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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Spring Has Been Full of Surprises!

Surprise All Mission Conference

Imagine our surprise and delight when we received a call one Friday (May 2) inviting us to a special all-mission conference in Raleigh the next morning.  Elder Neil L. Anderson of the Quorum of the Twelve was to speak along with three Seventies -- Elder Parker, Elder Piper and Elder Martinez.  It was a once in a mission experience.  Elder Anderson insisted on shaking hands with each person present and then he and the others gave us wonderful counsel and instruction.  

Spring in North Carolina is Spectacular!

It seems like every week there is a new spring surprise.  I was delighted to see the dogwoods bloom.  They are my favorites -- such graceful little trees.  Note the pink dogwood just to the left of the two white dogwoods.  Azaleas are in bloom all over town.  We even have several around our apartment complex and two right outside our back door.  As we drive along the highway the dogwood is like lace spread among the other trees.

One of the first trees to bloom here is the Bradford Pear. These are the trees planted in honor of the 241 Americans killed in the Beirut bombing in 1983.  I posted a picture of these trees in the fall when they had turned gorgeous shades of red and orange.  Evidentially, these grow well in NC as we saw them all along the highway on our way to Raleigh.

I only have my ipad or iphone to take pictures so you can't really see all the true colors, but use your imagination.  So many shades of green.  I remember in Brazil visiting a home which sat on top of a hill and the host was doing a watercolor of the valley below.  I was fascinated as he mixed the colors for the trees and I think it was the first time I had ever really looked at the various shades of green -- no trees were the same exact shade and even on a single tree the color varied due to light and shadow.  Our world is really quite amazing.  

Sometimes when I step outside or when we are driving to one of our meetings, I encounter yet another springtime surprise.  The bush in the picture on the left was green all winter and then one morning bright red leaves appeared.  Then a few days later white balls of flowers were all over the bush.  I have seen some of these bushes in nearby yards the size of trees (10-15 ft tall).  Can anyone tell me what they are?  The picture on the right shows wisteria growing in the trees.  We rounded a bend in the road and there were all these purple vines entwined in the tall trees.  A beautiful sight, but as my sister, Carol, points out, unfortunately the wisteria eventually kills the host tree. 

One of the spring surprises was not quite so pleasant.  We found that all those beautiful pine trees surrounding us produce an abundance of golden pollen.  For several days we would wake up to find the sidewalks and cars covered with pollen -- and I do mean, covered!  It really did a number on my allergies but zyrtec came to the rescue and I am now able to breathe normally and sleep at night.

Advantages To Being a Senior Missionary

Every month or so, an excursion is offered to Senior Missionaries to explore some interesting sites in
the mission.  We are not always able to attend  these as the time and driving involved does not always mesh with our commitments here.  However, we were able to enjoy a fun day in Raleigh visiting the gardens and chapel at Duke University.  We also visited the basement kitchen where Institute is held for Mormon students attending Duke and had the privilege of seeing a rare 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon in the Duke Library Special Collections section.

Duke Chapel
1830 edition of the Book of Mormon

We Do Keep Busy

Lest you think we spend all our time enjoying the beauties of nature and attending conferences, we do manage to keep busy.

One of the things we do a lot is drive.  Here we are loading bikes and suitcases to take a sister missionary to Raleigh for her transfer to a new area.  We do okay if we are transporting just one missionary, but last transfer we needed to take two sisters, their luggage, and 3 bikes.  It was a very tight fit even using the carrier on top.  We thought we looked quite sporty, though, with the carrier and bikes.  

Bob says we have put over 35.000 miles on the car since October. We visit families that are spread out over a large area. Sundays we drive all over Camp Lejeune to pick up Marines who need rides to church.  Bob often spends two hours or more picking up and taking back.

We take turns driving either the sisters or the elders to Zone meetings in Wilmington (about an hour from Jacksonville).  They keep us entertained.  

After one Zone Meeting the elders asked us to take them to the Highway 55 restaurant for lunch.  Elder Medrano, as the new elder, was challenged to take the 55 Challenge -- to eat 55 ounces of hamburger, 4 toppings, an order of fries and a drink in 30 minutes or less.  The wait staff said it had been several months since anyone had been able to complete the challenge, but small and mighty Elder Medrano finished the entire meal in 20 minutes and then ordered ice cream.  He said his motivation was that if he didn't eat it all it would have cost $24.99 and he would have used his food budget for the week. (It was free if he completed the challenge).

Sleeves up!

Each week we try to visit military families to provide support.  Many of the wives are quite young and are far from family.  Others have husbands who are deployed.  In the picture on the right, the husband just returned from six months deployment overseas.  They have 3 young children and it was very challenging for the wife to keep everything going as the sole adult.  Please note the rolled sleeves.  This is a big deal for Marines.  Sleeves up in warm weather used to be a Marine trademark.  Then all services were ordered to wear sleeves down year round.  The Marines fought to have sleeves up reinstated and won the battle this spring.  Of course, younger Marines had no idea how to roll the sleeves properly (there are exact specifications on how they should look) and it took several weeks for everyone to be properly attired.

One of the hazards that go with our job is the love affair many Marines have with large dogs.  Nearly every home has at least one, sometimes two. It can make visiting a little challenging -- and noisy.

We attend a lot of graduations.  This young man is very special to us.  He is from Kentucky (loved his accent) and studied with the elders during his stay at Camp Lejeune. We picked him up twice a week from a rather remote part of the base and brought him to the ward for lessons with the elders.  He was baptized in Kentucky this past week by a long time family friend who is a member of the LDS church.  He is such a great young man and very courteous.  I've never been "yes ma'am-ed" so much in my life.  He will be serving in Camp Pendleton, California.

We support the YSA's in our two wards and attend most of their activities.  Over half of the YSA are military.  The above pictures were taken at a dinner for YSA at the Bishop's home that we helped with.  His daughter, Emily, in the picture on the left, reminds me of our grandchildren.  The bishop has 4 young children.  The youngest is still a baby.

Bob often says missionary work is like home teaching on steroids, and in many ways this is true.  In addition to sharing spiritual messages we look for opportunities to serve.  I have become a facebook stalker as this often alerts me to one of our families that need a little help.

Building grow boxes at the Bishop's house.

Washing windows and cleaning house
for a sister recovering from a recent

We have had a bumper crop of babies born in the ward the past few months.  It is so fun to help welcome the little ones.  

This sort of sums up how we feel.  We are still learning how to do this missionary thing and are so far from perfect it isn't even funny, but we do our best and serve with a willing heart and pray daily for guidance--and then, even if we don't do much dancing, we have fun.