October 18, 2017
Dear loved ones:
|Our great YSA Branch missionaries. First, Elder Jackson Wiser|
|Elder Brenan Westover|
|Sister Matysen Evensen|
|Sister Rochelle Carlile|
One of the many joys of being missionaries is that we get to reflect on what the gospel really means to us. I’ve been considering the blessings we have received from paying tithing. These blessings are incalculable for us mortals, but we have also been blessed financially for paying our tithing. Always. Both of us. Our entire lives. Let me explain.
Sonja took a terrible chance on me by marrying me just four weeks after my return from the Japan Nagoya Mission. I only had two semesters of school completed by that point, and as events worked out we had another twelve years of school and training to go. It sounds like a lot, but I’m sure you’ll all be relieved to know that I increased my class load and graduated from BYU in two additional years instead of three. That left us with only eleven years to go. No big deal.
Kidding. Way big deal.
During medical school, we lived mostly on loans, but occasionally I was able to supplement with part-time jobs. I answered phones for the Salt Lake Clinic at night and on weekends and holidays. I also did some basic lab work for them in the evenings: phlebotomy, urinalysis, microbiology, and blood testing. That also gave me a small head start academically for my third year of medical school, which was all clinical. In addition to the Salt Lake Clinic, I also worked for the Utah State Health Department during the first two summers at the U of U. That was a pretty fun job. Utah has a big influx of migrant farm workers each summer, and the school districts would put on summer school for them. We put together groups of doctors, nurse practitioners, dentists, audiologists, and a few stragglers like me. We would go around and examine each kid and intervene when necessary. I had a couple of med school classmates that worked only on clinic days, which was usually two days per week, but I was full time. I also got involved in some research, worked in a health department clinic, wrote reports, and basically made a nuisance of myself trying to learn as much as I could. It was pretty interesting, but the family finances were still really tight. Really, really tight.
Third year in med school was really busy, and working wasn’t really an option. But, I was also gone most of the time, so I didn’t have a lot of time to consider the dismal state of the family finances. In the beginning of the fourth year came residency application time. I spent a month away from my family in Portland, Oregon. That was expensive, but it gave the group at Oregon Health Sciences University a good look at me, and vice versa.
Then, Sonja and I took a three-week long interview trip. In week one we interviewed in Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin before heading south to Kansas City. Week two was supposed to be Boston, but both interviews there wanted to reschedule, so we ultimately ended up cancelling, largely because I was pretty optimistic about my chances in Portland. The evening of the interview in Kansas City, as we drove up the freeway wondering what we should do for the next week, we saw exits that said “Independence,” and “Liberty.” We didn’t realize that Kansas City straddled the Kansas-Missouri state line. We ate dinner at Golden Corral (and even liked it—strange), then went to the Independence visitors’ center. There was a really nice senior missionary that encouraged us to visit all the church history sites. Nauvoo, Carthage, Kirtland, Farr West, Adam-ondi-Ahman, etc. It was an amazing blessing. We ended up visiting Washington DC as well, which was a first for Sonja.
Week three included interviews in Columbia, Missouri, Louisville, Kentucky and Oklahoma City. That’s in Oklahoma. It was a great trip, ultimately successful, and expensive. WAY too expensive, but we really had no choice. Me going alone and flying would have been more expensive and would have largely left Sonja out of the decision.
It really wasn’t until we returned home to SLC that reality set in. We had burned through too much of our money, and we didn’t have a clue how we were going to survive. We tightened our belts and were very, very careful with our money. I remember seeing people around me do things like buy bags of M&Ms from vending machines and thinking how nice it would be to have that much disposable income. We already ate only inexpensive food, and we took that to new heights. Or would that be new lows? Our entertainment was Hogle Zoo. We scrimped, saved, and bought a $25 family pass that we would often use several times a week. Previous to our fourth year, we would occasionally treat the kids to a ride on the Hogle Zoo railroad. Either Sonja or I would take the kids while the other would sit out to save money—50 cents each. We stopped doing even that.
