Dear Sister Bell,
We wanted to write to you and express our gratitude to you for sharing your son, Elder Bell, with us for the next two years. We have enjoyed meeting him. He is a fine young man and we have enjoyed our interactions with him and look forward to many more.
We met the arriving missionaries at the Ontario airport. Elder Bell, along with 7 other Elders and two sisters, arrived at the airport about 12:30 Tuesday, December 4. They looked amazing in their new clothes, white crisp shirts, new suits and shined shoes. While we were waiting for their luggage, we had a quick visit with each of them. They were excited and just a little uneasy, (maybe more than a little) wondering what was happening next.
The assistants to the president (AP's) arrived in a pick-up truck and a van, and with our car, we could fit everyone and their luggage in, and we were on our way to Glen Helen Park at the mouth of the Cajon Pass. I took a sack lunch for the missionaries to eat while Sister Mills, a local church member and historian explained to the missionaries how the area of San Bernardino had been settled. The first settlement efforts were conducted by Spanish missionaries, and Spanish landowners starting about 1810. During the U.S. Mexican war the Mormon Battalion (the only religiously based battalion in U.S. history) was organized in Iowa in 1847 and after a march through what would become the Southwestern part of the U.S. it arrived in San Diego and was eventually stationed in what would become San Bernardino and the surrounding areas. Jefferson Hunt, a Captain in the Mormon Battalion was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as were all the members of the battalion. Since many people call Church members Mormons, the Battalion was known as the Mormon Battalion. Among its’ many assignment’s, a portion of the Mormon Battalion was sent to guard the Cajon pass and protect it from possible marauding indians. After the members of the Mormon Battalion were mustered out of their service, they returned to Salt Lake City to join their families. President Young saw that Southern California could be a valuable supply route for the Utah pioneers. So to establish a mail route and a supply stop/route for immigrants coming through California, President Young used church funds to buy property in the desired area from Antonio Maria Lugo, a Mexican rancher who had obtained a 35,000 acre grant after Mexico won independence from Spain. Twenty families were asked by President Young to colonize the area. Fifteen former Battalion men and their families were among the Saints who settled in the area in 1851, including Captain Jefferson Hunt. It was the third stake organized in the church. The story of the settling the area here in San Bernardino was told in a story written by Sister Mills for the February, 2003 Ensign, if you are interested in reading more about it.
After the experience at the park we took the new elders and sisters to the mission home for a short orientation meeting. Sister Carter arrived with their MSF (Missionary Support Fund) cards and explained to them how they worked and what to purchase with them. Elder Houser arrived and told them about the vehicles in the mission and we showed them some entertaining DVD’s made by the church with some serious expectations explained in part by some of the 12 apostles. Sister Ball, our mission nurse, also arrived to meet the missionaries. We will do a more detailed meeting on December 18, when they will have more questions and be able to more fully understand what we will need to explain to them. The office staff will be there as well to explain how things work in their areas of responsibility. President and I spent some time with them answering questions and explaining our expectations of them as missionaries. We also let them just relax a while. We took them to the mission office so they could see where their mail comes to and to see their pictures and areas on the transfer board. That evening we had dinner with them at the mission home. President also talked to them about some of his expectations of them as missionaries and role played with them some different scenarios. We laughed and enjoyed one another's company until we were all tired. We then had them get bedded down for the night. Everyone was exhausted and fell right off to sleep after writing in their journals. The next morning we cooked waffles and put things away while President had initial interviews with them. About 10:30 a.m. their trainers arrived and President talked to all of them about the 12 week training program. For lunch we had hamburgers and hotdogs out on the patio and everyone ate and got acquainted.
Elder Bell with the Mission President and his wife
Following lunch we had a testimony meeting with them. It is always inspiring to hear the new missionaries and their trainers bear testimony of the work they are and will be involved in and their testimonies of the Savior and His atonement. About 3:30 we sent them off to their areas to begin, in earnest, their missionary efforts. They were all happy to get out in the field to start finding and preaching the gospel.
Can you guess which one is his trainer?
We are looking forward to working with your missionary in this most wonderful of experiences - preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the people in this area. There is a lot of diversity here. The missionaries will learn a lot about other cultures. We know he will be a fine missionary. He is a wonderful young man.
Attached are some pictures we took on Tuesday upon their arrival, and on Wednesday, December 5h. We knew you would be interested in seeing the pictures of your son and his companion.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact either one of us.
Elder Bell and Elder Monk. He's so tall!
Also, if you do not know, we have a mission blog where I put pictures of the missionaries from time to time. I don’t have a lot of time to work on it, but try to update it every week or so. I am sure your missionary will have pictures on there as we associate with them and have pictures sent to us. The address for the mission blog is: http://sanbmnews.blogspot.com.
We look forward to hearing from Elder Bell on how he is settling in and getting along with his new companion!