Vol. 4 No. 12, 15 December 2000
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Grandma and Grandpa Gardner
Light Up Dark Places
Birth: Mark and Michelle Trunnell have a new baby daughter, and Ethan and Abby have a new baby sister. Amelia Mallory Trunnell was born 20 November 2000. She weighed 7 pounds, 1 ounce, and was 19 inches long. She has lots of dark hair, the color of Mark's. Mark says she got his hair that's why he doesn't have any left.
8 December 2000: Merry Christmas, dear family, from one of your number who is not ready for Christmas and who has not any good prospects for getting ready which takes me to saying something about what is important, what isn't, and what is definitely bad.
First, what is important: Family is far and away more important than any competing thing on the earth. You are our family, and we love you almost to the point of being maudlin about it. Each and every one of you even the little people whom we haven't yet seen or whom we have seen briefly and with whom we are not yet well acquainted. Yes, and even those of you who might mistakenly think we do not wish to become better acquainted with you.
We're talking "unconditional love" here, something like the love our Heavenly Father has for us. It's sometimes called charity or the pure love of Christ, or as near to that as we mortals can come this side of the veil. I don't want to claim for us anything that's not likely among mortals. All of us come closer to it at Christmastime, and it fades as bleak January rolls around, but probably never is totally lost. At least, it occurs unexpectedly again, when a tiny baby curls fingers around ours, or has a little "gas" that makes him (or her) smile before the third month (when they're supposed to smile), and from then on when toothless grins award our efforts, and we feel warmth spreading from deep within to our outer extremities. The overt occasions of such love become less frequent and more intense and almost surely underlie all our waking moments if we are parents (or uncles, aunts, grandparents, etc.).
We're taken by surprise when such feelings erupt unexpectedly, sometimes moving us to tears, and we are grateful to realize that we are more loving than we thought we were. There is nothing in which we more nearly approach the countenance of our Savior or adopt his loving disposition than when we are unexpectedly suffused with such feelings of tenderness as those that babies bring or that come to us at parting from dear ones. At such times we recognize in ourselves that of which Mormon said, "whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him" (Moro. 7:47).
It is the ultimate characteristic of Deity. Paul said, "Now abideth faith, hope, and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity" (1 Cor. 13:13). It has even been said that God is love, so closely is God identified with this quality. Charity, Christ's pure love, is felt by many at Christmastime, when we celebrate the birth of the Savior of the world; it is a transforming power that can make bad men good and good men better.
Let us avail ourselves of the charity of this time of the year. Let us turn away from the chill breath of the devil that comes to us as pictured by the Savior and in several warnings by Joseph Smith about the last days: "Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold" (JS Matt. 1:10, 30). In happy families is charity, the saving love like God's. In sin there is only coldness, the selfish indifference of the enemy of righteousness.
At Christmas we celebrate the warm caring and the power of the Savior of the world. We sing carols about his holy birth. We light up dark places with millions of tiny lights and the glorious glow of the gospel. We love that Baby Jesus and the kindly man he grew up to be. We remember that when he appeared to Joseph in the Grove he was surrounded by divine light. That light will warm our prayers and fill our hearts as those prayers are answered.
Merry Christmas to all of you. With love from Grandma and Grandpa Gardner
Jill: daughter of Robert and Janice Gardner, is serving in the Chile Santiago East Mission
27 November 2000: This will be my last letter from the States for a while! I'm sitting in the O'Hare airport back in the world! Has this been happening the entire time I've been in the MTC? Life is so busy so many people going everywhere. Do they even have a clue? I'm thankful for the MTC that is paced at a different level and purpose.
It was so good to see everyone at the airport. I love you all so much. Thank you for your love and support and your confidence in me. Thank you for your advice too. Please keep praying for me.
This is the fifth time I've been in the O'Hare airport this year, and I think for the first time I don't feel like I'm part of the airport rush. I'm just sitting here, waiting for my next flight, and I feel apart from everyone else around me. They're all caught up in CNN and the elections everyone is carrying around newspapers. I'm just calmly sitting, writing my letter, not really worried about my flight or whatever else is going on around me.
I met a lady who is headed to Santiago to see her parents. She asked me if we were nuns because our name tags say "Hermana." Nope! I explained that we're missionaries. So we'll see if we sit next to her on the plane! Maybe I'll knock on her parents' door in Chile! Who knows; the Lord does. The next letter will be from Chile with all of my love!
