Tuesday, April 29, 2014


From Pres. Hanks:

All missionaries are safe and accounted for as of Tuesday at 7:45am

The entire mission feels blessed with the safety and protection of the Lord.  After returning from a Mission President’s conference late Saturday, President and Sister Hanks drove to Tupelo, MS where they and the missionaries of the two Tupelo Zones met together with the saints for Stake Conference.  It was wonderful.  Immediately afterward, about a third of the missionaries began meeting one-on-one with President Hanks in interviews, until about 7:30.  Many of the missionaries stayed over in Tupelo for the remainder of interviews with President Hanks on Monday, and for a two-zone joint activity of athletics and food and fun.

On Monday about 2:00 the sirens and alarms and phone alerts started pouring in.  

President Hanks asked all the missionaries (48) to gather in the chapel, where for the next 4-5 hours the missionaries sang hymns while Tornados surrounded us.  For much of the time, the electricity was out.  The missionaries were brave and courageous.  President Hanks was in constant contact with the brethren and with a member of the church who is well connected with the weather agencies.  As areas to the west of Tupelo became clear, Missionaries were released to go home.  About 7:30 the worst had passed, and President Hanks asked everyone remaining (42 missionaries) to go straight home and remain on alert.  Some missionaries were instructed to remain with other missionaries until we were sure that it was safe to travel to their apartments (power lines and trees etc.)

All Tupelo North and south zone missionaries were safe by 9:00.

All other missionaries throughout the mission were instructed to stay in their apartments and listen to their emergency radios throughout the late afternoon and evening. 

Multiple tornados touched down in Tuscaloosa, Cullman, Bessemer, and Birmingham areas.  There was some substantial damage, but the extent is not completely known yet.

REPEAT:  ALL missionaries are safe and accounted for.

Further weather alerts are in effect for today, Tuesday, and all missionaries have been instructed to listen to emergency radios and take precautions.  Pres Hanks will be having a mission-wide conference call later this morning.

President Hanks sent an email to all contacts that the mission has listed, and will continue to keep parents and contacts informed as there is new information to report.  

Join with us in thanking Heavenly Father for the safety He has afforded the missionaries this past day.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Missionaries make the local news! From the Anniston Star Newspaper...

Two by two ... Missionaries want to meet Jacksonville residents
From the Anniston Star Newspaper 
Apr 22, 2014
by Lori Tippets

 You can see them walking or riding a bike on the side of the road, well dressed, well groomed and always in twos.

These are missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) better known as Mormon missionaries.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Senior Couple Spotlight: The Tylers!

Elder Val and Sister LaWana Tyler

             The first thing many missionaries open after they’ve opened their mission call is an atlas to find – or at least find out more – about the area and people they’ll be serving.  Not so Elder and Sister Tyler from Evanston, Wyoming.  Elder Tyler served as a missionary from 1965 to 1967 in the Southeastern States Mission, and in North Alabama for a year; Sister Tyler had been doing extensive family history research on her forebears from Alabama for years.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

What is "Mission Leadership Council" training? Find out here!

            Those of you who have visited the page entitled “Mission Terms and Definitions” know that it was designed to give families and friends a better understanding of what life is like in the Alabama Birmingham Mission.

            In this posting, we’ll give both a little more of what actually goes on as well as some photography (which, let’s face it, is the REAL reason you come to the blog, right?).

            Instituted last April in all of the 405 missions of The Church, our Mission Leadership Council is exactly that – a council – in which some training is provided from the Mission Leadership on a variety of topics, but it’s also conducted to counsel together.  That is, to receive as well as to dispense information needful for the ABM to function at its highest possible level. 

Conducted monthly, the MLC is presided over by President Hanks, and usually conducted by one of his Assistants; Sister Hanks, as well as Senior Couples working in the Mission Office who also make presentations across several areas as needed.  Often in attendance are President Hanks’ counselors. 

            The largest population in attendance are the Zone Leaders from across the Mission as well as the Sister Training Leaders.  Both groups are responsible for absorbing the training, as well as administrative, safety and health briefings, and then providing that same information to their own zones – usually later in the same week.  There is also training in their own responsibilities as leaders. 

            In terms of what the attendees contribute to the MLC, it’s truly significant.  In this mission, goals and standards are developed more on a “bottom up” than “top down” basis.  Zone Leaders, for example, obtain realistic information, goals, projections and standards from District Leaders who have previously counseled with missionaries in their Districts.       

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter! All things are possible…Because of Him.

Jesus is the Son of God, our Savior and Redeemer. 
Because of Him, death is not the end, and life takes on new meaning. 
We can change, we can start over—and we can live again with God. 
This Easter, celebrate His life and discover all that’s possible because of Him.

Learn more at http://easter.mormon.org

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Senior Couple Spotlight: The Mays!

