Monday, May 11, 2015

Week of April 6-11, 2015
“Oi” ("hello" in Portuguese) from the Provo MTC.  We have had a wonderful week!  Before we entered the MTC, we enjoyed being in downtown Salt Lake for General Conference.  We stayed at the City Creek Marriott, which as you might guess, many members of the Church stay as guests during conference.  It was interesting because they set up a large room with round tables for the concierge breakfast and we ate every morning with several members of the Seventy and their wives. We had tickets to the Saturday morning, Priesthood (Jeff) and Sunday morning sessions.
  President Matthew Bell, our new Bartlesville stake president, and his family came for General Conference, so we had arranged to meet him in a private room at the north visitor center on temple square following the Sunday morning session to be set apart as missionaries.  We learned that President Bell grew up in Orange Texas (where we interviewed for a job at a DuPont ethylene plant in 1980) in the Methodist church and joined the church in 1994.  They have lived in Claremore for the past eight years and were therefore members of the Tulsa East Stake This was his first opportunity to set apart a senior missionary couple and so it was a memorable experience for all.

Sunday, April 5, 2015 on Temple Square
Since this is my first time as a missionary, I found it interesting that we were set apart under the direction and keys of authority delegated by President Thomas S. Monson.  The first counsel given was to always bear testimony and share our witness of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, both its redeeming power and its enabling power. Jeff and I were reminded that there would be difficult experiences associated with this call and we would need to rely on the Spirit for direction and inspiration.  President Bell referenced President Uchtdorf’s concluding talk in the Sunday morning session about the Savior’s grace unlocking the gates and opening the windows of heaven.  It was powerful counsel and a wonderful blessing that will guide us in our missionary service.  President Bell also spoke of the opportunity that I would have to be a mother to the young missionaries serving in our mission areas.  Since our assignment will be about a 3-hour drive north of the mission home, we’re sure to have that opportunity.  The promise was that as we loved these young missionaries and relied on the Spirit for direction, these interactions would result in eternal friendships that would bring us joy in the years to come. 
The final two blessing were one of health (I think Ryan must have said something to President Bell about my health issues) and for our family.  After dealing with the pain in my right side for the past month, despite having the kidney stone removed, both Jeff and I have been a little concerned.  I was promised that within days of starting this work “it would be as if it was never there”.  I know that the Lord can heal and I am grateful for the promise from his servant that He would heal me. I am doing so much better and although there is still just a little residual pain on the right-side, I have been able to go all day without any problem.   We were also promised that our family would be blessed while we are away.  We have never doubted that accepting the call to serve from President Monson would bless our family, but it was very comforting to hear it specifically mentioned at this time.  (At our first meeting in the MTC the presidency and their wives shared several of their own personal family experiences reaffirming that the families of those who serve are blessed in very special ways.)
We had a very sweet experience as we were leaving the City Creek Marriott for the MTC on Monday morning with suitcases in hand.  We stepped off the elevator in the lobby and there stood Elder and Sister Southward.  How appropriate that our final farewell and best wishes came from the Southwards.  They had been in Salt Lake all week for meetings and were just heading over to the temple for an endowment session before flying back to Oklahoma Monday afternoon.  The Southward’s are such great people and a reminder of all that is good in Oklahoma.  Elder Southward was the stake president that called Jeff to be a bishop (the first time) 27 years ago and more recently, to be his executive secretary as he has served as the Area Seventy for Oklahoma, west Arkansas and southwest Missouri.  We have served with Sister Southward in the Oklahoma City temple on Saturday’s the past couple of years and she has such a way of making your feel important, her warm embrace was a nice send off.  Our intermittent time in Oklahoma over the past 34 years has been very good.
We arrived at the MTC on Monday, April 6, 2015 around 9:30am and were impressed at how well-organized they were.  We were given a map and a list of tasks to complete with very clear instructions.  We drove the car to the unloading dock at the MTC dormitory  and four young Elders were there to greet us and help carry our suitcases to our room.   They were there to learn Italian and two are going to Austin’s mission in Milan next week.  We told them to be sure and tell him hi from us if they saw him.   Next, we picked up our package of teaching materials at the MTC bookstore and finally we settled our expenses for 11 days at the MTC (which was about half what it cost for our 3 nights at the Marriott in Salt Lake).  The accommodations are excellent and our MTC room is a little larger and nicer than the Marriott, and the food has been excellent.
It has been an amazing week here at the MTC.  They know how to train, motivate and inspire and they do it WELL!!  There were 98 senior missionaries who checked in on Monday and during training and meals, we have met most of them.  It is a small world in the Church.  One of the first senior missionaries we saw was Sister Cornia who was a member of our ward when we lived in Casper.  Her husband had been in the Stake Presidency but has since passed away.  We first reconnected with Sister Cornia last November when she was part of our Israel tour group.  At that time, we had our call, but she was just getting ready to submit her papers.  So it was quite a coincidence we entered the MTC on the same day.  We also met Elder Vern and Sister Priscilla Hoskin from Blackfoot Idaho.  She taught school with  Rayde (my brother-in-law), he is Lamar Hoskin's brother who was a bishop in the Bartlesville 2nd ward, their son Matt and his family lived in our ward when Jeff was bishop, and we met one of their other sons in Chelsea’s ward in Pittsburgh when we were there this past January.  
MTC District (l to r) Edmunds, Burkinshaws, Swallow, Yazzie, Shumways and Lynns.   

