Sunday, December 15, 2013

Snow in Virginia

God works in mysterious ways.The sloppy weather at the beginning of the week turned out to be a blessing for us.    We spent some time (well, mostly Lezlie)baking and decorating brownies and cookies.  We decided to think big, so we prepared ten plates of Christmas goodies along with our Christmas message.  When we arrived on the Quantico Base and visited our first marine family, we came to find out that school had been cancelled because of the early morning ice and snow.  However,  by the time we left, the main roads to the base were fine, but most of the base did not have power.  Since the schools were closed, every family we visited was home, and the kids were thrilled to see us. So were the moms as they had been isolated in their cold homes without TV or video games or lights all day with all of their children.  They were not only happy to see the Christmas goodies, but because they were so bored, the manger scene stickers we had brought for the younger kids, were in big demand even with the Jr. High set....  We ended up stopping at ten separate homes and delivered all of our treats.  Nearly every family wanted to visit, told us about their Christmas plans and of course,  the kids wanted to show us their Christmas trees and decorations.  So it was lucky for us the schools were closed!  It made for a lovely day of visits with moms and kids. 

Most of Tuesday was taken up by District Meeting- hauling 8 Elders back and forth, so that took some extra time.  However, we had excellent meetings today.  We have a new district leader who did a great job of making the meeting quite efficient and spiritual. He also really included us as part of the District, which is unusual because we are actually separately attached to Quantico, so sometimes feel like observers at these meetings.  But they asked us to tell them what we are doing there, and acted interested. Dan as asked to give some training too. It was fun and interactive and different from what we have been doing and went pretty well.  Overall,  it was one of our best District Meetings.  

We did our regular 4 hour shift at Navy Marine Corps Relief Society, and Dan got to prepare his first actual budget for someone, with a mentor looking over his shoulder.  Luckily this lady just wanted some budget training and advice and was not asking for a loan at this time.  So there was not as much pressure since a loan was not riding on the outcome of the budget.  He learned a lot in doing the budget.  He also found out that some of the folks that come in just want someone to talk to and kind of unburden themselves too.  This lady was conscientious and trying to do a good job, but was frustrated too.  It seems that her husband’s parents are not well off.  His younger sister died, and he stepped up to pay the bills for the funeral and plot.  It set them back $8000, and they have been trying to pay it off ever since.  We gave her a lot of ideas and budget advice, and she left in a positive mood. 
We had our first family home evening with our new The Basic School class.  This is our group of OCS students that just graduated at Thanksgiving time.  We had a great time.  Only 3 of the 5 LDS kids showed up, but the others let us know they had a barracks inspection that they were cleaning for and could not get out of.  We had a really good time with the three that came.  We had a good discussion about receiving gifts.  We all told stories about some of the best gifts we have ever received at Christmas and what made them so special.  Every one of the stories were related to people much more than the actual gift.  So the stories made a nice point.  We also read multiple scriptures about the gifts that God gives to us, and discussed how to use our gifts to benefit others.  Lezlie went all out since it was our first meeting with this gang at TBS, so made chocolate mint brownies,  toffee, and gingerbread cake (served with whipped cream).  We had plenty, so the three that were there took leftovers to their platoon mates to try to get them to come next week. Then we played a game sort of like a white elephant exchange with silly but useful gifts that we bought for them.  It was so much fun, especially since our TBS family home evening for several weeks has not had any participants since the other classes have graduated.  We are excited to continue working with these young men and women for a while longer. 
We have also had a lot of fun this week.  We took the dad of the baby Dan blessed two weeks ago out to dinner.  He was alone for a couple of weeks while his wife was visiting her folks with the new baby.  We had a good dinner and an excellent conversation.  Before he joined the marines he was really into horses, so Lezlie enjoyed talking about horses with him.  He is a very interesting and also a very nice guy.  He seemed to enjoy having some company.  He said it is pretty lonesome and quiet in that house with his wife and baby gone. 

Mom and I also found that we could watch a replay of the “Live TV Sound of Music” with Carrie Underwood program online.  So we watched that and enjoyed it very much.  It felt very Christmassy. 

We also had an excellent outing to the George Washington home, Mt Vernon.  We took Crystal Watts from Richland along with us, and had a great time visiting with her as well as seeing the mansion and grounds at Mt Vernon.  Lezlie and I bought season passes so that we could go again several more times when the weather gets nice.  it is only about 30 minutes from us. They first show you an excellent short movie about the grounds, and also about the life of George Washington.  Then you get a guided tour of the mansion.  It was very interesting, and we heard a lot of interesting stories about George Washington and his family.  The home has a spectacular view of the Potomac River.  We walked around the grounds a bit, but cut that a bit short as it was cold.  It is a huge park, and it will be fun to explore it more in the spring.  We got to watch some candy making done the old fashioned way, and also got to taste some old style hot chocolate.  There is a large gift shop, which we explored a bit too.  We skimmed over several areas that will be worthy of spending time at next time, like the gardens, greenhouse, blacksmith shop, and the grist mill.  But we knew that we had the season passes and we would be back, so did not spend too much time outside.  Afterwards we brought Crystal back to our apartment and had a great roast pork dinner.  It was fun to just relax a little with her.  It was a fine day. 

