Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Christmas Zone Conferences


 The week of Christmas we held three separate Christmas conferences. They were held on the 22, 23, and 24 in different locations. We kept hearing about how fun Christmas zone conferences were which put a lot of pressure on us (well, at least me) to make sure our's were balanced with spiritual instruction and fun and games. We feel like things turned out well. The missionaries seemed to enjoy their time and it was a great way for us to spend the week. We loved being with all of the missionaries sometime during those three days and being able to watch their interaction with each other and also be able to personally wish each of them a Merry Christmas. We do love our missionaries and it is fun to feel like we know them all now, at least a little bit.
      The conferences started at 10:00 a.m. and lasted until 4:00 or 5:00 p.m. We had invited the missionaries to share musical numbers if they were interested. We love Christmas music and wanted to have a lot of it--we did! We began the morning with a fun video that the office elders had made. It started with a photo of each missionary coming in and out quickly. Then a group of "ugly dog" photos--there are some pretty pathetic dogs here in the Philippines. After that we saw fun photos of companionships and groups of missionaries. The best part to me was the end where the companionships and a few districts or zones had sent in their "Share the Gift" photos. This part began with the video and beautiful music from the "Share the Gift" website which set a wonderful tone. It was so sweet to see what the missionaries had chosen to do to share the Gift of the Savior and His restored gospel.
       After the video we then had the departing missionaries for December and February share their testimonies. It was sweet to listen to the missionaries. After the testimonies and a beautiful musical number it was my turn to speak. I spoke about the gift of the Atonement and used wrapped gifts to illustrate how the atonement is personalized for each of us and it's up to us how we use the gift. The Assistants did a great workshop on using the family as a beginning point of teaching the gospel as you OYM with short, powerful statements. Bart then taught the missionaries about the atonement and the importance of repentance. He gave wonderful instruction and used an inspiring video, "Paralyzed Gymnast" from Mormon Messages as part of his presentation. The gymnast shares how she overcame the trial of being paralyzed through the grace of the atonement of Christ. He also used this quote by E. T. Sullivan (quoted in the Christmas Devotional): “When God wants a great work done in the world or a great wrong righted, he goes about it in a very unusual way. He doesn’t stir up his earthquakes or send forth his thunderbolts. Instead, he has a helpless baby born. … And then God waits. The greatest forces in the world are not the earthquakes and the thunderbolts. The greatest forces in the world are babies.” He showed baby pictures of many of the missionaries which was really fun and talked about the great things they have to do. The musical numbers were intermixed with the talks, videos, testimonies, etc. They were wonderful and really added to the spirit of the meeting. After a long but wonderful morning it was finally time to eat lunch (I was ready). One of the mission traditions was to have lechon/roasted pig for the Christmas zone conference. It was my first time seeing a whole pig on the serving table. It was weird to see the heads of the pigs, especially the second day because it looked like it was smiling. Bart said it was happy to fill the measure of its creation by giving it's life for the missionaries.
     After lunch we had another one or two musical numbers and then the games began. The couples were in charge of the games and we divided the missionaries into three or four groups (depending on the size of the zones attending) and had games that they played and then rotated. It was fun and funny to watch them get into the games and great to hear all of the laughter. After the games we took the traditional zone pictures. When Bart was a missionary they did a tie exchange for Christmas so we decided to try it. Each Elder was supposed to bring a tie wrapped with a note and then they sat in a large circle to exchange the tie. The sisters each brought an accessory (jewelry, hair accessory, etc.) for their exchange. While they were in their circles President Mangum read The Night Before Christmas right/left story where the presents go right or left each time that word is read. the missionaries. It was a lot of fun. We ended the day by returning to the chapel and singing a couple of Christmas hymns, having a closing prayer and then handing out a treat bag and wishing them each a Merry Christmas. It was a tiring but wonderful three days!

Marinduque Zone

Lopez Zone

Lucena Zone

Mindoro Zone
Lipa Zone

Batangas Zone

Santa Cruz Zone

San Pablo Zone

Cabuyao Zone

Siniloan Zone

A small glimpse of the fun and games!

The pigs that gave their lives for these great missionaries!
(I enjoy eating pork more when I don't see the pig's face looking at me.)

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