Monday, August 12, 2013

Sunday #7 (sorry we never did a #6) --August 11, 2013

Dear loved ones!

Good morning!  It's monday, the 12th of August, and the kids are still asleep so I'm going to write this before they wake up.  I wish I could find more time to write to everyone and talk to you about your lives and what is going on with you!  I still feel weird sending out a big old blog instead of having individual conversations on walks with you, or over the phone or sharing a meal or chatting on the driveway or whatever.  I love you all, and really don't know how we could do this mission without your current support and also without all the years of knowing you and learning from you before we came to Prague.  You are blessings to us!!!!

So like I said, the kids are still asleep, James is in the other room getting ready for the day.  After I send out this message to all of you, I will also get ready for the day and study and read in alma with the kids and start laundry.  The kids wrote out their chore lists last night, so when I go to the weekly mission office meeting at 10, they can get to work.  They do lots of jobs each morning, and then around the house so much when I ask later in the day.  And especially when missionaries are here for a visit or a meeting or a meal, the kids are awesome at helping and hosting.  I remember some of my friends telling me that I should have a baby when Evie was about 12 because it's so much easier to care for an infant when you have a built in baby sitter.  Well, I'm not having a baby, but guess what!  People who get called as mission presidents should take an EVIE with them always!  Having a mission call is easier with an evie!  She is, like I have said before, our sunday baker.  Yesterday she made so many cookies from a new recipe she found, that she had plenty for the missionaries we had for dinner, and also took some downstairs for the missionaries and their investigator who were having a lesson, and then later took some across the street to the mission office for James and his assistants.  Also, Evie is my banner maker and helper with decorating.  Here is a photo of her banner I had her make for the outgoing missionaries.  It says goodbye (na'sheldanou) missionaries.  She also made a welcome banner outside our front apartment door.

And after we served all the new missionaries breakfast who had arrived the day before from Provo, when we were making tons of sack lunches for all the new missionaries and their trainers to take with them on their first day together, Evie was running to the store for me and helping make the lunches while James was taking the new missionaries to the foreign police with the office elders to get them all set with living here.  We are having a hard time finding a basic ziploc baggy.  We have big ones, or these tiny ones:) yay for cherry tomatoes!  

And Evie and Wilson both do a ton of tending for us while we are with missionaries or when I'm helping the elders and sisters who are ill.  I'm grateful.  

James has been traveling a few days a week to cities all over both czech and slovak nations, visiting with district and branch presidents and meeting with missionaries.  He sometimes teaches with them, other times he goes to their apartment and studies with them for their usual morning study routine.  Last week he met with some great elders in Brno who only had two desks for personal and companionship study, so when James got to their apartment at 8:00a.m., they had an ironing board set up as a third desk so james could use one of their desks.  James also usually goes to church on Sunday in other cities, and if we didn't have kids, I would always go with him.  We will join him at other congregations about once or twice a month I think.

While dad is away with missionaries, here is what the kids have been up to, besides watching shows and doing chores and writing letters...

Of course, legos.

 Board games.

Talking to Owen after he had surgery back in salt lake.

 Art-they all have been drawing or painting or in Evie's case, crafts, but these are both wilsons:

Working on a rap to send to cousins.

George turns on the treadmill to see how fast the wheels can move with his legos/bionicles.

People watching.

Ev and I went on a little adventure all over the city to find an english language bookstore so she could get a book for school.  It took much longer than running to frost's books on 2700 south, but it was still so fun.

 Evie and her two very dear sisters.  We LOVE THEM! She goes with them to teach sometimes, and to sing with all the elders at different metro stops, and to lunch, and last weekend they went to the zoo with the elders on their p-day.

Transfer week was as crazy as others told me it would be, but it was also so joyful!  Meeting these missionaries at the airport and then going with them on their first walk to the castle and the overlook of the city was fun.  I loved the time we had with them.  This is the group we got to meet with at the MTC back in June! 

And also so joyful, being with the missionaries who were going home.  We love them!  We had dinner and a testimony meeting at night and then then next morning took them to the airport, with loads of help from our assistants.   

We will really miss James' assistant, Elder Osterloh, because he, along with Elder Sewell, were our first friends here.  We felt like we said goodbye to a cousin, uncle, friend. 

