Monday, November 24, 2014

Exploring Pittsburgh

One of our first stops has been to the building that we think will probably become our "home away from home"!  Three wards meet here and we are assigned to meet with two of them.  Since they each have a block of three meetings each Sunday, it will probably mean that we will have very long days on Sunday.  We have really enjoyed the meetings though and also getting to know many established members, brand new members and investigators of the church from various backgrounds.

Another nice surprise has been the opportunities we have for exercise here.  The church really encourages missionaries to exercise at least 30 minutes each day and longer if they want to get up early.   Sometimes it can be hard if you live in an apartment, have a busy
schedule, and bad weather.  We were so excited though to find a wonderful park just a couple miles away from us.  It has a track around a reservoir and a lot of trails and paths everywhere.  We have already been walking there twice and really liked it.  The weather really hasn't seemed as cold as we thought it would be either, YET anyway!!!  We had one day that had just a 'dusting' of snow, but it seemed like they put down more salt on the roads than there was snow!

We have found out that Pittsburgh is a city of hills, rivers (3 major ones), bridges (446) and lots and lots of steps.  We are trying to take the steps everywhere we go to also add to our exercise.  We have also heard that there are some other wonderful parks a little farther away so we want to explore those soon.

Today felt like our first real "P" day (Preparation Day).  Most missionaries seem to really try to take full advantage of these days that come around once a week on Mondays.

The first thing we did today was to visit the Vintage Senior Center that is just down the street from us.  We were so impressed with it! Okay----we know that means we have officially entered old age!
We have been assigned by the bishops to help older single women in the wards and so we wanted to find out the services that were offered there.  Anyway, it will also be a great place for us to go in and use their treadmills and other exercise equipment.  Don't laugh too hard!!!

We then went to the Heinz History Museum--
yes---ketchup, along with Big Mac's and Mister Rogers all originated in Pittsburgh. It is a museum associated with the Smithsonian museums and it was very impressive.  In fact, we got a year membership so that we can take some of the young Elders and Sisters (or other visitors) with us.  We decided it was so interesting to us that we can spend many more hours there.

There is a whole floor dedicated to sports and we thought of all of our family as we visited this floor.  We took a few pictures that we thought some of them might like.

Turns out that the first jeep was invented in the
small town of 'Butler' that is in an area northeast of Pittsburgh.  We plan to visit there one day.

Of course, there's also lots about the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Pirates.

A lot of other sports like golf, hockey and women's sports were represented.

They had a whole section about black sport leagues too.

 Our museum membership also includes the Fort Pitt museum.  It is located on "The Point" that is at the confluence of three rivers--The Alleghenny, The Monogahala, and the Ohio. There is a beautiful state park there.  The fort was used mostly during the French and Indian War.  There was a lot of Revolutionary history information here and also lots about George Washington.

Almost everywhere we drive we see beautiful views of the city with a bridge or river or interesting houses nestled in the hills.  There is so much to do on our "P" days that we think we will become like the younger missionaries who sometimes count how long they have left on their missions by the number of "P" days that they have left!

Following our fun activities of the day we also went with the Elders to help with a family home evening at the home of Sister Martin and her daughter and son.  She has only been a church member for a few months, but seems like she could have been a member all of her life.

Even though we had a great time today we are now looking forward to a busy week ahead with many missionary opportunities.

  • work on a Power Point for the mission president's wife on Poison Ivy (seems most missionaries from the West don't have any idea what it looks like and how bad it can be to get into it).
  • work on Family History so that we can start being able to help some of our single sisters with their family trees
  • try to keep our fridge and cupboards stocked up and food ready to feed hungry Elders
  • visits with the Elders in our apartment building who teach lessons that we help with
  • visit by ourselves to the single sisters to try and get to know them all
  • follow up with women at the senior center who expressed interest in what we do.  We left "pass along cards" with them (small pocket size cards with information on videos that the church makes available to those who call in)
  • study, study, study--to try and learn and remember everything. 

We miss everyone at home, especially at Thanksgiving time.  But we are so thankful for all the love and support that we feel, especially from each of our children and their families.  

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone from Pittsburgh

Friday, November 21, 2014

Home Sweet Home---A Tour

We thought it might be fun to take you on a tour of our new little dwelling.  We are mostly getting settled in and REALLY like it---but it has a few interesting quirks.  It is in an old building with steel doors everywhere.  Jim can't get over how the hallways look like the maximum security cells that he once visited when working on a job that Beacon Metals was doing at the Utah State Prison (Note to Jared---FG2 with solid panels).

The building hallways look like a giant corn maze to Pat who seems to have some sort of "directional disability" that we think is getting worse!  When we were at the MTC they asked each of us why we were each glad to be with our companion.  She said it was because Jim could compensate for her lack of sense of direction.  She has to take her phone in the hallways so she can call if she gets lost!  We've decided she could get lost in a paper bag!