Our district was us and three other couples with Jeff serving as the district leader (B comes before E, L or S in the alphabet).  Our instructors were Sister Nichelle Yazzie from Arizona and Brother Taylor Swallow from Salt Lake.  Elder Del and Sister Marsha Shumway from Orem are serving their 3rd mission to McAllen, Texas Spanish-speaking MLS (Member and Leaders Support); Elder Ken and Sister Rienna Lynn from Reno, Nevada are serving an MLS mission to Philadelphia, PA; and Elder Steve and Sister Liz Edmunds from Woodlands, UT (near Park City) are serving in the Western European Area Office in land management. Sister Edmunds is the Food Nanny on the BYU channel (see  The Edmunds are also neighbors with the Clark's who use to live in Tulsa.  They were all great and we thoroughly enjoyed our time together.  We did a lot of role-playing and got to know each other pretty well.
On Tuesday evening, we attended an MTC Devotional with Elder Garrit W. Gong, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy and the Asia Area President.  The Asia Area including China and India have about half the world’s population (3.5 billion people).  He spoke about how to teach the gospel to non-Christians since that is the challenge for his area.  See the following chart.

Elder Gong said that while many of the non-Christian converts don’t understand much of what the missionaries taught them, they did feel the Spirit and therefore wanted to do what the missionaries asked them to do – quite an interesting observation.  Helping them identify the Spirit in their lives (something they would recognize from their pre-mortal experience) was a key role for the missionaries.
We also watched a devotional presented by Elder Bednar at the MTC on Christmas 2011 about developing the Character of Christ.  While we didn’t have a transcript of the devotional, we did find that Elder Bednar presented a similar talk at BYU-Idaho in 2002, worth looking up and reviewing.  Elder Bednar said, “If we turn outward as missionaries as Christ did in love, compassion and service it will not be about us.”
For our P-Day on Saturday, we took Jeff's Mom for breakfast at Kneaders and then to see “Cinderella” followed by a manicure for grandma.  We had dinner that evening with Aunt Robyn at Café Rio in Provo.  She has met with her Bishop and is working towards going to the temple sometime this Fall, we are so excited for her.  Once Robyn has been sealed Jeff's family will be a whole unit for eternity.
For church today, we attended the international branch at the MTC, where there are many young missionaries who are preparing to go to Mongolia, including a couple of young women from Brazil.
This week we’ll be doing Mission Office training even though our Mission President has changed our assignment to work in the city of Teofilo Otóni where there is a small mission district.  They have found us a home to rent but we’ll have to furnish it with furniture and appliances.  It sounds like a great opportunity to serve.
We will be leaving for Brazil on Friday afternoon, April 17 arriving on Saturday afternoon.  Our itinerary is as follows:  SLC to Atlanta to Rio de Janeiro to Vitória.  We presume we’ll be at the mission home for a few days where we’ll get our phones switched to a Brazilian cell phone plan and we’ll confer with President and Sister Young.  Then we’ll drive north to Teofilo Otóni.
Avante para a Vitória!!  (D&C 128:22)
Elder and Sister Burkinshaw

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