Elder Gordon Russell

Elder Gordon Russell, Nevada Reno Mission

Elder Gordon Russel and his trainer

Elder Gordon Russell (far right), his trainer, and his trainer’s trainer

The following are a few abbreviated highlights from some of Elder Russell’s emails home to his family.

July 3, 2017
I’m in a very small town smack dab in the middle of the state called Battle Mountain. It’s about 3000 ish people, and has maybe three or four actual brick and mortar buildings. We are 62 miles from the thriving metropolis Winnemucca to the west (abt 8000), and 70 miles from the colossal city of Elko (probably 10k). We’ve had a couple miracles in the work so far.

July 10
Wednesday was a great day for teaching. The weather has been beautiful this whole time (40% humidity) and it hasn’t gotten above 105, so biking is a lot of fun. We taught Danny on kind of the spur of the moment with no prep, but it still went really well. We also taught Teri, our super golden investigator who had just finished the entire Book of Mormon and is incredibly hyped to get baptized. The rest of her family is coming around more and more, and her kids are finally starting to get involved in the discussions.
On Saturday, we worked hard, and did a fair amount of manual labor.  We then got a chance to teach a new investigator, Ricky, who is super excited to learn… We also swung by Teri’s on an impression, and ended up helping them with a plumbing problem. A lot of work, but it felt nice. My sleep schedule is slowly acclimating, and my studies are going incredibly well. Every day in Battle Mountain is so great, so it isn’t hard to stay enthusiastic.
July 17
Saturday was nice because DJ got baptized, which was my first baptism on my mission.
July 31
Well I’ve finally been here a month. We had a pretty successful week, and finally baptized Tery yesterday. We had 9 investigators at the baptism, and it went really well. I gave a short talk and Elder Abbott did the baptism.

Elder Russell baptism

8/7/2017
Tery is still as solid as ever, and is now a temple recommend holder and the Young Women’s secretary. This was actually a cool demonstration of inspired callings. Two weeks ago the ward called a Sister Rios to be the new YW president, but she speaks just about zero English. Neither of her counselors spoke Spanish at all, so we were all pretty confused, but it turns out Tery was to be the secretary (she is completely bilingual). Bishop wouldn’t add a second language to ward council unless there was a need coming up, so it might be an interesting ride.
Truth be told, we are almost never rejected out here. Every difficulty comes from the fact that no one is ever home. The mines are all 12 hour shifts, and each shift runs 4 or 5 days and then gives the same number of days off. On people’s days off, they are almost always out in Reno or Vegas dumping their money down the drain or are out camping. Everyone is friendly enough that if they’re home, we can teach them, it’s just tough to find people at home.
8/14/2017
This week is doing pretty well. All of our converts are so solid, their examples really help us stay focused on the work. Tery and DJ both went with the youth temple trip this Friday, and DJ even spoke in sacrament meeting.

8/21/2017
My current favorite [scripture] would be Alma 31:5-6

I think this is just an awesome scripture for two reasons. The first is verse 5 as a whole, in that the gospel compels people to action in a more powerful manner than violence or coercion. The second is that among all the people Alma took with him in the “dream team” Zeezrom, one of the people who was bashing with Alma and Amulek in the first few chapters, is included. He was pretty much the only lawyer in Ammonihah that felt the Spirit and was converted, and was baptized a few chapters later. Zeezrom is the only person in the Book of Mormon who has a baptismal interview, and was one of the best missionaries to the Zoramites. In fact, he was remembered later in the scriptures ABOVE the sons of Alma and Mosiah in Helaman 5:41
“You must repent, and cry unto the voice, even until ye shall have faith in Chist, who was taught unto you by Alma, and Amulek, and Zeezrom.”
Zeezrom to me is a great example of how the atonement can work for anyone. His conversion is fully shown in Alma 15.
9/25/2017

We had an awesome day at church too! We had 4 investigators at sacrament meeting, and were working with ward members and investigators through all of second hour. We had a bunch of less actives show up for the first time in months, and one of the families brought an investigator with them!
I just passed 3 months in the field.

10/2/2017
Elder Johnson is certainly a cowboy. He has a slight accent a lot of the time, and relates
REALLY well to everyone here with trucks, ranching, and hunting. We set one of our new
investigators, Rachel, with a date! She has been reading and highlighting the Book of Mormon, and saw every session of conference except Saturday Afternoon. We also
got two new investigators this week as well, thanks to Elder Johnson’s cultural influence to help break the ice.

Elder Russell Winnemucca Zone

Elder Gordon Russell (front right) and the Winnemucca Zone

10/16/2017
Hi everyone,
I’m at the point where I am almost through my third transfer. I love the people here and the work we are able to do. Life is going awesome, and a good area and
companion only make it better.
Oct 23, 2017
Hi everyone!
What a week. I can’t believe how quickly this transfer went by….
Rachel has been progressing really well. She has been seeing many miracles in her life recently, and is set on the 28th. We have taught her almost every other day…. and she has had many really good questions we were able to answer. Having an investigator with real intent is so nice.

