Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Happy Happy Easter Week!

We had a great zone conference this past week and the new Easter video was introduced.  It was shown at the meeting and we were given cards to pass out as we visit with people.  It is a great and uplifting message and we hope everyone takes 3 minutes to watch it this Easter season.

Jim and I were both surprised to be asked to share our testimonies during the meeting.  The theme for the conference was "Using Time Wisely" and we realized as we talked and listened to others what "a gift" we have been given to be able to just be on our mission.  It makes us want to try even harder to make sure we are using the time we have been given wisely.

We feel the great power of the united missionary force when we meet together in zone meetings and conferences.  And....we also feel the quiet power of individual testimonies of the Savior as we visit one on one with individuals.

I had an awesome experience at church on Sunday.  The oldest Matembu daughter, Dorcas, asked me to help her prepare a lesson on the atonement and come to class with her while she presented it.  We talked about the lesson and she made some notes.  I explained a little about the scripture in Matthew ll:28-30 that says "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."  Some of the English words in the scriptures such as "yoke" need to be explained to this family and in the process it helps us understand them better too.  Anyway, Dorcas, did a wonderful job leading a discussion on how the atonement helps us through the trials of life.  She and the other girls and leaders shared experiences where they had felt peace and comfort from the atonement.  We then played the Mormon Message "Mountains to Climb".    The spirit was so strong in class that day.

We also had a very fun evening on Sunday night when we invited a set of elders and a young couple from our ward to visit and have dinner with us.  Jay and Su are both second generation members of the church.  Jay's parents are from Taiwan but he grew up in Orem.  Su is from Malaysia.  She taught Chinese at Herriman High School and we found out that they lived very close to us at one time.

Anyway, our granddaughter, Kennedy, is in second grade and is in a Chinese immersion program.  So we arranged to Skype after dinner and Kennedy and Su could converse together.  It was very fun to watch them!
Kennedy is an energetic, happy, and talented 7 year old in our family and she seems to really like learning to speak Chinese.  She had a wonderful time celebrating Chinese New Year with her school class this past year.  She has also recently begun taking violin lessons again so we hope to hear her play when we get home!

Another fun experience for Jim has to do with his favorite sport...basketball.  He is starting to teach the Matembu family how to play.  They are all natural athletes, but haven't had the opportunity to learn many sports.  Gregory is a talented soccer player that we hope to be able to watch play some games this spring and summer.  He has never played much basketball though. The two older girls, as well as the younger boys, are also interested.

Anyway, Pat thinks Jim's secret desire has always been to be a basketball coach and so this may be his big chance.

The family has the week off for spring break so we hope to be able to go to the church with them a couple of times to practice.

Then today was P-day and we had another amazingly fun thing happen that really seemed planned out by our Heavenly Father to bless a sweet family that we met.  We decided that it deserves a blog post all of it's own!

So........Stay tuned for the next riveting episode in our blog world!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Fun, laughter......and a few tears along the way.....

Saw this little plaque in a member's home and thought what good advice it is for missionaries-- as well as anyone else.

Sometimes, the ups and downs of trying to help people can be a little discouraging.  Finding the fun and humor in situations is what seems to get us through them.

It is always discouraging when members don't come to church when they say they will.  Transportation is a real issue here.... as well as work and family situations.

This past week some of our "up" moments were going to visit Denise with no particular goal in mind--- only to find out that she has never done any family history work.  We gave her the "My Family" book and she is excited to start  filling it out.  So glad we decided to make the visit!

Having all of our temple class members in the 1st Ward present and accounted for on Sunday was also a high point.  Talking with one sister afterwards was also very rewarding as she poured her heart out to us.  We haven't met anyone before who has had so many tragic happenings in life.  We couldn't  help but shed a few tears along with her.  Even so,  it was so great for us to be able to tell her that we know that if she keeps trying, that she will feel the power of the atonement in her life. We know that it will bless her tremendously. She promised she wouldn't ever give up and forcefully told us that she felt the Lord sent us after her because the last couple missionaries didn't quite get the job done!  She is one of the funniest and most fun people we know!

Another "up" was a fun P-day.  Jim and I

parked on Mt. Washington and rode the "incline" (a railway type car that goes down steep hills into town.) We then roamed around Station Square (an old railroad depot) and walked across the Smithfield Bridge into downtown.  We are still a little lost in downtown.......so it may take a few more trips to not look so much like tourists.  We ended up at the Point State Park (where the two rivers--Alleghenny & Monogahaela---converge to create the Ohio River.  The elders from the 1st and 7th Wards were there playing football.  They were just ending their game so we took a few pictures and then left to go meet with the Matembu family for Family Home Evening.

Another fun moment was seeing this van parked a couple of blocks from our apartment.  We told the elders that it was our new "dream car".  It makes us smile just thinking of us driving around in it.  Our kids and grandkids would be SO embarrassed!
The way we are going, we worry that we may be in need of a new vehicle when we get home.  The roads and traffic seem very hard on cars here.  Often we see side view mirrors sheared off because the roads are so narrow!

