WOW - what a week! It was filled with activity and literally flew by - seems like it was just yesterday that it was Sunday and here we are to the next one!
We had spent a good deal of time the previous week getting prepared for "transfer week" which includes some missionaries going home, getting new missionaries and sometimes assigning new companions. But, this time it involved several (3) new apartments and several (4) new or re-opened areas which required reassignment of 3 cars. In addition to that, some of the existing car assignments were being changed to shared assignments so some of the current missionaries as well as a number of the new missionaries would need bicycles for their areas. Monday morning arrived and with it, our weekly meeting with the President and Sister Baker. Although we received 30 missionaries six weeks ago and were expecting 20 on Tuesday, President Baker seemed more concerned about how all of this would work our logistically and because our mission covers such a large geographic area, we were not sure if all the new housing had furniture and utilities......we all crossed our fingers and hoped that everything would run smoothly. Since Elder Ashton did not find out about the new shared car assignments until the Monday meeting, and had promised bicycles to some incoming elders that had been used until Monday evening by some of the elders returning home, he had his hands full with making sure enough new and refurbished bicycles were available.
As we were driving to the bike shop on Monday, I noticed this house along side the road that made me think it looked like a typical Virginia house.....I really like the decorative wood along the top of the portico.
Another interesting house as we left the bike shop and headed back to the office the other way......Even a horse and buggy in the yard! I have noticed that many homes back here have "animals" in the yard - ranging from geese, to deer and now I see horses. At first it is shocking because I think it is a real animal...then I am disappointed when I realize it is only a metal likeness of the animal. Anyway, this yard is well-kept and quite a showpiece for the homeowners.
Tuesday morning in the office with bedding bags for new missionaries and dinner supplies ready to go!
Elder Ferguson - on the right, has been an assistant to the President for nine months and we would see him on a regular basis - at least a couple of times a week in the office, once a month in our home for dinner, about once a month we went on a teaching appointment with him, and at church every Sunday. He will be going home January 1 and wanted to end his mission proselyting so he was transferred to Nags Head (poor guy to have to be serving in that beautiful place ;-) ) He wanted a picture taken with those of us who have been in the office most of that time- myself and Elder Ashton and Sister Slatter who is the Mission Secretary. When he came by to shake my hand for the last time, we both had to swallow hard to keep the tears back.
We left the office about 2:45 to head over to Norfolk, planning to have dinner ready for the incoming missionaries by 4:45. When we got there, Sister Slatter and Sister Goldade were just arriving with the food which we had ordered from Olive Garden. Sister Goldade is new and when she placed the order with Olive Garden, she told them how many we were feeding and they told her what she needed. They sold us 4 8x10" pans of lasagna, 6 large bowls of salad, and I think it was 5 doz breadsticks. I thought that was a lot more food than we have had in the past, but was hoping we would have some really hungry missionaries!
This is the group of new missionaries with President and Sister Baker. The young elder on the second row, second from the right is someone from Apache Junction, Arizona. You might notice that there are a number of really tall Elders in this picture - President Baker is 6' 4" and we had 4 or 5 Elders in this group that were as tall as or taller than him.....you also might notice a few who look like they are about 15 years old......wait - maybe that's just because I am getting so old that they appear so young :)
Even though we had lots of big Elders and we begged and begged them to go back for more food, we still ended up with 1.75 pans of lasagna and 4 large salads left along with a few breadsticks. A lesson learned for next time......
We left the Norfolk chapel at about 6:15 and made it home by 7 - which isn't too bad, but it had been a busy day and I was glad to be home. On the way, we passed this small inlet where the water looked more blue than brown (which it usually does) and the sun glinting off the water - pretty setting. The choppiness in the water on the right hand side of the picture was a bunch of seagulls stirring up the water.
As we left the apartment on Wednesday morning, I noticed these two tiny mushrooms growing alongside the parking lot. Quite a difference in size from those giant ones I saw at the other end of the parking lot a few weeks ago!
Wednesday morning we went to the hotel to pick up some of the missionaries and along with the Assistants to the President and Sister Baker, we managed to get all 20 new missionaries to the church for some training and to meet up with their new companions. Some of the local missionaries that have been serving here in Portsmouth or nearby that we have gotten very familiar with, were being sent to North Carolina and we needed to get one last picture with them.....I got hugs from the Sisters but Elder Ashton had to be content with a handshake :).
Elder Ashton and I with Sister Tegan and Sister Moe. Sister Tegan who served here in Portsmouth and was part of the companionship that had a "bear" attack their wheel on their car is next to me. On the end is Sister Moe.....as you can see she is TINY and has been serving in this district so we see her on a fairly regular basis. I love these young ladies.....they seem almost like my adopted granddaughters!
