Thursday, January 30, 2014

Visiting Families

We made many visits to military families over the past week and a half.   We love these young families and feel fortunate to call them friends.   We are in awe of the sacrifices they make to serve our country.  We love to visit them.  A lot of them are pretty routine - we say hello, drop off some treats or something from Church, and possibly sit down for ten minutes to visit and share a spiritual thought.  At one house, however, it was a tender visit.   We were invited in and had a nice chat.  This is a young family that we worry about and pray for always.  They have a little boy born almost 5 months premature, and he has multiple medical problems.  At one year he weighs just 16 pounds.  They are getting daily nursing help.  In spite of his problems their little boy is active and smiling.  So they have some hope.  He will need a kidney transplant at age two.  The dad told us he is going to be the donor and is being tested to make sure he is a good match.  Donating a kidney is not trivial.  This little family has gone through so much and they still have more to come.  But they are plugging along and doing the best they can.  We wish we could do more to help them, but about all we can do is stop by occasionally and try to boost their spirits.  The wife very seldom leaves the house because the son is very susceptible to infections.  So she always seems to appreciate our visits.
We went to our first movie on the base.  Tickets were $4.00!  The movie started with the playing of the national anthem and everyone stood reverently.  It brought back fond memories of attending movies at the Yongsan Base in Korea.  We saw “Saving Mr. Banks”, the story of how Walt Disney convinced a reluctant author to let him make a movie of her Mary Poppins books.  It was excellent and we enjoyed the experience.  They show the movies in a large auditorium, and although there were about 50 people attending it seemed very empty.  It was great fun.

What was to be a very busy Tuesday turned out to be quite different.  There was a winter storm with lots of snow, wind, and frigid temperatures.  Our Mission President was supposed to come to Woodbridge for interviews, which included us.  But he cancelled.  We were to drive several elders to that meeting.  Also, we were going to have a big family home evening with our TBS group.  The entire Quantico Base was closed, so we had to make calls and send messages to cancel that activity.  With the wind howling and the snow swirling, we were grateful this night to be indoors in our warm and cozy apartment.  I (Dan) completed one minor but fun hardware project.  When we drive farther than 10 miles Lezlie’s routine is to face time with her mom.  This has allowed us to stay in close touch with her parents.  Lezlie has mentioned that her arm gets tired holding the cell phone out in front of her face while riding in the car.  So I did an Odyssey of the Mind project.  Out of a plastic loaf pan lid, duct tape, Velcro, and a rubber band, I built her a cell phone holder.  It straps onto her visor.  It works really well, and Lezlie has been able to have long “hands free” chats while we are driving. 
We worked a good shift at the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society on Wednesday.  Lezlie gave out a couple of Quick Assist loans and I (Dan) got to do my first solo case.  A young marine came in needing funds to get his car repaired.  He was a nice young man and actually handled his money pretty well.   But he owned a BMW, and when a BMW breaks down it is expensive to repair.  So we worked up his budget and it appeared that he had enough margin to be able to pay NMCRS back.  So I got to give him a check for $2300.  Wow!  I was very proud of doing my first case totally on my own, and I believe I did a good job.  The client was sure happy.  In the evening we got to meet with our solo Officer Candidate School student.  Our family home evening with him went very well.  Lezlie gave a lesson based on an LDS video called “Flecks of Gold.”  The thought is that small things, like tiny flecks of gold, can add up to be something great.  Although each of us may only be able to do small things, those many small things can add up to something large and impactful.  We had a plate of cookies, large enough to feed several in case we had visitors, and a bowl of strawberries.  We were amazed that this young marine ate only two cookies and about twenty strawberries.  He said that they got very little fresh fruit in the mess hall.  He just gobbled them up as fast as you could imagine.  Like a chicken eating grains of corn!  I had an interesting epiphany.  He thanked us profusely for driving all the way to the base and preparing an FHE just for him.  Mom and I discussed this afterwards, and we did not even have a single bit of hesitation about doing the FHE for just one person.  We know that he is important, even if it is just him alone.  We know that he is a faithful and dedicated young man, but we also believe that any outside support he receives will help him make it through this difficult school.  We know that his parents are grateful that someone is looking out for his spiritual welfare.  We know that in a similar situation we would be happy and grateful that someone was looking after our son.  We are simply humbled and inspired to be working with this dedicated and hard working young man.  The fact that there is just one person in attendance at OCS this time really is unimportant.

