Sunday, November 24, 2013

Fredericksburg - Belle Grove and Port Conway

We ended up with no firm commitments one day this week so we took a drive to Fredericksburg, Virginia, about thirty miles south of us.  We visited some interesting shops in the old part of town, including an excellent Made in Virginia store, and bought a few fun Christmas gifts.  We made a quick stop at the Fredericksburg Heritage Library (genealogy) but did not find any new family history data there.  The coolest thing we did on this jaunt was to visit the Belle Grove Plantation, which is now a bed and breakfast.  Belle Grove was owned by the Conways (Lezlie's ancestors) for 120 years.  They ran one of the two main tobacco warehouses and ports in Virginia for a while  (Port Conway) President James Madison was born in the house because his grandma was a Conway.  It is a beautifully restored mansion right on the Rappahannock River.  The lady who runs it with her husband has researched the history of the house, so she knew a lot about the families that had owned it.  She and Lezlie shared all kinds of Conway genealogy information and discussed ways to find that one missing link we have with the Conways.  She gave us a tour of the whole place.  They have done an amazing job restoring it and turning it into a beautiful bed and breakfast. She was a wonderful tour guide, telling us story after story as we moved through the house.  We may have to go back there again.  We also got to see Port Conway, a port established by the Conway family to export their tobacco.  We had a pretty drive home through beautiful Virginia farm fields and forests. When you get away from the traffic clogged highways Virginia is a gorgeous state.  It was a nice day off from the work, and we felt relaxed and refreshed after our little trip.

We did some additional training at the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society.  We actually filled the spot of Client Service Assistant (sort of like the receptionist) together.  Neither one of us is officially qualified yet, but we wanted to get some more training time in so with management's okay we signed up to work the CSA job together.  It went very well.  We helped several marines get checked in, had to tell a reserve marine we could not help him (it was sad but NMCRS only helps reservists on extended active duty), and answered multiple phone calls.  We gained more confidence as the morning progressed, and we ended up doing a pretty good job.  It is humbling to see these young marines that have worked so hard and dedicated themselves to serve the country get into financial problems.  They do not get paid a whole lot, and a many of them are young and earning their first real paycheck.  So they go out and buy hot cars and elaborate entertainment systems, which their pay just cannot support.  I will be glad to get into the budget sessions where you can really discuss ways that they can better control their money.  After some good training time at NMCRS we were fortunate enough to be able to help out a young marine mom who has four small children.  Her husband is away at a school, she has movers coming late this week, and she was ill.  We went to her house and played with the younger children and cleaned house for two hours. She was able to take a nap for an hour and then get some packing done.  It was nice to be able to help her out, and her little girls were fun to play with (the other two were at school).  But it did make us miss our own grandkids.  Finally we went to the home of an Air Force Lieutenant Colonel to give a family home evening lesson.  He has a fascinating job working on the Air Force nuclear weapons program at the Department of Energy in DC (Dan enjoyed comparing notes about working with DOE).  This was the biggest family we have done a lesson for thus far – eight kids between ages 4 and 14.  That is a lot of kids!  But they could not have been better.  They minded their folks, were respectful to us, and participated appropriately in the lesson.   Every one of the kids thanked us for the lesson and treats, and the older boys came to the door and shook our hands goodbye.   It is so uplifting to see a family like this.  You know these kids have a great start in being responsible citizens and good people.  It was a pleasure to share the evening with them.  We also visited several other military families throughout the week and helped out with a variety of things.
We held our last family home evening with our great OCS class.  We had the best attendance ever, with 16 eventually showing up.  It was a fun evening.  They have only 5 days left until graduation, so they are feeling pretty good.  Basically all the hard stuff is over for them.  Lezlie gave a superb lesson on obedience, an adaption of our obedience lesson for children using the pictures of our dogs in various obedience events.  It went over very well, with lots of great discussion.  When we rolled out the treats of butterscotch chip chocolate brownies, muffins, milk and juice they downed every morsel of food & drink quickly.  There was a lot of great conversation and joking around.  You can tell they are just feeling that graduation right around the corner.  We feel very close to this group of kids and are glad we will get to see them for 6 more months as they navigate  through The Basic School. 
We also experienced our second transfer day, one of the busiest days that routinely occurs in a mission.  Every 6 weeks about 30% of the missionaries get transferred. These missionaries pack up all of their belongings the night before, travel to Richmond for a transfer meeting, travel to their new assigned area, and meet the new companion that they will live and work with for six weeks.  So early this morning we picked up two elders and transported them 30 miles south to Stafford.  There were about 30 missionaries there, some waiting to be picked up and others just saying goodbye.  Finally a huge van followed by a pickup and trailer pulled in.  Tearful goodbyes and high-fives followed, and luggage was rapidly loaded.  These kids get to know and love each other quickly because they work so hard together.  One of the young elders that we took to Stafford had been in Woodbridge for 6 months, which is unusually long for the average missionary.  You could tell it was emotional for him to leave.  As we pulled away he said, “I have ridden my bike up this street 5 or 6 times a day for the past 6 months and I can’t believe I won’t be doing it anymore.”  However, he was also excited because he gets to serve in West Virginia next.  There is a small sliver of West Virginia that is in our mission, and it is a favorite spot among the missionaries.  Those that have served there say it is a slower paced area with much less traffic than other areas of the mission.  It is a mountainous region, basically an extension of the Appalachians, so the missionaries drive jeeps there.  This young man was very excited about getting to drive a jeep.  So another transfer day has come and gone, and we will start meeting several new missionaries tomorrow.  We have about ten more transfers to go on our mission.  