Don't they look related? 

Right after transfers, we packed up the boys and left for a 7 hour drive to Slovakia where James spoke at a multi-country conference for young single adults.  I think there were nearly 200 young people.  We left Evie home with a senior couple she adores, the Munros, and also the sister missionaries included her in their activities.  Here are some photos of our drive.  In some of them, if you look closely, you can find a castle.  We like to play spy the castle as we drive the freeway, or "motorway" as they say here.

James also played his violin for them (and even though everyone loved his music, Hyrum is always the most fascinated person in the audience).  These young people are amazing!  So strong in their beliefs, against much opposition.

We stayed at a ski lodge which the church rented out just for this conference.  There were institute classes in the day for the participants, ropes courses, firesides, tons of dances and opportunities to flirt with each other, etc.  Our family just goofed off and mingled.  We were only there one night.

Some of our senior couples who did so much to put on this conference:)

When the conference was over, James took a preparation day (p-day) and we went to a castle and then to the swimming pool at a hotel in the next town where we slept over for church the next day.  The castle was amazing, but the entire 2 hour tour was in Slovak so let's just say that the boys and I were a little anxious to get out of there.  

An old clock:

View from inside the castle
 Getting tired
 Thrilled to sit for a second
 This is a wishing well maybe?, where the castle tour guide was still talking about something in the room nearby.  I gave each kid a coin to throw down.  When I asked them what they wished for, Wilson said he wished that the cousins could come visit us more than once while we are here.  Hyrum wished that Dad would make 3 things, over the next month, that included bacon.  George was so tired, he said he couldn't even wish for anything.  I wished that the tour would end so that we could eat lunch.  It was after 3:00:)

The poor tour guide was probably insulted by this body language.

 An old dracula film was made at this castle.

Heading back to the car

Church in ZILINA!  We loved this Slovak branch of the church.  Wilson single handedly passed the sacrament to the congregation, and most of the time in Primary, Hyrum and George were the only students.  Here is the sign of the church on this charming alleyway.  Like many church meeting places in our mission, the members gather in an office building where we rent out a few rooms.  Sister Wrightson, the primary president and senior missionary, whose husband is branch president, walked us out when we left.  Aren't these great orange walls?  And I saw my Slovak dear friend, Milada, who was visiting with her family from Utah.  

Driving home to prague, right into a big storm.   Beautiful!  But we prayed lots as we drove through the worst part.  We made it home, passing collapsed trees and fences, to the building and in our lobby were about 30 russian sopping wet tourists that the missionaries had invited in to get out of the storm.  

Flying into amsterdam with James, on our way to England, for training with church leaders.
 The stunning pageant, performed by members of the church in England, explaining the history of the church in the United Kingdom.  The Preston Temple was right by this pageant.  I wish we could have had time to go inside.  Hopefully we will go to the temple in Freiberg someday.
 Pretty Marriott hotel in Manchester
 Meetings and meals were all at the marriott, where we learned from general authorities who are in the quorum of the seventy, as well as Elder Nelson and Elder Ballard and Elder Holland, and there were four other mission president couples like us.  It felt a lot like a zone conference just for us, where we were the ones being buoyed up and taught, and where we left feeling committed to change and do better.  (Elder Holland taught us for about an hour and half, and said at the beginning that he flew half way around the world to tell us that he loves us, that we are not unappreciated, that he is not unaware of the issues at hand or of what we left behind, back home.  He also promised us great blessings, and told us that we could not fail.  Oh good:)  He also said that I, as the wife, am not here mainly to clean, medicate, and cook.  My main reason for being here is to teach and to testify.  It's my own fault if I don't follow that counsel to teach and teach and teach and testify.  It is what will help the missionaries more than anything else.  When I think back to my two favorite callings in the world, they are definitely teaching situations (primary chorister and gospel doctrine teacher) so I was grateful to hear this.  Plus it allows me to procrastinate becoming a good cook a little longer.  James has such a talent for cooking!  Why would I want him to hide that under a bushel?  Elder Holland also gave an in depth explanation of why the Book of Mormon is such a strong messenger to us of how God loves and teaches us.  I am loving that book more than before!)
 The brother on the very left, Elder Rasband, is the one who set me apart after L. Tom Perry set James apart, back in June.  I love Elder Rasband.  He blessed me, when he set me apart, to be able to see miracles with learning the language, and he blessed my loved ones back home, through me, that they would be blessed by this call.   He gave a talk in priesthood session a few years ago about the process of how a call is made to a missionary to go to a specific mission in the world.  We have been showing that clip to missionaries here to help them remember the Lord's hand in their call.  GREAT TALK!

