Friday, October 15, 2010

Remember "Semper Gumby"...

At the risk of saturating our blog with another chapter about Jens Jacob Simonsen, there is a new post that needs to be recorded. So here's to JJ and to all of you who have been following his remarkable story..especially to his good family in Qaqortoq, Greenland on the southern tip of the largest island in the world. Your son has a new assignment.
This is a glimpse of the world that you are about to enter.. This is the Wasatch Mountain range.
You will love these mountains. They anchor all of Northern Utah. You will never get lost if you look to the mountains. I once asked an Elder from our mission in Denmark what he missed most about leaving his home state of Utah. He said: "more than his family, he missed the mountains. For some reason, Heavenly Father wants you in Northern Utah.

Throughout our mission in Denmark, our President Olausen gave us many short phrases and quotes for us to remember. We often repeated these phrases out loud as we went about our daily missionary work. One phrase used frequently by all of us is a reminder for us to be "Semper Gumby." This was sometimes an annoying reminder because it meant that out of the blue- we had to change our plans to meet the needs of our mission, our district, or newly arriving missionaries.

"Semper Gumby" is a real Latin phrase that is an unofficial motto for the US Navy Seabees... it means "always flexible." Gumby is a little green rubbery man who can be bent and twisted in many ways. He always has a smile on his face and never seems to break. President was a former US Navy Chaplin and he lived in a world in which plan A did not always work. If you are "Semper Gumby" you are flexible enough to change to Plan B at a moment's notice.

JJ, a few days ago you received a "Semper Gumby" letter in the mail from Salt Lake. You thought it was airline tickets to prepare you for your mission in the Utah St George Mission. Instead it was a change of your mission and departure date. Welcome to the world of missionaries who are ready and able "Semper Gumby" experts.
JJ is now called to the Utah Ogden Mission...and will enter the MTC on December 14, 2010.

There are many blessings that follow a "Semper Gumby" experience. Since we talked on the phone a few days ago I started to collect these blessings as I pondered over the change.
Elder Neal Maxwell used to say that "coincidence is Heavenly Father's method of micromanaging the universe."
It is no coincidence that your mission call has been changed. By the time you complete the two years that you will be serving in Northern Utah- you will probably discover many reasons why you have been blessed to serve there.
Here are some of the blessings that I know that you will appreciate as you enter your beautiful new misssion. For a boy who grew up in the crisp, cold land of southern Greenland, surrounded by snow covered mountain ranges-- you will never get tired of those mountains.

I know that you will miss your family and Christmas in Greenland. But in your new mission, you will probably have a white Christmas and a snowy new year. It may surprise you how cold Utah and Idaho can get in the winter. You may have to bring all one hundred of your many coats to keep warm. --pictures: Southern Greenland, JJ's home town of Qaqortoq

Greenland has villages that dot the mountain side and water that reflects its constant beauty. So does Northern Utah. There are streams, waterfalls, icy rivers, and the Great Salt Lake. They reflect the most beautiful sunsets and welcome crazy lightening storms during the summer. You will soon learn what it means to go "up the canyon." You may even see the "point of the Mountain" before you enter the MTC.
This is a map of your mission in the United States. You will live and serve in some of the most frequently visited Mormon areas in all of Utah- Ogden, Logan, Bountiful, Brigham City, and even "Star Valley Wyoming." You will be in the center of the Church often called the "Heart of the Church."
Your mission covers parts of three states- Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming.
This is the official map of the Utah Ogden Mission. I was surprised how many important cities are in this mission. The city of Ogden is about 23% Hispanic... and only 50% of its population is LDS. Your mission baptizes between 180-200 converts per month. There are about 150 stakes. (click on the map to enlarge it).

Welcome to some of the amazing cities along the Wasatch Front... this is near Brigham City, Utah.

Ogden, Utah...

Logan, Utah....

Part of your mission is in the Northern tip of Salt Lake City. There will be a time when you can attend general conference in person and see the Prophet of the Church.

This is a view of the many ski resorts along this mountain range. The people of Utah love the out of doors. You will see more SUV's, campers, boats, pickup trucks, and motor homes than you probably have ever seen in your life. There is a pheasant season, fishing season, deer season, bow and arrow season, elk season, and any other season that someone comes up with that will take you "up the canyon" to build a campfire, sing "Come Come Ye Saints" , and make some'mores all in the same night. (click on this map to get the full picture)

Winter storms that affect Utah generally come from the North Pacific Ocean, where cold Artic air encounters the relatively warmer Pacific waters. Does that Artic air come from Greenland by any chance?
A Lesson in Utah Snow: (especially for Elder Simonsen who is knows all about the weather)
It is the structure of the snow crystals that makes Utah snow unique. Utah is the second driest state in the nation (after Nevada). The cold, relatively dry conditions produce light, crystalline snowflakes called "Dendrites"..pictured above. These snowflakes are thick and symmetrical and float slowly through the cold atmosphere to the surface, accumulating as fluffy powder in the mountains. Often, storm fronts that move through northern Utah are followed by brisk northwest upper-level winds, which are aimed directly at the mountain peaks.
Additional moisture is drawn from the warmer waters of the Great Salt Lake, which never freezes and snowfall in the mountains may continue for days, even after the main storm has passed. It is not unusual to see an additional 24-36 inches of snowfall in the day or two following a storm, all because of this norwesterly flow of cold air across the Great Salt Lake and over the Wasatch Mountains.