28 November 2000: Hello from Chile! We were delayed about two hours, but we finally got here. Now I'm sitting in President and Sister Gardner's front room. It's all decked out in Christmas decorations. And there are pictures of family all over one with the eight boys and Aunt Donna, Grandma Edith's mission picture, and others.
I'm extremely exhausted right now. The planes were fine, and I slept a lot. But all night on a plane never is really good rest. As we walked down the first hall, President and Sister Gardner were across the way. They tapped on the windows, and we all waved as hard as we could. They were also watching for us as we came through the passport check. We smiled, blew kisses, and waved some more. Finally through customs we found each other with big long hugs! How wonderful it was to have those hugs, smiles, and warmth of family.
The five sisters drove with Sister Gardner back to their apartment home. Now we've been interviewed and have eaten a wonderful dinner and strawberry shortcake. President Gardner has given us a lot of good counsel. He stressed the importance of being obedient and promised us that baptisms will come and the quality of the converts will be better.
From the windows of their home, we've seen the angel Moroni on the temple, parts of the Andes Mountains, and pretty much have overlooked the entire mission.
President Gardner gave me a blessing in my interview. He told me Jesus Christ has called me to this mission for a specific purpose. I know fear and doubt are the adversary's tools. So I'll get out there and get to work. I know I am going to make it. I'm ready to meet my trainer. I have to go now. I love you!! We are an eternal family!
Love, Hermana Jill
Edythe: daughter of Bruce and Becca Gardner, is serving in the Salt Lake City Temple Square Mission
Your Eyes Will Be Opened
15 November 2000: Rain or snow, we stand outside and invite people to take tours or if no one is around, we use the microphones to announce the tour in every language we can think of. A couple of nights this week were especially cold. I've wondered how you know if you're getting frostbite. But it's OK. I love this work. When you get into a gospel conversation with someone, you forget how cold you are.
I've watched Testaments a couple of times. How I love that movie! And the Family Search Center is such a great missionary source. I didn't realize until my mission that family history, temple work, and missionary work are all the same redemptive work. It's not just coincidence that genealogy is one of the top hobbies in the United States. There is divine guidance behind the work, and the Spirit of Elijah is real.
In the November 2000 Ensign, Elder Alexander B. Morrison said, "Come seeking to know Him, and I promise you will find Him and see Him in His true character. . . . Come and see, and as you do so, your eyes will be opened and you will really see, perhaps for the first time, who you are, and who He is" (p. 12). He explains that the Savior is not only inviting us to "come," but He is promising that when we do come, we will "see." I am learning that when my vision gets a little cloudy or too narrow, if I come unto the Lord, take His yoke upon me, and really learn of Him, I can see clearly and His yoke is easy, His burden light.
We meet interesting people on Temple Square. A man from Austria told everyone he was Jesus and asked my companion out on a date. He hung around for several days until Security had to get him to leave.
23 November 2000: The Temple Square Mission follows the same organization as any other mission, including companionships, districts, zones, district leaders, zone leaders, and assistants to the president. Of course, these positions are filled by sisters, which is unique to Temple Square. We follow the same rules as any other mission, and we use the discussions in our tours. We probably meet and teach more people a day than in most other missions.
Each day we meet as a district and go over assignments for that day. Each day our assignments are located in a different part of Temple Square. One day will be our flagpole day; assignments include coordinating tours via radio at the flagpole and west gate, as well as giving tours. Another day will be our Joseph Smith Memorial Building day; we present Testaments, assist in the Family Search Center, and make contacts in between shows. Another day will be our North Visitor Center day; our assignments include presenting Legacy, assisting and meeting guests at the North Visitors' Center, presenting the narration at the Christus statue, etc. We also contact people on the Square and make telephone calls to nonmember friends of members to encourage them to welcome missionaries into their homes. We also give hours of assigned service.
The other day we visited an assisted-living retirement home. I took my viola along just for fun. When we got there, we found a senior elder performing a little guitar concert for the residents. I asked him if I could join him, and we had a good old time playing family reunion and Lehi Days favorites!
Yesterday I got to go on a tour of the Tabernacle organ given by John Longhurst, the Church's main Tabernacle organist for the past 23 years. Wow! What a treat! We also got to go in the attic/roof to see the lattice work of beams, pegs, and rawhide the pioneers used to construct the roof. It's incredible!
