Thursday, May 31, 2012

Sheldon Kent

I spent some time, only a few weeks to be exact, in the MTC with CJ. We shared the same room.

When I entered the MTC I had only been a member of the church for a little under three years, so I was pretty fresh faced when I got there. To be quite honest, I was quite overwhelmed by the whole thing in general - being a missionary that is. The day after we arrived, I was called to be a District Leader and given the names of those who would be in my district. CJ was one of them. I felt way out of my depth, I didn't know how to be a missionary, let alone a District Leader - I even had a hard time relying on the spirit, and really struggled with learning the missionary discussions. CJ helped me through all of this. He wasn't my companion, but he took time out of every day to help me meet the challenges of being both a missionary and a District Leader. He sat down with me and went through the discussions, helped me to memorize scriptures, etc. I remember admiring him for being so prepared.

His example lasted with me throughout the two years of my mission, and has stayed with me for years afterwards. I am currently serving on our local Bishopric, a calling which I was given at the age of just 25. CJ's example of being prepared has helped me in both my church life, as I comfortably meet the challenges of serving on the Bishopric through being personally prepared, and in my personal life. I am the first in my family to go to University, not only that but I am pursuing a PhD this coming October, something that noone ever imagined me doing. But this is a direct result of CJ's influence, I planned out what I wanted to do with my life, and then prepared myself for the tasks ahead. It may seem like this story is too good to be true, but I promise you that it is.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Matt Humes

When I was a newer missionary out in the field, May 1, 2004, Christian and I went on exchanges. I was serving in the Keighley area, in South Yorkshire county. I believe it was near-evening when he came and picked me up in what, I thought, was a cool car (I'm certain he was the president's assistant at this point-with Tidwell?-and he therefore had a car) but it was probably some cheap Vauxhall. We had a somewhat long journey ahead of us and we therefore chatted during the drive, discussing our past selves whatever came to our minds, really. We both discovered that we knew a few of the same people back home. Christian was good friends with a boy named Matt Clarke. I didn't know Matt all that well, but I knew/know his parents quite well, Tom and Gwen Clarke. In fact, they probably live about 1500 feet from my house. I could wave to them from my kitchen window. We realized that it was, indeed, a small world. Having this small connection between us provided a little comfort to me, a 2 month-old missionary. I didn't know him, but I felt good around him.

I recall the misty English weather; the way the lights would shine through the rain a bit. It was a beautiful site, nearly dusk. The more we talked, the more I could tell what a great person he was. You know him as a great man, but be assured that he was also great those 8 years ago, too. At the time I had been having a little trouble adjusting to missionary life, and though there was no questions or doubts in my mind about my purpose in England, I did struggle with missionary "regiment" and with the disconnection from home.

Christian had very encouraging words which, I don't quite recall, oddly. I simply remember how I felt when I heard the words, and that's how I know he was inspired by the Spirit. I think he spoke about how missionary life is hard at times and that it gets both harder and easier but also more and more at home; how it's important to ask the Lord to get you through another day and to seek comfort and answers in the scriptures because they're always there. Again, I can only seem to recall the feelings I had, not really the content. Sorry for that. I wish I could've recorded my entire mission, its every moment.

I came to know Christian here and there throughout my mission. Don't hate me for saying that there were a couple times when I "resented" him because of how good he was, ha ha. Honestly, it was resentment at all-more like a fault on my part for comparing myself to him and other great missionaries like him. He was more advanced spiritually than I was then, and in my mind, there's no doubt that he is still now :)

Christian was a good teacher. He was good because he was able to convince you of truth through the Holy Ghost. His convictions were also admirable. I remember he had this small thing he did with his hands when he taught; he kind of tapped his spread fingers on his scriptures when he was driving home a point or principle. And he also had this funny neck-thing he'd do when he was really teaching, like rolling his head a little-and he always looked you right in the eyes! It was great--never mocking him in any way, of course, but just noticing some of those mannerisms as we all have.

Well, I can't recall much else. If I think of anything, I'll let you know. I've been wanting to send this to you for a while. I'm sorry I haven't, you know how it is. I suppose I will wrap up with my testimony.

I bear testimony to you of the absolute reality of the resurrection and of the world that awaits us when we leave Earth. I know it exists and it is, in fact, our real home. It is so sad to me that Christian has had to leave you. My heart truly aches for you. I know how it feels to loose those who you love and are very close to; I can't imagine what it must be like to lose your best friend. Nevertheless, I'd like to think that the Lord called him to another duty, of the heavenly kind. I can see him now, as I did in the mission field, preaching to those who are in prison. He is setting them free! Yet, I have no doubt that Christian is also pained at your absence from him. I testify that your separation from each other is only temporary and the day will come when he will greet you again, with that huge smile. I know this is completely true. I know that God knows perfectly of our sorrow and pain, and pains along with us. I testify to you that because of the depth of Christ's sufferings, He feels nothing but absolute love and mercy for us and knows exactly how to help us. He wants to comfort us and remove our pain, give us all the answers, send our deceased loved ones back to associate with us--but he can't. The Lord doesn't do these things not because He doesn't want to (I believe He does), it's because if He did, it would frustrate His purposes and our life-path. I know that God is our literal Father and will send His Comforter to be with us. How grateful I am for this knowledge. I declare this in the name of Jesus Christ, our only Hope, Amen!  God bless you in your afflictions!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Sydney Munsters (Sister Pate)