The biggest PLUS for the apartment is the HEATED GARAGE.  We go from our apartment into the elevator or stairs, and then into a car that is hardly even cold.  The weather outside has been freezing.  The Arctic cold front seems to still be with us, but it really doesn't seem too bad  because of this extra little perk.  It makes us feel a little guilty though when we think of the Elders and Sisters who are out in it a lot more than we are.

The inside of the apartment is much more spacious than we expected with an open style living room and dining area.  We brought a few pictures to hang from home and we were given some others by the mission office staff.
It has been fun to do a slight bit of decorating to make things feel like home.

The apartment is on the second floor and is cozy and warm.  It seems like we are sandwiched between the first and third floor and that keeps us well insulated.

We have a nice desk and lots of storage space.  We are not used to having much empty storage space at home so we hope we can keep it empty. We know for sure that we won't be able to fit anything else in our car when we come home.

One of the things we wondered about the most before coming was what kind of a bed that we would have.  We have gotten VERY attached to our bed at home!  The beds are great though and almost as good as our one at home.

The last picture is of our GUEST ROOM! Hint Hint!!  President Johnson has told us that as long as we get approval from him and don't get too carried away with lots and lots of company that he thinks having family here for a few days is a great idea.  So...... everyone just let us know the dates you would like to come and we will schedule you in.

Home Sweet Home

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

We love Pittsburgh already!

This is one of the scenes similar to what we saw the first night we arrived in Pittsburgh.  We drove through a long tunnel in the early evening and on the other side of the tunnel this is what greeted us! What a great welcome!
The next morning when we went to the mission office, Elder and Sister Thorne accompanied us and led us to our apartment on Friday afternoon, the 14th.  They got a little lost in downtown so we got a pretty good tour of the city trying to follow them up and down the narrow streets.

The neighborhood where we live is kind of a mix of row type houses and apartment buildings.  It is not in the 'skyscraper' section of town, but more on the outskirts.  It is still considered downtown.  There are alot of cool old buildings that seem to each have a story about them that we are anxious to find out about.

We arrived at the apartment and had a welcome and moving crew 'all in one' with a set of young Elders who were waiting for us and are also living in the same building.  They are Elder Harper from Las Vegas and Elder Sorenson from Gunnison, Utah. We have a feeling we will become good friends with them.

The Elders had bought us a few groceries to get us started and we settled in unpacking and arranging everything. We wondered what we would do on Saturday and thought we might have time to catch up on all the reading and computer work we have to do, but that was not the case.  No sooner had the Elders gotten to know us, than they invited us to a service project, a first lesson to a sister from Turkey who is investigating the church, and dinner at the Bishop's house. Then we also got a call inviting us to attend a Relief Society activity at noon at the church.

Saturday morning came and we had to bow out of the service project because Jim had been developing a skin infection while we drove to Pittsburgh that kept getting increasingly worse.  We were told by President Johnson that we could call Dr. Campbell who is a Pittsburgh doctor who donates his time to help missionaries with medical problems.  We called him about 9 o'clock in the morning and got him while he was still at Mercy Hospital downtown--- just a few minutes away from us.  We drove there and met him just before he was leaving to go home.  He prescribed antibiotics and told us a few other remedies to try.  What a blessing for us to get things taken care of so quickly!

We attended the Relief Society activity, had lunch, and met some of the wonderful women in the ward.  Many of the women there have husbands who work or attend school at nearby University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.  Others are women going to school while their husbands play Mr. Mom.  Others are single and married sisters of many nationalities.  We wear name tags but they don't-- so it will take us quite a while to remember all of their names!

Somehow we were also able to fit in our first grocery shopping trip to a crowded nearby grocery store called Giant Eagle.  It has been years since Jim and I have been grocery shopping together for more than two or three items.  Working together is still a work in progress!

We unloaded groceries just in time to be able to get ready to meet Sibel at the church for her first lesson about the gospel.  She is from Turkey and has been searching for truth concerning religion.  She has been attending Bible study classes in an international student group, but has not been happy learning from the revised, modern translations of the Bible.  She is very educated and has a PhD in pathology and embryology.  After our first class with her and the Elders we decided that she is what they call a "golden investigator".  She is reading the Book of Mormon and is coming to church tomorrow!

We then went to Bishop Geherin's home for dinner with his wife and daughter, the Elder's and another couple from the ward and their children.  Then....the bishop asked us to go with the Elder's to the home of Sister Martin.  She is a black, single sister with two children who has been in the military and recently joined the church in April.  She has had struggles, but it was such an inspiration to meet with her and feel of her spirit.  She had asked that her home be dedicated as a new start for her and her children.  The Elders performed this priesthood blessing for her and she was very grateful.