I have to admit, I was pretty stressed and worried. One month I really didn’t see how we were going to pay the rent. But, we prayed really hard. The blessings came in the form of me being able to work. The psychiatry department at Primary Children’s Medical Center called me out of the blue and asked if I would be willing to do their admission histories and physicals at a satellite unit they had just opened at Cottonwood Hospital. As events played out, at about the time that we were getting really desperate, Primary Children’s would call. I always went out and did the work that night, then called to report the first thing the next morning. We would have a check in the mail the next day. It was always enough to let us scrape by.
I am sure that most of the blessings we have received from paying tithing are intangible. But, I am also sure that we continue to be blessed, financially and in many other ways, by our obedience to this simple law. In the words of Elder Stanley Ellis in our last general conference, “Do we have the faith to trust His promises regarding tithing that with 90 percent of our increase plus the Lord’s help, we are better off than with 100 percent on our own?”
We have been busy in the last week, which is no surprise. We had two zone conferences—in Montgomery, OH—a suburb of Cincinnati, and Liberty, OH—a suburb of Dayton. We love zone conferences for many reasons, not the least of which is we get to hear our stake presidents address us. President Wesley Foister, of the Ohio Cincinnati North Stake has already studied all of our last conference’s talks and extracted over 100 promises given to us by our leaders.
Of course, we also love to see the Welches and hear them speak. Let me share an exchange between President Welch and one of our sister missionaries:
President Welch: “Some of what I am going to talk about may be somewhat esoteric…”
Sister Wilder: “What does esoteric mean?”
President Welch: “An esoteric thing is somewhat of a spiritual and emotional conundrum.”
I’m sure that most of you know that this is the kind of “clarity” I completely endorse.
Each afternoon I took a half hour or so and taught about several issues. I again encouraged missionaries to get their flu shots. I also encourage all of you to do the same. I then gave them a quiz that I illustrated with the following slide. The PowerPoint slide was animated, which means that each entry appeared sequentially instead of all together.
The second slide continued the “quiz.” We have LOTS of missionaries that don’t know that if you’re vomiting or have diarrhea, the first thing to do is to STOP EATING.” We have had many missionaries call to say that they vomited, then ate lunch, and vomited again. They must not dislike vomiting as much as we do. I made the same point with diarrhea, but I spared them any graphics about diarrhea. We meet in the chapel, after all.
Next, I gave some basic instruction about mental health. Attention deficit disorder was previously classified according to whether or not the patient has a hyperactivity component of the disorder or not. ADD-H patients display an overabundance of activity, but ADD patients don’t. Currently, it’s all referred to as ADHD, irregardless of hyperactivity. These folks have disorders of the reticular activating system (RAS), which is a diffuse network of brain cells that work together to alert the brain and focus attention. It may seem somewhat paradoxical (insert another vocabulary exchange between President Welch and a missionary), but ADHD is treated with stimulants. The stimulants kick-start the RAS and allow the brain to focus on the outside world.
I finished with a short discussion of depression and anxiety. I have come to the conclusion that these two conditions are opposite sides of the same coin. They almost always occur together. I’ve already discussed what we can offer missionaries that have challenges here, so I won’t repeat myself. Promise. I really try not to repetitively repeat myself.
A couple of weeks ago, the Welches and we were discussing some missionaries that were dealing with adversity such as depression or anxiety, difficult companions, family problems at home, testimony or self-control issues, etc. The problem wasn’t so much that they were experiencing opposition. We all deal with that. The issue was that some of our missionaries were displaying their trials as a badge of honor—an excuse to bow out of the work. When I mentioned that I have strong feelings about that, they asked Sonja and me to speak to a select group of missionaries in a mini-conference call that we entitled “Joy in the Journey.”
