Towards the end of last year, Danny starting thinking about something he could do to help strengthen the ward. He felt strongly that the families in our ward needed to read the Book of Mormon more deliberately, so he challenged everyone to read the entire Book of Mormon by June 17th. That would be finishing in just over 6 months, and would mean averaging between 3-4 pages a day. Danny and I thought it would be fun for the ward to celebrate the accomplishment with a big ward party. So Danny issued the challenge and called a party planning committee. He and his counselors also structured the sacrament meeting topics to coincide with the portion of the Book of Mormon that we would have been reading that week.
It was an incredible experience! It was a push for our family to read the entire book in 6 months. Last year, we took about 10.5 months to read it...but we were up for the challenge! It was so amazing to hear about the positive impact this challenge was having in the lives of our ward members. Every fast and testimony meeting, at least half of the testimonies focused on the challenge. In almost every Relief Society lesson, it was mentioned by someone. Danny felt like our ward needed some miracles, and it seemed like there were families that were getting those.
Danny attended most, if not all, of the party planning meetings...and he was pretty excited with how things were coming together! He and I thought it would be cool to do the party somewhere other than the park or the church building, so they reserved Camp Woodland for the day. The committee took to the task with gusto, and before long they had a whole afternoon and evening of awesomeness planned for the ward.
Finally, the day arrived! Our family finished right before we left for the party. Our week leading up to the party had been insane. We had just gotten home from vacation the week before and launched right into Ward Conference, stake visits, a whole lot of appointments for Danny that had waited while we were gone, wedding receptions...oh, and Danny had final projects and assignments due for school. Did I mention we were prepping and smoking the pork for the party? And then, right when we thought it couldn't get crazier Danny's cousin passed away and his wife asked if Danny would conduct the funeral. This was a touchy situation, as his cousin unfortunately committed suicide. Danny spent hours working on his talk and meeting with his uncle, aunt, and widowed cousin. And the funeral was set for Saturday morning...just hours before the party.
But, he's amazing...and we managed to get everything done! The funeral was a difficult experience for us all. It's the first funeral we've attended since Luke's, and it was hard on Johnny. Plus, it was just a tragic situation. But Danny did a wonderful job conducting the services, and his talk was incredible. He really did a wonderful job of providing comfort, but also teaching the Plan of Salvation and how that works in the life of someone like his cousin. It was quite an emotionally draining experience though.
I left after the funeral while Danny continued on to the interment. The kids and I stopped at Sam's Club on the way home for one more load of food for the party, and then made sure we were changed and ready to leave as soon as Danny walked in. Well, as soon as we finished Moroni 10, that is. :) But we did it, and we only ended up missing the first hour or so of the party. All is well that ends well!
The committee did an amazing job with the games and activities. I wished I had thought to take pictures when we first got there! There were bouncy houses and carnival games, face painting and photo booths, and a Book of Mormon scavenger hunt that ended with a prize at "the tree". Danny's "Lukey Bracelet" had served as inspiration, and now we have another one to wear that reads "There is power in the book. Turnberry Ward 2017". Danny loved the idea when the committee put it forward, but with one stipulation. It couldn't be red. ;)
We had about as good of a turnout as Danny though we could hope for, though we did wish more had come. We had enough food for an army! And we got raving reviews on the pork. Sebron Farmer had come to help us prep the 100 pounds of meet on Friday, and then he and Mike Kammeyer each took some to smoke on their smokers. Couldn't have done it without them.
While dinner was awesome, I think the highlight of the evening for everyone had to be dessert. Brother and Sister Lee own a novelty catering business, and so they brought their soft serve ice cream machine and their cotton candy machine. We had vanilla and pineapple ice cream, and four different flavors of cotton candy. And Brother Lee made some ginormous cotton candy for the kids!
We ended the meeting with a small devotional at the amphitheater. Danny shared a few remarks and then bore his testimony of the Book of Mormon. He then opened the mic up to anyone who would like to share their testimony and experience with the Book of Mormon. I was so nervous! I worried no one would share! But I worried in vain, because there were a steady stream of ward members bearing their testimony of this great book, and their gratitude for the Bishop's challenge. Even Johnny felt the Spirit, and was the first kid to bear his testimony. He made his parents proud. :) I felt moved to express my gratitude to our ward family for trusting Danny and following his counsel, as well as how the Book of Mormon has changed our family. It was a great meeting and a perfect way to end our celebration.
But just because the party was over and the challenge complete doesn't mean Danny didn't issue a new one!! We have six more months to finish again before the end of the year! Danny was kind enough to post a new schedule on the ward bulletin. :)