These were two posters that helped welcome us to our apartment on the first day.  We later found out that they were made by Sister Toupin from Ogden and Sister Rock from Morgan, Utah.

We had a hard time figuring out what the yellow one said at first.  Finally figured out that it says "We Stinkin love you"!!

We feel very grateful to get to know such great young people.

We met these two Sister missionaries for the first time after an Addiction Recovery meeting at night when it was about 16 degrees outside.  They don't have a car and so they walk most of the time everywhere they go.  They had come to the meeting by car that night, but they were still so cold and bundled up from their days work. They somehow still had BIG smiles on their faces.

On the road

We left home on Monday, November 8th, and had a hard time deciding which way to go.  We had the choice of I80 through Laramie, WY or I70 through Vail, CO.  It was a tossup because both ways had snow forecast with a huge Artic Front coming in.  We ended up taking the southern route through Colorado.  Everything went well until we started getting closer to Vail.  At about 3 o'clock in the afternoon we saw a sign saying "Vail Pass Closed".  We kept driving just because we felt we were too far along to turn back.  It turned out to be a good decision, because although it was closed it meant we had to be 'snowed in' at a beautiful hotel in a skier's suite at off season rates!  We had a living room with a fireplace and a full kitchen plus a great exercise room in the hotel.  We made full use of all the amenities that we could.

The next morning the road was open and we made it through the pass behind the snow plows! We drove almost all day across the rest of Colorado and into Nebraska.  Our goal was to get to Lincoln, Nebraska to visit and have dinner with my dad's youngest sister, Marie, and her husband, Bill.  We made it just in time for dinner at their retirement home.  It was very nice and they had a place of honor with a red tablecloth reserved for us.  Marie is 88 and Bill is 87.  They both exercise each day and look great.  So glad we could see them.

Day Three was spent driving all the way from Lincoln to the small town of Brownsburg just before we got to Indianapolis.

Day Four we drove into Pittsburgh after about 5 or 6 hours of driving. We stopped in Davenport, Iowa at a place called the 'Machine Shed' for a steak lunch/dinner.  It's a great little place recommended by Emily (who lived there) and Jared (who discovered Rib-eye steaks there). Other than Colorado, over the Pass, we had mostly dry roads for the rest of the trip.  What a blessing!

We were texting the mission president, President Johnson, as we

drove and he invited us to stay at the mission home for the night and have breakfast with them the next morning.  We explained to him that our nephew, Mike, was in Pittsburgh for some classes for work in the downtown area and would be leaving the next day.  Mike lives in Atlanta and we don't see him often so our first evening in Pittsburgh was spent having dinner with Mike.  We drove through rush hour traffic to get to his hotel. Part of the drive included going through a long tunnel.  As we drove out of the tunnel, the beautiful city of Pittsburgh at night was in full view.  Was a great introduction to the city and what an enjoyable dinner we had with Mike.

Day Five we had a nice breakfast and discussion with President and Sister Johnson.  Their 17 year old son, Andrew, is an accomplished violinist and the evening before, after we returned from dinner, he played a beautiful piece for us.  The Johnsons are from Logan most recently, but have lived all over the country in previous years.  President Johnson has most recently been CEO of REI and they love hiking and cross country skiing. He and Sister Johnson are responsible for the well being of 260 plus or minus missionaries all over most of the state of Pennsylvania.

When we finished breakfast we left for the mission office and got keys to our apartment.  Elder and Sister Thorne are the senior couple who work in the office and had worked so hard to get our apartment all ready for us.  It all makes us realize just how many people it takes to keep the great missionary force of the church going!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

We made it through the MTC experience

What a wonderful time we have had the last few days.

We spent a lot of time in small groups with three other couples. The Russells from Cardston, Canada are going to the Family History Library in Salt Lake.  They have already been on one mission to Russia.  The Tedrows were from a little town near Colorado Springs and are going to Singapore in Malaysia.  The Johnsons are from South Jordan and are going to Australia.

We had excellent teachers each day in these small groups they call Districts.  Jim was actually asked to be the District leader-----which basically meant that he asked someone to pray each time we started and ended class for the day!  Our teacher for the morning classes was Brother McCarthy.  He recently

returned from a mission to Scotland and Ireland and still had a little bit of a Scottish accent.  Our teacher for the afternoon classes was Sister Wasden.  She was a newlywed of only a couple of weeks, but she had also served a mission to Kirtland, Ohio.

Much of our time was spent in role playing situations that were meant to try and teach us how investigators in the church feel and how to respond to their questions and concerns.  We spent two mornings at the TRC (Teaching Resource Center) where we gave lessons to volunteer people from the community who are actually now members of the church.  These people were once investigators who actually participated in lessons from the missionaries.  We thought at
first that TRC should stand for Torturing Retired Couples!  It definitely got us out of our comfort zones, but it turned out to be a wonderful learning experience and we survived without too much trauma!

