Monday, September 28, 2009

Deja Vu - Plus

September 28, 2009

We are in the season in India when Hindu religious holidays and festivals are observed through October 17th which is Diwali, the last and biggest celebration. It is also a time as you might expect of heightened religious and national fervor, especially for some political entities that play that card hard.

Last year at this time, a young Noida reporter wrote a series of articles claiming the missionary elders were “converting” Hindus to Christianity. To convert in India carries a bad connotation and implies coercion, force, or bribery to get someone to change. It was claimed the elders were offering money, physically threatening people, etc. All of it made up and completely false. The last article published claimed the police were looking for the elders. That was when President Smith, Elder Godi, and Elder Desari made a visit to the Noida police chief to clear the air. During that interview, the chief claimed he knew of our church and believed those present when they stated we were not doing the things claimed in the paper. He also stated the police were not looking for the elders. On the way out, our group met the reporter who was there at the station and talked to him and asked why he wrote things that were not true. He admitted that some men had put him up to it as a politically motivated scheme.

As a result, one elder who lived above us at the time and who had not registered in Noida was immediately taken to Delhi. The other 3 elders were registered and ok. Foreign nationals are required to register wherever they are living and/or working in India. Sister Tanner and I are both registered in Noida. After laying low for a few days, the elders were back on the street again, but being very circumspect about who they approached and how they did it.

Now a year later, and it is déjà vu. The festival season is upon us and so is the attack, but with a new and serious element of concern this year. Two weeks ago a series of articles appeared that put out the same garbage all over again including the claim that the police were looking for the elders and named a police official. The same reporter is strongly suspected of this most recent media attack. This time President Smith and Elder Godi, who came over from Delhi, visited the police official named in the article. He claimed to know nothing about it and said the police were not looking for the elders. We thought that was the end of it. Not so.

Elder Hawks had his bicycle stolen late last week, so he and his companion were walking again. This morning around 10:30 AM, Elders Smith and Hawks had kept an appointment in sector 37, then walked to an adjacent sector 30 to attempt to locate an old contact. When they knocked on the door of the address they had, the house had a new occupant who invited them in. The occupant had lived in the US and was friendly and they talked for some time. When they left, he did not accompany the elders to the gate in front of the house which is the normal custom, but stayed at the front door. The elders passed into the street and began walking. Both elders are around 5’ 5-6”and have slender physiques, mighty in spirit, but not necessarily physically.

After walking a very short distance from the house, they were attacked from behind as someone put an arm around each elders head and then was joined by another individual so it became a one on one head lock situation. They were drug, pushed, shoved towards a side entrance to the sector where a car was waiting with two more individuals. The elders were punched and hit on the back, arms, and face and the scuffle continued to the car and at it although the elders were not fighting back. Elder Smith was trying to talk to their assailants, trying to find out what was going on, but if they knew English, they weren’t talking. He did, however, manage to get one of his assailants between himself and the car so he could not be pushed into it. Two men were trying to get Elder Hawks into the car and that is when the elders noticed that two of the men were carrying holstered guns, the driver and one of those trying to get them in the car. Elder Hawks kicked the man trying to push him into the car, grabbed the handhold above the door and pulled himself back out. About this time two police officers arrived on a motorcycle. There had been other people watching the melee, but did nothing to help the elders.

Long story short, the police called for backup and a vehicle and the elders wound up at the police station in our sector 39 along with at least two of their assailants who joked with and seemed to know the police. Within 5 minutes, reporters and photographers for several of the local Hindi newssheets appeared and began photographing the elders and trying to interview them. About 30 minutes later, a couple of TV crews showed to take pictures.

In the meantime, the elders had regained their cell phones and made a call that started a lot of action. I got a call from the mission President around 1 PM who told me what he knew and asked me to find out what I could. He indicated Elder Godi was on his way to the police station. I got a hold of Elder Godi and we agreed to go to the police station together. In the meantime, the other pair of elders showed up at our flat to take refuge, Elder Wille and Elder Tamang who is from Nepal. I met Elder Godi and his companion Elder Barrick down the street and asked Elder Barrick to go to our house and wait until we got back. I thought it best not to arrive at the police station with more people than necessary not knowing the entire situation at the time.