Happy Thanksgiving today! I had an hour break to have Thanksgiving dinner at JB's Restaurant with the rest of my zone. Yesterday in zone conference President Winwood spoke on giving 100 percent. He said, "It doesn't matter how little the 100 percent is. There is magic in giving 100 percent
then the windows of heaven are opened." I found that to be true even before my mission.
I know the Lord lives and loves us and that His Spirit can be our constant companion.
29 November 2000: I was so excited to get the Family Focus this week. I read it during my lunch break. Afterwards, when I went back to Temple Square, I felt so strengthened! In fact, all this week parts of the Family Focus kept coming to mind. I remember Paul saying, "I did not have one ounce of fear of any sort," and I pictured Mandy dancing in the streets of Chile. Happiness and boldness reap astonishing results!
6 December 2000: The Christmas lights are up and looking beautiful, and a new Nativity scene on Temple Square is attracting a lot of attention. The characters in the Nativity look very realistic a
little too realistic, in fact. My companion and I went to the basement of one of the buildings, and when we turned a corner, we saw all mannequins of the Nativity without any clothing on! They looked so realistic that Sr. Roth and I just about had a heart attack! Hah!
I got a tape in the mail from Uncle Marvin. He got most of the relatives who were in Utah for Thanksgiving to speak on it. I love it so much. It made me laugh, cry, and remember many memories with the extended family. I feel so honored to be a Gardner and to be serving a mission at this time. To hear the advice, testimonies, and love of family members was like gold. And because of Testaments, Joy is a celebrity around here. When she and Quin spoke on the tape, I told my companions they were listening to Laneah and her husband!
We gave a tour to a man from India. When the subject of teenagers came up, I shared with him a testimony Jessica had shared with me in a letter about President Hinckley. She said President Hinckley knows the youth and provides guidance for them to be truly happy. The man was very touched.
This morning we had a mission devotional with Elder Robert K. Dellenbach of the Seventy. I got to play my viola in the musical number, along with Sr. Cena from Italy on the violin and Sr. Ichihashi from Japan on the piano.
I am really doing well. I'm trying to be more submissive and let the hard times purify me rather than hinder me. I know that if we turn to the Lord in challenging times, He can make our struggles strengthen us.
I love you all so much. The Lord is more devoted to you and to me than I ever realized before.
Love, Sister Edythe Gardner
Bruce: son of Bruce and Becca Gardner, is serving in the Denmark Copenhagen Mission
Don't Drink the After Shave
8 November 2000: Denmark is a neat place! It's not what I expected, but I've mainly been in the city. I haven't really seen the countryside except for a couple of times. One difference is the colorful buildings blue, red, yellow, green, pink, orange
lined up in a row. It's really quite colorful when the sun is out. It hasn't really been sunny while I've been here. One day the clouds parted for a couple hours, but that's it. It's always dark and rainy. It's pitch black around 4:45 p.m. and is getting darker earlier each day. Another thing I didn't expect is that everyone here speaks English. They speak it very well.
There are a lot of refugees from other countries here, especially Turkey. Most of the Turks are Muslims, and there are very strict rules about teaching Muslims because it is so dangerous to both them and us. However, we found a Muslim family who want to hear the first discussion, so we're starting to work on that.
Yesterday we taught three discussions a first, second, and third all to different people. They all went very well, and we made follow-up appointments. We also visited some inactive members. People in Denmark are very friendly once you get to know them.
Kim Moller will be baptized on November 19! He is VERY excited! He keeps telling us about all the blessings he has received already, just for committing to baptism. We have a couple others that we're really working hard with, but progress comes slowly. Kim already keeps the Word of Wisdom and the law of chastity, which is extremely rare in Denmark. Everybody and their dog and kids smoke several packs of cigarettes a day. Hardly anybody gets married, either. There's a tax for people who get married, so marriage is more of a penalty for them.
15 November 2000: This week has been a good one. Elder Heibrock and I found some new contacts this week who are very positive toward the Church. One family is friends with a family in the ward. They (the investigators) are impressed by their good example. Our ward is outstanding The members are friendly and warm-hearted. They really help us out as missionaries.
Kim Moller will be baptized on Sunday, November 19. He has asked me to preform the baptism. He is VERY excited about becoming a member and is doing everything he knows how to be a disciple of Christ.
