Sunday, September 21, 2014

Mission Farewell

     Before he left, Dean gave his Missionary "farewell" talk in Church.  We were happy to again have many family members and friends able to attend.  Dean did a wonderful job.  Before church started, we took a few family pictures.

Doesn't he look handsome in his suit?  He is wearing his great-grandfather's tie.

Dean and Nathan:

Dean and Chanon:
 (love the tie! ha ha)

The whole family...last family picture for two years!

Dean Brinkerhoff's missionary "farewell" talk 
June 29, 2014--"Faith of Our Fathers"
     "Good afternoon! Thank you all for being here today. To start, I have here an experience from the life of one of my ancestors. He was named 'Peter' and he was a six year old boy who crossed the plains with the Edward Martin Handcart Company.  It reads:  "Much hunger and cold were experienced by these weary handcart travelers; all they had to eat was a little flour, which was cut to 3/4 pound to a person.  many aged people died; even the young people could not stand the hardships.  My baby sister and I were even cut to less flour, and we were really hungry. Our teams gave out and died, and we were glad to eat the meat.  I remember some men passed us one day and stopped to talk.  They gave my baby sister some cookies.  She carried them in her little pocket, and I was always with her and would tease her for a bite.  She would give me a taste once in a while, and it was so good.  No cake I ever tasted since was ever so good.  The exposure to cold, rain, snow, and ice, pushing carts all day, the scarcity of food and wood, caused many strong men to perish.  A man by the name of Cyrus Wheelock, just returning from a mission to the Eastern States, was riding a horse.  He carried some of the children across the river, even helped pull some of the handcarts by a rope fastened to his saddle.  One time he had three little boys on his horse, one in front, and two behind him.  I was the last boy on that side of the river and tried to wade across.  He told me to climb up behind the last boy on his saddle, which I did.  We crossed the river all right, then the horse leaped up the steep bank, and I slid off into the shallow water.  I held on to the horse's tail and came out all right.  That night the wind was blowing very cold, and the carts were sheltered behind a big bluff, but the snow drifted in and covered our tent.  My father died that night.  He had worked hard all day pushing and pulling handcarts through the icy waters of that dangerous river, helping many people with all their belongings to reach the other side.  When Peter saw them bury his father, he ran out and started crying.  Someone stopped him and tried to console him about his father's death.  He cried more.  He walked to the place where they had buried him and said, "My father had my fish hooks in his pocket and I want them." ("I walked to Zion" p. 44 & 45)
     I found that story to be pretty humorous! Personally, I think I'd be a little more concerned about my dead father rather than some old fishhooks, but through the eyes of a 6 year old, you never know!  Robert and Margaret McBride, the parents of young Peter, immigrated to New York from Liverpool England in 1856.  They had previously joined the LDS church and decided to go to America because of the great opportunity they heard of and it seemed to them to be a wonderful place to live.  Before they left, they met up with some family of Peter's mother, where their reception wasn't very warm.  His Grandfather told them:  "I never want to see you again.  If you should write, your letters will be burned before we read them.  I hope you will all be swallowed up in the ocean before you land on that American shore.  You bring disgrace to the family name by joining such a cursed church. " ("I Walked to Zion", p.44)
     They went anyway and after arriving in New York, traveled by train to Iowa, where they got their handcarts to cross the Great Plains.  I can't imagine what it took for them to do such great things.  They left their comfortable home back in Scotland and were disowned by Margaret's family in order to continue to participate and serve in a newly organized faith that many found peculiar, to then cross the Great Plains with their few meager possessions to arrive at an unknown fate in an unknown land.  They demonstrated great faith to do all of these very hard things.  
     The McBride family is connected to me through my dad's line.  Another person from my dad's line was James Brinkerhoff Sr.  He is my great, great, great-grandpa.  James and his family were pioneers also.  He unfortunately lost a couple of children on their journey.  His son, James Jr., died at the age of 2 years and 3 months on the plains crossing the Missouri river, and his 4th child, little James Jr., at the same age died at Winter Quarters.  I come through his 3rd wife, Eliza Jane Henderson.  He was a good provider for his family.  He went off to earn money for them while they stayed at Winter Quarters and while crossing the plains, he skillfully provided buffalo meat and wild fruit for his family, and feed for his animals.  Times weren't always great for him, but he lived to see many great things and to know many great people.  He was one of the first converts to the Mormon Church.  A year after his baptism, he moved to Nauvoo and helped build the temple there.  He went on a mission for the church in 1842, in the state of Ohio and was called home to Nauvoo at the time of the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum Smith.  He lived a very full life, filled with a lot of work and service.  He died of sun-stroke in 1875.
     My great, great, great, great-grandpa, William Finch, is one of my ancestors on my mother's side.  He became converted to the church after hearing about it in the spring of 1840.  He was baptized in his native country of England by Elder Tide and then confirmed by an Elder Wilford Woodruff.  He then labored for 8 years as a traveling Elder in England.  He and his family had a desire to join the saints in Utah.  When they had saved enough, they boarded a ship to New Orleans.  While on that ship, he and others of the LDS faith taught the principles of the gospel to the non-members on board. Many on that ship, including the Captain, converted to the church because of what they had been taught by William and others.  "His wise and honored life was mostly spent in nobly defending the cause of truth and prophets of God of former and latter-days."
