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November 6, 2005
Apparently there is no minimum of time before you report to begin a mission. Kent and I were called on Thursday to begin in 2 weeks on a 2 year mission! The Blanding 7th Ward lost a chorister in RS, newsletter editor, half the choir (according to our bishopric, sigh but it was actually only half the tenor and half the soprano sections), choir president and co-president, president/secretary of the Gospel Doctrine class, two home teachers (yep, I was Kent's companion in the HT endeavors), and a visiting teacher. Bishop said he knew it was right, even so.

I'll bet you didn't even know we had our papers in, did you.... cuz we didn't. Our Bishop called us for the Stake president; we will be service missionaries in the White Mesa branch, which is tiny; people from Blanding are the presidency and most everything else. It is on the Ute reservation. I asked the Bishop what a service missionary does, and he said basically anything that the branch president asks us to do... probably a specific calling, as well as lots of home visits.

Emotions are all over the place, but we look forward to our mission, and will keep you posted.

November 6 question from Hilary:
Were you totally surprised or did you expect it?
My answer: Totally surprised.
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November 20, 2005; First week in our new branch:
Last week was stake conference, so today was our first time at the White Mesa branch. Our meetings are form 11:00 to 1:00; sacrament meeting and then Primary/YW/YM/RS/Priesthood. There were about 41 people at Sacrament (hard to know when people kept coming and going, LOL). About 10 were from the community; the rest, like us, have been called to work in the branch.

No Native American YW or YM attended, and that is normal; they get beat up by the "bad kids" if they go to church!

There were 5 in RS; the mother, aunt, and grandmother of two boys, 9 and 11 who were baptized yesterday, the RS president who is the branch president's wife, and me. There were no men from the community there during any meetings, and about 5 adult women from the community during sacrament meeting.

When we have music in RS, we sing with a CD of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir so there is some singing, LOL.

I am teaching RS next week, because the RS president probably won't be there because of Thanksgiving visitors; she asked for a volunteer to teach. But I was called after church, to work in RS anyway, LOL. I imagine it will be teaching. I'm teaching next week becasue Julie, the RS president, will be out of town, and when she asked for a volunteer, none of the ladies wanted to.

The Primary, YW, and RS presidents were sustained today, and set apart after meetings. They have one counselor each. There aren't enough active members for anymore than that, and they apparently do their own record-keeping, so no secretaries.

One of our elders that works with the branch is from Ghana; did you know the "normal" summer temp there is 130 degrees! He loves the cold weather! LOL

The first question I was asked at church was, "Do you play?" by Sister W, who is the Primary president AND the organist, and she isn't comfortable with the latter.

Saga will continue.
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November 27
There were 53 people there, and almost half were Native American. That was cool. None of the NA adults were the same as the ones who attended the week before, though.

President B asked us to be in charge of the Angel Tree at the Alco store for the White Mesa kids.
Before Sacrament meeting, I made myself go around and talk with the people there, particularly the ones I didn't know. It is hard, because some will not say much, and they almost ALL have this "wet fish" handshake, so I try not to be too forceful. I might scare them.

I gave a prayer in Sacrament meeting (they had our names on the program, and SAID they had tried to call; turns out they had our 4 year old computer dial-up phone number and we now have DSL (have for several years), so we are taking them a new phone book next Sunday), and in RS I said both prayers and gave the lesson. I chose a lesson on gratitude (The RS president doesn't know what has been taught before because they weren't using the RS curriculum). How orignal a theme, huh? It went pretty well; I couldn't get my CD player to work, so we had no music. It was kind of fun, because with only 3 ladies besides myself, I sat down to give the lesson, and got them to participate a bit, so learned a bit about them - great senses of humor.

