One of the joys of our missionary life is working with our Assistants. We spend a good deal of time with Elder Smith and Elder Archibald as we plan for meetings, trainings, transfers, and plenty of other things. They also help us with leftovers and we drink a lot of banana milkshakes together.
One of the interesting phrases I picked up from them last month during our first weeks here and first transfer cycle was “don’t fumble the football!” I wasn’t sure what they were talking about that warm day in July. It wasn’t football season, and there was no football in sight.
They explained what they were talking about when I asked. The “football” is the little black satchel that the Assistants carry. It has some particular information in it (I’m not even sure what) that has to do with transfers. I know enough about transfers from my mission 34 years ago to know that everyone talks about transfers and wonders who will go where when, and who will be companions with whom next. Back then, we called it “transfer trauma.”
It takes several days for the President and the Assistants to figure out transfers. I’ve watched them and have been in the room with them and the transfer board (for hours). There’s a good deal of discussion and there are lengthy prayers. Using the “transfer board,” different scenarios are played out. It reminds me of playing Rumi Cubes. If you mess up the playing table, you have to be able to put it all back. The transfer boards (one at the office and one at the mission home) are kept closed during transfer week. Things are never final until the night before, or the morning of, when everything feels right and prayer confirms those feelings.
Sometimes the companionships don’t seem to make sense. For example, last month Sister Hirsche was transferred in the middle of her 12 weeek training (away from her excellent trainer, Sis. Maez) to Moses Lake up north. It made no sense, but it felt right. A couple of weeks later we learned that there was a young lady up north who was deaf, who needed to be taught. Sister Hirsche is proficient in American Sign Language and has been able to teach her. Sister Hirsche told me, “Know I know exactly why I was sent here!”
On the day or so before the transfers take place, phone calls are made by the President that start setting everything in motion. He lets missionaries know who will be training new missionaries and he makes leadership changes. The final changes can’t be made until after President Lewis meets and interviews every single new missionary to determine which of those selected to train will be the best companion for each new missionary. Then the Assistants finalize pages and pages of logistics dealing with apartments, cars, bikes, and companions, as they map out who will go where. Last time it all happened flawlessly, but it took a week to figure it all out.
The notes and information relating to transfers are kept in that black satchel. The Assistants are careful not to leave it lying around where it might be picked up unintentionally. “Fumbling the football” would describe having that satchel fall into the wrong hands. Once the phone calls are made and the transfer board is finalized, we move ahead and everyone knows what to do and where to go, but until that time, President Lewis continues to pray for inspiration and guidance to be sure he gets it just right.
We had some fun this week with the “football” as we started thinking about the next transfers. We have 26 new missionaries arriving in about a week. We are gearing up for a week of inspiration and many hours of figuring out the best possible assignments for every single Sister and Elder. Pray for us and pray for your missionaries–that we will all feel the Lord’s hand in the assignments He has in mind for each of us.
Below is the transfer board at the office as it looked last week, organized by zone and by language. Right now, the photos are moving and of all the in-coming missionaries are clipped to the board on the right side, waiting to be put into the glorious mix of missionaries. We’re opening lots of new areas and figuring out housing and who will live where. I can hardly wait to see how it all unfolds!
We love our Assistants and the hours of service they give to us and to the missionaries all over our mission.