Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Thanksgiving Week in the Mission Field

Our bullet point "to do list" from last week sounded really good at the time, but of course we had to make a few 'course corrections'.  Right after we made the list, we got an assignment from the bishop to help a family from Hawaii (and previously Micronesia) who are here for surgery for a 23 year old son.  It seems our ward has 8 hospitals within the ward boundaries and some of them are very prestigious.  This particular young man was sent here because no one else could perform an 'esophageal transplant'. Seems it is done routinely by a doctor at UPMC (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center).  They are staying at a hotel paid for by insurance, but they have very few other resources so it led us into a few interesting experiences trying to help them.  One of those was trying to find a restaurant that serves rice, since that is their main staple food.  Turns out that downtown Pittsburgh doesn't have a Panda Express!  Being new to the area, we ended up at a Chinese restaurant in a less desirable part of town and as we were leaving the restaurant we witnessed a somewhat noisy and scary demonstration connected with the Ferguson shooting.  Chalking up another cultural experience! Pat also ended up cooking lots and lots of rice for this family later on.

Anyway, this family has been on a roller coaster of emotions for a year as they were shuttled from one hospital to another and had insurance battles in the middle of everything.  As Pat talked to the mom we realized that it may be another "not so coincidental moment" since we can really relate to the 'roller coaster emotional thing' after all that Emily went through before we came on our mission.

P.S.  The building in the picture is not the hospital.  It is the U. S. Steel skyscraper and a major downtown landmark. UPMC has it's administrative headquarters there.

We also spent some of the week trying to schedule times to Skype with all of our kids and their families---it was challenging to juggle times, but we finally accomplished it and it was so fun. We have their pictures hanging all around our apartment, but being able to visit with them "live" is wonderful! Mission rules for couples are much different than they are for the young Elders and Sisters who only get to call home twice a year----on Christmas and Mother's Day.

The Wednesday night before Thanksgiving we went on a visit with Elder Hartman and Elder Sorenson to Denise, a black single sister.  She is less active in the church---but not in her testimony of the gospel.  She herself is elderly and now takes care of an elderly mother in her home and tends two small granddaughters as well, so she can't often get to church. We asked her to tell us about her conversion to the church and what an amazing story we heard.  She said she had grown up going to the Baptist church and as a young woman had severe intestinal problems. This caused her to have some surgeries and be hospitalized for several months.  During the whole time that she was in the hospital, her pastor did not visit her and told her he didn't make hospital calls.  When she regained her health she began thinking about searching for a new church.  She had somehow been given a Book of Mormon at one time and began studying the Bible using the

footnotes at the bottom of each page in the Book of Mormon.  Then one day, two missionaries were accidentally in the wrong area, but knocked on her door anyway.  She answered and when they told her who they were she promptly said she was already reading the Book of Mormon.  Of course, it didn't take long for events to unfold from there that led to her baptism.........Just one of many neat conversion stories we have recently heard from members here....

Thanksgiving morning we went to watch the 1st and 7th Wards "turkey bowl".  The highlight was watching the two sister missionaries play with the members and Elders.  One of the sisters made a "miracle catch" that Jim is still talking about.  He said he wished BYU receivers could play as well.  The real miracle was that Pat actually got a picture of it!!

In the afternoon we were invited to eat dinner at the home of one of the senior couples in the mission.  We took a new investigator, Sibel, with us.  She seemed to really enjoy sharing the holiday with others.  There were several other missionaries there and also some other members.  We were surprised to see several deer right outside the apartment eating their Thanksgiving dinner on the patio!  We were each asked to share one of our most memorable Thanksgiving experiences and we had to agree that this year will be one of the one's we will always remember--- even though it is hard being away from loved ones and family traditions.

On Saturday we drove to the Columbus Temple with another couple from the ward.  Many of the youth and leaders were there to do baptisms for the dead.  It is a very small temple, but very beautiful and we had a really memorable time there. It is three and a half hours away so it was a long day trip, but we were glad to be able to go.

The next closest temple to us is Washington D.C. and we hope to get there before our mission ends.  The Philadelphia temple will be completed in 2016, but we are not sure just when.

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