Sunday, November 30, 2014

Done with November...

Between the holiday and the snow storm, it's been a pretty quiet week for us.  We did work at the local food pantry a couple of times and at the nursing home Tuesday evening.  We had District Meeting in Romney Tuesday morning and did apartment and car inspections for the Elders.  After temperatures in the 60's on Monday we did get hit by the big storm on Wednesday, it snowed most of the day.  I think we had about 8 inches.  Thursday evening (Thanksgiving) we made our way out in the country past Maysville to the lovely home of some people that we don't know, but have a large gathering of friends and relatives each year. Some members of our ward are extended family of this nice couple and invited us to be "honorary family" for the evening. We had a great meal and met lots of very nice people.  After the meal we walked around the local park that has an amazing Christmas light display.  Then we came home and were delighted that a couple of our children and their families Skyped us.  A little shopping yesterday and drove the van through the car wash - we had been trying to find new addresses and the unpaved roads are very slushy and muddy! Not a very good attendance at church today, end of the holiday vacation, I guess.  Came home to our apartment to crock-pot pot roast that smelled delicious and tasted delicious too.

Getting ready for a very busy December.  Want to make lots of visits with a Christmas gift and message. But we have numerous big commitments as well.  We are waiting to hear which, if any, of our Elders are being transferred, if any are then we will be taking them to Columbia (3 hours away) for Transfer Day on Wednesday.  On Thursday we go back, to Ellicott City to the mission home for the Senior Couples Christmas Dinner and Party.  We hope to go to the Temple on the 10th.  And back to Columbia on the 23rd for the Mission Christmas Party.  And District or Zone Meetings every Tuesday,  etc.  Should be a busy month, but that's great, it helps the time go faster as we spend our second Christmas away from our family.

We have so much to be thankful for, what a great time of year to remind us of that.  Wayne and I are blessed with great health, and the resources and family support that enable us to be here having this awesome experience.  We get to strengthen our testimonies and bear them often.  We see miracles and tender mercies daily.  We get to associate with and learn from bright, dedicated young men who are focused on nothing more than serving the Lord and their brothers and sisters.  We are meeting so many people, making so many good friends, and seeing such a lovely corner of the country.  We are so BLESSED.

Hope your Thanksgiving was filled with thanks giving.  For a great way to begin the Christmas season go to and watch their beautiful video.  Also be sure to watch the First Presidency Christmas Devotional next Sunday evening.  Remember:  Jesus is the Reason for the Season.

Happy, Happy Birthday to Devin and Dustin tomorrow.  We love you.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Rough Week, part 2

An unexpected surprise after church today!
What a nice thing happened after church today!  An older lady, who lives up on a mountaintop about an hour from Petersburg who we visit occasionally and is having major health problems,  sent me this lovely Christmas cactus via another ward member.  So sweet, thoughtful, and generous.  I had admired it last week, and she evidently decided that I should have it. Hope I can keep it alive, it really brightens up our little apartment.

Ariann and Carter
Anyway, this week flew by, as usual.  We had Zone Training in Woodstock on Tuesday (Wayne and I got to be the investigating couple that several missionaries pretended - real played - taking on a church tour). After a three-hour meeting and a quick lunch at Arby's we drove the Elders back to their car in Moorefield, then Wayne and I drove way, way out past Mathias to Home/Visit Teach Paul, Crystal, Ariann, and baby Carter.  Good people, nice visit.  They have invited us and the Elders to a Christmas Eve buffet, too. Something to look forward to.  From there we traveled on to Broadway for the viewing and family gathering for our friend, Connie, who was killed in a car accident last week. We enjoyed meeting her family, but so sad. A nice ending to the day was to skype with grandson Noah on his 9th birthday - what an amazing smile that kid has!

Wednesday we taught a lesson to Becki, her final lesson of the Temple Preparation class, discussing her thoughts and feelings after her first visit to the temple.  We also made plans to go back to the temple with her and a few others on December 10th.  We made a few more visits that afternoon, then drove to Moorefield for dinner with Sonja and her family.  She is awesome, doing so well since her baptism last Spring.  Very faithful and dedicated.  And fun.  A great ending to this day was to skype with granddaughter Kadyn on her 14th birthday!  What a lovely, sweet young lady she is...

