Sunday, July 27, 2014

Summer is Half Way Over
These 2 elders are our Assistants to the President, Elder Toilolo on the left and Elder Tarry on the right.  As we work with the APs we get rather attached to these fine young men, and these are no exception.  Elder Toilolo has been an AP for about 4 months.  He is very good at it.  He is a natural leader and I see him returning to Hawaii and becoming eventually a Stake President.  He came on his mission a little more mature than most--he has a college degree.  This week he asked me to help him with his resume, so I have been documenting his virtues as a leader because he has a hard time to brag on himself.  He is very good at speaking concisely, inspiring and following through.  Elder Tarry has only been an AP  for about 3 weeks, but he is already doing quite well.  He is a very likable person.  While in Maryland he made friends with and tried to convert an older couple-their religion was Quaker or Friends.  They did not convert but have delivered him, every 3 weeks for the rest of his mission food, clothes, etc.  Dotty and her husband came this week and we got to see just what she brought--about $400 worth of food, 8 pair of pants and 11 new white shirts.  And she took both APs to lunch.  This couple have no children and seem to have adopted Elder Tarry.  They are going to fly to Albequerque to attend his homecoming.  We are planning to have these 2 fine elders for a burrito night soon.  
 This is the Reyes-Sanchez family.  We went with Elders Neiman (L) and Brown (R) to have lunch with them yesterday.  And we were there to participate in a lesson.  Angel (blue shirt) was baptized earlier this month.  Luis (red shirt) boxes and Elder Jones went to see him work out last week.  Annabelle is a terrific cook and we love to go to her house for any Mexican food she makes.  This time it was Posole--a Mexican soup with chicken and hominy.  It was very delicious.  Plus we had tostadas, beef, chicken, rice, beans and because it was Angel's birthday this past week all of the desserts pictured below.  My favorite was the Mexican flan.  Very good.  She also makes a fruit beverage each time we come.  This time one was pineapple and the other was watermelon.  I have had it before, but when I asked for instructions I finally understood how they make it.  They take a watermelon, for instance, and let it sit in the house for about 5 days in order for the flavor and sweetness to fully develop.  Then they just blend it up in a blender and add water.  They do not add sugar at all.  The same with the pineapple, strawberries, etc.  
Elder Brown made the pineapple upside-down cake in the foreground and the women there really liked it.  We came home very full and did not eat dinner.