Really, we are more and more grateful for our garage and realize how rare it is to get one here in the city.  Having it is a real blessing!

One bit of fun family news was to get a text of Kent on
a spur of the moment trip to Paris.  He has been on a whirlwind UPS trip for the past week and has more to go.  Guess he didn't have enough to see with his stops to Amsterdam, Vilnius, Warsaw, Brussels, Dusseldorf, Milan, and Madrid. So he and a coworker ended up taking a "spontaneous" trip to the Eiffel Tower.  Don't know where he gets his energy!!!

We are so thankful for all of the protection, care, and love that we feel from our Heavenly Father to us, our family, and to all others.  We feel that He is real.........and He cares.......and is always reaching out to all of His children even when the bad things of life come our way.

 Knowing that does help us to truly enjoy life and not just endure.

Saturday, March 14, 2015


Who says that Friday the 13th is bad news?  We got the very best news that mission grandparents could ever get yesterday on 3/13/15.  And...... I think it's the biggest surprise we have EVER gotten.  

Megan found her mission call in the mailbox in the afternoon and she and her parents arranged for friends and family to gather at 8:45 pm Utah time.  Emily had previously arranged for everyone in the family to connect via Skype, but we were a little skeptical that it would actually work.

Anyway, it was 10:45 pm for us and Kent and Shelly, but one by one we got on Skype and it worked perfectly!  Of course Megan's family, Brent and Emily and their family, Megan's bishop, Alex, and some of their other friends were there. Megan stood in the living room to open the envelope.

We all made one 'stateside guess' and one 'foreign guess' beforehand and Heather put all the guesses on a big map.  Of course, the tension began to mount.  Jim and I wondered whose guess in the family would come closest.  The farthest thing on our minds was the Pennsylvania Pittsburgh mission.....BUT.....that is what came out of her mouth as she read the letter!!!  Our mouths dropped open and we began to suspect that Jared or maybe Kent had somehow done a 'fake' letter or something to trick us by pulling an early April Fool's joke.

Megan showed us the letter on the screen up close..... but we still didn't believe it.  Finally, they opened up her packet and showed us the picture of President and Sister Johnson.
Only then did we start to believe...  I started screaming so loud that we probably woke our neighbors up.

It turns out that Emily was the only one to actually guess Pittsburgh!

We tried to sleep last night and couldn't.  Today we had a ward activity.  We've almost been afraid to spread the news in case there was some weird mistake or something.  Anyway, I held it in as long as I could today at the activity and then finally told some of the sisters in the ward.  They were amazed also and very happy for us.  It just seems like that sort of thing hardly ever happens.   Then I took some time to 'facebook' a little. Thanks to all of those who have sent messages of congratulations.  Each of us talked to Megan again for a few minutes too. 

We actually just welcomed Megan's friend from St. George here last week at the transfer meeting and I also spoke on the phone with another one of her friends here about a medical issue.  Just lots of St. George connections all of a sudden.

All in all, it has been quite an unforgettable day, and I have had trouble concentrating on the missionary work at hand.  We will just try to work extra hard next week!!!

Tomorrow we have a long and busy day at church.  Sister Johnson has started giving me a few medical calls and I have follow up calls to make.  We are teaching two temple classes,  Jim is teaching a ward council training class, and he is also ordaining Peter to the office of priest in the Aaronic priesthood.  Tomorrow we are having some elders to dinner and we will enjoy spreading  the word to them also!

Like I said at first.  It's amazing, amazing news.  We are just so grateful and feel so blessed!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

More good news from home... and good news here!

We were so grateful to be able to Skype with our family on the day of our precious Heidi's baptism this last week.  We also talked to her on the phone as she opened up her "Heritage Book" that we give to all of our grandchildren when they are baptized.  She was just so excited to take this step in her life.  As we visit with people here in the mission field, we are more impressed than ever about how great it is when children can be put on the right path early in their lives.  What a wonderful and blessed life that Heidi.... and all of our other grandchildren.... have in store for them, as they learn and live the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We love you, Heidi, and are so proud and happy for you.

It is hard being away for occasions like the baptism, but we are also finding that the pain we feel is tempered by the sweet experiences that we are having here on our mission.  The spirit of service and missionary work seems to soften our longings for home.  We are just so happy that we can try to give to others the joy we feel from the having the gospel in our lives and seeing it blossom in the lives of our family members.

Ed (center holding baby) was baptized last week and it was one of those sweet experiences.  Brother Stoddard is standing next to him and has known and worked with Ed for 23 years to help him get ready for this day.  The elders on either side were just beaming with joy and even Brother Stoddards son, Eric, knew how important the occasion was.  Ed and his wife, Angel, have another twin baby and three other children.  What a great family unit they are and will become in the years ahead.

