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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Working Hard, But Having Fun!

A Special Wedding Anniversary

Thanksgiving was our 49th wedding anniversary. We celebrated with a scrumptious dinner with the other senior couple, the Abneys, at the home of the Cunninghams.  The Cunninghams had been less active for some time, but are practically genealogy/family history) professionals, so we talked to the bishop about calling them to staff the Family History Center in the Jacksonville Ward one night a week.  We have become good friends and enjoy their family a lot.  They live on a beautiful wooded lot in the country.  If you remember the 500 year old white oak tree from a previous post, it stands right in front of their home.  Behind is a creek and lots of wildlife as well as pecan, black walnut and fruit trees.  Anyway, we had a most enjoyable meal and a fun time.

The next night, Friday, we decided to go to Swansboro for our "Date Night" to a seafood restaurant that had been recommended to us and continue our Anniversary Celebration.  When we arrived in Swansboro we noticed a lot of streets were blocked off but we didn't think too much about it.  It turns out the day after Thanksgiving the town sponsors a Christmas Flotilla, like a Christmas Parade on the water.  As luck would have it, the restaurant we were going to sets right on the waterfront and we were seated by a window overlooking the pier.  We had a front row seat!! First came the spectacular sunset.

Then as darkness fell, the flotilla arrived. Not only did we enjoy fresh seafood, but we also were able to watch 17 decorated boats parade across the harbor.

We liked the Holiday Lights on the streets, too -- shells for the nearby ocean and swans in honor of the name of the town. Although, I'm not sure there are actual swans there. The town was originally named Swannborough, after Samuel Swann, an early resident, and was later shortened to Swansboro.

Christmas Parade in Jacksonville / Advertising Ward Open House
 Last Saturday was the big Christmas Parade down Western Blvd., one of the main thoroughfares in Jacksonville.  There were 5 marching bands and 10 or so floats plus lots of cars with local VIPs and police and fire vehicles. It went right in front of our ward building, so we missionaries set up a hot chocolate stand and gave out free hot cocoa (as they prefer to call it here) and let people park in the parking lot and use our rest rooms.  The parade was over an hour long and the air was nippy so we had lots of takers.  I think we gave out over 200 cups of cocoa.

While the senior missionaries manned the hot chocolate stand and walked rest room patrol, the elders and sister missionaries handed out flyers advertising our Open House at the church to be held December 9th.  We also had signs in front facing both directions.  I wish they could have been a little bigger, but we have a limited budget. The smaller signs say "Find Your Roots" inviting people to learn more about the Family History Library inside the ward building.  We are hoping to have a good turn out and do a little PR as there are still a lot of misconceptions about the Mormon church here in the South.

Lots of Graduations

Each week we attend graduations of any of our young Marines who have finished their training.  We take pictures to send to their families.  We also find where they will be stationed and notify the missionaries there to watch and welcome them.  The Marine on the right is called a Mustang --meaning  he started out as enlisted and then went to OCS (Officer Candidate School) and qualified to be a 2nd Lieutenant.  He was at Camp Lejeune for Financial Management Training for about 6 weeks.  He was named Honor Graduate and also was picked by his fellow classmates to receive the "Gung Ho" award for having the best attitude.  The Marine on the left is a returned missionary, recently married.  He just finished his MOS in Supply Training and is to be stationed in California.

It is often hard on our young LDS Marines.  Many of them join right out of high school and as one of them told us, "I've always been surrounded by my family, my friends, and my church.  I took it all for granted.  I never knew how much I needed to take the sacrament until I was in a place where it was not available (on maneuvers in the field)." They also have talked about how hard it is to remain spiritual while being surrounded by foul language and vulgarity.  Even our returned missionaries who later join the Marines sometimes falter.  I so admire the ones who do manage to make it through and keep trying to pray, read their scriptures, and attend church.

We have encountered some issues at Camp Johnson that have made it more difficult to serve the young LDS Marines based there.  Because of some problems with a few young Marines in training going off base in Private Vehicles (POV) and getting into trouble, the ruling now is no private vehicles can pick up Marines in training at Camp Johnson, which, unfortunately, includes us.  We had, prior to this, been picking up any young Mormon Marines that wanted to attend services in Jacksonville and taking them to the ward.  We also brought them in to some YSA activities, such as the Thanksgiving Dinner.  Now we must arrange to hold any regular meetings on base in the back room of the Chapel there.  It is not ideal, but at least we can hold Sacrament Meeting on Sunday morning (45 minutes) and Family Home Evening on Monday nights.  We are also able to  communicate with them by text or facebook.

We have three young men attending services at Johnson who plan to go on missions as soon as they finish basic training.  They will go into the Reserves and have a special arrangement allowing them a 2 year deferment while on a mission.

Elder Abney compares what happens to many young Marines in the military to the pride cycle in the Book of Mormon.  There are a lot of "conversions" in basic training.  The challenges are so intense that they are literally humbled and look forward to any kind of spiritual nourishment.  Several have expressed to us that prayer and weekly church meetings were the only things that got them through boot camp.  Then when they go on to MCT (combat training) and MOS (Military Occupational Speciality) they get more freedom and things are not quite as intense and they start losing that closeness and dependence on the Spirit and other things can seem more important in the moment.

Having Too Much Fun
One of our ward members ( the husband in less active family we have been working with) had a heart attack early Monday morning. (No, this is not the fun part!  Read on.)  He had a large aneurism in one of the arteries in his heart and he was very lucky it had not ruptured.  The doctors put in a stent, and, amazingly, he was able to come home Wednesday.  We went  to the hospital in New Bern (about an hour away) as soon as they called us that Monday morning and Bob and Elder Abney gave him a blessing. When he got home from the hospital he was worried about all the yard work that needed to be done so we decided to see how we might help.

 Sister Abney and I picked up branches and larger sticks while Bob mulched leaves with the riding mower. Some of you may know that Bob has long wanted his very own riding mower, so this was like the next best thing. Of course, now he is convinced that we REALLY need one for our yard in Salt Lake.  I told him to dream on. Elder Abney decided to prune some dead limbs from a large cedar tree. He likes the challenge of heights, so this was right up his alley.  I don't know if you can tell, but he is at the top of a very tall extension ladder.

The past two days we have spent any spare time cutting and folding snowflakes to help decorate for the Open House Monday night.  We have snowflakes hanging all over the house awaiting transportation to the church.  Lou (Bitner) told me you shouldn't lay more than one or two on top of each other or they will get crushed, so we have been creative in finding places they can be hung without getting knocked down as we walk around the house.  I understand that Lou is claiming that the Olympus 2nd Ward snowflakes are now famous coast to coast and we are doing our part to support that claim.

Who knew a senior mission could be this much fun!

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