Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Philadelphia Experience
 We were so very excited for Jen, Dana, Mike and Scott to come to Philadelphia last Sunday night!  We got to see the Philadelphia Temple.  The temple is almost all covered with the material that will allow the granite to be hung from it.  The stained glass windows have arrived and are up on the floors where they will go.  The construction foreman for the Church is in our ward and he explained to us that in the East, they install windows right away, where in the West the windows come later.  He is definitely nervous about the windows going in so early as he says that so much of the inside work involves hammering, etc.  He just does not want to break any of those gorgeous windows.
 Philadelphia is known as the City of Brotherly Love.  That is due to the original influence of the Society of Friends who founded it.  Hence the "LOVE" statue.  It is not all perfectly even, as love is not perfect.  The statue will soon be moved to City Hall and the fountain too.  This area will then become shopping or a high rise.  The water in the fountain that day was blue to honor the police department.
 Jen and kids standing with City Hall in the background.  This is a very old building with a giant statue of Ben Franklin atop.  I love the contrast of the old and the new in downtown Philly!
Later that day we attended the Phillies vs the Nationals.  Shockingly enough, the Phillies pulled off a win.  The stadium is really nice, it was about 77 degrees and no humidity and we had a lovely night at the ballpark.  Thanks, Jen, for treating us to the game!
 The stadium was not terribly full that night, although this is about 1 hour before the game.  Below, Mike got a ball pregame during the Nationals practice as the outfielder tossed it to him.
 Tuesday we picked up Jen and the kids and headed to Independence Square and saw the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, where both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed.
 We finished it off by letting Jen take a nap before driving home and we went to Rita's for "water ice".  It is a really good summer treat as we usually get it with custard ice cream atop the water ice.  By the way, in Pennsylvania water is pronounced "wooder".
The rest of the week flew by.  We were busy at the office doing our various responsibilities.   We were able to go to a good movie last night "When the Game Stands Tall".  It was full of good messages and we really did enjoy it.  It was rated PG.   Today is a 5th Sunday, and every 5th Sunday this year our ward supplies dinner for the homeless.  This will be our 3rd time to go.  We head down to inner city Philadelphia to a homeless shelter and feed over 300 men, women, and children dinner.  We take the same dinner each time:  Sloppy Joes, salad, corn, green beans, cookies.  We really do enjoy going there.  The recipients are very appreciative and it is a reminder to us just how very blessed we are to have always had food.  As I finish this blog today I realize that my Mother would be 90 years old today.  I am thinking about her and missing her...

Sunday, August 24, 2014

 Transfer Week!
This is the first counselor in the mission presidency, Russell Hakes.  As we met and visited we discovered we were distantly related.  As I mentioned in last week's post, we figured out the relationship:  3rd cousins once removed.  We both descend through David Evans.  So today we took a photo together.

 These are all of the outgoing missionaries.  As the time goes on we are getting more sad when missionaries leave because we have built a relationship with them and we love them and will miss them.  That really hit home with this transfer week.  These missionaries pictured above have been great!
Left to right, Sisters Jensen, Bradshaw and Earl.  All really, really good missionaries.  Sister Bradshaw served in our ward and we got to know her well.  They all have such bright futures ahead of them.

