Thursday, December 31, 2015

Christmas Zone Conferences

     On December 21, 22, and 23 we had our Christmas Zone Conferences. They were wonderful! We loved being able to see all of our missionaries and share some spiritual training as well as some fun and games. We began the meetings with some business then followed that with a great Christmas DVD that the office elders had put together. The DVD had fun and funny pictures of our missionaries but also included the missionaries holding their "A Savior is Born so I . . . " signs, quotes about Christmas and a video clip of President Monson teaching about the Savior and Christmas. We had short, powerful testimonies given by our January and February departing missionaries which includes two of our wonderful senior couples. It was tender to listen to the testimonies and hard to think about losing so many great missionaries. Bart and I did a follow up on what the missionaries had learned from reading the Book of Mormon in 90 days with a focus on the Savior. We had missionaries share their testimonies and experiences. I then talked about the gift of the Savior and the many gifts He has given us as well as the Book of Mormon. I taught that we learn in Moroni that all the good gifts we have come from Christ. We then challenged the missionaries to write down what gift they will give the Savior this year. They filled out a paper with their gift and put it in a wrapped gift box. Through-out the day we had some nice musical numbers as well.
      Our wonderful assistants did a powerful workshop on finding and teaching. They related the Christmas story and the characters to the people we meet and teach as well as to ourselves. We all need to continue to be like the wisemen, actively seeking and acting upon the knowledge we have so that we can have the Savior in our lives daily.
  •  Wisemen are those who are seeking for the truth (Proverbs 3:5, Matthew 7:24, D&C 58:26, 122:2 are a few of the references they used). True seekers have trust, receive the commandments, don't need to be compelled, build on a solid foundation, and are pure in heart. 
  •  Innkeepers are those who are not seeking and not interested (Luke 2:7).
  • Shepherds are ordinary people who become seekers as they hear the gospel truth. Luke 2:8
  •  Angels are the missionaries who share the glad tidings and truth of the gospel (Luke 2:10).
  • The Star is the Holy Ghost (1 Nephi 10:17).
  • The Baby Jesus is of course our Savior and Redeemer.
     We then ate lunch which included the missionaries' favorite Christmas treat--lechon or roasted pig. We had a nice lunch and zone photos and then headed back for more training from President Mangum. He reviewed 2015 and the things we had focused on as a mission as well as talked about 2016 goals. He shared insights and teachings from our mission presidents' seminar and taught the importance of seeing what we can become or the area we are serving in, the people we are teaching, etc. can become. It was a great training.
      It was now time for fun and games! The missionaries love to be able to relax, have fun, move around a little, and of course, laugh. Before the games began we had a couple of musical numbers in each zone conference. In one we had a group sing "You're a mean one, President" to the tune of the Grinch. It was a funny song talking about how mean President is because he doesn't let them disobey, have girlfriends, etc. It ended with a shout out of love for him but it was funny watching the nervousness in some of our missionaries as they looked to see how President Mangum would react. It was all in fun and sung by great missionaries who actually show their love and respect to the president so it was all good. In another zone conference one of the great zone leaders sang an original composition about missionary work here in San Pablo. It was great. Our Pakistani sister sang a Christmas hymn in her native language which was nice. There were also a few other numbers. At all of the zone conferences the senior couples sang a version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" missionary style written by a senior sister. We each wore Santa hats and the missionaries seem to enjoy watching us and laughing with us. The missionaries were divided into groups of three and they rotated through three areas of games and a photo shoot area. We ended this time with a gift exchange. Some wonderful people from Australia and the U.S. (and maybe other countries) sent a couple of boxes of socks, ties, personal care items, and random gifts so we wrapped them and the missionaries each received a nice gift.
      The day was not over yet. We returned to the chapel where President Mangum showed a cute photo of our grandchildren acting out the nativity and shared how that had been an important part of our Christmas for years. He then read the nativity in parts and we sang a Christmas hymn between each part. It was very sweet. He ended with a picture of Christ saying "Each of us is an innkeeper who decides whether or not there is room for Jesus" (Neal A. Maxwell). President Mangum bore a strong and powerful testimony, we sang "Silent Night" and ended the day with a tender, kneeling prayer offered by President Mangum. It was a powerful way to end the day.
       Well, it was almost over--we still wished a Merry Christmas to each missionary personally, giving them a hug or handshake depending on if they were elders and sisters (we can only hug our own gender), expressed our love, and of course, gave them a goody bag. It was nice to be able to greet them each one on one. Okay, now it was over although it took a while for everyone to leave. 
        It was a wonderful three days and made the week of Christmas very special to spend time with our mission family that we love so much.

As part of the goody bag we gave each missionary a 5x7 picture of Christ,
entitled "Abide With Me" by Simon Dewey.
We also had this scripture reference with the picture:
 ". . . remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God,
that ye must build your foundation . . . which is a sure foundation,
a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall."   Helaman 5:12

Zone Conference at Lucena Stake Center 
for Lopez, Lucena, and Marinduque Zones
December 21, 2015

Zone Conference at Batangas Ward Chapel 
for Batangas, Lipa, and Mindoro Zones
December 22, 2015

Zone Conference at San Pablo Stake Center 
for Cabuayo, San Pablo, and Santa Cruz Zones
December 21, 2015


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