Monday, January 26, 2015

Many are Cold....But Few are Frozen!

The winter is dragging on and all of Pittsburgh is cold.....but it is true.... few of us have frozen yet!

Actually, with our heated garage and the option we have to stay inside if the roads are too bad, life here in the winter makes other winters we have experienced seem a lot worse.  Today has been a 'snow day' for most of the city.  It has been snowing all day and we are supposed to get more tomorrow.  It happens to be our P-day so I have loved the cozy feeling of staying in the apartment and getting caught up on e-mail, the blog, and hopefully Family History before the day ends. We have a roast on the stove cooking for dinner tonight!

Jim went over to the church to play ping pong and basketball with the elders for a little while.  Hope he comes back in one piece!  We are having "our" 4 elders over for dinner tonight.  We think they will always be special to us because they helped us through our first few weeks here and we have had some amazing spiritual experiences with them.  We've also shared some really 'interesting' and funny moments with them.  Both the spiritual, 'interesting', and funny moments are just hard to put into words....or even capture in pictures.  Hope the words and pictures will help to crystalize in our old minds just a little bit of the joy and happiness that we have felt in serving our mission.

We are starting to get over the shock of living together 24-7.
Going straight from the working world into 'instant togetherness' has been like having a bucket of cold water dumped on us.....BUT we are making it, and are realizing it is just another adjustment of life.  At our senior conference we talked to other couples who seem to have had the same challenges that we have had.... and they still haven't strangled each other.  A little while ago we had an 'interesting' dinner with Charlette, one of the ward members, who seemed to want to strangle Jim for me!  She is the funniest, most interesting member we have met so far!

We have started to visit some members on the "South Side" of Pittsburgh recently.  It is an area of the city that is quite unique.  At one time it was called the Workshop of the World because it had so many glass, iron and steel factories.  It now has a flat area where there are stores and businesses, but the homes are mostly built on lots and lots of hills.  The hills are so steep that cars can't maneuver on them and so to get access from one street to another there are steps.....lots and lots of steps.  They even give the steps street names so it really complicates finding addresses....... even with the GPS.

On the way to a visit members homes the other day we tooks some

pictures of the South Side mural and some of the steps.  One set of steps is called "The Slopes" and there are 5,447 of them.  The neighborhood association sponsors an event called "Step Trek" in the fall where people climb the steps for either leisure or fitness and many of the homes are open.  We have heard there is a monastery at the top of the hill and lots of beautiful views.

Step Trek sounds like a fun community event that we want to get involved with and maybe see
if the wards want to use it as a service project to either get things ready or help at the event.  An interesting fact is that the steps of the South Side Slopes rise to 1,457 feet and the Empire State Building is 1,454 feet tall.  Also the steps in all of Pittsburgh total 44,645 feet which is higher than Mt. Aconcagua in Argentina.  Like I said....lots and lots of steps!!

Our last P-day we went to a museum call the Soldiers and Sailors
Memorial Museum.  It was very interesting and we saw so much history of the area as well as military history all over the United States.  They had a beautiful hall with the Gettysburgh address written at the front of the hall.  Seeing it written so large and in a quiet hall, all by ourselves, had quite an impact on us.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Missionary Work is So Awesome!

We had our first "senior couple" missionary conference last Saturday and it was awesome.  We met in our church building which is called the 'Oakland Building' and there were ten couples there.  It was so helpful to be able to meet and share experiences. It built our testimony of what a great work we are engaged in.  The Glovers did a wonderful job of planning the conference and they gave each couple a plaque with the definition of a missionary that we thought really sums up how we feel about the work that we are doing.

The names of the couples are from left to right:  the Glovers who were in charge of the conference and serve in a tiny branch  that the members call "a twig" in the town of Philipsburg, the Clarksons from England who serve in a ward near Gettysburg, the Swingholms who serve as Mental Health advisors to missionaries in 24 missions around the eastern United States, the Elcocks who recently became the new office couple, the Johnsons who are the Mission President and his wife, us--the only couple in Pittsburgh,  the Barneys who serve in a place called Hanover, PA, the Bentleys who are leaving soon and have served in the office and worked with missionary cars as fleet coordinators, the Thornes who are from Liberty, Missouri and are leaving soon after serving as the office couple, and the Bells who are also leaving and have served in Wintersville, Ohio which is actually a part of our mission.

