Nov 11 – We started by doing a fun job for a marine wife. Her husband is gone for extended training and she is very pregnant with a very high risk pregnancy. She has wanted to hang a huge heavy mirror a friend had given her some time ago, but they have never been able to hang it. Last week when we visited her, we helped her hang her other pictures, but we didn't have any equipment to hang the mirror- I figured out what was needed and bought an inexpensive stud finder and some big nails. So first thing we drove to Stafford to her home, about a half hour away. It just so happened that her husband was home for Veterans Day weekend. He and I did a lot of measuring, stud finding, adjusting, and finally hammering. We were able to get two large nails into the studs and hang the mirror in the dining room. The sister was just delighted, as having the blanket-wrapped mirror out of the living room made her room a lot bigger and the apt really looks nice now. She is having family come for Thanksgiving, so she was excited to have things settled looking. It was a great start to the day – using my tools to make someone happy! Then after some planning and studying we headed out again. We provided dinner (pizza, salad and pop) to a family with 4 children. The dad in this family is also away at school, but he was home for the Veterans Day holiday too. So we brought them dinner and then did our obedience FHE. It went well and was great fun. The kids were younger than a lot of the other families we have done the lesson for, but they like all the dog pictures so it went well. Then we went to visit a young couple that has been a bit less active. We were glad to get an appointment to go see them. They are a very nice young couple, both just 20, with a lovely Australian Shepherd that we really enjoyed. It was fun to get to know them and let them get to know us a bit too. Her sister and new baby are moving in with them so they are moving out of base housing. We discussed this with them a bit.We played a lot with their dog and had fun with him. Finally we gave them a short spiritual thought. It was a very nice evening and we felt pleased with both visits. We felt blessed today to be involved in several simple but important activities.
Nov 12 – Today we had a mission conference led by a Seventy. We were visited by Elder and Sister Sitate from Kenya. They joined the church in Kenya in 1986. A fellow student at the university had attended college in the U.S. and had joined the church there. He told them about the church and after about a year they joined. In 2009 Elder Sitate was the first general authority called from Africa. He and Sister Sitate were very sweet, genuine people. We enjoyed them immensely. Sister Sitate taught an excellent lesson about getting along with your companion. She said if someone goes home from their mission and feels like they did not learn what they should have or change the way they could have that it is not their fault, it is the fault of their companion. She also said that learning to live and get along with a companion 24/7 is good practice for the rest of your life. She had a calm and down-to-earth manner that was enjoyable and persuasive. Then Elder Sitate spoke about the Mission Purpose statement in great depth. He had many wonderful points and engaged the Elders and Sisters successfully. He also was very humble and down-to-earth. We enjoyed hearing him. Lunch was provided and we got to meet a new senior missionary couple that is just about 30 miles south of us. We enjoyed chatting with them. Their job is to work with a large Young Single Adult branch, so we enjoyed telling them about our experience in that area. We exchanged contact information so that we could get together for dinner some time. We had previously been asked by President Wilson to take Sister Sitate to the airport after the conference. She was returning home to Salt Lake while Elder Sitate was flying somewhere else for church business. So they were leaving from different airports in Washington DC. We drove her directly to Reagan National Airport, which is about 45 minutes north of here. She was delightful to chat with in the car, and expressed the same type of joys that we do in talking about her children and grandchildren. Although they live in Salt Lake, most of their children and all of their grandchildren live back in Kenya. Lezlie had been working on her knitting in the car, and she said that it is against the law to knit in a car in Kenya. Apparently someone had been killed by a knitting needle when they were in a minor car wreck. So Lezlie put the knitting away. She was very kind and friendly, and thanked us profusely for the ride to the airport. It was an assignment that we enjoyed very much. It was a heavy traffic time when we returned home, so instead of the freeway we drove down the George Washington Parkway. It is a winding, tree lined road that follows the Potomac River south from Washington DC all the way to George Washington’s rural home, Mt Vernon. It was very pretty and a most enjoyable drive. Although it took a bit longer we did not have to fight with traffic until we got close to home. So another different type of day sitting at the foot of a Seventy and being taught with a hundred or so young Sisters and Elders. And then getting to chat with an amazing woman from Africa to top it all off. It was another wonderful adventure.
Nov 13 – The bulk of our day was taken up by our training at the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society (NMCRS). They do very detailed training before they let us work on financial issues with any clients. Even after we finish the training we have to shadow other trained workers before they turn us loose with clients. This is an important service for these marines. They do not get paid a lot, and when emergencies come up sometimes they just cannot pay for them. Also, some of the really young marines that are out on their own and finally earning a paycheck just overspend on cars, tvs and stereos. We learned a lot about how the system works and how to work with the clients in a positive but mentoring way. The training was long but good. We actually have some homework tonight, but that is a good sign. It means they take the training seriously. After a visit to the doctor (still trying to deal with my itching) we took 4 young Elders out to a Chinese buffet. One of them is Canadian Korean and had been bemoaning the lack of good Asian food. It also turned out to be the 19th birthday of one of the Elders so it was nice we took them out. We had some wonderful Asian food including some delicious Mandu. But we ate too much. Ugh.
