Sunday, April 24, 2016

It has been another busy transfer week. 

Each time we receive a new group of missionaries as we did on Tuesday it means it is time to say goodbye to a similar sized group of missionaries who are going home, new companionships are formed as new missionaries join their missionary trainers, some missionaries are scheduled to go from Calgary to the south mission and other missionaries then come from the south mission to the north areas in and around Calgary. It takes President and Sister Miles with the assistance of the two Assistants to the President considerable time to make these assignments. There are many variables which have to be taken into consideration: the three languages our missionaries speak (English, Mandarin, and Spanish), who is eligible to drive (or not), who has served in a given area for quite some time and is due a change, personalities, health needs, and so on. I am so happy I do not have to make these assignment decisions. Inspiration is involved but “information precedes inspiration” as we so well know. Thank goodness for computer assistance as companionships are considered. It is amazing to see, in the end, how well it all works out from the office point of view.

To give you an idea of the first day in the mission for our newly arriving Elders and Sisters, at least for the ones being assigned to North and South American missions; they leave the Missionary Training Center in Provo very early in the morning on a Tuesday and are transported to the airport in Salt Lake City where they wait for their particular flights to the varying destinations. For our group arriving on Tuesday their day began around 1:00 a.m. They arrived about 11:15 a.m. here in Calgary. They next go through customs and this can be a rather lengthy process depending on the size of the group and how many are coming from outside of Canada. When they are all through customs we load them and their baggage into the mission vehicles and drive them to the mission home where they kick off their shoes (it is a custom in Canada that everyone removes his or her shoes as they enter a private residence) and the local training begins. The office staff is introduced and we each have certain things we teach them such as how their mission funding and gas cards work, local laws and customs, driving requirements and safe vehicle use, expectations for upkeep of cars and apartments, telephone and internet use and limitations, how the mail system works in Alberta and how they receive their mail (it all comes to the mission office first and then goes out via the Zone Leaders once a week), ordering supplies, how health issues are handled, etc. This involves several information sheets (since they will remember only some of what we present), and certain forms that must be completed. We try to make it interesting but fatigue from their long day takes its toll so there are stretch breaks and an occasional hymn. Finally they have dinner and have a chance to get to bed but not before each of them has an interview with President Miles which enables him to get to know each of them, their expectations and concerns, and this interview helps with his assignment decisions.

The training continues on Wednesday when each of them first meets their new companion and together they receive additional training before heading out to their assigned area of labor.

On Thursday morning we meet all the Elders and Sisters being transferred and their “old” companions at 9:00 a.m. in a church parking lot. All those going south load up their baggage in the trailer and then climb into one of the mission vehicles and we head for Lethbridge, nearly two hours south. In the meantime those who have briefly lost a companion are paired up with another Elder of Sister in the same circumstance and they go to an area close in and do some work while they await the arrival of their new companions from the south mission. In the meantime the same thing is happening in a church parking lot in Lethbridge although it begins at 11:00 a.m. The convoy of missionaries arrives from the north, new companions are met, baggage is unloaded (see more on this below), cars are loaded up, and the new companionships head to their assigned areas. Those missionaries going north load up and the convoy heads back toward Calgary. Back in Calgary the same thing happens as new companions meet, load up, and head to their areas.

This is all supposed to go smoothly, of course, but not always so…….I have remarked in a previous blog that it is a lot like herding cats. When a bunch of missionaries get together who may not have seen each other in awhile, they understandably want to visit and catch up. There are pockets of visiting missionaries scattered all over the parking lot. Instructions can be ignored or lost in the wind (the wind is an especially big problem in Lethbridge). Announcements to load up must be repeated. Efforts to ensure that cell phones, apartment keys, and car keys get into the right hands are not always successful. Likewise keeping southbound and northbound luggage separated is a big issue; for example, after all of the southbound luggage was unloaded and placed on the south side of the trailer, and the northbound luggage was then loaded, after closing up the trailer I was approached by a frantic Sister saying she couldn’t find her luggage. I unlocked the trailer and the search began. We had to unload 2/3 of the luggage before she spotted her luggage. After getting back to Calgary we got a phone call from one of the Elders who didn’t discover he was missing one of his bags until he got to his area. Sigh………!

I will include a picture I took of the 11 passengers who rode back to Calgary with me. We had to stop in Clareholm at TIM HORTONS to get some “Timbits” (they are like donut holes and come in a variety of flavors – yum, especially the carmel and sea salt ones!)

Also on Thursday, the Elders and Sisters who are returning home gather at the mission home and with President and Sister Miles they all go to the temple. It is a very emotional time for them and going to the temple is an especially fitting way to cap off their missions. It is hard for all to say goodbye. 

On Friday mornings of transfer week after we take the departing missionaries to the airport to catch their flights, things get a bit more relaxed, ….. well sort of. It is then we get calls that a cell phone or a gas card didn’t get passed on as planned, or someone left something important in their last apartment or car and so on.  Despite this it all really does go quite well, and in another six weeks we will do it all over again.

See, it is possible for me to have said all this and hardly a word about cars! Well, there are a couple of items to mention. Two new areas were opened up in the Lethbridge and Cardston zones so two cars had to be identified and driven south on Thursday as a part of the transfer process. Additionally I had to take a couple of repair items south and arrange for these to get to the missionaries needing them.

Tuesday evening after the training sessions with the new missionaries, we three couples who work in the office went to dinner together. I want to share a sign with you that hangs in the Italian restaurant where we ate. I got a kick out of it and thought you might as well.

Finally, as I have mentioned before, we live on the 12th floor of an apartment building and our apartment faces the south. Despite assurances from the locals that it rarely gets hot enough in Calgary to warrant air conditioning, we, nevertheless, have great concern for how hot it will get inside our apartment in the summer. Even on some days when the outside temperature is in the 70s we get too warm and there is no cross ventilation to help. Many of the individual apartment spaces are privately owned and this is true for our apartment. Whether an apartment currently has air conditioning or not was dependent on the individual owners and their willingness to pay the cost of individual a/c units at the time of construction. Considering what we could do to cool our apartment, while in Utah last month we bought a portable a/c unit from Amazon and brought it back with us. I made a special window adaptation for our apartment window in the bedroom and the unit works well for the bedroom, but we need the air to get to the living room as well and this would mean modifying the apartment, viz., a hole through the wall between the rooms. I bought all the component pieces needed to do this, then invited our landlord to visit so I could explain what I wanted to do. I laid out all the pieces and showed him what the wall would look like when it was done. To our delight he readily agreed to it and, in fact, wants to buy the whole system when we leave. I will include a picture of the living room side of the wall and how the a/c unit is hooked up from the bedroom. Hopefully, our problem is solved. Stayed tuned. 

Love, Evan and Kathy

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