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Sunday, October 27, 2013

We Made It!!

We arrived in Jacksonville last Friday about 2 p.m., unloaded the car, changed clothes and went to a Fall Festival at the ward at 6.  Since then we have kept a fairly hectic schedule learning how to navigate  around our area (which is quite large), meeting the bishop and ward members, and being trained by the other senior couple who has been in the area since August.  Needless to say, it has been a little overwhelming trying to process and remember everything.  In between, we have tried to set up our apartment and stock our kitchen with basic supplies. Every time we think we have all we need, we discover we have missed something essential such as dish washing soap or olive oil.

We have a very nice 2 bedroom apartment which is mostly furnished.  We are still waiting on a couch and a washer dryer.

We hold church services for those Marines who are restricted to base early Sunday morning (6 a.m.).  For other Marines living on base but who are allowed to travel off base we go out to their barracks and pick them up and bring them to the Jacksonville wards. (There are 2 wards).  Monday nights we hold Family Home Evening both in the ward house for Young Single Adults (18-30) and at Camp Johnson for those wanting to attend on base.  Tuesday night is Institute at the ward house. We try to keep in touch with the young LDS Marines by text and Facebook.  Their training schedules are often erratic and they are not always able to attend meetings so we try to support them in other ways.  We take them treats on their birthdays and attend their graduations where we take pictures to send to their parents or spouse if they are unable to attend.  In addition, we work with the wives of deployed Marines.  Many Marines have had repeated deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and it takes a toll on both the Marine and his family. There are several families in the ward with a deployed spouse with deployments lasting up to a year.

Last week the husband of one of the military wives in the ward we work with had a young Marine under his command killed in Afghanistan.  At our Military Wives Group Meeting they wrote cards to the surviving soldiers expressing support and unity.  The officer had told his wife that four of his soldiers had not received a single letter for weeks and that all 20 were quite shaken by the death. The art department at the high school on base has a project where they design and print cards which they provide free of charge for any group writing to the troops.  The cards were all different designs and so well done.

Today in Relief Society one woman shared that her husband was suffering from severe PTSD and he had been hospitalized..  She is trying to cope with young children at home and still be a support to her husband. And this is not an isolated case.

We also are working with part member and less active families.  We visited a great couple last week who live in the country.  The husband has been attending church now and then, but both are very into family history.  While visiting with them they indicated they would be willing to help out in the Family History Center as they love to help people learn about genealogy.  The bishop is going to talk with them this week to see what can be arranged.  They live quite a ways out in the country and have this magnificent oak tree in front of their house which is at least 300 years old. It is huge!

While driving us around our ward boundaries, the Abneys (the other senior couple) took us to Emerald Island, which is a barrier island just off the coast,  It is a very popular vacation spot and had many beautiful beach homes. Many are rental properties but I understand they are very expensive.

We really are loving it here.  The people are very friendly and it is a beautiful area of the country.  We love the other missionaries -- the Abneys (the other senior couple) and 8 wonderful young missionaries (4 elders and 4 sister missionaries).  And best of all there is plenty of work to be done.  Please keep us in your prayers.

On Our Way

After five months of sorting, discarding, and finding places to store 41 years of "treasures," we packed our car with what we thought we needed for the next 18 months and bid good-bye to our home in East Millcreek, Utah.
Notice the carrier on top of the car and the full back end. In addition, we mailed 5 boxes.

Getting our house ready for our youngest daughter and her family to move in was a challenging and labor intensive task.  We needed to consolidate whatever we were keeping to fit into the attic, part of a storage room and the garage.  Our oldest daughter offered a room in her basement to store some of the big pieces of furniture which saved us the necessity of renting a storage unit.  I always knew children would come in handy one day!

Lessons learned:  You can't organize clutter.  Excessive amounts of even good things is still clutter.  Some choices are between good, better and best.  In the end, we realized we had accumulated far more than we truly needed.  We now had the opportunity of blessing others by sharing our surplus.  In exchange, we experienced the joy of a simpler, more focused life.

Following our second week at the MTC, we headed across country to our mission assignment at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.  Along the way we were able to visit with our son, Mike, and his family in Fort Collins, Colorado and with my sister, Joyce, and family friend, Charlotte, in Kansas City.

Breakfast with Charlotte and Joyce at Village Inn

We even managed to have lunch with my niece, Sharon, and her husband, Denny, as we passed through Columbia, Missouri.  From Kansas on we seemed to be following a storm front across the country, driving in rain most of our trip.  There was a break as we drove through the Great Smokey Mountains and we were able to see some of the beautiful fall colors.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

First Week at the MTC

Wow!  It has been an incredible first week at the MTC.  We have learned so much, though, on occasion, we have felt a little like the donkey in this picture.

We arrived at the MTC Sunday night, September 29th.  I'm glad we checked in the night before we were actually scheduled, as it allowed us to unpack and get settled in before the start of classes.  We are on the main campus, although some senior couples are staying at the Marriott Hotel in Provo and ride a shuttle back and forth.  There is also a West Campus that is self-contained where about 900 young missionaries are housed.

There were 122 senior missionaries in our group and over 2200 young missionaries are at the MTC right now.  Among this senior missionary group, assignments range from things like mission office help and Member Leadership Support (which basically means anything your mission president asks you to do) to such things as Church Education, records duplication, Young Single Adult Support, Auditing, Polynesian Cultural Center, Winters Quarter Visitors Center and, of course, Military Relations Specialists. In fact, in our group, there are 6 couples assigned to Military Relations.  A new couple that came in this week will be going to Katmandu, Nepal, as humanitarian missionaries overseeing a big water project.  How cool is that!  Another couple were told to bring their horse and trailer and levis with one suit for Sundays.  They will be working on a cattle ranch in New Mexico.

Seniors from our group are being sent to Siberia, Russia, Slovenia, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Japan, Chile, Philippines, Tonga, Marshall Islands, Hawaii, Australia, as well as numerous states on the US mainland.  One of the military couples will stationed at Fort Bragg, NC, not far from us.

Senior couples in our district
Being at the MTC for General Conference was a special treat.  Then Sunday evening our Devotional was a program by Vocal Point, a BYU a Capella group that was on the TV show, Sing Off,  last season.  Bob loves a Capella singing and so was very excited -- as were all the young missionaries, who were obviously big fans. Everyone in the group was a returned missionary and several of them shared some of their missionary experiences and challenges, as well as their testimonies as part of the program.  It was very touching.  Bob's eyes even leaked a bit.

I am amazed at how smoothly everything runs here.  They manage to feed and house well  over 2000 people and make it look it easy. There is a dry cleaners, laundry facility, alterations department, bookstore, barber shop, mail room, and gym/workout room, in addition to all the classrooms and auditoriums.  There is an exercise room on our floor just for seniors with two treadmills and two recumbent bikes, so I've been riding one of the bikes each day.  I have been using the Fitbit my daughter, Kristy, gave me and have been tracking how many steps I take each day (riding the bike  counts).  The past three days I have logged over 10,000 -- a first for me.

It has been such a joy sharing this experience with my best friend.  We are growing and learning --and loving it.