Transfer week has come and gone and YEAH we survived!! This week really put us to the test. You have no idea what to expect but a lot is expected of you. It really is quite crazy. I know after we get a few under our belts it won’t seem so crazy. Aaron’s experience leading up to transfer week was so spiritual in nature. I share it here in his own words “It has been the most intensive and busy week of the mission with all of our old missionaries moving on and the new missionaries arriving. Leading up to transfer week will be an experience I won't forget. I spent four days trying to figure out where to place the new missionaries, move all the current missionaries that need transfers, pick the trainers, add new leaders, and account for who can drive, who has health issues, determine if the apartments can accommodate the changes and consider the needs for 200 missionaries. I literally felt like Enos wrestling with the Lord to try and figure this out. I looked at every possible change, moved pictures all around my board and it just wasn't coming. Earlier in the week I had a thought cross my mind regarding the organization of our leadership. Our Zone Leaders are all in separate companionships and not together. I don't like this model as it's not ideal for exchanges, training, and communication. The past mission president preferred it this way and I thought it would be too soon to change it so I pushed the thought out of my mind. At about 10pm on Saturday night the thought came back and so I went forward with the change. Miracles of all miracles happened after I did! Within 15 minutes of making the leadership alignment changes the entire transfer board was finished! I ended up with nearly 60 changes and it was amazing to see what happened when I finally listened to what the Lord wanted. I think missionaries at times feel like mission presidents just randomly make changes based on their gut. I can testify that this isn't true. God knows where he wants his missionaries, what areas they need to serve in, what companionships will bless them, and where they have investigators waiting for them. No way I could have done this on my own, I'd still be staring at the board.” It was really pretty incredible experience for me to watch Aaron go through this. I witnessed Heavenly Father hand in this even involved in the small details. Impressive!
While Aaron was training our new trainers on their responsibilities and making sure they utilized the Church’s global training program call the “First 12 Weeks” I was scrambling to prepare all that needs to be done to host the outgoing missionaries for lunch, dinner for them that night and breakfast for the next morning. I also had to make sure all was ready for dinner for the new missionaries arriving on Tuesday though I didn’t actually prepare that one. I have a wonderful sister in the ward, Hannah Rath, that has been doing the arriving meal for the past 18 years. She know her stuff and makes my life so much easier for it.
Here is the down low on what happens during transfer week. The outgoing missionaries arrive late on Monday morning to weigh their bags, have lunch, and wait for me to do exit interviews. Aaron interviews each outgoing missionary to make sure they have a plan as they go home, understand what will be required to stay faithful, and provide some advice on how to prepare for the real world again. We had an amazing group of 15 going home and it's incredible how fast you learn to love them. We had an awesome closing testimony meeting with them and it's amazing to hear them testify of how the mission and the Savior has changed them. If we could have kept everyone of them we would have, it was much harder to have them leave than we would have ever anticipated.
The following day the missionaries arrive to the mission home for breakfast, we provide some final counsel, and we were off to the airport. We help them get checked in, make sure they have everything they need to make it home, get them through security. That’s it, the goodbye. All the kids were with us during the departures and arrivals, which was a blessing because we had to have Allie and Zac man, the cars while we were running in and out of the terminals. We then snacked on lunchables and other things in the car while we wait for the arrival of our new missionaries. It really isn’t much time maybe a half-hour.
So off we race to the arrival gates to welcome our new missionaries that are getting off the plane. It's an emotional roller coaster… It's like sending your kids off not knowing when you're going to see them again and then you're elated to see the new missionaries arrive wide eyed, excited, and wondering how hot and humid it's going to be. The MTC gets the new missionaries up at 2-3am to get ready to leave to the airport so they're already exhausted when they arrive. They arrived on a day that was 104 with high humidity, feels like 110, they thought they were going to die. :) We bring them back to one of the churches downtown where Aaron welcomes them, chats with them about obedience, earning the Lord's trust (and mine), and the importance of OYM'ing (opening your mouth). We then have some of our more senior missionaries arrive where we take them out running (street contacting). A huge eye opener for them and a great way to get them started the first day. While half are out running the other half are having a quick interview with Aaron, a separate interview with me, and then we switch off when the others come back. They were soaked with sweat, no fun but it’s the real deal! Most missionaries talked to someone and some even were able to schedule some return appointments. From there we take them to the mission home where we have a testimony meeting, feed them dinner, and get them to bed. Many of our members take the missionaries in during transfer week so we don't have to have them in hotels, it's a great blessing for us. After we’ve met with them all then Aaron goes back to the transfer board and makes sure he assigns the new missionary to the right trainer. Another insight to see Heavenly Father’s hand in His work.