That is about it so far. it was a quiet week because the branch president was gone. I'll try to remember to keep you posted. It will be a good journal for me to keep :o)
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Dec. 4
I was really sick, so didn't go to church.
Elder Pritchard (one of the missionaries) called and asked if we would like to attend a new member discussion for Anthony and Antonio on Thursday, so we are planning on that.
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Elder Pritchard called and said they would be unable to make the appointment because they had mission business and were in Moab. They hadn't been able to get in touch with the family. What a disappointment. Especially when we found out the Elder from Ghana is no longer in our area :o(
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Dec. 11
Another baptism yesterday. I wish they would let us know. This was a girl, 8 years old. Of course I know her from school, thought she is one of the few I haven't worked with in reading.
There were some different people there again; we had only 24, and only 1 was Native American, when the meeting started; later 5 more came in, and still later, 3 more, so over a third were NA. The RS president taught. She seems really nervous at times (I'm sure I WOULD be). Her counselor hasn't been to church since being called. Her husband is on the Native American dance and flute music circuit and they are gone a lot.

When the first speaker was done, Brother A said we would do the opening song again, if the music people would go back up. After that, there were still 35 minutes left in the meeting. Kent gave a talk called "The Living Parables." It was really good. He had to expand from 10 minutes to 30, and did great.

Julie, the RS president, had set up one row of chairs in the middle of the 8 foot square RS room. The three ladies that attended RS got folded chairs that were leaning agains the corner and put them behind the row of chairs. Julie and I laughed afterwards, and she said she was going to clean out space in the closet for any uneeded chairs. I told Julie I'd go sit by them next time, instead of in the already set up row, and she should move her teaching table into the middle of the room. Smiling. One NA lady gave one of the prayers.
Julie is married to the branch president; their son will be entering the MTC this week, so I volunteered to teach RS next week.
Our chapel is about the size of our former ward's RS room. There are accordian doors on the rooms on each side, in case they are ever needed for overflow. The overflow rooms are tiny; one is also the RS room. About 8 x 8 feet.

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Dec. 18
48 total attendance today; 9 NA.
I had 2 NA sisters in RS, so, I pulled my chair right back by them. One of them even gave a prayer.The lesson I chose was on talks from the Church archives, and I called it "President Hinckley: A Living Testimony." I forgot to bring a picture of President Hinckley, and checked the library - none! Kent said maybe we could inventory the library as part of our service, so we got the okay to do that. The branch doesn't even have a list of what is in the library!

Priesthood meeting consisted of bundling together DVD or video of "The Restoration," a Book of Mormon, and a card printed on a laptop computer which ran out of ink, and the replacement cartridge had no blue/cyan in it. Then groups went out to deliver to every home on the Mesa, member or not, with a batch of cookies some of them YW and mom had made. We didn't go (don't know our way around out there at all), but finally gout our tithing settlement in about an hour late, LOL.

There is only one family from White Mesa on the angel tree. We will shop for them On Wednesday.

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Dec. 21
It took us an hour and a half to shop for those three kids. Had to know what to buy for an 11 year old boy who asked for "trucks." We didn't get a remote control because the battery expense might be too much for a struggling family.
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Dec. 23
The Alco store called last night; they are SO swamped with the angel tree (their first year doing it), so could we deliver to the White Mesa family? So, I gathered some more goodies I had on hand, and wrapped them, and we delivered. Seems like a nice family; of course, I know the two older kids from school - taught them both, and they are great. Only the father is a member, not active, but he was very nice.

Found out the numbering starts at one end of Cowboy Street, goes to the other end, crosses, and goes back in the opposite direction, so 15 is next to 14, but across from 1... I wonder if ALL the streets are set up like that?

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Dec. 25
When Brother A got up to begin the meeting, he swaid, "Welcome to the shortest sacrament meeting ever." And he probably wasn't kidding.

There were 27 people, including one NA lady I've never seen before, at the start 5 minutes late. There was no accompanist, because she is sick and no one else in the branch plays, so they had a CD player. There were 27 in attendance, then half way through the sacrament passing 4 came in late. So there were 5 NA, 15 visitors, and a few of us others to total 31 at the end :o)

After the latecomers had the water, they took the bread back to them. Probably should have been done a little differently, but a visitor was passing the Sacrament, so he probably didn't know, and Brother A told his son, but apparently he didn't realize it should have been different. At least it got done.

The program: Opening song, opening prayer, one announcement (meeting time change), sacrament song (and they signalled to turn the CD player up, and it got turned off instead, so then we started the sacrament song over), blessing and passing the sacrament, congregational song, special number by 3 sisters who were visiting (and they had to warm up the organ to get their pitch, which took 3 minutes or so) and then they struggled to find their pitches throughout the song (poor ladies), closing hymn, and closing prayer (by a visitor). Barely time for me to get in the spirit of the day, sigh.

