First I have to share a beautiful picture we took during the week on a walk along the Glenmore Reservoir. It was nearly 10:00 p.m. at the time, which will give you an idea of how late the sun goes down at this time of year. Also I will include a picture of one of the balloons that we see regularly in the early morning light as we get ready to go to the office.
This has been a rather demanding week. It was transfer week, - again. I have spoken of what this is like before. For the mission staff, Monday is a day to finalize, in so far as possible, the plan for the week. We do this in a meeting with President and Sister Miles and with the Assistants to the President. Tuesday is new missionary arrival day and training sessions for them. Wednesday is the day the new missionaries head out to their assigned areas with their new companions called “trainers”. Thursday is the day for transporting some missionaries who need to go to the south mission from Calgary to Lethbridge, and for bringing back missionaries being transferred to the north mission and points in between. Thursday is also the evening for the missionaries who are about to return home to go to the Calgary Temple. Friday is the day for transporting the outgoing missionaries to the airport, wishing them well, and seeing them off as they return to their homes. This transfer process occurs every six weeks on average.
For the missionaries from the MTC the day begins around 2:30 a.m.; they get up, pack, have a quick breakfast, and catch their transportation to the Salt Lake airport. Their trip from Salt Lake to Calgary may take them via San Francisco, Portland, or Denver, or as was the case this week, Minneapolis, before they arrive in Calgary. As Kathy and I learned last week, there are a couple of daily but very expensive, non-stop flights from SLC to Calgary, but the trip is in a small jet aircraft and the times not always convenient. Since there are much less expensive connections to be made that involve interim stops, these save the Church thousands of dollars. Our trip last weekend was direct as this was thought to be in the best interest of the sick missionary with whom we flew.
Anyway, back to transfer week. Assignments of the new missionaries to areas and companions does not happen until President Miles has a chance to interview each later in the day on Tuesday. This gives him a chance to get to know them and it is during this interview he is able to get a sense, as guided by the Spirit, where they should be assigned and with whom they should serve. This occurs one by one while we are conducting training session with the entire group where we discuss housing, cars, hygiene, finances, etc. Later that same evening the final decisions regarding assignments are made and word goes out by text and email who is going where.
Prior to the arrival of the new missionaries the President has determined who will serve as trainers for these “newbies”, and it is the role of the trainer to help orient, train, and otherwise get the new missionary off on the right foot for the demanding work ahead. On Wednesday the trainers come to Calgary to meet the newbies and off they go to their assigned areas.
For the mission office staff, transfer week actually begins on Monday and, to some degree even before Monday, as much needs to be considered and planned. When we meet on Monday we have no idea of what the specific changes of assignments will be among the 207 missionaries currently serving. In my role as the fleet manager, I have to consider what cars will be needed and where, where there will be new areas opened up and which will be closed, which cars need to come north to Calgary and be readied for sale, and, if we have any new cars, where to place them. Each car change requires paperwork to track the vehicle, assign a gas card and log book, determine who will be driving them as we move them around, what service is required prior to the trip, etc.
Then there is the trip itself to plan. 15-20 missionaries may change locations going in each direction. This necessitates creating a list of who is to travel in the 12-passenger van with me, who will be traveling in the mission truck (this is a crew cab truck), and whether some missionaries need to ride with President and Sister Miles. Then there are those who need a replacement cell phone, some items of bedding or other furnishings that we may have at the mission office to be taken with us. Mail and packages received during the previous week is separated and placed in large bags to be loaded up and taken to each of the Zone Leaders to distribute to the missionaries in their zone. The whole process is a bit of a logistical challenge to say the least.
All in all the week went very well. On Thursday after returning to Calgary, Kathy and I were able to go with the outgoing missionaries and President and Sister Miles to attend the temple with them. This is a special treat for us and especially for the missionaries just before they return home. Following is the picture of the group on the steps of the temple.
After taking the outgoing missionaries to the airport on Friday, it was time to take a bit of a breather, sort of back to business as usual, but the week was not yet over……On Friday evening we traveled back to Lethbridge and stayed overnight to be there for a special event on Saturday morning. This was a mission-wide gathering to sit at the feet of President Nelson, the President of the Quorum of the Twelve. What a treat! President Nelson was accompanied by Elder Suarez of the President of the Seventies Quorum and other general authorities involved with overseeing the missionary work; they were also accompanied by their wives.
Meeting with Elder Nelson was a once in a lifetime treat. He is truly a legend; from his career as a famous heart surgeon and pioneer in artificial heart research to the leadership of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles. I mention this for the readers of this blog who may not be familiar with Russell M. Nelson. For a man of his age (91) his energy and vitality is remarkable. His talk was filled with humor and his knowledge of the scriptures is amazing. He asked for missionaries to stand who were from the various continents. As he listed them and the missionaries stood, he greeted them in their native tongue. He asked for the Elders and Sisters to share things they had learned by the Spirit while on their mission and for each contribution he quoted scriptures that shed additional light to clarify and add to the points made. Each of the visiting General Authorities and their wives spoke as well as did President and Sister Miles. Sister Nelson, who is from nearby Raymond, Alberta, also gave a wonderful talk. She was a professor at the University of Calgary for over 20 years. She and Elder Nelson met while sharing a speaking assignment several years ago. Elder Nelson’s wife, of course, had passed away some years before and it was on this shared assignment that Elder and Sister Nelson first met. The rest is history!
So now we are home and taking a breather before we start another week. As busy as we are, the work is wonderful and the time is passing all too quickly.
We love you all. You are in our thoughts and prayers constantly.