We have had a good week, as usual.  We were able to go with the sisters in our ward and help them find an apartment.  They will be moving in August 1.  We are glad to get that accomplished.  Elder Jones has been very busy moving missionaries into new apartments, and I have been very busy getting those apartments set up to pay.  Elder Jones has been counseling more--he loves that opportunity.  I am so happy he can use this talent to help these fine young men and women.  One of the sisters in our ward is leaving to return home after being here about 6 months.  She is such a sweetheart and we will miss her, but the mission has just been very difficult for her and she has come to peace with the fact that she needs to return home.  So Elder Jones has been helping her and her companions as well.  We are having them to dinner tonight.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Another Fun Weekend
We treated these sweet missionaries to ice cream at Freddies.  Elders Jenkins and Toilolo were our AP's until 2 weeks ago.  Elder Jenkins returned to the field after being an AP since last October.  We have grown very attached to him.  A very fine young man and he and Elder Toilolo were very dynamic together.  Elder Toilolo played football for Univ. of Hawaii and has a degree in criminology.  He wants to possibly work for the FBI and has asked us to write him a letter of recommendation.  We gladly and with assurance recommend him for anything he chooses to do.  He is such a strong leader.  Sisters Stephenson and Taylor (Taylor is dark headed and from St. George!) are sister trainers.  We absolutely love them.  
 One last photo from our trip north last weekend.  This was at the Commemoration Site in Susquehanna.  We sure love doing things with our senior missionaries!
 Wednesday we got a call from Elder Kent Harman and Sister Tami Harman.  They are serving as missionaries at Sharon Vermont where the Joseph Smith birthplace monument is.  They work in keeping the grounds at the monument.  They are both really good with gardening and were able to design all of the gardens at the monument site and then plant and take care of them along with a few others serving in this same capacity.  It is very hard physical work, but they love working at the birthplace of Joseph Smith.  They were doing this weekend what we did last weekend.  They met their daughter, Nicki and her spouse Brian and their son Cole at a small Pennsylvania town called Dalton.  Dalton is just northwest from Scranton, PA.  It is about 2.5 hours from us.  (Paul Harman's daughter, Jamie and her husband have this lovely blue home in Dalton.  they live in New York City and come here on the weekends, so that is why Dalton was the meeting place.)  Elder Jones wanted this photo labeled "guess who is out of their mission boundaries".  We were just happy to spend quality time with wonderful friends.  Idaho farmers are the best!
 This is Sister Tami Harman with her daughter Nicki.  They made us a lovely brunch today.
 This is "Slugger".  He is Cole's service dog.  He is a very friendly golden retriever.  Cole has something called "Drave--pronounced dra-vay--syndrome and has many many seizures daily.  Slugger senses the upcoming seizure by smell and alerts Cole's parents.  He is a big comfort to Cole (6 years old).
 This is Jamie, Paul Harman's daughter and her 2.5 week old son, Sam.  They have a daughter too and live right in Harlem in an apartment.  They are enjoying this rural farmhouse.
 Elders Jones and Harman.  They had lots of fun comparing notes and stories.  We had a hard time saying "goodbye".  We attended Sacrament meeting together at the Clark Summit ward.  We enjoyed seeing our missionaries, Elders Danner and Stubbs, zone leaders, and Sisters Andrus and Larsen.
 Photo of the farmhouse.  It is named the Blue Goose Farmhouse.  We sure enjoyed our time up north!

We had another busy week in the mission office.  We are having a great many leases expire on our missionary apartments and are taking the opportunity to upgrade them.  That means that our housing coordinator as well as the mission presidency have been busy securing new leases--which means lots of paperwork for me.  Then we have been moving missionaries from the old to the new apartments, which means lots of coordinating the service elders for Elder Jones.  Elder Jones even took one whole day this week to go to downtown Philly and move a set of elders.  This because they ride the bus and have no way to move themselves.  Also this week--we delivered 3 phones that had to be replaced.  This is a classic story:
Monday of this past week we had a downpour late evening.  Elder Bair and his companion were walking home from an appointment  and had 7 blocks to go when the storm hit.  It was so violent that it blew their umbrella inside out.  Their phone was exposed and would no longer work.  The next day they are moving into a new apartment.  During the day they bring the bad phone to me for replacement.  Luckily, I do have a replacement phone they can use temporarily.  All is well--they take the phone and go.  Then at 8:45 that same evening they call us.  They have left the key to their new apartment IN the apartment.  So we head to north Philly to take them a duplicate key.  We have never been there and Google Maps has us going places that we cannot go because of construction.  As Elder Jones is driving a bit erradically--trying to see where we can turn--a lovely young couple pull up to the side of our car, motion for us to roll down the window.  They ask us if we are lost--we say yes.  They ask where we need to go and we tell them the street.  (They ask us which bar.)  So they just say "follow us" and they take us to the location we are looking for.  (A tender mercy)  Anyway, back to my story of Elder Bair.  We get them into their apartment and they inform us that that afternoon, after I gave them the phone, that they were on the bus and Elder Bair left his wallet on the bus.  Now he is missing his monthly bus pass and his ministerial certificate.  The next day I work on that problem.  I find an extra bus pass and they have me mail it to them.  I rush out and mail it so it will quickly get to them.  The next morning they call.  They have no mailbox, so the mailman tried to deliver the pass but could not and now they have to wait until they can retrieve it from the post office.  Poor Elder Bair!  The umbrella, the phone, the key, the bus pass, the ministerial cert, and then the mailbox.  He had a black cloud following him around...Then I remind myself that these are 19-22 year olds...

Yesterday as we were headed to the northern part of our mission I asked Elder Jones if he thought we would be having this much fun as we served a mission.  No we did not expect this, but we are very thoroughly enjoying every minute of this mission!