 Cutest taxi cabs.
 In Holland, getting back on the plane from our layover.

The next day, Saturday, back in Prague, James surprised us by finding the best burger tavern!  Blue cheese and bacon and whatever else you could want!  And the fries came with various flavors of fry sauce.  And ICE in the drinks.
 The creative little park across the street from the burgers

Walking through the park by our house (to get to sports night with 12 missionaries and the people they are teaching).  Can you see the metronome behind Hyrum?  It is huge when you get up close, and on the other side of it is a view of the city.  There used to be a statue of Stalin there, they say the largest one of Stalin ever built, and the statue was destroyed by dynamite because it was too big to haul away.  Now this metronome ticks back and forth and is somehow a symbol of the future without communism I think.

Elder knapp helping George out.

Of everything I do as a mission pres. wife, I love most to teach with the missionaries.  When the elders text me or call me and ask me to join them for a lesson, I know I am in for a great time.  I love watching these young men as they teach and truly listen to the concerns and thoughts and feelings that their investigators have.  This is Isabel, right after her baptism on Saturday.  I have had some sweet experiences with her and have also been with the Elders to teach her a little bit.  She bore her testimony at the pulpit after her baptism.  She said that four years ago she received her first book of mormon, but didn't read it because some people told her that mormons don't believe in Jesus.  So she believed them, and then as she is studying here in Prague, she said that the missionaries contacted her and invited her to meet with them.  EIGHT times she cancelled appointments because she didn't really want to meet.  Then one day she was praying to God, asking him to send her someone who could help her grow closer to Him, someone who could teach her.  She said before she ended her prayer, she felt God tell her that He had already sent to her exactly who she needed.  She realized that the missionaries were the ones to help her be closer to God and Jesus Christ.  So the next day when Elder Osterloh and Elder Sewell called her again, she said yes, and began her serious study of the Church of Jesus Christ.  She loves the Savior so much and couldn't wait to feel clean and like she was starting her life new.  The baptism was beautiful.  James played the violin, the missionaries sang, and tons of people gathered to support her.

I love you family and friends!  Next week I will have the kids give their highs and lows, but thank you for reading all of this and for caring about us.  I am grateful for prophets and the scriptures, especially during hard times!!!,  and for how I feel when I watch a baptism and for the faith of members around us and for missionaries and their enthusiasm!  May you all be blessed and have a happy week!  

Laurel/Sestra McConkie


  1. Such an uplifting read, glad you are having such wonderful experiences and sharing them with us!

  2. Loving your blog!! PLEASE send me your mailing address when you get a minute :)

  3. I am so glad to see this blog. I love hearing of your adventures...big and small. You are an inspiration. (Btw...this is Kristine Davies)

  4. So wonderful to see what you're doing. Love to you and your family.

  5. Hi Laurel! This is Misty Mayfield. :) I hope you don't mind me blog-stalking you, but I love reading about your fun adventure! I loved my mission so much (I went to England, so it was fun to read about you going there) and can't wait to serve with Mike someday. I'll just live vicariously through in the mean time. :) Go missionaries!

  6. Love this beautimous, giant entry! Thanks for taking so many pictures and sharing with us all these experiences! Misty, I went to England, too! I can't wait to finally go back this Fall.

  7. Great to read all this stuff, guys. You are living such a purposeful life that will bless you and your kids as well as the church over there. The missionaries must love having a mission president's family with all those kids to connect to. Very glad you got over to the UK for a bit. I feel you on the ice in the drinks; free refills would have been a bit too much to ask, eh?

  8. Just so you know, "unknown" (who can figure out all this high technology?) is Matt Mason.