We survived Transfer Week! Seven new missionaries arrived on Monday and seven left for home over the next couple of days. We helped with orientation on Monday afternoon. Talk about the blind leading the blind!
Tuesday morning we attended Transfer meeting. What an incredible group of youth! Several of them performed musical numbers, piano, guitar, singing, and the ones who were leaving for home each bore their testimony. What spiritual giants! We spent yet another meeting wiping the tears from our eyes.
After the Transfer Meeting we were privileged to attend a session at the temple with the new missionaries and several of the transfers.
On Wednesday, we were asked by President Robinson to each make a short introduction and training presentation on our individual areas of responsibility at the misson leadership meeting. The zone leaders, sister training leaders, assistants to the President, Pres. & Sis. Robinson and Pres. LaVoie were all there. There are normally some who attend by PVC (personal video conferencing) because of the distances involved, but this time they were all together. It was a great gathering and we enjoyed getting to know some of these youth leaders a little better.
By way of explanation, for those who are unfamiliar with LDS missions, our mission is divided into seven zones which correspond with the seven stakes that are in our mission area (Alaska and the Yukon Territory). A Stake is like a diocese and is comprised of several congregations called wards or branches, depending on their membership numbers. Each zone is divided into districts and there is a pair of missionaries assigned to one or more congregations in each district. There are a total of 140 missionaries in the Alaska Anchorage Mission.
By Thursday all of the senior missionaries, and especially Pres. & Sis. Robinson, were worn out. We were all sure that it must be at least Friday.
One of the service projects that Elder Taylor has been involved in coordinating is the Last Great Race - The Iditarod. If you don't know, the Iditarod is based on an emergency run to Nome with some diphtheria antitoxin back in 1925. There was a diphtheria epidemic in the town and several teams of mushers were put together to get the antitoxin over 1300 miles to Nome. They did it in a record time of 6 days (previous record was 13 days) and saved many lives. (See YouTube video "How a Diphtheria Outbreak Spawned the Iditarod" for more.) The Iditarod is now about 1000 miles long and the biggest thing in Alaska. I'm sure that true Alaskans think it really is bigger than the Super Bowl.
Today, Saturday the 7th of March, was the Ceremonial Start of the Iditarod. (Also referred to by some as the "false start.") It starts at 10:00 AM in downtown Anchorage and winds through town for eleven miles to a small BLM airstrip on the east side of town. Our missionaries helped with various different things, starting a couple of weeks ago with loading and unloading food for the dogs and mushers and ending with being trail guards today. Because of the mild winter (and lack of snow) here in Anchorage this year, the actual start of the race has been moved to Fairbanks. As you will see by some of the pictures, they had to truck snow into town for the ceremonial start today.
|Although it got up to 44 degrees today, it was possibly the coldest day we've experienced here. The wind was blowing really hard and the wind chill must have had it down to about 20 degrees. (or so it felt!)|
Couldn't resist these little guys. They were really getting into it, cheering for each team that went by.
|This is the sled that went first. It was the only old-style one that we saw.|
This is at the finish line.
|This is looking from the finish line back along the runway that the final leg was built on.|
You can see that it still had plenty of snow/ice on it. The racers are coming along the
left of the photo.
|One of the teams coming in to the finish line.|
They had mushers from all over. Obviously, this guy was from Canada.
Once they get done running, some of the dogs start talking to each other.
You may not be able to see this from the pics and videos, but these are generally
not the barrel-chested, good looking Huskies that you see in the movies.
Most of them are wirey, scrappy looking little dogs. It's hard to imagine
that they have the stamina and strength to do this.