Tuesday, February 24, 2015

More February News

We have been told that February is actually the worst winter month here.  This year it does seem to be true.  We've had two ward/stake activities, church last week, and one meeting of stake conference this week---all canceled because of bad weather.  These cancellations seem very unusual to us, because we don't ever remember church being canceled in Utah because of the weather!  Here they do have to worry about freezing rain, people riding buses, and the wind chill factor.  We've had below zero temps and some snow, but we've been warm and dry and cozy during most of it.   We did have one very slow, somewhat tense, car ride down some of the steep hills here that were covered in snow.  Luckily, Jim is a good driver.   I feel a little embarassed to admit that I haven't driven yet,  but it really takes both of us to navigate the traffic here--Jim as the designated driver and me as the designated back seat driver.  We think they have a way of hiding red lights, stop signs, and turn lanes here.  Pedestrians, on the other hand, end up right in front of cars without any warning at all!  We have come to the conclusion that maybe the kids here grow up playing in the streets-- and so as adults they aren't at all intimidated by traffic and they really do jaywalk right in front of moving cars!  Anyway, right now I am content to practice my back seat driving skills until the road conditions get better.

We are excited and getting ready to start teaching two
temple preparation classes on Sunday and another class for the Matembo family in their home.  This family is one of the most special families that we have ever met.  They originally came from the Congo, then lived in South Africa for four years where they were converted to the church.  They came to Pittsburgh in December shortly after we got here  They have been trying to adjust to life here as well as trying to progress in the church.  They speak Swahili, French---and some English. The kids are especially doing well in English.  It is such a spiritual and reverent feeling to be in their home and we are able to communicate quite well as long as we have a family group setting. This last week we gave the two youngest boys pictures to color of the temple while we talked.  They loved the coloring and they were both so good and reverent.

We had a great Sunday session of stake conference.   It was all on the subject of prayer and it was just so inspiring.  We took Sister Martin and her children with us.  Sister Martin has only been a member for less than a year, but she was asked to speak.  She gave a wonderful talk.  President and Sister Johnson also talked.  President Johnson talked about how all of us have fear (missionary or not) and the role of prayer and revelation in administering the affairs of all the missionaries.  Sister Johnson talked about examples of the Savior praying and mentioned that her brother in law was just killed yesterday in a snow mobile accident.  The stake president, President Peterson, gave great insight about what "real intent" means when we pray.  He said it could mean  "to take action steps".  He then gave examples from the life of Nephi about the many times that he used action steps along with prayer to exercise his faith.  His words were very powerful to us.  As with most church meetings---"you just had to be there" to get the full effect of the spirit, but we hope that we will long remember the words and feelings that we experienced.

We had a great visit this week with Peter and his mom.  Jim and the elders gave them both priesthood blessings since Peter just had surgery and his mom has many worries and stress.  She isn't even a member of the church, but requested a blessing of

comfort.  We've also had good visits with Charlette, Patti, Amiee, and Karen.
We had a spaghetti dinner with two sets of elders the other night and it was really good.  It is fun to cook for them--- and we never have many leftovers!  It fulfills a motherly need I have to feed people I guess, because I really do enjoy it.  I have been pulling out a few old recipes and learning some new ones.

We have also really enjoyed getting text messages, pictures, e-mails, and Skyping with our grandchildren recently.  It is so gratifying to see them all progressing and doing well with the new adventures in their lives.  I decided to start including an occasional picture or two of events that are happening at home while we are gone.  In January Carson became our second grandson to hold the priesthood.  He was ordained a deacon on January 15th and started to pass the sacrament soon afterwards.  He keeps us up to date on what is happening in the world of sports while we are gone too.  When we Skyped with him the other night he just seems so much older and is now taller than his mom!

We also got a cute picture from Heather showing a brand new accomplishment for Brynlee.  She learned to tie her shoes all by herself!!!  She is in her second year of preschool and is getting very ready to go to
kindergarten next year.  She keeps her whole family in line!  We also heard that she and Jenna orchestrated a 'Valentines date' this year for Mike and Heather---- complete with hot tubbing, movie and popcorn on Valentines night.  They did a very good and cute job of waiting hand and foot on the 'love birds'!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


So far the month of February is moving along pretty fast and we have one different experience after another.  One thing that we are learning quickly is that no day is ever the same so it doesn't get too boring.

The days have alternated between single digit temperatures and up into the 40's and 50's---mostly cloudy but with a few sunny days here and there.  The building art at the right caught our eye and brightened up an otherwise dull kind of day.  It is on the South Side.

We have been trying to capture a lot of the interesting and positive scenes of the city, but there are a lot of pockets of run-down, bad neighborhoods.  One of these days we might show a few pictures of those areas too.... just to help our grandkids realize how blessed they are to have back yards to play in and a mom AND a dad.

We got kind of an interesting call from our Mission President last week.  He said one of the elder's moms called him to ask how safe our apartment building really is.  She said she had called to order pizza for her son as a surprise and when she told the pizza guy the address of our building, he said "What's a white boy doing in a neighborhood like that"!  The President has never seen our building or neighborhood and was really concerned to think we might all be in danger.  We kind of laughed and told him not to worry too much, but our area does have a bad reputation.  It seems that it was once the very wealthiest of all neighborhoods in Pittsburgh with names such as Carnegie, Mellon, and Westinghouse as neighbors.   In the 1960's the suburbs began to take over and in order to draw business to the area, a major redevelopment of the business district was undertaken.  It was planned badly and traffic was diverted from the area instead of attracted to it.  The closing of steel mills didn't help either.  Large beautiful homes were left in disrepair and made into apartments, crime dramatically increased and it became the worst neighborhood in Pittsburgh.

