10 December 2013
This is a quarterly letter that President Leavitt sends out to all the parents of the missionaries in his mission.
Dear Brother & Sister Taylor:
As the year draws to a close, it is natural for us to look back on the year and reflect. In doing so, I have an overwhelming sense of gratitude. I have the absolute privilege of working with the finest young people the world has to offer. I love the missionaries who serve here. They are bright, hard-working, obedient, and faithful. Like us, they all have their moments, but generally things are great.
I feel a deep sense of gratitude towards you, their parents. I realize I am the beneficiary of your hard work, your prayers, and your patience in bringing them to the point where they are ready to serve the Lord. As I have mentioned in my previous letter, it truly does take a village to raise a child or produce a faithful missionary. Thank you for doing your part; I am trying to do mine.
At present, we have 133 missionaries (up from 78 eighteen months ago) serving in the mission (69 elders, 34 sisters, and 30 seniors). The complement of sisters is increasing every transfer, and we will be around 46 by early 2014. In most of the units, we have 2 elders and 2 sisters, and many also have a set of senior missionaries. This is proving to be a very good arrangement for moving the work forward and helping to establishing the church in these units.
We have been blessed to have enough vehicles so that most of our missionaries will be able to drive during the winter. Come springtime, we will again be making significant use of bicycles. The bicycles do a much better job of exposing the missionaries to the public and promoting the name of the church, not to mention that they are significantly less costly to purchase and maintain.
As I previously indicated, we have a traveling concert series made up of our musically talented missionaries under the direction of Elder Call, formerly the head of the Music Department at BYU-Idaho. In the last eight months, we have performed in thirteen concerts and the same number of missionary firesides. In total, they have performed before a combined audience of over 5,000 people, and in partnership with local charities, such as the Food Banks and the Children’s Hospital, have raised over $6,000. This is in addition to the wonderful support and strength they are to the local units and all who are involved with them. Missionaries who do not participate musically are very much involved in inviting people and promoting the events. The concerts have had hundreds of non-members in attendance. We would estimate that out of the 5,000 who have attended, about 40% would be non-members. The concerts always end with the hymn "How Great Thou Art" along with a spiritual message and invitation for people to meet with the missionaries. Our next concert series is a family concert, and it will be followed by the BYU-Idaho Chamber Orchestra that will be touring our mission in April of 2014.
The church generally, and our mission in particular, is now starting to use social media to help the missionaries find people to teach. While there are privacy concerns in Canada that will hold back the full implementation of some online missionary tools, such as area books and daily planners, we will be beginning to use such things as FaceBook, iPad mini’s, and email to assist in the work.
Some parents unfamiliar with the weather in Atlantic Canada are concerned about their missionaries freezing. Our weather is more difficult than California, Arizona, Tahiti, Australia, and Guadeloupe (we have missionaries from each of those areas), but generally is not that bad. The cold weather comes and goes, and if the missionaries are careful and dress sensibly, they do fine. Having lived in Alberta and Saskatchewan myself, I feel the missionaries from those areas feel weather conditions have improved significantly. This last week it was +10 C in Halifax while it was -28 C and -38 C with the wind chill in Calgary. It's all relative, as it was 28 in Tahiti.
With the increasing size of our missionary force, training is always a big task. We have improved our orientation approach for new missionaries and have developed an improved method of using Preach My Gospel to enhance learning. We call it “Back to Basics,” and it does just that - refocuses our efforts on the very basics of missionary work - getting up on time, studying effectively, working hard, and being obedient.
I interview the missionaries once every six weeks, one time in person at their apartment and one time via Skype. The in-person visits are always fun, as I look in their closets, under their beds, and in their fridges. Last time I took pictures of every apartment, and we are going to have a DVD presentation at our Christmas Zone Conferences set to the tune of “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” The vast majority of the apartments were excellent, and there were only a few that had some issues. The senior missionaries do a complete inspection of all apartments and vehicles each transfer, so my visit is more lighthearted and lets them know I am interested. I feel interviewing the missionaries at the church when they are all dressed up in suits and dresses with their hair combed doesn't always really give the true picture. Meeting them in their apartments where they study and live gives a much better perspective and gives a better opportunity to teach and encourage.
Our missionaries are generally very healthy. They are very engaged in daily exercise, as we religiously follow a program called “5BX” that was developed by the Canadian Air Force. It takes 11 minutes every day and produces great results. Partly due to that and partly due to factors I don't really understand, our mission has become a weigh-losing mission for the elders. Many of our elders have lost over 40 pounds on their mission, some as high as 70 pounds. At each Zone Conference, we have two of the elders dress in their gym clothes and demonstrate the level of fitness they have achieved on the program. It’s always a fun time for everyone. The sisters are equally involved in the fitness program, but to preserve their dignity, we don't require them to participate in the demonstration.
The work is going forward. The missionaries are teaching people, many of whom are joining the church, and many less-active members are being brought back into activity. The missionaries are loved and respected by the members and leaders, and we feel very fortunate with our circumstances.
A number of you wrote to inquire if your missionary was going to be transferred and how you could get their Christmas packages to them. It is just not possible to let you know weeks in advance about where missionaries will be. The final decision about transfers is made shortly before they are announced. If packages were sent to the wrong address, we will endeavor to have them redirected as part of our regular visits, meetings, and exchanges.
Sister Leavitt and I love the missionaries, both older and younger, and I am sure they know that. I love hearing from you from time to time, and I don't want you to think you are a bother. You are always so kind and concerned about taking my time. It takes very little time to respond to your emails, and I firmly believe the best result is achieved as we work together to lead and teach these wonderful young people.
Again, thank you for your significant sacrifices to allow your missionaries to serve. It is a great time to be involved in the Work of Salvation.
Warmest personal regards,
Brian D. Leavitt
Canada Halifax Mission