Before we got to the station, we did learn that the elders were apparently free to leave, but very wisely had insisted on staying until their friends arrived. There were a lot of people hanging around outside the station and the police had offered them an armed escort back to their apartment. When Elder Godi and I walked into the compound, there were around 9-10 guys milling around and talking just inside the wall and we got stares as we walked past and ignored them. When we walked into the station, we saw the elders sitting in an office in front to our right and a number of men sitting at a table in the hallway. The men did an obvious double take when an older, white man and an Indian walked up to them. They motioned to the office, so we spent minimal time with them and went in to see our elders.

Elder Hawks had received the worst of it, but was still reasonably ok based on physical appearances. I am sure both elders were feeling a bit traumatized from the experience and Elder Hawks needed aspirin later. We talked briefly and then three men entered the room. It was the head police guy at the station and two men from the city/state administrative offices. The conversation was in Hindi and the police officer stated the accusations against the elders, ie, converting, offering money, etc., which Elder Godi responded to and exposed as a falsehood. The police officer left after a short conversation. He was not in uniform and I understand he had stayed only because the elders refused to leave.

The other two men then began a long conversation in Hindi on the lack of registration of the elders. When he called, I had asked the President if he knew if the elders were registered in Noida and he didn’t know what I was talking about. In the change of mission presidents and changes in assistants, that necessity had somehow been lost. I told the officials, one spoke English, that we were obviously at fault for not having the elders registered and that it would be taken care of tomorrow. Elder Godi is a jewel, very mature, very professional, and very articulate. He had respect from the men he was talking to, even if one of them was trying to be the hardened bureaucrat.

At one point, I did ask point blank what they called it when four men, two of them armed, accost young men and try to force them into a car and in the process beat them up. I told them I would call it attempted kidnapping. What did they call it? I knew I wouldn’t get a straight answer, but I was surprised by what I did get. The question was essentially ignored, but it was explained that since the elders were not registered, then the police were unable to protect them. Yeah, right, just let the religious vigilantes run amok. From a stolen bicycle, to being followed and watched, to the planned attack at a location that could not have been known beforehand, to the obvious camaraderie between the assailants and the police, to the arrival of press within minutes at the police station, to the response from several other sources, this whole episode was a planned event. I have no doubt at all about it.

When we finally walked out of the police station, the group in the courtyard was gone and we just walked back to our flat. The elders all just hung out as phone calls and information was exchanged even to the President notifying parents to be sure they had the correct facts. News of the attack had actually gotten to the Area in Hong Kong by then and was getting wilder with each retelling. Sister Tanner provided food, even made pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, and the rest of the afternoon went by quickly. Elder Barrick and Godi went back to Mayur Vihar before dark. The other elders stayed longer and I went with them when they returned to their house after dark, just to be sure no one was waiting around to hassle them. As we were leaving, Anil Verma, his niece, and daughter returned with Sister Tanner who had run over to see the burning of an image of Ravana from their car. Today is a holiday and the image burnings after dark are happening all over, but that is another story. Anil seemed certain no one was going to come into the sector to do anything, but I went with the elders anyway. I then walked home after stopping to buy some needed fruit and veggies at Mother Dairy on the way back. I add this to reassure those reading that I am not worried and not reckless, but then on second thought, I didn’t go through what Elder Hawks and Smith did either. I doubt either of them will be over their experience for some time and I will not be surprised if both are transferred back to Delhi, possibly as early as tomorrow.

I am so frustrated by the ability of the press to print outrageous lies with impunity and we can seemingly do nothing about it and then today for the police to apparently be involved in this attack for media purposes is even worse.

But this too shall pass. The Lord’s work will go on.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Trip to Jaipur

Sister Tanner says that after India, all the American trucks will be very boring!!

For this group of gypsies, their cattle are their livelihood. They milk the cows and sell or trade milk wherever they go for food, etc. If there is a need for cash, they will sell stock. True nomads in a changing country.

More gypsies, but this group is goat and camel oriented.

If you look close on an enlarged view of this photo, you will see baby goats, too young to keep up, riding in pack bags on the camels.

Jaipur's Prince Albert Hall was built just for its name sake's visit. It is now a city museum.

The Launch Event

The invitation to the launch event for the GOI's new program, NSSK (the Hindi acronym), for newborn care was arranged for us by IAP. One goal was to meet Dr Kishore who is the actual moving force behind the government program. His agreeing to meet with me was another small recognition step for Latter-Day Saint Charities and the church and was the primary goal of the trip in addition to just making our presence and who we represented known and meeting people. We wore our Elder and Sister badges with the church's name on them.