     My Pioneer ancestors of old were very strong people with much faith.  My family, from more modern times, has also been great and faithful, carrying on the legacy of their fathers.  My great, great, grandmother, Violet Isabel Stewart, was the daughter of Pioneer parents, John and Ellen Finch.  Their family unfortunately fell away from the church after crossing the plains.  However, Violet moved to Missouri after a divorce and there, she and her 3 young children were converted back to the church.  Violet had been very ill and was told she couldn't recover without surgery.  She had always had faith in the healing power of prayer, and knew that Mormons followed the admonition to call in the Elders of the Church when there was sickness.  She lay wishing she could locate someone of that faith to come and administer to her, when Mormon Missionaries knocked at her door.  They administered to her, and she recovered.  There were very few Mormons in Missouri at the time. Many times the branch became so small that the Elders held Sunday school in her living room.  Sometimes her family was the only congregation.  Violet's home was always open to the Missionaries, especially when the branch was small.  Violet's life was full of disappointments and heartaches.  But through her, many of her descendants are faithful once more to their Mormon Heritage.
     Here are some highlights of experiences from a few others in my family:  My great, great, great, great-grandpa, James Hardy Jenkins, was promised in his patriarchal blessing that he "Will see the Savior and a multitude with Him" and that he will "go with them to that great feast--the marriage supper of the lamb," that he will sit down with them at the table and partake of its rich bounties," and that he "will assist in building up that beautiful city in the New Jerusalem."
My great, great-grandfather, James Nephi Astin, sang in the Mormon Tabernacle choir for several years.  My Granddad, Dean Brinkerhoff, at a young age once saved the life of his 5 year old brother Nelson, after following a prompting from the Holy Ghost to go check on him.  A wild steer was hot on Nelson's trail and was determined to do him in.  While on horseback, my granddad was able to chase the steer away from his brother, along with the help of his pal Toby.  I'm sure he was very grateful he listened and acted that day.
My great grandfather, Sterling Astin, was a great man of faith and loved his family very much.  In the Eulogy given by my Grandma, his daughter, at his funeral, she shared with those present how great a man he was.  She said of him:  "If all men were like Sterling Astin, there would be righteousness, integrity, kindness, understanding, gentleness, patience and love permeating the world."  He was a great missionary.  In his lifetime, he served a total of 9 missions.  First to the British Mission as a youth, then in later years to London, Honolulu, the Jerusalem Center, Santiago Chile & Vancouver Canada (started out in Chile and then transferred to Canada), England (Leeds), Honolulu a second time, back to London, and finally at the Hawaii Temple.  He is a great example to me of Missionary work and today I proudly wear one of his ties.
     Probably one of the greatest examples of faith to me in my life however, has been my own father: Chanon Lewis Brinkerhoff.  My dad has not had the easiest life.  In fact, at times, many times, it was downright awful for him.  But he is very strong and very wise and very faithful.  He served as a missionary in a Spanish speaking area of Texas.  At one time, he and his companion felt like no one would listen, that nothing exciting was happening, and that they weren't having much success.  They kept going, however.  Going on day by day, being faithful and obedient even though they felt their labors were in vain.  One day however, as they were walking along, a man started yelling at them and ran out to them from the bathroom of his home.  They talked with him and found out that he and his family had just emigrated from Mexico and that while they had lived in Mexico, they had been taught by missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Before they could be baptized, they had to move to Texas and they didn't know how they could contact the Church.  As he was in his bathroom, he saw my dad and his companion through the window.  His heart leapt, and he ran out to greet them.  He and his family were taught and soon baptized.  I love this story because it shows how vital being where you need to be, and doing what you need to do, is.  If my dad and his companion were lazy and gave up when things got tough, who knows how long this family may have gone without being able to partake of the blessings of being members of this church without my dad and his faith.
     I am so grateful to be a member of this church and I am proud of my Mormon heritage.  This world is so dark and twisted and confusing that I do not know who I would be without the principles and blessings of this church. This world has challenges so great that sometimes it's hard enough to even get through this life WITH the knowledge and blessings that we do have.  I have no idea how anyone without the knowledge that there is life after death, that families can be together forever and that peace can be found here on the earth, gets through life.  I am excited to serve the people of Washington.   I've had so many wonderful experiences with the Elders in my wards over the past year.  I've learned so much from each of them and it has really helped me to see what missionary work is really all about.  I'm grateful for the examples of Elder Reed, Elder Kirkham, and Elder Read from Nampa, Idaho; Elder's Pratt and Weeks from Lake Mary Ward; and from the Cedar Hill ward--Elder Castanos, Elder Salas, Elder Scott, Elder Munoz, and finally Elder Christensen and Elder Blake.  I've been influenced greatly by each of them and I hope I can be as good of a teacher as they all are.  I've been grateful to be able to help with the sacrament every Sunday.  The young men of this ward are amazing examples of Priesthood holders.  You are each so reverent and kind and show brotherly love to all around you.  You will all be great missionaries one day very soon.  Trust me, it comes quick.  I am grateful for my family and for my rich heritage.  They all had chariots of hope and from their examples I know we can get through anything.  In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen."

No comments: