Sunday, January 22, 2017

Elder Larry and Sister Bev Elkington
The end of our mission must be near – We were asked to speak in the Heritage Park Branch sacrament meeting this afternoon and the Gunlock Ward bishop (our home ward) called today saying he received a letter that we are being released the first week of February and asking if we would speak in sacrament meeting on Feb. 12.  Then the Santa Clara Stake President asked us to meet with the High Council on Feb 12.
It’s a cliché, but we do feel mixed emotions – we love our mission and will be sorry to see it end.  But we have run short of energy.  If we were 20 years younger, we would extend, extend and extend our mission! (But 20 years ago we didn’t even know each other.)  So we have to settle for the wonderful experience we have had!
We went with the young elders this week to teach a less-active couple who have a 17 yr. old son who has not been baptized.  The son was not there – he had forgotten the appointment. But we had a great discussion with the parents.  We told them the Church is not a temple for saints; it’s a hospital for sinners.  The father said he really liked that – I think he was not feeling righteous enough to attend Church. We also discussed the Atonement of Jesus Christ and that none of us have lived perfect lives.  If it were not for the Atonement of Jesus Christ, none of us could return to our Father in Heaven.
We obtained the necessary information to get their membership records transferred to the Heritage Park Branch.  The father said he has bought church clothes, so they are seriously thinking of attending church.
We have accepted an offer on Sister Elkington’s home in Kaysville.  So we are trying to work in time to get the furniture removed from the home.  It’s official – we are going to live in the St George area after our mission.  We will miss our family and friends in Northern Utah. But Bev will not be troubled by arthritis as much in the St George area as she would in Kaysville.  And we will be close enough to attend the Heritage Park Branch periodically.  We love these Native American people!
As we are preparing for the end of our mission, we had Sister “M’s” grandchildren to our home for dinner.  We want them to remember our love for them! We also had “T” join them, since he came to visit with us at dinner time – we love him too.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

We apologize for missing an epistle for last week.  We had several family members spend time with us over the holidays.  We loved seeing them, but it did take a lot of our time and energy preparing places for them to sleep and preparing meals.  We are learning what family and others have been telling us – we do not have the energy to run a hotel and restaurant – we need to scale down to a bed and breakfast.
We have known of the struggles Native Americans have in trying to maintain their native cultural while also fitting in with the “white culture”.  But it was really brought home to us when we visited with Stan, an active member of the Heritage Park Branch.  Bev asked him if he had a positive experience participating in the Church Indian Student Placement Program as a youth. Instead of just a “yes” or “no” answer, he elaborated. He said when he was with his white foster family he felt he could not associate much with the other Native American students at school because he felt he needed to “be more white than the white kids” to fit in.  Then when he returned to the Navajo Reservation in the summers he was viewed with suspicion, so he had to “be more Indian than the Indian kids” to fit in. He was torn between two cultures and did not fit in either one.  It fractured his personality – he didn’t know who he was anymore.
Also, when he was home on the Navajo Reservation, the nearest branch of the Church met about 55 miles from where he lived.  Each Sunday he would get out of bed at 5:00 AM and start walking to Church dressed in a white shirt, a tie and slacks.  He said the Native Americans (including his relatives and friends) who passed him knew he was going to Church and would throw things (including rocks) at him as they passed.  They would not stop to give him a ride.  Often, he would not make it for the whole meeting.  And sometimes he would see he could not be there until the last meeting would be over.  So he would cross the road and start walking back home.  On the way home cars would sometimes stop and offer him a ride.  How many of us would have gone to Church in our youth in those circumstances?
He related how one morning he had walked 17 miles without being offered a ride and he could see he could not possibly get to Church before the meetings ended, so he stopped – then crossed the road and started back home.  He didn’t try to go to Church after that for a number of years.  He got into trouble, spent time in jail and lived a life outside of the Church.  It might have been different if even one of the active Church members had taken an interest in him and reached out by offering a ride or at least concern for him.
