Thursday, October 29, 2009

Missionaries Report from Out of Africa

Warm greetings to family and friends!

Out of Africa a message is heard. What is this message that seems to be coming from so very many different places, and day-by-day is growing in strength and in scope? It is the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. The message is being heard by more and more people and they in turn are telling family, friends and neighbors about a gospel which brings hope and the promise of salvation for all those who are willing to fully embrace and live the standards this gospel sets forth. Those who forsake the ways of their past, who pray, study, and live the principles the dedicated and able missionaries teach, find joy and understanding like they have never heard nor felt before.

This gospel is refreshing and satisfying, like delicious water bubbling from a cold and beautiful spring on the side of a tree shaded hill. It is a pleasant soul filling process that quenches deep spiritual thirst just as that cool spring water revives a tired, dusty, parched and weary traveler. This beautiful gospel answers age old questions not answered satisfactorily until these latter days. The scriptures the missionaries effectively use reveal truths long hidden from the casual, unmotivated reader.

Where missionaries in some parts of this vast world must work ever so diligently to hopefully find a family, or an individual to teach, the missionaries in many African countries have large teaching pools of those persons who are anxious and eager to be taught and baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is certainly not uncommon for the missionaries to have ten or more baptisms to attend to every week or two.

The missionaries are diverse in their individual backgrounds. There are many who arrive from the United States, England, Canada, and other nations, as well as the fine young men and women who come from Kenya, Botswana, South Africa, Nigeria, The Democratic Republic of Congo, and many other countries where the Church has been established. Those coming from the African countries are generally black members, but there are also those caucasian members whose roots run deep from several generations of their families being members. Almost all of these young men and women enter the MTC here in Johannesburg, to be lovingly and effectively taught to become an army of God, anxious to go forth and prove themselves in the battle for human souls as well trained ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is an air of anticipation and excitement, in their walk and in their voices. They are happy to be here, ready to go forth and serve, even as Helaman's stripling warriors were well prepared for their assignment. These missionaries are capable and full of great faith to do as they had been prepared to do, to teach and testify of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Almost all of the black missionaries come out of places of poverty. So many live in the townships, where thousands upon thousands live in conditions which bring tears to your eyes as you see the terribly difficult conditions deep, abject poverty places on those who have relatively little hope of ever being able to move forward to a better life. Africa is a land of rich minerals and millions of acres of rich productive farm land. It is a land where there are so many millionaires, and so very many more millions of the impoverished, untrained, visionless, masses of humanity. What is the hope for Africa? What is the hope for all the many ills which beset so many of God's children? The answer to all these many problems is found in the message of the restored gospel. Here can be found a new view of life, and life’s purpose. Here is found the courage to listen, learn, accept and commit one’s self to the possibilities of a new day dawning, to embrace fully and assuredly that which cannot be bought, that which a loving Heavenly Father, and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, make available to those who will but try to learn and grow. It is a marvelous thing to witness the joy seen in the faces of the members here. They become fully dedicated to the Lord and His work. Oh, they struggle and have challenges - don’t we all - but they see something tangible, something beautiful and rewarding in every way as they take hold of the restored gospel truths.

We look in amazement every Sunday as we see how very well dressed are those who live in such squalor conditions. The men and boys wear brilliantly white shirts, and the women and girls are dressed in their very finest, they only wear on Sunday, or for some very special occasion. They bring their scriptures with them and they use those scriptures. When they give talks, even the very young, speak with confidence and love for the Lord their God. When the priests say the sacrament prayers, it is a thing of beauty. When they sing, they really sound wonderful, for they sing from their hearts and with emotion and great feeling. Last Fast Day, near the end of the service, two young men bore testimonies which brought tears to our eyes. Theirs were not just casual, unfeeling words spoken; these two gave from the depth of their very beings the thoughts that sprang from deep within their souls. Their testimonies were what one would normally hear from someone with decades of rich spiritual background, but these two could not have been a day over the age of ten. Oh, what composure, and their testimony was not casual, repetitious, nor what is commonly heard from one of that age. Giants, (spiritual), are being trained and prepared in the role of leaders in the Church and in the land.

Do we love Africa? Oh yes! We love the land and we love the people. There is here, “the arm of the Lord stretched out still”. The Spirit is brooding over Africa. The Church is growing and it is a delight to be here, and be a part of this, the Lord’s work. We are busy, we have a large number of students who are attending a college, university, trade school, or some other training NGO, (non-government organization). It is a challenge to work through the methods used to bring fruition to the Perpetual Education Fund program of helping the impoverished to realize educational opportunities not even dreamed of here ten years ago.

We send our love and greetings to you. May the Lord bless you abundantly in every righteous effort. May your testimonies grow as you nourish them with the good word of God. The gospel is true, the work is marvelous. These are the end times. Shall we labor diligently so as to not have any empty chairs in the kingdom of our Father?

