Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Almost Home Again!

Dearest Family and Friends All, 

We're serving the Lord the best that we can; 
During these 18 months we've learned much and understand
That in serving, we're the ones who are truly blessed!
This reliable truth you can also put to the test.  

The Australian Latter-day Saints shine from within,
Though for most, this is not where their lives did begin.
They've gathered from China, Pacific Isles & Philippines;
Happily serving the Lord on His Aussie latter-day team.

Our young missionaries too hail from far and wide--
We've 36 native languages spoken from where they reside!
Our missionary couples come mainly from the states,
And many local Oz couples give full time service so great.

Focusing on Self-Reliance to help others progress 
Has been our main purpose, and we feel very blessed
To witness hearts and lives change day after day---
Watching them use their agency in positive ways!

Our love for the Lord has grown even stronger still
As we strive to learn and do our Heavenly Father's will.
To serve without distractions has been a remarkable gift,
While simultaneously giving others an encouraging lift.

Now we're busily winding up and having many "lasts"---
This week's last Pathway lesson we teach has come too fast!
Our last English class, our last meal with loving members
Are all precious memories we'll treasure forever! 

Our Feb. 7th plane ride will deliver us HOME
To those loved ones from whom we've roamed.
Grand kids and "big kids" and friends we love---
Be ready to receive our heartfelt hugs!  

We've got lots here to love in Australia as well,
So a few of our favorite things we'll tell...
'Pet' kookaburras, baby koalas, and kangaroos,
Scary spiders at arm's length, pelicans, and cockatoos!

 More favorites: Our office in the stunning Karawatha  Chapel, crimson sunsets that glow;
Elusive echidnas, and dancing butterflies in every hue of the rainbow!

We adore teaching our PathwayConnect classes,
 and outbound missionaries about to leave, 
Speaking at firesides, and devotionals----
Even with Brad Wilcox, if you please!! 😊

How we appreciate Brisbane's international culture
With hemispheres of the Earth seamlessly blending;
Kilometers of artistic murals painted along the motorways
Which delight us until our journey's ending!

We appreciate working each day to spread the gospel's light;
Our trunk's tightly packed with projectors, supplies, and the mic.
Still some evenings find us eating way past dark as we bless
Our meals amidst a burgeoning, productive working mess!

Twelve faithful senior couples who daily lengthen their strides
Threw us a "fishy" party  to say their sweet goodbyes;

Long walks and talks in Karawatha's enchanting forest;
Our Manager Carl Maurer & wife who kindly look o'er us!

Baptisms we attend weekly, seeing lives upward reach;
The Shearing Family we were privileged to help teach.
Our one 'golden' contact is dear Brother Ray
Who very soon will experience his own baptism day!

There's so much more to admire, but we'll leave you wanting more
As we'd not want to overload you with wonders 'till you're bored.
Too late, you say?  You've reached your limit?  Oh, just you wait until
You serve the Lord and you discover, there are endless joys to tell!     
          With great anticipation we look forward to seeing you once more;
          We send our love in fresh flowery bunches to your door!

          Elder and Sister Yates                           Dad and Mom       

          Grandpa and Grandma Yates               David and Marsha


Saturday, December 30, 2017

We're Barreling Toward the Finish Line!!

Happy Holidays and a Blessed New Year to our Wonderful Family and Friends Afar,

Christmas came and went with nary a sign of brumal (wintry) trappings outdoors this year! But inside, you'll note as per the photo on the right, that our 2' mini-tree with family pics o'er head and Christmas songs ringing through our flat are all we need to make the season come alive with JOY!  Lush green and HEAT abound and never stop unless you're a eucalyptus tree and it's time to shed your tired bark skin.  Even while shedding, they hold their leafy heads high with full foliage.  But Jolly Old St. Nicholas must need to shed his arctic outer coat when he heads out to deliver his presents in the land "down under." And did you know he uses six white boomers ( rare, white, old  kangaroos) to guide his sleigh here because his reindeer can't take the terrible heat! It's true, so check it out on youtube!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98fMRw1LuiU.  The Aussie children have a ball with their  Christmas songs, many of which are delightfully new to us. Truly, we have been surrounded by loving saints and sharing friends who made Christmas meaningful and memorable.  Christmas Day the 18 Senior Missionaries who aren't local (The locals have family around.) got together with the Mission President and his wife and six "orphaned" Elders for a royal Christmas dinner supplied by all of us pitching in.  We ate for hours, laughed, and felt so grateful to be a part of the Australia Brisbane mission which is seeing such success in the work. 

