Pres. Mike and Debbie Rush
Pres. Chris and Sheryn Thomas

For two families in Highlands Ranch, their summer travel plans do not come with a week or two return date,  nor a promise of rest and poolside relaxation. For both Mike & Debbie Rush and Chris & Sheryn Thomas, on Saturday, June 22 they reported for a 3-year volunteer mission trip.  Mike and Chris have been called to serve as mission presidents for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with their wives serving as their companions. Both couples will be serving in separate parts of Mexico City.

On a day-to-day basis the supervising couples oversee not only the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of their own families, but also assume responsibility for each of the missionaries assigned to their area, which is usually about 160 at a time.  For example, individual missionaries arrive and depart at approximately six-week intervals, as they begin or conclude their two-year period of service. Each missionary is personally attended to, oriented to the mission environment, and then assigned to a companion. By the end of their missions, each couple will have served with 500-600 missionaries.

Both the Thomases and Rushes are grateful for this opportunity to serve. “This is not a position for which we applied or which we otherwise pursued,” Sheryn explains. Nevertheless, after the leadership of the Church approached them about the possibility, she reports that they “felt strongly that this was a journey [they] would like to pursue.”

Mission presidents typically begin service July 1, after being given about 6-9 months’ notice to prepare. This is their time to train, study, and take care of all arrangements at home.   Rush leaves a job as Head of Global Health Policy & Advocacy for Zebra/Temptime – a biomedical device and technology company in the greater NYC area. Thomas is a partner at Ogletree Deakins.  Both must also decide what to do with their home and possessions while they’re gone.

What about their families?

“We love and will miss our kids, their spouses, our grandkids, our extended families, and our friends terribly. But we will also love caring for, encouraging, and serving the 500-600 young missionaries from throughout the Americas and the good people of Mexico who we will have stewardship for,” said Debbie.

The Rushes have 3 grandchildren under the age of 4, and four grown children. Their youngest is currently serving an 18-month mission in Barcelona, Spain, and the oldest 3 are married and living throughout the US.  Notably, one of the Rush’s sons is married to one of the Thomas’s daughters.

“All of our children have been incredibly supportive of our decision to accept this assignment” Chris and Sheryn Thomas report. They continued, “Our older daughters, Mara and Brenna, have served missions in Chile and Mozambique, respectively, and our third daughter, Jessica, is currently serving a Spanish speaking mission in San Jose, CA.” For the youngest child who is still in high school, the situation is a bit different. “For Justin, this mission experience will lead to uncharted territory. He is making a big sacrifice,” Chris and Sheryn acknowledge, “and he will be skipping his senior year at Thunderridge High School.” The combination of leaving his friends in Highlands Ranch and moving into an unknown environment has proven to be somewhat overwhelming. And yet, they add, “Despite those concerns, Justin has decided to trust that God is interested in the details of his life, and that He has prepared something wonderful for him in Mexico.” 

Though they might feel underqualified to take on such a task in so many respects, all newly called Mission Presidents and their wives are being fully trained to do their best. Chris and Mike, who both served Spanish speaking missions as young adults, start off on a strong foundation, having the language requirement met. Debbie and Sheryn, however, have been taking Spanish classes weekly with a tutor from the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, UT. The couples also participate in weekly discussions with a tutor based out of the MTC around the book Preach My Gospel, the manual for all missionaries for the restored Church of Jesus Christ.  An intensive, four-day seminar is held near the end of June, which marks the end of the couples’ formal training.  

Why do they do it? Their answers are simply focused on their faith in Jesus Christ and belief in His restored gospel.

Mike asserts, “We take seriously the charge that the Savior gave to Peter and His other disciples when He said: “Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s…But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time…and in the world to come eternal life.” Mark 10:29-30

He continues, “Some people who we truly admire here in Highlands Ranch, the Ludwigs, served in this same capacity a number of years ago. They shared that they learned that “a sacrifice is not a sacrifice unless it’s a sacrifice.”  And while leaving career and family and friends and home for 3 years is, indeed, a sacrifice, we love the Savior and are grateful for His sacrifice for all of mankind.  So we would ultimately do whatever He and His servants ask us to do.”

“We love our Savior, Jesus Christ,” Chris and Sheryn explain, “and look forward to serving Him and His children in Mexico City.” While all have had moments of feeling inadequate for this type of position, they have also asserted that “with the support of our Redeemer, we can accomplish the work before us.”

On Tuesday, May 20th leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were once again invited to participate in an Iftar Dinner at the invitation of the Multicultural Mosaic Foundation.

A few days later, leaders also participated in an Iftar Dinner at the Downtown Islamic Center at the invitation of Imam Muhammad Kolila.

Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam and Muslims fast in order to feel the pain of the poor. During Ramadan, a 30-day religious period, they fast from before sunrise to about sunset and it is not uncommon for Muslims to invite other faiths to join them in an iftar, or a meal to break the fast.

At the dinner on May 20th, President Scott gave an excellent message about fasting in our faith tradition that created unity as he spoke of our similarities with Islamic fasting.

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On Saturday, May 4, members of The Church of Jesus Christ joined with Catholic friends to lay sod, and to perform other landscaping work, at various gravesites throughout Fort Logan National Cemetery.

Approximately 80 volunteers worked over several hours to beautify gravesites for the several hundred individuals who were buried at the cemetery in recent months.

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This morning, members of the University Hills Ward were joined by Denver Mayor Michael Hancock for sacrament meeting. Expressing thanks for their friendships, Mayor Hancock spoke fondly of Elder Thomas T. Priday, Area Seventy, “who has been a dear friend…and has really wrapped his arms around me and my family” and President Peter Krumholz of the Denver Stake.  He spoke highly of his brothers of faith and Craig McIlroy, a “wonderful brother friend in Christ.” Brother McIlroy serves as Public Affairs Director for the Denver South Area, and is a member of Mayor Hancock’s faith council. He joined the mayor’s companions Nigel Daniels, Special Aide to Mayor Hancock, and Reverend Shawn Johnson, Director of Community Relations, in the congregation.

From left to right: Elder Thomas Priday, Marva Priday, Mayor Michael Hancock, Bertha McIlroy, Shawn Johnson, Craig McIlroy, Nigel Daniels, and President Peter Krumholz

With his personal story of faith and optimism as an example, Mayor Hancock spoke of his shared belief in and love for Jesus Christ. An ordained deacon in the Baptist church, he spoke of his gratitude to participate in the sacrament with ward members today. Speaking of a trip he took years ago to Jerusalem, he shared what was the most “profoundly powerful trip” of his life. He spoke fondly of the way “all the stories came together” by being in Israel, the joy of feeling the spirit of Christ, and His sacrifice for us.  

In looking at the journey that has led to this point in life, Mayor Hancock attributes his faith to the example of his mother and the hand of God. Her tenacity and resilience during his formative years inspired him to work hard. Additionally, seeing the hand of God along his life’s path has brought him to a place of “pure joy and celebration of the power of God.”

  In an illustrative metaphor, Mayor Hancock compared the obstacles that we overcome in the battle of life with Goliath, and the faith we use to go forward as David. “If we have faith in God, if we have the strength to follow his word, we will get through it.” As one of ten children, he watched the struggle for survival his mother exhibited in raising the kids alone. He wondered what kept her going and how she kept coming home.

Recognizing that we may all look or feel under qualified or unprepared for the task at hand, Mayor Hancock encouraged parishioners to follow the example of David and choose to say, “I will go.” David shed the ornate armor. Mayor Hancock taught that we too can choose to place faith in God, not worry about what man can give, only the tools God has blessed us with, and say, “I’ll go just as I am.” He shared testimony of taking the same steps of faith in action, and finding that at the end of the day God says, “I got you.” 

Mayor Hancock closed by sharing gratitude for members of the Denver Stake and their help with Denver Days. He thanked the congregation for their recent service at Inspiration Point and for the time to worship together today. He stated, “I know that I am a child of God. I am honored to be with you as a man of faith. Thank you for your faith and service to this great city.” 

Lisa Badal grew up in Westminster in a musical family. By age 8 she was playing both the piano and the violin. She played both instruments competitively throughout her childhood.

When she went to school at Brigham Young University he majored in Music Education with the violin as her main instrument.

To her shock, when she returned to Colorado about 7 years ago she discovered there were no orchestra programs in the 27J school district. She turned to her husband and said, “One day I will change that.”

Several years passed, and I started accompanying the choirs at Prairie View High School.  Through my involvement with the school system, I learned that many teachers had tried to start orchestra programs, but when the middle school would start something, it would fizzle out because there were no orchestras in the high school, so why even bother?  Then the high school tried to start something, but there was no feeder program in the middle school, so why bother?  It became clear that we just had to start somewhere. Then 27J announced that we would be switching to a 4-day schedule and that students would have Monday off.  I thought, “This is our opportunity.  There will be a whole district full of kids with nothing to do on Mondays, and I can teach them to play string instruments.”

Lisa Badal

That effort led to this unique interview with the local CBS affiliate:

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Left to right: Sister Packard, Elder Cruz, Elder Woollesen, Sister Van Tassell, Sister Reatre, Elder Hasse, Elder Blackham, Sister Draney

Elder Blackham knew it would be a sacrifice to give up his guitar and music while on his mission, but inspiration he felt in the Denver Temple gave him peace, “Give it to me and I can make it so much more.” With the help of other inspired elders and sisters, Elder Blackham was able to lend his talents to what became a beautiful musical presentation, “Meet the Missionaries.”

Presented by the Colorado Denver North Mission, “Meet the Missionaries” toured the northern front range giving 14 performances between February and April. The program is a fun, energetic, and inspiring performance. Through fifteen songs intermixed with video, four elders and four sisters shared their musical talents, their love of the Savior, and what it means to be a missionary.

President and Sister Savage both served as missionaries in Denver in the early 1980s and had the idea to renew a similar musical program that was a success on their missions. Around the same time the Book of Mormon musical came to Denver. Elder Blackham and Elder Brown pulled out their guitars and began singing on 16th Street in downtown Denver, replying to curious onlookers that they weren’t in the musical, but were the actual missionaries. From there 11 original songs were written by Elders Blackham, Brown, Fenske, and Hasse. In 2018 “Meet the Elders” went on tour.

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Courtesy of Fox 21 News in Pueblo

Saturday, people experiencing homelessness in Pueblo did their part to clean up their neighborhood ahead of Earth Day and the shelter closing soon.

They worked with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to clean trash up in the shelter neighborhood. Everyone who volunteered to help got a pancake breakfast and a free haircut. 

On Saturday, April 27, 2019, members of the Denver, Front Range and Arvada Stakes–joined by ten full-time missionaries–participated in a special Denver Days kick-off event at Inspiration Point Park. 

Based on Mayor Michael Hancock’s vision of “a city where neighbors not only [know] their neighbors but as a result [feel] safer and more connected to the communities they call home,” The city created Denver Days, “a program….that encourages neighbors to get to know their neighbors by hosting block parties, picnics, and service projects with the focus on small, organic gatherings.”


Organized by Denver’s Department of Parks and Recreation and Office of Neighborhood Engagement, with further sponsorship support from Comcast Cable, Saturday’s event at Inspiration Point Park commenced with opening remarks from various City officials, including Mayor Hancock, as well as remarks from former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. 

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