Nov 14 – Today was day two of our NMCRS training. It was even better today. We did a run through of a full budget, just like we will do for marine clients. It is a fairly complicated process, but we started getting the hang of it after a while. We also have gotten to know several of the other volunteers and they are really nice folks. It is interesting to hear their stories of being involved with the military all over the world and why they volunteer at NMCRS. We finished our training successfully and now just have to shadow others for a while before we are fully qualified. Next we did a Christmas shopping trip at the Marine Corps Museum. They have every imaginable Marine souvenir you could imagine. It was fun to try to find things for the grandkids there. Then we made two important visits to inactive marine families that we have been trying to get to know better. One young sister has an inactive husband and so struggles to get to church and activities by herself. They have 3 children, 4, 2 and 4 months. The 2 year old was born with a malformed eye and has no real eyeball on one side. She has had multiple procedures and she is having eye surgery in a couple of weeks to put a ball inside. This is not really a fake eye, it is just a plastic sphere that will help keep her face from deforming while it is growing so fast for the next couple of years. When she is about 4 they will put in a real fake eye that they can increase in size as she grows. Anyway, she has a lot to go through at such a young age, and her mom is dealing with a lot of it alone. She is a nice gal, but she is tired and somewhat stressed. I got to hold the baby for a while, and we got to visit with her and get to know her better. We think that she will call on us if there is anything we can do to help. The second family, had a very premature baby that had all kinds of complications. He was in the hospital for about 6 months. He has had multiple medical procedures as well, and the mom had to deal with a lot of it alone while her marine husband was away. Now things are better. They have nurses that come in and monitor the baby at night. Apparently with real premature babies they can just stop breathing in the middle of the night. The baby is about 10 months old but looks like he is about 2 months old. So we got to know her better and offered to do what we could to help. We hope she feels welcome to call us. We were very glad to get to visit both of these families. It was humbling to see these young moms dealing with these significant health issues. We feel so blessed to have healthy family members.
Nov 15 – Today we got some more training related to our service at the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society. We were actually shadowing the Client Service Assistant. This is the person who first sees marines and families that come in for service. The CSA greets them and gets all the paperwork started. The CSA is also approved to grant quick loans of up to $500. The NMCRS developed these loans to try to overcome the payday lenders outside of base that charge exorbitant rates. So we got to watch the CSA give a $500 check to a marine that was in dire straits, and he was happy and appreciative. The CSA also answers all incoming calls. So next week mom and I will have our first stint as the actual CSA, but we are going to do it together so there is less chance of goofing something up. After out training we stopped by to see a family that just had their first baby about two weeks ago. She is a member and he is not. But he has taken lessons from the missionaries and said he might be interested in getting baptized. They are a great young family, and we really hit it off with them. They are from Washington (she has a UW Husky flag on the front porch) and they love dogs too. They have a lovable bull dog . Anyway, we were having a nice visit with them and I casually asked if they were planning on having the baby blessed. The mom said“Well, we were just wondering if you could do the baby blessing.” Before they had been talking like they were going to have her dad do the blessing when she goes home for a visit with the new baby in early December. But the husband cannot go, due to work, so he would miss the blessing. So they did not want the dad to miss it, so they want to do it here in Virginia. And she asked me. I said yes, of course. I am totally honored and will be happy to do the blessing for them. We then got some needed shopping done including a bit more Christmas shopping. We decided we needed to get ready for shipping several packages, so we began doing some wrapping and packing. Other than this it was a calm day.
Nov 16 – We decided we needed to have a real P-day ( preparation day) today. We both had several lessons to prepare, some housework, chores, planning and resting today. So we got our talks and lessons ready for tomorrow, did some family history, reviewed and studied some materials, practiced knitting, and got a good rest. We need some down days like this occasionally because we really do get tired on those days that we drive 100 miles and visit 5 or 6 families in one day.
Nov 17 – We had a great meeting with our OCS group early this morning. It was so delightful to see our great OCS friends after two weeks. We missed them last week because they had a field exercise and they had church in the field. They are so happy to be nearing graduation in just 10 days. So far all of our LDS OCS candidates have made it. In addition, we were pleased to hear that our Stephen Davis won the Gung Ho Award. This is an award that is voted on by the others candidates for the most inspirational and positive candidate on the company. It is pretty cool since it is voted on by peers. He was pretty proud of himself. This is the one that told us he might not make it back at week 2. Today they were all talkative, sharing stories and experiences and providing excellent discussion during the lesson. We had a lesson on courage that went over very well. They had liberty and 3 of them hung around for a while just chatting. When I asked if Sister Couch and I could be a temporary part of their family and attend the family day activities that take place the day before graduation, they all said yes. We were happy to hear that our less active candidate was accepted into the same school where his platoon mate will be attending graduate school. He said they would keep in touch. They ate a phenomenal amount food as usual. Lezlie made some candied walnuts for them at their request and they were pleased that she remembered. After resting at home for a bit we went to our regular church meetings. We had some nice talks and music that were inspiring. Lezlie was the substitute for the Gospel Essentials class today. The lesson was about what happens to your spirit when you die. At the start of the lesson there was an African lady that came into class. We met her but did not get to ask much about her before class started. Lezlie taught an excellent, thought provoking class lessons about what happens to our spirits when we die. At the end of the lesson this little African lady said she wanted to make a comment. She said that a year ago today she had lost a loved one and had grieved for a long time. She said that this morning, the morning of the one year anniversary of her loss, she decided she needed to go to church somewhere and find out some answers. She came to the LDS church all on her own even though she had never been before. And she said she had good feelings about the lesson and what she had learned. She said she had felt the spirit of God. Mom gave her a big hug after the lesson. It was quite touching. The sister missionaries talked with her and set up an appointment to go visit her. It was a remarkable experience. We have had several remarkable experiences this week. We are learning that when we let loose and allow the Spirit to guide us we are guided so some pretty remarkable experiences.