Sunday, November 1, 2015

November 1, 2015

I love President Russell M Nelson. He is an Apostle called by Heavenly Father to lead and share his wonderful testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And his love of the Gospel radiates from him so abundantly. I don't know where to begin to describe the wonderful experience we had this week! We knew that he was flying in on Monday evening with Gerrit Gong, who is currently the Area President in Asia (but just got called to the Presidency of the Seventy and will move back to Salt Lake in January). President and Sister Berrett arrived the evening before to help prepare for their arrival. They had a bus leaving from the church to go to Negombo where the meeting was. We felt like we wanted to go a little earlier so that we could get a good seat and be able to get a glimpse of these great men! A few hours before we were going to leave, President Berrett called. He asked what our plans were for the day. After I told him, he asked if he could change them up a little. He said they had a small bus that he was taking to Negombo and asked if we would like to come with them....oh yes....and with Pres Nelson and Elder Gong! Oh my goodness! I think my heart leapt out of my chest! We said we would love that! We met at their hotel and waited a little bit. Pres Berrett and Sister Berrett came down first. Pres Anton (in the mission presidency, and our former District President) and Ann were with them, as well as Pres Kolitha, our District President, with his wife and daughter, and Pres Sunil (a former District Pres) and his wife and daughter. President Berrett told everyone where to sit in the bus. He wanted Steve and I to sit up front so we could visit with Pres Nelson and Elder Gong! After a few minutes, Pres Nelson and Elder Gong, with their wives, entered the bus!  There were 2 "body guards" with them as well.  We were introduced and shook their hands. President Nelson, after hearing our names, said "Oh...Condie...are you related to President Monsen? We said yes....that He and Steves Dad were first cousins. Then he said, No wonder you were called to this great place, Sri Lanka! Then we all sat down. We visited with the Gongs quite a bit. Sister Gong is a Bangerter from the Salt Lake family. Steve knew them really well so that was fun. They asked us all about the work here, what our assignments were, what are the challenges and successes here. It was really wonderful. I wanted to talk to Pres Nelson so bad so I touched his arm and asked if he had ever been to Sri Lanka before. That started a little conversation for a minute! His wife, Wendy, was really sweet. They asked us to share some of the experiences we have had here in sharing the gospel. They asked about the country and the people. We said we visit with a lot of less actives...which at that point Pres Nelson nodded and his wife said that he loves that! Steve also said hello to him from Tammy and Jim (his sister) who is the mission president in Sweden...because he is who gave Jim the call and set him apart. It was just an amazing experience for us. It was pouring rain on the way there. When we got to the church, the 3 branch presidents were just outside the entry way holding big umbrellas. Inside, there was a row of primary kids on both sides of the hallway, waving flags that had Pres Nelson and Elder Gongs pictures on them. The kids were singing songs as they came in. It was so touching. And here we were following them in and being part of it all! The people were waving, and crying, and so eager to see an Apostle of the Lord. Everyone was packed in that little hallway...just to get a glimpse! We took a detour and went upstairs to the chapel. I was asked to pay prelude and accompany the hymns for the meeting. They asked that no one take photographs in the building...that they would get a group photo at the end. The first speaker was Sister Berrett, followed by President Berrett. He is a great speaker and talked about following the Prophet and his Apostles. Next was Sister Gong, followed by Elder Gong.  Elder Gong had us raise our hands saying that we were missionaries and then raise our other hand to say that we would do something about it!  Sister Nelson was the next speaker. She was darling. She told the story of Pres Nelson, when he was a surgeon. She said one day after he had finished doing a surgery, one of the nurses came up to him and asked him why he was so different. She said many doctors swear, get mad easy and throw things across the room, but he never did those things. She wanted to know what was different. He said, "Because I know the Book of Mormon is true". She then started saying how that could be our answer for many questions we may get asked by others. It was really great. Then President Nelson spoke. He was very kind and loving. It is amazing to me that he is 92 years old. He said he gets asked the question, "When will we get more missionaries here" and he said, they are already here.  All of the people there were missionaries.  He told us we need to be an epistle of Christ.  He also talked about the Prophets and dispensations.  He said this is the only dispensation that won't end in will go until the second coming.  That really stuck out to me.  