Sunday, July 26, 2015

Photos of the Senior Couples--George's Post

As I have just reviewed my photos, I am surprised by how few pictures I have of the senior missionaries.  I should have more, especially in view of their contributions, not only to our experience, but also to supporting the local members and branches.  For example, I didn't find a photo of Elder and Sister Stones, and their son, Nathan, who are working in Lilongwe.  The Stones have been a great inspiration to us--doing an absolutely wonderful job with the branches and members there.  Elder Stones has gone to great lengths to help prospective members pull together the documents, and complete the papers, necessary to go on missions.  It is hard to think of anything a senior missionary might do that would, in the long term, have more of an effect upon the Mormon Church's growth and stability in Malawi.  Sister Stones is a wonderful teacher, and Nathan a great example of faithfulness.  I am constantly in awe of the hard work, insights and commitment of the senior missionaries we have met.
President and Sister Erickson are from Utah, after spending many years in Boston.  This photo was taken on the balcony of the Mission Home in Lusaka, on our first day in the mission field.  The Ericksons are constantly on the road, covering the four zones, two in Zambia (Lusaka and the Copperbelt), and two in Malawi (Lilongwe and Blantyre).  The Ericksons will finish up their mission about the same time we are released in April of 2016. 
The Skidmores served as the Office Couple in Lusaka and have now returned home to the Bay Area.  We were able to visit with them just once after this initial visit with them in the Mission Home.  They made a trip to Malawi just before returning to the States, and spent an evening with us in Blantyre.  Elder Skidmore maintained a wonderful blog of his mission experiences, which Carole and I followed closely before coming to Africa.

President Erickson on the Christmas party in Blantyre.  He has a great relationship with his missionaries, who hold him in the highest regard.

Elder and Sister Fisk, at the Blantyre Christmas party. They served in Lilongwe and have now returned to the States.

One of my favorite pictures.  Elder and Sister Merrill, next to Sisters Rasband and Muthengi.  The Merrills served seven missions, five in Africa, one in Germany and one in the South Pacific.  As a young man, Elder Merrill also served a mission inTahiti.  For six of their missions, Elder Merrill worked as the regional medical adviser, having practiced medicine in the United States--California and Tennessee--for his entire career.  He is a graduate of George Washington Medical School, and he and Sister Merrill loved their years in the Washington, D.C. area.  Often they said, however, that this, their last mission, was the best, where they served together as CES missionaries, supporting the seminary and institute programs in Blantyre and Lilongwe.  We became fast friends with the Merrills--something one doesn't expect later in life--and while it was sad to see them leave in June, we were pleased they were heading back to Orange County to be with family and friends.

Another photo from the December Christmas party, this time of Elder and Sister Reynolds.  The Reynolds went to great lengths to make our transition to Malawi as easy and comfortable as possible.  They found our apartment and got it furnished--a much harder task here than one might imagine.  They introduced us to the local leaders and helped us get situated.  Before they returned to Everett, Washington several months ago, often I teased them about being called back to Malawi to bail the Beals out.
The Reynolds at the missionary setting apart of Felix Paul (in the suit), accompanied by Chris Sitolo (far left).

The Merrills, new missionary Felix Paul, Sister Kandioni (with umbrella), and other family and friends.

The Reynolds were always ready to help out with the younger missionaries.  Here they are saying go bye to Elders Barnard and Johnson, who have just finished their missions, returning to Lusaka for a brief visit with the President and Sister Erickson, before flying back to Salt Lake City.

Sister Beal and Sister Bodily distributing "relish" at a small village in the Chikwawa District, 50 miles south of Blantyre.  The Bodilys are the mission's humanitarian missionaries, working out of Lusaka, Zambia.  The Chikwawa project was the first larger project they launched and they kindly allowed the Reynolds and us to help out.  Our day in Chikwawa certainly stands out as one of the most unusual days of our mission--both a highlight and a bitter sweet experience.

Elder Bodily having a lighter moment with the kids at one of the distribution sites in the Chikwawa District.