This is Elder Jenkins who served for 8 months as an AP working in the mission office.  We became very close to this young man and love him very much.  He is THE best.  I would proudly call him my son.  He is so diligent, pleasant, cheerful, helpful, etc.  Oh, how we will miss him.  But he lives in Las Vegas and promises to come and see us when we return home.
President and Sister Anderson had this sign made to take to the airport to welcome the new missionaries.  It caused great curiosity at the airport and the new missionaries really liked it too.  This is a fine group of missionaries and we are pleased to have them.  Elder Hillstead, on the right side holding the sign, is from St. George!  It was a very busy week for us--with transfers it always is.  They made 4 new trios and Elder Jones managed to have the 4 beds delivered BEFORE the day of transfers.  And the missionaries involved really did appreciate having a bed on night 1.  Thursday we received a new senior couple who will be CES missionaries:  Elder and Sister Wilson from Veyo, UT.  When they entered the mission office, Elder Wilson and Elder Jones recognized each other.  They played football at Dixie College together!  Elder Jones had known him as Evan Wilson and his paperwork for the mission named him Morris Wilson, so hence there was not the instant recognition.  Elder Jones and the Service Elders moved them in to their apartment.  Also this past week, Elder Jones and the service elders moved the Wrigleys, another new senior couple who will be working downtown Philly areas into their apartment.  As we hear the various health issues of these incoming senior couples we are quite grateful for our good health.
Saturday is our p-day and we were just relaxing when Elder Ellsworth (on the left) called and asked us to take him to Reading, PA for the baptism of Talea and Cezar.  Elder Ellsworth is from Washington Fields in St. George and just dared to call us.  He had been transferred on Tuesday into downtown Philadelphia Spanish speaking and has no car--they use the public transportation system.  So he had no way to get to this baptism, which is about 90 minutes away.  We were privileged to take him there and witness this mother and son be baptized.  Elder Park (on the right) and Elder Ellsworth both taught the lessons to Talea and Cezar and Talea wanted Elder Ellsworth to baptize her.  Talea's father is an inactive member the local Catholic church and donates highly to it.  He would be very displeased with Talea if he knew that she joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  She had to sneak the missionaries into her home to teach her, but she knew right away that it was true.  She works for her dad and hopes that he will come to accept her decision to join this church.
The two missionaries on the left are the ones we took to Reading.  Elder Johnson and Elder Ellsworth.  Elder Johnson is from the Bay area in California and has Cystic Fibrosis.  He really does not talk about his health much, but he runs daily to help his lung function and wears a special vest morning and night to loosen mucous.  He told us that he is very grateful for modern medicine which has allowed him to serve a mission.  He has been on his mission only about 4 months.  After the baptism we drove them back to downtown Philly and in the process we missed a turn and ended up seeing parts of Philly we had never seen before.  We just love to be around these fine missionaries and to feel of their spirit.  We are so glad to be serving with them!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

August, Week 2
 Monday we held a Senior Missionary Family Home Evening.  We try to do this each month.  It is quite therapeutic for the senior missionaries to gather and enjoy a meal and simply talk.  We sometimes have activities, but the sociality is the best part.  Somehow we have become the resident planners of this event.  We got to know our newest couple, the Eylers, last month as we traveled with them to Palmyra.  Elder Eyler worked for the Family History department of the church for some time.  So we asked him to conduct a hands on session for family history.  We met for 2 hours and he helped us all (11 couples) log on, view the various charts and helped us navigate the system.  I may have mentioned this earlier, but President Hakes, the 1st counselor in the Mission Presidency mentioned that he originated from Lehi.  In talking to him we realized that we were both descended from David Evans--through different wives.  So Monday we found out that we are 3rd cousins once removed!  David Evans certainly has a very large posterity.  President Hakes comes from the first wife...We had a most enjoyable time.

The week passed very quickly.  Thursday we had 2 new senior couples arrive.  They both needed an apartment and furniture.  So Monday we ordered the beds for them and on Thursday Elder Jones took one of the couples to a consignment store to shop for furniture.  They are the Symes and they will be working with the Philadelphia Archives to photograph or scan maps and biographies.  If they are not copyrighted they will be available for the Family History department.  So on Friday Elder Jones moved all of their furniture into their apartment using his service elders.  We had to rent a U-haul, so only Elder Jones could drive it...Tomorrow he repeats the same process of picking out furniture and then moves in the other new seniors, the Wrigleys.  They are also going to live in downtown Philly but cannot get in to their apartment until Wed.  So just as soon as transfers are done, Elder Jones must move them in so he can return the U-haul and not get charged extra...This is a very busy time.  We have one more couple, the Wilsons from Veyo, UT coming this week, but their apartment is already set up.  They are CES missionaries and we will probably get to do many things with them as they live just 3 miles away...  We also had the opportunity to go with the Sisters this week to teach Andrew Bishop.  He is a recent convert who struggles and needs constant reinforcement.  They are very patient with him.  We visited with him under a tree where he lives amidst 2 baby deer who had wandered away from their mother.  The weather this week has been in the 80's with a cool breeze--love it!