We did an extra shift at the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society this week.  They were short one day and the director called and asked us to come in.   I (Dan) did a sad case with a young marine family.  They had a 3 year old and a newborn that had been born with brain damage.  He was having lots of seizures.  They have to take him to the large Navy hospital in Wash DC, which is about 50 miles away.  They simply could not afford the gas or the overnight hotel bill.  Their financial situation was not good, and they actually owed the NMCRS a couple hundred dollars from a loan several months ago.  Normally this would disqualify them.  But the director looked over the case and decided we would give them a grant of $200.  Almost all of the cases we do result in interest free loans.  But the director can authorize grants up to a certain amount in difficult cases.  The young couple was nervously waiting for me to return wondering if they would get a loan.  They were ecstatic when I told them the director had authorized a $200 grant.  It was humbling and gratifying to be a part of helping them.  It made me appreciate the fact that all of our family is in excellent health.  We had our The Basic School (TBS) family home evening, which went well.  All of the marines have been out in the field for two weeks.  When they are in the field they either sleep in their sleeping bags on the ground, or if it is too cold they hike about 5 miles back to the barracks, clean up their gear, and get about 4 or 5 hours of sleep before they march back out.  So we knew they would not be at FHE.  But our two marine wives came, and we had an excellent meeting. 
We had a delightful evening with some friends from home (Richland, Washington) this week.    We met Krystal Watts and her mom Jan for dinner.  Jan is in our ward at home and Krystal, who used to be in our ward, is a young lady who is in a fingerprint specialist training program at the FBI Academy here.  Her mom is visiting from Washington State.  We had a wonderful dinner with them, talking about mutual friends back home, sights they visited around Washington DC, and Krystal’s training at the FBI Academy.  It was all great fun.

We had a nice interview with President Wilson this week.  He always asks how our family is doing, so we got to show him pictures of new granddaughter Abby.  His main concern for the senior missionaries is our families back home, and he always wants to make sure things are going okay.  After talking about our family we were able to tell him about our work with the marines and all the small miracles we have experienced.  It was a good interview and a good morning. 
We had a long Sunday this week.  After arriving early for two pre-church meetings we went into the chapel.   As we sat down for our sacrament meeting to start I noticed a middle aged man limping in.  He took a seat all by himself and he did not look at all familiar.  So I walked over and introduced myself.  He said that he was a baptized member but that he had not been to church in a long time.  He just felt the need to come back.  So Lezlie and I sat with him and stayed with him throughout all the meetings.  He was a nice young man with a sad story.  He had a stroke when he was 30.  So at a young age he became permanently disabled.  He lives at home with his parents and collects a minor disability income.  He said it is hard for him to read, so his main activity is watching television.  But he was cheerful and optimistic during his time with us. We introduced him to the bishop and several ward members who will make sure he can get to church each week.   I sincerely hope this man does keep coming back to church.  I know it will help him.

On another day this week we visited our two TBS wives in Stafford.   One helped Lezlie set up a facebook page “LDS Quantico Marine Base.”  We hope to use it to link up the single marines and let them know about activities, church locations, etc.  We then had a most interesting visit with the second TBS wife.  Her husband is not a member, but is friends with our LDS group in TBS.  So she found us through her husband’s LDS marine friends.  We had never been to her home before so we arrived with brownies and a dog toy for her Australian Shepherd.  She is a very interesting lady who comes from Moldova.  She came to the US for school, joined the Army, and got her US citizenship.  While in boot camp she joined the Church, and has been a member for 3 years.  She is now an Army reservist, supporting her husband while he becomes a marine officer.  When we arrived she was busily cooking.  She asked if we could stay a bit and chat while she was cooking.  She was making a fancy dinner for the two young Elders from her ward.  Then her husband called and said he would be late.  So she asked us to stay a little longer so that the missionaries could come over at the appointed time.  (The young missionaries are not allowed to be in a house alone with a single sister. ) We said sure, so we visited some more.  Then her husband called again, and he said he would be even later.  She asked us to please stay for dinner so that the missionaries could eat as scheduled.  We said sure.  The young elders arrived soon and the five of us sat down to dinner.  It was a fabulous meal.  She had basically cooked all afternoon, preparing homemade barley and mushroom soup and a squash bread pudding.  They both tasted outstanding.  All of us complimented her on the amazing food.  As we were just about done with dinner her husband and his marine friend arrived home and joined us.  Both were excellent guys, a lot of fun to talk to.  So a twenty minute drop by visit ended up being a two and a half hour stay with an excellent dinner.  We never know how some of these visits are going to turn out.  Sometimes we receive the most unexpected blessings, such as this great dinner and visit this evening. 
A highlight of the past ten days was our successful TBS family home evening.  The TBS students were not out in the field this week.  We had 8 attend, almost all of our marines that we first met at OCS, two wives, and one non-member husband that came to be with his wife.  Lezlie made spectacular apple dumplings, which they ate in record time.  One of the guys was actually scraping the pan with a spatula at the end to get all of the last morsels.  We have begun going over Preach My Gospel, which they requested.  We had a wonderful lesson/discussion about why the gospel is so important for families.  The goal of an eternal family is important and wonderful, but the gospel also helps parents with their families right now.  It was so much fun to have this whole group together.  They are so much more relaxed and talkative out of the OCS environment, and they have insightful comments and amazing experiences from their missions and marine training.  It was a joyful meeting.

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