Monday, July 27, 2015

Night Out, Surprise Visit with Sister Welch, and Amazing P-Day

Dinner out with the Elcocks & Clarksons
Great table, Great food & Great friends
We got a call during the week from two couples working in the mission office outside of Pittsburgh asking if we might have some time to get them into a museum in the city on Saturday, the 18th, with our passes.  They usually have their P-day on Saturday instead of Monday like we do.  Anyway, we agreed to meet them with our guest passes and then went about our day with appointments.  We later met them for dinner at a restaurant that Jim and I have wanted to go to for some time.  It is called the Grand Concourse and is an old converted railroad station with the big letters P&LERR on the top of the building.  The letters stand for Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad.
Can't help but think that it sounds like something from the Monopoly game!  Anyway, we had a very nice dinner with the Elcocks and Clarksons and it was good to relax and have time to talk about mission experiences.  The stained glass in the building is really beautiful.  It is the first really nice dinner we have indulged in here and we really enjoyed it.

The next morning we were so glad to get Sister Page to church.  She is a sister we have been visiting that is on oxygen and is a little unsteady on her feet.  So she needs a wheelchair when she goes out somewhere. In a lot of ways she reminds us of my sweet mom that we miss so much.

She studies the scriptures diligently at home and loves to feed the missionaries when her health permits.  She is the only member of the church in her family and they have not been too helpful in helping her come to church.  Ever since we met her 8 months ago she has told us how much she wanted to come to church, but she has never been able to make it.  So with a little bit of phone calling we got her set up with ACCESS which is a transportation service available here for seniors.  Jim worked on her oxygen and got the portable working for the first time in quite awhile.  The first time getting her to church was a lot of work, but it was worth it to see everyone greet her at the meetings on Sunday.  And.... it sounds like her family now knows that she is serious about attending and will help her get there after this.

Our mission zone was looking forward to a special Sunday evening fireside (meeting) for quite some time and the evening finally arrived.  We traveled about 45 minutes away to the chapel at Monroeville (or Plum as some call it) and took a couple of teen girls with us.  The featured speakers were President and Sister Johnson and Chris Hoke.  Chris Hoke is very well known here in Pittsburgh.  He is a former BYU lineman and also a Pittsburgh Steeler for two Super Bowl championships.  He is now a bishop in the stake just north of us.  The thought crossed our minds that it would sure be nice to have Megan there participating in such a spiritual evening.  But then we quickly realized that she

was out of our zone and probably too far away for it to be practical.  She and her companion have a mission car, but they are limited on the miles they can drive each month.  So even though they have a car, they still do a lot of walking.

We were also singing in a missionary choir as part of the
meeting,  along with 40 or so other missionaries. Anyway,  I was out in the hall speaking with a missionary with a health problem when all of a sudden I saw her in the hallway.  What a surprise!  We hugged and hugged!  They had found out that they could come about 2 hours before the meeting started.  A member in their ward wanted to go to the fireside and said that she would drive them.  The program was wonderful and was interspersed with inspirational videos and musical numbers from some very talented missionaries.  I even got to sit right next to Megan and sing in the choir right next to her too!  It was a dream come true for all of us.
After the fireside we were able to introduce Megan and her companion to many of the members and missionaries from our area,   We also all got to talk with Bishop Hoke.  He is very personable and likeable and seems like he would be a great bishop.

The next day was P-day.  We have been waiting and waiting to have good weather on a Monday and it finally happened.  Jim and I took advantage of it and rented bikes in downtown Pittsburgh.  We then went on an amazing bike ride.

 There are paved bike trails along both the Allegheny and Monogahaela Rivers as well as bike paths over most of the bridges.  It was such a fun way to see the city from up close.  We were gone about 3 hours and rode around Point State Park as well as many areas that we hadn't really noticed before.  It is definitely something that we want to do again.

Our missionary work this past week was also interprespered with a unplanned visit to the Pittsburgh City Courthouse with a set of elders (a long story and not the elders fault).  The Courthouse experience was not the most pleasant that we've had on our mission, but one that we won't forget.  Jim also helped line up a Nepali translator from our previous mission stake in South Salt Lake to visit with elders  here who are teaching Nepali investigators that don't speak English well.  I was also asked by one of our bishops to accept an assignment as a home study seminary teacher for this next school year to some refugee teens.  This assignment meant that I spent all day Saturday at a teacher training while Jim caught up on things at home.  I've decided this is what I get for being a seminary dropout!!  We also did our first apartment inspection of the Northside Elder's apartment for the mission office.  Jim's contribution to the inspection was to let the landlord know that they need a new front door!  We are finding out that our previous experiences really are coming in handy on this mission.  Every week is SO different.  We start each week wondering what will happen next!!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

More Rain, "The District", and MEGAN'S ARRIVAL ! !

We are still having lots of rainy days, but luckily it doesn't usually last all day and the weather has basically been cool and comfortable when it's not raining.  It is gradually getting a little warmer, but so far it doesn't seem too much like the heat we get in Utah.  From what we've heard, the rest of July and the month of August may be much more hot and humid.