Over the last several years many major retailers have opened business in the area and there is a Home Depot, Target, and Google offices nearby.  There is a lot of new construction going on now and when we looked on the internet it sounds like property values are going up and crime is going dramatically down.  Anyway, we feel relatively safe, BUT we still don't walk outside at night around here!!---and we aren't sure if we can get a pizza man to deliver to us either!  Anyway, we think the President may be visiting us soon to check up on things.

We also had a very tender experience this past week.  We were in the middle of attending the Addiction Recovery meeting that we attend each week and we got a phone call from one of the families that we have been trying to help and support at the Children's Hospital.  Jessica and Mike have been at the hospital with their baby for the past seven months.  The baby has a heart defect and has been awaiting a transplant.  He was recently taken off of the transplant list due to another condition.  Anyway, they made friends with Teresa, one of the other mom's there, who also had a sick baby.  Teresa's baby died that day and Jessica and Mike were trying to comfort her and her friend.  They all stay close by the hospital at the Ronald McDonald house.  Jessica asked if we could come over and help.  We left right away and met them at the Ronald McDonald home.  It was such a sad and tender time for all of us.  Jessica and ourselves were the only members of the church in the group.  Jessica's husband, Mike, is currently taking the missionary lessons.  Teresa and her friend, Penny, both said they are Christian and they poured out their hearts and life stories to us.  It was just so sad and yet so comforting to have the scriptures in our hands, and to be able to read some words of comfort from Moroni Chapter 8 to them.  We explained the Plan of Salvation and we could see the yearning for hope in their eyes.  Jim gave Teresa a priesthood blessing.   It was a spiritual experience that I don't think we will ever forget.

Yesterday, we drove with Jessica to a little town in Ohio to attend the viewing of the baby.  There are two sister missionaries who happen to live right in the same town and on the same block as the funeral home.  This is amazing because the sisters cover a large area.  Anyway, we met them there with Teresa's permission and we were all able to visit with Teresa, her family and her husband's family from LA and Chicago.  Jim also had a nice visit with a woman there who was the Lutheran Vicar who was performing the funeral service later in the evening.  It was a good opportunity to share some light and hope and common ground with all of them.  We hope we were able to do that.  Teresa and the sister missionaries exchanged phone numbers before they left.

Then Penny, Teresa's friend,  invited us to a luncheon at her church in between viewings.  They had decided to have two viewings separated by a luncheon and then a short service at 8 in the evening.  We attended the luncheon at a nearby church, we met the pastor and visited with the four ladies who prepared and served the luncheon.  It was very similar to our church funeral luncheons--ham, salads, rolls etc.--and the sisters serving would fit right in at Relief Society! They were all very friendly and warm to us and we took a tour of the church building with the pastor.

And so we will hope that seeds of the gospel and goodwill were planted that will one day grow.  Planting seeds.....that's what it's all about.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Time Flies By

We spend our weeks driving around the city to appointments, visiting members, going to missionary meetings, hospital visits, ward activities, grocery shopping and we fit in sight seeing where we can.  The weeks seem to fly by from Sunday to Sunday.
We were able to fit in a visit to the Frick Art Museum this week, but realize that we actually have lots of art to see as we drive.  The building art at the left is one of the first we saw when we came to Pittsburgh.  It is on the side of a building very near our apartment. It is so cool how it was made to look three dimensional.

Along with the art museum, we took a tour of the home of Henry Clay Frick called "Clayton".  Mr. Frick was one of the richest  men in the world at one time.  He was good friends and business partners with Andrew Carnegie and Andrew Mellon.  It was very interesting to tour his home and imagine what the home and city were like during the "Gilded Age".  Pittsburgh was once one of the top six wealthiest, most influential cities in the world.

We were also invited to go to lunch at the home of the Hoskins again with the elders.  We went there on Christmas Day and enjoyed being with them.  Sister Hoskins is from Brazil and made a special dessert called "flan".  It's a little tricky to make it, but she said she has been doing it since she was 14 years old.

I asked her how to make it and so she spent a little extra time before lunch this week to show me how.  We served it last night for dessert after Sunday dinner with the elders and it was really good.  It is fun to expand our horizons a bit to different types of foods and culture.

We were also sad to have some of the Elders we have grown close to move on to different things this past week.  Elder Dennison and Bailey went home.  Elder Harper was made assistant to the Mission President and so he moved closer to the mission home and office.  He was delightful to have so near to us (in our same apartment building) and we will really miss him.

Elder LeBaron replaced Elder Harper. His companion is Elder Sorenson so we still have Elder Sorenson with us in the same apartment building.

One of Elder Harper's favorite things to do was come and relax in our apartment and take advantage of the comfy recliner that we have in the corner of the living room.  Elder's Sorenson and LeBaron didn't waste any time in taking over the recliner!

We have been so impressed with the caliber of young men and women who are serving missions here.  We get a weekly email from President Johnson and he sent a newspaper article about two elders in Hershey, PA.  It is quite far from us and we don't know the elders, but it really could have been written about any of the young men and women that we have met here.  Thought it was neat that they were recognized even though that is not why they did it.