Yes, transfers are this week.  So the week will be quite busy.  Saturday Elder Jones had his service elders pick up the luggage from the cities.  We have 84 companionships affected by this transfer, so it is another large one.  Tomorrow Elder Jones must organize the service elders to take 4 beds to places downtown Philly where the companionship will become a trio.  Then they take the luggage back to the city for the new missionaries.  Amidst all of this we get 11 missionaries departing and 15 coming.  The week will fly by.  Word has it that the president is giving Elder Jones another missionary to work with...

Friday night we got together with the Carrs (temple construction overseers) and went to see a movie that Jen Bishop recommended "The Hundred Foot Journey".  It was rated PG and was a delightful movie.  I recommend it.  On our way home we came upon the following:
 Sorry so blurry, but it says "Sobriety Checkpoint Ahead".  Yes--we went through this!  We were not required to stop, however, but I got such a kick out of it.  Think of the headlines "LDS missionaries taken in local sobriety checkpoint"...Below is a selfie with the policeman.  It is a once in a lifetime experience for me. Again, sorry for the blurr..
Tonight we are having dinner with our Korean friends.  We absolutely love to dine with them.  Such great company and such wonderfully flavorful food!  Last time was my first time to eat my entire meal with chopsticks.  I am going to try it again!  Below are photos of our Korean Feast and our Korean entertainment.  The girls were singing songs in English and Korean.  They sang mostly "Frozen".  They are so cute.
 These are the parents of 2 of those cute girls instructing them and dealing with another who is just past 1 and just broke her clavicle and the mom is having girl #4 on Wednesday.  The dad is interning in Oncology.  He is brilliant.  We do so appreciate these gentle Korean people and their acceptance of us.  Tonight they gave us a small test to see how we think.  I think like the Asians and Elder Jones thinks totally American, according to the flower classification test.  Maybe I should have known this earlier...

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Zone Conference Week
Zone Conference comes every 3 months.  We go to 4 areas and in those 4 days we meet with 11 zones.  The farthest we have to go is Nazareth, PA, which is about 2 hours.  Much of the training that day comes from the President, his wife, the AP's and then others such as stake presidency members, that they ask to participate.  Usually it involves practicing a principle in role play.  Then there are break out sessions where the missionaries receive specific training in certain areas.  Our breakout session this time had 5 presenters in 20 minutes--so you can imagine that we had to simply emphasize one area and speak quickly.  And we did. We plan these conferences plenty of time ahead, as the mission secretary has to ask relief societies to prepare lunch for us.  The sisters below are from a newly formed Stroudsburg Spanish Branch.  They fixed us a most wonderful hispanic meal.  They are mostly Dominican.  They were awesome.  We lined them up and sang "Called to Serve" to thank them.  They served us in Nazareth.
 This is us singing to the sisters above.  Notice Elder Jones with his green bowl of keys.  During the breakout session he instructed the missionaries how to properly fill out their monthly mileage form and collected all of their car keys.  Then after lunch he and the Service Elders that accompanied us as well as any senior Missionary Elders inspected the cars.  Nazareth had 3 zones and the most cars.  In the four days of conference about 100 cars were inspected.  Elder Jones has this whole car inspection down to a science by now.
 I had a very brief presentation on how the MSF (missionary credit card) transactions work.  A missionary receives $130 for elders and $140 for sisters each month on the last day of each month.  This is really not much money and it has to last all month.  The amount is specific to each mission and there are some missionaries who have to have more because of medications that they must take.
This is us singing on the very last day (yesterday) in the Cherry Hill, NJ chapel.   The Relief Society there served us another nice lunch--this time meatball sandwiches. At their conference we got to hear from their stake president, Vai Sikahema.  He was a very good football player from BYU many years ago.  Now he is a news person here in Philadelphia.  He told us that for missionary experiences he wears his BYU attire always when traveling so people will ask him questions and he will have a chance to bring up the church.  He is very missionary minded and has the sister missionaries in his area teach often in his home.  The week sped by and we were quite tired each night.  This week we are having a senior missionary Family Home Evening tomorrow.  It is a class on family history where we will have hands-on computer experience--and then a picnic at the president's home after.  We also have 3 senior couples arriving so Elder Jones will have lots or moving to coordinate with his service elders.