As Stan related his experiences, he could not hide the pain he felt as he recalled these experiences and feelings.  How many are there among us at Church or other places who are making valiant efforts to do what they believe is right against seemingly unsurmountable odds?  And how much difference could it make if we reached out with love and concern - whether or not we are serving as set-apart missionaries?
After he married, his wife asked him who he really was.  He went for counseling and realized his sense of who he was had been fractured – he was neither white nor Native American.  He worked through the issues plaguing him and later became active in the Church (as a result of two home teachers in the Heritage Park Branch).  He and his wife and their family now have recommends to go to the temple and be sealed.
We also met with a young single Native American mother with the young elders as they taught her a lesson on the Book of Mormon.  She said she would be to Church Sunday. It’s Sunday and she didn’t come to Church - so much for good intentions.
We are in the last month of our mission.  It causes very mixed emotions!  We love serving the Lord and we love our calling as missionaries.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Elder Larry and Sister Bev Elkington
Merry Christmas!  ‘Tis a wonderful time of the year – for missionaries and for most people!  We are blessed (?) to have 11 family members staying with us this weekend.  We are always happy to see family and friends.  Jeff and Leslie Smith and their family are here along with Greg and Stephen Smith and Greg’s daughter Shae.  Jeff’s family includes 3 year old Mila, who is the center of attention.  She is very bright and has the vocabulary of a 7 or 8 year old.  It is fun to experience Christmas through the eyes of a young child.
Missionary activity this week has been centered on helping the Heritage Park Branch President and his wife deliver Christmas gifts to the Native American children.  Kony Toys for Tots uses the Church organization to reach out to the Native Americans with young children.  The toys were of high quality and they were numerous – there were many gifts for each child!
Our goal has been to convey God’s love to those feeling lonely or downtrodden. One of the young men we have been working with, “T” called to ask if we could assist him in buying a sports bike for one of the young men on the Shivwits Reservation.  He was shopping at the Catholic Thrift store and found the sports bike in like-new condition. They were asking $20.00 for it.  He only had $10.00 and wanted us to provide the other $10.  We told him we were in a missionary teaching appointment and could not get there before the store closed.  He tried to get the store clerk to reduce the price to $15 and told her he was buying it for a young boy on the Reservation.  She said, “Why didn’t you tell me that – I’ll pay the difference.”  He then delivered the bike and a helmet to a young boy on the Shivwits Reservation.  He was so excited and felt so elated to have helped someone.  Just a week ago he had been given a car by 2 men who had heard of his plight. Now the receiver was able to experience the feeling of gratitude from one he had given to.  He could hardly wait to go tell his friends of the joy of giving!
That is the essence of the Gospel – being a grateful giver and receiver.
We are working with the young elders in teaching two people who have committed to be baptized in January.  To see people accept the Gospel is the greatest joy of all!
May each of you be blessed with peace this week and always!
Elder and Sister Elkington

Sunday, December 18, 2016

This week seemed about like when we were having family home evenings at Anasazi Valley and we had to prepare food every Monday.  We didn’t have a Branch Family Home Evening – but we did have a Heritage Park Branch Christmas dinner and party.  We spent part of the week delivering invitations to less active members and most of Saturday baking rolls for the dinner.  We also took the children from the Shivwits Reservation to practices for the Christmas program.  The program was a play written by one of the members.  Krystin and Ethan (from the Reservation) were cast as Mary and Joseph - they did a great job! On Saturday we made 3 round trips from our home to the Shivwits Reservation and the Church.
The dinner and program were a  great success. I don’t think they could have fit more people in the cultural hall.
On Wednesday we took Sister “M”s” granddaughters to the Visitor’s Center  by the St George Temple.  Two of the sister missionaries from the Utah St. George Mission (Sanchez and Avila) served as guides.  One of the girls we took was so impressed, she said, “Someday I want to serve a mission in the St George Temple Visitor’s Center”. We also took them to McDonald’s for hamburgers.  These girls have felt left out when we have taken the boys to scouting.  So we decided to give them a special evening out. It appears to have been a very successful fellowshipping activity.