Thursday we left soon after noon with our Bishop's wife Lucy, Elder Moore, and Elder Lyon for an hour-
and-a-half drive to a little country cemetery out past the town of Bergton. It was a lovely setting, but was cold and windy (and right by a few stinky chicken houses).  There was a brief graveside service for Connie and we were able to visit more with her daughters, son, and sister.  They seemed to appreciate us coming, especially Latasha - I just wrote a note to her.  She is the only one involved in the LDS church at this time and our visit brought her comfort, I think.  I am glad we went and glad to have known Connie for this past year.

When we got home from the service, Wayne and the Elders made another visit, I went to the nursing home for our regular volunteer work (okay, Bingo, but they do need our help!).  Finally met up back home at the apartment about 7:30 pm.

Friday, busy.  Saturday we drove over 100 miles to Charles Town, to find our friend Woneda, who is in a rehab center there for a while.  She was so, so happy to see us. She was feeling depressed, alone, and forgotten.  We had stopped by her son's home where she had been staying (not a good situation) before she started having more health problems, and picked up her glasses, her false teeth, and some clothes and shoes that she needed.  Also got her some of her favorite pretzels, Werthers, and a little stuffed lion (she loves and collects lions).  While I visited with her, Wayne drove to a nearby store to pick up some other things she mentioned needing.  She loved that we would go all that way to see her and she cried when we left.  I just put a cheery card in the mail for her, hope she gets to move closer soon...

And today (Sunday) a chance to recharge at Church, visit with the ward members we love, worship and take the sacrament, have lunch at Doris and Walter's with their crazy, fun family and Elder Bronson & Elder Moore.  AND receive a lovely Christmas cactus from Vada.  A good day.  Hoping to hear from my daughters and daughters-in-law this evening, we so look forward to their weekly e-mails and updates.  We do miss our family.  Happy 4th  Birthday to Corinne this week.  And Happy Thanksgiving to everyone reading this little blog.  We are blessed in so many ways being here and are grateful for the thoughtful family that has invited us to share their Thanksgiving feast on Thursday.   Remember:  It's not Happy people that are Thankful, it's Thankful people that are Happy.
Another beautiful country church.  Near Bergton.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Rough Week

We had a rough week. The Petersburg Ward lost three members in one week!  We knew them all pretty well.  Two deaths were anticipated and in a way - a blessing.  Thelma (84) and Al (70) were both in declining health and somewhat ready to move on from their difficult situations... We attended Thelma's funeral Wednesday. Wayne has written such a beautiful account of the ward joining efforts to take care of Al's arrangements (his post and pictures follow this blog entry).  On Thursday we were surprised by the tragic news that our friend Connie had been killed in a traffic accident on her way to work. So sad. We met her last December, with a couple of the Elders, as a media referral.  She had requested contact, told us that she had joined the LDS Church 20 years ago, very much enjoyed it for a while, then fell into inactivity while going through a divorce and other personal trials, for some reasons her records weren't in our ward. She felt like she was ready to come back, but lived about an hour from our church and just didn't have the money for gas or the energy after working often six days a week.  But she did love our visits. We saw her monthly, sometimes with the Elders, sometimes not. There was a special spirit in her home, she was independent, fun, and very welcoming to us.  She loved to learn, was reading the scriptures, and recently we showed her where to find the BYU-TV station on her television and she loved it! She had come to church a couple of times with some members who lived several miles from her.  I had talked to her just last Friday and she was determined to begin coming to church regularly.  Connie was only 54 years old, the mother of four children, I believe, with several grandchildren. Her family must be devastated, it was such a horrible accident. We hope to go to the funeral next week.  We were blessed to know her, and to help her change her life and be more prepared to meet her Savior.

Those were the big things.  We did make quite a few visits also, and found a few lost members as we continue to work through the ward directory with the other Elders and the Ward Council.  Janet and I had a nice VT visit out in the country with Carol,  driving home through snow flurries.  I was very excited and pleased to have a successful breakthrough with Robin's genealogy, finally finding her great-grandparents who came from Germany (now I know that Heinrich became Henry, and Ferdinand became Fred!!).  I found census records verifying the discoveries, and pictures of several family gravestones on Find-a-Grave.  She was delighted with the new information and is eager to share it with her mother.  More names sent to the temple, as well.

We had a successful ward activity Friday night - a Chili Cook-off!  Had about 10 different pots of chili, lots

of desserts too.  Our judges were from the community, very good sports.  We liked the chili that we tasted, didn't try all of them.  A couple people shared their left-overs with us, so today we had baked potatoes topped with chili for dinner.  Too cold to go for our morning walk yesterday - when I woke at 6:30 am it was 16 degrees outside! It's warmer today, but has started to rain...  Our ward's Primary program was today - it was great!  Only about a dozen kids, but they were well-prepared, their talks and songs were well done.  Even had two non-members participating.  And a good attendance, 90!