Elder Russell Hilltop sunset

Hilltop Sunset

Oct 30, 2017
Hoo boy
This week has been wild for sure. Satan was fighting tooth and nail this week all the way to Rachel’s baptism on Saturday. We almost called it off, and President was involved, but when the time rolled around, all was well and she was baptized. It was awesome and the Spirit was stronger there because of [what] we all went through for this to even happen.
We also found Ricky again. He came to church.… he’s getting baptized in like three weeks I guess. However…I won’t be in Battle Mountain come Tuesday. This companionship and area was too perfect to last. I am being double transferred (both me and my companion will be new to the area) into Satellite Hills, a very small biking area on the East side of Sparks (which is the East Side of Reno). This is going to be an adventure for sure. Sunday was an awesome sendoff Sacrament meeting, and I will leave here with fond memories….
Deus Vult, Elder Russell

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Sabbath Service and Blessings for Elder and Sister McGrath

By Scott and Angelina McGrath, members of the Quantico Ward and serving as Church Service Military Relations Missionaries at the Officer Candidates School at Marine Corps Base Quantico

McGrath

We are so blessed by the opportunity we have, twice every week, to visit with young men and women determined to offer their time, talent, and strength, their all, to the United States Marine Corp in support of their Country and the freedoms and values it espouses.
We are blessed by the opportunity we have to bring a little bit of the Gospel and a little bit of Christ’s light and love into their lives; to supply them with a small amount of much needed physical recharge, mental break, emotional support, and spiritual uplift; to deliver to them a little food from home, delivered with tender loving care; to offer them the restorative power of Priesthood blessings; to allow them to partake of the Sacrament; and to provide them a measure of relief from the storms, the pressures, the ceaseless demands of the most rigorous Officer School in the country.
We are blessed by the opportunity to make a difference in their lives; to watch the dramatic changes in their demeanor from the time they walk into our room, beaten down, to the time they walk out, a spring in their step; and to see energy return to aching bodies and smiles return to exhausted faces.
We are blessed by the opportunity to serve: to serve these Marine Corps Officer Candidates, to serve these committed and dedicated young men and women, to serve these choice sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father.

We are the McGraths.

We are blessed…indeed.

 

Overcoming the World

Here is a thought to ponder as you think about what the Sabbath day means to you.

girl-scriptures-flowers-1257297-tablet

“Our love for the Sabbath day does not end when the chapel doors close behind us but instead opens the doors to a beautiful day of resting from routine tasks, studying, praying, and reaching out to family and others who need our attention. Instead of breathing a sigh of relief when church is over and frantically running in search of a television before the football game begins, let our focus remain on the Savior and upon His holy day.”    Elder Neil L. Anderson, Overcoming the World, April 2017

 

Meet the Simon Family

Simon Family

We are the Simon Family – Marty and Allison – of  the Woodbridge 1st Ward.  We were called by President Price to serve a Church Service Military Relations Mission at the Officer Candidates School at Marine Corps Base Quantico.  We have been serving since the end of May along with the McGraths and Elder and Sister Hammond and previously Elder and Sister Riding.

Officer Candidates School has classes in three cycles – Summer, Fall, and Winter/Spring.  The summer classes consist of three groups.  Group 1 consists of college sophomores and juniors who attend for six weeks.  Group 2 consists of college seniors and college graduates who attend for ten weeks.  Group 3 consists of college juniors and seniors who are attending for a second six-week session (they have completed the Group 1 session in a prior year).  The six-week groups have some overlap with the ten week group, so the summer sessions run for twelve weeks.  This summer we had 42 meetings over the thirteen-week period, as not all of the groups meet with us at the same time.  The fall and winter/spring classes are for the full ten-week program.  The candidates are organized into squads, platoons, and companies, similar to Marine Corps infantry units.  Each company has about 250 candidates, with one or two platoons of women per company. We are at the midpoint of the fall cycle now.

26 July 2017 OCS (2)

Over the summer, the 10-week group started with over 900 candidates, and the 5-week groups each had about 500 candidates.  The current fall group has about 500 candidates.  On average, about one percent of the candidates are members of the Church.  Members of the Church make up only about 10% of those who attend our meetings.  At our first meeting with the second 6-week group this summer, we had 4 attend, and none of them were members of the Church.  By the end of week three, our little group had grown to 36 attending, with only one being a member of the Church.  Our largest meeting over the summer had 62 candidates attending from multiple groups.  It was standing room only! We were grateful to be an instrument in the Lord’s hands to be able to share so much with so many candidates.

