It appears that it is time for a semiannual post. For those who have not heard, our visas to South Africa were well and truly denied. The guinea pig the church sent after us with more documentation proving that we don’t get paid and don’t need a work visa, was also denied. So we are now here for the duration of our mission as live-at-home Member Leader Support (MLS – formerly proselyting) missionaries assigned to the Texas Dallas Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. We love it.
The people of the Dallas 6th Ward are wonderful, caring and amazing people. Hmm, those young missionaries appear to be rubbing off on us – next I’ll be using “awesome” and “totally” and “freaking” all over. That really is a great blessing of this mission – being able to interact more with the great 18-20 year old young men and young women who are serving with us. We provide a lot of air-conditioned automobile rides for the bicycle riding missionaries. Usually with an hour or two notice. Sigh. But we totally enjoy their dedication and company.
We have taken a few pictures to enhance this rather staid blog, but unfortunately it has taken too long to write this brief amount. So the pictures will be uploaded later. Hopefully sooner rather than much later.
It’s been almost a month since we started serving as live-at-home missionaries. We have been assigned to the Dallas 6th Ward in the Irving, TX stake. For those not familiar with LDS terms – the church divides its congregations geographically and a congregation is called a “ward”, while a “stake” (that’s like a tent peg stake) consists of several (10-20) wards. Our newly assigned ward is centered around the I35/I635 intersection here in Dallas. The chapel is about 25 miles from our home and takes from 30-60 minutes to get there, depending on the time of day. The people are wonderful; the commute though, is a bit of a contrast from our Mariposa mission:
We have been making phone calls and visiting folks to get to know them. Well, Sister Mahlum has been making phone calls and we have been visiting. We have met some wonderful people and so far not a single grump among them. This initial meeting of people is the hardest part of the process for Elder Mahlum. Once we’ve met and started visiting them, though, he is hard to shut up. Sister Mahlum is very long suffering.
Christmas was very quiet and peaceful here. Our daughter Danielle is visiting with her sister Celeste in Iowa, so we had the place to ourselves. We stayed busy but found time to Skype with everyone in Iowa on Christmas Eve to watch the Christmas Pageant in the Davis home (great re-enactment by everyone – Celeste and Rich have definitely stepped up the costumes and acting several notches from us) and on Christmas morning to watch everyone (but mostly the grandkids) open their presents. That was fun. Family is a wonderful blessing.
All’s quiet for us on the South African visa front. The church sent another young man through the South African D.C. embassy with additional paperwork a week or so ago. Now we are waiting to see if he gets approved. If he does, we will make another trip to D.C. to resubmit all of our paperwork again with the new and improved stuff included. If he doesn’t get approved, the Church has another plan (C?) to pursue. That’s pretty much all they’ve said about that plan to us – they have one. So in the meantime, we are here enjoying this mission immensely. We get to associate with the young elders and sisters more here than in California, but living outside of their area does obviate the dinner invites to our house. Still, we do get the last minute calls that district meeting has/has not been cancelled and could we bring this or that, or provide rides here or there – so that makes us feel right at home. At 18 or 19 it is apparently very difficult to see more than one day ahead. Elder Mahlum has also suffered from this most of his life, but being on the receiving end is more trying than being on the giving end, he has discovered. Sister Mahlum is a (gorgeous) saint.
Monday, November 21 2016 we flew home to Allen to begin our live-at-home mission here in the Texas Dallas mission. We are sooooo excited. We met with President Taylor today and discussed how we can help the Lord’s work here. We will meet again on Friday to finalize our assignment. But today we attended our very first ever Mission Leadership Council. All the young missionary zone leaders, assistants and sister training leaders were there. President Taylor let us sit in since we were already at the building. Those young missionaries are wonderful; so willing to learn and so willing to listen to counsel, both earthly and heavenly. Tomorrow we get to go to zone meeting and meet with more amazing young missionaries in zone conference. Talk about perfect timing.
Monday, November 14, 2016 we were supposed to be on a flight to South Africa. Unfortunately, our visas had not yet arrived and Wednesday we learned our visas to South Africa had been denied. We had thought about this possibility and decided that if the Lord needed us in South Africa the way would be provided for us to go, but if not, we knew that we must be needed more someplace else. So we asked what came next and the very nice travel lady told us that was up to the missionary department.
We called them on Wednesday afternoon after classes, and another very nice lady told us the man who handled that was out but that she would email him and he would get back to us on Thursday. Sure enough, Thursday morning we heard from an extremely nice man and he told us we would probably be reassigned to a mission within the United States. Then early in the afternoon he called again and said they had decided to appeal the denial of our visa, and that we would be temporarily assigned as live-at-home MLS missionaries in the Texas Dallas mission until our visa status was resolved and then we would (probably) go to South Africa. However, that plan was contingent on approval by the Missionary Committee which would, he said, probably take until the next Wednesday or Thursday. Then, an hour later he called again and said the Missionary Committee had expedited the process and approved the plan.
So, we are headed back to Texas on Monday, November 21 2016 to be live-at-home MLS missionaries assigned to the Texas Dallas mission until our visas can be approved. We are really excited to serve in Texas especially since we have been doubly trained. Which would make sense we guess since we hopefully will serve in the South Africa mission when our visa status has been successfully appealed. Kind of a two-missions-in-one deal.
So, we are now entering our second week at the Mission Training Center (MTC) here in Provo, Utah. The original plan called for us to fly out on Monday, November 14. But even the best laid plans are subject to delay from power-hungry government bureaucrats. Our visa to South Africa has not yet come, so we will enjoy the MTC until our visa and passports arrive. In October we made a special day trip to Washington, D.C. to submit our visa applications in person. For every other couple sent to South Africa this has worked splendidly. But apparently all the dotting of the i’s and crossing of the t’s on our application were subject to more strenuous scrutiny. So we wait.
The good news, though, is that we get to revisit our last week’s training with a new and improved version this week. They are updating the training this next week, so that should be fun. I’m trying to persuade the MTC that getting this extra training should count towards our next mission, thus saving the church the expense of bringing us back to Provo. That idea hasn’t gained a lot of traction, though.