We went home, then went to 7th ward and heard a great program! The choir sounded wonderful, and there were SIX men! A new record. Even so, I had about 5 different people tell us they missed us in the choir.

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2/12/06
People who needed to be set apart had that done today; everyone who was involved was in the chapel at the same time. Kent was invited to participate. Brother Winder, a counselor in the branch Presidency, set apart his wife, a son, and a daughter. President Bradford set apart a daughter. Brother Aurther, the other counselor, set me apart as an instructor in the RS, and blessed me with the ability to touch those who we visit or teach. Kent has had opportunities to use the Priesthood much more in this branch than in any other place we have lived.

He is wondering why they haven't called him to a position. He thinks they will call him to teach the priesthood lessons when Benjamin Winder goes on his mission in two months. There is no Young Mens presidency - hasn't been for four months or more.

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2/19/06
Two NA young women went into the YW meeting today! All the other times they have been there, they have left as soon as Sacrament meeting was over.

We met with the Branch presidency, and the fulltime missionary couple. The missionaries have doen a lot of home visits and are finding all sorts of errors on who is where. They move a lot back an forth from here to Towac and wherever.

President Bradford put a lot of ideas out for consideration - a community garden, work projects... but he doesn't want Branch leaders to just go and cut weeds or whatever. He wants the White Mesa residents to take ownership.

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2/26/06
Today, those two young women wore skirts to church. I'm not sure if they went to the YW meeting.

We had a Relief Society board meeting today (finally, LOL). Wanda, Julie, and I will rotate conducting and teaching. So even though I was set apart as an instructor, I'll be functioning as a member of the R.S. presidency.

I found out that it isn't just the kids that get beat up for attending church... it's the men, too! No wonder they don't want to attend. What a challenge to help build testimonies in members when they know they will be persecuted.

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3/5/07
Today we finally are "missionaries." The branch president asked to meet with us after the block. He then told us of a few things going on - 18 changes in the membership list (out of 164 members). One is incarcerated, as President Bradford said (sounds better than "in jail"). He and his wife have 5 children, from 6 months to 6 years old! Julie was asked by President B to go after the meeting to see if anything was needed.

Then, they told Kent and me that they would like us to home teach a few families, of the ones who have attended sometimes. The Melchezidek Priesthood holders will all be given assignments to Home teach the 'active' Native Americans. President Bradford wants to support them and keep them active and let them know we care. Kent was asked to be in charge of home teaching assignments and identifying who in the branch has been out at least once to church since we were called. I think we both feel better now that he has been given a specific assignment. It's kind of funny, because that is what BISHOP Bradford told us we'd be doing when he issued the call in November.

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April 16, 2006
36 attended; 17 were visiting; 9 Native Americans (one of whom was very drunk).

I had the lesson prepared, and found out that Julie had asked Angela to give one. It was a great lesson, on the meaning of Easter. It is one that Iíve read, on the Internet, with items in eggs, and what they represent, such as a tiny cross, a rock, thorn. The last egg is empty, signifying the resurrection.

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4/23/06
Theme = Honesty

I didnít think to keep track of themes before, but I remember that we have had service and gratitude.

34 (10 were N.A.)
+1 +1
Total of 36 in attendance

In Relief Society, there were seven! 4 were NA

One of the talks was about Packing rocks - the bad things we do, like holding grudges. Reminds me of a story from the New Era, many years ago - carrying rocks until you are weighed down, or letting go and planting flowers so you beautify life.

Yelling, impatience, other faults I have... are they rocks (or boulders!)?

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5/14/06 last week was stake conference

14 (1 NA)
+5 +7 2+ 2+5+1+3+1
Total of 40 in attendance
The full-time missionary couple was pulled from our area; there will be no replacements. Apparently part of the reason was the time Sister Fischer was assaulted by one of the area residents.

Several deaths have occurred this week in White Mesa.

Speakers were late because they thought the meetings began at 11:00, so President Arthur called them, and they arrived at 10:30. Meeting had begun at 10:15, 15 minutes after actual starting time. The speakers were President Arthurís son and family. They did a good job of speaking, and didnít go too much beyond the meeting closing time.