We had a nice conversation with some grandkids on Monday and Klora on her 13th birthday Thursday. Happy 9th Birthday to Noah on Tuesday and Happy 14th Birthday to Kadyn on Wednesday!  Hope we get to talk to you.  Didn't get much news from home last week, but thanks Karli for your faithfulness. Hoping to hear from all my kids today, we miss you so much.  And thanks to special friend Linda for checking in and updating us on your life, we really appreciate hearing from you.  Good luck.

Have found a couple bits of needed information by looking back in my mission journal recently.  I have not been a consistent journal keeper in my life, but am determined to write daily while we are serving our mission and can already see the benefits.  A quote I have taped to my journal binder reads:  "The faintest ink is better than the fondest memory."   That's my thought for the day,  it's difficult but worth it.  We are sad and weary at times, even homesick occasionally, but feel fortunate to be here and especially to be of service and comfort to our West Virginia friends.  Hope next week is better than the last....  (Read on for Wayne's post)

Elder Briggs, Elder Bronson, Elder Moore, and Elder Lyon
Modeling their cammo ties, made for them by a kind & talented  ward member

Friday, November 14, 2014

Wayne writes about final service for a ward member

Matthew 25:40  “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

November 13, 2014  6:30 PM
I am standing at the graveside of one of our ward members.  It is dark.  The wind is blowing.  Light snow flakes are swirling around my face.  It is about 10 degrees below cold!  But I feel warm.  A kind voice breaks the silence of my thoughts.  “Would you like to get inside the pick-up and be warm?”  “No thanks, I’m OK.”  I feel warm.
I think about the events that have just taken place and things that have happened in the last few days since our friend “Al” passed away.
He was an “old” 70 years.  His life had been rough.  He had worked hard most of his life until his body had started giving in to the consequences of his hard life, his choices, his various jobs and just nature.  He worked mostly in large construction.
He suffered from various forms of physical break-downs in his once strong body.  He could only walk a few steps without having to stop and catch his breath.  He carried around his oxygen canister.  Oxygen was his constant companion.  He was told recently that he had cancer.  He was tired.  Tired of being alone in his single-wide home up a long and windy road several miles from town.  Tired of taking all those pills that brought on so many side effects.  Tired of not being able to go out and serve people like he wanted to.  Tired of everyone having to take care of him.  Tired of not being able to come to church.
He knew it wouldn’t be long before he would be called home.  He was determined to endure as best he could.  He still had a smile for you anytime you visited.  He had a dream that he would be able to sell off all his property and go to Florida to be with his ex-wife.  She came to be with him the last couple of months and cared for him.  She was a tremendous help to him.  She was really the only family he had besides his ward family here.
The warmth I am feeling comes from witnessing how this ward family took care of him in the last few days.
The resources were not available to have what we would call a normal burial so the bishop worked out with the funeral home director the details for a very memorable and better than normal burial!
Al’s home teacher has a family graveyard on his property.  He
volunteered to let him be buried there.  The

bishop and the high priests group leader got materials and built a beautiful pine box for him to be buried in.  The bishop’s wife had to help get the completed box out of their basement and into the truck. 
The missionary elders and ward mission leader went out to Al’s place and loaded 3 pick-up loads of garbage that Chris had sorted and took it to the transfer station.
The graveside service took place this evening.  His elder’s quorum president and counselor, a counselor in
the bishopric and the full time elders met at the funeral home to dress Al in his temple clothes.  It was a tender experience.  I was the only one who had had this experience before so it was new to them. They accomplished it in a reverent and respectful manner.
We then loaded the box into the funeral directors SUV and drove the 15 or so miles to the grave site.  It was off the road, past the house, and up a hill to the tree line.  Al's home teacher had used his large backhoe and dug out the grave.  It was a very large hole.  He had laid a couple of 2x10's across the hole to set the casket on. In the swirling wind, snow flakes, and headlights, a few of his friends brought the casket from the vehicle and placed it carefully on the boards.  I tried to hold my umbrella over a dear sister that was told today that she has pneumonia.  She
 refused.  “I’ll be alright” she says.  The bishop conducted a short but touching service.  Then one of Al's ward friends sang a hymn.  then his home teacher gave the dedicatory prayer.
Straps were put under the box and he was lowered carefully to his final resting place.  As they did this, I thought of the friends that lowered the man through the roof who was sick of the palsy.  They were lowering him to the feet of the Savior to be healed.  That is kind of like what Al’s friends were doing.  We                                                         know he is now healed.
This is what friends do.  I am so grateful to have been witness to this experience.  Thankful to be in this place
and feel the love that is shared here.  This scripture comes to mind,  “Willing to share one another’s burden and mourn with those that
I can leave now and go back to our apartment still feeling warm and good, hug my wife and say, “I’m glad we are here.”