It is quite sad that we have three couples leaving with no replacements in sight.  We have had several members tell us how much they appreciate the couple missionaries and that we should consider ourselves a "hot commodity"!  We hope that we can live up to the expectation and we so hope that we will get word of new couples coming soon.

We also had a neat experience with the small pamphlet
that is put out by the church called "My Family".  We visited with a sister named Karen who has been a member of the church for several years.  She is the only member of her family who is a member and has struggled at times to stay active in the church.  Recently she has been coming to church almost every week though.  We had the elders with us as we visited.  We  previously gave her the "My Family" pamphlet and were just checking back to see how she had been doing with completing it.  As we talked about her family she shared an experience of being with her sister when her sister passed away.  This conversation led to life after death..... which led to the idea of temples..... which led to the fact that she would like to work towards going to the temple herself!  It really gave us a glimpse of how important family history is in sharing the gospel with others and helping them progress.  Sometimes we feel a need to take a treat or a little something to people that we visit, but we think this pamphlet is better than any treat!

We are excited because we have been asked to teach a Temple Preparation class in one of our wards, so we hope that Karen can be a part of the class.  We have been reading over the lessons and we hope that the class will get started soon.

Sunday was our ward conference in the First Ward and our elders (the ones in our apartment building--Elder Harper and Sorenson) had a neat experience at church.  They met a young woman in the parking lot who was coming to church for the first time. It was our ward conference and President Peterson gave a great talk about the things we can share with others---prayers, example, warmth, means, time and the gospel.  He made the comment that we hear the statement about Hastening the Work in preparation for the second coming of the Savior, and we think we have a lot of work to do to make that happen---but he actually said that it is the Lord that is 'hastening the work' and we just have to be ready for it.  Anyway, the young woman who came to church was a perfect example.  She found a Book of Mormon in a Marriott hotel, saw advertisements on TV about the church, and went onto  She became almost obsessed in learning everything she could learn about the church.  She finally got up the courage to come and see a real church meeting.  It was then that she met the missionaries before she even got in the door!

Winter Is Here

Well, winter actually came.  We thought maybe since we are in 'western' Pennsylvania that we wouldn't get as much severe weather.  December was really nice with some days actually in the 50's and 60's.  We went walking a lot and kept thinking winter here wasn't really too bad......Then January came and before we knew it, we were at minus 1 degrees with a wind chill of minus 17 degrees.
We are still REALLY enjoying our warm garage!....  and our warm apartment!  Our apartment is heated with old fashioned radiators and we love them.  They keep things really evenly heated and we've felt less drafts than we usually do at home.  So...instead of exploring Pittsburgh on our P-days we think we'll spend a few P-days hibernating in our apartment and enjoying the time to unwind and relax.

Today there was a forecast of 'freezing rain' so it was a good excuse to stay home.  We look out the window and the roads don't look too bad, but we've heard that it can be really deceiving.  Anyway it is a good chance to catch up on the blog, make appointments for the coming week, get caught up on paperwork, do laundry, finances, clean, and do food preparation.  Doesn't sound so relaxing after all --- but it's all good!

During the past week we have spent some time at the
Pittsburgh Children's Hospital.  It is a huge hospital. We're not so sure how it compares in size to Primary Children's in Salt Lake, but it seems like a REALLY good hospital.  We have become acquainted with three families there with children currently as patients.  One is a family who has been here for 6 months waiting for a heart transplant for their child.  Can't imagine how hard it would be to wait for 6 months!  Another is a family from West Virginia who have a 6 year old and a 10 year old daughter who are both here for gluteric acid imbalance (something we have never heard of before). The 10 year old is in intensive care, has been there for at least a couple of weeks, and she is VERY sick.

The latest happens to be a family from West Jordan who live on 90th South in the Welby Stake.  They drove from West Jordan to New Hampshire at the death of the husband's father to clean out the home.  They were driving back and their 3 year old daughter came down with RSV and bacterial pneumonia.  The dad had to leave to go back with the other four kids and the mom stayed here with the little girl.  She is in intensive care too, but she seems to be slowly progressing.

We hope that we can offer some help to some of these families.  The spiritual support of priesthood blessings seems to be especially appreciated.

