Morning meeting with the new missionaries...
So, on October 16th we experienced our first Transfer Day! What a wonderful experience! We had to be at the Irmo church by 8:00 so we could give our presentations to the brand new Elders and Sisters. Elder Arrington talked about finance - told the new missionaries about their credit cards and how to use them. Money comes from their parents, through the bishops, to the general missionary fund - then each missionary is allotted $150 a month (I think) for living expenses. This just covers food and other personal needs. Their rent is paid automatically, and they are given a gas allowance if they are driving.
I talked to them about mail - how they should instruct their friends and families how to address mail they sent to them - using first names - REAL first names - not Stud Muffin Bailey, Skirt Chaser Hawkes, or Sissy Davis. We have to Elder Baileys, and Hawkes and two Sister Davis's. We have no idea which is Stud Muffin, Skirt Chaser or Sissy! I also told them the importance of having boxes and large envelopes sent PRIORITY MAIL. That's the only way we can forward them to the missionaries - otherwise, they sit in the office till someone goes to their area. A package just came today marked "PERISHABLE," Open at once. Kind of sad!
Sister Fenton talked to them about their apartments and the importance of keeping them clean and orderly. That woman has taken great pains to make sure everything in those new apartments was clean and comfortable. Not too comfortable, because they're not spending that much time in them - they need to be out working!
Elder Fenton talked about the cars - NICE cars that the church provides for the missionaries to drive. He show some safety videos and put THE FEAR OF GOD into those young kids! Only missionaries who have clean driving records are permitted to drive the vehicles - and only the senior companions. We don't want them, or anyone else hurt and we want to carefully protect and maintain "the Lord's fleet."
Every 6 weeks, the missions shake things up! The President and his APs, spend 2-3 weeks, talking together, fasting and praying about the companionships. President Holm has a big transfer board on one wall of his office. At the top of the board are all the zones in the mission - we now have 12 of them. Under each zone are the districts and pictures of all 249 missionaries - each companionship in their district. Elders names are on blue carstock, Sisters on pink, Zone Leaders and District Leaders are on red. He also has pictures of each missionary. By the time transfer day comes, he knows just where to put each missionary, and who to put him/her with. A couple of weeks before transfers, Sister Barlow was in President Holm's office and noticed some of the missionaries' pictures were crooked. She started to straighten them, and he stopped her. He said those are the ones he hasn't settled on. He was still working through the transfer process, and hadn't quite decided where those missionaries were going, or with whom. President also has a transfer board on a wall in his office at home. Transfers are pretty much on his mind, day and night. I'll bet the guy actually loses weight from all the fasting he does to get his confirmations. But by transfer day - it's all set - and it's an exciting time!
At 10:00, we all met in the chapel. President and Sister Holm - all the senior missionaries - the 25 new missionaries (15 Sisters and 10 Elders) - and all the other missionaries who had received transfer notices.
To begin, all the missionaries there (the chapel was pretty much filled to capacity) sang hymns as a prelude to the meeting. Boy can they sing! I LOVE it when church hymns are sung with exuberance! As I recall, President Holm welcomed everyone, then the opening song was an a capella solo by Sister VanRy whose 18-months was up and she was leaving the mission. She sang "I Stand All Amazed at the Love Jesus Offers Me." She did an absolutely beautiful job! It was very emotional for her, as some of you might imagine. She loved her mission, the other missionaries, the people of South Carolina, and President and Sister Holm. Leaving a mission is a bitter-sweet thing. You want to go home, but you don't want to leave. After her opening song, one of the Sister missionaries gave the opening prayer. Then each of the new missionaries stood at the microphone and bore a very short testimony - telling of a personal goal for their mission. The new senior missionaries were also asked to do this. I told them that one of my main goals was to get their mail out to them - and that got a few cheers. :o)
Following all the new missionaries, the 9 departing missionaries bore their testimonies. I've never seen such strength in a group of young men and one young woman. I wrote down some of the things they said that made their missions successful:
1 - Love the people
2 - Be obedient
3 - Forget yourself
4 - Work hard
5 - Have fun (An Elder actually said, "If you're not having fun, you're doing something wrong."
6 - Give God everything - hold nothing back
Sister VanRy said that when she came to the mission 18 months ago, she was one of 6 new missionaries, and the only Sister. This transfer there were 25 new missionaries, and 15 were Sisters. She said she felt like she had witnessed a miracle.
After all the testimonies, it was time for the actual transfer. The President read all the assignments - companions and the areas they'd be serving. The excitement in the room was very apparent. When the sisters names were called, there were lots of squeals and hugs - and when the elders were paired up - there were lots of shouts, hugs, and back slaps. Transfers took a long time. I imagine there were 75 pairings announced!
Packin' Up and Movin' Out!
After all the assignments were made, the missionaries packed up their gear, which included suitcases (usually three each) and backpacks, and in some cases bikes. Members from all parts of the state had driven to Irmo to transport pairs of missionaries out to their new areas. They were all volunteers. It was pretty cool to see - luggage and bikes packed into the backs of vans and pick-up trucks - missionaries in the front - and off they went to their new adventures!
Temple and Dinner at the Holms'...
At 5 PM, we went to the temple with President and Sister Holm, the Office Staff, the APs and the Traveling Sisters and the 9 departing missionaries. It was thrilling to me to be there with all those wonderful young people!
After the session, Sister Holm wanted to get pictures of all the departing missionaries in front of the temple, then we went to the Mission Home for dinner. After dinner, President Holm gathered everyone in the study. He talked about the departing missionaries and asked the rest of us to give them some advice to take home with them. Then we watched a video presentation of pictures of the nine while they were in the mission. How much they had changed in 18 and 24 months! Beautiful, strong young people! The hope of America and the hope of the church!
We got home at 10:30 - dog tired from the activities of the past two days. But it was an experience we will never forget! Loved every minute of it!!!