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Busy Week - What else is new?

The front window of our apartment, with Fall decorations courtesy of the Acors!
Thanks so much,  loved the pictures you sent too.
It's been a busy, interesting week!  A little mixed-up,  time changes always throw me off for a couple weeks, and our Preparaton Day and District Meeting were on different days than usual, so I was tired and never quite sure what day it was,  but tomorrow (Monday) will relax and regroup,  I'll be okay....

We did have a wonderful Mission Conference on Monday in Frederick, Maryland.  Even though we had to get up at 4 am to be there on time, it was worth it.  Elder Perkins & his wife, and our Mission President & his wife gave great talks and instruction.  Very inspiring and encouraging.  Some lovely Relief Society ladies served us a nice Taco Salad lunch. All the younger missionaries went home at 4 or 5, then the senior couple missionaries had dinner and a fireside with the Perkins and the Richards. Elder Perkins & his family lived in China for quite a while, he was a mission president in Taiwan, and now some of his responsibilities as a Seventy have to do with Asia.  So he had many interesting stories.  He also is on the church technology committee and had a lot to do with the new movie "Meet the Mormons" - more good stories.  He changed my attitude toward meetings as he suggested (from Elder Bednar's 2010 Worldwide Training remarks) that we change the word "meeting" to "revelatory experience",  and see what inspiration we can gain.  I'm working on it.  No more murmuring about too many "meetings"...  And one wise young missionary said she likes to change the phrase "endure to the end" to "enjoy to the end", I'm definitely adopting that attitude.

So Tuesday was our Preparation Day, except for our usual nursing home service in the evening.  Wednesday was our District Meeting, here in Petersburg.  In the afternoon we visited our good friend Margarite,  had a lesson with her and she gave us a bag of nice apples, so kind of her.  We have been spoiled this week.  The next day we went to Baxter and Sandy's for a wonderful dinner, yummy meatloaf.  They are so nice and so good to us. Elder Bronson and Elder Briggs were invited also, so we spent the afternoon and evening with them making visits to Dave & Elaine, Johnnie Sue, Kathy, Denver & Pat, and Richard & Jeannie, as well as the dinner appointment.  Fun.  Friday our friends Janet and Johnny K. invited us to their home in Moorefield for lunch. Very good venison chili.  A friend of their's, Alston, was there for lunch too and had questions about the prophet Joseph Smith - Wayne gave a good presentation to him and gave him some pamphlets to read.  On the way home we visited Robin, Traci, and Eston.  Then Wayne sang at the nursing home.

Saturday we helped all morning at a huge community food bank event,  we've helped a few times before at similar activities.  A big semi truck came down to the local fire station, volunteers unloaded pallets of food and boxed it up, I got the fun and easy job of handing out numbers to pre-approved individuals and families that started lining up at 8 am in 25 degree weather.  Fortunately we had a large, warm room for them to wait in. The truck was late arriving and we didn't start giving out boxes until about 10:30.  But it went well and we gave out almost 200 boxes of food.  A real service.  In the afternoon we again took Elder Bronson and Elder Briggs with us, this time made the 45-mile trip to Mt. Storm and Davis.  They had a referral to take a Book of Mormon to someone who had requested one, then we looked for long-lost members living up there "on the mountain", far from our church, but within our ward boundaries.  Found one home we were looking for, the member was not home, but we had a nice visit with his wife.  Didn't find the other one, got lost a couple times, found ourselves in Maryland once or twice, saw a lot of deer,  showed the Elders the Mt. Storm (Dominion) power plant and a coal mine.  We also saw our first snow of the season up there, of course had to take a picture.  At one point Wayne made kind of a sudden stop, I worried what was wrong - but he had just spotted yet another rusty truck, in a field by the road, and jumped out to take a picture.  An added bonus of the afternoon was that our very intelligent missionaries showed us how to find the elevation on our GPS - Wayne is often curious about our elevation when we are travelling around and had talked about getting an altimeter for our van to satisfy his curiosity - but we have that feature built in to our van GPS, we just didn't know it!  We learn such great things from these young guys!  And I'm sure we provided them amusement at our ineptness. Anyway we eventually made our way back to Petersburg in time for the Elders to make it to their 6:30 pm appointment and for us old folks to have some dinner and rest.  
Snow on the West Virginia ground, Mt. Storm, Nov 2014