During the time before the event started, we met the new head of UNICEF's Indian Health Section in Delhi, Dr Henri van den Hombergh from the Netherlands. We also met and talked with Dr Yonas Tegegn, originally from Ethiopia, and if he isn't the head guy, he is at least a key player, from WHO's Country Office for India. The program was over an hour late in starting while 200 of us waited on the government big wigs to arrive.

Elder Tanner and Dr Kishore. He is a very gracious person and I would consider our conversation a success. He later returned to where we were seated to introduce his boss to us.

Waiting ...

... and then the press and TV (c)rush when the officials arrived.

A full room and up front, L-R Dr Hombergh, UNICEF, Sam, head of the Rajasthan UNICEF state office, Dr Mohan from UNICEF Delhi and someone we have worked with previously, and to the front right, Dr Tegegn, WHO.

The top man, Gulan Nabi Azad, Honorable Union Health Minister. (the term Union is used similar to Federal in the states)

I'm not trying to be cute with a hidden message, although when you see the following video after the meeting write up you may be tempted to think along those lines. Here is some trivia you probably did not know. The marionette, or string puppet, originated in a town called Kot Pulti in India. We passed through it on our trip down to Jaipur. There was a group at the hotel we stayed at putting on a short show for those that were interested. Sister Tanner watched and took some video Monday night. Interesting.

E/S Tanner's Excellent Jaipur Holiday

The old city of Jaipur is walled and is called the Pink City since all buildings are painted alike. The one below is more a facade that a building with rooms. The Maharaja's wives could climb the back stairs to look out of a different window each day. The palace complex is behind the building and the women could not leave nor be seen so we have a building with 365 windows, one for each day of the year.

Inside the palace complex, behold, an elephant garage. It is, really.

The observatory dates from the 17th Century and I was impressed even though I'm a zero when it comes to astronomy or astrology.

The structure to the left with a triangle looking wall can measure time with 20 second accuracy. The one in the foreground has something to do with the positions of heavenly bodies. The bowls have scribed lines in them associated with something astronomical.

This structure can measure time with 2 second accuracy. Sister Tanner is modeling the same structure below.

You can see the shadow on the curved surface which indicates the time. The curve continues on the other side of the center structure. There is more to it than just time, but don't ask me.

Sister Tanner had to have a picture of this wonderfully decorated camel so I went across the street and got it.

Nice place to build a summer palace that remains cool with the breezes blowing in from across the water. Can you see the water buffalo chilling in the lake?

The Amber Fort Palace

We called Wednesday a preparation day and took it off and played tourist in Jaipur. We enjoyed visiting the Amber Palace (or fort), a 17th Century observatory, and some other sights. On the way to the Amber Fort, we stopped to take pictures of the ridge and the forts and along came a guy with a cobra. Here the Sister has the snake on her shoulder.

Here's a real charmer ... the Sister of course!!

The forts we stopped to take pictures of ... there is wall that goes all along the highest ridge line that surrounds the valley that Jaipur is in. The wall connects 4 forts that were built up there. This video shows 2 of the upper ridge forts. The Amber Fort is much lower.

The Queen on her elephant. You can ride an elephant up to the Amber Fort Palace. We can now say we've done that. Kind of like being in a small boat on a water body with large swells. After I shot the video, I joined her on the elephant.

A video of the elephant staging area for the trip up.

The ruins of the first palace are in the left middle of the picture. The video that follows pans this entire area.

Interesting to note that the forts and palaces are all from the Mughul era, a time when the Muslims ruled most of India, but there is only one mosque and many Jain and Hindu temples in the area now.

When we left, the car met us halfway up on the backside. This is a picture from the car of one of the ruins show above. But note what appears to be glass in the top floor windows, maybe not the complete ruin we thought. The ruins date from the 10th century AD.

The pictures that follow are in a more or less random order, but they were all taken inside the palace area of the fort.

Looking at the royal residence area of the Maharaja.

Solid marble columns and arches. The stone work never ceases to amaze me.

Inlaid work in the ceiling.

We decided that this would be a fantastic place to play hide and seek. It is full of stairways and passages.

This is a lower courtyard where the elephants drop the tourists off.

Is this an elephant's water bowl or something to cook soup in for the masses?