He talked about having a meeting with the Russian President, Mikhail Gorbachev. He said that Pres Gorbachev asked him what was different about our church. He talked about the Priesthood, the Godhead, having a Prophet, etc. Pres Nelson then asked if he would like to meet our current Prophet. He said ok, he supposed he could talk to him for a few minutes and to have him come to his hotel room. Pres Nelson said that it wasn't done that way. He would have to go to church headquarters and meet with him there. He said ok but reminded him that he only had a few minutes. He ended up staying 2 hours! One of the greatest things Pres Nelson did, was give an apostolic blessing to everyone there. He blessed them with health and strength. He blessed them with success in their businesses and in their education. The Spirit was so strong in this meeting. And believe it or not, it lasted one hour....with Pres Nelson taking almost 1/2 an hour. At the end, they had all the speakers come and sit on the front row where they took a picture of the entire congregation. (I am not sure how we will get that picture but I can't wait)! After, they stood up and faced everyone and then started from the back row letting everyone come forward and shake their hands! The people were so excited and grateful. It was wonderful! We pulled up the end and were able to hug him and shake his hand. What a blessing we had that night. There were 304 members that came. There are about 350 active members in the country. It was a wonderful sight. One fun thing for us, is that we were sitting on the 2nd row on the end. The people had to come down that aisle to see we got to see everyone too! We loved that! Many hugs from our friends in all three branches! We had to hurry after everyone went through the line as we got to go back on the bus with everyone! Elder Gong gave us the flowers that were given to them as they arrived. We sat in the back on the way home but the Gongs came back and visited with us and we were able to get a picture. We were hoping to get a picture with the Nelsons, but they were very tired and had to hurry off the bus and go to their rooms. The time change I am sure was clicking in! While the Gongs were back with us, I asked them questions. What they had learned in the 5 years they lived in Hong Kong in their calling. Sister Gong said she saw how important the Priesthood is in families.  Elder Gong's answer was profound. He said that he has learned that God loves all of his children. No matter where they live or their circumstances, He knows them and loves them.  He also said that there are 3 key things we need in the Gospel.  Faith, Energy and Focus.  It was one of the greatest experiences of my life!  As we got back to the hotel, Elder Nelson and his wife left the bus and went to their hotel room.  They were traveling to India the next morning. The rest of us got out of the bus.  We took pictures with the Gongs and everyone else!  Then President Kolitha took us home in their car.  It was the perfect day!  So grateful for my testimony of the Gospel and the love I have for the Prophet and his Apostles.  The next day was more spiritual feasting!  President Berrett and Sister Berrett stayed for a zone conference with the 2 elders and us!  We had classes on the Sabbath Day and keeping it holy, on Repentance, and teaching the message of the Restoration.  It was very good!  We practiced and shared and had a great time with our Mission President.  He had to catch a plane back to India so we had a late lunch at Burger King!  He wanted a beef burger!  They do not have beef burgers in India!!  It was nice!  The rest of the week was busy too!  Lots of teaching!  There is a date set for Sister Taniya's baptism of November 14. Plus, Sister Malli said she wants to be baptized too!  It is so exciting!!  Sister Gayani and her family came to dinner at our home with Pres Nishan and his family.  They brought us a beautiful Sri Lankan picture for our wall.  It was sweet!  They are listening to the Gospel message and they are really enjoying the message!  They are Buddhist and have many family issues, etc to deal with.  Her husband is in the army and is only here a few days each month.  But it was great meeting him and enjoying their families.  We celebrated Sandamalis birthday as well as one of Gayani's daughters.  Chocolate cake, candles and presents!  It was really fun!  Steve went to Kandy with Pres Kolitha to see where our YSA Conference will be held.  He had a great day with him.  I have been teaching classes and did the English class by myself!  EEK!!  Makes me nervous!  I got to go shopping for a few hours with Sheramy!  She is darling and has great tastes!  It was fun being with her!  Saturday, we decided to have a Halloween party for the branch.  I was so surprised how many people here have never heard of Halloween.  I explained it a lot at our English class.  It was so fun to tell them about it!  The branch was really excited.  I had a yellow and pink wig and wore funky clothes.  Steve had a big curly black wig and his sunglasses and his sarong!  He looked great!  We had rooms decorated and then held the party upstairs.  We had games, a cake walk, a fishing pond, a parade of costumes, trick or treating downstairs, face painting, decorating bags....and lots of photos!  So much fun.  We also had a potluck at the end.  We had a great turnout and the kids loved it!  Everyone stayed and helped clean up!  The Hagobians stayed over night at our place because it was so late and they live far away!  Today was Fast Sunday!  Another wonderful meeting.  Steve bore a fabulous testimony today.  He inspires me every day.  He has such a wonderful spirit about him all the time.  I am truly blessed.  We now have a big week ahead of us with the YSA Conference.  There aren't as many people going as we thought at first.  People back out, etc so we think we may get 20!  But we will have a great time with them!  Lots of work to do for that!   Can't believe it is November!  The weather is really rainy right now.  It is really hot still and I am getting a million mosquito bites.  Another great month ahead I am sure!

Selfie in the bus!

Coming from the bus, going into the Negombo branch.

Everyone waiting to go upstairs!

Sister Gong!

Pres Nelson and his wife, Wendy!

Bus ride back to Colombo!

The flags that the Primary children were waving!

Trip to Kandy with Pres. Kolitha

Best King Coconut I've had in Sri Lanka!

Farming the hillsides.

Victoria Damn.

Site of the future YSA activity.

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