Next week the Sjoelland Zone will hold a Turkey Bowl in honor of Thanksgiving. I am very excited for it but I'm also tremendously frightened You see, a couple days ago I made a horrific discovery: I'm fat. Embarrassingly fat. Suit pants are becoming uncomfortable. Elder Heibrock and I are going to play basketball this afternoon, so we'll see how out of shape I really am. There's also going to be a meeting next week with all the "new" missionaries (that's me). I'll get to see my entire district from the MTC again. They were all sent over to the main island of Denmark, Jutland, and I'm all by myself in the huge city of Copenhagen, where there are millions of people that talk really, really fast. Jutland is more countryside, and the people are more relaxed. The new missionaries over there get to see each other for stake and zone conferences, and I'm the only new one not in their stake or zone. Denmark has only two stakes, so it will be fun to see them again.
It's interesting to take a step back and see what's going on from a big perspective. Sometimes we just run through life, making transitions from one stage to the next, with our head down and our eyes closed. That's when Satan attacks. It's easy to get discouraged and frustrated when we're forced out of our comfort zone, but as long as we maintain focus and don't get sidetracked, Satan will have to yank mighty hard to pull us off course. All's well.
22 November 2000: It's hard to believe I've been in Denmark a month already. I still feel lost, but when I look back at how far I've come I realize I am making progress.
Sunday was Kim Moller's baptism and the broadcast of President Hinckley speaking to the youth. The baptism went very well, and when we went to visit Kim yesterday he was still grinning from ear to ear. His attitude and appearance are changing. Before the baptism we asked if he had a white shirt and white pants for the baptism. When we went by the next day, he was wearing them around the house. We also had to explain to him that it's okay to use after shave even though it may have a little alcohol in it. He's just not supposed to drink it.
We think we found a lady with a lot of potential. She's open-minded and willing to learn. We have an appointment with her next week. Lately we've been focusing on serious investigators and reactivating members. Unfortunately, about 2/3 of the ward is inactive. Some want nothing to do with the Church, and others just need fellowshipping. The active members are very good about helping and are serious and excited about missionary work. I guess this is one of the best wards in Denmark.
Today our zone is getting together and having a "Turkey Bowl." As you know, I love football, and not being able to play for three months is very difficult to handle. I'm excited. I hope I don't hurt anyone!
Eldste Heibrock and I are invited to have Thanksgiving with the U.S. ambassador. We're excited about it. It's not so much the ambassador and the mansion thing as it is the Thanksgiving dinner. At least that's the way it is for me.
Happy holidays from the North Pole!
29 November 2000: Davs Med Jer! On Sunday Kim received the gift of the Holy Ghost as well as the Aaronic Priesthood. It's awesome to watch him progress and experience the joys and blessings that the restored Church brings. He's constantly got a smile on his face.
Thursday was the meeting for new missionaries. It was good to see all the members of my old district from the MTC. Everybody's doing great. The meeting was on Jutland, so we had a two-hour car ride getting there. That was neat to get to see more of Denmark's open country. After the meeting we had "turkey and potatoes" (it's a big stretch to call it that). It was gone in 27 seconds.
On Friday the U.S. ambassador and his family (Mormons) invited us and a bunch more of his friends to have Thanksgiving dinner. We ate in his mansion/home. They are awesome people. There were about 150 people there. I also met the ambassadors from Jamaica and Canada and some prince I forgot where he's from. You'd think with all those people, nobody would notice if I had 7ths or 12ths. I tried my best not to look too conspicuous by coming in from a different door entry each time.
6 December 2000: Christmas ornaments and lights are beginning to pop up all around. It's going to be cool being so close to Kobenhavn [Copenhagen] for Christmas. Elder Haibrock and I are invited to have Christmas Eve with Familien [family] Bernskov. We'll eat dinner and dance around the Christmas tree or something. Then on Christmas morning we're invited to be with Familien Anderson.
The missionary work continues to go great. We got a referral from England an African couple who speak English. The husband is very religious; he knows his Bible very well and, I think, honestly seeks the truth.
We've been working with a lady named Jodee Wallace. She's been in the hospital for the last month and a half and is coming out this week. She's been in there for drugs and alcohol and smoking. She was expected to stay there until she died. Nobody expected her to live, not even her. It's a total miracle to see the complete change in her now. She still can't walk yet, but she wants more than anything to become a Mormon. We're working on helping her quit smoking, and we're down to three a day. It's awesome to see her recognize God's hand in her life.