What a fun day in Jaipur that finally ended when we had to begin the trip home. We stayed overnight in Gurgaon and then visited a huge mall in Delhi that has a recently opened Hard Rock Cafe in it. Sister Tanner now has her HRC Delhi shirt and I've got a new hat. We had a great lunch with Praveen who was driving us back to Noida. It also gave the 2 district youth presidents time to start their planning prior to Saturday's big meeting on the up coming youth conference.

Reflecting on Choice

We got back from our trip to Jaipur yesterday evening and after we had dropped our bags, turned on the a/c, etc., Sister Tanner and I walked over to the Sector 40 market to get a few things. On the way we encountered a young man I want to tell you about. Seeing someone in a 3 wheeled device on the streets with a hand crank to provide propulsion is not uncommon here in India. I guess you would call them wheelchairs, but they are more like a recombinant bicycle with a platform seat and a hand crank instead of foot pedals.It was dusk, but as we were walking along the street I could see one of the bicycle devices coming towards us. When we were close enough to see the occupant, he stopped cranking and brought his hands into a namaste and greeted us with a big smile which we readily returned. I could see that he did not have legs, which was the reason for his dependence on the wheelchair. As we passed and continued on our way with a lump in my throat, it really struck me how people still have a choice in their approach to life regardless of their circumstances and here was a young man who epitomized that. He has chosen to meet life with a smile he readily shares regardless of what life has dealt him.

New Delhi District YM/YW Standards

6 days after they were called and sustained, the new YM, Praveen Beesa, and YW, Sister Tanner, presidents pulled off a really good District activity - a YM/YW Standards Night that was held in the afternoon. There were 75 youth there.

The outgoing presidents, Brother and Sister Barnes return to the states on the 18th, but had done some good preparatory work to set up the activity. But I have to hand it to Sister Tanner for making contact with the branch YW presidents, getting an opening speaker, preparing some key materials, and in general putting in the effort to help make the event successful. I just love being there when she conducts anything because of the life and vitality she brings to any undertaking. Am I ever blessed to have her as a companion.

The opening speaker, Rozelle Smith, originally from the Bahamas, and now Florida, is an outstanding individual. She is a convert to the church and what an example of the theme - Dream Big, Work Hard, Make a Difference. She comes from a lower income background, but has advanced degrees biology and I believe chemistry and has her own pharmaceutical consulting practice. She is a living example of what the theme is about and such energy. What a great lady.

The youth were put into groups and each group prepared a presentation based on some pictures they were given and an assigned and related part of the theme. An adult with a laptop was assigned to each group and did the PowerPoint work for the youth. I had a great time and was surprised as the youth got into it, caught the vision of what was needed, and really became creative. We all then met together to enjoy each group's presentation. President Beesa concluded with a talk, then it was pizza and cupcake time. A great afternoon and what fun working with the future of the church in Delhi!!

Sister Tanner with the District YW Secretary and the District YW Counselor.

Pictures follow of three of the youth groups that presented.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Following on a very successful District YM/YW event Saturday, what a great Sunday this was. It was our anniversary, one year in India to the day and I could not think of anything better than to see 4 young men receive the Melchizedek priesthood. Unfortunately, Ben Smith, who is putting in his mission papers, is not in the picture below. L-R we have Elder Barrick, Dennis Thomas, YM President, Robin Baisoya, Elders Quorum President, Elder Tanner, and Bhola Prasad, Branch Mission Leader. I can't tell you how much I love these young men for their commitment to their Savior and their willingness to learn and to serve. Days like today make it all worth it!

We also took this opportunity to get a picture of Dennis with just us. Every other picture we had of him was in a group. He is a software engineer, so you know I have a special place in my IT heart for him, ha!

Sunday Monkey Business

As we were leaving church through a gate, Arpit spotted some monkeys coming towards the building. I hurried back to get Sister Tanner who had the camera. She shot these pictures and then I wound up with the camera to shoot some video when we realized it was a small troop moving through. One old male, the patriarch of the troop passed in front of us a few feet away, then apparently took exception to Sister Tanner and turned and barred his teeth (and I mean long teeth) and snarled at her. We were standing in the gate and I was immediately to the side and behind Sister Tanner, and when he did this, I kind of recoiled a bit, but Sister Tanner did the opposite and snarled right back at the monkey and we're talking large size here. I could not believe she did that, but the male backed off and left. Nothing like a Sister with attitude to set the monkeys straight.

