Collaboration

Working together, with a group of returned missionaries is such a joyful delight.
Last night, despite being geographically dispersed, literally thousands of miles apart, through the marvel of technology, we were focused, unified and purposeful in the pursuit of a new book project.
Our working title โ€“ โ€œ๐‘ซ๐’‚๐’Š๐’๐’š ๐‘บ๐’‚๐’๐’• โ€“ ๐‘ฌ๐’—๐’†๐’“๐’š๐’…๐’‚๐’š ๐‘ท๐’‚๐’“๐’‚๐’๐’๐’†๐’๐’” ๐’•๐’ ๐‘ฎ๐’๐’”๐’‘๐’†๐’ ๐‘ป๐’“๐’–๐’•๐’‰๐’”โ€
It is a collaborative effort.
Collaboration: โ€œis the act of working together to produce a piece of work, especially a book or some research.โ€
I certainly liked the feeling of being a team again.
Any successful collaboration requires our time as well as effort to communicate and gain understanding.
Whilst serving in Belgium and the Netherlands, each of them learned that to be successful in their work, they must be together, as one.
Creating a culture of collaboration was essential in the mission field, and now a new opportunity has arisen for them to co-create in a collaborative way.
Together they shared their views, we heard different perspectives, and received a broader understanding of the project at hand in a respectful and loving way.
It was captivating, engaging and quite frankly just so exciting to be working together again.
I was so grateful to sit in counsel once more with so many of my dear friends.
Individuals brought their own unique perspectives to our discussions, which is of course highly desirable in any great collaboration.
I count it a great blessing and privilege to work with each one of them.
It was as if weโ€™d switched on a powerful divine light as we collaborated and shared ideas.
We began to understand each of our roles and how the project work will move forward.
Through experience, we all know the best collaborators also need to be great communicators.
We learned that successful collaboration allows for lots of benefits to emerge that are essential to success, including delegation, innovation, planning, persuasion, agility, and speed.
And we got off to a marvellous start!
It feels that all of this experience didnโ€™t just happen by accident, or random chance, but rather by divine design.
I canโ€™t wait to meet again in two weeksโ€™ time.
How do you feel about working in a collaborative team?

Lost and Found

Meet Blue.
On returning home two weeks ago, our youngest daughter Cristi, moved into student accommodation in Edinburgh.
Unfortunately, no pets are allowed there.
Subsequently, we have become the caretakers of her cat, Blue.
Now, I am not a cat lover.
Itโ€™s not been the easiest of adjustments for sure.
Monic has done much better than me!
Daily, Blue is in and out of the house, all day long.
However, yesterday, we were a little concerned as neither of us had seen Blue for over 24 hours.
Going to bed last night, we reckoned it was nearing 30 hours.
Now that may be common for cats, but admittedly, we were both concerned.
Arising early this morning, what do we hear at the front door, but a meowing cat, hungry, cold, in need of some attention and love.
It is now sat purring on my knee, falling asleep.

Bible Scriptures

I am reminded of the stories of the lost shared by Jesus Christ, in Luke chapter 15.
The Lost Sheep
The Lost Coin
The Prodigal Son.
M. Russell Ballard taught โ€œIf for any reason you โ€ฆ have lost your way, then you need only apply the Saviourโ€™s teachings from Luke, chapter 15, to correct your course. โ€ฆ Why did Jesus teach these parables? He wanted us to know that none of us will ever be so lost that we cannot find our way again through His Atonement and His teachings.โ€
I know in life, many can lose their way.
Yet, every soul is of equal worth to our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.
Indeed, the worth of each soul is so great that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ will go to every effort to seek out, find, and save each oneโ€”one by one.
Recently, President Russell M. Nelson said โ€œAt age 99, I have no need of physical gifts. But one spiritual offering that would brighten my life is for each of us to reach out to โ€œthe oneโ€ in our lives who may be feeling lost or alone.โ€
Iโ€™m actually feeling a little joyful this morning, that Blue is home โ€“ safe and well.
Similarly, I know that as you find your way home to Jesus Christ, youโ€™ll feel joyful too.