Talk about a HUGE GOAL: last December the Mission unitedly set a goal for 500 baptisms for the ABM---a large leap from last year's 364 baptisms!  That was the amazing outcome for 2016's efforts.  So here we are looking the year's end in the face and we have 491 baptisms so far with several more scheduled for the next few days!!  Regardless, these missionaries are THE BEST and most dedicated young men and young women we've ever had the privilege of working with. Attending baptisms and supporting our young Elders and Sisters punctuates our weeks with happy celebrations. Each new member has a story to tell of their conversion which humbles us!  How beautiful to consider we are all equal in the sight of our Heavenly Father and He desires only the very best for us---returning to His presence!   Dressed in their new dresses above are the sweet young African girls 💕, converts, who have just been baptized!   Pictured just above are 4 Mandarin-speaking Elders from one of our two Chinese Branches.  Their thumbs up indicate a great Christmas dinner has filled them up well!  We fed a crowd---18 seniors and 6 juniors celebrated!    
Such fine people we have the privilege of working with side by side.  As mentioned above, this is the "American portion" of all the current Senior missionaries.
Food for Thought: A student provided "snacks"
for one of our PathwayConnect gatherings and
decorated the table with this quote and oodles of
healthy and not-so-healthy yummy treats.
Our fantastic hardworking evening PathwayConnect class!

Yes, it's part of the same spread after 27 people have gone through
the line to enjoy the fare.  We  finished our first semester with our
two new BYU-Worldwide PathwayConnect classes.  We teach
a morning and an evening class each Thursday.  Every one has
registered for 2nd Semester---35 students!  They are making such
strides forward in their lives. We all need to be life-long learners!
Below is pictured our smaller morning class and above are our 25 evening
students.  Next Semester begins Jan. 11th, and we have 2 new classes
beginning with about 18 students each!  How inspiring!  
More holiday spirit and fun experiences help us feel the reason for the season---the goodness of our Heavenly Father's gift to us of His Beloved Son.  We know His humble birth signaled ultimate redemption for us all if we set our feet upon the path back into His presence and steadfastly take advantage of the precious opportunities to seek and follow our Savior's example.  Thus, we've applied often on our mission Nephi's admonition to us in 2 Nephi 25:26---"We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins."  Did you know that you prophesy of Christ every time you bear your testimony? And when you keep a journal which includes your spiritual experiences, you are writing according to your prophecies!  Talk often with all children of God---our own, and all whom we have interaction with, about the hope that is in us because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  It truly is the "Good News" of all time and eternity.  

At University of Queensland's Performing Arts Center we attended a remarkable Christmas festival of beautiful sacred and secular songs, "The Spirit of Christmas."  It certainly brought the true Spirit of Christmas to our hearts!  Rivaling the Conference center in SLC, there was a 250 voice choir, a world class pipe organ that rattled our seats,  an amazing orchestra, a children's choir, impeccable bell choir, and famous Australian classical soloists including the likes of Simon Gleeson who just returned from a 3 year tour singing Jean Valjean in London and beyond! Our Christmas hearts were open and filled to overflowing!  Below is Elder Yates at our Logan Ward Christmas Party making ready to present the High Priests' Musical Item, "Six White Boomers!"  'Twas a funny karaoke rendition!   
"Six white boomers, snow white boomers"  rang through the cultural hall as the High Priests entertained us!  You'd be proud to know that Elder Yates was the instigator, organizer, and director of the big production!  More talents are discovered!
 We were invited over to a post-Christmas lunch at the Willoughby's home who are in our Logan Ward.   He's the High Councilor in Logan Stake over Self-Reliance and we love this good family.  They immigrated from Johannesburg, South Africa in 2002 because of the dangerous political situation.  Gangs run rampant there, and no one is safe on the streets nor in their cars.   At red lights gangs, would descend on a car and break out the windows, steal purses, wallets, and more. One horrid story he told of a lady who was ascending the lift (elevator) to her office.  When she got to her floor, she had been robbed and when the perpetrator tried to grab her wedding ring, it was too tight.  Instead, he severed her finger, taking the ring and fleeing. Oh, how awful!! We have nothing to complain about in our neighborhoods compared to the constant fear they lived with.  They love Australia and would never go back to Johannesburg to live.  But their extended family is there, so he went 5 years ago to visit his mother.  He was so saddened to see that the violence and degradation have only increased!  This sad story aside, the lovely lunch turned out to be a full lamb dinner with all the trimmings, topped off by a Willoughby famous waffle for dessert!  It filled a dinner plate alone! Sr. Willoughby had the table beautifully set and even the menu was posted on the table! 

One of our favorite missionary jobs is holding workshops with the soon-to-be-returning missionaries as they prepare to integrate into their new lives post-mission.  We take them through two classes---a goal setting class and a second class to help them recognize and utilize their newly developed skills, attributes and gifts which have prepared them for a successful life ahead.  This precious opportunity allows them to reflect on what is ahead in their lives and to set goals that are in harmony with achieving their full potential.  Oh, they've grown so much spiritually and in all facets of their lives. Now enjoy a quick story about Elder Zhang, the Chinese Elder between Elder and Sister Yates.  He hails from mainland China and heard the gospel from a dear friend.  Elder Zhang was baptized when 17 years old. He shared the gospel with his Buddhist parents, and his father was later converted and Elder Zhang baptized him. Before he left on his mission, his father was made the Branch President of a now-thriving branch in their small town.                                                                                                                                                                                                         
His mother would not leave her religion. Unexpectedly, 4 months after coming on his mission, he got a birthday surprise announcement in the mail. It contained the good news that his mother had joined the church and was thrilled with her newly-found gospel.  She apologized to Elder Zhang that she "could not wait 20 months" until he returned because she desired to have the gospel blessings in her life immediately!  Realize that there are NO MISSIONARIES allowed in China and all religious sites are banned on Chinese internet. No general conferences, no lds.org or mormon.org.  These saints are incredible, and the light of their lives attracts others to the truth.   While in our goal-setting class, Elder Zhang was quietly writing his goals at the culmination of the class.  As he was about to finish, his face lit up and he just beamed, saying, "I KNOW!"  He was overcome with enthusiasm as he remembered, "My patriarchal blessing tells me of my most important goal of all!"    He told us humbly that his patriarchal blessing states,
"Heavenly Father desires you to set a goal that points toward exaltation!"  Yes, that is his overarching goal and should be ours as well!  How much we learn from these devout, dedicated GLOWING missionaries!  

We were blessed in December to host a Self-Reliance Training Seminar for Senior couples from 3/4 of Australia.  They flew in for the 3-day conference and our best guest for 2 days was Cory Christensen, Area Supervisor of BYU-Worldwide PathwayConnect for all of Africa, Asia, and the Pacific.  He taught us deeply of the divine purposes and implementation of PathwayConnect to bless lives worldwide.  The featured speaker at a Tuesday Devotional for the members in Brisbane, he educated a good crowd as to this exciting program.  Yes, things went so well there and from other efforts that we have formed two new classes to begin Semester 1 on Jan. 11th as mentioned earlier!  Now Priesthood leaders are scrambling to
find teachers because this ONE remaining Self-Reliance couple (The Yates) are already teaching 2 cohorts!  And Elder and Sister Yates are LEAVING TO FLY HOME FROM THEIR MISSION on February 7th. Yikes!  There we've said it!  With such mixed emotions, our time is coming to an end.  That is very sad from this end because the work is so engaging and fulfilling.  But it's very happy on the other end because of what awaits us there----YOU  ALL, our precious family and friends!  We have MILES to go here to finish what we can before we leave our beloved Brisbane home!  And those 18 hours that we lost as we flew into the future to Brisbane in August of 2016?  Gladly, we will reclaim every one of them  as we fly home.  We leave Brisbane and fly nearly 14 hours to LA.  After a 3 hour layover, we fly to SLC, arriving there ONE HOUR LATER than we took off from Brisbane, AU!  Go figure. 😉 To us, it surely won't feel like a 1 hour flight.  Just FYI, we arrive home on Feb. 7th at 1:09 PM on Delta Flight 1414, from Los Angeles.  As the Angel Moroni statue stands guard over the Brisbane temple in this photo, the amazing work of bringing souls unto Christ will continue well and long after we are gone as the work rolls forward!  We are all an invaluable part of this work wherever we reside!  

ATTENTION: Important update to earlier news in this blog:  It has just been announced through the mission that as of yesterday's baptisms (Saturday Dec. 30) the Australia Brisbane Mission has MET and exceeded their goal by about 4 baptisms!!  504 baptisms in the year 2017! Hurrah for all the faith, prayers, and hard work that went into this mighty miracle.  And happiness here and beyond to all those who have been brought into the fold and will experience such marvelous changes in their lives. 

And as the clock rolls forward tonight and we welcome yet another New Year, may 2018 be a faith-filled and beautiful year for you and your dear ones.  Out with the old, and in with the new!  We pray this finds you well and enjoying lots of happy family times together.  HAPPY NEW YEAR!

With loads of love and happy wishes coming to you, 💜💛💗💚💙
Elder and Sister Yates
Dad and Mom
Grandpa and Grandma
David and Marsha



Wednesday, November 29, 2017

In Every Thing, Give Thanks! 1 Thes. 5:18

Greetings to our dear family and friends, 

What a special time of year to count our blessings. We hope your Thanksgiving holiday was a time to gather and enjoy family and special friends as you reflected on blessings granted. As we review the myriad of opportunities we've had as missionaries here in the Australia Brisbane Mission, we feel so richly blessed.  Though Thanksgiving came and went largely unnoticed by Aussies, we keenly felt the goodness of the day and season to return thanks to our Heavenly Father for all we are given each day.  You all are among those most precious gifts we've been showered with through no merit of our own!    

Our Thanksgiving Day was spent with our two PathwayConnect classes.  Our turkey was in miniature---a roasted Costco chicken!  Many of our Pathway students had never tasted pumpkin pie, so we stopped at Costco en route north and bought 3 pies, much to their delight!  Yes, if you put enough sweet whipped cream on the pie, anyone will wolf it down!  Australia has amazing squashes, so we must admit, the pies were divine.The chefs probably used a sweet pumpkin for the occasion.  Pictured here are the Levasa brothers, our Lead Students for the Academic gathering portion of our evening class.  Ether on the right just returned from a Fijian mission, and Enoch awaits his call soon!  Talk about polished young Samoan men---they are rock solid!  If every ward was blessed with such YSA, we'd have automatic "Armies of Helaman" marching forth in light worldwide!  Notice Enoch's footwear---or lack of it.  Yes, it's culturally quite normal to wear flip flops to church and even shed them once inside the building.  The boys' Mom and Dad are also in PathwayConnect---a family endeavor because they believe in gaining all the education and knowledge they can.  For most everyone, it's a fine opportunity to attend University on a tight budget and having the benefit of BYU online studies for a fraction of the cost.  After 3
Life's just a bowl of frangipani and
passion fruit blossoms! 
semesters of PathwayConnect, students who earn at least a B average can go on for an Associate and Bachelor's degrees at the same CHEAP cost of PathwayConnect--$69 per credit!!  Hey, enrollment's open now for Winter Semester 2018, so check out their website at byupathway.lds.org.  And, no this isn't a paid announcement, just a plug from an excited missionary couple who are just finishing up their 4th semester of teaching Pathway and have witnessed abundant growth and miracles in the lives of their students!  

Our gratitude continues as we said goodbye to the only other self-reliance missionary couple in the mission, the Osbornes, who have completed their mission.  We have been serving side by side for our entire mission,
A fond farewell to our "right hand couple", the Osbornes, the
 only other Self-Reliance couple in all of Queensland!
and they are headed on a cruise  before returning to St. George. We have learned so much from them as they served another Self-Reliance mission before this one.  Great friends and mentors they are, for sure. Now our workload increases as we attempt to cover our assignments and pick up all we can of their responsibilities.  It will be a busy run for us, but we truly owe the Lord some "double time" as He blessed Elder Yates so marvelously during our triple bypass adventure with its attendant "down time."  Yes, Elder Yates continues to gain strength and endurance to handle these productive days which hold plenty of opportunities to assist others.  

Darling baby koala's first day out in the public's view at the koala sanctuary!
With no fences or cages keep them in the sanctuary, they're born free to roam.

Two  of our precious family members came for a long-awaited visit the first week in November.  Hurrah! Michael and Rochelle Yates filled the bill to quell our longing for family. Planning ahead, we cleared most of our schedule to have a few Aussie Adventures during our splendid days together.  Hikes to a beautiful waterfall outlook, precarious roads leading to a tree-top canopy adventure, basking in the unusual privilege of dwelling with the wallabies and kangaroos, and even seeing 3 new baby koalas out with their moms were among our enjoyable activities. Nothing could beat the two close encounters with wild birds and parrots flying in from the rain forest to be fed.  Ah, this had to be near the top of our 'favorites' list.   How we adored the few days spent with Michael and Rochelle!  Thanks guys for coming to Queensland to share a bit of the paradise we've been immersed in for the past glorious 15 months! Mother Nature is astounding and spent plenty of extra time dolling up the vistas and wildlife here. For the beauty of the earth and skies  we are so thankful!