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Transfers, Susquehanna, Palmyra, Niagara
What a very busy and fun week for us.  We began on Monday with a send-off dinner for the 8 missionaries who were headed home.  We have a dinner at the mission home and a testimony meeting and slide show of each missionary.  That was very spiritual.  Tuesday we had 184 missionaries arrive at the office for transfers.  That was the largest transfer ever.  For Elder Jones and I it means lots of work to see that the luggage is where it needs to be, the phones and cars remain with the apartments, etc.  But we did it!  These two elders pictured below are Elder Millerberg on the left and Elder Brown on the right.  They have been such good service elders.  Elder Millerberg has been with us since before Christmas and has done a phenomenal job in organizing and carrying out anything that Elder Jones required of him.  We will miss him, but are glad that Elder Brown will be staying.  Later that day the mission president and AP's picked up the incoming missionaries (14 of them).  We had a dinner and interviews that night.  The power went out because of a very crazy wind storm and of course, rain.  Welcome, Golden Missionaries, to Pennsylvania!  It is so interesting to see the new ones arrive with eagerness and yet trepidation and to contrast that with the mature testimonies borne the evening before of those missionaries just completing their missions.  It is our pleasure, working in the office, to witness these changes taking place.  This transfer President opened up 2 areas to SISTER SPANISH SPEAKING missionaries.  That was a change.  We are thrilled to have Spanish speaking Sisters and hope to get more.
Elder Jones likes to promote Senior Missionary activities and he has been working on a trip north.  So on Friday 10 Senior Missionary couples headed north to go to some church history sites as well as Niagara.  Pictured below is the Susquehanna River, which is in our mission.  Elder and Sister Kirby are overseeing this restoration project.  They have been here since last summer, but the project had some obstacles to overcome in the way of regulations, etc.  It is now full steam and roads are being constructed, parking lots, walkways, etc.  The same feeling of reverence is present at the banks of this river as in the Sacred Grove.  We knew what had occurred here and felt like we were on hallowed ground.  
These are 5 of the 10 couples who went on this trip.  We love them all.  Elder Jones felt very pleased that so many took advantage of the opportunity to go, although we did have to travel in separate cars, so we could not all be together for every single activity.
Below is the Commemoration monument.  It will be covered this coming week to protect it from the trees that are being removed.  There will be a walkway down to the Susquehanna river that is handicapped accessible.  There is a graveyard also right next to the monument where Emma Hale's parents, and an infant baby of Emma and Joseph's are buried.  The site should be complete within 1 more year.
After Susquehanna we traveled to Palmyra.  Everyone wanted to visit the Sacred Grove, so we headed there first.  There were many more trails within the grove than the last time I was here with my mother (18 years ago).  But the grove was quiet and left room to contemplate what actually happened here.  As we walked through the grove my testimony was strengthened that what Joseph Smith said happened here DID happen here.  How grateful we are for the preservation of this site.
Meandering through the Sacred Grove
The temple in Palmyra is a small one, but is very lovely.  All of the windows are stained glass of the sacred grove.  It is a subtle yet lovely effect.
Angel Moroni Statue
We saw many youth groups--Youth Conference groups, Church History Groups--lots of buses!  And who else--Katie Barber from St. George.  Katie was in our College Ward at Dixie College.  She was here with her father to see the pageant.  She has a brother that lives in Rochester, NY for an internship in oral surgery so took advantage of this time to come and see the Pageant.  Elder Jones is not fond of musicals, but this pageant was marvelously done and even he was impressed.  It was a lovely night with a full moon, low humidity and about 68 degrees, so it was perfect!  Probably one of the most impressive things was that within 10 minutes the workers at the pageant had us out of the parking lot and onto the freeway 4 miles away!  We traveled the 30 or so miles to Rochester, NY and spent the night.
Elder and Sister Eyler are our newest Senior Couple Missionaries.  They are from Provo.  They have a special needs son (OCD) on a mission and decided to come and serve for 6 months while he is on his mission in Canada.  They are full of enthusiasm and serve in Palmerton, PA.  We enjoyed getting to know them.  This was taken from the Maid of the Mist Observation tower with the American Falls behind them.
I am definitely not good at photography, but with such grandeur even my attempt to capture it turned out good!  We were in awe of the magnificence of these falls!
So this is us with the Canadian (Horseshoe) Falls behind us.  This is just before the boat captain got close enough to the spray that we got soaked clear through.  We were so glad that we took the Maid of the Mist tour as it is the only way to see Horseshoe Falls without going across to Canada and we did not bring passports...
What a marvelous 2 days we had at these special places.  We are grateful to our mission president for allowing us this opportunity.  We are grateful to our Heavenly Father for the beautiful world he has created and we are also grateful for the chance to experience this together as couple missionaries.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Philly on the 4th
 I will begin this blog on July 4, 2014.  The day was to be rainy and many of the celebrations had been cancelled.  The missionaries were given permission to stay out until 10 pm that night and had asked us to take them to see fireworks.  Because we could not find out a place that was close and would be done by 10 we decided to have a party at the mission office instead.  So here are photos of some of our beloved missionaries that we have served with the past 6 weeks--and some (Elder Jenkins in the glasses) for the past 7 + months.  We had pizza, salad, pop, and cookies and a cake for Sister Handy who celebrated her birthday July 5.  We played lots of fun games, including "What were you thinking?" and a new one for us "Left, Right, Center"  We did hear loud cracking noises outside so ran out and did get to see some fireworks.  The night had cleared up and was cool and with a breeze and no humidity so we enjoyed it immensely.  In Philly that night they did have a very large celebration in back of the Rocky Steps.  This is for sure a town that celebrates the 4th, and for good reason.  What fun to be here at this time!
 Middle below is Sister Handy.  She has been her 3 transfers and will be leaving Tuesday.  Elder Millerberg, with hands over his eyes is also leaving.  He has been here since before Christmas.  He is Elder Jones' best service elder ever, so we hate to see him go.  But our mantra for transfers is that it is a chance for more people to meet and more people to love.  Embrace the experience.  It is amazing just how stressed out many missionaries become at transfer time.
Today was a special day for Angel Reyes, pictured in the middle below.  He got baptized.  His mother and brother, Annabelle and Luis are also pictured with us.  They are a very sweet family.  Angel's dad was killed in March.  The gospel message was welcoming to them and they have embraced it with all their hearts.  Today Annabelle prayed in Relief Society and also at the baptism.  In our ward they always have refreshments of some sort, but today it was a full meal of tamales, mole, rice, fruit, fresh juice, sweets, carne asada and a special cake even.  Did I ever enjoy it.  So I am not making dinner tonight...

Now to backtrack--Monday we had a special Senior Missionary FHE and went on a tour of Philly with a professional tour guide.  He took us just to the Independence Square area and showed us what we had seen often, but he knew so many interesting facts that it made the experience seem new.  We have been in Philadelphia area 10 months now and Elder Jones has graduated to an official driver of the downtown area.  He really does well getting around there!  There were about 12 couples on the trip.  We enjoyed a lovely dinner together as well.  This Friday 10 of those couples will accompany us to Palmyra where we will see the pageant as well as Niagra Falls the next day.  We will also stop at Susquehanna and see the commemoration site that is under construction.  It is in our mission and we do sometime baptize in the river there.

This week was particularly busy as we have been preparing for transfers.  We have opened new apartments, closed others, collected luggage in preparation for moves, etc.  President took departing missionaries to the temple this week and was not here for his weekly conference call.  He asked Elder Jones to take his place. Elder Jones spoke of standards that measure real success on one's mission and encouraged positive thinking to the missionaries, as well as emulating Christ's example in all things.  He prepared well in the 2 days he had, then awoke early the day of and completely rewrote his thoughts.  He did a very good job.  I was proud of him.

As we commemorate our independence this year we are mindful of all of the miraculous events that took place right her in Philadelphia to ensure independence to these United States and prepare the way for the restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ.  How happy we are to be members of that church.