Well, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and just Happy Holidays in general to everybody. I love you all and remember, "I'll be home for Christmas!" . . . not this one, not the next one, but the one after that!
Love, Eldste Bruce E. Gardner
Mandy: daughter of Wayne and Rowena Gardner, is serving in the Chile Santiago South Mission
The Font Was Wet!
11 December 2000: Eleven-year-old Jose got baptized! It was the perfect baptism. The room was packed. There weren't enough chairs. People were crowded standing in the back. His mom and two little brothers came.
The Primary kids sang "Soy un Hijo de Dios" ["I Am a Child of God"]. Nicolas and Belen bore their testimonies, Hermana Gonzalez gave a talk, the bishop gave a welcome, and Hermana Anderson and I sang a duet. The Spirit was there.
Jose was so prepared to be baptized. He has been waiting. What makes Jose so special is his pure desire. Pure as pure can be. As he stood in the water and Sebastian began the prayer, Jose glowed and had the biggest smile on his face. He had never been so happy. I don't think I have ever been either.
Afterward we watched the testimony of Elder Scott from the Special Witnesses of Christ video. The Spirit was still strong. Everyone felt it. Good thing, too, as we had four investigators there and then two more arrived after the service. Everything went so well.
Sebastian Maturana performed the baptism, and I don't think I've ever met a prouder man than he was. It was his first baptism, and he was excited and happy to be doing it. The bishop was happy, too. He got choked up at the baptism, and after having 65 people at church, he thanked us over and over and told us that we were doing a great job.
After the baptismal service we had cookies and juice, and everyone talked and mingled for almost an hour. It was perfect. By then both of Jose's nonmember parents had arrived and all the members put their arms around them. They stayed and talked to everyone, and although they are both naturally shy I think they enjoyed it. We are going to link this family for eternity! We are praying now to figure out the best way to do it.
Oh, what a beautiful day, and I mean that literally. The day could not have been more beautiful. This whole week has been beautiful. I have been so blessed this past week. I cannot believe it. I have been filled with such an immense joy. I am so happy. I am so content and at peace.
The greatest feeling of the day finally hit me after the service and everything was over. Hermana Anderson and I were cleaning, and I walked into the room with the font. We had our Church music playing softly in the background, and not another soul was in the room. The lights were even off. I went over to the font and opened the curtain. The warmth and moisture of the drained water hit my face, and I felt that chlorine smell. The font was wet!!
My spirit almost leaped out of my body for joy. I had looked at that font many times in the past two months, and it was always dry and empty. It almost made me sad to look at it. But not now.
I knelt down by the font and did my best to stop time and freeze it for a moment just to capture and soak everything in and hold onto the feeling. I had a smile on my face.
Then I glanced up and saw myself in the mirror above the font. I saw myself as a missionary wearing my name tag and with my face overcome with joy as I knelt by the font. I hope I never forget that picture or feeling. It was amazing.
Love, Hermana Mandy Ann Gardner
Paul: son of Marvin and Mary Gardner, is serving in the Paraguay Asuncion Mission
Plug Your Ears!
30 October 2000: On Tuesday we had a wonderful zone conference. President Cheney spoke by the Spirit and strengthened my testimony in a tremendous way. One of the scriptures he shared was, "Behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him" (D&C 18:11). It says, "the Lord, your Redeemer." He is talking to each one of us individually, inviting us to repent and experience great joy with Him in His kingdom. We are all children of God. He has not abandoned us here on earth. He sent His Son. We can have His Spirit to be with us, but we must be valiant.
We cannot let Satan bring us down, family. We must be valiant servants of Him who saved us. Satan knows how to tempt us. Don't listen! Plug your ears! Heavenly Father will help us overcome Satan's temptations as we pray and seek the guidance of His holy Spirit.
On Thursday I heard and felt an Apostle of the Lord bear testimony of the resurrected Savior. Elder Richard G. Scott spoke to us. I was blessed with the privilege to look into Elder Scott's eyes, shake his hand, and feel the love he has for Christ. When Elder Scott bore his testimony, the chapel was completely silent. He said in a soft, piercing voice, "Yo se que Jesus es el Cristo resucitado. El vive." ["I know that Jesus is the resurrected Christ. He lives."] I felt the Spirit, and I know those words are true.