I briefly told everyone about one of my challenges—multiple sclerosis. The Welches were under the impression that we don’t like to talk about it, but we really don’t mind. It’s just that our minds are focused on other things. Missions can be a respite from our trials. Sister Welch recently said to me that if she didn’t know that I am “ill” she would never be able to tell. I am SO happy when I hear that.
Next, I related a story that was shared by David Bednar when he was president and I was faculty at BYU-Idaho. He related that there had been an attempt to bomb the Salt Lake City temple, and it was very upsetting to him. The next time he was in Utah for meetings, he expected that incident to be a prominent topic of conversation. But, it never came up. He caught one of the brethren afterwards and asked what they needed to do. The answer was, “We do not take counsel of our fears.” Whenever I am tempted to worry, I recite that maxim to myself. It always seems to help.
I wrapped up by encouraging them to use their time carefully, express gratitude in all things, and have faith in a loving Father in Heaven. I promised them that He is preparing all of us for what he wants us to do next.
|Some pretty funky lighting at Mt. Echo Park, with Cinncinnati in the background.|
|Sonja with Alison & Diane Lee|
Sonja shared an experience where she was pretty sad. When people would ask her how she was doing, she replied with something like, “I’m hangin’ in there.” But, she learned to say, “I’m great!” At first a little voice would tell her she was lying, but it quickly became true. There is great power in words, and they can either wound or heal.
President Welch has an ongoing joke-but-not-a-joke in which he quotes missionary weekly emails: “Tough week, President…” He has threatened to pass out “No Whining” hats. So, we went to an embroidery kiosk and created the first two official Ohio Cincinnati Mission (OCM) “No Whining” hats. They were a big hit.
|Poster children for our "No Whining" initiative.|
|President Welch couldn't quite make himself wear the hat reversed. I, on the other hand, look pretty good that way. Better, even?|
We are really enjoying our new Institute digs at University of Cincinnati. We had a pizza party last week to celebrate. One of the great things about “our” new classroom is the multimedia system. Behind the teachers we have three beautiful flat screen televisions. It is amazing.
We enjoyed a visit from Alison Lee, one of our favorite sister missionaries that recently left us in August and returned with her mother to visit the mission. It was tons of fun to see her again, and of course her mother is every bit as wonderful. It’s always hard to see our missionaries leave, but it’s also very exciting to see what they do with their lives.
|Alison & Diane Lee out to dinner with us at Pappadeaux|
|The lobster tank at Pappadeaux. Note the "King of the Tank" weighing in at 8 lbs. On sale now for only $159.60. I like lobster, but not that much.|
When we first joined the Cincinnati YSA Branch, we learned that our inspired branch presidency had set a goal for the branch to become a ward. In order for that to occur, we needed to have an average sacrament meeting attendance of 125 for two quarters in a row. We learned in July from our stake president, President Foister, that second quarter numbers were on target. We are really excited by the fact that our average sacrament meeting attendance in the third quarter of 2017 was 125! We did razz Brother Perryman, the branch presidency first counselor, that it sounded a little suspicious. But, he assured us that 125 is numerically correct. It is such a privilege to be part of this great miracle.
|Cincinnati YSA Branch Family Home Evening on 16 Oct 2017|
|Sister Lee flanked by Sisters Carlile and Evensen|
I’ll close with my testimony of this great work. I know that God lives, that this is the church of Jesus Christ himself, that the power of the atonement is real, and that the longing I feel to return home from whence I came will one day be fulfilled.
Lots and lots of love, your Ohio Missionaries
|Now for the random medical photo of the week: a salivary stone extruding from the submandibular (Wharton's) duct. I seem to get a bigger charge out of this than most other human beings.|
 From “Do We Trust Him? Hard Is Good,” by Elder Stanley G. Ellis, Emeritus Member of the Seventy. October 2017 General Conference, Sunday afternoon session, available online at: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2017/10/do-we-trust-him-hard-is-good?lang=eng