This time of year seems to bring with it a lot of stress as we prepare for Christmas and try to carry Our Father in Heaven’s love to those we have been called to serve.  It seems there is more to do than we can work into our schedule.
On Friday we met with the elders and Sister “M’s” grandchildren and gave them a lesson on Christ’s gift to us – the atonement.  It caused me to think of the great gifts that were given – God gave us the gift of His Only Begotten Son, knowing he would be crucified, and Jesus gave His life to atone for our sins and enable us to return to Our Father in Heaven.  Our sacrifices and gifts pale in comparison!
One of those at the Branch Christmas Party was Kiza, a girl we had helped teach a year ago.  When we saw her at the party, Sister Elkington asked her if she didn’t want to be baptized,  She said, "Yes, but I can't remember some of the things I was taught."  So we have scheduled a meeting with Elders Perkins and Clark to review the lessons so she can be baptized.  She called this morning and asked if we could give her a ride to church.  We gladly did – she is an outstanding young girl! We look forward to her baptism.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Elder and Sister Elkington
Week ending December 10, 2016
Greetings from two very blessed servants of our Father in Heaven.  We love our mission to the Native Americans.  We feel God’s love for these people each day.  And He remembers and blesses them.  Often He directs our efforts to bring an answer to their prayers.
One young Native American,”T”,  has been in the homeless shelter for 3 months.  Recently he got a job and was able to save enough money to rent a home in a remote area over 20 miles from St George. The problem was that he had no transportation to get to his work. We have been helping him, so we agreed to pick him up at his home each day and take him to work.  At 11:00 PM we reversed the process.  This amounted to about 75 miles a day plus the loss of sleep. We knew our health could not endure this schedule for a prolonged time, but he had no one else to help.  We told him we could not continue this arrangement 6 days a week any longer.  We told him we would have to cut back to giving rides 2 days a week and he would have to find someone else to help.   He prayed for help and we prayed doors would be opened to solve his transportation problem. Last Monday he received a car given to him by an RV dealership. The owners had heard of his plight and generously donated the car. It was inspected and registered in his name and all the fees had been paid. These men provided the answer to his (and our) prayers!  He has now been able to add a second seasonal job to help with expenses.
We could relate many other experiences where we have observed God’s love for these people.  Many of them have very little in the way of earthly possessions. But they are very grateful for what they have and they willingly share with others.  We have no need to seek for worthy charities to donate to –the needs are all around us.
The Heritage Park Branch President gave us some forms to fill out if we encounter families in need as we visit.  In essence, he has called Sister Elkingon to be an Assistant Relief Society President. This week we assisted two needy families receive food from the Bishop’s Storehouse.  The gratitude felt by these families brought tears to our eyes. In the one case, we had to pick up and deliver the supplies.  In the other case the family has been providing food to two homeless people from their meager pantry.
We think of ourselves as young (well, maybe middle aged) missionaries.  But the other day a young adult man we have been assisting called someone on the phone and we overheard him say, “An elderly missionary couple” had been helping him.  We hadn’t thought of ourselves in those terms!  But – we could use the energy we had when we were younger!
On Saturday we were invited to a less active member’s wedding.  Then he invited us to his company Christmas dinner and party that evening.  It was a great experience to hear of the many needy causes he supports and he has a profit sharing plan with his employees.  It was very obvious he loves them and they love him.  There are many good people who do not attend church on Sunday – but they follow the Savior’s admonition to “Love one another”.
We are so grateful, at this time of year, to acknowledge Our Savior, whose birth we celebrate.  He was born the Son of God. He died for us and He has been resurrected. We testify He lives and knows and loves each of us!  And we love to serve Him!  Many of the acts of compassion and kindness done by others is an answer to someone’s prayer.