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.

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