The Release

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It is a much easier and enjoyable task for me to write about small things, little details and singular events. The larger things, the broad and wide and long and tall are harder. I'm not so sure how to sum up three and half years. That is a long time. And that's not only just three and a half years of my own life but that of my family as well, and an entire host of ward-members (numbering in the hundreds) who have interwoven their lives with mine during my time as Bishop of the Miami Shores Ward.

I brought this release on myself, I know. With a ward that covers roughly a quarter of Miami Dade County, we could have moved to a lot of different places and still fallen within the boundaries of the ward - and for years we have tried. But the neighborhood we discovered and the house we found happened to be just over the county line, just over the ward line, just over the stake line in fact. And so purchasing our first house, moving out of the ward, and getting released as Bishop, were all a package deal - one that we considered greatly with a good amount of prayer of fasting.

And so now as this mantle of Bishop is being removed, it is only natural for me to ponder this opportunity that I had to serve - to look back and try to picture my ministry as a whole: its successes, its failures, the learning and growing, the struggles and anguish, the people, the spirit, and the prayers.

I was ordained a Bishop in August of 2008 at the age of 32. Since that time my life has only gotten better in so many ways and so I couldn't be more grateful for the opportunity to serve. Looking back I fully realize that I could have done better and probably should have done more in my calling, but life is a constant balancing act and thrilling juggling act. Even though I often wished that I did more to serve the members of the ward, in the end I feel like I juggled and balanced a job, a family, my own self, and my church calling as well as I could.

I know that there are those who have been offended perhaps because of something I have said or done, but more likely because of something I didn't say or do: a phone call or visit that I never made during a difficult time in their life. For that I am sorry - as I never have had intentions to offend.

Just as it is joyous to see people join the church or return to church it is hard to see people leave the church especially under your watch. It is also hard to see people who set goals and fall short of the mark. You come to realize that you can certainly be influential in someone's life, but you can't change it. Only they can. There were plenty that came to me longing and wanting to change their lives. I would meet with them sometimes for hours. They would pour out their souls and tell me their stories of how they have been inactive for years and years and now they were wanting to come back. But that road back is extremely hard for some. And despite their words and their resolve unfortunately many would disappear, never another word from them - no returned phone calls. And sadly they would once again return to the land of the forgotten, lost in a path that they know is not the right one but can't seem to get off of it. That land where sadly their only contact with the church might be only a commercial on TV or seeing the missionaries on the street.

I heard from many concerned parents as well, calling me from Utah or Idaho or California, telling me the stories of their wayward children who for some reason or another ended up in Miami. Sometimes they wanted me to reach out to them, but more often these parents knew that their children wouldn't want any contact from the church, but they at least wanted to let me know their names, that they were out there, right around the corner or just down the street. That gives a lot of comfort I suppose.

Serving as Bishop during the years of the great recession and the earthquake in Haiti brought its fair share of welfare cases.  Sometimes I would help someone in a difficult situation and afterwards feel good, knowing that the fast offering donations of the members were being well used to benefit someone in need. Other times I would help someone and feel regret inside, wondering if by giving assistance I was just holding the individual back from making real change in their lives. Other times I denied assistance which did not come naturally to me and I could only trust that I was following the spirit. It would sadden me to see the same people month after month but I would rejoice right alongside them when they finally found work and could support themselves.

I enjoyed served alongside some great counselors over these years: Clark, Moya, Laurent, Andersen, and Miner. Also some equally impressive Clerks and Executive Secretaries: Cavalcante and Tingey, Fawson and Starley. They lightened my load and helped make this journey a real pleasure. I also loved working with our Ward Council. Some of the times when I felt the spirit strongest as a Bishop was when we prayed about and extended callings to those members of the Ward Council. Together we worked through difficult problems with no easy answers, only hard ones. Some we solved. Others we didn't.

One of my proudest moments as a Bishop occurred as a result of sitting with our Ward Council and discussing growth - particularly our Sacrament Meeting attendance. In 2011 we set a goal to have an average of 200 people at church each week. Up to that point our attendance had bounced around between 140 and 160. By the third quarter of last year we not only reached the goal but surpassed it: 220 average. Our high was 235. I'm still not sure exactly how we did it, but I know that each organization was working hard at reactivation, retaining new converts and making our meetings spiritual to make sure we were drawing people in.

This has been a good chapter in my life and there is already a little emptiness without it. It will be very different to not be a Bishop any more, to not have that Bishop's desk to sit behind, that office to kneel down and pray in, that office with its heavy sold door to meet with people in - to bless in - to work out the twisted tangled kinks of sin in, and yes sometimes to hide in. It is also going to be very different to not be going to the Miami Shores Ward anymore - we have been in this ward ever since we moved to Miami 11 years ago. It is a part of us and always will be.