New Friends

Last week, whilst on BBC Radio 4โ€™s โ€œBeyond Beliefโ€, the final question asked to the panellists was โ€œDoes evangelism (missionary work) actually work?โ€
Responding, I said, โ€œAbsolutely!โ€
Like many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sharing the gospel daily in normal and natural ways is in my DNA!
Last year there were 251,763 new converts of the church around the world.
That equates to 690 new members every day, or 29 every hour.
Post covid, the rate of church growth is accelerating, with an annual increase of 22% year on year.
And why is that so?
Firstly, I believe that it is to do with the times in which we all live.
โ€œThis know also, that in the last days perilous times shall comeโ€ โ€“ 2 Timothy 3:1
We live in such times, and many people are searching for something.
During the last 3 years, Iโ€™ve had the exciting opportunity to be deeply involved in missionary activities of the church in Belgium and the Netherlands.
It was a labour of love.
Doing so, has helped me understand the Saviourโ€™s great commission to His disciples (you and me) to โ€œgo ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghostโ€ โ€“ Matthew 28:19.
Many are finding peace, joy, comfort and reassurance in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
Secondly, no matter where you are on planet earth you will find missionaries of the church.
They are pretty distinctive, with their nametags and white shirts.
Today there are 74,000+ young missionaries and another 29,000 senior missionaries serving around the world.
Last night, Monic and I made some new friends in two of those, serving here in our area.
Both come from large families.
Cash Lunt is from Arizona, he is the eldest of 7 children
and Bernardo Machado is from Brazil, he is the eldest of 8 children.
Daily, just as the disciples of old, they go forth throughout Dunfermline and beyond, to invite others to Come unto Christ.
If you see them today, why not stop, talk with them and make some ๐’๐’†๐’˜ ๐’‡๐’“๐’Š๐’†๐’๐’…๐’”.
Their message will literally change your life for the good.

Familiar Melody

A few weeks ago, Monic and I enjoyed a wonderful evening of music and dance with BYU Living Legends in Brussels.
Living Legends presents a vibrant spectacle of energy, music, costume, and dance that celebrates the cultural heritage of North and South America and the South Pacific.
As I was listening to the music that evening, there was one song that had a very familiar haunting melody.

The Words…

I listened intently to the peaceful, uplifting music and wordsโ€ฆ
โ€œGo, my son, go and climb the ladder.
Go, my son, go and earn your feather.
Go, my son, make your people proud of you.
Work, my son, get an education.
Climb, my son. Go and take a lofty view.
From on the ladder of an education,
You can see to help your Indian Nation,
And reach, my son. Lift your people up with you.โ€
It had a calming, soothing influence on all of us gathered in the auditorium.
The words flowed with a warm feeling and enlightened my mind, as I considered all of our missionary sons and daughters who had gone, climbed and lifted so many others.
Yet, there was more.
From somewhere long ago, I had experienced this feeling of musical joy before.
I recalled the song from a touring BYU group entitled โ€œAncient America Speaksโ€.

Back Home…

Now back home, and tidying out my office this week, lo and behold, what did I discover in a box of paperwork, but the original flyer for the production of the show in January 1976!
I recall many members of our local congregation sang in the supporting choir.
A moment of pure serendipity for sure.
Similarly, my experience these last few years has helped me understand that when missionaries teach the gospel of Jesus Christ to someone who is sincere in their desire to learn more about Him, its as if a ๐’‡๐’‚๐’Ž๐’Š๐’๐’Š๐’‚๐’“ ๐’Ž๐’†๐’๐’๐’…๐’š begins to ring in their ears.
These moments of whispered inspiration are as if you are learning familiar things.
I know that the restored gospel of Jesus Christ echoes a ๐’‡๐’‚๐’Ž๐’Š๐’๐’Š๐’‚๐’“ ๐’Ž๐’†๐’๐’๐’…๐’š to all those who will take time to stop and listen.
How does the gospel feel like a ๐’‡๐’‚๐’Ž๐’Š๐’๐’Š๐’‚๐’“ ๐’Ž๐’†๐’๐’๐’…๐’š for you?

