Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Brother Martin's Mission Farewell Talk

Feb 23, 2014
Some people have asked why we decided to go on a couple mission now.

Many years ago I was the home teacher to Duane and Jane Meeks who served two amazing LDS missions in Africa, an example to us all. One day while speaking with Brother Meeks I commented that I had a strong desire to serve a couple mission some day, but knew the reality of my wife’s health problems would probably prevent it. I’ll never forget his response that the Lord has a way of helping us obtain our righteous desires. Little did I understand at the time, what would take place in order for me to go on a couple mission.

Not long after, my wonderful wife of 21 years passed away. This event seemed to shatter many of the goals and dreams that I had. But then, I felt God literally wrap his arms around me using the comfort of the Holy Ghost, helping me to pick up the pieces and move forward. Shortly after I married Terry Sparti, who had also lost her spouse to cancer some years before. As Terry mentioned, we both had a goal to serve a couple mission someday.

In October of 2012, our prophet, President Monson turned up the heat, emphasizing his urgent request for more couple missionaries. He said, “As your circumstances allow….” This statement “As your circumstances allow,” repeated over and over in my heart and mind. I thought about it a lot. Terry and I talked about it a lot. Sometimes at night I would download the latest “Senior Missionaries Opportunities Bulletin PDF” on lds.org and read about the myriad of types of mission service available. But then I asked myself, we’re still in our 50’s, isn’t that too young to go? I read that the “Senior Missionary Age” by the Church’s definition is 40 and older. So, if you’re nearing 40 you’re a candidate for a “senior” mission, as long as your children have moved out.

President Monson also said…“I encourage you to make yourselves available for full-time missionary service.” What does “Make Yourselves Available” really mean?   

It’s never convenient to serve a mission. There are many reasons why we can’t or shouldn’t go. But there are also many reasons to go. If we set righteous goals, the Lord will help move mountains for us, even if it is a mountain of debt. This last several years Terry and I have worked hard to eliminate debt, simplify, sell stuff, selling our camper motor home, eat out less, canceling our satellite/cable TV, canceling our land line phone service, selling my truck last month (that was tough) and many other things in order to get out of debt and save for a mission. For example, we don’t watch much TV or movies and wondered if we could reduce or eliminate another monthly payment. One day I got on Youtube and found out how to make a digital antenna out of coat hangers so I could get local channels like BYUtv and some local news that we still occasionally wanted to see. It worked great so we have no monthly cable, satellite or other online movie bill.

 We also cut way back on buying movies. One of the 2 or 3 movies we went to see in the last year was “Frozen”. There was a fun song called “Let it Go.” I think it applies to my feelings somewhat of letting go of stuff, simplifying and just moving on with your life.

Due to the changing building industry and economy, the company I work for began to change. I was determined to make it through the transformation process. A year ago I was assigned to a new position at Martin Doors and personally paid for new training and certification to improve myself for that position. During this time, the Prophet’s words rang louder, “as your circumstances allow…..make yourselves available”. Could I really leave my job and new career? Well, we enter the MTC a week from tomorrow. And we are really excited.

 The most difficult of all, is that I will miss our children and grandchildren. When Terry and I were married, I felt as though I had been adopted, accepted and loved into a new family. Perhaps I felt like Oliver, our newest grandson who was just adopted by my daughter Stephanie a couple of weeks ago. I love each of them and will miss them beyond what words can express.