On to the next chapter of life. May there be many more.

Two upcoming Events

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Two things coming in March to get excited for:

March 20th is not only our Stake Temple Trip, but it is also designated as a Relief Society Temple Trip (which means there will be bonus buses to the temple). On top of that we have 8 people from our ward preparing to go through the temple on that day for their own endowment. Let's crowd out the temple that day. Make plans now to attend.

March 21st is "Invite a friend to Church" day. Let's crowd out the church that day. We are preparing for a good turnout and some very good spiritual meetings on that day. So everyone be on your best behavior (ie no more false fire alarms during sacrament meeting please).

Haiti Earthquake Rescue Effort

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We are all saddened by the earthquake that has devastated Haiti. Many are wondering how they can help. The various stakes in South Florida are organizing a food and clothing drive to help victims:

Haiti Rescue Effort Non-perishable Food and Clothing Drive

Needed: Clothing, non-perishable food, diapers and formula. Also if we can include non-chemical medical supplies, band-aids, gauzes, etc...


Time: Sunday January 17 from 1:00 to 6:00pm

Location: North Miami Beach / Miami Shores chapel

2601 NE 163rd Street, N. Miami


Please bring whatever items you can to donate. We will also need volunteers to help sort donations and box them up. We will be filling a 40 ft (2800 cu. ft.) container that will be shipped out to Haiti on Tuesday. More containers will be available to meet the supply.

Additionally you can make monetary donations on your tithing slip under the Humanitarian category. The Church has already organized many relief supplies, medical supplies and food which it is currently sending to Haiti. Read about the Church's Humanitarian response here.

Ward Christmas Party

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If you like Turkey, Ham & Potatoes; if you like Christmas lights and poinsettias; if you like Christmas music performances and live nativities; if you like yummy desserts; and if you like socializing with friends; then you would have loved this year's Ward Christmas Party (WCP). And if you were there, then you probably did enjoy it (based on my non-scientific poll of the smiles I saw on your faces.) My my most Christmasy winter hat goes off to our activities committee and their recruits for putting together one of the best parties in recent Miami Shores Ward history!










Evening of Excellence

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Congratulations to Blondine & Mimi in completing their Personal Progress and receiving their Young Women's Medallions. Wear 'em proud.

Halloween Trunk or Treat Activity

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How I read the Book of Mormon in 40 days

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When our Stake President gave us a Book of Mormon Challenge during Stake Conference in August I decided it was something I really needed to do. When we talk about being diligent in our reading of the scriptures we often talk about the need to establish scripture study as a habit. That is the first step. The second step is to ensure that the "habit" doesn't turn into a "rut". For the last several years I've struggled with my own personal scripture study like probably 99% of members out there. When I have been consistent in my scripture study it has been one chapter a day, chronological order, until it is done. Repeat. So the Book of Mormon Challenge presented a way to change things up a little.

As I looked at the schedule it appeared that on average I would need to read about 3 chapters a day to finish it before the end of the year. That was a few more than I was used to. Plus I started about 2 weeks late because I wanted to first finish up what I was currently studying before I picked up the Challenge. So I had some catching up to do.

For the last several years I have turned almost exclusively from printed books to audio books for my recreational reading. With my busy schedule I've found that listening to audio books while driving, walking, exercising, cleaning, etc is a good way to take care of two things at once. I hadn't really considered doing the same for the scriptures until this Book of Mormon Challenge came up. I decided I would tackle the challenge with a combination of reading directly from the Book of Mormon and having KSL-TV News Anchor Bruce Lindsay read it to me on my iPhone (You can download the audio version of all the standard works from LDS.org).

When I saw how quickly I was getting through chapters and books that during other readings of this Book had bogged me down indefinitely, I was encouraged. The inertia of reading kept me going quickly from chapter to chapter and book to book. I was filling every spare moment throughout each day with the word of God. It many ways it was flying by so quickly that the words and concepts became a bit of a blur. Never the less, going so quickly though the Book of Mormon got me out of my scriptural "rut" and though it didn't give me time to ponder and consider powerful individual phrases, it did allow me to ponder and consider larger themes that spread the breadth and width of the book.

I've never read the Book of Mormon in such a quick clip - and I could have gotten through it even quicker if it wasn't for Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol which distracted my reading of the Book of Mormon slightly (curse you Dan Brown and your "page-turning", "can't put this book down" formula). The challenge worked though. I was inspired. My days were filled with the Spirit that reading the scriptures brings. And it has left me wanting more . . . I'm currently a quarter of the way through the Doctrine and Covenants.