Return to Edinburgh

The phrase โ€œa return to Edinburgh pleaseโ€ is one I have used all my life.
I noticed a few changes at the train station, Dunfermline Town, was now Dunfermline City.
The fare was surprisingly cheap, ยฃ8.20!
It seems the government subsidises travel until September. Every day is a โ€œcheap day return.โ€

The Royal Mile

Arriving in Edinburgh yesterday, it was very busy, especially on the Royal Mile.
I learned that King Charles and Queen Camilla were at St. Giles Cathedral for the Order of the Thistle Service.
I headed down to the BBC Studios for a Radio interview.
On returning home, I was asked to represent the church at a discussion series for BBC Radio 4, Beyond Belief, to discuss the place and nature of faith in todayโ€™s world.

Evangelism

The question to be explored in the programme was about evangelism today.
๐‘ฌ๐’—๐’‚๐’๐’ˆ๐’†๐’๐’Š๐’”๐’Ž โ€“ โ€œthe spreading of the Christian gospel by public preaching or personal witness.โ€
What does it mean to different people/ traditions/ groups of people of faith?
What is the task for those still committed to spreading the good news face to face, or how has the task changed?
Is it a religious obligation?
What are the techniques favoured in 2024, do they work and what are the practical, moral and spiritual issues they raise?
After presiding over the Belgium Netherlands Mission with Monic for the last 3 years, Iโ€™m certainly familiar with โ€œevangelismโ€ or in more familiar lingo, missionary work and preaching the gospel.
Other panel guests located in different UK studios, included a Church of England (Anglican) Minister, a lecturer in Islamic studies and chaired by a journalist/broadcaster who was also an Anglican Vicar.
It was a fascinating discussion.
I very much enjoyed it.
Although, I think I was a little rusty and out of practice and I may have dropped a clanger or two!
To hear more, youโ€™ll have to tune into next weekโ€™s โ€œBeyond Beliefโ€ episode!
Afterwards, I headed back up the Royal Mile to meet with my good Belgian buddy, David Geens.
Weโ€™d worked side by side in Public Affairs/Communications in Europe for many years.
Although weโ€™d met a few times over the last three years whilst in Belgium and the Netherlands, the demands of mission life were such, that weโ€™d never been able to really catch up.
Slowing down to have lunch together, was a real joy.
Another joyful reunion and a wonderful return to Edinburgh!

Fleeting Visit

Yesterday, I had the briefest of opportunities to meet up with one of our returned missionaries Libby Wilcox, whilst she was visiting in Scotland for a couple of days with her mum and sisters.
It was the first of what I’m sure will be many visits from our missionaries who we served with in Belgium and the Netherlands.
We kept our visit simple. We only had 2 hours!
It was great fun to reminisce.
Visiting the Wallace Monument in Stirling and chatting over lunch, was special.

Life

We shared a few life updates.
Sharing feelings about our stories together was memorable.
But just being able to be close and hold tightly to those who matter most, was best of all.
Life is one of those precious fleeting gifts, and everything can change in a heartbeat.
It really helps to slow things down.
Simplify things.
Enjoy the moment.
Take one step, one piece, one chunk, one bite at a time.
And remember, loving one another is so supremely important.
“๐‘ญ๐’๐’†๐’†๐’•๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ” – something that happens really fast, or something that doesnโ€™t last as long as youโ€™d like.
Hans Christian Andersen, a great story writer, said this: โ€œTime is so fleeting that if we do not remember God in our youth, age may find us incapable of thinking of him.โ€
And in the Book of Mormon, the Prophet Alma said: “… learn wisdom in thy youth; yea, learn in thy youth to keep the commandments of God. ” Alma: 37:35.
Working with 300+ youthful (18 โ€“ 26 year old) missionaries has taught me that we have to be present and always enjoy the moments we have together, as life is fleeting.
In hindsight, I can so relate to Jacob 7:26 โ€œ…the time passed away with us, and also our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dreamโ€ฆโ€
Jacob describes the fleeting moments and hours of our life so well.
Moments simply blend into hours, hours into days, days into years, years into decades.
Being with Libby yesterday, was real, I know it wasnโ€™t a dream.
How can you slow down those fleeting moments today?

Joyful Reunions

Time insisted that we finally move on.
Arriving home on Friday, we laughed, hugged and shared one or two tears at Edinburgh airport with our children.
Cherished moments never to be forgotten.
Life has taught us that you canโ€™t hug family and friends over the internet.
Heading to the car park, we bumped into the outgoing mission leaders in the Scotland/Ireland Mission, James and Andrea McCrudden, who commenced their service at the same time as us in June of 2021.
Then another fortunate coincidence, as a dear consulting friend, just back from an assignment in India, walked up to meโ€ฆ โ€œDaryl! โ€“ that canโ€™t be three years!โ€, “Gordon! โ€“ it certainly was!โ€ I replied.

Heavenly

All of these special moments were heavenly.
It was a day of celebration of shared experiences and the rekindling of our family bond and connection.
And no reunion is complete without a hearty spread of food (haggis nachoโ€™s) and the resonance of genuine laughter together.
Heavenly reunions are filled with love and deep appreciation for family and friends.
Catching up with mum was fun!
The key ingredient of happiness is family.

Reunions

After so many tearful farewells over the last three years, I long for many more of these happy reunions in the years ahead.
Our Heavenly Father wants us to be happy.
Coming to understand our Heavenly Fatherโ€™s โ€œgreat plan of happinessโ€ โ€“ Alma 42:8, you will find many of lifeโ€™s questions are answered in the gospel of Christ.
The Apostle John said, โ€œIf ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do themโ€ โ€“ John 3:17.
Life is a journey woven with threads of connections, some fleeting and others enduring.
I am thrilled that over these last three years we have woven many remarkable connections that will endure forever, weaving our past, present, and future into a tapestry of lasting happiness.
The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God.”
I know that as we seek to be happy in life, we should remember that the only way to real happiness is to live the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday Mornings…

Tuesday mornings arenโ€™t going to be quite the same anymore!
For the last 3 years, Jurgen, Chris and I would spend an hour online together as a Mission Presidency, counselling about all of the important matters of running the Belgium Netherlands Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Counsellors

Whilst the missionaries were starting their Preparation Day (P-Day) weโ€™d be counselling together to address the salient challenges of the week.
And there was always lots to talk about.
Although we met weekly, I think hardly one day has passed by that I havenโ€™t spoken with either Jurgen or Chris.
The wise writer of Proverbs tells us that โ€œin โ€ฆ counsellors there is safety.โ€ (Prov. 11:14.)
Counselling together with one another was a constant.
Weโ€™d counsel together in order to reach a united conclusion, to help us know the direction we intended to pursue was in harmony with the Lordโ€™s will.

Volunteers

The three of us never sought out these assignments, we were simply asked by a church leader to serve, giving many hours voluntarily every week.
Itโ€™s been a labour of love for all of us.
Over the last 3 years we have developed a strong bond of friendship too.
On Sunday evening, I took a trip up to Zwolle, with the Assistants, to spend some final moments with Jurgen, Analรญa, and Christel.
I took some time to release Jurgen from his responsibilities in the Mission Presidency and we enjoyed the opportunity to reminisce for a while too.
One of our sweetest memories was when we set up an experimental โ€œSocial Media Districtโ€ for a few months. Lots of lessons were learned together as Jurgen, Analia and Christel spent many long hours working with many missionaries in the office together in Gouda.
For several months, Christel was travelling almost daily between Zwolle and Gouda, as we built some momentum in our social media efforts.
Days never to be forgotten, for sure!
Helen Keller said โ€œThe best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched โ€” they must be felt with the heart.โ€
As I recall the sweet memories made with my dear friends, I know that it is all about what we have all felt in our hearts together.
Thank you for all the memories.
Until we meet again dear friends.

