Friday, December 12, 2014

Christmas Begins

It has been fun to watch the city of Pittsburgh come alive with the Christmas spirit.  It is also quite refreshing to be able to focus more on service and the true meaning of the Christmas season.  We had our first zone conference on December 2nd.  It was a learning experience for both of us, but especially for Pat.  Since she has never served a full time mission before, the  districts and zones etc. are all new to her.  The zone meeting was held in a chapel in Green Tree, PA and we were given instructions from President Johnson and his wife.  Each district in the zone prepared musical numbers so Jim and I were involved in learning a special arrangement of Away in a Manger with our district and one other district.  The worldwide Christmas initiative of "He Is the Gift" was presented and we were given our wallet size cards to give out.  It has been so fun to give these cards out in grocery stores, hospitals, and just to people that we meet and have reason to engage in
a short conversation.  The faces of each of them has lit up when we have presented them with a card.  We have explained that the video on the website will help them feel the Christmas spirit more. We have found that the more we watch it and the other church Bible videos, the more we also feel the Christmas spirit.

On December 3rd, we had quite an experience with our new friends from Hawaii (previously Micronesia).  Arson (age 23) had what we now know was not really an esophageal transplant but more of a 'resection' and total reconstruction.  We got up at 3 in the morning to get them to the hospital by 4 am.  He then underwent 14 hours of surgery.  We visited the hospital a couple times during the day and we could really relate to their family's heartache and worry.   We then came back in the evening and were there with the family when the doctor came out to tell them the outcome and explain how the surgery had gone.  It was then that we learned what a delicate operation it had been, with the surgical team having to work carefully around the trachea, the vocal cords, and the aorta.  It seemed that they were very hopeful that everything went well and
since he was sedated and on a ventilator we all went home for the night.  The next day it was so great to enter his room and see him awake, smiling, and giving thumbs up for picture taking.  We were all very grateful and excited that he was in such good spirits and doing so well.  It has been a week since that day and he is now transferred to a regular hospital room and so far things are going well, but still with ups and downs.

We have made some member visits, ward councils,  and attended a couple of ward parties this week.  We are still really having trouble putting names and faces together.  One ward is usually hard enough, but to get everyone straight in two wards for two "old minds" is really a challenge for us.  Jim keeps telling everyone that we are "just off the boat"!  Wonder how long we can use that excuse!

We also had a really neat family history experience this week.  Pat knew that

her third great grandfather, Robert Gibbs, spent some time during his life in Pittsburgh so she brought along a three ring binder of his history-----but she hadn't looked at it much in the last few years.  As we drove through the countryside to the temple last week and saw some of the signs that said Washington County something in the old brain clicked. Pat realized that we had a tiny tidbit of information that said Robert was born in Washington County which is just next to Alleghenny County where we live. We don't know anything about this family line previous to Robert--no parent's names or anything.  So this line has basically been a "dead end" for doing much more research.

Anyway, we decided that since we are so close to Washington County that we would look into things here a bit.  Pat called Lorrie at the church family history center here.  She made the comment that we didn't need to come to the center because ten minutes from our apartment is the best collection of history on western Pennsylvania available anywhere--- at the Carnegie Library.  And so guess
what we did for our P-day this week?  Lorrie gave us a good lead of a friend whose name is Marilyn and works at Carnegie. With her help are finally making a little progress.  We didn't find anything earth shattering, but we did find a good lead for a court case with the name Robert Gibbs in the right time period.  This probably means that next P-day might be spent rummaging through old books at a courthouse somewhere!

We also wanted to mention that we have also attended our first baptism in the mission field.  The young man baptized was Gregory.  He and his family have recently moved her from South Africa.

They were originally from the Congo. They were all baptized previously, but Gregory was busy playing on a competitive soccer team and wasn't too interested in the church.  Turns out that he started reading little bits of church literature and the Book of Mormon secretly on his own and before long he gained a testimony of the truthfulness of what he was reading.  He just received the priesthood last Sunday and is so excited to now be able to visit with the Elders as they teach the lessons.

We have also been able to visit in the home of LaShawn and her children, Grace and Jeffrey.  LaShawn was just baptized last April, but it seems like she could have been a church member for many years.  She has a great knowledge of the scriptures from her previous church, and she is already teaching a Sunday School class.  She is working towards going to the temple next April.  We have attended some Family Home Evening lessons that the Elders have taught to Grace who was baptized a few months after her mother.

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