Elder Dean and Sister Margaret Hooks
Perpetual Education Fund Missionaries
Johannesburg, South Africa

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Daddy/Daughter Date

Seven Primary girls, over age 8 and their fathers, gathered on Thursday, October 22 at the church for a country-themed Daddy/Daughter Date complete with hay bales, line dancing, wheelbarrow racing and high-spirited riding ponies with names like "Lightning," "Bronco," "Rocky Doc," "Bruzer" and "Bob!" Wilson and Dave Wright won the horse race. Dads and daughters in jeans and cowboy hats enjoyed a tasty dinner of sloppy joe sandwiches, chips, watermelon, with brownies and ice cream for dessert, much of the food prepared by the moms. Thanks to Shannon Evans and Elaine Christensen for a memorable event, the first of many for the girls as well as for new Primary president Olene Walker.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Meet the Harrisons

Jim and Debbie Harrison have lived in St. George for more than five years, but recently moved to Bloomington and live at 971 Cactus Circle. Jim and Debbie were high school sweethearts in their hometown of Salt Lake City and have been married 34 years. When Jim returned from military service and a fulltime mission in Nova Scotia, he begged and pleaded enough that Debbie agreed to marry him. After graduating from BYU they eventually settled down in Mink Creek, Idaho where they raised their two daughters, Autumn and Brooke, on a cattle ranch. Autumn moved to St. George a couple of years ago and recently meet a great guy. Jim and Debbie think they can hear wedding bells pealing in the distance. Brooke is married and lives in Kaysville and is the mother of the Harrison’s three beautiful grandchildren. Always active in the Church, Jim and Debbie have happily served in many callings and currently serve as ordinance workers in the St. George temple. The Harrison’s love riding mountain bikes, snow skiing and especially boating and water skiing which brought them to St. George because of its close proximity to Lake Powell. Jim has a professional background in communications and the ward's second Debbie Harrison is currently employed with Quest Diagnostics as a medical technologist.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Beehives Help Heart Patients

About 2 months ago, in a Beehive class planning meeting, Kendi Hansen proposed a service project. She mentioned that her mom, who works as a CNA at Dixie Regional Medical Center, would like to start a video library to benefit long term patients in the hospital’s cardiac care unit. The girls were excited and created a handout explaining the project and asking members of the Bloomington 7th Ward to donate pre-viewed or new DVD's. The young women subsequently collected 4 boxes of videos and DVD’s in 2 months. On Sunday, Oct. 4, a delegation of 3 Beehives, including Elizabeth Larson (daughter of Aaron and Rebecca), Kendi Hansen (daughter of Stacy Sappington Foote) and Aspen Erskine (daughter of Jerry and Lorraine), accompanied by Karin Smith, one of their leaders, delivered the collection of more than 50 films to the hospital.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

'Til We Meet Again, Cliff Rice

Cliff Ferman Rice, Darlene’s "kind, sweet husband" of nine years, passed away peacefully on Monday, September 28 at his home. The tall, distinguished and longtime faithful member of the Bloomington 7th Ward was a native son of Smethport, Pennsylvania where at age 6 he developed blood poisoning. Doctors advised amputating his infected arm, but his parents knew of a medicine woman who was said to work miracles. Her native salve saved his arm . . . and began what would become Cliff's lifelong affection for native American people and their culture.

Cliff served in the US Navy during World War II, stationed in the Aleutian Islands and later in Salt Lake City where he met and married Joyce Green, a little Mormon girl from Clearfield. It was through Joyce and others willing to share their testimonies - and Cliff's own reading of the Joseph Smith story - that, at age 23, he was ready to be baptized. Throughout his adult life, he embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ with faith and devotion and served faithfully in many ward and stake callings.

After his military service, Cliff graduated from Utah State University with a degree in Engineering Technology, then worked for the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) during the day and built homes in the evenings and on weekends - including designing and constructing homes for each of his four children. After his retirement in 1979, the couple moved to St. George.

Joyce and Cliff shared 54 years together and a happy relationship with their four children, eight grandchildren and five great grandchildren. After Joyce’s death in 1999, he married Darlene with whom he spent the last years of his life attending concerts and plays, golfing, and together in church service including a mission to San Diego in 2002.

Cliff will be remembered as a hardworking, funloving man of integrity with a fiesty sense of humor, a permanent smile and who quietly led by example. He was respectful of everyone, including those of other ethnicities and cultures; advised his children and grandchildren to "sing to your children" and loved brightly colored shirts. Cliff was widely sought after for his expertise in residential building construction. Many homes and young homebuilders in the St. George area bear the imprint of his accumulated knowledge and experience.

Cliff Rice will be missed by his family - and members of the 7th Ward - who enjoyed his gentle good nature and strong testimony.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

"Eight is Great" Says Newest Member

"Eight is great," says Shane Simkins who was baptized and confirmed by his father Randy on Saturday, September 25 in the presence of his mother, Sharlan; sister, Summer; cousins Jarett and Jillian, uncles, aunts, grandparents and members of the ward. Shane, who reached the age of accountability this month, has learned at home and in Primary about the importance of his baptism by immersion which represents the burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ and serves as a reminder to Shane of his promise to follow the Savior and keep His commandments.