Our interaction with the candidates is on Sundays and one day during the week (usually Wednesday or Thursday).  We conduct a Sacrament Service on Sundays and a Family Home Evening for our mid-week meeting.  The Officer Candidates School program is very stressful, and our services provide them with a much needed break in their training routine.  Our goal, in addition to providing faith-promoting gospel messages, is to provide a friendly environment where the candidates feel welcome, feel the Spirit, and renew themselves for the challenges that lie ahead.  We are not permitted to proselyte, but we can answer any questions we are asked.  We also offer Priesthood blessings to all who desire one, including those who are not members of the Church.  We also offer refreshments at the end of every meeting along with an opportunity to write home.  We send some of the messages for them by e-mail to help speed the communication flow (candidates are not permitted to have their phones for the first three weeks and Monday-Saturday for the remainder of their training).  Their family members send responses to us, and we give the responses to the candidates at our next meeting.  We not only get to know the candidates, but also their family members as we serve as go-betweens for their e-mails.

Simon highlight

Three quick examples of the impact missionary service can have on the candidates.  One of the candidates in our summer group who had been attending from the very first day told us that he had never been to a church service in his life before he came to our service at Officer Candidates School and how happy he felt in our meetings.  Unfortunately, he was unable to complete the full program, but after he got home we received an e-mail from his father, who told us that the next Sunday, he would be attending the LDS Church that was around the corner from his house.

Another candidate was excelling at Officer Candidates School, but was unsure if she wanted to accept a commission as a Marine Corps Officer.  We told her that the best thing that she could do would be to ask her Father in Heaven.  She was not a member of the Church, and asked how she would know when she was receiving an answer to her prayer.  We explained to her how she could know and she told us she would pray about it and let us know how things turned out.  The next time we saw her she was beaming and we knew before she told us that she had received an answer.  She was going to accept her commission and become a Marine Corps Officer and thanked us for helping her on her journey.

A third candidate who was a member of the Church gave a note to us and the McGraths at the end of the last meeting we held before summer graduation.  She wrote, “Brothers and Sisters, OCS has been very challenging.  There have been many times that I have doubted myself.  I knew that I had a strong support group at home, but I didn’t realize the amazing support group I had here at OCS: the LDS Church.  I have appreciated all the lessons, prayers, and food that has been made available to me.  Your kindness and support helped me push through the negative aspects of OCS.  Words can’t describe the thankfulness I feel for you all.  People like you remind me that the world is good at heart and that people can really make a difference in your life.”

India Graduation

Moments like these make all the driving to Quantico, all the lesson preparation, all the baking, and all the e-mailing worthwhile.  We have been very blessed to get to know so many of the candidates over the past five months and look forward to continuing to serve the Officer Candidates for as long as the Lord needs us.

Meet Elder and Sister Hammond

 

Hammond Missionary Portrait Aug2017

We are Elder and Sister Hammond. We have been called to serve a Military Relations Mission in the Washington DC South Mission. Our permanent home is in McKinney, Texas. We are the parents of 7 children and 23 grandchildren.

The Military Relations Missionaries help ensure that the blessings of the Church participation are available to those who serve in the military. This is done in many ways and in many places throughout the world. We are blessed to serve here in The Washington DC South Mission at MCB Quantico and our opportunities for service are great! First and foremost our purpose in serving is the same as any full-time missionary: To help bring others unto Christ…

We serve the LDS candidates who are attending the Officer Candidate School (OCS} at
Quantico—these candidates are here because they each desire to be a Marine officer. We
serve with Elder and Sister McGrath, who are from the Quantico Ward,  and Elder and Sister Simon, who are from the Woodbridge 1st Ward.  Both couples have been called as Church Service Missionaries.

These young candidates who were chosen to attend this school have a very rigorous 10-week training program—they train for sometimes 16-18 hours a day in physical, mental, academic and leadership experiences. They are pushed to the utmost in each one of these categories. It is our blessing to provide a weekly Sacrament Meeting for them as they are not allowed to leave the OCS area of Quantico for the first several weeks and then only 24 hours a week after that.

We have the Sacrament with them and leave them with an inspirational message. Sometimes priesthood blessings are given to individuals who request them. After that, we give them opportunity to write notes to their families which we then email to their families so the Candidates can have contact with their family much faster than they would have otherwise. Occasionally we send pictures of them to their families. We also meet with them once a week in the evening-usually Wednesday or Thursday for a quasi-
FHE. They have the opportunity to visit with other candidates and talk with them in a relaxed “family” setting and can discuss their challenges and successes with one another and with us. We also give them an inspirational message. We also try to catch them up on world news, etc. As the weeks go by, their friends join them and we have the opportunity to share with them also.
Our second assignment is working with the LDS at The Basic School or TBS. These young LDS people are newly-commissioned officers in the Marine Corps and are learning the basic infantry skills. This school is 6-months long and we meet with them weekly in an FHE setting. They usually attend Church in their geographical ward on Sundays. We help them in requested ways and places.
In addition to working with these young people in the Marine Corp, we help the young full-time missionaries in our district and also permanent military personnel on base as needed. We also meet with the Chaplains of these two schools on a regular basis to try to ensure a positive working relationship between the Church and the Marine Corps. It is a very rewarding work and we are thankful to have this responsibility. It keeps us busy and happy!