Sunday, January 3, 2016
I had to hold my breath when I typed 2016 - I just can't believe that 2015 sped by so quickly and that we just keep getting older and older. One good thing about 2016 is that we will return to our home in Arizona and have a chance to serve again. We plan to keep on making memories with members and missionaries back here and are looking forward to our next mission in Gilbert.
This past week was very interesting and even though the meetings and activities were normal, the amount of work related to those meetings and activities was anything but normal. I think we are still catching up from the Christmas Holidays. On Monday, we had lots of mail delivered to the office (packages and letters/cards - about 40 that needed to be forwarded. I also got a big stack of utility bills (35) that needed to be paid and we had a an office staff meeting. Needless to say, that day went flying by and I certainly didn't have any time to wonder what I should do next :)
Tuesday we were busy producing a new Mission Handbook for 2016 that needed to be handed out at the Mission Leadership Conference on Wednesday morning. We make a pretty good team in the office and made a kind of assembly line with printing the booklet, assembling and stapling the booklet, and folding the booklet. We completed 200+ of those on Tuesday and Wednesday morning in order to have them ready by lunch time on Wednesday. Sister Goldade got most of the boxes of supplies ready before she left to visit family and Sister Slatter finished that up on Monday and Tuesday.
Elder Ashton had 3 bicycles that he needed to box up and return home for Elders that are headed home. Those big cardboard boxes and the bicycles took up quite a bit of space but he sure got into the job of boxing them up :)
I must say that I am envious of the way Elder Ashton can get down on the floor and move around so nimbly. It would take me well over an hour and lots of groaning to do something like this and it only took him about 20 minutes to get it all boxed up!
Tuesday we took some time at lunch to go pick up medications and stop at a bike store to try to find more boxes for the bicycles.....but we ran into a traffic jam when we came upon this gaggle crossing the road and taking their sweet time about it!
Traffic in both directions had to stop and wait for them and they didn't seem to hurry at all!
Wednesday was a busy day - missionaries and their cars began arriving at about 8:30 to prepare for a 10:30 meeting. Of course, Elder Ashton had some details he needed to attend to with the cars and lots of Elders and Sisters who needed questions answered or needed him to look at their cars. He had to do some work on the Tattle Tale boxes in 3 cars and was also trying to figure out how to hurry along some body work as a couple of Elders got rear-ended on Tuesday evening and it pushed them into the car in front of them, totalling their car. He's also trying to get 2 cars repaired that hit dear and have been declared unsafe to drive until they are repaired. Keeps him busy and keeps me on my toes trying to help him remember and keep the cars and repairs all straight. I'm thinking we may need to start a spreadsheet of cars that are on "injured reserve" and which body shop is doing the repairing. Between missionaries in and out of the office and cars coming and going and phones ringing, and ringing, and ringing, both Elder Ashton and I were EXHAUSTED when we left the office and Elder Ashton had to tell the Spanish Missionaries that he was too tired to go out teaching with them.
Two missionaries lost their debit cards in the last week so we needed to get those cancelled and new ones ordered......and put extra money on the companion's card so the Elders would have some money to buy food. They are all so nice and very appreciative of any help we give them.
A few of the Elders crowded in the small open space beside Elder Ashton's desk following MLC.Three of the Elders in this picture will be going home on the 19th of this month.....sure is hard to have them go home after we get so attached to them!
Elder Wardell finally worked his way to the front of the line waiting to talk to Elder Ashton - a whole bunch of great young missionaries (Elders and Sisters) in this mission!
Elder Ashton was kept busy this week with several new accidents. In the last month or so we have had two missionary companionships that hit a deer and did considerable damage to the cars they were driving. One of the cars is going to cost $5000+ to repair, so Elder Ashton wrote the missionaries an email telling all the missionaries that if they were really hungry they should come to him rather than hit and kill a deer for food. A couple of the Sister Missionaries thought that was funny, so when they came in on Friday, they came to our work area all out of breath and told Elder Ashton he needed to come take a look at their car because they had hit a moose on the way to the meeting.......but they couldn't hold back the laughter so the joke didn't last very long :)
We had rain off and on several days this week.....sometimes just a mist and other times a real downpour. Overall, the temperatures were above normal, so we still have flowers thinking it is spring and trying to bloom in all their glory.
I love this little yellow tea rose blooming the best it can.....it is the only bloom on the little bush and it has weathered some pretty cold and wet weather, but sure is pretty and so detailed. Look at all those petals opening up!
