We have had a WONDERFUL time this past week and have been reminded many times that it really is a "Small World".
Our "small world" experiences began first thing on Monday morning. After our initial check in we were instructed to pull forward to another parking lot and someone would direct us where to park. As we pulled up to the man and rolled down the window, he noticed that our name tags said Elder and Sister Ashton. He commented and said, "My first roommate at BYU many years ago was Paul Ashton." Elder Ashton responded that he has a cousin named Paul and after a bit more conversation we determined that the man's roommate and Elder Ashton's cousin are one and the same.
About 3 minutes after that, as we were walking across the parking lot, a policeman on a golf cart pulls up beside it. The officer was Oliver Nielsen, son of Mr. Ole Nielsen, our backyard neighbor from St. Johns. He was just checking on us to see if we needed a place to park a trailer.
That afternoon as we were all introducing ourselves, we learned that there was a couple from Springerville, AZ and another couple from ShowLow, AZ. I made a mental note that I would try to have a conversation with both of those couples before the week was out.
On Wednesday, I was standing in line waiting to get some lunch and looked up to see Sandy Nielsen (Oliver's wife) in the line. She had a "volunteer" badge on and I asked her what she did at the MTC. She said her assignment is to get with the new missionaries that come from 3rd world foreign countries who do not have the money to purchase missionary clothing. She takes them shopping and gets the clothes they need for their specific mission. We have seen lots of Asian missionaries, met a young missionary from Etheopia last night, and one from Australia on Wednesday at breakfast. I am sure there are many more nationalities represented but it is so busy in the cafeteria I haven't had the opportunity to meet them.
On Monday we were broken up into small groups/districts and we have spent most of our time with those groups. We have a morning teacher and an afternoon teacher for our district.
This is our district with our morning teacher, Brother Smith. He is from North Carolina and now attends BYU and teaches at the MTC. Back left to right are: Elder and Sister Butler - they are going to Holland, Brother Smith our teacher, and Elder and Sister Jones who are going to Sandy Utah to do records preservation. Front row is Elder and Sister Smith - they are going to Fiji and Denis and I.
This is our district with our afternoon teacher, Sister Yazzie. She grew up in Holbrook, AZ and her family now lives in Gilbert. Her mother is Caucasian and her father is Navajo. She said her father did not want his children to be raised on the reservation because he wanted them to learn to work and be industrious. She had the most beautiful smile and every day and gorgeous brown eyes! I grew to love her in just the few days that we worked with her.
On Thursday night when we were eating dinner, another couple came up to us and asked if they could sit by us. We responded that we would love to have them join us and then proceeded to try to learn a little more about them. When I asked them where they were from the man, Elder Lorimer, responded that they were from Riverton, Wyoming. I told him we had grown up in Wyoming and that I have a brother who lives in Lander, Wyoming which is about 15 miles from Riverton. He asked what my brother's name was and I told him Paul Cornia. He asked about the last name and I told him it was spelled C-O-R-N-I-A. He then said, "Do you know Jerry Cornia?" That took my breath away for a minute but then I responded that he was my big brother and that he had passed away May 2013. Elder Lorimer told me he knew Jerry well and that he was so sorry to hear when he passed away. Elder Lorimer was serving as a Stake President in Riverton and Jerry had served as a counselor to the Stake President in Casper. We spent a few minutes visiting about Jerry and what a good guy he was. Who would have thought I would have a conversation with a stranger in the MTC about my big brother?
Friday afternoon I had a few minutes and went over to talk to the couple from ShowLow. As I was talking to them about having lived in St. Johns for a long time, the lady said," I bet you know our good friends Ruthie and Danny Price". I told her I knew them very well but didn't get a chance to talk to them any more because it was time for the meeting to start.
As we were returning to the cafeteria building last night we ran into Brother Petersen who is responsible for all the senior (old) missionaries. I mentioned to him that I had overheard him saying earlier in the week that his wife had some health problems. He said that was true, that she was diagnosed with breast cancer last June, she had a lumpectomy and they found it had spread to her lymph nodes so she had another surgery. She has just finished chemotherapy and will start radiation treatments soon. Her scenario very closely mirrors what I went through and when Elder Ashton and I mentioned that I had gone through the same thing a year ago, Brother Petersen gave me a hug and said, "So you survived and it's all OK." I responded in the affirmative and told him to tell his wife that we had spoken and I asked him to tell her that it is hard to go through what she is but she can make it through and feel good again......still another small world experience.
During this past week and we studied and ate and talked together, I came to realize that all of these senior (old) couples have had challenges in their lives, some more recent than others, but they have a great desire to serve others and were smiling and excited every day.
The three pictures below are of the group of senior (old) missionaries that we spent the week with. One Elder is missing from the third picture as he was sick that day. I think I said in a previous post that there were 92 couples, but that was wrong; there were 45 couples and two single sisters.
Hope you are all taking care of yourselves. I miss family and friends but am having many great experiences!