Monday, May 25, 2015

Temple Blessings and I-Pads

The first milestone of our temple classes occurred on May 16th.  We were able to travel to the Washington DC Temple with Mary, Mari, and LaShaun.  They each received their endowments that day. We met at the church to leave at 7 AM and then didn't get home until about 10 PM.  We had to take a lunch to eat in the car because there really wasn't even time to stop on the way.  They wanted to purchase some temple clothing there so that took up some of the time.

It was a far cry from being able to drive to the temple in about 10 minutes from our home.  Having to make a sacrifice to get there and concentrating on various aspects of temple worship during the weeks of temple preparation classes really makes us appreciate all that the temple
means in our lives.  It was so wonderful to see the joy on each of their faces as they completed the temple endowment.  They are each so excited to return to the temple again and again.  They are also looking forward to doing much work for their family in the temple.

Another sister, Winnie, was able to go to the temple that day with a friend and do the baptism for the grandmother who raised her.  She also had someone be baptized for her father.  We weren't able to see her at the temple, but we saw the glow on her face as we taught her the final lessons in her home and helped her prepare the names to take to the temple.  It was a long awaited day for her and the first time she had ever been to the temple.  She is looking forward to going back again soon for her endowments.   I was also able to do some alterations for her on a beautiful white suit that she wore to the temple that day. (I just knew there was a reason that I packed my sewing machine in our VERY overloaded car)!

On Monday, May 18th, we were invited to go with the elders and Mel to see Fallingwater, another Frank Lloyd Wright home that is even more famous than the last one we saw.  It was built for a family who wanted to live around nature so much that they had it built so that a waterfall flows through the home.  It was beautiful and I loved how you could sit indoors and yet feel like you were actually outside.  Jim, on the other hand, kept looking at all the maintenance involved in keeping up a house like this.  We actually saw a few leaks in the roof and we think the upkeep is so expensive that they do charge an arm and leg to tour it.  Mel paid everyone's admission which was very kind of him.

Anyway, it was quite an experience to tour it and to have fun thinking what life would be like living there....without having to worry about the mundane realities of leaky roofs, cleaning all those windows, and dusting all that furniture.

We returned to the city by late afternoon and drove directly to a high school on the North Side.  The South African family we have been helping invited us to a school program. Greg and Dorcas were both participants, but we had no idea that they each had major parts in the program.  They brought their native dress with them when they left South Africa and they each had hidden talents we didn't know about.  It turned out that Greg was the MC and played the drums.  Dorcas had a lead part in an African dance that she and about 20 other African kids made up---each using parts of dances they had learned from their homeland.

We were so impressed by the quality of the performance and also by the intricacy of the native dress that their family wore that night.

We really felt like we were in another country for a little while especially since the school is quite a melting pot of many different countries. The countries we noticed represented the most were Nepal and Africa.

The dancers were asked later that night to perform again in a couple weeks at an event at Market Square in downtown Pittsburgh so we hope that we can possibly attend that evening too.

Then on May 21st we attended a meeting that has been looked forward to by all of the missionaries for months and months.  They all got I-pads to use in their missionary work.  It was so fun to share in their excitement and we had some very inspired and wise counsel given about "Missionary Work in the Digital Age".  We were told that the church now has about 25% of it's missions using I-pads---all in the United States right now.  It has been done on a trial basis for quite awhile and is proving very effective in most cases.  We went to the meeting not knowing whether we would get an I-pad or not---and we didn't!  But we can't feel too deprived since we came here with two laptops and an I-pad already!  We have used them a lot in our teaching and so we know how useful they will be to the young elders and sisters.  It was great to be together with all of the elders and sisters in the mission all at once.  It was one of the only times they have all been able to travel from across PA to be together.

I Pad meeting in Cranberry, PA with all 200 plus missionaries

Friday, May 15, 2015

One third of our mission is done!

Well, Sunday was what is nicknamed a  "click day"!  We entered the MTC on November 3rd and 18 months seemed like 'forever' ....then all of a sudden it is already May 3rd---6 months have passed by!!  The couple before us were only on their mission for  6 months and then went home.  We are amazed at all they accomplished.  We hear so many good things about them, but we feel like we are just getting a good start after our first 6 months.

We are still enjoying wonderful spring weather.  We have gorgeous days, but it does seem to rain alot too.  Every week it seems there are at least a few rainy days.  I guess that is why everything looks so great once it quits raining.