Elder Briggs and Elder Bronson in front of Mt. Storm Lake & power plant

Today (Sunday) we went to Ward Council at 8 am, then worshiped with our wonderful Petersburg Ward. Wayne and I both taught lessons and after church had dinner with our good friend Becky H.  She made us a delicious spaghetti dinner as thanks for taking her to Winchester recently for an interview and for taking her to the temple.  Really it was our privilege.  But we did enjoy having dinner with her.  Tonight Wayne is making another trip to Winchester, Virginia, this time for Stake Priesthood meeting.  He is taking the four Elders, our friend Oscar, and I think picking up his High Priest group leader on the way.   Full van.  I'm sure it will be a great meeting (revelatory experience), and he will be tired and ready for a day off when he gets home, about 10 pm.

Hey, next week looks pretty calm and quiet.  We'll see.  We are so looking forward to our Sunday evening emails from our children and their families - we miss them so much and really look forward to updates from them.  And from anyone else who remembers us...  Please write.  Thanks Angie and the Acor family for the letters and pictures.  Looking forward to Skyping with the Thuesons tomorrow.  Our Book of Mormon reading is going well, we are on schedule and loving it.  I have Alma 29:9 memorized and truly it is my JOY! Missions are awesome!   Happy Thirteenth Birthday to granddaughter Klora on Thursday.
According to someone - this is Beauty and Art!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

End of October, Halloween, New windshield, ...

Petersburg, West Virginia, Ward Meetinghouse

Gazebo at Brighton Park
Monday afternoon we drove to Moorefield to do some errands and shop a little at Wal-Mart. On the way home we stopped at Brighton Park for a lovely walk.

Nice walking path along the river

Rockcliff Lake in the rain

Large golden trout swimming by the fishermen, not biting
 Tuesday was District Meeting in Romney, followed by some visits, service at the nursing
Rockcliff Lake in the rain
home, and home teaching for Wayne.

Wednesday Wayne's friend Johnny invited him to go fishing with him.  It was a chilly and rainy day, but they went up to Rockcliff Lake.  Johnny caught three nice trout, Wayne took some nice pictures...  Johnny gave us his trout, we cooked them for dinner and they were delicious.  While they were gone I had some nice quiet time to work on Robin's genealogy.  We have submitted a lot of her names to the temple and now I needed to organize pedigree charts, family group records, census copies, and other documents that we have found so she could share them with her mother, who is not a member of our church.  They were pretty excited about the research we have been doing.  Fun project.

Wednesday evening was our ward Trunk or Treat activity.  Fortunately it had quit raining and we had a great evening.  It was very well attended, there were cute games and awesome decorated vehicles with members handing out candy.  Several less active members and quite a few nonmembers came and enjoyed themselves.  The children all had a blast.  The younger missionaries were quite dashing in their moustaches and they had a doughnut eating activity that was so fun for the kids.

Me and my friend who helped me hand out candy

Kim and Jacob - my favorite costumes

Pretty scary Oscar

Very serious Elders

So the rest of the week was lots of visits, a wedding shower, replacing the van's cracked windshield, and, of course, meetings...  Saturday we decided to go to Winchester to an evening fireside, "Why I Believe", by a couple of recent converts who were ordained ministers in another faith before they became interested in the LDS church.  They were excellent speakers, very dynamic and spiritual.  Wonderful fireside.  Anyway, it was about 70 miles to the church where it was held, but 45 miles were still in our ward, so we made a plan to make ward visits along our way there.  Margarite wasn't home, but we did have good visits with John & Audrey, Jane, Woneda, and Deb & Larry.  Then we had a nice dinner at a Cracker Barrel restaurant and filled our van with gas at a Costco where Virginia gas was only $2.62/gallon.  It is still $3.19 in Petersburg but even that is much better than it was, close to $4/gallon!

Tomorrow we will be getting up really early and driving to Frederick, Maryland, for a mission conference with Elder Anthony D. Perkins of the Seventy.  The conference includes breakfast, training from 9am to 4pm, then a dinner and fireside for the senior couples.  Long day, but should be wonderful.

Happy November!  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is TRUE!

Local yard
(This is Wayne's contribution!)