Our nephew, Kyle (Jim's sister, Kathy's son), came into the MTC on Wednesday and we looked and looked for him at lunch and as we were walking between classes.  Then finally on Friday as we were going into the huge cafeteria, he was just leaving.  He is going to Jackson, Mississippi and he and his companion just looked so happy.  It was great to see them.

We had our picture taken by the flags at the main building entrance and then left for home Friday afternoon.  We ate leftovers for dinner, trying to use up our last bits of food in the house, and then we fell into bed early.  Today, Saturday, is packing and cleaning day.  Tomorrow we will spend time at church and with family and then we hope to hit the road early Monday morning. Of course we are watching the weather carefully and, OF COURSE, there is a big storm forecast for most of the mid west section of the nation next week!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Missionary Training Center is AWESOME!!

We remember dropping our sons off at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah many years ago---Kent to Guatemala and Jared to Argentina (each being gone for two years).

 But..... what a weird feeling to actually be there ourselves!  Jim left many years ago for England on his first mission, but he stayed at what was then called the "mission home" in Salt Lake.  Training (and everything) was much different then.

The Missionary Training Center is quite a place with around 400 to 500 missionaries coming in each week.  We will only be there for 5 days and we decided to travel back and forth from home each day.  Many of the younger missionaries stay longer to learn a language or wait for visa's. At any one time there are between 1,000 to 3,000 missionaries in training there.

When we first arrived at the center we stood in one line after another to get badges, make travel arrangements, get a meal card and finally get into a preliminary orientation group.  It seemed like there was some sort of "heavenly connection" thing going on the first day,  because we made connection after connection with different people.  First, we met Elder and Sister Bass, a couple from South Carolina, who knew the Riches, owners of Beacon Metals (Jim's employer for 42 years). As we were talking to them we mentioned that we were from West Jordan and we heard a voice behind us say "did you say West Jordan?"  It was Elder Clarke who just graduated last year from West Jordan High School and knew many of the kids from our home ward.

Then we ended up in the orientation group with Elder and Sister Hale.  Elder Hale was a childhood friend of Jim's from Murray and it was so good to reminisce with them.  They saved us a place in the huge cafeteria for lunch and--- lo and behold-----sitting next to them when we arrived at lunch was our nephews girlfriend, Sister Pattison.  We had just seen her two weeks ago at Kyle's missionary farewell sacrament meeting.  We knew that she was leaving for San Jose, but never dreamed that we would see her at the MTC amongst the hundreds of missionaries there.

Then as we were finishing our lunch, we started visiting with the Sister missionaries sitting on the other side of the Hale's and mentioned that we were going to Pittsburgh.  Sister Smith's face lit up and she almost shouted "that's where I'm from"!  We had fun as she told us that we would be actually learning a new language there.  We will have to get used to 'warshing' our clothes and walking by the 'crick' instead of creek.  She said they say 'yinz' instead of 'y'all'.  The other kind of weird thing is that she said they call rubber bands---'gumbands'???

Jim later said that making all those connections made it seem like it was the Lord's way of making us feel like He knew who we were and that it might have been some little "tender mercies" meant just for us and those we met.

One of the speakers in our afternoon meeting asked who was nervous.  It is strange, but Jim and I both later mentioned that we are not nervous, but feel very peaceful about our mission.  Even with all the adversity we have experienced the last few months (our minor health problems and major health problems of family), we feel so fortunate and blessed that we can have this experience to serve the Lord.  We feel that it is quite a miracle that we are able to go on this mission, but perhaps an even greater miracle that we can feel peaceful about it!  It must be the prayers of so many family and friends that are helping us along.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Tying up loose ends

This is our first blog and we are very new at how it all works, so please have patience with us.  We know that we can get comments from all of you on the blog, but if some of you are more comfortable then feel free to contact us with our e-mail addresses.

We have spent the previous week trying to tie up all the loose ends in our life as we get ready to leave for 18 months.  It sometimes feels like we live in a big bowl of spaghetti and we are trying to just FIND all the ends!

We are sure glad that we can take more than just a suitcase, but we end up with the same dilemma with a car.  We still need to decide what to take and what to leave.  We will have to see if it all fits in our car.  We may end up like the pioneers and have to leave a few things behind or throw things out along the way!

We have talked with the mission president and his wife a couple of times and they have told us where our apartment is in downtown Pittsburgh.  It will be all furnished and mostly equipped with necessities.  It also has a garage which will be a big advantage for the Pittsburgh winters.

We  will send an email out when we get there with our street address and let everyone know just what Pittsburgh is like.