Then we sang "I Know That My Redeemer Lives," verses 1 and 4 in Spanish, verse 2 in English, and verse 3 in Guaran*. I couldn't sing. I couldn't even whisper the words. But I sang as loud as I could in my heart. The Lord gave me knowledge by "the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost" (D&C 121:26). I know my Savior lives. I know He loves me.
On Saturday we baptized Rodrigo, Alexis, Jovana, and Janina. A lot of people were there, mostly inactive relatives and investigators. Yesterday we confirmed all four of them members of the Church.
Before the baptism, Hermana Bordenave walked a few blocks to go buy juice. As she was walking back, a guy on a motorcycle stripped her purse right off her shoulder and rode off. She was trembling and scared when she arrived at the Church. She had lost her wallet with money in it and the keys to the house, among other things. Then yesterday, they were all looking for a backup key to a closet drawer to be able to get out some saved money. Right before the mom was going to break the closet, little Alexis told everyone to wait, walked right up to another drawer, moved some clothes around, and found the keys. Everyone asked him how he knew where they were. He answered, "I just heard a soft voice whisper in my ear." The Holy Ghost works even the very day it is received!
20 November 2000: I just ate a bowl of Froot Loops. I decided I deserved it after eating . . . MONDONGO last Friday. Urgh. Today is Monday, and I am still burping that stuff up. For those not familiar with the "M" word, I ate cow intestine. It looks like thin carpet with little hairs growing on top. I took one whiff of it and was shot back to my Villarrica days. I seriously almost threw up all over this poor granny's dinner table. Of course, I said I loved it, and she gave me some more. I have mastered the put-it-in-and-swallow method. If you chew it or let it stay on the tongue for too long, it's all over . . . literally. For those in Chile, it is called "watiti," and for those in the United States, "Not Your Lucky Day."
All right, enough already about cow innards. Yesterday at stake conference we had seven investigators from four different families! The first thing one of them said to me after the conference was, "Do you mean to tell me that there is a living prophet on the earth today?" I smiled and gave him a brief charla 3.
A member named Jaime goes out with us whenever he can, and we also teach people in his home. He helps our investigators understand. He is poor, yet he always buys something to give to the family we're visiting.
On Friday we taught three charla 2's and set a baptismal date for December 9 for each of them. Saturday night we visited Jaime's friend, Christian Machado, in the hospital, and I gave him a blessing of health. I could see in his smile how thankful he was. He will become a member soon.
Can you imagine how happy I am right now?! Finally our hard work is paying off. We have no time anymore; our agenda is full of appointments before the week begins. Last week we taught 13 charlas two through six, and in 11 of those we had a member present. Members are the key! It's the only really effective way to go.
27 November 2000: On Thanksgiving, we taught a lot of charlas. And we bought a big ol' chicken straight off the fire from a street vendor. I'm still alive, so we'll probably do it again because it was delicious.
I don't know how fast this letter will arrive, but just in case, Merry Christmas! This year went by faster than any other year ever. And what a wonderful year it was! I love being a messenger of Jesus Christ. I love teaching His true gospel. I love feeling the Spirit every day. I love reading the holy scriptures every day. I love praying every day. I love going to church and taking the sacrament every Sunday. I love baptizing. I am so blessed and so happy. I love you all, family.
Love, Elder Paul J. Gardner
Wayne and Rowena: Wayne is president of the Chile Santiago East Mission. Rowena is the "Mission Mom"
A New Record
From Wayne, 3 December 2000: It is official: A new record number of convert baptisms has been set for the Chile Santiago East Mission. The old record set in 1997 was 161 baptisms. In November the mission had 168 convert baptisms. The quality of the converts is also very good.
It is a wonderful feeling to touch the work of the Lord. I know that what we are doing is insignificant nothing compared to goings on elsewhere. But comparing us with us it feels good. The January-through-June average was 49 per month. We started in July and had 82 that month, 85, in August, 83 in September, October exploded with 129, followed by November with 168 convert baptisms. What is most gratifying is the realization that the missionaries are more obedient, are studying the scriptures more, are happier, and are coming to know their Savior better. In short, the missionaries which are my priority as a whole live closer to their Savior.
