The sun is shining, the sky is blue, the birds are singing and the temperature is jusssssst rigggght at 63 degrees. Who could ask for more! I plan to enjoy it while I can because I have been assured that the heat and humidity are just around the corner.....in fact, humidity is 72% this morning.
It was a relatively ordinary week here in the mission and we didn't have time for any extra traveling or adventures because we were busy every day doing what we came out here to do - helping the young missionaries and President and Sister Baker as they share the gospel with God's children in this area. It has been very rewarding.
We spent all day Monday in the office and had our 6 month interview with President Baker. He is a no nonsense type of guy and not one to make idle chit chat so I have had many days of wondering if the work I was doing was what he wanted/expected. He has pointed out a couple of mistakes to me over the last six months so I have been questioning how I am doing. It was good to meet with him and hear him say that he really appreciates all we are doing and likes that we are proactive and will just move forward and get things done. He really struggles with delegating things and would rather do everything himself so I always wonder if I am stepping on his toes but he assured us that he will tell us if he feels we have over-stepped our responsibilities. Yea - I can just move forward with working the way I am accustomed to!
Monday evening we left the office at about 5 and drove to Norfolk to deliver a loaner car to the Sister Missionaries over there - their car was in the body shop getting repaired. While there, Elder Ashton checked out the tires on the Elders car - they had taken their car in for an inspection and the mechanic told those young men that they needed 4 new tires. When Elder Ashton checked them out he found that was not the case.....It certainly is frustrating that some people try to take advantage of others. While there we took those starving Elders to dinner and had just started back to Portsmouth when Elder Ashton's phone rang - the Elders had left their keys in the seat of the pickup and needed us to bring them back so they could make it to their appointment. We were only a few miles away so it wasn't a big deal but by the time we got home it was 7:30 and I was ready to call it a day, but I did enjoy the opportunity to stare out the window and see the changing flora as we drove to and from Norfolk.
One of the things I noticed was large trees with what looked like hanging white lilacs on them. As the week went on, I noticed more and more of them so finally had to stop and take some close-up pictures on Saturday.
Note that the trunk of this tree is almost completely covered in kudzu
Clusters of delicate white flowers.....very pretty.
Elder Ashton and Elder Shaw (the two men in the office) were both out of the office Tuesday through Thursday doing more teaching about cars to the young missionaries so that left just us 4 sisters in the office. I tried to convince them that we should have a big party and all agreed, but we all had too much work to get done and never got around to the party ;-) Tuesday was an especially busy day for me.....the mailman brought me 35 utility bills that needed to be paid. In a group that large there are always one or two that need additional research so that kept me busy for most of the day.
We came home from the office and had a dinner of leftovers as Elder Ashton had been asked to give one of the young Sister Missionaries a blessing at 6 p.m. She was feeling discouraged and needed a lift. It has been interesting to see the prediction of one of our Arizona ward members fulfilled - I think it was Brother Bollschweiller. When we got our call we were told that the young missionaries would come to think of us as their "adopted" grandparents in the field and that has certainly been the case. I love all the hugs I get from the sisters and do kind of feel like their grandma. This particular sister said she wanted to give Elder Ashton a hug (like she would her Grandpa) after the blessing, but gave me one instead and asked that I pass it along to Elder Ashton.
The rest of the week was not nearly as busy at the office but I kept busy trying to prepare for the upcoming changes that will take place on May 12. We will have 14 missionaries going home and 10 new missionaries coming in. Part of my responsibility is to make sure each departing missionary has a little extra money available for travel should they need to buy food in an airport at a layover of something. They are usually given $20 and I let them know that I have processed it to appear on their debit card and to save it (not spend it) so they have it available for travel. We have one missionary going home to Tonga this time.....he is a GREAT young man and if he didn't already have a girlfriend in his home county I might try to hook him up with one of my granddaughters ;-D. Anyway, he has a total of $40 hours of travel time so the President told me to put more money on his card. When I started to process the payment on April 26 I saw that he had $.69 left to get him through the last 4 days of April- it was hard to tell him not to spend any of his travel money as I thought he might be starving. Thank goodness all missionaries got more money credited to their cards on May 1 so he can eat now! I also ask each missionary how many bags they will be checking so I can pay the baggage fees when I print out their boarding passes 24 hours before they leave. When I asked this particular Elder how many bags he would be checking he said, "just one. I don't have much and don't need much. How much can the bags weight?" I told him they could only weigh 50# and then he decided he might check two because he wants to take his books home with him.....sounds like he doesn't care much about clothes, etc., but wants to have his missionary books. What a great young man! I hope he makes opportunities to lead and serve his people.
