Most of our Monday was taken up by a trip to Richmond. One of our dear young sister missionaries who has been here in our ward since we have been, ended her mission today, and we transported her to the mission home. The night before they fly home, all the missionaries stay at the home of the mission president. He has a large home with several bedrooms in the basement for the elders and several upstairs for the sisters. Typically about a dozen missionaries go home every 6 weeks. The mission president interviews them one last time, they hang out with the other missionaries going home, and spend the night there before being taken to the airport the next morning. So, we took the sister and her companion down to Richmond. They had been companions twice and became good friends so they wanted to spend every possible moment together. We all went out for a late lunch at Fiesta Chicken, an excellent Mexican restaurant in Richmond. It featured a huge wood fire oven with a large spit holding about ten chickens. We had a wonderful barbecued chicken sandwich that was awesome. We dropped off our Quantico sister, said some tearful goodbyes. It was bittersweet. We are happy to see her head home after serving a successful mission, but we will miss her a lot. We are now to the point where there are only one or two missionaries in our zone that were here when we arrived. Shortly we will be the longest serving missionaries in the zone, which is normal since we are never transfered. But it makes us think about how quickly the time goes by. In just two weeks we will be 1/3 done with our mission. Transporting this sister on her last day made us think about how hard it will be to leave. We have become very close to a lot of good people here, and it will be hard to say goodbye knowing we will likely never see them again. However, the anticipation of seeing all of our family will far outweigh the sadness of saying goodbye.
We had another morning of conducting inspections of the young missionary’s apartments. It is amazing the variety of levels of cleanliness we see. For example, two young men that are both from rural areas of the west had obviously cleaned well. You could tell that they kept it clean on a routine basis. It was nearly spotless. In another apartment the bathroom had q-tips, bits of toilet paper, and huge dust balls all over the bathroom floor. And they knew we were coming to inspect! So we praised the first group and strongly encouraged the second to do a little better. We gave all of the inspectees Valentine cookies for their efforts. The bulk of the afternoon was spent delivering multiple plates of Valentine cookies. These short visits are almost always great fun. It was a bitterly cold day, so it was not much fun getting in and out of the car. But everyone we met was kind and welcoming, and it was a pleasure to get to see so many of our wonderful marine families during the day. This evening we had an excellent family home evening with our group at The Basic School. We had an insightful and enjoyable discussion about studying the scriptures. These young people are so sharp with such depth to their testimonies and knowledge. All we need to do is introduce the topic and ask a couple of thought provoking questions, and off they go. We feel humbled to be a part of their world for this period of our lives.
After various errands, Valentine cookie deliveries, and working a shift at Navy Marine Corps Relief we finally we met with our lone OCS student from Atlanta on Wednesday and had an excellent family home evening. The other couple we work with did the lesson and treats, so all we had to do was be there and be supportive. We sure have come to love this young man. We were happy to hear he had passed his obstacle course, something he had worried about last week because he had failed the preliminary test. He made it with twenty seconds to spare. Just as we were departing for home about 7:30pm the snow started. It did not stop for many hours, resulting in about10 inches in this part of Virginia. The below picture is what it looked like off our back porch when we got home.
After it snowed all night the roads were pretty bad in the morning. So we stayed home most of the day and I tried to get the internet working on the computer. We have had very spotty service for about a week, this after replacing the cable modem at Comcast’s suggestion. After more calls to Comcast I decided it was the router. So I headed out in the snow to Best Buy to buy a new router. As I was driving I noticed two of the elders that live at our apartment trudging through the snow. I gave them a ride home and found out that one of them used to work at Best Buy and is a computer whiz. He recommended the router I should buy and offered to help set up everything. I was able to set up the router without his help and we finally had solid internet connection. But then the printer would not work off the wireless signal or even when connected by cable to the computer. So we invited the Best Buy elder and his companion for dinner tomorrow and asked him to help with the computer problem. Luckily he was free and said yes.
