July 22, 2012
We finished another transfer last week, but before I get into that I want to write about the baptism or baptisms, six of them, that we attended in Ensley Branch a week ago Saturday. Ensley is a suburb of Birmingham and might be compared in some ways to Harlem of New York. The Branch there is all black from the surrounding neighborhoods, however, there are several families from other wards around AL that have been assigned to serve there. With so many baptisms, there was a large turnout. We have gone to the town of Ensley many times as there is a shop where we have the hitches for our bike racks put on the new cars and we use them for other needs as well. Nice people. Several times in Columbiana ward we had a former African Am. Branch Pres and his wife from there visit and developed a friendship. For these and many other reasons we have planned to visit the ward. This occasion seemed to be the right timing; not only for the baptisms, but our dear Elder Burdette has been serving there and this was his last baptism before finishing his mission. All in all, it was a great experience. Two of the girls taking part were the twin daughters of a member that Elder Burdette and his companion tracked into. The mother had become inactive so not only were her daughters brought into the church, but she was re-activated. It was sweet to watch her tender tears of joy. Among the others being baptized were the husband and daughter of a member, very sweet, and the older daughter of another branch member. There was also a young man from the branch who is just now old enough to turn in his mission papers. He was baptizing the ‘seventh’ of his friends that night. Here he has had SEVEN baptisms before he even reached the mission field. There was a joyful and sweet spirit there and we were blessed to witness it. We visited with the Branch Pres afterwards and he said this is a rough part of town. There have been shootings and robberies all around the church and several families in the branch have faced heartache, but still remain faithful. We met many delightful people. The missionaries love serving in this area.
As is always the case on transfer week our days were long and full. On Monday we took five of our visa Elders to the airport to head for their various destinations. One of them was Elder McRae from Thatcher and in visiting I’m sure we have some family connections somewhere along the line. My Mother’s sister Hazel married a McRae. He was a good missionary. They all were and will continue to be.
Tuesday we were to pick up sixteen new missionaries at 2:00 p.m. First we heard their flight in Salt Lake had been cancelled. All morning we waited for an update. Finally plans were in place to meet them at 3:00, but then we heard the plane was arriving early. Pres and Sister Holzapfel actually greet them as they come off the plane and we stay with the van in a waiting area until they call to tell us they are ready to be picked up. Two thirty came and went, three thirty came and went, (we were getting updates all along) At four thirty we finally got the call that they were at the curb. There were only 14 as two visa waiters missed the connecting flight and were stranded in Atlanta. Still, it took the van and two other cars to get them all loaded and on our way. Twelve of them are fulltime assigned to Alabama and four are visa missionaries. As you can see from the picture, there is only one Sister. A side note here, Sister Palmer was called and trained as English speaking, but the mission needed another Spanish speaking Sister. Pres H had ordered all the materials, including a Sp nametag, and when he did his interview with her he asked to see her MTC nametag then handed her back the Spanish one he had for her. She was more than a little surprised, but is a sharp girl and accepted the challenge and we know she will do well. We have already enjoyed spending time with them all. They have some big shoes to fill as so many of our choice missionaries are completing their missions over the summer months. This time we had an Elder from the Ivory Coast in Africa and one of the visa Elders is from Joe and Wyndi’s ward back home. Joe was his home teacher. That was a fun connection. New missionaries to love.
There were many changes taking place in the way transfers were handled this time around. One that we thought worked really well was taking all the new missionaries straight to the Mission Home. Usually we go to the office where the President takes each one in his office for an interview and Elder Curtis meets with them about their driving records, etc. This meant a lot of sitting around time for the missionaries in a crowded office after an already long day. Following this we went to the Mission Home for a formal sit down dinner and then rushed off to their hotels. The plan this time was to have a serve yourself buffet dinner while Pres did his individual interviews and Elder C gathered the information he needed. When the missionaries finished eating they gathered in the living room and were able to visit in a relaxed way. We had four, or at least there were four that night, that play the piano…all very well. They kept us entertained by taking turns playing from classical to ragtime and all in-between. Yes, there were some nice hymns mixed in as well. Elder Dalo from Africa plays beautifully. He said a friend of his began teaching him and he found he had a natural gift and love for music. Spending the evening this way took a lot of stress off everyone and the missionaries were able to have an earlier bedtime than usual.
We were to pick up the missionaries at the hotel early the next morning for the transfer meeting. A call from the President woke us up saying that we needed to be even earlier. About half of the luggage had not come in with the plane and around 1:30 that morning it had been delivered to the mission home and needed to be picked up. That was good news…whew and whew! Poor Pres seems to never get to sleep.
Another change with transfers was the presentation of information for just the new missionaries. Usually they gather AFTER the general meeting which has never worked well. All they were interested in was what was this new companion going to be like, and where were they headed. Now they had them arrive an hour before the others for the training and the meeting was laid out so each person stayed on schedule and everyone was able to present their part. For the first time in months Elder C was able to go over the driving and car care information from Salt Lake. It seemed to go well. All of transfers went well. We did have a man sent from Salt Lake to audit all the tiwis, but he had been working on it since Monday and had already met with Elder C several times so for once we weren’t tied up in the parking lot and were actually able to sit through all of transfers, including listening to Pres Holzapfel remarks.
We had taken all of the bikes for the new missionaries to the Stake Building the day before. We have done that the last few transfers and it makes it much easier so handing out bikes even went smoothly for us. All in all, it was the best organized and most relaxing transfer day we have experienced. That’s not to say there weren’t issues, but all ended well even though we did worry watching some of the Elders drive away with their cars stuffed to overflowing with luggage (is that even safe?)Well, it is now bedtime on Tuesday and I have only covered half of what went on since our last letter. There is much more that I want to record for my own records, but it has been a long day (we drove for over eight hours taking care of different issues) Tomorrow we have another special event that we are helping with so it will be busy and exciting as well. This letter is going to have to be sent in segments, which is probably okay with you. There is plenty enough for now anyway. I’m too tired to even proof read it. …headed for bed – yawn! Hope you each have a goodnight and a great day tomorrow. We love you-
Blessings always, Elder and Sister Curtis Mom/Dad