They must be doing something right in your new mission.
The Utah Ogden Mission has within its boundaries.. three temples with a fourth under construction. Elders and Sisters often attend the temple regularly- on P days. This is the Ogden Temple.

The Bountiful temple....

The Brigham City Temple... (under construction)

And this historical, old Logan Temple... Some time I will have to share with you the many miracles written about the building of this temple.

In June of 2010, the Utah Ogden Mission just got a new Mission president.. President Brent Olson and his wife Sister Dianne Mickelsen Olson. I found a radio interview that they made discussing your mission.
Here are some of the highlights..
1. President and Sister Olson came from Philadelphia at the end of June to oversee the mission which extends north into Idaho, east to Star Valley, Wyoming and south to North Salt Lake
2. Two of their seven children live in Ogden.
3. President Olson grew up in Washington, D.C. area and Sister Olson grew up in Denver. He is
an attorney and former Stake President.
4. There are at present 188 elders and sister missionaries as well as five couples who proselyte and ten other missionaries who serve in the office in the Ogden Tabernacle. There are 18 single sister missionaries.
5. The four Utah missions had more baptisms than any other missions in the United States last year. Ogden had 2,050 --more than any mission in the U.S.
6. The Olsons said they feel the high baptism rate is because of the fellowshipping by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
7. About half of the baptisms in the Ogden Mission
are children or spouses from part-member
8. There is a perception the Bountiful and Ogden have more members of the church than they actually do. President said that Kaysville has the highest percentage of members in the area, while Ogden has 50% members.
9. Missionaries come from around the world to serve in Northern Utah. There are 38 Spanish-speaking missionaries who serve in the 23 Spanish wards and branches. Other missionaries come from many countries including Mongolia, Cambodia, Denmark, Sweden, Samoa, Fiji, and Canada.
10. President Olson counsels each new missionary to read five pages of the Book of Mormon each day and underline in red where it testifies of Christ. He says-"they are able to testify with a lot more strength about the Book of Mormon and the Savior."
11. There are three sets of missionaries on the Utah State University Campus, and one set of
on the Weber State University Campus.
12. About one-third of the missionaries live in members' homes and they all have dinner in
members homes.
13. Cars are furnished for about 2/3 of the missionaries while the others walk or ride bicycles.
14. When the new missionaries arrive and again when they leave, they spend the night in the Olsons home.
15. President interviews each missionary every six weeks.
16, There are three zones that each meet every six weeks, usually around the time missionaries are released to go home, when new missionaries arrive and transfers.
17. Each General Conference, the mission is given a number of tickets so some of the missionaries may attend at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City. Presiden Olson plans to take some missionaries who have nearly completed their missions to the Conference, as many may not have the opportunity again.