We have been part of the biggest district we have ever been in these last few weeks. There have been 3 sets of elders from the two wards we are assigned, the zone leaders who are Young Single Adult missionaries, and then us.  Ten of us in all.  Our district leader was Elder Hunksaker and it has been a great district.  We've had lots of great district meetings, gone with almost all of the companionships to many lessons, had dinners in our apartment with them,  and had fun going with them all to lunch at Chipotle, Subway, and Boston Market.

We were also able to get them into the Science Center and the History Museum with our passes.

The districts change a little (or a lot) at each transfer meeting due to people going home, elders being transferred in, and just changes in leadership in general.  Anyway, it has been a great group to work with and get to know.

We are sad to see it all come to an end, but it is just part of life on a mission.  You really do have to get used to change.  We can't complain because we don't have nearly as much to get used to as the young elders and sisters.

We have felt privileged to have been part of such an amazing group.

Then on July 14th we attended transfer meeting and helped to
welcome cute Sister Welch and 28 other missionaries to the mission---the biggest transfer that President and Sister Johnson have ever had.  It felt like such a tender mercy and blessing for us to see her as a missionary.  It will be wonderful to be able to share with her the people and places that we have come to know and love.  What a unique blessing and opportunity that has come to us!

It was quite a coincidence that her first area is "Butler, PA".  She has a great trainer and it seems like they will work really well together.  Just SO, SO excited for her to begin her experiences.

We also had some great missionary moments this week where we definitely felt the power of the Lord reaching out to some of the people that we are working with.

 Moment #1----We felt the blessing of helping to get 3 great kids to youth conference in Palmyra at the very last moment. They were all so excited to go and it just wouldn't have happened if the Lord hadn't directed us to be at the right place at the right time.

  Moment #2----After struggling for 2 plus weeks to get major issues with Comcast taken care of for a refugee family---everything finally worked.  We got approval
for them to subscribe to a low cost internet program after they had been taken advantage of by telemarketers because of language barriers.  They will probably even be able to buy a low cost computer besides!! This means they can do school work, job hunting and online seminary now!

 Moment #3----We had a wonderful district meeting with our new district, interviews with President & Sister Johnson, and then dinner at Sister Eldridges home.  Sister Eldridge is a wonderful cook that spares no calories in her cooking.  The elders love her cooking and it does taste SO good.  She loves the church and the elders.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Senior trip, lots of rain, and 4th of July

Our mission president assigned us to plan some senior outings and conferences for the next few months so during the last part of June we planned a trip to Kirtland, Ohio and the Columbus temple.  We went with four other senior couples from the mission and, although it was a lot of driving, we had a very nice time.  We especially enjoyed spending a little extra time in the upstairs room of the John Johnston home.  We spent the night at the Hiram Inn at Hiram State College and then drove to Columbus the next day.  Our day in the temple was just very, very special and we were able to do ordinances for several family names.

We heard that Pittsburgh was known for 'bad weather' when we came here, but we hadn't really experienced it as that unusual until this past month.  It seems like it has definitely rained most days of the month.  

The trees and scrubs are exploding and everywhere is just so, so green.   Even so, the rain has not stopped many of our activities and missionary work.  Things dry out or soak in or drain off very quickly-- even after downpours that drop several inches of rain.  The elders who walk everywhere are affected the most by the unexpected rainstorms.  We were with them for dinner at a members home recently and they had to walk home in pouring rain.  They had forgotten umbrellas and so they decided to borrow garbage bags from the member.  Our car was not big enough for all of them so we offered to shuttle them back and forth to their apartments---but no----they said they wanted to make memories!

We are starting to get used to having unusual experiences crop up here.  We got a call from a 7th Ward bishopric member on Thursday asking if we could help with a funeral on Friday for some out of town members.  Turns out that they are from Atlanta-- very close to where Kent lives.  We visited with
them (John, his wife and 16 year old son) in their hotel early Friday morning and then helped with a small graveside service and dedication of the grave.  The service was for John's dad who had lived all of his life in Pittsburgh, died at 91, and was being buried next to his wife in a cemetery close by.  It was amazing how we got to know the family and had many close feelings and connections with them.  John, who is a non member of the church, has since had some good conversations on the phone with Jim since the funeral.  John has actually contacted Kent to see if they can get together with them at some point.  We just never know what to expect next!

Rain was in the forecast for the 4th of July and we wondered how things would turn out for all of the planned festivities.  It actually turned out to be quite a pleasant day and it was a beautiful evening for fireworks at Point State Park.  We went to a ward barbecue during the day at the home of one of the young couples in the 7th Ward.  Then we went to visit a member of the 1st Ward in the hospital and spent most of the afternoon there.  The mission president asked all missionaries to be home by 9:30 pm and so we ended up watching fireworks on TV.  We heard that the show here in Pittsburgh is the 4th biggest in the country and it really was spectacular.  Seeing the fireworks with the lights of the city reflected onto the river was pretty amazing---even on our little HDTV screen.  Maybe we'll get back here one day to see them in person down on the river!
Pittsburgh fireworks via TV