Dear Keri,

I don't know you but I served in the England Leeds Mission with your husband.  I only ever knew him as Elder Rhineer but I will always remember the impact he had on me and my mission.  Many of my mission memories include him. Some elders just ignored the sister missionaries but I always felt that he respected me and was a friend. I was in Leeds when Elder Rhineer came to be the zone leader. Then he was made the assistant. We were in the same area for about 3 months but then as the assistant I saw him many times throughout the rest of my mission. I saw that Elder Hilton wrote on your blog about Elder Rhineer injurying his hand playing soccer. Well at the next zone meeting we were all in a group listening to his story about his injury. Someone wanted to see it so he showed us. At the back of the group where I was an Elder passed out after seeing it. He landed really hard and Elder Rhineer felt so bad. We laughed about it later.

I have another story that still makes me laugh to this day. In England orange juice is sold in a box. Elder Rhineer drank a box every morning. One morning we were headed to Hull in a convoy of vauxhall corsas for zone conference. No one really knew where we were going but Elder Rhineer was leading us and I was driving the car behind him. It took us nearly an hour to find the stake center once we got to Hull.  We got stuck in standstill traffic.  As we were waiting, all the sudden Elder Rhineer jumped out off the drivers seat and ran down the side street. One elder got in the drivers seat while another chased after Elder Rhineer. It didn't take us long to figure out that Elder Rhineer's OJ had worked its way through him on the long drive. I will always remember him sprinting across four lanes of traffic.

Shortly after I was transferred out of Leeds the sisters were removed from the area.  Even though his schedule was busy being the assistant, him and his companion took over some of our investigators.  Elder Rhineer was so excited to be able to teach again. Whenever he saw me after that he gave me updates on the people that he was teaching.

At every zone conference he taught and motivated me. Other APs came and went but there was always Elder Rhineer.  I can't think of my time in England without thinking of him. And I know I am not the only one. He was an amazing missionary and one of the best people I have ever known. With three young children at home I have let some habits from my mission slide. After attending his funeral I realized that he was still just as strong and amazing. It made me resolve to try harder and be a better person. His example is still motivating me. Thank you for letting me share some of my thoughts with you. I felt I should but I haven't had the courage to write to someone I don't know until now.

Love, Sydney Munsters (Sister Pate)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Brittany Fox

My memory of CJ…

I only got the pleasure of meeting CJ once, but I remember vividly when I met him. I already loved him because I had heard so many amazing stories and seen pictures of everything that he and Keri did together, but most importantly I knew how happy he made Keri.

It was right around Christmas, Keri and I had been shopping. CJ told Keri that he was going to buy her a pair of boots for Christmas and I was in the market for boots as well…and as we all know Keri is the best person to take shopping! When you go shopping with Keri, you actually buy all the things that you have had your eye on instead of passing by and putting them on your wish list. So, boot shopping we went! Keri, found her boots and she was so excited to show them to her hubby! When we got back to their house, she dropped all her bags right away and pulled out her boots to show CJ. In the adorable Keri way…she explained how, “They look tight on my calves, but they just need to stretch because they are new…” She kept talking and modeling her boots, but all I could see was CJ staring at her smiling, laughing, and shaking his head. He was so incredibly in love with her. In that moment I was so touched by how he stared at her and just loved her for her. In that moment, I thought to myself just how much I wanted to strive for the marriage that they had together in my own marriage. Keri and CJ’s marriage is so beautiful and is such a wonderful example of how we should all be.

I know that CJ is looking down on you just as he looked at you that day, so incredibly in love and so proud of the person that you are and what you share together.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Milo Rhineer

Sweet dreams from Milo (told by Lori):

I awoke to Milo standing next to my bed this morning.

"MOM! I think CJ might come back to live."

"What?" I replied.

"I had a dream and CJ was here, and me and CJ and Keri went to the lake!"

"Did CJ say anything to you?" I asked.

"YES!" Milo exclaimed.

CJ said...

"HI Milo." :)

Here's Milo, Matthew, Uncle CJ, Lizzie, and Katie

Here's another memory from Milo (that he told to me):

The other day I was coloring with Milo and he was talking to me..

Milo: I can't really remember what CJ's voice sounds like.... I remember him laughing a lot. He also used to tickle me... I liked it when he did that.

Brian Middleton

I remember a time in my mission where something very stressful and frustrating happened. Christian took the time to council me and help me with my frustration and grief. His council and his patient and kind words made a huge difference in my life. As a leader he fulfilled the office he was called to and magnified that calling. It is my opinion that he was one of the best leaders I have had while serving in the England Leeds Mission. I am sad for his loss, but over joyed that he stayed true to his faith until the end. We will see him again. Thank you for your faith and love Christian.