One of those gorgeous days was May 4th....our

first Preparation Day where we escaped from the city and took off into the great outdoors.  We went to a place about an hour and a half away called Ohiopyle State Park.  We toured a home built by the famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, and then spent time by the river and waterfalls.  It was just delightful.  We also discovered a rival to some of our favorite hangouts that are near our cabin in Oakley.  It made us a little homesick for summer in Utah, but we are also just loving being able to explore the beautiful Pennsylvania countryside.
 The place we found is the Falls River Inn and we enjoyed a great burger and ice cream there.  It is a stop for many who hike or bike the Great Alleghenny Passage which goes from Pittsburgh to Washington DC.  We plan to return to Ohiopyle soon and try hiking or biking at least one section of the trail.

Then this last Sunday, May 10th, was my one and only Mother's Day on this mission.  It was very busy.  We did have both ward councils canceled that day, but we still taught 2 temple classes and I taught a Relief Society class on the Book of Mormon.  I learned a lot by teaching it.  Later in the day I enjoyed calls to our children and grandchildren, flowers, chocolate, homemade Cafe Rio, and having 4 elders in our apartment calling for their biannual Skype/phone calls home.  What more could I ask for?  I was exhausted by the end of the day, but it was all worth it.

It was especially fun to
Facetime with our very youngest grandchild, Dawson and his family.  He was just barely starting to stand when we left and now he is walking (and running) all over the place.  We also understand that he is a real maniac on his 'wiggle car' on the basketball court near their home.

He is one that will be changed the very most when we get home.  As we Skype and see him on the phone though, he is very interested in talking and interacting with us... so we hope that he will somehow remember us or know us just a little bit a year from now.  He is just SO cute and we think the next "tech" invention should be a way to give hugs and kisses through the phone or computer.

The minute that we start to miss our family though, we get cards from home with our grandchildren telling us about their desire to serve a mission one day.  Then it all seems like we are really doing the right thing.   We can see how much missionary work is blessing us and the young elders and sisters that we work with.  It is an AMAZING AMAZING work!

One of the paydays of a mission rolled around on May 14th.  We were able to attend the baptism of Mel.  He is an older gentleman who owned and ran a florist shop for many years.  He offered to give the elders a ride home from the grocery store one day when it was raining, and before he knew it he was taking the missionary lessons and getting baptized!  We have visited  with him at church and had a dinner for him and the elders at our apartment the day after his baptism.  We are looking forward to getting to know him better in the weeks ahead.

One of my Mother's Day gifts was a plaque with this thought.  We think it applys to families, missionaries, and everyone else too.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Birthdays, Blessings, and Boys

On April 24th Jim celebrated his 67th Birthday in the mission field.  We're getting SO old, but there are definitely perks along the way and one of them is being around all of the young elders and sisters.  They help make us feel young again and we are so happy to be associated with the youth of this work at this time in the history of the church.

There were a couple of other elders who also had BIRTHDAYS the same week and we had occasion to sing to them at various times. But for the most part, birthdays on a mission are work as usual.

We did take our BFF (BEST FRIEND FOREVER), Charlette, out for lunch that day since her birthday is in April too.  Also, because of past events in her life, this month is a very hard month for her.  It was a very nice lunch and it seemed to  brighten up the day for her.

Charlette loves to give and get gifts.

She gave Elder Butler a cute card with a nice note in it.  The best part was what she wrote on the outside.  It gives a little hint to her cute sense of humor.

Jim also talked with each of our kids and many of the grandkids and got nice gifts from them.  It's always especially fun for him to talk to his 'Birthday Buddy', Megan! He says it was a really good birthday.

Now for the BLESSINGS part of the blog.  Our spiritual blessings have truly been amazing. We are continuing to work with members getting ready to go to the temple.  It has made the temple blessings seem even more precious to us as we have taught classes on Sunday and also visited individually in many homes.  Right now it looks quite

promising that we will attend the Washington DC Temple on May 16th with three sisters who will be participating in the ordinance of the 'endowment' there.  We are working with others who are hoping that they will follow later in the summer.

We also got up the courage to ask the leadership of the Vintage Senior Center near us if they would like us to present Family History Classes at the center.  They said 'YES'!!!!  And so it will be a little bit of community service that we think will be challenging..... but we are sure excited about it.  The classes will probably start the end of June or first part of July.

