chosen for our plaque, which is found in D&C 76:22:
“And now, after the many testimonies that have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!”

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