There were some kids behind us, one is 9 years old (I know him from school), and the other was about 18 months. The 9 year old crawled around on his hands and knees, rapidly chasing the little one. An 11 year old came in late, and during the meeting, all three of them went out of the building and ran around, speaking in loud voices right outside the door. They were inside and outside many times. The 18 month old was making noise, a bit loud, and his mother told him to be quiet; he began to cry loudly. All three boys went outside again.

When they came back, I handed each a pencil and booklet of small papers stapled together that I had put in my church stuff - I think on inspiration. The boys were quiet for the remaining 15 minutes or so.

All the White Mesa moms went home for family gatherings, so it was just Alex Winder and me - I told her I wouldnít be offended if she went home (she does at times, exhausted from her job, I think). She did, so Kent and I came home too.

We had Sheri, Teryl, and kids, and Maurice and Corine over for dinner. Homemade enchiladas, salad, and strawberry shortcake. Yummy.

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5/21/06 Theme = Finances; it was almost all on tithing though. I wish there had been more on getting out of debt. Kent and I are so much happier since we have really committed ourselves to paying off bills.

24 (1 NA)
+1+4+4+2
total 35 in attendance

Bradfords were out of town again.

Michael Winder was sustained for ordinated to Teacher.

Last week and today, Kent was usher (The tender of the door) during the passing of the sacrament. Usually one of the Bradford boys does that.

In Relief Society, I gave both prayers, conducted, and gave the lesson. There were two ladies, both NA, in attendance, who come most regularly.

I have been finding it harder and harder to care -I feel as if I am the lone ranger or something - one alone - in running the relief society, since Wanda, the 1st counselor, hasnít come in two months now. And Julie, the president, is absent a lot - out of town about half the Sundays this year. It seems depressing to have no community/sisterhood ongoing in RS. I have a headache today; it was really bad when I got up; felt nauseated. Took some ibuprofen, and it helped some.

We still havenít had any enrichment meetings. It would be a good way to build friendships. Iím feeling so ďWho Cares?Ē because of not having sisterly connections.

I wasnít planning to do this, but I shortened my lesson and asked the ladies (Loretta Posey and Betty Lehi) what they thought about doing some enrichment nights. They helped me decide on the day and times (2nd Wednesday at 6:00), and what we should do. They had some good ideas - scrapbooking, canning, cooking new things, I suggested kids activities and family night ideas. Betty and Loretta agreed that the kids need something to do, particularly the boys, such as cub scouts. We decided that the June 12th class will be cooking, and will be making quick, easy, yummy stuff.

I noticed a binder when I was putting the CDs and such back in the closet. It has a lot of booklets in it, about how auxiliaries should function, etc. I brought it home to read. On the way home, I was reading an article by President Hinckley; a quote was highlighted about not despairing. So, I will plug along. Having organized the enrichment night makes me feel better.

I still havenít been set apart; President Bradford wanted to wait until all three of the Branch Presidency was there.

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7/2/06
27 + 2 NA
+2 +7 NA

ďNegativity vs. Positivity:Ē
President Hinckley: ďBy and large, when people are complaing, it it becasue they are thinking only of themselves."

The youth were playing musical chairs during sacrament meeting.

My thought: Noah built an ark with faith. Moses led the Israelites with faith. Lehi crossed the ocean with faith. Nephi obtained the sacred records with faith. Enoch led a city to translation with faith. All accomplished great things because of faith. Surely I can have faith enough to do the small things the Lord asks of me.

D & C 82:10 shows an example of a loving parent. We do the same type of thing with our own children: Setting guidelines/commandments (rules), and withholding privileges/blessings when guidelines arenít followed.

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7/9/06
27 + 7 NA
+ 7 NA; 18 adults total
Young Single Adults from the area spoke. Carlyle George, who I think is Ute, gave his first ever talk, and it and the others were good. He said, ďOn the Sabbath, we must sacrifice the worldly.Ē

Myriah Arthur said, ďPeople miss out on blessings because they donít know about them. How many do we miss that we know about?Ē

President Hinckley quoted: ďAttend and participate in Sabbath meetings.Ē How? Listen, ponder, think of Christ...