And Sister Thomas who is staying in Portsmouth with one of the brand new Sisters for a companion wanted to be in the picture that she was taking of us :) I love how much fun these young missionaries have while serving!
The meetings started at 9 a.m. and we expected they would be done about 11:30.....so Elder Ashton went to replace the battery in one of the missionary cars. Before he got back, he had at least 4 missionaries who were waiting for new companions come into the office and needed his help. I can answer some basic questions about the cars, but these questions were too complex for me and I was already starting to feel a little stressed. Sister Goldade and Sister Slatter were in the kitchen trying to get sack lunches put together, Elder Wright was on the phone, Elder Ashton was gone and I was trying to field all the other questions/issues. YIKES!!!!
As soon as the meetings let out, Elder Wright left to drive to North Carolina and sign for a mail key for one of the new apartments (he had found out just last Friday that new homeland security rules require the person who signs the lease must sign for the post office key so he had to drive over 3 hours each way to sign that paper). While he was gone and as Elder Ashton was trying to eat a sandwich, the office filled up with missionaries asking about where the cars were going. One car that was going out was in the body shop and had been promised on Tuesday but didn't get done, then promised first thing Wednesday morning, but didn't get done, then Wednesday at noon, then Wednesday late afternoon, then Thursday at noon, Thursday mid-afternoon, and the Elders were finally able to take it about 5 p.m. on Thursday. Those poor Elders had not been prepared to stay overnight and were going to Nags Head which is about 3 hours away.....so they were really late getting there!
About noon on Wednesday as they are loading luggage, bicycles, etc. in the trailer to set off for North Carolina. They would drop off new missionaries and pick up missionaries that are coming up this way to work with another companion. Look at all the cars, all the luggage, all the missionaries and imagine trying to keep all that straight - who can say CHAOS!
Finally they all left except those who were waiting for a car or a companion to arrive.....and I thought quiet would ensue. Alas, that was not to be. Just before 3 p.m. as the President was getting ready to leave, we noticed that one of the new Elders had left all 3 pieces of his luggage. The Elder had already gone with his companions to Elizabeth City (about 55 miles away) so the President made arrangements for the Elders that were waiting on the car to go to Nags Head to take the luggage to him. Oooops! The car is not ready. Soooooooo, Elder Ashton and I left about 4:30 to take the missing luggage down to Elizabeth City to the new Elder. I decided I may as well make the best of an unplanned situation and take a few pictures on this "trip".
As we were driving down, I noticed a strange phenomenon along the sides of the roads.....the trees had no lower foliage. At first I thought maybe they grew that way, but as Elder Ashton and I talked we decided it could not be natural for them to be so uniform.....workers must have done something to get rid of the lower foliage - either cut it off or exfoliated. The mowing and trimming of trees back here to keep the roadways clear must be a HUGE job!
When we arrived at the Elders little house in Elizabeth City, I decided to walk along the short street and take a few pictures. This is another picture of a tree with those red berries, but now the leaves are starting to turn and it makes the tree appear almost pink.
The tree that looks pink.
At the end of the street, I noticed this nicely kept yard with a typical red brick house with white mortar and white trim. A nice "older" home on a quiet street in Elizabeth City.
A view of the same house from the intersecting street......note the fancy brickwork around the door and the well-kept yard.
Across the street was this interesting tree in the front yard.....with the leaves just starting to display fall colors. Most interesting was the stark contrast of the dead wood in the tree - I thought this made for an interesting and pretty picture.
With the luggage delivered, we started to head back to Portsmouth, but decided to grab a quick supper at Wendy's. This trumpet vine was right in front of our truck and I couldn't resist a quick photo.
Before leaving Elizabeth City, we decided we better stop for gasoline. This thick growth of foliage is what bordered the parking area at the gas station. How many different colors of green can you identify in this picture? If you look toward the top of the picture, you can just see a couple of small patches of sky--otherwise you can't see though the thick growth.