For our Valentines date we went to Potomac Mills mall and did some walking and shopping. We both needed a few new clothes. I have already worn out two white shirts. We ate lunch at our favorite spot, the Crepe Ape. They make excellent lunch and desert crepes. We split one of chicken, spinach and cheese and another of bananas, peanut butter and nutella. Then we went to see the movie Frozen and enjoyed it greatly. Animation is so superb now, and the music in this movie was excellent. We were excited to see that the voice of one of the prince's was that of an Actor that Carrie had known at Richland High School. He is doing well! We stopped by Costco, got a pizza, and soon were feeding the young elders. It was amazing to watch our computer elder, who was excited to be allowed to play on a computer again. He was skipping around on the computer so fast I had no idea what he was doing and I did not want to slow him down by asking. Finally, at the last minute he got the printer working. He was so happy. He loves working on computers and said it was great fun for him. He was not sure exactly which of his trial fixes worked. We were very happy too, because we use the printer almost every day in our work. Sadly he was transferred the next day and is now all the way down in Fredericksburg. I am sure we will see him again. He is the young man on the far right in this group of elders. They are all Spanish speaking- there is a large Hispanic population in this area. Actually there is a large population of many cultures around here- perhaps because of Washington DC. There is a large population from various African nations- particularly Liberia, Ghana and Nigeria- but they all speak English. There is also a large group of Mandarin Chinese (and Chinese speaking missionaries) in Fredericksburg.
I (Dan) had an excellent haircut experience Saturday morning. The barbershop has two big screen televisions that are always on with sports. When I arrived the US vs Russia Olympics hockey match was on. It was the final period with the score tied at 2 each when I got into the barber chair. Regulation time ended and the match went into overtime. Although each side had several shots on goal, there were no scores. Several guys had finished their haircuts but were standing in the aisles just to watch the end of the match. Everyone, even the barbers, was engrossed in the game. It went into a shootout, where one member of the team tries to score on the opposite goalie. They traded goals and misses shot for shot for several rounds. Finally in the 8th round the Russian guy missed his goal and the US player made his. The US had won and the barber shop erupted in cheers. And then my haircut was done. Perfect timing. What a great game and what a great haircut. After a few more errands and chores Lezlie and I picked up two young elders and transported them to Fredericksburg for their transfers. After some discussions and shifting of luggage, we headed back home with a new elder and a new sister. WE delivered them safely to their new areas. We were talking about what a huge change it is for these missionaries every 6 weeks. At transfer time they nearly always either move someplace new or receive a new companion. If they move they have to pack up all of their stuff and get situated in a new home or apartment. Plus they have to get used to a brand new companion. Yet they do it with a smile. We continue to be so impressed and inspired by the dedication and hard work of these outstanding young missionaries.
Our Sunday was superb. We had a great early morning service with our lone OCS student. We discussed war and combat, and how difficult it is for Christians to resolve the dilemma of being a part of the military that may send them to war. It is a tricky topic, and very sobering. But it went well and we had some good discussion about the importance of protecting freedom, country, home and family. Lezlie made some excellent bread pudding. I think our marine had about 4 helping, plus a banana, strawberries, blueberries, and an orange. These OCS trainees burn up so many calories every day – they are always hungry. After a short rest at home we went to the Garrisonville Ward, which is not our normal ward. We attended there so that we could see a marine wife give a talk. This is the lady we mentioned before from Moldova who joined the church during Army boot camp. She is married to a marine that is in TBS right now, and he is friends with our LDS group. Her talk was simply amazing. It is unfathomable that English is not her first language. She was so eloquent and painted beautiful word pictures. She talked about how to increase spirituality and become closer to God. We enjoyed being at this ward very much and heard excellent talks and lessons throughout our stay. Shortly after church we had a wonderful Skype session. Our older daughter Anne was visiting her younger sister Carrie to help out with Carrie’s new baby. So we had a great visit with them and Carrie’s family Matt, Danny, Kaylee, and new baby Abby. It is so great to be able to Skype and chat with our family members via live video. We really enjoyed it. Lezlie has also been able to Facetime with her parents nearly daily. Sunday had been a chilly day, and we were tired from our early morning trip to the base. We thought we were home for the night and were about to put on our pajamas. But I sent a message to one of our marines on base that we had been a little worried about. He had been getting progressively involved with dating a girl who had no interest in the church, but he was determined it would work out, even though he was not at all interested in hers. Although I meant to text him on Saturday I just got very busy and forgot. It turns out he needed the text I sent on Sunday. I asked if we could do anything for him. He wrote back that yes we could, he would really like a blessing. It turns out that he and his girlfriend had broken up only hours before and he was feeling very sad. Since it was a long weekend (President’s Day) a majority of the students in his barracks had left for the weekend, and he was feeling pretty lonesome too. So Lezlie made a quick batch of cookies and we headed for the base. Our poor young friend was so sad. He just needed some company, a couple of hugs, and someone to talk to. He was very sad about losing his girlfriend, but also felt breaking up may have been for the best in the long run. So we chatted and gave him a blessing before we left, grateful that we were in the right place at the right time to visit him. There are some things that you just can't fix- but we have found that hugs and cookies at the right time do a lot to make people feel loved when they are low.