Sunday, January 26, 2014

Snow, Transfers, and Constitution Hall
 It has been a very COLD week.  We had snow twice during the week.  Once for 13 inches and then yesterday 2 more inches.  We had so much salt on our car that we gave it a shower Friday night, only to have it look ugly again.  The photo above was taken on our way home from Reading, PA.  On Wed. we got a call that 2 Elders had been on a teaching assignment and got out of their car and walked across the street only to discover they had dropped their car keys somewhere between.  So Wednesday we took a trip to Reading to take them another set of keys.  2 very fine Elders and we enjoyed hearing of their testimony and joy of missionary work over lunch.  On the way home we took a different route and saw these nuclear generators.  Due to the weather, we have had an extra prayer in our hearts for the safety of our missionaries.
 6 missionaries went home this week.  We honored them at a dinner Monday night.  It is always a special opportunity to hear their matured testimonies before they return home.  Tuesday early am they headed back to SLC.  The 4 new missionaries from the MTC, however, were not able to fly from SLC to Philly that same day.  The flights were cancelled.  Wednesday we were to have transfers, but all roads in New Jersey and Delaware were closed except for emergency vehicles and anyone who ventured out would be ticketed.  SO, Wednesday late afternoon the new missionaries arrived and Thursday morning we had transfers.  The photo above is all those affected by the transfer--about 160.  It was great fun to watch the missionaries renew their friendships, be so excited to find out who their new companion would be and then head off to their new locations.  One trainer was heard to say "I think maybe it would be a good idea if we had the address of our apartment--we do not know where we are going."  This whole transfer meant that the service elders had to take all of the luggage to the elders and sisters who ride public transportation--they cannot take suitcases on the bus.  Elder Jones was so organized that he even had maps of which luggage to drop off when to avoid traveling any more than necessary.
 Saturday is our P-day.  Elder Jones planned to help a senior couple move in by delivering their furniture, but the snow made renting a trailer and traveling to downtown Philly better off postponed.  So we went with 5 others to Constitution hall and enjoyed the displays and interactive education available.  Then we had dinner at what was the pub where the founding fathers supped.  We got to see Washington's private dining room and the servers were dressed in colonial attire.
This is Elder Jones being sworn in.  Since being in Philadelphia we have noticed that very many people here have candles in their windows.  At Christmastime especially this was the case, but many keep the candle there all year round.  I have asked before the significance of it, but yesterday I got my answer while watching a film on colonial life.  During the forming of the Constitution not all colonials were in favor of the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution that was in process.  If you were in favor, you burned a candle in your window to identify your desire for independence and your support of the constitution.  We are so blessed to be here and to be able to learn more about our heritage!  It really did take courage to support the founding fathers and their documents.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Week in Review

After accomplishing all of the needful work on our P-day, the Sisters headed for King of Prussia Mall and Wegman's.  This is a very large market filled with wonderful food, health food and regular food.  As it was explained to me it is a chain on the east coast.  If you lived near this store you could just shop daily and choose things already prepared or almost prepared.  We were told by a mission trainer out of SLC that we just had to see this store.  

We got to do some pretty unique and interesting things this week.  We got word this week that 3 of our visa waiters had received their visas and would be flying out tomorrow.  One had to ship some things home, so his mom sent us a debit card and we had to take it to him.  So we went right down to South Philly and met him at the church, which was in a beautiful office building with an attractive glass front.  Then, since we were so close, we headed to "Tony Lukes" a legend in Philadelphia.  His specialty is roast pork sandwiches, but he has all sorts of hot sandwiches.  We had the roast pork and mine had broccoli-rabe on it.  Delicious.  It is located right under a train route so it is quite noisy.  That night the local hockey team was playing, so there were many people getting a sandwich before the game.  The stadium was just a couple of blocks away.

We have been given the assignment to inspect apartments within our area of the mission.  So this month we had been assigned 2 apartments out near Valley Forge.  We traveled out to them and were very pleasantly surprised to find the older apartment (with 2 elders who we were told were pack-rats) spic and span clean while the next apartment, in a newer location (housing elders we were told had the cleanest apt. ever) was very dirty.  We will be given about 2 apartments per month to inspect.  We got to visit a new part of town and that was interesting, plus we stopped at the famous Zwalen's Ice Cream--local frozen custard eatery owned by members and gives the missionaries 50% discount.  We did enjoy our afternoon.

Elder Jones worked all day yesterday.  We have 275 missionaries in our mission.  This week is transfers and a total of 76 companionships will be affected.  That meant that on Saturday Elder Jones had to organize the service elders to go to the parts of the mission where only public transportation is available and pick up their luggage and bring it to the mission office.  I do not think he slept well Friday worrying about it.  Anyway, he had developed a complex diagram of the locations and the route and had it all ready.  The suitcases were all retrieved before 5 pm.  After transfers they will do all of this again, only with different bags...

Transfers are quite interesting.  Monday we send the 3 Visa waiters on their way.  That night we honor the 7 departing missionaries who have completed their missions.  Next day:  take the departing missionaries to the airport, pick up the new missionaries (only 4 this time).  They have dinner with us Tuesday, sleep at the mission home and then on Wed. the transfers take place, the Golden's get assigned and those training Golden's receive training.  Elder Jones has to interview each new Golden to determine their eligibility to drive while on their mission.  For me the only complication is getting the phone numbers all correct and applied to the i-phones.  It seems that our mission is going down in numbers.  With the changes mentioned we will be closing down 3 apartments this month.  All of this makes the office busy and life complicated for our president.  We love it, though!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Longwood Gardens
 We have been trying to go see the Christmas lights at Longwood Gardens for a month and we finally just said "we are going!" It turned out to be a rainy, foggy night, but it made the lights rather eerie, yet magical. Longwood Gardens is a very large property preserved by a wealthy person who worried that the natural beauty of the area would not be preserved.  It is over 1000 acres and has a 4 acre conservatory.  It is very beautiful.  I know what you are thinking--how did you get Elder Jones there?  It was the promise of Mexican food after.
 This display is in one of the conservatories.  It is all made of apples floating in water.  The top is a living chandelier.  The whole effect was quite spectacular and was my favorite thing there.
We get a chance to associate with some rather wonderful people.  These are some of the regulars, the Smuins, the Holloways, and we included in the middle, the Carrs.  They are here on assignment and Elder Carr oversees the building of the Philadelphia Temple.  His wife is called as a missionary and keeps up the information center that now serves as the visitor center.  They are wonderful people and very full of interesting information.  We ended the night by having dinner at "La Pena Mexicana" which the Spanish Elders told me was tasty and authentic.  The meal was just that.  No frills or atmosphere, but authentic and quite good.

We have had about 3 days of rain and fog.  Everyone tells us that this winter is unusual, but we have nothing to compare it with, so we are amazed at the moisture!  We finished off the week by having our Ward Conference today.  It was very good.  It was all about the Spirit of Elijah in doing work for the living and the dead.  We ended with dividing up into small groups of 5 and a stake representative helped us log on to "Family Search" and locate our ancestors.  Then we had our Pot Luck meal and put together Missionary Preparedness kits.  In a zip loc bag you have materials that will help you share the gospel.  You keep it in your car so as to be always ready.  Inside the bag--Book of Mormon, pass along cards, pamphlets, etc.  It was a great push by the Ward Mission Council.  After that we attended the baptism of Regina.  Afterwards we were visiting with members of the Widener ward who had come to support her and met the bishop's wife.  She is an Ovard from Bloomington!  Her mom is Liz Ovard, a guidance counselor from Pine View.  I think John and Jen will remember her.  She lived just up the hill on the way to the church.  It is truly a small world when we are connected by the gospel.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Hello 2014!

First we said goodbye to 2013 by traveling to Camden.  That is right across the Delaware River from Philadelphia and we parked in the parking lot of the Aquarium and stood on the bank of the River to see the 15 minute firework show that Philly puts on at 6 pm and 12 midnight New Year's Eve.  It was a wonderful show.  We took in the 6 pm show (of course!) and truly enjoyed it, although it was very cold as you can see from the photo.  The second photo shows the Philadelphia skyline in eht background.  We were with the Smuin's and Holloway's who serve with us in this mission and we ended up at their home for games and food where we officially welcomed in 2014.  New Year's Day we teamed up with the same people for the show "Saving Mr. Banks" which we really enjoyed and then we had a lovely dinner together.  Even our mission president and his wife joined us and we played games too.  Their job is so very stressful that it was wonderful to see them relax, even for just a brief time.

This week it has been all about the weather.  We had a snowstorm of 6" on Thursday night.  Elder Jones was getting phone calls from the missionaries regarding their cars, driving in the snow, etc. all evening.  He contacted the mission president and all missionaries were told to stay in for the night.  That call probably saved some accidents...I think my favorite call for the week was a Sister explaining why she scraped her bumper.  This is her story:  I was making a U-turn and they did not make the street wide enough so I had to go up over the curb and onto the grass and I hit a snowbank and scratched the car.  To avoid having your companion back you up they just keep moving forward...Back to the weather--It was very cold yesterday so the snow did not melt.  Then today it rained early this morning and that made the roads icy and slushy and just very messy.  They delayed church til 2 pm and we just had Sacrament Mtg.  We have to travel 10 miles to pick up a member at a retirement center and we did see a car off the road that hit brush and scraped up his car.  Then in 2 days it is supposed to get only to 19 degrees, so we shall see what that does.  I ventured out Saturday afternoon and purchased boots--waterproof and fur-lined.  Not really attractive, but just what I needed.  This is what it looked like on our way home from church today.
As we look back on 2013 we feel so very blessed.  We know that Christ lives!  We know that his gospel has been restored!  We LOVE serving in the Pennsylvania Philadelphia Mission!  We love each other!  We love our family and so appreciate their support while on this mission.  We look forward to the challenges of 2014 and the tender mercies and growth that will come.  May you experience this same blessing.