As we went through the week we had a special prayer for one of our sister missionaries.  She has been out 6 weeks.  3 weeks prior to coming on her mission her returned missionary brother passed away.  Her father has cancer and while receiving his last chemo treatment this week he went into a coma and his kidneys failed. He was expected to pass yesterday.   She has had 2 very difficult challenges and we are praying for her strength and comfort.

Today at church we had a sweet experience.  Some of you have received a card from me with a lovely photo on the front taken by 'Josephine Chavez".  She has given me many of her cards and I enjoy sending them when I have occasion.  Josephine is 80 and has had many, many, health challenges recently.  Most recently she has developed a bad staph infection in her eye after a surgery and it has left her mostly blind in that eye.  It has been very painful and she has been praying very much for relief.  Anyway, today she asked to speak with us today after Sacrament Meeting.  She told us of how she just really did not know how to handle her current situation.  She has been praying and praying and yet she has received no relief and she is discouraged and tired, etc.  Then she brought out a copy of her Patriarchal blessing.  She had received it in 1969 but had not been able to read it for some time as the print was so small and she is basically blind.  She asked Elder Jones to read it to her to see if there was anything in the blessing to give her direction.  The blessing was very lovely and quite long and quite specific to her and seemed to comfort her considerably.  Basically it told her that she was not alone and to keep on with patience and cheerfulness.  Good counsel for all of us!  I had her choose a font size and I will type her blessing so that she can read it for comfort.

We are most blessed to be on this mission.  Tomorrow we also start planning for transfers next week.  That is always a fun yet busy week.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Feeding Missionaries and Saying Goodbye
Last Sunday we had the Sister Missionaries for dinner.  They are, left to right, Sisters Whitaker, Dobson, and Foote.  They are sweet sisters.  We enjoyed our time together.   
 Sister Dobson returned to her home in Cheyenne, WY on Tuesday to continue her service as a missionary in a different way.  She will be serving a Church Service mission possibly working in the local Family History library.  She is really good with computers.  She is a very sweet sister and Elder Jones has grown to love her very much as he has watched her grow while serving for the past 6 months in this mission.  We will miss her.
These 2 Elders serve in our ward as well as the sisters.  They are, left to right, Elders Nieman and Brown.  They are 2 of Elder Jones' service missionaries, which means that they give 1 day a week to serving other missionaries by helping them move, obtain items that they need, etc.  They are a most valuable force as we try to manage all of the apartments we open and close.  Lately we have many leases that have expired and our housing director has taken the opportunity to upgrade the housing.  In the last 2 months we have closed 21 apartments and opened 16 new ones.  That means that Elder Jones has to either clear out an apartment or move things from one to another.  So the past couple of weeks he has had to use his service elders more than usual.  Also, they help him at zone conferences to inspect all of the vehicles (100 total).  Anyway, Friday was Elder Brown's birthday and he spent most of the day moving the Broomall sisters into a new apartment.  When we were about to leave for the day we asked where they were headed to dinner (our ward feeds these missionaries almost daily).  They said that they had no invitation to dinner that day, so they would figure it out.  It made us sad, so we ended up at Freddy's with our neighbors and co-workers in the office, the Ballards, and these Elders for Elder Brown's 19th birthday.
Today has been fast Sunday and we are feeding the AP's.  They wanted homemade burritos, so I will be making tortillas.  We have a busy week ahead as we have been preparing for zone conferences this week.  We will be gone to Nazareth, PA, Dover, DE, Broomall at the mission office and then Cherry Hill, NJ from Wednesday through Saturday.  It is a busy time, but we love the opportunity to see all of the elders and sisters.  We have an opportunity to instruct them for a break-out session (Elder Jones on car and safety and me on finances), hear spiritual messages and instruction from the President, Sister Anderson, and the AP's and also enjoy a lovely lunch provided by one of the local Relief Societies.

Today was Fast Sunday.  In our ward we have a couple of members who are from either Sierra Leone or Liberia Africa.  They urged us today to keep their people in our prayers as they battle the terrible ebola virus.  We know that the missionaries have been evacuated for the present time.  Working in a mission office I can only imagine a portion of the stress that would be involved in accomplishing this evacuation.  I do pray for them--missionaries, doctors, patients, scientists, etc.  How blessed we are to live in a place and a time where we are free from most serious disease!