Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christmas day - 2015

We have had a very eventful week and we have begun our office assignments. We are working with a neat couple, the Peppingers, who are from South Jordan, Utah. They have been in place since September. Elder Peppinger serves as the finance guru and keeps tract of all the vendor receipts (housing, office supplies, etc.) and this is a huge task. Sister Peppinger is the office receptionist and is much loved by the missionaries. She knows each of the 200 +/- missionaries serving by name and where they came from. She has an amazing memory for details. She knows where everything is and how it works. She is the glue that keeps everything running; for example, every six weeks there are changes made with reassignment of missionaries, new missionaries arriving, and others going home at the completion of their missions. She keeps tract of this. In addition, the Church recently added a new stake here in the Calgary area and this has affected the organization of the zones and districts and missionary assignments. She remains right on top of the assignments. She knows where each of the Elders and Sisters are serving and details about them that amazes us. She takes several dozen phone calls every day and always seems to know exactly who she is talking to and what they have discussed previously. Truly amazing!

The office staff includes a local couple, the Sefciks, who are in the office most days of the week but are presently away during the Christmas holidays with family in Baltimore, MD. Elder Sefcik, a retired attorney, is the housing coordinator and handles all the missionary lodging and furnishing requirements plus trying to keep landlords happy and paid. He is the one who found our apartment and made all the arrangements. He has also been managing the mission fleet of cars, which has now become my responsibility. I was able to get a rather brief overview of the fleet management before the Sefciks left but am finding I need much more instruction for handling all the fleet accounting requirements for the 87 cars in the mission fleet. Sister Sefcik handles ordering of supplies, which is a huge responsibility.

Kathy handles the office correspondence including the mission newsletter. Part of her responsibilities include assisting me with the recording and payment of vehicle maintenance receipts and monthly accounting for the vehicle logs and gas receipts. She will also serve as the recorder for findings as I inspect each of the mission vehicles at the quarterly zone conferences (what this means is that she will sit inside of a warm vehicle while I brave the cold while checking on vehicle cleanliness, fluid levels, tire condition, wiper blades, etc and call out the findings to her to record on the forms).

In our last blog we described having a dinner and program with 90+ missionaries serving in the southern half of the mission. On Tuesday of this week we did the same thing with the 100+ missionaries in the northern half of the mission, which was held here in Calgary in one of our church buildings. Again we served a ham, baked potato, and salad dinner and then had a white elephant gift exchange followed by a devotional program in the chapel and, again, it was a wonderful evening which the Elders and Sisters really enjoyed.

Light snow fell all day on Christmas Eve for a total accumulation of around 3" so the roads are slick but made for a nice White Christmas. Today, December 26th (Boxing Day in Canada) it was sunny, hazy, and cold. The high was around 14 degrees. We usually go to the office in the dark and come home in the dark due to the shortness of the day this far north so today has been fun to do some driving around while it is light. Of course, we will have the opposite condition in the summer; in June it will be light until 10:30/11:00 p.m. and become light before 4:30 a.m.

Today we were invited to President and Sister Miles home where we had a wonderful lunch. The group included President and Sister Miles' daughter, Leslie, and her husband and son, and the Assistants to the Mission President (APs). One of the APs is Elder Warenski who is from Springville, Utah, and the other is Elder Christensen who is from Logan, Utah. We had a wonderful time together. The mission home is very nice, and has been utilized as the home of the mission president and wife for over 30 years. We will include pictures at the end of the blog.  

While most of the stores we like in the U.S. are available here in Canada the merchandise is often quite different. We are trying to find the Mexican food items we like but without much success despite looking in Safeway, Walmart, Costco, and other  similar stores. There is a large Hispanic population here but obviously must shop in stores that cater to the population; we will have to find out where they are. Opening a bank account here was an interesting process. We had gone into a local bank to simply convert some U.S. currency to Canadian dollars but were told how much more favorable the exchange rate would be if we opened an account. Food and merchandise items are much more expensive here than in the States even after you figure in the exchange rate.

Today was our preparation day so we spent the morning cleaning our apartment and organizing it better. This afternoon we went to see Star Wars, which got mixed reviews in our household; I liked it but Kathy felt she had liked other episodes better.

Tonight we enjoyed having the two Elders serving in our ward for dinner. Our chicken enchiladas were a hit.

