Monday, October 22, 2012

OCT. 21, 2012

October 21, 2012
Dear  Family and Friends,
We hope this email finds each of you well and happy!  We just returned from speaking at a stake conference in  Hopkinsville, KY. (about 1 ½ hour drive to the north of Nashville)   I can’t think of a prettier drive that we have had on our whole mission. Both yesterday and today, for nearly 55 miles,  the gorgeous red, orange and gold trees line both sides of the highway and the hills on both sides of the highways are the same.  It really was just breathtaking. The girls laughed at me every time I would say, “Oh take a picture of that!  Don’t miss THAT tree!”   I LOVE this time of year here in the south!     Unfortunately, the leaves are falling from the tops of the trees so many of the tops are bare, but the lower parts are still just amazingly beautiful! The temperature has been a little cooler, but still very pleasant.  We have only had to turn the heaters on a few times!
We appreciate those of you who have sent emails!  We certainly love hearing from y’all!  We are still waiting patiently for our new grandson to be born!  We actually just found out that Jared and Brittany are up to the hospital, her contractions are coming every few minutes and we are just waiting for the good news!!! 
  We haven’t heard from some of our children for awhile….ahem….but thanks to the rest of you who have written!  We know you are all busy!  AND…we miss you and miss hearing about what you have been doing!
Monday was a very sad day, as we said good-bye to our wonderful office couple , the Packers!  What great people!  They headed back to Kaysville, Utah on Monday after we had our regular staff meeting and a little luncheon for them.  Monday night, we had our neighbors, the Brantleys over for dinner.  They have a daughter just a year younger than Destini , who also goes to her elementary school.  They are just the nicest people and when we first moved in, we found out that Bryant Brantley, the dad, works with Tripp Merideth who used to be the 2nd counselor in the mission until he was called as an area authority Seventy.  Laura Brantley is studying to become a Methodist Minister.  We had a great dinner with them and Destini gave a family home evening lesson on prayer, then we just had a great visit  They asked us questions about Mormonism and we talked to them about their Methodist Faith.  It was all very positive and we are even better friends than before!
Tuesday we started back into the last four days of interviews.  Frankly, I’m not sure how President does it.  He has the hardest job in trying to find out where all of the missionaries are, spiritually and with their worthiness.  I talk to them about their health, their personal and companionship studies, and then ask them to role play with me.  I love meeting with them.  What  great missionaries we have.!!!!  Interviews went from early Tuesday morning  until  late Friday afternoon.  Whew!  It really was a relief to be done!!!
We brought in a new assistant, Elder Andrew from Huntington Beach, CA.  He is a Spanish speaking elder who, I think will be great.  Our assistant, Elder Adams, from Sacramento CA, will be going home next week, and then we have Elder Payne from Centerville, UT.  These elders work so hard for the mission, for President and for our family.  They hardly ever get a P-Day and they are always so positive.  How we love them!  It seems that while we love all of the missionaries, the minute the become AP’s they become like our own sons! 
 On Thursday night, Aubrey had her  fall choir concert over at her school.  She is in an all girls choir this year and they were extremely good!  Aubrey even had a solo in one of the songs.  She did a great job! And I was especially impressed with  all of the  school. Choir groups.  They did a Broadway Musical Review and it was great! 
Saturday, we were so excited to get a visit from Shannon and Dennis Sudweeks, her parents and 3 of their darling grandkids.  They are here visiting their daughter who lives in Knoxville and are babysitting for them for a few days.  They drove over to Nashville for a few days and we were SO glad to get to see them.  We had to leave not long after they came in order to get to the Stake Conference in Hopkinsville, but we DID have a short but sweet visit with them ! President had to speak in Priesthood meeting in the afternoon so we were rushing out the door to get to Kentucky trying to visit as we left.
We had the same general authority that spoke in conference last week in Franklin, Elder Tony Parker from Georgia.  He is just great!  We generally have to speak when we go to these conferences, but sometimes we never know if it is a talk or a testimony until right when we get there.  President had to speak in the afternoon session at 3:00 pm and then I was asked to bear my testimony in the Saturday night session.  Right after my testimony, he invited me and Sister Smith, the Temple Matron, to be speakers in the general session of conference which was today.  So both President and I spoke at the conference today. 
Yesterday, we had a historic happening in the mission.  We had a family of 8 get baptized by our Cookeville Elders in the morning and then they baptized  another family of 1 in the evening.  I will try to attach the picture to this email.  What a beautiful sight!
Coming up  tomorrow, we have an elder who had to leave his mission 1 week before the end of the transfer because he wanted to see his brother before going to Afghanistan, so we had  him over for dinner tonight and  will take him out to the airport at 6:00am  in the morning.  He had a baptism yesterday and this man was one of Taylor Swift’s bodyguards.  Kiara and Destini thought that was pretty cool!  He showed them the guitar pick he had given them with Taylor Swift’s picture on it. 
  On Wed. this week is also the meeting in Bowling  Green with the Catholic Priest and all of the city people who want to know about Mitt Romney’s belief’s.  Then the next day we go to a mission presidents; seminar in Orlando.  President has been working daily on transfers as they will take place one day after our return from the Mission Presidents Seminar. They have to be complete before we leave this Wednesday. He writes letters to the families , Stake President, Bishops and each missionary that is departing each transfer so that takes some time if there are 8-9 missionaries leaving. We are so sad when they leave but are also so excited when the new missionaries come in.
In two weeks we have Elder Christofferson coming to create a new stake in our mission,  “THE MURFREESBORO STAKE”.  We are all SO excited about that. That will give us 7 stakes and 8 zones in our mission.  Two weeks after that, Elder Perkins is coming to do a mission tour, and then two weeks after that, Elder Russell M . Nelson is coming to speak to our missionaries and also to speak in the Nashville Stake Conference.  We just received a call to see if it was ok if he stayed with us here in the mission home that night.  What a blessing that will be!!!
We got a call this week asking us how many new missionaries could come into our mission with the age change , so it sounds like our numbers will be increasing dramatically.
Here are some TNM  missionary miracles for the week:
One of our missionaries sent this---the 6 SW’s of missionary work! 
“Some Will, Some Won’t, So What!   Stop Whining, Start Working, Someone’s Waiting”
 1) “It’s amazing when we are doing what’s right and living the gospel how different we feel then if we’re not. 100% Obedience is what I have been striving for and it is very difficult to do at some times but I know that when I do, more blessings are received. Just like the lady Michelle. We knocked on her door and introduced ourselves. We talked about the restoration and the gospel of Jesus Christ, pretty much a lesson. She then said that she has always seen tv commercials about Mormons and was always waiting till we actually would stop by. We then committed her to baptism on that first and only contact. When they have been prepared and feel the spirit it just takes that leap of faith to invite them to the waters of baptism, and only then they will commit.”

2) “ This was the week of the Bof M challenge! At the beginning of the week I thought that we would blow our goal out of the water. The missionaries were pumped and excited to do the work necessary for the desired outcome. We worked hard this week and were blessed by being able to pass out 25 copies of the BofM!!! It was awesome for me to see how easy it is to give somebody a copy of the BofM. Even if people didn't have time to talk they would accept a copy or if they REALLY weren't interested, they would still accept one. I'm feeling like this book has more power in it than I even know. I should be handing just about every person I see a BofM. I know this book changes lives as I changed when I came to know of it's truthfulness, so why not give it to everybody so they can change? …:( We were, however, able to plant 133 fertilized seeds into homes here in the McMinnville Zone. There will be many miracles that will come from these seeds,” 
 3)  “This week was awesome we had an amazing experience on Tuesday. We have really focused alot of our efforts towards finding new people who are prepared and ready to receive the gospel and not spending so much time with the people who let us in but simply aren’t ready to make and keep commitments. We prayed that morning for someone to help and to put someone in our path that needed maybe just needed help or someone we could simply help put a smile on their face. So we went out and started knocking doors and contacting. for 5 hours straight! I think we walked a total of like 10 miles or so but it was awesome. We came in contact with so many special people and we literally talked to everyone we saw. We brought smiles to so many faces and I really felt the love that our heavenly father has for each and every person, it felt amazing! But by the end of the day we still really hadn’t met anyone that was really interested in the gospel, but we finally we're on our way back to the apartment for dinner right where we had started are day and we walked past a black man standing on his porch we waved smiled and kept walking. Then he made a weird moaning shouting noise so we turned around and saw that he motioning to us that he couldn’t hear, because he was deaf. We simply waved and smiled again and kept walking, but about ten steps later I felt the strongest feeling to turn back so we did then I pulled out a restoration pamphlet and his face lit up as he saw the pictures of Christ and of Joseph Smith. We saw he had a phone and started texting him so we could communicate, and set an appointment to come back the next day, we said a prayer with him on his porch and told him that even though he couldn’t hear the words he would feel the spirit. As my companion and I walked away we were both so filled with a special feeling I couldn’t even explain it. AMAZING! The next day we set dates with both him and his mom they are both such special people and we are so excited! I’m excited to be here at this time and the Spanish work is picking up here as well and I know with faith and prayer and a whole bunch of hard work we will find Spanish families that are prepared.”

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For any of you who have missionaries who are getting ready to leave or know of any, this came to me from a member of a Branch Presidency in the MTC.  It might have some good tips to prepare your future missionaries:
The best elders are the ones whose lives are closest to the spirit. They know why they have come and they know they have much to learn. But they possess a positive outlook on all things.

There are many rules, but those who have been raised to obey take them in stride. It is also hard, the schedule is a bit overwhelming. If they have learned that they can do hard things, they do well. Being attached at the hip to a companion you have never known and who may not think like you think is a challenge.

Teaching them how to work and having them work is a plus. If a young man or sister has faced adversity whether that be in a trek or girls camp or scout camp or some real life event, they will have gained confidence that they can succeed.

As a patriarch, it was always interesting to me that even though the instructions were that the youth was to contact the patriarch, several times the mom would call. I would politely ask her to have the young person call when they were available. Don't take away their opportunity to grow individually. Don't smother them.

The MTC is a busy place, and my observation is that the fewer letters an Elder receives, the better he copes with homesickness. I am not saying don't send a letter a week, I am talking about letters from too many people all well intentioned to help him not be homesick. The result is that every letter he opens distracts him from his labors and enhances his homesickness. He or she has been called out of the world to serve the Lord. Let them know of your love and support, but do not overwhelm them. Encourage, uplift, send stories they might use in the field, but don't talk about problems in the ward or with neighbors, etc.

The MTC was originally called the LTM or Language Training Center. The change of name was a conscious decision by the Brethren to shift the emphasis from learning a language to converting the elder/sister to Christ. If they leave with the spirit, the language will come, but they will be able to teach with power as a disciple of Christ.

A couple of specifics: Make sure they read the Book of Mormon in its entirety, by themselves before reporting to the MTC. Encourage them to study carefully Preach My Gospel. Study it together as a family. That is what he/she is going to teach; scriptures and PMG. You want to get Faith in Christ past their shirt sleeves and into their souls. Visit Church History sites, make sure they attend EFY, and encourage them to pray with real intent.

It is an interesting process selecting who will be the new district leader, coordinating sister or zone leader. We meet them the second evening they are there. We have them introduce themselves and then we interview each for have an air of humble confidence and a good grasp of why they are there. Their testimony bears witness every time of their choice to be obedient and follow Christ.

I know moms, I know my wife, I know my daughters who have sent their sons/daughters out, and I know it is hard. But moms, ask where you would rather have them be and be believers yourself. No pity parties; if you need to, go shopping for yourself! Just work on sending messages that will uplift, encourage, strengthen and look forward to the day when they return as men/women of God. It is so worth it.

We love this work and bear testimony of it’s truthfulness.  As Elder Parker said today, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints contains ALL of the keys necessary for us to return to live with our Heavenly Father again.  It is true!  The Book of Mormon is true!  Jesus Christ lives and loves us and as President Monson reiterated last week, “He is in the details of our lives!”    We love and miss all y’all!   Have a great week!

Loads of love,
President & Sister McKee,  Dad & Mom,  Grandpa & Grandma,  Bill & RaNae  …..
And Angie, Aubrey, Kiara and Destini

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