A few more pics of the flora around our apartment building parking lot
Droplets after the rain
A burst of color
Little purple pansies :)
And pink ones, too ;-)
The "cardinal camouflage" tree now has tiny white flowers in clusters
But still maintains its red/orange leaves! And to you see that crazy old woman holding something up to her eye?
Thursday and Friday it rained almost all day long both days.....the water on our patio was about 1.5 inches deep when it finally decided to stop. Yesterday and today have been beautiful and weather predictions are that it will remain that way until Wednesday, Thursday and Friday again.
Yesterday (Saturday) we got most of the chores done in the morning and then went to the baptism of Myrna Couch at noon. I had been asked to give about a 3 minute talk on Baptism and that was a biat of a challenge to say much of anything meaningful in 3 minutes. Myrna is a lady who married an American Sailor in the early 70s, came to the US in 1974 and has not been back to the Philippines since then. Her husband passed away in 2009 and she said he was a member of the church but not active. However, she said he kept telling her she needed to change her religion and she told him to leave her alone that she would decide for herself what she wanted to do. When she met the missionaries a couple of months ago, she was ready to hear their message. She is about 5' tall and talks with a heavy accent. She has had a quintuple heart by-pass and had 1/2 a lung removed due to lung cancer, which she said convinced her to quite smoking about 12 years ago. Her life has not been easy as her parents both died before she was 15 and she has had to work hard. She told us at lunch yesterday that she worked as a baker for several of the buffet places here in Portsmouth over the years. She also has diabetes but that didn't stop her from eating the food she wanted. She laughed and said, "I just take 7 shots a day and eat what I want."
Today she and the young lady that was baptized two weeks ago were both confirmed and we had a couple of new young families and investigators at church. I feel a positive energy building with more people expressing an interest in learning more about the church.
After her baptism I stepped out into the atrium courtyard at the church. I have been waiting and waiting for this big bush/tree to bloom. It has had buds on it for more than 2 months and I thought it was a magnolia tree. I found out about two weeks ago that it is a rhododendron bush and it is finally starting to bloom - gorgeous!
One "bloom" with more ready to pop at any time! I remember that we had rhododendron bushes when we lived on the coast of Washington state - makes sense we would have them here, too - I think they really like the wet, gray weather!
The "Evolution" of the parking lot trees.
Several weeks ago I posted this picture of tree in the parking lot that was starting to send out red shoots. and I noted that some of the leaves looked like paint had been spilled on them.
A couple of weeks later, the red shoots had turned to a stalk of tiny red/pink buds.
A couple of weeks after that, the buds are turning white.
And, today, the buds have turned into clumps of tiny white flowers and the leaves are starting to form their spots.
I believe I am "evolving" somewhat like this tree....only at a slower pace. I love to be here and help support the younger missionaries but have a hard time speaking up to people about what we believe. I've tried a few times to share with some people (a store clerk, a Johovah's Witness missionary, and a neighbor) and while all have been nice, they have firmly indicated they are not interested. Soooooo, it is much easier for me to sit back and let the younger missionaries take the lead. However, I guess Heavenly Father wants me to speak up. Yesterday when we were at the Chinese Buffet and I was getting my food, a lady in the line next to me noticed my missionary badge and said, "So what church are you from? What do you believe? I see it says Jesus Christ on your badge, do you believe he is the Son of God?" That was the PERFECT opportunity for me to briefly tell her that we definitely believe in Jesus Christ and we use the King James Bible. I asked if she knew anything about our church and she said she did not so I told her she might know us by the name of Mormons. She said she wasn't very familiar with us even by that name but wanted to know why we went by that name. I explained to her that we have another book that we believe is like the Bible and it was written on this continent a long time ago and then the writings of a number of prophets were compiled together in one book and that the prophet who compiled the other book of scripture was Mormon. I gave her a card with information about the mormon.org website and she said she would check it out. I guess Heavenly Father decided if I was going to be a chicken he would have the other person approach me.....amazing! I am evolving a getting a little more courageous each day :) I just hope I don't get new "spots" on me like the tree leaves are ;-)
Elder Ashton talked to the young lady who cut his hair on Thursday night and she asked him if he could help her figure out the purpose of her life. He told her he could send a couple of young people to talk with her and the Sister Missionaries have asked us to accompany them to that teaching appointment on Tuesday. It will be interesting to see if our beliefs answer her question.
For a week with not much adventure, I've gone on long enough. Life is good as an "oldster" missionary :)