That evening we went out to dinner. Senior Couples have a lot of leeway and can leave the MTC in the evenings and on their Preparation Day as long as they sign out. I wanted to go to Olive Garden and Elder Watts (Steven) indulged me. Again, we saw the hand of the Lord manifest and are convinced there are no coincidences. We were told the wait would be 35 minutes. Usually we won't wait that long, but decided to. As we were waiting (along with about 50 other customers), in came an older gentleman and his wife, dressed in Sunday attire. We were in our P-Day clothes, nice slacks, etc. and I had my missionary name badge on my outer clothing.
The older couple came and stood near us to wait. Eventually the older gentleman went to the host and asked how much longer the wait would be. Since we came in before them I was curious to know the answer, so I approached him and asked. He told me about 10 minutes and then, looking at my name badge, asked me what I did for the Church. I told him we were going on a mission and were at the MTC. One thing led to another and the couple asked us if we would join them for dinner and then they offered to buy us dinner, since we were missionaries. We agreed, knowing of the blessing that come from feeding missionaries.
They were from Colorado and it turns out the brother is serving as Stake President of the Castle Rock Stake and before that he was in the Mission Presidency with President Schultz, who is now the Portland Temple President. Since August of 2008 we have served in the Portland Temple as ordinance workers under President Schultz. Again, “tender mercies of the Lord.” We had a delightful evening visiting with them.
On Sunday we went to a MTC Branch to attend Sacrament Meeting. The branch we were assigned to attend was the international branch and there were young missionaries from countries all over the world. None from the US though. All of the missionaries were told to come prepared to give a short talk, from 3 – 5 minutes on humility and two were randomly called on to speak.
The young Elder that spoke said that he had never talked in front of more than 15 people before in his life and never in English (he spoke French). There were about 50 missionaries in attendance. He was humble and gave a very nice talk. The young sister that spoke talked about a special gift she gave her nephew. She was sure he would love the gift and hug her and thank her. However, he was disappointed because it wasn't the gift he wanted. She said that experience taught her to be more thankful for the gifts she receives from Heavenly Father. Then 10 Polynesian Elders sang a song in their native tongue. It was beautiful.
Relief Society was a wonderful and inspiring meeting, with a conversion story, and special musical number, and then a talk by Sister Matsumori of the General Primary Presidency. She spoke about how important it was for us as missionaries to show love to the Primary children and to learn their names. She showed a short video clip, which I have seen before, showing children from all over the world with the song I Am A Child of God playing in the background in many different languages. We sang I Am A Child of God for the closing hymn and those who from other countiries were invited to sing it in their native language or in the language that they would be speaking on their mission, and many did so. It was powerful listening to all of the sisters sing in different languages.
The first day we were at the MTC we met an Elder from Palmyra. We saw him the next day and after that we thought it would be nice to take a picture of him to show to his parents when we got to NY. Every day we looked for him but never saw him. As we were eating dinner Monday night, our last night at the MTC, I said a silent prayer that we would find him before we left. We still didn’t see him during or after dinner. Then we went to the laundry to wash one load of clothes and to read our assignment for the next day. We were there for about 20 minutes and there was only one couple of young elders doing laundry. They left and two more young elders came in. We were amazed to see that one of them was the Elder from Palmyra! It wasn’t his P day but he was leaving on Wednesday and had permission to wash his clothing that evening. Again, we do not believe it was a coincidence that of 2,200 missionaries, we would be the only four in the laundry room at the same time!
We had his companion take a picture of the three of us and talked for a bit while our laundry finished. It turns out that grew up in Aloha, Oregon and knew Elder and Sister Weston when Elder Weston was the Oregon Portland Mission President. Then, his family moved to New York and the Westons were assigned to be the directors of the Hill Cumorah Visitor’s Center. What a small world and what “tender mercies!”