I taught about journals in RS - didnít know what lesson in the LDS Woman book we use for text; Julie forgot to call and tell me, and I forgot I was teaching until she had left town.

Iím still not set apart. I wonder if that happening will help my attitude be better. I have a somewhat negative feeling about being in this branch.

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8/20/06
21 + 1 NA
+6 + 4 NA
President Bradford and family were away for a grandchildís baptism. Winders were away because their oldest son was being made a Bishop today.

President Bowring and Mike Redd, our former ward bishop, were here to talk. Mike is on the High Council. Shan Redd came, and she played the organ. It was nice to have someone comfortable with playing.

The topic was forgiveness, and everyone did a great job. Very spiritual meetings today.

I taught the lesson from The Latter-Day Saint Woman on Family Home Evening. From the response of the three ladies there, no one in White Mesa holds FHE. One of the sisters tried - one time. Iím sure it was just hard for her, with little background in the church and no family to help, basically. So I emphasized the being together and doing things that fit your familyís needs, as outlined in the lesson. I told them even if they play basketball or draw with their children every week for months, the time will be well spent.

And gradually, they can add things, such as a spiritual thought and eventually, lessons.

I also showed them how photos and drawings in the Church magazines could be used to make stick puppets that could be used for FHE lessons.

It was an interesting lesson. I came up with a list of things Kent and I could do: genealogy, email family members, journal/scrapbook, plan week as needed, humanitarian projects, prepare lessons for Sunday, work on FHE kits for White Mesa members.

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10/8/06
30 attending, no N.A.; 11 N.A. trickled in as the meeting was underway.

Theme of Sacrament meeting: Temples, but the youth temple trip yesterday was canceled.

Stephanie Carroll was one of the speakers. She has jsut returned from her mission to Brazil. Her mission president told the missionaries to envions their contacts in white (Temple clothing).

I was supposed to teach the RS lesson, which I had forgotten about (I think I had known at some point), but when I asked Brother Arthur if the Bradfords would be there, he wasnít sure aobut sister Bradford, so I got a manual, in case. As the 4 N.A. sisters trickled in, I was kind of glad that the lesson was on managing a home... we can all use that. But they left after sacrament meeting, even the ones who are nearly ALWAYS at RS.

I canít seem to be anything but negative about this branch. Brother Arthur was the only one there today of the presidency. Brother Winder was at work, President Bradford was at a grandchildís baptism. The executive secretary, Val McDaniel and his wife were in a terrible accident a week ago and werenít there.

Since no one stayed for RS, Sister Winder sent someone to ask me to help in Primary. Robin McDaniel is her counselor, and since she wasnít there, they needed another adult. It was awful. There were two regulars, two visitors, and 3 sometimers - who are terrors. They rolled around on the chairs and floor, talked while everything else was going on, made obscene gestures (worse than the "finger"), went in and out, ran around the building yelling, beating on windows. The 2nd time I went out, one of the boys came into Primary. He was surprisingly well-behaved, too. The 3rd time I went out to check on the noise, Brother Arthur came out and talked to the boys. He said they didnít want to come back to primary, but wouldnít be disruptive any more. He said it is a catch 22 - do you send them home? Or keep them here while they mess around?

I wonder how do you teach reverence and love and respect in a situation like this? What a mess.

After church, someone discovered four-letter words (mainly the "F"word) in chalk on the church building. The YM and men cleaned it up. Someone had thrown handfuls of grass into the hall.

It seems as if no one really cares - not really commitment. The primary president has to play the keyboard, as well as conduct, and she had her daughter and me cutting up the game for activity time. We havenít had an enrichment night for RS in at least a year (since before we were called). The men donít have a real lesson - just read from the manual and talk. The YM donít have a teacher, so try to do things on their own; today was scripture ďhangmanĒ games.

The grandmothers and moms donít know how to teach their children/grandchildren. (Many of the grandmothers are the guardians of their grandkids). And we donítí seem to be helping them learn how.

Sister Shirley Jack saw Kent and me at the Temple on Thursday, and was telling us it has been like that at White Mesa for 20 or 30 years. It seems so futile. I wonder when something will happen to make the branch grow. And I wonder what it will be that happens.

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