We hope you all had an enjoyable Christmas and were able to spend time with family and loved ones. We were able to Skype or FaceTime with our children and some of our grandchildren and enjoyed being with them electronically. Thank goodness for technology!

Have a wonderful and safe New Year's Eve celebration.  Wow, 2016 is nearly upon us!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

O Canada

We have arrived in Canada!

Our departure was delayed for a couple of reasons, first by the passing of Kathy's father, William Chapman Wooton, age 92. A musician (trumpet) and educator (high school chorus, band, and math and master woodworker (he even made his own casket), he lived a long and productive life. His funeral was very well attended and, as funerals go, it was wonderful. He will be sorely missed.

The second factor in our delayed departure was the arrival of a foot and a half of snow, which was welcome, but made travel extremely difficult for a couple of days. Finally, on Wednesday, Dec. 16th we were underway. Travel was okay but difficult in spots, especially in northern Montana where the roads were slick and snow packed. We stopped in Helena, MT to stay overnight and then proceeded on to Calgary on Thursday. Despite the sometimes treacherous weather, it was beautiful to travel through the mountains and forests laden with snow. It was a real Christmas scene.  

We arrived in Calgary around 4:00 p.m. and drove directly to the Mission Office where we met the housing coordinator , Elder Sefcik, and four sets of Elders anxious to help us move in. From the office we followed them to our apartment building where all hands made quick work of moving our household goods from the trailer and our SUV into the elevator and to the 12th floor where we will be living for the next 18 months.

Our first official day began with Kathy going to the office to begin learning her duties while I assisted Elder Sefcik and others in transporting some 16 Elders and Sisters from the mission home to the airport. Having completed their missions, they are returning home. It was wonderful to see the genuine love and respect shown by them as they said their goodbyes to each other and to their leaders.

The balance of the day was spent being trained in our duties, especially the management of the mission's fleet of 87 cars and pickups and office vehicles. The details that need to be remembered are many and shifting. Inspections of vehicles, tires, fluids, and ensuring that the missionaries clean and care for the cars will be a large part of Kathy's and my responsibilities, also accounting for the regular oil changes and tire care with the contracted service providers, Kal Tire and Canadian Tire, and arranging for repairs when needed, incoming new vehicles, and sale of outgoing vehicles when they reach 60-70,000 miles. I will also have some responsibility for arranging medical care for sick or injured missionaries, and Kathy will have several office duties including the monthly newsletter. There is one other office couple and a volunteer couple, the Sefciks, who work three days a week in the office.

Yesterday the entire office staff traveled to Lethbridge and joined the mission president, President Miles, and his wife, Lori, and the nearly 100 missionaries serving in the south part of the mission. We prepared a dinner of baked ham, baked potatoes, Caesar salad, rolls, and dessert for them. Some had traveled four to five hours to get there from eastern British Columbia. The gathering was so touching as many of them had served with each other in other areas and had not seen each other some time. Again the love and fellowship was marvelous to behold. They relaxed and had a wonderful time. They had each brought a white elephant gift at the request of Sister Miles and after dinner she had them sit in two large circles. As she read, Twas the Night Before Christmas, into which she had blended many "lefts" and "rights", when she read the word "right" they would each pass the gift to the right, and to the left when she read "left". At the end of the poem they opened the gift they had in their hands. It was fun to watch. I will include a video clip of this if I can figure out how to do it. (Couldn't do it so have posted it on my Facebook page - go there (Evan Thorley) to see the full video clip.)

The final part of the afternoon was to meet in the chapel for a devotional. President and Sister Miles spoke. There were several musical numbers including Kathy and I singing a Christmas song, "Were You There?", a violin solo, and two vocal solos. The most touching part of the devotional was the reading of the real Christmas story from Luke, which was done in the three languages for which we have missionaries serving, English, Spanish, and Mandarin Chinese. This was done by non-native speakers. The English version was done by a Sister from China who was disowned by her family when she joined the Church. She arrived at the MTC with hardly any English language skills. She is now only 3 months into her mission. She apologized in near perfect English for her lack of English skills then went on to read the story in Luke with amazingly good grasp of English. She was so cute and personable; she brought tears to everyone's eyes. The musical numbers were all accompanied by Elder Carter, a very accomplished pianist, who turned out to be from Cedar City, UT (my home area) so it was fun to play "who do you know".

Upon returning to Calgary (incidentally the driving time between Calgary and Lethbridge is over two hours), we gathered at the home of Elder Sefcik, one of the local volunteers, to watch the recorded game between BYU and University of Utah at the Las Vegas Bowl. Kathy and I were very tired so when the score became 35-0 due to turnovers by BYU, we left and went home. Little did we know that BYU would eventually outplay Utah for the remaining 3/4 of the game and would draw so close to winning.

Today was a very spiritual day for a variety of reasons: (1) traveling with the other senior couples serving in the mission and getting to know them, their histories, and their reasons for serving, (2) seeing the love and affection the Elders and Sisters have for each other and their devotion to the work, (3) seeing the love that President and Sister Miles have for each of the missionaries serving, and (4) basking in the presence of these young missionaries, - so clear eyed, honest, and dedicated. This is so refreshing when measured against the apathy and lack of purpose seen in so much of our society. Truly these young people will be leaders in society and in the Church, and to think that this scene is repeated over and over again in the other missions of the Church.

We hope and pray that this Christmas week will bring you closer to the Savior of the World as you contemplate His miraculous birth and His sinless life, and the precious gift of love and salvation He has given us.    

D&C 6:13 - "If thou wilt do good, yea, and hold out faithful to the end, thou shalt be saved in the kingdom of God; which is the greatest of all the gifts of God; for there is no gift greater than the gift of salvation."
Early morning view looking south from our 12th floor apartment

Our backyard on our planned day of departure

Monday, December 7, 2015

Thorleys' Northern Exposure

This is installment #1 of our mission blog.

Kathy and I reported to the MTC last Monday and began our official training. As with all missionaries, the first week is the common block and focuses on the manual, "Preach My Gospel". This group of senior couples is one of the largest groups they have ever had at the MTC, some 70 couples and several senior sisters. Each couple/sister was asked to stand and tell where they live, where they will be serving, and the function they will have. The range of assignment locations was truly inspiring; such places as Beruit, Lebanon, the Marshall Islands, Ghana, and so on, and the types of assignments included such things as Leadership Support, Family History, Records Preservation, Military Relations, Seminaries and Institutes, Young Single Adult support, Humanitarian, Self Reliance, Public Relations, and Office Support. . For many of the couples, this is not their first mission.

We began each day in a large conference room, then split up into districts in smaller rooms for practice sessions. Most of the classes are taught by returned missionaries who are students at BYU or UVU. They are incredible and wise beyond their years. Volunteers from the surrounding area come in to become "investigators" and serve as guinea pigs for practicing our teaching skills. For Kathy and many others, this was anxiety provoking but serves to really focus our efforts to become effective and empathetic teachers.

Especially inspiring is mingling with the young Elders and Sisters at lunch time and at other times. They love sharing their testimonies and experiences and where they will be serving. The dining room is an orchestrated mass movement with the hundreds of hungry missionaries making their way to one of four serving areas, then to tables, and then to the tray return area. Wednesdays and Sundays include ice cream from the BYU Creamery which is wonderful (but not as good as Aggie ice cream in my estimation, being a USU graduate), and speaking of USU; we ran into a couple and I thought, the wife looks very familiar to me. As we visited, it turns out she and I had dated while at USU. Needless to say, 50 years later we don't look quite like we did then. It was fun to reminisce a bit. They will be serving here in the Salt Lake Valley at Church Headquarters.

Next week we will return to the MTC for training specific to our calling as office missionaries. We will be responsible for the mission fleet of 80+ cars, mission finances, etc. Evan will also serve as mission medical support and attended the training a few weeks ago. We are planning to drag a trailer with some of our things including exercise equipment, our bicycles, a computer, some furnishings, cookware, etc. The amount of "stuff" will easily exceed the capacity of our Hyundai Santa Fe, hence the need for a trailer!

One sad note to add before we end this blog: during our week at the MTC we had a chance to visit with Kathy's father who is in Spanish Fork in a care center. At 92 years of age and not doing well, we knew it might be the last time we would see him, and, in fact, we had some concern that we would no sooner arrive in Calgary and have to turn around and return for his funeral. He died the next day after we visited him. We are so glad we went to see him. His funeral will be this Saturday, which is the day we intended to head for Calgary. We will stay and attend the funeral and then head to Calgary early the following week.

So stay tuned for installment #2; not sure whether this will be done at the end of our second week at the MTC or after we arrive in Calgary. We are excited to serve and look forward to the many experiences that lie ahead. We love you all and hope you will stay in touch through email. My email address is:, and Kathy's address is: