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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.

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