We also went for a quick lunch this past week with "our" set of elders.  They said we had to go to "Primanti Brothers" for a sandwich to be true Pittsburghers!  We went, we ate, and we enjoyed the casual atmosphere,
but we must not be true Pittsburgers yet, because we didn't really enjoy the sandwiches that much.  The fries are actually part of the sandwich! --with a type of cole slaw to boot!  Very messy and tons and tons and tons of carbs---but thought our grandkids would like the sports decor of the place. Notice Terry Bradshaw's head on the wall above Jim.  He is still a hero here.  A new cultural experience!

Monday, January 5, 2015

2015 Begins

We feel excited and ready for the New Year to begin.  We finally feel like we are getting ourselves a little more settled and organized as far as planning our schedule and getting to know a few more ward members.  We schedule visits around ward council meetings, missionary correlation meetings, Addiction Recovery meetings, and district and zone meetings.  Then 7 or so meetings on Sundays!  Missionary work takes alot of meetings, but it is all worth it when we see someone new come to church or find out that someone has made even the slightest progress on one of their goals.
We have our first interviews with the mission president tomorrow so we'll see how that goes.

The young man and his mother from Micronesia/Hawaii that
we have been working with are finally out of the hospital.  They are staying in a hotel for home health and outpatient treatment for another few weeks.  It was quite a milestone when he was discharged from the hospital. It will mean the end of our daily visits there---at least until we are assigned to someone else. It was definitely one way to get to know our way around at least one hospital. We will still visit the hotel and plan to be there to help them until they really go home to Hawaii.

Shortly before the New Year began we spent a couple hours of our Preparation Day walking through the Pittsburgh Zoo.  It is very close to our apartment and it was at least a little bit sunny and a "not too cold" day.  The zoo

seems about the same size as the Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake except that Pittsburgh's Zoo has an aquarium too.  The aquarium doesn't come close to the Atlanta Aquarium in size, but they did have some really interesting exhibits that gave us good picture taking
opportunities.  There were a couple of unusual things we have never seen before.

Parts of the zoo need updating and the bear exhibits will especially  be undergoing major remodeling this winter.  We were glad that we made our visit when we did because the zoo will be closed for a couple of months.  The polar bear exhibit has already been updated and looked a lot like the one in Salt Lake with the polar bears behaving exactly the same way they do in Salt Lake.  They pace back and forth in a steady pattern.  We'll have to look that up and see if it is typical of all polar bears.

New Year's Eve was much quieter than what it usually is for us.  We are used to having many of our family together at the Oakley cabin on New Year's Eve.  Everyone ended up going to the cabin this year except Kent and his family in Atlanta and us here in Pittsburgh.  We did talk to Kent and they had some friends over to their house and had a great time.  We did "face time" with the kids and grandkids at the cabin and it was great to see them having so much fun even in 20 degree below weather.

For our New Year's Eve celebration we were invited to dinner at the Stoddards.  What wonderful people!  We feel like we have known them forever!  Brother Stoddard was just made the stake patriarch.  They have an old home that was built in 1840. They moved in when they were newly married and they have renovated and added on over the years as they raised their six children.  Their home actually reminded Pat of the Crowther's home in West Jordan.  We kept finding things in common with them and the real kicker was that they have a garden and a raspberry patch about the same size as ours!

Then on New's Day we were invited to the home of Sister Eldridge.  She has been cooking since she was 14 years old and loves to cook and also to feed the missionaries!  What a great combination!  We could not believe the work and effort she went
to in preparing a crown pork roast with all the trimmings.  And of course, everything was made from

scratch and totally delicious.  She warned us about her twice baked potatoes being 'killer potatoes' because they have 1,000 calories a piece!

She told us about her conversion story as we ate. We found out that it took her a year to decide to join the church.  Her story was like many others we have heard.  Most of the people we have talked with have said that they grew up with strong Baptist or Catholic roots.  They had Bible reading homes and as they studied it they realized that the restored gospel seemed to answer doctrinal questions that they have always had.  Sister Eldridge loves the elders and they love her.  She actually hasn't attended church for awhile though, but she said she planned to come Sunday and bear her testimony.

It was great to see her and her neighbor both come to church for the beginning of the new year.  She did bear her testimony and they seemed to really enjoy being at church.  Everyone was glad to see them there.