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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Merry Christmas in North Carolina

Christmas Memories 2013

Notice the famous Olympus 2nd Ward
snowflakes in the window.
Our amaryllis bloomed on Christmas
Day.  What a treat

Cards from friends and family.
Not a great picture, but the small tree
is made of baby food jars.and tree
lights.  It was given to us by one of
the members who wanted to make
sure we had a tree.

We see mistletoe all over.  The traditional
way for Southerners to gather it is by
shooting it out of the tree with a rifle
or shotgun.

We were invited to spend Christmas Eve with some ward members with young children.  One woman's husband is currently deployed to Spain and the other woman's husband just returned from Afghanistan.  There were 4 children between the two families--ages 6, 4, 2, and 1.  After a fabulous dinner, one of the mothers used a "Candle Nativity" to retell the story of the First Christmas.  As she read the verses from Luke 2 she lit the appropriate candles and we sang various carols to go along with the verses.  The blue candles represent Mary and Joseph; the short white candle, the baby Jesus; the tall white candle, the angel; the 3 green short candles on the right, the shepherds; and the 3 purple ones on the left, the wise men.  The kids were mesmerized and really "got" the story and retold it several times afterwards.  At the end, all the candles were blown out (the kids helped and LOVED this part) except the candle representing Jesus.  I thought this was a wonderful way to share the story of Christmas and made the evening very special.

The Jacksonville 12

Our Jacksonville 12 (missionaries) traveled to Fayetteville for a Christmas Zone Conference.  There were about 100 missionaries there and you haven't heard singing until you hear that many missionaries singing with gusto.  We had training in the morning and then a musical program put on by the missionaries themselves after lunch.  The Stake Relief Societies in Fayetteville prepared a delicious Christmas feast for us all. New from the last district missionary photo--2nd from the left, top row is our new district leader, Elder Roberts; bottom row, 2nd from the right is Sister Fowler, a newbie from Conway, Arkansas.  I've got to remember to take off my glasses when we take pictures outside.

Hopefully, when you click on this video you will see our zone singing "The Twelve Days of Christmas" complete with actions ala President Bernheisel.  It was hilarious.

Christmas Breakfast Chef

This is a somewhat contrived picture, but I keep forgetting to take pictures when things are really happening.  Bob and Elder Abney were in charge of the breakfast burrito/omelette bar at the Christmas morning breakfast at the ward.  The sisters were responsible for a waffle bar.  In addition, there was juice, cinnamon rolls, and clementines.  Actually, I use the term "juice" somewhat loosely.  We asked the young elders to bring juice and they brought fruit punch and Sunny-D and were delighted when some was left for them to take back to their apartments.  In addition to the missionaries from both wards, we had about 10 Marines that were not able to go home for the holidays.  After breakfast (and, of course, some basketball shoot around) we played a table game.  On the tables we had piles of all different kinds of candy (Warheads, Twix, Peanut M&Ms, etc.) and a pair of dice.  When a person rolled a 7 or 11 or doubles he/she got to choose one of the candies.  The next person who won could either choose a new candy or take one from someone else.  It got pretty heated with the Peanut M&Ms, but a good time was had by all and everyone went home with some of their favorites.  We even had two Marines we had never met wander in asking if there were church services on Christmas (they had seen the cars) and they stayed for breakfast and we got their contact information.  One of them was from Tremonten, Utah.

During December we tried to visit each family with a deployed Marine and took them a little gift and made certain they had someplace to go or someone to spend Christmas with.

The "snowman" is really a Hershey candy bar and the CD of Christmas music was provided by my daughter, Shannon, who sent us several copies to hand out.

We were able to make special arrangements to take Marines in training at Camp Johnson off-base to attend the YSA Christmas dinner at the ward.  The Marines enjoyed being in a non military, more informal setting, and, like most young men, they loved eating the home-cooked food. We hold Sunday services and Family Home Evening on Monday nights in the chapel on base, but we like to bring the Marines into some special activities at the ward when we can.

 4 of our Marines at Camp Johnson graduated on the 20th of December.  The two Marines on the right in the first picture are ours. The one with his back to the camera in the other photo placed second in his class and is receiving special recognition. (It is hard to take pictures from the back of the room).  All three of these Marines were reservists and will be going back to their home towns.  The other Marine, we did not get a picture of, but he will be going to Camp Pendleton. We will miss these young men and hope they will do well in whatever comes next.  We have several new Marines coming to Camp Johnson after the first of the year and we look forward to getting to know them.

As we have noted before, as senior missionaries we don't get transferred to new areas like the young missionaries, but those we work with move on after training and so it is just as hard.  You become so attached to them and then they leave for a new assignment.

One of our newest members with Sister Bush and Sister Fowler. 

We had 3 baptisms in our district in December.  It has been so awesome to see the changes that have taken place in the lives of those who were baptized and the happiness they radiate.  

The Addiction Recovery Program is going well.  We will be doing presentations in adult classes at church soon explaining what the program is about and who might benefit from it.  We have had some referrals from the local bishops already. We would like to have a group for wives and/or family members affected by addiction, but we are not there yet.  We went with the J3 sister  missionaries this week to visit a mother and her adult son. The mother is trying to quit smoking so she can be baptized (hence, why we were invited along).  She is a very caring person who has had a lot of challenges and heartaches in her life. I hope something that we shared may be of help to her. 

The Last Judgement
Before I close this blog I wanted to tell you about our Open House at the chapel earlier in December.  We had about 50 attend and it went very well.  A lot of work went into the preparation and a lot of ward members helped out.  We took small groups of 10 or less on a tour beginning in the Primary room where they were greeted and one of the bishopric explained that this is the room where young children are taught about Heavenly Father and Jesus.  A group of Primary aged children sang "I Am a Child of God" and "If the Savior Walked Beside Me." Then the group went to the baptismal font where two of the elders talked about the covenant we make at baptism.  The tour included brief stops at the Family History Library, the Scout Room (where the scouts had set up a tent and a very realistic looking fake fire) and the room where early morning seminary and teen classes are held.  In the Relief Society room were pictures of the temple and Elder Abney explained why these are sacred buildings and answered questions.  In the foyer other missionaries talked about some of the art work on the walls and how they relate to our belief in Jesus Christ.  In the chapel proper the bishop spoke briefly about the sacrament and what that means to Latter Day Saints.  In the other foyer, Bob and I talked about the art work there.  The picture above was one of ours to talk about.  It is a reproduction of the painting of the Last Judgement that hangs in the Washington DC temple.  I learned several things about the painting which I shared with the tour groups.  First, the artist put himself and his family in the painting.  Second, there are no little children on the dark side as little children under the age of 8 who die go to the Celestial Kingdom.  Third, one of the visitors pointed out that Christ is making the American Sign Language signs for good and bad with his hands (open and turning upward for good, the other turning down for bad). Fourth, the artist painted he and his wife in both the light and the dark sides as he wasn't quite sure where they would wind up.  The tour finished up in the Cultural Hall with cookies and treats.  There was a TV playing Mormon Messages (very short inspirational videos produced by the church) and a slide presentation in another area with pictures of the inside of several temples as well as pictures of temples across the world. Even the members felt it was a special night and several commented it made them see the building in a whole new light.  


Tom said...

So glad to have found your blog. My son is currently serving in your district.

Anonymous said...

Wow...thank you for the wonderful!