Thanksgiving was a wonderful day for our missionaries. The mission met in two groups. The north half met at Parque Bayer, and the south half met at Parque Brasil and later at the church on Mirador Azul. Those who wanted to play soccer, basketball, or volleyball played to their heart's content. Others played board games and watched Legacy. Then I spoke to them briefly about giving thanks to the Lord for our blessings. Then the food was served. Missionaries ate all they could, and there still was much left over. There was turkey, stuffing, potatoes and gravy, salads, corn, peas, pickles, breads, and then brownies and ice cream. They took the challenge and ate and ate. But when it was all over, we had not run out of anything! We all felt very blessed! I thank my Father in Heaven for the many wonderful missionaries with whom we serve.
Tomorrow is Mother's birthday. We keep a picture of her in our living room. Yesterday in the missionwide council meeting, I took her picture down and talked about her with the zone leaders and assistants. We talked for a while about what kind of girl they might marry and about their personal preparation for the right girl. It is fun occasionally to take the time to teach and talk about building and preparing for the future their lives after their missions. In many ways I feel that the elders and sister missionaries are our sons and daughters.
Oh, I love this opportunity. Life here on the mission is rigorous, demanding, and unpredictable. But Rowena and I have never been closer, and we have never been happier. There is no doubt this is His work.
From Rowena, 9 December 2000: December!!!?? I haven't even had time to decide how many Christmas cards I need to print out yet how many in Spanish and how many in English. We have seen Mandy a couple of times in the last month or so. She has had to have dental work done, so I go on "exchanges" with her and her companion and we get stuff done that way.
We had a full-fledged Thanksgiving dinner with turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes and gravy and cole slaw (green salad is a little tough for 200 people). Since pumpkins don't live down here right now, we had to settle for brownies and all-you-can-eat ice cream. I didn't hear too many complaints. We are going to try to have the same meal (sorry but our menu changer got stuck!) for Christmas. The only problem is that our chief cook, Ana, doesn't work on Saturday or Sunday, and the Cocina (cafeteria) is closed on Sunday and Monday, and Christmas Day is Monday so we are trying to come up with plan B and C and D.
As Wayne told you, we got 168 baptisms in November!!!! We have gone from 8th (of the 8 missions in Chile) to 2nd in baptisms. We have some incredible missionaries, and the Lord is blessing us tremendously! I think the 168 was because we finally got Jill here and everyone was celebrating her arrival!
Spanish is coming slowly but surely. I don't have to think as long as I used to before I put my foot in my mouth and send everyone into howling fits of laughter. The sisters in the mission keep telling me they are all praying for me. I guess they realize I am really going to need some high-power help to do this! I sure love all of them, and they know it. I make a point to give each one of the sisters a hug when I see them, and some of them just never want to let go. You can really tell how much they miss home and a mother's love. Note to all moms and sisters: Hug all the sister missionaries they all need it. (The elders need it too, but we will leave that up to the men!!!!)
Love to all, Rowena
Brent: son of Brent and Kris Gardner, is serving in the Brazil Recife Mission
A Feeble Old Man
17 November 2000: "Happy Birthday to me, Happy birthday to me." Wow! Can you believe I am 21 years old? I can't! 21 is considered an old man. Do you remember that baby-faced boy that got on the plane two years ago? Well, I think you will get the shock of your life when a feeble old man comes off the airplane with my name tag on.
This week was great. We started working at the temple on Tuesday the 7th and worked until Friday. This week we have been working every other day. I have been doing a variety of things. I have been in charge of parking, worked at the refreshment table, and been a receptionist. I like working at the temple a lot of people are touched by the Spirit. On Wednesday, for example, there were a bunch of anti-Mormons there handing out pamphlets. We gave them water, treated them well, and even returned all the pamphlets we got our hands on. When I returned the first bundle, the man about fainted because he was so surprised. We were so nice to him that he gave up, asked forgiveness, and took off. That's how you destroy an enemy you make a friend out of him. There are many similar things that are happening. I am so lucky that I will get to see the dedication.
23 November 2000: Happy Thanksgiving! It is weird to think it is already Thanksgiving. That means that today you are all over at Grandma's having a huge feast, and that tomorrow you will be going to cut down the Christmas tree. It is hard to believe, especially because today is a regular old day for me.
The biggest news of the week is that I got my flight plans. I will be leaving Recife at 2 p.m. on December 20, and after flying all around Brazil and the world, will finally arrive home at 11:00 a.m. on December 21.
I had a great week. We are working at the temple a lot, and I am loving it. We are also getting some people ready to be baptized.
I love you a lot. See you soon.
Love, Elder Brent Calvin Gardner, Jr.