It’s in their hands…

Over the last three years, I have penned many Sunday morning thoughts, sharing everyday parallels to gospel truths.
This will be my last in the Belgium Netherlands Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
It has been a labour of love and joy.
Each weekend, as I consider the days gone by, some insight or reflective thought always comes.

New Leaders

Our new friends, Marius Natanya Von Mollendorff, will arrive on Wednesday.
By Friday, theyโ€™ll be leading the mission, and we will be on a plane back home to Scotland.
Thinking about the future of the Belgium Netherlands Mission, I couldnโ€™t get the phrase “๐’Š๐’•’๐’” ๐’Š๐’ ๐’•๐’‰๐’†๐’Š๐’“ ๐’‰๐’‚๐’๐’…๐’”” from my mind, as Monic and I depart the scene.

Safe Hands

Indeed, the mission is in a very safe pair of many hands, all trustworthy and reliable.
It reminded me of a quote from President Thomas S. Monson who said โ€œWe are the Lordโ€™s hands here upon the earth, with the mandate to serve and to lift His children. He is dependent upon each of us.โ€
When I think of our missionaries, I often think of them stretching out their hands to lift, comfort, bless, love, serve, and minister to the one, by offering hope and salvation through Jesus Christ.
Daily they try to emulate the great example of Jesus Christ.
They are called by a Prophet of God, to represent Him and to serve.
To serve, just as Jesus Christ served.
As a result of the Saviour stretching out His hands to touch others, they became stronger and better.
Similarly, โ€œโ€ฆas we emulate His perfect example our hands can become His handsโ€ โ€“ Dieter F. Uchtdorf.

It has been my experience these last 3 years, that as we extend our hands and hearts toward others in Christlike love, something wonderful always happens.

Whilst on the Lordโ€™s errand, I am a witness to the fact, that as missionaries combine their efforts with others, oftentimes impossible tasks are accomplished in miraculous ways.
The result โ€“ over and over again, many people become much stronger and happier as the Gospel of Jesus Christ comes into their lives.
I hope and pray that our hearts and hands just like the missionaries, can be stretched out in love and compassion towards many others.
Like the missionaries you too can become His hands.
For the moment, He asks us to be His hands, by โ€œdoing goodโ€ โ€“ Acts 10:38
What good can you do today?

Goodbyes aren’t easy…

As the curtain comes down on our time here in Belgium and the Netherlands, we have become accustomed to departing meetings and fond farewells.
These last few weeks we have shared many tender-hearted goodbye moments.
One of the sweetest was saying farewell to Chris Kleijweg and releasing him too, from his responsibility in the Mission Presidency, whilst in Gouda on Monday.
We have been acquainted with one another for nearly 20 years through various church responsibilities and assignments in Europe together.
Over these last three years working alongside one another so closely and counselling with each another on many occasions, teaching, travelling and meeting together has been a real joy.
Chrisโ€™s knowledge of everything in the Netherlands along with his persistence, wisdom and love have been boundless in the hastening pursuit of the work of salvation and exaltation.
Our friendship will last long after these moments of service together, so says Richard Bach; โ€œA farewell is necessary before we can meet again, and meeting again, after moments or a lifetime, is certain for those who are friends.โ€
I will miss our frequent and regular associations together.
โ€œThe pain of parting is nothing to the joy of meeting againโ€ โ€“ says Charles Dickens.
Until me meet again dear friend.