Tuesday, March 22, 2016


On March 9th we had our last zone conference here.  It was one of the most spiritually exhausting, but wonderful, days we have spent on our mission.  It was great to see the new public affairs initiative presented and to get our cards.  The website, FollowHim.mormon.org has a short video as well as the Tabernacle "virtual" choir presentation.  It is amazing!!

As always, hearing President and Sister Johnson's messages was totally inspiring.  We were also asked to give our departing testimonies at the end of the meeting since it will be our last zone conference before we leave.  President Johnson arranged the last musical number right before our talks to be a medley of songs played by Sister Welch (Megan) of God Be With You Till We Meet Again and I'll Go Where You Want Me to Go.  She played it beautifully and it was so touching to us.  Needless to say it was pretty hard to get through our testimonies without a few tears.  We are overwhelmed and so grateful for all that has gone on in our mission.

Then three days after the zone conference we were then able to spend another morning with Megan and her companions in a special stake member missionary conference at the stake center in Plum.  It was unique to be able to be picked as a "family" in a role play about presenting lessons to members about missionary work.

After the meeting we were invited to a member's home for lunch.  This family is affectionately known as "Mama Z" and "Papa Z" because their last name is so hard to pronounce and they really are like a Mama and Papa to the missionaries in the area.  They invite them for meals often and are just real friends to them.

It was great to meet the "Z's".  It seems like most areas have someone who steps up to be a Ma and Pa to the elders and the sisters and it is a blessing on both sides.  We think we may have been like this to a few missionaries in Pittsburgh and we feel like it has blessed us more than them!

Then....another two days later we spent a P-day
with "the trio" in Pittsburgh.  It was supposed to be a rainy day so the girls had decided to go to the Science Center.  That was crowded and the weather improved so we stayed awhile and then left so that we could walk across the bridge to Point State Park.  The weather actually improved and turned into an absolutely gorgeous spring day.  We finished our day at our favorite Pittsburgh restaurant spot....Peppi's.....and then picture taking at the Northside Lookout.

We were invited to dinner at the home of President and Sister Peterson later in the evening
and we had a short home evening with them and the Northside Elders.  They are a wonderful family and we have learned so much from them.

We also used a P-day recently to visit the Flight 93 memorial.  It was a sobering, humbling, and  inspirational visit.  It is located about an hour and a half away from Pittsburgh in a farming

community.  The guide told us that the average number of visitors a year to the site and memorial since 2011 has been 300,000 per year.  It was amazing to see and feel the examples of faith, courage, and hope that this small group of ordinary people displayed.   They did something so heroic and unselfish with only minutes to make decisions.  Also, many miracles could be seen in the event even though it seems so tragic.

Then.....we got great news in a voicemail from President Johnson.  There will be a new couple coming to replace us!!  This is something we have wondered about, worried about, and been praying about!!!  At least one of the wards that we work with just isn't very strong right now.  Having a new couple come to replace us will make it so much easier to feel like the work we have tried to do will be continued.  We are busy trying to put together a folder and lists to help them know how to begin.  The Hansens, the couple who served here before us, did this for us and we have communicated with them many times throughout our mission.  It has been so helpful to have them to talk to occasionally and we feel like we are close friends even just on the phone.

Hallelujah really is an appropriate word for how we feel right now!  I recently posted this picture on Facebook with the comment that through all of the ups and downs of our mission that we are so glad that we came.  It is one of the best things we have ever done!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Work Goes On

One of the members at Sister Wells memorial service said that she had come feeling very depressed and discouraged, but that she left feeling uplifted and comforted.
We were glad to hear that.  Many others said the same thing.  We believe that continuing on in the missionary work that Sister Wells loved is one of the best things that we can all do.  We feel strength and unity through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

.....And so the work goes on........

On February 12th we had a fun Valentine's experience at the Vintage Senior Citizen Center.  We previously visited Tom, the Activities Director, to tell him about the JustServe website.  We were excited when he told us they had an upcoming Valentines Luncheon and Line Dancing.  He said they needed about 6 volunteers as servers and so he submitted the project for approval on the website.  Before we knew it the project was approved and we were there with a member and a few elders to help.  It turned out that they had a professional chef, Nick, coming from Chatham University.  He had

a lot of expertise and treated us just like his "team of servers".  We had a "toast" of sparkling water to begin our work and then we each were given our assignments with specific instructions.  For example, the elders who were to present the plates to the diners were told how to hold the plates in a very professional way.  Then they were told how to transfer them to the table by presenting one from their left hand, then transfering the plate from the right hand to the empty left hand, and finally presenting again from the left hand.  At the end of the luncheon we were introduced to the crowd and Jim got to talk a little bit about who we are and what we do on our missions.  Nick was introduced and he praised us all greatly since he was impressed that we followed instructions and had never been on a "serving team" before.  Little did he know about our participation in many, many Relief Society and ward dinners!

Anyway, we think it happened in the way that "JustServe" is meant to
be used.  It was a community service, but also a tool to get to know others in the community more.  Nick even asked a little about the church after the dinner and we were able to give him a card with our church address and times.  We think a seed of goodwill was planted, and maybe one day he or someone else there will be interested enough to listen to the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

We have spent a lot of time lately working to aquaint community organizations with the website and see if they would like to become partners.  We see many good things in store for the future.

We have also been doing quite a bit of teaching with the Elders lately.  We have helped with lessons with Tony, Dave, and Donna.  They all seem to be progressing in their learning and search for truth.  We attended Stake Conference on February 20th and 21st and were so glad to have Donna come to Stake Conference with us on Sunday.  We were also able to meet a couple of sisters that Megan and her companions have been helping.  Then Tony came to church this last Sunday.  One of the quotes that we heard in a talk in Stake Conference was something I related to as a gardener.  It went something like this "we are all doing the work of softening the rocky soil of western Pennsylvania".  The quote referred to the parable that Jesus taught in the Bible about the gospel falling on good ground or stony ground.  We are hoping to keep trying to do our little part to till a small piece of good ground here and there!

We also attended the cultural talent night at Brashear High School.  It was great to see the talents and culture of one of the families that have become so close to our hearts. Dorcas sang and danced and Greg played the drums and danced.  Naomi was not old enough to participate in most of it, but everyone joined in the last number of African dancing and she was right there!  It was one of the favorite activities that we have attended while we have been here.

We finished up the month of February by taking a trip to Hershey, PA on P-day.  It was a fun break and somewhere we have always wanted to go. Actually it was a dream come true for my addictive side! We toured the museum, tasted some great chocolate, and enjoyed the fun atmosphere even though it was off-season.  It was a fun day, but we are now anxious to get
back to work with things in the mission.  We are realizing that we only have about 8 or 9 weeks left.  YIKES!!!!   Lots to do and think about in the next few weeks.

"The sweet fruit of the gospel is even better than chocolate".......and that is saying a lot coming from me!!