Getting ready to leave on another task within the Mission.  
This really captures the Mays' spirit: their truck doors 
are always open, and the engine is running.
Elder and Sister May have served in the Mission since April of 2012 and return home at the end of March 2014.  Although they had originally been called to serve for eighteen months, they voluntarily extended another six months while awaiting the assignment of another professional nurse to replace Sister May.  (One more indication that Sisters are always more important than Brethren.)

The Mays hail from the major metropolitan area of Rockland, Idaho.  They are the parents of 11 children and 43 grandchildren – 5 of whom were born while they have been serving out here.  Elder May owned and operated a family telephone business, with exchanges in six states, providing internet and telephone services in rural areas.  Sister May, retired after a fulfilling career as an Emergency Room/Intensive Care Unit nurse.

Elder and Sister May in their Natural Habitat -
with missionari
es, in front of their all-purpose vehicle,
in a chapel parking lot.  (Purple ties are not optional)
While here in the Mission, Sister May’s experience provided a nearly custom-made background to help meet the medical needs of such a large missionary force as we have in Alabama and Mississippi (and bits of Tennessee, of course).  Elder May, who served as the Housing Coordinator was also in near-constant motion – identifying apartments and other forms of housing for nearly 150 companionships, negotiating with landlords, power and utility firms, arranging for furniture and large appliances to name just a few.  Obviously, his business experience had direct application to the on-going and challenging needs of the missionaries he supported.  

When not so engaged, he also served in the Lorna Branch Presidency.  His experience as a young missionary in Argentina prepared him well for that language intense need here in Alabama (see an upcoming blog article on the work of Spanish speaking missionaries in Alabama.  Who would have thought, eh?)

The choicest aspects of their missionary service was the opportunity to serve under the two best Mission Presidents in the Church.  The most difficult part of their mission was having to watch illness or injury cause some valiant young missionaries to have to return home before the completion of their full assignment. 

And, what do they look forward to after seeing their extended family again?  Serving another mission wherever The Lord sees fit to call them. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

New Series!! Meet the Senior Couples of the Alabama Birmingham Mission

As of October 2013, approximately 80,300 full-time missionaries were serving round the world. This represents a significant increase from the 59,000 who were serving at the time of President Monson’s historic announcement in October 2012 and most of the attention has – appropriately – been focused on the new minimum ages for both Elders and Sisters. However, there has been no dramatic change in the number or even percentages of Senior Couples who are serving in widely diverse and important missionary roles around the world. That is not to say that they are not needed any longer. Their contributions are widely diverse, highly influential and necessary roles – and may even be needed more than ever as The Church continues to grow. In this series of our blog, we’d like to profile the Senior Couples who are also serving in various capacities within the Alabama Birmingham Mission. These profiles will not only spotlight those couples, but also describe the diversity of experiences they bring as they contribute to the work going forward. They are not unique, however; other stories of Senior Couples working around the world can be found at https://www.lds.org/callings/missionary/senior-missionary-stories?lang=eng 

 You can find these posts tagged with the label "Senior Couples".

Senior Couple Spotlight: Meet the Eliasons!

Elder and Sister Eliason of Provo, Utah are nearing the end of their Member and Leadership Support (MLS) Mission in the New Albany, (Mississippi) Branch of the Tupelo Stake.  Serving in one of the most far-flung areas of the Alabama Birmingham Mission, the Eliasons were also serving in one of the geographically largest branches as well, located midway between Elvis Presley’s birthplace in Tupelo and his springboard city of Memphis, Tennessee. (It’s important to understand such vital data when serving in The Great American South). 

The relatively recent change in Senior Couple missionary opportunities that permitted six-month missions – in addition to the 12, 18 and 24 month missions – seemed ideal for the Eliasons. Elder Eliason had previously served in Mississippi as a young man and so he had a pretty fair mastery of the language even before coming out. 

Following a 40 year career in the Church Education System in Utah and California, Elder and Sister Eliason devote several months of each year to providing Church History tours to young people during vacation cycles. Had it not been for the six month opportunity, the Eliasons’ small business obligations would have prevented them from serving a longer mission. 

Contrary to popular (mis)conceptions about Senior Couples and their extended families, absence from home was not a major concern for the Eliasons. Even though through their 10 children they have 47 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren, they gained uniformly great encouragement from their family – encouragement that was often expressed as gratitude for their example to their children and grandchildren. As many families in these technology-rich days, they were able to keep in regular touch with their family in Boston, Texas, Idaho and Utah – just as they did from home, using Skype and FaceTime. Such mechanisms made it seem that they were missing hardly anything in the lives of their family.   

In exchange, they believe that this may have been the very best six months of their entire lives on several levels: First, they felt an actual slackening of responsibility because they knew that they had the blessing of having the entire Church praying for their success; Second, while they had been close throughout their marriage on many dimensions, being 24/7 companions gave them a unity of purpose that they had rarely felt before; and Third, getting to know and love the people in the New Albany Branch was more like a “perfect vacation” than the hard work and sacrifice that so typifies missionary work. 

Their advice to any Senior Couples contemplating serving a mission? “Do it, Just Do It – It will be the very best time of your life!”