Brian Middleton

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Jeffrey Hilton

Elder Rhineer loved to play soccer on preparation day. It sure got competitive at times. He was my zone leader in Leeds one just before he became one of the assistants to the president. I had two companions at the same time and we had one car. One preparation day we played soccer with a group of missionaries and others in that part of England. In his enthusiasm to go after the ball, Elder Rhineer tore up his hand on part of a fence. In a panic one of my companions, Elder Williams, drove Elder Rhineer's car to the hospital. Only problem was the keys to our car were in Elder William's pocket so my other companion and I were stranded.

Elder Rhineer must have been an Assistant to the president for an eternity. Once President Bowen went home Elder Rhineer in some ways showed President Woodward how to run a mission. He was asked to extend his mission at least twice. This all means that Elder Rhineer served in the same ward and part of Leeds the whole time.

The second time I served in the Leeds zone I would often visit an apartment that housed six or eight missionaries. My companion and I would get invited over to watch movies on preparation day. One week a few of us missionaries watched, The Lizzy McGuire Movie. It was obviously made for children and I thought it was dumb. In the middle of the movie a missionary would always walk in and ask what we were watching. They would always want to watch it with us the next preparation day. By the time I was watching it with Elder Rhineer several weeks later, The Lizzy McGuire Movie, was my new favorite movie. Now and then as a guilty pleasure I still watch The Lizzy McGuire Movie, and remember watching it with my friends from the England Leeds Mission.

Just before going home every missionary gets a chance to bear their testimony and says their goodbyes.
Since it was her last day, one Sister bore her testimony and then confessed that one of the most difficult parts of being a missionary was stopping herself from checking out Elder Rhineer's cute butt.

Just being around Elder Rhineer had a profound effect on me. Though I haven't kept in touch, knowing he is gone, I feel I have lost a part of myself.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Bailey & Brooklynn Bronson

Here's what Bailey had to say about her Uncle CJ:

What was your favorite thing to do with Uncle CJ?  "I like to play games with him.  (What type of games?)  We played Hungry Hippo! (Did you win or did CJ win?)  We both win!  CJ also liked to play Hide 'n Go Seek with me.  One time I hid and he had to find me.  I hid in a very tricky place. (Where were you hiding?)  I was hiding behind the bathroom door!  (Did CJ find you?)  Yeah, he found me he was a good finder.  (Anything else?)  One time CJ pushed me on the skateboard.  (When did he do that?)  Down on the driveway by the trampoline.  He was pushing me really slow because he didn't want me to get an owie."

What do you remember about Keri and CJ's wedding?  "I got to wear a beautiful white dress. (I think she was a little confused about what she was wearing and what you were wearing.)  Kate and I got to wear pretty dresses and Owen was just there.  We waited by the temple for Keri and CJ.  We danced at the wedding party.  It was so much fun!  I had yummy treats.  (What did you eat?)  Dinner and a chocolate fountain.  (What else do you remember about their wedding?)  They got married at the temple."

What do you remember the most about Uncle CJ?  "I remember going out to dinner with him (she loves eating at restaurants so that didn't surprise me). I was so excited that I got to sit on CJ's lap and eat.  He sat right next to me and we just ate dinner.  I also remember that I gave him a big hug and I said I love you!  I love CJ and I miss him."

She also said, "I woke up this morning and I thought I would see CJ again.  I miss him so much."  I don't include that to make this message sad, but just to show you how much she loves CJ.  She prays for him and you every single day.  Some days her prayers are so heart felt that I think she might be crying; I have to open my eyes to check.  She talks about him and asks questions every day.  Whenever she's with you, I'm so worried that she'll say something that will make you sad (or sadder) and I'm sorry if she has ever done that.  I know that CJ will forever be with her and in her heart.  He will be able to teach her so many wonderful lessons and she won't ever forget him.  I know that it will be hard, but I try to let Bailey's questions teach me too.  To see the world through a child's eyes can often open our hearts and minds.

If only Brooklynn could talk, I know she'd have some fun stuff to say but the light in her eyes and the laughter from her heart is enough.  She truly lights up when I show her pictures of CJ.  I know that he is her boyfriend and I'm pretty sure that she talks to him at night.  I just think of that picture of the two of them and it brings a smile to my face and tears to my eyes.

I love you Keri and so do my girls!!  Thank you for being such a wonderful sister and an amazing auntie!!

 Here's Bailey at your wedding.  You guys had just come out of the temple and she ran up to give both of you big hugs.  She was so excited for your wedding party day!

Here's some of that crazy dancing at your wedding!

 This is what Bailey meant by eating yummy treats--chocolate fountain!

 This may look like a dance off, and the kids thought it was a dance party, but really we were playing a game to see who could get the most steps on a pedometer in one minute by dancing or whatever you thought would win.  Of course, CJ is right in the mix of it.
These pictures don't portray CJ's true dancing ability; he could seriously dance!
 CJ made Brooklynn smile :)  The two of them could have sat in front of the ipad and taken pictures all night long!  She loved it!!
 Here she's smiling at CJ while he just bounces a big, yellow balloon--pure love.
 Christmas day with Keri & CJ
Whenever we went to the beach, CJ was always so willing and happy to play with the kids.  This was Bailey's dream come true--to be in a big, giant hole.  CJ did that for her while we sat and watched.