This was not the A male, but a female member of the troop.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Going to Institute Class

This is a sequel to the video in the post that follows. I continue to fail to remember to put things in inverse chronological order when doing multiple posts. So here you have another auto ride on the way to the branch which occurs after I took the video of the house construction on the same evening.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

New House Construction

I'm experiencing some frustration at the moment trying to locate another source for mucus traps. The source I had can only deliver 10 by tomorrow and they didn't tell me until late last night. I need 40 of them to include in neonatal resuscitation (NR) training kits to be taken with us when we head to Jaipur on Monday to attend the launch event for the Government of India (GOI) Ministry of Health's new program to address the infant mortality rate nationwide. They have used IAP, the Indian Academy of Pediatricians, as a primary partner to prepare the program and for training material. Since IAP is a close partner with Latter-Day Saint Charities, we have been indirectly involved since the bulk of the NR training material came from LDSC. LDSC was listed in the GOI NR training manual's bibliography. It is a long story, but the net result was an invitation from the Governor of Rajasthan via the GOI for LDSC to attend the program launch so we head down Monday afternoon and will take a day to play after our commitments are completed. So to briefly get over the frustration for a while, I'm turning to the blog and will post a couple of movies from Duane'n Cindyberg Productions.

On Wednesdays, Sister Tanner teaches Institute and Sister Smith teaches Seminary at the Noida Branch. We usually have a Branch activity after. The movie below was taken as we walked around the corner to go get an auto. We had the camera with us so I had to stop and shoot some footage as they were busy with a concrete pour for the roof of the home under construction just down from us. I've also included a bunch of photos I've collected as the construction progresses. I've talked with the developer/contractor and it is what we would call a spec house in the US.

First thing up was a temporary building on the corner to be used by some of the laborers and their families who live on site throughout the construction.

Working on forms for the 2nd floor. Here it would be the 1st floor. What is called the 1st floor in the states is the "ground floor" in India.

Building code in our Sector allows 2 floors and a few rooms on the top (3rd level) for live in household help quarters.

Note everything is concrete with brick used to fill in the walls. The final cover is either plaster or stone. Marble is very common for floors and as a veneer covering outside on expensive homes.

The poles used to support the concrete forms are all bamboo.

See the video for this equipment in action.

All you need to make concrete - water, sand, gravel, cement, and a mixer. There was one house up the street that used a concrete pump for a second level pour along with ready mix delivered by truck, but I imagine that is much more expensive unless your concrete consistency and quality is important enough to warrant it.

See this device for lifting concrete up in action in the video.

There are 10 bricks in that stack as each row is double. Think disc compression ... and that is a little lady.

Hot, humid, and time for a break in the shade.

Watch concrete being made and lifted to the top of the second level, what will be the roof/terrace over the front of the house.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Delhi District Conference September 6, 2009

Sister Tanner is the guest blogger today. I'm posting an email she sent to our family about our District conference Sunday along with a video that was taken by Sister Rozelle Smith.

