Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Pair of Christmas Parties

Two outstanding Christmas parties this week really put us into the Christmas Season.  First was a luncheon with the other Navy Marine Corps Relief Society volunteers.  The wife of the Commanding Officer of the entire Quantico Base is a long time volunteer at the society.  So each year she hosts a Christmas party for all of the volunteers.  As the CO of the base her husband is provided a huge, beautiful house on top of a hill overlooking the base.  It was magnificently decorated for Christmas, with beautiful pieces from their travels all over the world.  It was great fun to get to know the other volunteers better, a great bunch of people.  We had a lunch catered by Famous Daves, so we had some outstanding barbecue.  We had a fun gift exchange as well.  It had a "get to know you" theme, so we learned a lot about each other.  It was great fun and a nice way to start the holiday season.  We are enjoying our volunteer work, and as we get to know the other volunteers better we realize we are working with a great group of people.  Our second party was the Christmas get together for all of the senior missionaries in the Virginia Richmond mission.  About 30 of us gathered in a church building in Richmond, which is about 90 miles south of where we live.  We had a nice training session from 10 - 12.  We had some good lessons about blessings of a mission, how to see service that needs doing, and how to help church members.  I was asked to give a short talk about developing Christ like attributes, so I talked about Knowledge and Charity.  It went pretty well.  They especially liked my vacuum cleaner analogy.  We got a new vacuum and mom began vacuuming right away.  I read the owner’s manual and then vacuumed, but knew all the little hidden features of the vacuum.  If I had read the manual and never vacuumed it would have been a waste of time.  So we both vacuumed and got the work done.  Mom did it quickly, which is needed sometimes.  I did it in a little more depth, which is needed some times too. But you have to do the work.  So, learning and obtaining knowledge are meaningless if we don’t enact what we have learned in our lives.  Several people commented that they liked the vacuum cleaner story.  I also told some stories about times we received charity, including the time that our home teacher gave us $20, sent us out on a date, and made popcorn and did magic tricks for the kids.  I think some of our children remember that night.  Anyway, my talk went well.  Then we had an outstanding potluck lunch.  Lezlie made pistachio pudding desert with maraschino cherries on top, very Christmassy looking and delicious too.  We had salads, breads, hearty soups (Lezlie- my favorite was the Virginia peanut soup; Dan - my favorite was the vegetable beef soup) and deserts.  It was superb!  Then we gathered for a gift exchange, which involved rolling dice for doubles to get a gift, and then stealing others gifts if you rolled a double again.  It was fun – a lot of laughing and teasing and good natured swapping of gifts.  Mom got a small puzzle with a CD of relaxing music.  I ended up with a red necktie, but traded it at the last minute for some fall leaf stickers that mom wanted.  Our final activity for the get together was to tour an old Victorian style mansion called Maymount.  It was built by a railroad millionaire in the late 1800s, and was large, majestic, and beautiful.  It was decorated top to bottom for Christmas.  There were wreaths in every window, a gigantic Christmas tree with authentic 1880s ornaments, evergreen boughs in every room, red candles on all the tables,  and ribbons everywhere.  We got an excellent tour by a historian, and really enjoyed it.  The picture below shows the bed of the lady of the house, who loved swans.  There is also a picture of the dining room table all set for Christmas dinner.  The guide was able to tell us about a lot of the Christmas customs of the time.  The two hour drive there and back made for a long day, but we were glad for the fun Christmas gathering. We came home with a lot of extra pistachio pudding desert.  So we called each of the 4 sets of missionaries that live in our apartment complex.   About every half hour between 7pm and 9pm two missionaries would show up at our door for some desert.  Four of them had additional appointments, so just took some desert away on a paper plate.  Two of the Elders had time, so they ate their desert here and then played Christmas carols on bells with us (we bought a set of bells to use here).  They thought the bells were great fun.  Then the two sisters that live in our apartment complex stopped in and admitted that they had not had any dinner yet.  So we quickly heated up some soup, gave them a meal, and then gave them some desert.  They also played some carols on the bells with us and really seemed to enjoy it.  So our late evening was great fun too.  It was great fun to see all of our apartment complex missionaries.  They are a great group.  We have found some Christmas movies that we can get for free on Amazon, so we have been watching some fun, old-fashioned Christmas stories.  We watched a couple of Christmas shorts that were probably fifty years old.  They were simple, predictable stories, but great fun to watch, and with good Christmas messages.  So it was a wonderful day.  

We were able to get all of our Christmas gifts mailed out this week.  We hauled 6 big boxes to the UPS store and quickly found out that shipments from Virginia to Washington were more expensive than shipments from Washington to Washington.  But Shipments from Virginia to Texas are not bad.  We were happy to get everything mailed out.  We had several transportation requests from the young missionaries this week.  One young elder has been suffering with a large planters wart on his foot right where he pushes on his bike pedal.  Apparently it is very painful for him.  I took him to a dermatologist to get it taken care of.  We ran several missionaries back and forth to meetings and appointments.  The weather and early darkness are making it trickier for the young elders to get to distant places on their bikes.
We had a full day in Zone Conference this week.  About every three months we have a full day zone conference where the mission president attends and provides training and guidance.  We had multiple talks and instruction from several of the leaders among the Elders and Sisters.  Two of the best were Elder Wray, talking about “All Present and Accounted For’ and Sister Allen talking about receiving personal revelation through prayer.  These were two of the first young missionaries we met when we arrived here. Elder Wray is an outstanding young man from Blackfoot Idaho, a potato farm boy.  He told about how 2000 inexperienced young Book of Mormon soldiers fought with power and courage because they loved the Lord.  He compared themselves, as inexperienced missionaries, to these stripling warriors.  After the big battle Captain Helaman, fearing the worst, rode out to see his troops.  He asked the Commander how bad it was, and the Commander said, “All present and accounted for sir.”  This meant that not one person had been lost in the terrible battle.  At the end of their mission these young sisters and elders  should be able to say, “All present and accounted for sir,’ meaning that everyone they should have taught was taught and nobody was lost. Sister Allen is a great young lady from St George, Utah.  I do not recall all of the things Sister Allen said, but her talk was powerful and touching.  She mostly talked about how a simple but humble personal story or testimony has great power.  It was a tremenous talk from an outstanding young woman.
We had an excellent 3 hour volunteer shift at the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society.  We got to do a lot of shadowing and learned a lot from our mentors.  We both got to process our first Quick Assist Loans (QAL).  Any marine that meets just a few basic criteria can come in a get a QAL for up to $500.  We are supposed to be able to process them in about 15 minutes.  It is a little complicated.  But Lezlie and I each got to do one, with the qualified worker looking over our shoulder.  It was such a good feeling handing over that check to the young marine and his wife that really needed the money right now.  The purpose of the QALs is to try to prevent the young marines from going to the loan sharks right outside the base.  Those companies loan the marines large amounts of money with almost no qualification requirements, but then they charge a huge interest.  If they don’t pay off those loans their credit rating goes way down.  So we give them interest free loans to try to keep them away from the predatory loan companies.  We are happy to be working there and feel like it is a good service.

One day this week we visited two marine wives in Stafford, which is about twenty miles south of us.  We have visited them before and probably mentioned them in our blog.  One is a young mom with three children under 5 whose husband is away at a school.  Her 5 year old is autistic and a handful.  So we go over every couple of weeks and help her clean, play with her younger boy, and hold the baby.  She seems to really enjoy the adult company.  The other lady is pregnant but is having a difficult time.  She had a 4 year old and her husband is at school most of the time.  So we took her lunch, helped her fix a cabinet, and rearranged some furniture.  She also talked nonstop, and I think she really appreciated the adult company.  We really enjoy these opportunities to really serve by doing helpful things for these dedicated marine wives.  These pictures show some of the practical, meaningful work we do.

This week we had an unusual Sunday.  We were aware that bad weather was on the way – snow, wind, and freezing rain.  But it did not look too bad in the morning.  So we headed to church early to attend a missionary correlation meeting.  This is when we meet with the younger missionaries that work in the same ward as us.  We make sure that we are not visiting the same people on the same week.   Before we began the meeting there was a lot of talk in the hallway about the bad weather and possibly cancelling meetings.  Out the church windows we could see that the snow was getting heavier.  The bishop and his staff, who were having a meeting, all walked by and headed out the door.  They stood out in the snow scuffing their feet on the parking lot for a few minutes.  Then they all trooped back in, saying they were going to check on the latest forecast by the weather channel.  So we went ahead and started our meeting.  About 15 minutes later the bishop stuck his head into our meeting and said that the weather and the roads were getting worse so all meetings were cancelled.  So we began to load up our things and head out.  But the younger missionaries were complaining that they had really wanted to be able to take the sacrament this morning.  Just as we were walking out we could see that inside the chapel the Spanish Ward was just starting.  They decided to go ahead with their sacrament meeting and then send everyone home.  So we quickly went in and sat down so that we could take the sacrament.  We listened to the bishop in Spanish and actually understood a bit of what he was saying.  It was fun to sing Christmas carols in Spanish.  After we had a chance to take the sacrament we exited and headed home in the snow.  Then we spent all day inside working on lessons, reading, listening to Christmas music, and baking goodies for some visits tomorrow.  It was a quiet day, but it was nice to be home and out of the nasty weather. We are looking forward to watching the church Christmas Devotional tonight.

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