I enjoyed serving as Scoutmaster recently and want to encourage each of the boys I worked with to go for the Eagle Scout rank and decide to serve a mission. Years ago, President Hinckley said, “If every boy in America knew and observed the Scout oath, we would do away with most of the jails and prisons in this country.” I’ve also enjoyed serving in the Primary with brother Brierley in the CTR 7 class this last couple of months. I’ll miss primary. 
As we go through life setting good goals to love, serve, build the kingdom of God on earth, and just make a difference for good in the lives of others, our faith will grow, our testimony will be strengthened and we will be blessed.
What a blessing to receive a letter from our prophet, President Thomas S. Monson. It’s almost like getting a new Patriarchal Blessing.  It’s so good, I’d like to quote a couple of parts from our mission call letter. “You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. You are assigned to Labor in the Micronesia Guam Mission.” President Monson then talked about how we are expected to maintain the highest standards of conduct and appearance.  He concluded, “The Lord will reward you for the goodness of your life. Greater blessings and more happiness than you have yet experienced await you as you humbly and prayerfully serve in this labor of love among His children. We place our confidence in you and pray that the Lord will help you become an effective missionary.” Close Quote

Petty Officer 1st Class Clifford Sabo, of Explosive Ordinance
Disposal Detachment Marianas. This bomb was eventually
diffused, clearing the site for development, which includes
Martin Garage Doors. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy  
When I think of Guam my first thought comes from our business dealings on a project which included Martin Garage Doors on some homes built on the navel base for officers and their families. The project was suddenly stopped when they discovered an undetonated 1000 lb. WW2 bomb. It was a year or two before the project got started back up and the garage doors were installed on the homes in Guam. (Google it – full story)

I like the story that President Hinckley told about a naval officer he met from a distant nation who had been brought to the US for advanced training. Some of his associates in the US Navy, whose behavior had attracted him, shared with him at his request their religious beliefs. They told him of the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem, who gave his life for all mankind. They told him of the appearance of God, the Eternal Father, and the resurrected Lord to the boy Joseph Smith. They spoke of modern prophets. The Spirit touched his heart, and he was baptized.

Quoting President Hinckley: “Your people are not Christians. What will happen when you return home a Christian, and, more particularly, a Mormon Christian?”

He replied, “My family will be disappointed. They may cast me out and regard me as dead. As for my future and my career, all opportunity may be foreclosed against me.”      I asked, “Are you willing to pay so great a price for the gospel?” His dark eyes, moistened by tears, shone from his handsome brown face as he answered, “It’s true, isn’t it?” Ashamed at having asked the question, I responded, “Yes, it’s true.” To which he replied, “Then what else matters?” Close Quote.

Stephan F. Mecham, current President of the Micronesia Guam mission asked Terry and I to switch our call because he needed help in the office. He said the church needs more full time senior couples. Last year he had 13 couples and this year it looks like only seven. He said it was a combination of less full time couple missionaries serving, and an increase in the number of new missions being opened in the world. Our ultimate goal is to help so that someday the people will have a temple. The day after we enter the MTC, our daughter and son in law Ronda & Nate will be sealed in the Draper temple. We got permission to miss a meeting that night for the sealing… We would’ve come with or without permission. Yea, Ronda and Nate!

Terry and I also received another letter. This time from the Twelve Apostles that said, “You will learn to be led by the Spirit so that you can teach and testify with converting power. The savior said, “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God” D&C 18:10. They concluded, “May you find joy in your service to your Father in Heaven, His Beloved Son, and the people to whom you minister.  Faithfully Your Brethren, The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles”     

I am extremely humbled and honored to receive such letters as about 79,999 other full time missionaries have received recently.

 I believe that each of us can receive these many blessings if we serve with all our heart, might and strength in callings, home and visiting teaching, and local missionary work.

As we continue to struggle through life, making the right choices, often receiving more blessings than we deserve,  I believe our understanding of what God wants each of us to do in this life becomes clearer.   (follow us at micronesianmission.blogspot.com)
I know that President Thomas S. Monson is a true prophet of God. I have knelt down in prayer and asked God and have received an answer in the affirmative. Joseph Smith helped restore the True Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Earth and I am thankful for him. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Sister Martin's Farewell Talk

Feb. 23, 2014
Do you remember what President Thomas S. Monson said about member missionary work in the last General Conference? Well, I’ll tell you one of the things he said about it. “Now is the time for members and missionaries to come together… in the Lord’s vineyard to bring souls unto Him” We can’t leave missionary work to the full-time missionaries. He reminded us that “He has prepared the means for us to share the gospel in a multitude of ways,” and He told us that we are not alone in this effort, that “He will assist us in our labors if we will act in faith to fulfill His work.”
There are so many ways that we can participate in missionary work. Today I will talk about how we have come to serve a mission at this time.

We are really excited.  A goal and desire of mine and Mike’s is soon to come about. It isn’t being fulfilled in the way we first intended, but it is now coming to pass.
Mike and I have desired to serve a couple’s mission for years, even prior to meeting each other. We had hoped to serve with our eternal companions, but it was not to be. My late husband, Farrell Sparti, was a convert to the church and so he did not serve a full time mission. We planned to serve a mission together in our senior years, but he passed away shortly after his 48th birthday. However, the Lord did bless us with an opportunity to serve together as Ward Missionaries in the Heber Stake before he passed away. So, when Mike and I were married 6 years ago, last week, it became our common goal.

We set a 10 year goal that we would get our affairs in order and prepare for a full-time couple mission.  Combing two households into one was a challenging task. We decided our motto was -Simplify. If we hadn’t used an item in 5 years, we got rid of it. We sold things and gave things away and got out of debt.
Sometimes are lives are similar. We have to stop and evaluate our lives, maybe limit some of our activities, and de-clutter our vision so we can focus on the things that matter most. Dallin H. Oaks, in a recent general conference taught “We have to forego some good things in order to choose others that are better or best because they develop faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and strengthen our families.”

 A year ago or so, I began having thoughts and feelings that I needed to do something different. I felt that what I was doing was good, but there was something better for me to do. I wasn’t sure what.  I talked to Mike about it and he said he had been having similar feelings. We weren’t quite sure we thought of several things, but still considered sticking to our mission goal 5 years away.
A few months later, our good friends, Ron and Naomi Dummar who were serving a mission, called us and said, “Guess what, we just got certified in scuba diving! Come visit us! I said, “no way, you can do that on your mission?”  “Are you sure we can visit you while you are serving a mission?” They assured us that it was. So we spent a wonderful week with them, even swimming and snorkeling, meeting lots of wonderful people. I only mention this so you realize that if you are thinking about serving a couple mission, that senior couples have allowances that younger missionaries don’t. Mike and I were thinking all the while, well in about 5 years we will be experiencing this.

When Mike and I returned from our vacation in July the spirit was working on us again, and we started seriously talking about serving a mission a year from then. We quickly checked our savings account to see how close we were to our goal. We were short. Oddly enough, Mike had a gun he had been trying to sell and it sold that month for the exact amount we needed.
We contacted Bishop Luke. He was unaware of our reason for our visit with him. As we walked into his office he had a very concerned look. We sat down and he asked, “What can I do for you?” We said, “We want to serve a mission, what do we need to do?” His countenance released, his whole demeanor relaxed and a big smile broke open. He said, “I don’t know. I’ve never done this before, but I can find out.” Which he did, and we were soon filling out our information forms online.

We had some concerns about what to do with our house, work, vehicles, and leaving family of 8 children and their spouses and as of this coming week -20 grandchildren. However, things are coming together and we can now see that the feelings we felt by the Spirit at the beginning of last year were prompting us and preparing us for this time. We know that this is what we are to do now. We will miss our family dearly, but happy that the power of the Internet allows us to see our family through video phone calls. 
October 15th we received our call to the Micronesia Guam Mission. We are the last ones in the neighborhood to receive our mail, so we called all of our children and asked them to get on Google Hangouts to do an Internet video conference while we opened our letter.

I’d like to tell you a little about Guam. It is the largest of the Mariana Islands, in the South Pacific. It is about 30 miles long and 12 miles to 4 miles wide.  It is 1500 miles south of Tokyo, Japan and east of Philippines.  The mission covers an area size of continental US, but total land mass smaller than Rhode Island.
Nephi and Jacob recorded prophecies in the Book of Mormon regarding the people on the islands of the seas:

1 Nephi 19:16 “Yea, then will he remember the isles of the sea; yea, and all the people who are of the house of Israel, will I gather in, saith the Lord,

(Jacob) 2Nephi 10:21”But great are the promises of the Lord unto them who are upon the isles of the sea;
These promises are being fulfilled through missionary work. The first members on Guam came with the U.S. armed forces during World War II. It took years before The Micronesia Guam Mission was created on April 1, 1980.There has been much hard missionary work and patience since. The first stake in Guam was organized on December 12, 2010, Next month, March 16th , the day we arrive, just over 3 years from their first stake being organized, they will be forming the 2nd stake in the mission. We are excited and looking forward to meeting and knowing the people in Micronesia.
I called the mission office and spoke to Sister Prince. (Who we will be replacing and I discovered we worked in the same program several years ago-small world) She said they have a baptism every week. Last year 700 baptisms in the mission, & 48 baptisms in Barrigada Ward. I’m looking forward to seeing her again.

Right now we are witnessing the miracles of the Lord as His gospel is spreading across the world. Elder Neil L. Andersen said “Brothers and sisters, as surely as the Lord has inspired more missionaries to serve, He is also awakening the minds and opening the hearts of more good and honest people to receive His missionaries…If you’re not a full-time missionary with a missionary badge pinned on your coat, now is the time to paint one on your heart. “ (April 2013 General Conference)

I feel humbled to be called to serve as a missionary and to wear a badge each day that bears the name of Jesus Christ. It will be a constant reminder of my covenants of how I should always act. I know that He lives that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the only true gospel of Jesus Christ on the earth today. This is His work and I feel joy in being able to serve Him.

I know that our Heavenly Father has a plan for us. There is a purpose to this earth life and our Savior is the only way to return to Him.
I know that Heavenly Father blesses us with the righteous desires of our hearts. He may bless us in another way than we thought, but he will bless us.

The Holy Ghost is a wonderful companion. I know that he whispers to each of us what is true and what we need to do.  If we listen to the promptings of the Spirit and have faith we can take the steps we need to.
I believe that the most important missionary work we can do is within the walls of our own homes. To teach by example and to teach to love to read the Book of Mormon.
The Book of Mormon is the word of God that leads men to Christ. Introduction pages state, “We invite all men everywhere to read the Book of Mormon to ponder in their hearts, the message it contains, and then to ask God, …if the book is true. Those who pursue this course and ask in faith will gain a testimony of its truth and divinity.”

A Truckload of Little Miracles

In getting ready for our mission we had to sell our Jeep and truck. We prayed to be able to sell them in a timely manner before we entered the MTC. Our sincere prayers were answered, faster than we expected.
I bought the truck brand new back in 1995. Selling it was not easy since I owned it for nearly 20 years. But, we needed to simplify and reduce stuff that would devalue and deteriorate during our mission. I listed it in the classifieds late on a Thursday night for $8,995.00 (High book value). Friday morning I received a call while on my way to work from a man in Idaho. He was looking for a truck like that but my price was way to high for a truck almost 20 years old. I told him I was not ready to lower the price yet. He said good luck selling it. 
Minutes later, a girl in her early 20's called and wondered if my truck was still for sell. I said it hadn't sold yet. She worked on a small ranch in our small town of Heber City and needed a truck. She wanted to see it immediately so I gave her my wife's phone number.  She came and drove it with her mom and said they wanted to buy it. The next morning she brought over a cashier's check for $9,000.00. Her mom later told my wife that her daughter drove by our house several times and said, “I wish that truck was for sale.” And lo and behold, she looked on the classifieds and it was, and only had 58,000 miles on it.
A few days ago we listed our jeep for $12,995.00 (High book value). A man called me, four hours away in Torrey, Utah and arranged a time to come look at the jeep a few days later. After two hours inspecting the vehicle he finally decided to buy it for $12, 998. Coincidentally, both vehicles only had 58,000 miles. We got the price we were asking for on both vehicles. We know we had help from above.