1. There are about 150 stakes.
2. There are hundreds and thousands of good members, they encourage their friends, they have friends in their homes to have them taught the gospel, but there are also thousands and thousands of good people who have moved int Utah or who have lived here before for many years who have not had the gospel.
3. We tried to impress on our missionaries that there was a special reason for them being in Utah, in Ogden, and that there were people there that only they could teach. One night the mission president had a call from a man in Logan and he had gone through 14 sets of missionaries and now agreed to be baptized. What he wanted was the 14 set of missionaries there, and they couldn't but the current missionaries were just the ones who were able to touch his spirit..that's why they were sent there and that happened so often.
4. We had 150 missionaries who would cover the whole mission in English and then we had another 30-35 who covered the mission in Spanish and they would worry about "I've got to speak the language perfectly" and we'd teach them "It's not you. You know, the language doesn't matter. It's your spirit that will teach." And that happened time after time after time.
5. I got to teach particularly with the Spanish Missionaries... I noticed all the time- you'd sit there and just watch these young missionaries, and they would teach with such power and suthority. As soon as they got the feel of the scriptures and the knowledge that Heavenly Father answers prayers, they would just go teach with that authority and power..I used to just sit back and feel and look amazed..they could teach inthat kind of situation infinitely better than I could.
6. When I was interviewed by President Faust for this mission he said: "You will not be judged on the number of baptisms but on how your missionaries turn out in 20 years time." It occurred to us a little bit into the mission that in 20 years time most of our missionaries will be married and preparing their sons to serve missions. We took that very, very seriously. We had essentially two goals for our mission. One was that every one of our missionaries would be worthy, sealed husband or wife, father or mother, and that was the primary goal. And the second goal was to baptize 200 worthy, ready converts every month in our mission and to exceed that from time to time. We worked on that very, very hard. We focused very much with our missionaries on teaching them the spiritual skills- how to pray, how to study the scriptures, how to receive revelation through the scriptures.
7. We are blessed, very very blessed to have three temples (a fourth under construction) in our mission so every missionary pretty much lives within a half an hour or so of the temple and could go every preparation day morning. So with those three things- knowing how to pray, knowing how to study the scriptures, the opportunity to go to the temple almost every week- that was a tremendous spiritual growing factor for our missionaries and you could see the change that would take place.
8. In Utah nearly every convert is a joint product of members and missionaries working together. You don't go very far as a missionary in Utah if you don't work with the members.
9 We had many missionaries who really had no parents and we were their parents. One missionary who came on his mission had parents who were very antagonistic toward the church. They sent him literature about the church- anti literature. They tried everything and eventually he got a letter from them saying that his father had cancer and could he come home. He was devestated but he elected to stay on his mission. Six weeks later, another letter came. Father had died. And he still didn't go home. Bless his heart. But it wasn't until another two months that he had a letter rom another member of the family. No cancer, no death. It was all jsut trying to get him to go home. How do you deal with that? You love him and you talk to him and you love him more. That particular missionary- we attended his temple sealing while we were still on our mission. He got sealed here in Utah and we were able to just go and share that blessing with him. Now he lives in the mission- very happily married.
10. Since we have been released; we have the blessing of living in Draper and a lot of our missionaries come back to Utah to go to school. Some of them are up in Idaho, some of them are down in Provo, and in Ogden at Weber State University, and up in Logan, and so we just get sometimes floods of missionaries coming to see us. We keep up with them, we see them progressing, we see them dating and forming relationships, we see them getting engaged, and we had the opportunity to go to the temple with them and see them sealed. These blessings will just continue and they're so excited -
they facebook us or write to us and tell us when they are having a child or when something exciting is happening in their lives.
I signed up for facebook just two or three months after our mission. I thought, "Alright I can deal with this" the next morning 550 e-mails.
Mission families are eternal families too. And they know we love them.

JJ, I know that you are very busy trying to earn a little money as you prepare for your misssion in a few months.
This "Semper Gumby" opportunity that you have been given this week is truly filled with so many blessings that are in store for you in the coming two years. I have just mentioned a few.
One of the most significant blessings that I see as I think about your new call is that many of the Elders and Sisters that taught you in Denmark now have returned home to this area.
Their spirit will be there with you. Many are going to school in the cities within your mission. Some are only a few miles away from its boundaries. Their prayers will be be with you. They may even help you teach from time to time (if that is allowed).. like you so generously helped them teach in the cold snowy days of Denmark.

I so appreciate these men and women. And all the elders and sisters who have served in our mission while we have been in Odense. They will be your life long friends. I am so grateful for their service and your willingness to serve along side of them. I won't forget Elder Clayton ..

and the strength of his companionship with Elder Barnard.

They will never forget the experiences that they shared with you.

Again, thank you for your willingness to serve.. your new mission in the Utah Ogden Mission, is really your second mission. You have been serving the Lord in our mission- ever since you entered the waters of baptism.

You already know that missionary work is not always easy. I appreciate the long hours of work that these two Arizona boys gave to our mission in Odense- Elder Shreeve a brand new elder, and Elder Brown- now home. Love his good friendship. They are so looking forward to your successful mission. I am sure that you will see them again.

When you enter your new mission you are entering Utah territory.. where some of your best friends, Elders and Sisters.. are going to school, and living. These are eternal friendships- I so appreciate them all: Sister Reed, and Michelle (our sweet mini-missionary),
"Burton and Roberts" as you fondly call them- the sisters who were there when the Lord found you on a quite street in Svendborg. I am so grateful that they came on their missions to find and teach you. I am grateful for the enthusiasm and love that you received from Elder Francis and Crosley. The Lord is watching over us all. I am grateful that you are now ready to go out and find some new brothers and sisters who are waiting for you to teach them. It is quite a circle.

We are all looking for the next chapter to begin in your life. Welcome to the possibilities of your new mission. The Lord is keeping an eye on you.
After a freezing day in the middle of a harsh Utah winter, you may miss the warm summer days of Greenland. Thank you for your strength and your example. You are "semper gumby" ..."always flexible" .. you do not crack under pressure. Looking forward to saying "goodbye" to you just before Christmas at the MTC.
We love you, sist w

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