"The work and our lives here in India certainly have ups and downs, good and bad days ... Today was one of those days that I wish I could keep with me always -- and I will in my heart!!
We had our District Conference (like Stake Conference) today and it was a very special experience. I had been asked to be in charge of the music for the conference sessions, and with that it was requested that the Primary children sing the prelude for 10 minutes prior to the Sunday morning session, and that the Elders sing the closing hymn for the same session. Great idea, but there was no way to practice with either group all together! I sent out notes to each of the 6 Branch Primary Presidents letting them know what was requested, the list of the songs we'd be singing, and what time the children should be there. I sent an e-mail to the Elders telling them what song I'd selected for them, and what verses to sing, etc. The only thing left to do was to trust that the Lord would fill in the gaping holes and things would be fine.
We all (our little Noida Branch) met at 7:45 this morning to travel by bus to New Delhi. An Indian bus is an experience in itself (although this one was a private bus, and a little cleaner than the public bus!) I couldn't sit with my legs straight forward, and the Dad and the Elders were wedged in every conceivable position trying to fit into seats! All of the Indian members were quite comfortable! We had all the windows open trying to get air, but if we made any stop at all, in came the flies!
We arrived for the 9:00 New Member meeting where each of the Branch Presidents introduced their new members (one year or less) and what their callings are in their Branches. Each waited with anticipation for their name to be called, receive a rose and a handshake from President and Sister Jackson. So many new members in the branches -- it was really a humbling experience to see all those dear Brothers and Sisters with tender testimonies and a strong faith in our Savior.
After that meeting, at 10:10 (the general session was to begin at 10:30) I asked all the Primary children to come to the front. Bless their hearts -- down they came with their sweet Primary Presidents encouraging them along the way. I was absolutely thrilled with how many were there, and when they started to sing my heart was filled to bursting! Those beautiful little children -- so new to the gospel -- sang with all their hearts! I just know that the Lord heard and was filled with joy at the faith of those precious children!
Four of the fine men from our Branch were sustained to be given the Melchizedek Priesthood as Elders. Brother Robin (our Elders Quorum President), Brother Dennis (our Young Men's President), Brother Bhola (our Branch Mission Leader), and Brother Ben Smith (soon to be Elder Smith). How wonderful to see these worthy men advancing in the Priesthood!
They had asked (in advance) some new members to share their testimonies. What an experience that was -- stories of such faith! The members of the Church here are such great examples! Some of those who spoke had walked away from religions (non-Christian) they'd known all their lives -- some rejected by their families, one man travels 8 hours by train (one way) just to attend Sunday meetings, a former nun, and a family who fled Afghanistan because they wanted Christianity and knew they would be killed if they stayed there. Some of the things I'm asked to do seem to pale in comparison.
A newly baptized, young Primary aged girl bore her testimony and you would have thought that she was many years older and had been a member all her life. What a mature and special child!
Brother Dominic said that he had "belonged to the Devil for 35 years". He said he drank, did drugs, sold drugs, and attempted murder. He served his time, found the gospel and has turned his life around. He said the Elders told him that they were going to teach him how to get from the "crack house" to the "white house" (the temple). The gospel is for everyone. Every single individual has the opportunity, no matter their past, to be cleansed through the atonement and know their Savior!
Sister Anu left Hinduism and was abandoned by her father when she went searching for the truth about her Savior. He didn't talk to her for many years. She found the gospel, was baptized, and decided to serve a mission (she just returned about 2 months ago). While on her mission, she made a call home on Christmas. She was talking to her mother, then her mother said she needed to talk with her father. It had been 10 years. He came to the phone and she could barely speak through the tears. The first thing he said to her was,"I love you". His heart had been softened, and he was even there in the conference to hear her speak. Her sister and her cousin are now members of the Church, also. What a strong lady!
Sister Suman (from our Branch) was a nun for 14 years. Her health became very bad and she was sent home. It immediately improved and she was "found" by the Elders. My heart is so touched when she talks about how they always came with "sweating faces" -- she calls them her angels. She was baptized and is such a strong lady!!
A family fled Afghanistan after the mother had a vision of a man dressed in white who told her "Come, follow me". She knew her husband would kill her for leaving their religion, so she fled for her life and for the lives of her daughters. She found the Church and she and her daughters have such strong testimonies!
There were more -- such inspiring and humbling stories of valiant spirits who have been chosen to help "build the kingdom" here in Delhi. I stand in awe of them, because I have wondered if I would have had the strength, had I not been born into the Church, to seek the truth, embrace it, asked to be baptized (changing my prior habits and practices), and then to live the gospel, going against all the traditions and teachings that are found outside the Church. I'm so blessed to not have had to search -- it was all there for me. All I had to do was to reach out and embrace that sweet gift, and then endure to the end (which may be the most challenging part of the journey!)
Then the Elders came up to sing their song (Sweet is the Work). I had asked one Elder to sing a solo on the first verse, 5 others to join him (singing parts as a double trio) on the 2nd and 3rd verses, and all the others join in on the 4th and 6th verses. All I can say is that I started leading them, and then could do nothing more than sit back down in my chair, tears streaming down my cheeks. Oh, what wonderful Elders they are!! It was absolutely beautiful!!
After the session was over, it was much like I hope it will be when my turn here on earth is finished -- seeing and greeting those we love and haven't seen in some time, and feeling such a joy and kinship in our belief in the gospel and our Savior, Jesus Christ. No one there was a stranger!! There was such a strong spirit -- a feeling I will keep in my heart, always!!"

The conference was held in a very nice theater the District rented for the meeting. Note the fresh cut flowers lining the stage front, carnations and orchids, and you can get a glimpse of Sister Tanner's head and arms as she leads in the lower right.