Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas Week 2014
As usual, the week simply flew by.  Monday through Wednesday we attended the various Christmas Devotionals and took their Christmas gifts.  Monday we traveled to Cherry Hill, NJ, which is just north of Camden, NJ so only about 45 minutes away.  Tuesday we were here for the Philadelphia zones and the Valley Forge zones.  It was by far the largest devotional.  Then Wednesday we traveled to Nazareth, about 2 hours north-west of here for the last one.  Yes, upon coming home we traveled through Bethlehem, then north of Philadelphia to deliver a lost Christmas package to a sister who had just received that single gift.  We wanted her to be able to have it for Christmas.  We arrived home, traveling the entire way there and back in the rain, so tired that we called the President and he and his sweet wife met us at a local Chinese Buffet called Ichiban.  It was fun.  Sister Ballard also invited the AP's and when she told them where to meet, she mistakenly said "Itchy Buns".  After a hearty laugh and inability to correct herself, we all got on the same page and enjoyed a Chinese buffet.  Here are just a few highlights of our Christmas Devotionals:
 Elder Jones had his service elders do the Squatty body routine about "Adjusting to Missionary Life" at each devotional and the audience really did enjoy it.
 This is Elder Hunt and he has only been here 1 week.  He studied violin all summer in NYC and is a concert level violinist.  He did some "fiddling" for us and when he was done his violin bow was shredded...
 Elders Hellyer and Murphy and Sisters Balyot and Steadman singing.  They are from the Cherry Hill zone.
 Elders Rich and Milligan doing a skit in Broomall.  They serve in downtown Philly and their skit was concerning 3 different African Americans that they would contact on the street.  Elder Milligan is about 5'2", been a member for only a year and is from the South.  He explained at the end of this skit that he used to be a gang member in his hometown and that he was so grateful that missionaries had contacted him and given him the chance to become a member of this church and urged us not to judge who would accept the gospel but share it freely with everyone.
 Elder Paulsen challenged President Anderson to a water drinking contest.  The stakes:  a trade of ties.  Elder Paulsen bet he could drink 2 bottles of water before President could drink 1.  He did!  He finished his 2 bottles before President could take 2 sips.  The secret:  he placed the bottle in his mouth, then pushed the bottom of the bottle upwards, forcing the water out in a giant gush.  Probably not a good idea to try...President did trade ties...
This is the Lehigh Valley District singing the 12 Days of Christmas, missionary style.  It was very entertaining.  The missionaries also saw the movie "17 Miracles" and had a spiritual message from President and Sister Anderson.  They received a temple recommend holder with the Philadelphia Temple pictured on it.  We handed out all of their presents from home and they all traveled home safely.  Christmas day was spent delivering packages.  We headed out at about 8:30 and arrived back home at 4 pm.  We traveled to Philadelphia, then Maryland, then Dover Delaware, with stops down and back.  It was fun.  Here is what we discovered, however:  Philadelphia and surrounding places shuts completely down--EVERYTHING!  There was not a grocery store open, not the WaWa, nor McDonalds and they stayed shut all Christmas day.  The Ballards intended to purchase something for Christmas dinner on our way home after the last conference, but nothing was open.  (Thank goodness for us, they say that Chinese Restaurants sometimes stay open...)  In Maryland and Delaware, however, grocery stores, C-stores and Fast Food places were open.  

We did enjoy a lovely Christmas dinner with our sister missionaries at the home of the McElroys.  They are a fun couple in our ward, probably about 10 years younger than us.  She had a Prime Rib and it was so very delicious.  Her name is Susan, and she did not have family coming this year--they headed to see their kids in Utah the next day--so she trimmed down her decorating.  She only had 5 Christmas trees.  The decorations would have easily filled 50 totes--villages, nativities, mini-trees, special items from Germany--you name it, she had it.  It was fun to see and very festive.  

Saturday we were rather tired and looking forward to an actual P-day, but it did not happen.  They held a leadership training council, so we headed down to the church to feed them lunch.  We made it easy on ourselves by ordering their favorite--PIZZA.  We ended up staying most of the day and then headed to downtown Philadelphia for a very nice dinner at "Davio's Italian Steakhouse".  It was elegant and served the most delicious food I have ever tasted.  It is located on the second floor of an old bank building in downtown Philly.
 Below:  us seated at our table.  We were surrounded by very attentive waiters and other serving staff and wondered just who to tip...We had our nametags on and the waiter was a bit familiar with our Word of Wisdom items and asked if there was anything we should not partake of other than alcohol and caffeine.  He really looked out for us. 
 These are the appitizers:  Kobe beef meatballs and an assortment of Spring Rolls.  There were 5 types of Spring Rolls, each with its own sauce and each so wonderfully tasty.
 This was my main course:  Tuna with a soy reduction and some greens.  The tuna was cooked just right and the sauce was amazing.  We also ordered some crispy onions and marinated mushrooms.
Elder Jones had a filet mignon and put the marinated mushrooms atop.  He said the meat was so tender he could cut it with his fork.  Thanks, John for a fun Christmas gift!  We will finish the week by having the Sister missionaries for dinner tonight.  We enjoy having them.
We look forward this week to a busy finish of the year in the office.  Elder Jones had a bad accident reported this morning, so he has to take care of that.  Thankfully, the elders were not injured, but were a bit shaken up.  Meanwhile I had 2 phones go down over the weekend.  Tomorrow we are having our Senior FHE with a dinner, gift exchange and games.  That should be enjoyable. Tuesday we will travel to Chester for another breakfast with the family we home teach:  The Kims.  Then we will go inspect a couple of elders apartments that we need to complete before year's end.   Wednesday evening we plan to again go down to the waterfront and watch the fireworks.  It was spectacular last year, so we want to see it again.  Then New Year's Day we will travel to DC and spend the weekend with Jen and her family.  We feel so happy to be here in Philly serving on this mission.  We are enjoying each and every moment!  From the Keystone state we wish you all a very blessed 2015!

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