We also got a surprise and had a set of elders call us and invite US to dinner on a P-day!  They also invited President and Sister Johnson.  It was quite unique.  Sister Johnson mentioned that after 30 years of them feeding missionaries this was the first time they had ever been invited to dinner by elders.  We enjoyed dinner and wondered a little if they were trying to "butter up" the President a bit so that they don't get transfered OR get more miles assigned to them OR get to keep their car.  Also, the elder standing is the one who continually mentions Megan's picture to us when he comes to our house!  Anyway, it was fun and they did a good job with dinner and entertaining us.
After dinner we took President and Sister Johnson with us to visit the Matembu family.  We told the President about this wonderful family earlier. When he found out that they spoke French and that we were teaching Temple Preparation classes to them in their home he asked if they could go with us.  President Johnson speaks French and so it was a great experience for them to speak with him and for the Johnson's to get to know them.

We had another wonderful lesson with them last night.  They are so diligent and excited about learning from the scriptures. They also have the most beautiful singing voices.  It is such a treat
to be able to start and end our lessons by singing acappella with them from the hymn book.  They help to make our voices sound better and we even start thinking we can sing a little bit!

Our temple classes are also going well on Sundays.  We have LaShawn, Charlotte, Mari, Karen, and Calvin in one class.  In the afternoon class we have Peter, Mary, Carly, and Winnie.  We teach the same lessons in each one, but it is amazing how the Spirit directs the discussion according to the needs of individuals in the group.  If things go well, we hope to finish the lessons sometime around the first part of May.  We are looking forward to taking some trips to one of the temples (either Columbus, Ohio or Washington D. C.) with some of these wonderful people. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

'March'in On!

Ok....having all this togetherness is causing Jim's sense of humor and love of puns to rub off on me --hence the title of this blog!  Actually it does show our excitement to have a cold and snowy  February gone.  We are just fine with February moving on out and going in to March.  We are ready for SPRING, but so far it is still very wintery.  March is definitely coming 'in like a lion' so we hope it will leave like a lamb!

This last week or so has been filled with many service opportunities.  We helped prepare and serve dinner at the Ronald McDonald House on Thursday.  Jessica and Mike's baby has been in the hospital for all seven months of his life and so they basically live here in Pittsburgh at the Ronald McDonald house.  They normally live about 3-4 hours away in eastern Pennsylvania. They were in charge of fixing a meal for the other families and asked if the missionaries would help.  It was great to visit with other families also staying at Ronald McDonald.  One woman was from Boston and has two children with liver problems.  One just had a transplant and the other will have one soon.  Her husband is staying home in Boston with another child.

Another family was the mom and
grandma of a 12 year old girl who has a rare form of leukemia.  They live an hour away and she has been in the hospital for two months.  They talked about what  a shock it was to take the little girl to the doctor one afternoon and a few hours later to have their whole lives changed.  We visited and felt an instant connection with them. They mentioned how they hoped they could give back and come and provide a meal one day when they are through with their ordeal.  We offered our help if they ever want to do that and gave them a pass along card with our contact info on it.

We also visited with a man who brings a service dog to the house to play with the siblings and family members staying there.  He said he had a friend who was Mormon and knew our church liked service opportunities.  Again--another small connection and someone familiar with the church.

We also fed the elders last night after they finished doing a service project to help someone move.  The elders in this area probably don't get fed by members as much as in some areas so we are trying to fill in the gaps as much as we can.  It is sure fun to get to know them all.

Then today (Saturday) we participated in a service project of fix up jobs in the home of Lois and Rod.  Rod has severe Parkinson's disease.  We also helped arrange for part of the crew to help Martha move some things to a storage shed.  It was a great opportunity for her to see church service in action and she really appreciated it.

We've decided that a mission is a fun opportunity to look for service and to have the time to devote to it.

Now for our news from home..... Courtney is now 16 and was
supposed to get her Young Womanhood Award in church this past week, but Atlanta had weather problems from "fear of snow."  It actually did snow a couple of inches, but after the whole city being shut down last year, the officials were probably extra cautious this year.  Anyway, the kids missed three days of school!  She should get her award this week and we are SO proud of her.  She has also participated in  a "Science Olympiad" and she and her friend came in 4th out of 26.  She also got to go see the play "Wicked" with her mom this past week.  She continues to love learning and doing good things in her life. We are so proud of her.

We recently heard about McCord too.  He is our 9 year old grandson, who has been playing indoor soccer this winter and got a goal last week.

 He has also become interested in riding horses over the last several months.  He has a perfect setup with his Grandpa Tico having the horses near his home for him to ride. He wrote to us recently that he is planning to have his own horse in June!  We're not sure about all of the details involved in this, but we wish him the best with his goal.   He is involved in 4H and as can be seen by his picture......he is one handsome boy!

Life keeps moving on and we just keep trying to catch up!