Thursday was supposed to be just a regular day at the office, but there was a good deal of catch-up and organization that needed to occur following the crazy afternoon we had on Wednesday. We were finally able to get all of the updated information/data into the software so we could make new lists and start to figure out where all the missionaries had moved. Every person that works in the office needs an accurate list of addresses and phone numbers for the missionaries to respond to questions from parents, apartment complexes, forward mail, etc. I was finally able to produce that spreadsheet about noon and then started working on paying the rent on the 95 apartments. Imagine my consternation when 4 of the houses/apartments would not show up on the rent payment report. That led to about 1.5 hours of diagnosis and data correction in the software....seems that the houses somehow were not connected to the proselyting area and if they are not connected, they will not show up for rent to be paid. That is the first time that has happened in the 10 months I've been here, so I was really glad I was able to figure out the problem and get it resolved because I have learned that if rent payments are not submitted by the 17th, it is likely they won't get to landlords by the first because they have to be mailed from Salt Lake. I'm crossing my fingers that the payments get to landlords by October 1st.
I love the blue skies and fluffy clouds we see here sometimes.....and I was enjoying them as we drove home from the office on Friday for lunch. Suddenly I noticed some weird clouds that looked like little squares and was asking Elder Ashton what would cause the clouds to form like that. He said he thought it must be some kind of contrail from an aircraft. I looked more closely and realized he was right.....it was some kind of advertisement. I can make out the first work "GEICO". Can anyone make out the second word? I'm still thinking about this and trying to figure out how they made that kind of contrail.....I think I may ask google ;-)
Friday was a relatively quiet day at the office and it was a good thing because this "oldster" missionary was tired! We went to a presentation on Friday night about the Constitution of the United States. It was entitled "The Constitution, Now and Forever" and the main speaker was a Dr. Glenn Kimber, a nationally known lecturer on the subject of the constitution. Since being back here and visiting so many historic places, I have come to a much deeper appreciation of those who sacrificed so much time and energy working hard to see that this independent, free nation was established. Virginia is really full of history about the founding fathers and so I was interested to attend and learn more about it. We started the evening by all standing and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. It has been YEARS since I have done that and I was struck by the meaning found in that pledge. Dr. Kimber spoke about how the founding fathers relied on "the heavens" to guide them in their task and when they were discouraged they turned to prayer. He told the story that Washington was extremely discouraged when they were at Valley Forge. He went a little away from camp and knelt down among the trees to pray. He was praying vocally and tears were streaming down his face as he plead with Heavenly Father to keep his men from freezing and to protect them from death. At that time, several of Washington's officers had been searching him out to tell him that they were giving up and going home (many of them lived within 50 miles) but when they cam upon Washington praying with tears on his face, they turned around and went back to camp, determined to stay and see the war through to the end. He told several stories that highlighted how the founding fathers relied on God/Heavenly Father to help them through the difficult time and he said something that made me feel better. He said, "America will not fall-the scriptures tell us that." He also talked about the Declaration of Independence which was originally entitled the Declaration of Rights. All in all, it was a very informative and uplifting evening. And one of the best parts of the evening was that I knew I could sleep in the next morning :) - and I did.....didn't wake up until 8:30 on Saturday morning!
Saturday is always a day for chores - laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning, cooking. Elder Ashton spent part of the day at the office trying to get a bike ready for an Elder and when I went to pick him up so we could go grocery shopping, he had a bicycle with him that he needed to take to the bike shop in "downtown" Portsmouth. Well, it turned out it was in "old town" Portsmouth and while he was in the bike shop I decided to walk around a bit. I found there are MANY old churches in "old town" and some of them are very beautiful!
This beautiful off-white church is in the middle of "olde town".
A striking image of the steeple against the blue sky.
As you can see from the placard, this church was founded almost 250 years ago, but has been located in several places. Based on the information here, I am not sure if the building was moved each of those times or if the congregation moved.....I am guessing it was the congregation that moved. In this picture you can see the steeple of another one of the churches in the area.
A portion of St. Paul's Catholic Church in "olde town".....I believe this is called Gothic architecture.
Another portion of the front of St. Paul's
And still another portion.....this church is VERY large!
The placard explains that this structure to house St. Paul's Catholic Church was dedicated in 1905 - the congregation had previously met in several other places.
Did you notice that St. Paul's Catholic Church and Monumental Methodist Church are almost back to back?
Olde Town Historic District - we have driven by here a few times but this is the first time I have walked through part of it. Very interesting old homes that have been refurbished.
I like this 3 story old home.....wouldn't it be interesting to know the story behind it.
Another 3 story home across the street. Notice that each floor has a patio/balcony and a ceiling fan....must be so inhabitants can stand to sit outside in the summer heat.
The roses are blooming again now that the weather is a little cooler.....this is in a planter outside the blue historic home.
After a very busy week, and a relatively quiet week-end, my energy level is recharged and I'm ready for more adventures this next week will bring. We are enjoying the cooler fall weather at the same time that we are beginning to dread the expected cold weather of the winter. Still enjoying the adventure here in Virginia :)