We did a lot of preparation for the ward Christmas party by shopping and baking.    Our party had a Joy Around the World theme, so folks were asked to bring international deserts.  Lezlie made two types of German cookies.We went early to help set up.  Having been in charge of a ward Christmas party before we knew there would be a lot to do.  The church was already decorated beautifully.  In the lobby a Christmas picture backdrop was set up (see picture) with a wonderfully decorated tree and presents.  The dinner tables had white luminary bags with electric candles.  Oriental looking white paper balls with electric candles were hung from  the ceiling with strings.  There was beautiful greenery and lights everywhere.  On tables in the back and on the front edge of the stage were many interesting nativity scenes from all over the world.  The Primary had decorated a large tree with paper doll ornament that each child had made representing his "heritage", and even the nursery had made a banner of their little handprints like an earth with a scripture inside about joy and peace on earth. It  was very well executed. There was a nice ham dinner, with desserts from all over the world. We have folks from all over in our ward- Ghana, Argentina, Mexico, Mozambique, China, Japan, Phillipines, Russia- that I know of, and most of the people have traveled extensively, so had interesting dishes. We also had a musical show. Dan and I borrowed a guitar and played our traditional "Ballad of the Christ Child, and the other missionaries in the Ward played Hark the Herald Angels Sing and Angels we have Heard on High on the Bells with us.

There was a lot of nice music.  At the end they had a piñata for the children. We came home very tired, but we stayed up preparing food for a TBS dinner the following evening.
Now that our OCS group is in TBS, they are geographically moved to the opposite side of the base where there is a separate school for TBS. Church-wise this is very complicated. When they are in OCS they are not allowed off base, thus church comes to them. We provide LDS marines a service, the Catholic priest provides the Catholics mass, the protestant Chaplain provides a protestant service, etc. OCS is in the Quantico Ward boundry, so if there is any need for a Bishop or extra services we cannot provide, we use Quantico Ward for everyone. However, once they are in TBS, they are expected to get to church on their own. TBS is located not only out of our Ward boundry but out of our Stake. In addition we have marines that are single and under 30 who want to go to a Singles Ward, the closest of which is located in Fredricksburg ( 30 miles away) and  married marines, whose wives are living elsewhere while they are in school, and who live in the barracks with the singles, but go to the family ward which is in the boundries of Quantico base on the TBS side ( Rock Hill). The other marrieds live off base with their wives or families in apartments, which, depending on the location of the apartment is either in the Aquia or Accokeek Wards.- also in a different Stake. I realize this makes no sense if you are reading this and do not understand how LDS church boundries are set but it makes it very complicated because at each of these different locations we have to work with different people. Fortunately, everyone we have dealt with is very supportive and helpful. So this Sunday we left at 7:00 and drove the singles to Fredricksburg as they will not have cars until after Christmas. It was really fun to be in a Single Adult Ward again ( Dan and I had a job of working in a Singles Ward for 3 years) There were some newly returned missionaries reporting, and our waiter at Bob Evens was there and had written a phenomenal  musical number. He was to be leaving for Japan this week, but had a sudden and serious medical problem, and is on hold. The music the choir did was spectacular, and he did a solo and a duet as part of it the was really beautiful. So we were glad to see him. The YSA Sr missionary couple, the Cores, whom we had contacted before we showed up, came right up and met our marines and so did the bishop and everyone just sort of absorbed them. We left after sacrament meeting and the Cores brought the marines back from Fredericksburg after the rest of meetings.  We had to get back so we could take our married marine to Rock Hill. It was so cool because we just drove into this big parking lot to pick them up and even though we were early each time, they were ready- Dan just loves everyone being so punctual...It was fun to see them all dressed up in civilian clothes, too. We had a good time visiting and getting to know them better. Everyone is getting excited to go home at Christmas. One of our marines is getting married in Myrtle Beach over Christmas. We still have to determine which ward he will be in when he gets back...
Tonight the other couple from Quantico that works with OCS invited them all over to their lovely home near the base for a Chili Supper and just to hang out. They brought some of their friends- it was really nice- we had lots of food, our female marine turned out to be an excellent pianist, and we talked about the upcoming wedding and Christmas plans for them all. It was really a fun, peaceful and warm evening. I saved some of my German cookies for our German marine, and she was really pleased. She said that she used to make the Zimtsterne at home when she was little. Sunday was a very nice end to a great week. 

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