Today we headed up north to Moses Lake for our first of 3 zone conferences this week. The Moses Lake and Othello zones met today from 9:00 to about 4:30. I love it when our missionaries get to gather together in one place–they are always so happy to see each other and to greet former companions with hugs and handshakes (Elders and Sisters). It’s easy to feel the love they have as fellow servants of Jesus Christ. There is such joy surrounding this work. You can feel it and see it in their eyes and in their smiles. Waiting for the conference to begin: Here’s a picture of what we call a “Heritage Tie,” which is a tie that has been passed from one trainer to another. These ties are treasured. Sometimes the signatures fill the whole back side of the ties.Another fun thing the missionaries do is decorating their monthly planners. They are creative and personalized. I love taking pictures of them. Here are a few:Elder Pullman’s pocket caught my attention. He said he turns his planner around when he’s out and about, but left it this way today:This morning President Lewis welcomed all the new arrivals (since the last zone conference before we arrived). Each was introduced and recognized. We’ve had two groups come in–when we arrived we had 114 missionaries. Now we have almost 150! He also recognized all who will be going home before our next zone conference in January.
Our goal for this conference was to give our missionaries helpful tools that will assist them in finding and teaching, as we consider the full Work of Salvation. We talked about this in our last MLC. This is the Full Work of Salvation:
- Member Missionary Work
- Convert Retention
- Activation of Less-Active Members
- Temple and Family History Work
- Teaching the Gospel
President Lewis taught us about ways we can diversify our finding and teaching. In the New Mission President’s Seminar in 2014, Elder David F. Evans, head of the Missionary Department taught this:
“Our entire labor is to help our Father’s children return safely to Him as sealed eternal families. As the Lord’s missionaries, we must feel the same urgency to help retain new converts and reactivate those who have fallen away as we do to bring into the waters of baptism those who have never had the gospel. We must remember that our work is not done until all of them00and all of us–are safely “gathered into” the temples as families “that they are not wasted.”
He continued, “Presidents and sisters, many missions are excellent at focusing on one part of our purpose, such as baptism or retention or reactivation. All of us who are called to assist the Twelve in building up the Lord’s Church must to better. We must increase the number of qualified convert baptisms while also retaining and rescuing those who have already received this ordinance. You and your missionaries must be focused on all of it, not just on a part of our purpose or a part of the work of salvation.”
So in this round of zone conferences, we will be sharing lots of ideas that will assist our missionaries as they work to become what we call “Full Purpose Missionaries.”
I followed with a training on using Family History as a missionary tool. I’ll write more about that soon.
Then the Assistants, Elders Archibald and Smith, did a very fun training on OYMs. OYM stands for Open Your Mouth. D&C 28:16 says, “Open thy mouth at all times, declaring my gospel with the sound of rejoicing.” Each group came up with their favorite ways of approaching people on the street or at the door. We learned from everyone’s ideas and made some great lists. It’s best to keep it fresh and exciting when we greet people.
We have so many excellent resources available to us in missionary work. Today Elder and Sister Redford, our Just Serve missionaries taught about this wonderful program. It’s really a fabulous way to engage missionaries every day in meaningful service projects. Each missionary is encouraged to give service in the community every week, up to 10 hours. We have missionaries all over the mission helping with “on the spot” service projects, or working with wonderful organizations like soup kitchens, thrift stores, food banks or with other churches. Then Elder and Sister Gilbert taught the missionaries about Daily Dose, the program that helps immigrants who don’t speak much English yet. More to come on both of these excellent programs.Then it was time for lunch, which was provided by the wonderful Moses Lake Relief Society ladies. They took good care of us and put out a beautiful spread with Hawaiian haystacks, salads and cookies. Ladies always go first! I love the photo below! I hope you can feel the love of these missionaries. They figured out that if they put their left arm around their neighbor, they could fit even more at the table. What a happy bunch! Then one of the local members named Freddie (a recent convert who is from Peru) brought a birthday cake for Elder Jimemez, who is also of Peruvian descent. We sang and celebrated his birthday, today. Mail and packages were distributed.Tasty dessert: And clean up before going back to work: Here are our lovely lunch ladies: And the missionaries singing “Called to Serve” as a thank you to them for lunch: This afternoon we recognized all who’ve had a birthday since the last zone conference with a bag of goodies–post-it notes, mechanical pencils, breath mints and candy along with a gift card of their choice to Taco Bell, Subway or Walmart for a lunch on us. Fun.This afternoon we took care of mission business and talked about the progress in our work. We also talked about vehicles (70% of the missionaries in our mission have cars). We’re trying to figure out which areas need which vehicles and which need bikes as we increase our numbers. We also talked about our medical binders (we’ve prepared one for each zone to share), and some housing issues. We had some time for Q&A about mission policies and procedures and our mission culture. There are a lot of details that go into keeping 150 missionaries moving forward in happy ways!This afternoon we had some of the missionary companionships demonstrate ideas for things that can be done during the interlude at baptisms while those being baptized are changing their clothes. There are some excellent short videos on lds.org that can be shown, with testimonies from the missionaries.
This is President Reid Baker, the Stake President of the Moses Lake Stake. He dropped by to say hello. President Baker is a potato grower. Of course I asked him where his farm was when he told me they are harvesting right now. I got the details and you’ll hear more about the visit to his farm soon! He was delightful.At the end of our conference we had a testimony meeting where each of the missionaries who will be going home before the end of the year shared their testimonies with the rest. It’s a room filled with mixed emotions–we have the new arrivals and the departing, all trying to process time. It may feel a little bit long when you’re on the front end and missing family and friends at home, but when you’re on the back end, it seems like it has flown by and no one really wants to go home. (Don’t worry, parents, we won’t keep them from you when the time comes, but we sure which we could!)
More photos are posted in our Yakima Mission Facebook albums.