Wednesday begins bright and early with the new missionaries receiving all the administrative training they need to do their work at the Mission Office. They are provided with their mission credit cards, overview on apartments, bikes, and vehicles, and all the other activities so they can hit the ground running. We bring them together for the trainer/trainee meeting where we layout the expectations for their first twelve weeks and they meet their new companion. Really cool to watch how the trainers embrace their role and go out of their way to make the new missionaries feel loved. Many worry about whether or not they'll like their companion, so it's a good first step to have them get to know each other.
That afternoon we have the full transfer meeting where all the missionaries that have some change to their companionships arrive. I started the meeting by introducing the new missionaries and she did a great job of helping them feel welcome. Aaron then shared with them how the Lord made him work to understand his will for these transfers and testified that this is what God wants for them. Then the real magic happens… We built a slide show that shows each zone and the transfers taking place for each companionship. I had them play "I'll Go Where You Want Me to Go" in the background so we could keep it reverent. Incredibly fun to watch the faces as their picture comes up followed by the picture of their new companion. Mostly happiness, only had two give Aaron the evil eye and one burst into tears. :) He was able to work through it with them and then the chaos begins as we transfer phones, keys, cars, apartments and all that goes on trying to relocate missionaries. Can't imagine this all happening without senior missionary couples.
After three straight days of running non-stop Aaron and I did get a chance to spend some time with the kids on Thursday afternoon for their birthdays. Aaron took the boys to a wakeboard park where they had a blast! They pull you around on cables and there are huge jumps, rails, and ramps you can play on. They had the hang of it by the time they left. The boys would like to have year round passes. :) It will be hard to convince them to come home. We live in an amazing area. The girls and I went to the mall to get Jessie’s ears pierced. This was huge for her. She has been anxiously waiting for this opportunity. She was particular about the earrings she wanted for her studs. We enjoyed lunch at Panera Bread. Next on her Birthday to do list was manicures and pedicures for us all. Well she got both, Allie and I stuck with just pedicures. The were AWESOME!! Zac got to pick the restaurant for the birthday dinner. We went to Wings and Things. What a great Day!!!
To end the week we had our mission leadership back in for Mission Leadership Council for six hours of training on how we will continue to move the mission forward on Friday. We shared with them that in our mission we need to find 18 new investigators for every 1 baptism. It's a simple formula, if you want to have baptisms increase you need to find more and teach more effectively. We spent the first part of the day teaching the principles of finding and OYM'ing and the last part of the day on how to teach with the Spirit and power. We have very young leadership, Aaron just called two new Zone Leaders that have been in the mission six weeks. We have a lot to learn, but it is so fun training and mentoring them. We are helping them learn how to council, lead by example, and teach those they serve the principles we're providing them. The blessing of the training came at the end of the day when we had four separate companionships text Aaron to let him know that they had used the finding principles we taught and how successful it was. One companionship found four new investigators that night, our average is 1.5 per companionship per week! If we can get our missionaries to find like this and teach the restoration with the Spirit we will see miracles here. It's awesome when they discover that if they follow the counsel given in Preach My Gospel that the Lord will trust them and help them find people to teach.
On Saturday it was “Family Day!” again. That is what Jessie likes to call it. It is our official P-day but “Family Day” works too. Instead of just FHE everyone should have a family day too. We like them. We aren’t pulled in a million directions…..yet. We really just get to be together as a family. I’m not running one child to this game while Aaron is running one to another game. I know once the kids start getting involved in their activities this will change but while I have them, “Family Day Rocks!!!” So for “Family Day” we went to SkyZone an indoor tramp park. IT was fun to see the kids just hang out with each other. It makes me happy and sad. Love to see it but sad that those days are far and few between as they get older. Cherish your families!!! After Dinner we went to the airport to pick up Alan, Jeanne and four cousins. Very exciting for Jessie to have some family here for her baptism. We know all the family would have like to have been here. It was a special day for Jessie's cousin Dallas today. Congrats D! My sister and I had planned to have their baptism day a shared event. In our hearts it will always be shared.