Sunday, May 18, 2014

Senior Couple Spotlight: Elder and Sister Champion

Elder and Sister Champion

The Champions say that this is their Best Possible Picture -
"with these wonderful young missionari
es in the background!"
Elder Herbert and Sister Linda Champion are representative of the exceptional, locally-called, Church Service (CS) Missionaries who do so very much for branches and wards that need augmentation.  In much the same way that Member and Leadership Support (MLS) missionaries are called, CS Missionaries like the Champions provide their years of Church and professional experience to members and local Church leaders.  Unlike MLS missionaries, however, they remain at home – for an infinite variety of reasons ranging from health issues to family matters – rather than serving in distant locations.

Elder and Sister Champion are members of the Northport Ward, Bessemer Alabama Stake (Northport is the superior city to its better known neighbor, Tuscaloosa).  Both converts to the Church, the Champions are also both US Navy veterans, and both worked in the field of cryptology.  Elder Champion mixed both land as well as sea duties over the course of his 20-plus year career; Sister Champion spent all of her time on land-based projects.  Upon his retirement, Elder Champion used the GI Bill to finish his collegiate preparation for a second career in accounting, and worked for the Veterans Administration before retiring again.   They’d returned after their military service to Sister Champion’s hometown of Northport; to Elder Champion, a “Navy brat” raised all around the world, it was clearly his home too.

Both Elder and Sister Champion had long awaited the opportunity to serve a full-time mission, yet when the opportunity came, the need to remain close to their health care provider prevented them from serving at a distant location.  Offered the opportunity for a CS Mission by their Stake President, they jumped at the chance and have served for the past 18 months in the small Demopolis Branch in the extreme southwestern corner of the Mission.  As the Southern phrase goes: “They do it all, y’all.”  They assist in locating and teaching those who may be less-active, they teach Gospel Principles, Elder Champion serves as the Branch Clerk and she is a Relief Society instructor.  (For visitors to the Christmas-time blog photography, you’ll recognize Elder Champion also leading the “Elvis Presley look-a-like singing troupe” that brought down the house with their version o f “White Christmas.”  Especially, the patented Elvis shaking leg – stopping short however of any inappropriate hip gyrations.)  
Elder Champion performs Elvis!

Most fulfilling, however, has been their work in the Book of Mormon Reading program, which has a fundamental purpose of reducing illiteracy in the area, but also to enhance an appreciation of the Book of Mormon.  Although not specifically designed to foster missionary work itself, the Champions have seen two baptisms since the beginning of January 2014 and another three – and possibly four – new converts are in the wings as they attend the literacy program.

Since they remain at home and are Missionaries on a (so-called) part-time basis, they remain in their own home, near their one child who lives in Alabama; the child in Arizona would be far away almost wherever they served.  At the same time, however, their service is not solely within the Demopolis Branch boundaries, since they also find time to volunteer in local community-service activities as well.

What will they do now?  They’ll return to their usual approach to Church service in the Northport Ward and Bessemer Stake where he has served previously as Stake Sunday School, High Councilor, High Priests Group Leader, Ward Mission Leader, Executive Secretary among others; Sister Champion probably won’t be called as the Relief Society President again, although Compassionate Service and Activities Committee work has occupied much of her Church life. 

Do they recommend a CS Mission?  Absolutely!!  It’s one of the greatest things they’ve ever done!!  Would they serve a Full-time mission elsewhere if circumstances permit?  Certainly.  But, the important thing is that The Lord knows who needs what from whom – and the Champions have certainly given their all to this call.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day to all the Moms out there.  We wouldn't be where we are today without you!

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Monday, May 5, 2014

District Leader Training – May 4th, 2014

In recent weeks, there have been posts showing monthly Mission Leadership Council(MLC) – and the training provided there – which the Zone Leaders and Sister Training Leaders then take to their monthly Zone Training.  And, of course, there has been much photo coverage of quarterly Zone Conference where several zones get together around major population centers of the mission (Birmingham, Montgomery, Bessemer, Huntsville and Tupelo) for Presidency-led training as well.

However, the place where the most training is really given, “where the rubber really meets the road,” is in District Training.  This training is held each week to reinforce, in small and highly effective ways, the training that has been already provided or new training as received.  District Leaders bring together anywhere between two and five sets of companions from their areas for ninety minutes of concentrated group study. 

So, where do District Leaders get developed; where do they get their training? 

The answer is the District Leader Training which is held – usually – about every nine months – in this case on May 4th.  As a side note, this training, as is the case with MLC, it’s held in Birmingham, AL.  It may not be immediately obvious, but missionaries deployed around the Alabama Birmingham Mission may have three hour or more drives to attend this five hours of training – and then back to their Districts.  This makes for a pretty long day for some, even without considering their other roles and responsibilities.  It’s truly a testament to the dedication of these young leaders as they labor so hard, in so many ways, in this great cause.  Is it any wonder that we honor and love them so much?

Break Out Sessions

So, what happens in this Training?

As in virtually every meeting in The Church, there’s naturally a Welcome, an Opening Hymn and a Prayer.  Unlike most Church meetings, but typical of virtually every training meeting in the Alabama Birmingham Mission, we start off with two, Missionary-led, memorized recitations:  Doctrine and Covenants 4 and the great Ella Wheeler Wilcox inspirational quote:  
There is no chance, no destiny, no fate, 
Can circumvent or hinder or control 
The firm resolve of a determined soul.” 

 The Mission Motto ‘STEADFAST IN CHRIST” then leads into highly interactive presentations by President Hanks, and both Assistants to the President, followed by four breakout sessions that each of the four groups of District Leaders cycles through.  Two of the breakout sessions were led by the Assistants and two others by experienced District Leaders.

Sister Training Leaders

District Leaders then re-assembled for a debriefing from the breakout sessions, only to find that two Sister Training Leaders and Sister Hanks had prepared small bowls of grapes and trail mix as a snack for each table. As usual, the Sister Training Leaders had gone above and beyond - their purpose in being in the building that day was to lead discussions on how District Leaders can most effectively lead not only the Elders but the Sisters in their Districts.  

Kind of like herding cats!

President and Sister Hanks then made closing presentations and organized the final activity, of getting excited missionaries together for a final group photo before everyone returned to their Districts – an exercise not unlike the herding of cats.  Looking at their faces, you’ll know why.   


And then, it was time for departures and goodbyes; some final goodbyes to friends and former companions who may well be leaving at this next, upcoming transfer – since not everyone always comes to Transfer Day, this may be the last chance for some time to see one another. Always sweet, even bittersweet.

Friday, May 2, 2014


Check out all of these awesome new members!  The month of April was very busy for our missionaries.  WAY TO GO ALABAMA BIRMINGHAM MISSION!!!  Welcome to all of our new friends!

The Gospel is true :)