The true "King Parrot" of Australia.  They're the only parrot to have red heads. At least, the male does.  Female's head is green.  They are close cousins to the crimson rosella, but they don't look very similar to the eye!  See one below... 
Cousins, my foot!  As witnessed below, once crimson rosellas are introduced to humans, they
don't forget it!  Naturally they eat eucalyptus seeds, grasses, shrubs and tree blossoms.
Their diets will diversify to include insects and oh, tuna sandwiches?  What's up with that?
Hey, make room for one more, please!  Michael
feeds the wild king parrots and a rosella lunch.
A cheeky crimson rosella invites himself to our picnic! Don't
take your eyes off your food or it will instantly 'fly' away!
"Ah, this is the life!  Free lunch and a back rub,
and all I had to do was bat my big brown eyes!'
Back to our missionary adventures:  On Halloween, we began meeting with a group of refugees from
all over the world through a governmental non-profit organization, the Mercy Foundation, to help them find jobs.  We didn't quite know what to expect as we've not worked under the direction of another agency before.  The experience has been challenging and very rewarding.  The 6-week course will be over next week, and these dear folks have stories to tell that humble us to the core.  Some are political or religious refugees, but most are economic refugees.  One man, Mahdi, had to flee Iran when he converted from Islam to Christianity.  He will never be safe to enter his country again.  He would be killed as an infidel.  Even his parents turned on him. Another,  Teddy struggled for 3 years to make it from Ethiopia to Brisbane, by way of several countries.  Finally making it to Indonesia, he stayed there one year, finally securing a visa to enter Australia.  His case is still pending in court as to whether he'll

be granted a "bridging visa" which will allow him to stay 5 years longer and become a profitable citizen.  These folks have skills and experience in their own country, but they can't compete in the job market against the locals because of inadequate English skills. Also, often their credentials from their home country are not
An imaginative painting created by one of the refugees.
honored.  They're now asking us to please teach them more English after the course is over!  Truly, there is so much work needed in this world to give people a needed hand.  We are blessed with so much and often don't recognize all that we have been so freely given. Epitetus  reminds us, "He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has."  This axiom is so evident in their lives---they're so grateful for what little they have! In talking to our manager in this morning's meeting, we're looking at ways to perhaps carry on in a dual role---job searches and English classes.   The group varies from week to week.  The picture above shows (back  left)  Bushre from Iraq;  Front left, Hamida from Iran, Winnie from Papua New Guinea, Raj from Sri Lanka, Mei Lein from near Beijing, China, and Carl Maurer, our Regional Self-Reliance Manager. We'll see how we go! 

A November thunder buster hits Brisbane with all its fury
As winter settles over the US, we're swamped by summer thunderstorms' bounteous rainfall.  One night this month a horrific thunderstorm blew through landing over 173,000 lightning strikes in less than two hours!  Loud beyond anything we've ever heard out of the sky, we watched the sky intently knowing we were witnessing something grand and ominous at the same time. There are often many ways the Lord preaches His sermons.  This one spoke loudly to us, reminding us of the power of nature and of He who created this incredible planet we inhabit!  

Caught in the act--Cockatoo snacking on vital wiring! 
And speaking of  creations, a lovely critter is causing big problems in Queensland!  A large white parrot, the sulphur-crested cockatoo, has decided to sharpen its beak on whatever it can find to chew on.  Like many animals, their beak continues to grow, and if not worn down naturally by them foraging for food, they'll take to wearing down their beaks on anything they can get it around or into!  These birds are beautiful yet very noisy. They chew on buildings, open the rubbish bins for more ffood, which isn't natural foraging.  Thus, their beaks get overgrown and need to be worn down.  Their latest favorite thing to chew is wiring---mostly the wiring for the new high-speed internet system that Brisbane has been installing since we got here.  The birds have taken a shine to the taste of the wires, and have done millions of dollars worth of damage. They've downed the project so it's 6 months behind.  (We'll be home before they figure out how to protect all this wiring from the cockatoos' attacks!!  The locals are quipping,  "Well, if the snakes and the spiders in Australia don't get you, the cockies will!!"

ThatWe'll sign off with a blooming shower of purple to white blossoms all on the same tree found in Tambourine Mtn.  The sunset is a shot out our back window of the gorgeous sun setting over the Pacific,  The 'sky-blue-pink' sunsets never cease to gladden our hearts. Please know of our love and admiration for each of you as you live exemplary lives.  Good on ya! We always think about you, our special friends, neighbors and loved ones, and you are so much a part of the fabric of our lives!  Happy days as we head into the Christmas season with all its joys!   

Love in bunches, 💕💛💟
Elder and Sister Yates
Dad and Mom
Grandpa and Grandma
David and Marsha