Sunday, November 29, 2015

Thanksgiving and More

The Christmas season in Pittsburgh actually starts before Thanksgiving.  We had a very fun night on November 20th.  Gregorie is one of the members we are very close with and he is a very talented young man.  One of his talents is playing the drums.  We were able to attend the Pittsburgh "Light Up Night" downtown to watch Gregorie play the drums in a jazz band.  The atmosphere and weather were wonderful and we had a really good time taking it all in.  We have never been walking downtown at night before so it was a new experience for us.  The large tree in the PPG plaza was lit and it will have ice skating around it all winter.  A German Christmas village of shops is also set up and of course we did a little shopping.  We don't normally like crowds and traffic, but we found a great parking garage and then took the "T" (subway/trax) to maneuver from one place to another.  There are actually other tree lightings and fireworks and just lots and lots of fun things going on everywhere during this celebration.  Last year we watched the city from a viewpoint at Mount Washington, but it was fun to be a part of things even more this year.

The next day we were so happy to be able to make temple trip to the Columbus, Ohio temple with members from the 7th Ward.  Our sweet friend, Winnie, took the temple preparation class that we taught last spring.  She went to the Washington D.C. temple at that time to do baptisms, but she was so excited to be able to go this time to complete her own ordinances.  Amiee is a recent convert and she was also elated to be able to go to Columbus and do baptisms.  Nadja is another sister who went to do baptisms. She also found it to be a very satisfying experience, and we are looking forward to going again soon with her and others.

Quite a bit of preparation and coordination in travel plans are always necessary for these temple trips.  Each of these sisters has a few health concerns so it was especially gratifying to be able to help with the preparation and see them all be able to accomplish this goal.

We also recently heard a great story from the elders at district meeting.  Our district leader, Elder Kocherhans, and his companion, Elder Gull were out walking in a neighborhood here called Braddock.  It's a steel mill town that still actually has a functioning mill.  They came across a group

of young teenagers playing basketball and asked if they could join in.  The teenagers reluctantly let them join with obvious disdain for two guys with white shirts and ties wanting to play basketball.  They didn't realize that the two elders are actually very good basketball players and by the end of the game, the elders had definitely earned the respect of the kids.  They finished with a challenge game.  The challenge was that if the elders won then the kids would have to listen to a missionary lesson.  The elders ended up claiming victory and the kids all sat down and listened to a short lesson on the Book of Mormon.  The elders offered them books and gave out all of the Book of Mormons that they had in their backpacks.  They recounted this story to us in our "highlight moments" of district meeting and shared the picture they took with us.  Fun experience to hear about!!

During this month we were also able to have another P-day with Megan and her companion.  Megan's companion, Sister Wall, has not spent much time in Pittsburgh so we went to the Cathedral of Learning and also spent a little time at the church where Jim and Megan got to compete a bit in ping pong.  Sure didn't think we would ever see a picture like this taken on our mission!

We had another great family history experience while giving one-on-one help to Sandra at the Vintage Center.  Sandra is one of many non member of our church who has attended the classes that we presented at Vintage.    We were finally able to sit down with her and get her signed up for Family Search.  We had a short prayer with her before we started because we explained that our experience has been that the veil is very thin when we do family history work. We told her that we feel that we need the help from those on the other side of the veil.  We put her father's name into the program and had a couple of historical records pop up.  We went into the Find-a-grave index and when she recognized her father's name and information she got tears in her eyes.  Of course, I got a little teary at the same time.  It just seemed that he was very near to us at that moment.  Anyone who has done much Family History will know the feeling that we all experienced at that precious moment.  She is now busy trying to gather more information at home and we plan to have another meeting with her next month.

Thanksgiving day we had another "first" holiday experience with Margaret and Janet.  Margaret is an African American member of the church who saw the elders in her neighborhood several years ago.  She called to them and invited them into her home to explain the dangers of the neighborhood that she lives right beside.  Before she knew it, she was embracing the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and after studying it for many months Margaret joined the church.   Margaret became interested in family history and began searching for a lost brother.  Unbeknownst to her, her brother had died, but his daughter, Janet, had been searching for any extended family for 20 years.  At one point she even hired a private investigator with no success.  Her father had not kept in touch with any relatives nor even ever talked about his family.  Several months ago through the help of Ancestry, Family Search and Facebook,  Margaret was able to connect with her niece, Janet.  Margaret went to North Carolina last spring to visit Janet.  This Thanksgiving Janet and her 3 year old daughter made the trip to Pittsburgh to visit with Margaret and meet all of the extended family.  She was just so happy to meet aunts, uncles, and cousins that she didn't know she had.

Thanksgiving dinner was held at a restaurant on the Northside and we, along with 4 elders, were invited to attend the dinner.  We met so many warm and wonderful members of the family that day. a Margaret said it is only a small part of her large extended family.  It was great to see Janet introduced to all of the rest of the family.  We missed having a more traditional dinner with all of our family, but we will definitely chalk it up as one of our very enjoyable and memorable holidays.  We felt very honored to be included.

The next part of the story is that Janet soon realized that Margaret was a member of the Mormon church.  Janet says she actually studied with the Mormon missionaries many years ago, but became distracted and didn't continue.  She is very knowledgable with the Bible and has really enjoyed having two lessons with the elders that we were able to attend.  She is excited to get connected with the church in North Carolina and to continue taking the lessons there.  She is even considering baptism if she continues to feel as positive as she does now about the things she is learning.  She feels that the teachings from the Book of Mormon fits in so well with her present knowledge of  Bible teachings.

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