We also had a sweet experience of working with Denise this last week on her family history.  She is such a strong woman and just keeps going in her life.  She has health problems herself and she still
takes care of her 84 year old mother in her home as well as having two brothers live with her.  She also now has her granddaughter who is expecting a baby any day and two great granddaughters living with her.....all in a pretty small home.  Anyway, she has an interest in using the FamilySearch website and we got her signed up for Ancestry on Wednesday.  Sunday she bore her testimony about how wonderful it was for her mom to finally find the names of her grandparents after all these years.  Sometimes when we help people I feel like it is a little like the blind leading the blind, but somehow it seems to work because I think we have a little...or a lot...of help from the other side!

 On April 21st we had "transfer meeting" where all the sisters and elders who are being transfered or getting new companions meet at a church building with all of their luggage packed up.  There is such a sense of anticipation and nervousness in the air during this meeting.  We've heard it said that getting used to change and being flexible is one of the best things that young elders and sisters can do to prepare for missions... because every 6 weeks there are changes made.  It also makes us so glad that we will probably 'stay put' our whole mission.

The building is not far from where we serve and so we like to go if we can.  It is fun
to see where 'our elders' are going and meet past elders and sisters that we have served with.  This leads us to the experience of Jackie!

I met Sister Wade at the transfer meeting for the first time and she asked where we are serving.  When I told her the 'Oakland' area she was very surprised.  She said that she and three other sisters had just had lunch in Oakland and that a woman they met expressed interest in the church and shouted her phone number to them as they got on the elevator.  They didn't have time to get her name and didn't know who to give the phone number to.  Anyway,  she gave me the number and asked if I would follow up because, since they met her in Oakland,  they thought she might live there.  I phoned her later that day and it turns out that she lives in an area across the river from Oakland.  We set up an appointment to visit last Friday and kept wondering how and what to teach her because we don't usually work with non members, but she said she didn't want to meet with the elders just yet.

We kept wondering about the appointment and thought we would probably just visit and get to know her....then the inspiration of President Johnson must have kicked in!  He invited us to a training by two past mission presidents who are now trainers for the Missionary Department.  We were the only Senior Couple invited and wondered why... until they started teaching just exactly what we needed to know to talk with Jackie.

The next day we met with her, learned a little bit about her,  and answered a few of her questions about the church.  Her main question was 'how is your church different from all the rest?'  We presented the Restoration pamphlet pretty closely to how we had been taught and then gave her a Book of Mormon.  She said she would read both the pamphlet and the book and pray about the Book of Mormon.  She said a beautiful prayer at the end.  We left with a new friend and felt very humbled that the Lord had seen fit to help us through our meeting with her by providing exactly the right training that we needed.

One of the most interesting things about the visit was that she is a very influential woman in Pittsburgh.  She is on the Board of Directors of many charitable organizations in the city as well as a city-wide board that determines which organizations get tax money.  She lives in a beautiful, wooded part of the city and even though it isn't in our area we have found out about some of her neighbors who are members of the church.  She was surprised to learn this.  She is very busy, but we hope to meet with her again and soon introduce her to the elders in the area.  Like I said...BLESSINGS  BLESSINGS   BLESSINGS

Now it's time to talk about a couple of the cute BOYS at home!

Blankets for Primary Children's
We have been getting good reports about how these two are doing and just thought it was time for an update.  Luke will turn 11 years old in just a few days.  He is getting almost as tall as his mom and each time we see a picture of him we can see that he looks
just a little bit older.  He is doing really well in Scouting and just got second place on his rain gutter regada creation.  We think that he has the engineering genes from his dad!  Luke is also playing soccer and we hear that he is doing really well.  He especially likes having his Dad for a coach and having his cousin, McCord, on his team.

Next is Brexton.  He will turn 4 years old in October and is playing soccer for the first time.  We have heard that he makes a goal almost every time that he plays.  He has his big brother, McCord, to help him and play with at home.  Last Saturday we happened to be talking on the phone to him right before his game. He left, went to the game, made a goal, and then the
minute he got in the house afterwards wanted to call us and tell us about the game.  That really made us


He also sends great emails to us.  He sent us one a couple of months ago with the help of his mom and dad that went like this..."I like the zoo. My favorite animals are lions, tigers, zebras, and snakes. The zebras were fighting.  I didn't cry at church.  I didn't wrestle. I was good at Primary.  I am nice to my friends.  Love, Brexton