We also got to visit a young woman from our home ward who lives in this area.  She is in training at the FBI Academy on Quantico and is training to become a fingerprint specialist.  It is interesting to hear her talk about her training.  Reading the fingerprints is only a minor part of her job.  They have to know the history of fingerprinting.  They must understand all the biology behind why no two fingerprints are the same.  They must understand the science about why fingerprints are left on surfaces and how to lift them.  And they also must be trained at public speaking under stress, because they will have to testify at federal trials to support their fingerprint work.  It was fascinating to hear about her work.  She is doing pretty well here but seems a little lonesome.  We enjoy visiting with her and hope to get to see her again.  It is fun to see someone from home and talk about things back in Richland.
One young family gave us a lesson in looking at the bright side of things.  We visited this young marine and his wife and noticed that he had on a USNA t-shirt.  We asked him about his connection with the Naval Academy, and it turns out that he went to the Naval Academy for 2 years and then left for a mission.  When he came back the academy was swamped with students and they were not able to readmit him.  He said they had midshipmen sleeping in enlisted men’s quarters they were so overcrowded.  So he finished up his schooling at BYU.  This, he said with a smile, was meant to be because I met my beautiful wife at BYU.  His wife is a Chinese gal that came to the US to study, ended up in Utah, joined the church, and met her future marine husband there.  They were a fun couple to talk with.  It was a great example of how God sometimes leads us down unexpected paths, but something good always turns up.  So we must always look for the bright side.

We also had  the privilege of attending a baptism of a 35 year old man named William.  He has been studying and investigating the Mormon church for a couple of months and we have met him at church in our Sunday School class several times.  He is a great guy.  The baptism service was wonderful, with about 30 ward members showing up to support him and welcome him to the congregation. There was a wonderful spirit there.  The talks were superb, especially the one from the sister that introduced him to the church, Nicole.  She works next door to him and got to be his friend just because they saw each other so often coming in and out the doors of their offices.  He was not at work for several weeks, and she was worried.  Finally one day she saw him walking out of his office very slowly looking like he was in great pain.  She got him to sit down and talk to her.  He told her his story of several difficult family and medical challenges.  It turns out that he had just suffered a stroke and while in the hospital his heart had actually stopped.  The emergency room doctors were able to revive him.  But his recovery was slow.  He seemed defeated physically and mentally.  Nicole told him, you need to learn about our church.  Will you come to my house for dinner tonight and meet the missionaries?  He did, and now several months later, he is a newly baptized member of our church. What is amazing is that this lady and her husband just joined the church a year ago.  Yet they helped teach William.  After the baptism itself William spoke, and it was an amazing talk of gratitude and conversion.  His countenance was bright as he spoke to us.  Afterwards a group of us went out for lunch together at an Indian Restaurant, where we talked and ate and got to know William better.  It was an excellent afternoon.

We attended out last Sacrament Meeting with our OCS group.  How we have come to love these young men and women!  They will graduate from OCS in two days.  We had all of our core LDS folks plus a couple of visitors.  Our fellow OCS lay leader gave a great lesson based on President Gordon B. Hinckley's 6 Be's (Be Grateful, Be Smart, Be Clean, Be True, Be Humble, Be Prayerful).  He related the Be’s to the nine marine corps principles of leadership.  It was an excellent lesson and totally applicable to marine officers.  During refreshment time we got to mingle with the group, listen to stories about their recent OCS adventures, and hear about their plans for the future.  They are all very excited about graduation but a bit anxious about starting The Basic School (TBS) in winter.  At TBS they spend a lot of time outdoors so they know they will be cold often.  It was wonderful just to visit with them and think back to when we first met them ten weeks ago.  We have learned as much from them as they have from us. We are so excited that our candidate Davis received the Gung Ho Award for the most spirited marine, which is a big deal here. They are a wonderful group of people.




1 comment:

  1. It is always great to hear what you guys are doing. Virginia is a beautiful state! Thanks for the updates!