One of the best parts of serving this mission is the opportunity we have to see not only converts to the church but young missionaries, grow, progress and blossom. Over the past few months we've had some really YOUNG missionaries come to the mission - and that first little while they look like they are terrified. Just in the last week or so I have noticed that those new missionaries are growing, progressing and blossoming......it is so rewarding and interesting to see them bloom, and they are just as beautiful as they spiritually bloom as the rose pictured above is physically beautiful. It is such a great opportunity we have here!
I also found a few pretty white blooms on a soggy bush in front of the church. I continue to be amazed at the beauty of the earth and the huge variety of plants and animals where that beauty is found.
As we drive along out here - whether we are going to a conference, to a doctor appointment, grocery shopping, or sight-seeing, I have my eyes focused on the scenery around me. Although it is now January, there are still some trees that have not lost their leaves. I have noticed a large number of these "golden" trees scattered in the forest as we drive along. The leaves are just the right size so that when the sun hits them they look like golden coins. This group of trees was quite thick amongst the other trees.
There were not as many "golden" trees a little farther down the road, but they were closer so you can tell a little better about the size of the leaves so I had to snap a picture :)
Five missionaries went home on New Year's Day - needed to get home a couple of weeks earlier than the regular transfer so they can get into school which starts next week. Elder Egbert was one of those that went home - to Idaho. He was an Assistant to the President so we got to see him at least once a week in the office and he and his companion(s) got called on to help Elder Ashton with making sure cars were where they needed to be. This picture was taken when he and his companions came to lunch on Christmas Day......it was 70+ degrees that day and my hair was a little damp and messy from perspiration but I couldn't turn Elder Egbert down when he asked if he could get a picture with us. Sure was hard to give him one last handshake on Thursday afternoon :(.
Friday was January 1st and missionaries MSF cards had money on them. For the last 2.5 weeks of December missionaries had been purchasing supplies through the office and I could not deduct from their MSF cards because they were BROKE!....like $.38 in the account. Friday morning I processed $50 deductions from MSF cards....thats about 1/4 of all our missionaries. Took me quite awhile to get that all done while some of the missionaries were in Zone Meeting. Elder Ashton was busy with cars - checking out tires, batteries, etc. Most of the missionaries were gone by 2 p.m. and then the office got pretty quiet. There were a few missionaries that were hanging out in the office waiting to be interviewed by the President and we had the opportunity to have some in depth conversation with a few of them. They are all so enthusiastic about the work and of the six we were talking to, not one complained about getting rejected, being away from family at Christmas or having to live on a very frugal budget.
We talked with one missionary who has been out for about 3 months and he related to us that his mother is an Atheist, his father is an Agnostic and his older brother originally joined the church as a teenager due to the influence of friends. The brother sent missionaries to his family (6 boys - 2 older single births and then 2 sets of twin boys). The father and mother were not interested at all and were somewhat antagonistic but did agree to let the boys continue to listen to the missionaries if they wanted to. This young man is one of the twins in the first set and he joined the church. However, he said it was really hard and he fell away for awhile, but then he had this feeling that he needed to serve a mission. He said his parents were not at all supportive of him serving a mission but didn't forbid it so he sold his old car for $800 and sold his $2500 Trek bicycle and is out here trying to make a difference. I asked him if he had any regrets about the decision he had made and he said, "Oh, no. I'm so happy doing this....it is the best thing I could have done. In fact, my younger brother is getting ready to put his mission papers in." I could hardly speak I was so in awe of his testimony and his dedication to doing what his Heavenly Father and Savior want him to do - even in the face of adversity. He said he talked by phone with his parents on Christmas and it was great to talk to them but he is really glad to be here!
Saturday morning dawned bright and clear and I was REALLY glad to see the blue sky!
As we left the apartment parking lot to go to the grocery store I glanced up and noticed this bird sitting in the branches of a tree covered in red berries. It made me think of a Christmas Card scene (sans the snow) and brought a smile to my face.
Recently I saw several spots on TV about some of the news programs doing a "surprise" pay it forward thing during the holidays. In the spots one of the news anchors would go up to someone in the checkout line at a grocery store just as they were getting ready to pay and say, "I got this for you." - then pay for all the groceries. It was delightful to see the smile and surprise on the faces of those who had their groceries paid for. Yesterday, while standing in line at the checkout, I realized that the lady right in front of me did not have enough money for her groceries and before I really even realized what was happening I told the cashier I would make up the difference. I LOVED the smile on the lady's face as she said thank you and I wished her a happy new year. That little act brought a smile to my face for the rest of the day; so now I have a goal to do some random act of kindness at least once a week. Wouldn't it be a great world if we all could look for and take advantage of opportunities for acts of kindness!
I'm looking forward to the four months of 2016 that we spend here in the Virginia Chesapeake Mission being some of the best we've had. HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!