Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Welcome Home, Elder Vic Smith

Elder Vic Smith, son of Eric and Karin Smith - and big brother to Mitchell, Sarah, Caroline and Martin - returned honorably on Saturday, December 19 from a successful fulltime mission in Portugal. Calling the two years he spent in Portugal, "the best and the worst experience of my life," Elder Smith elaborates. "There really is nothing more gratifying than doing the Lord’s work among His children . . . but there is probably nothing harder either!"

The Church was first introduced in Portugal in the 1970's by members in the U.S. Armed Forces. In 1974, then President Spencer W. Kimball visited Portugal where he dedicated the country to the preaching of the gospel after receiving word the church would be recognized by the government. Immediately, four missionaries were transferred from Brazil to begin the work. The earliest Church meetings were held in the home of a Canadian embassy member living in Portugal.

Prophesied to become "the Church’s lighthouse in Europe," Portugal’s membership growth in the late 1980's was brisk, but slowed significantly in the 90's and overall retention of newly baptized members is difficult. Today, with two missions and slightly more than 38,000 members in 73 wards and stakes, Portugal has the highest percentage of members in any country in Europe but is the second largest population of members without a temple.

As to his future now that he is officially an RM . . . Elder Smith is looking forward to attending school in northern Utah - either the University of Utah or BYU - in the fall of 2010. In the meantime, after Christmas he will be looking for a job - in plumbing, delivery, general construction, retail or landscaping - to finance his education.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Open House Welcomes Christmas and the Neighbors

On Sunday evening, December 20, Dick and Ruth Graf welcomed dozens of ward members, neighbors and friends to their home for their annual Christmas open house and to see the festive display of hundreds of Dickens-esque miniature houses, shops, and churches, complete with lights, moving parts, trees and itty-bitty villagers. Dick reports he and Ruth begin bringing boxes up from their basement storage room in late August and begin setting up the display in September, finishing just before Thanksgiving. Their collection includes nearly every piece manufactured by Department 56, including the Dickens Village, Snow Village, Christmas in the City, New England Village, and others which they alternate from year-to-year. In addition to the village pieces, which take hundreds of hours to assemble, Ruth - and many of her friends - spend dozens more hours in the kitchen preparing a delicious spread of cookies, candies, meatballs, miniature sausages, punch bowl and much, much more - everything more delicious than the last! Both admit, their open house is the highlight of their holiday season, but it takes weeks for them to recuperate! Any party planner who believes a holiday open house is a laid-back party with a minimum of fuss, has never been to Ruth and Dick’s place at Christmas time.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Meet the Carsons

Kendall and Mary Jean Carson came to St. George for one teeny, tiny reason. Oldest daughter Stephanie and her husband Tyrell Bangerter already lived in southern Utah, as did their son Kadin Carson . . . but it was the birth of their first grandchild - 6 lb. 11 oz. Kylee Marie Bangerter born July 18 - which made the Carson's decide to relocate to St. George after 24 years in Overton, Nevada. Kendall and Mary Jean met in Richfield while both were attending Sevier Valley Technical College. After their marriage, the couple moved to Overton to work for NV Energy (formerly Nevada Power and Light) as a control operator. In his church service, Kendall has served with 9 bishops as either the financial clerk or the membership clerk, calling his "the perfect calling" because he doesn't like the limelight. When not traveling up and down the I-15 freeway on his days off, Kendall spends his leisure time shooting and keeping up his carpentry skills. Mary Jean is now a stay-at-home grandma caring for her family, including 16-year-old daughter Lisa, and 6-month-old grandbaby Kylee while Stephanie works as the office manager for Apple-A-Day Dental. In her spare time, Mary Jean enjoys sewing, quilting, crafts and "playing with the baby." Youngest daughter Lisa, who recently received her Young Woman of Excellence Award, is a scrapbooking, poetry writing sophomore at Dixie High School where she maintains a 4.0 gpa.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Breakfast with the Bishopric

Sleepy-eyed and some still in their pajamas, Young Men and Young Women from the Bloomington 7th Ward joined members of the bishopric for breakfast on Saturday, December 12. Members of the Laurel and Priest classes met at the home of Bishop John Goldhardt where they enjoyed a delicious breakfast, then viewed together the powerful conference talk on the Book of Mormon given by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. The Teachers and Mia Maids were guests in the home of First Counselor Michael Twitty and Second Counselor Ryan Barton hosted members of the Beehive class and Deacons. Each group enjoyed breakfast and a special Christmas message.The purpose of this activity - which also included YM/YW leaders and teachers - was to strengthen the bond between the youth of the ward and the bishopric, and to remind everyone Jesus Christ is the "reason for the season!"

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Ward Members Celebrate Christmas Together

There was "Joy to the Ward" in the not-so "Silent Night" as members of the Bloomington 7th Ward from near or "Far, Far Away . . ." accepted the invitation to ". . . Come All Ye Faithful" to the annual ward Christmas party. It was "With Wondering Awe" ward members enjoyed the beautifully decorated hall and a delicious Hawaiian Christmas dinner prepared by Ellen and Jim Sorensen, assisted by the Activities Committee, with Barbara and Doug Schaerrer as chair, Allen and Sherry Scott, Jerry and Lorraine Erskine, Jim and Debbie Harrison. The program included prelude and dinner music performed on two cellos by Colyn Pereira and Toshi Becker. Alyia Cazier shared her exceptional young vocal talent singing "Where Are You, Christmas" and "Silent Night" while Primary children anxiously awaited hearing "Here Comes Santa Claus."

Thanks to all who made this wonderful evening a great kickoff to the holiday season. "I was so impressed by the committee who truly 'magnified their calling'," said Barbara Schaerrer. "Many were there the entire day - and stayed in the kitchen for the whole evening - and they are fun to work alongside!"