Our previous post began with a dismal report about our bout with the flu. I am glad to state that we are totally over that illness and are back at full strength. We are ready to get back to work! Our week began with an excellent Stake Conference. This was a stake conference broadcast from Salt Lake to the whole Northeast United States region. We had some excellent talks. We saw a lot of ward friends at the conference and there was a very nice spirit there. Late in the evening we got to go on another teaching visit to one of our favorite young families with the sister missionaries. This is the family for whom I blessed their new baby boy. It was an outstanding visit. We love this young family so much. We had a good lesson about prophets and especially about Joseph Smith. As converts to the church Lezlie and I are able to add our perspective on these things, and we had good discussion with this couple. We were kind of winding up and getting ready to go when the husband said, “Now if I wanted to join the church in May or June do you think we could work that out?” We were all surprised, but in a good way. He had never mentioned joining the church before. The sisters said yes we could arrange that, with great big smiles on their faces. He is going on a business trip for 2 weeks, but we will see her this week and him again as soon as he gets back. Then we will try to set up a schedule of lessons to lead to his baptism in May or June. The reasons he wants to set that as a goal is because they are getting transferred in mid June, and he really would like to be a member of the church before he moves. We are so happy for them and excited to be a part of their spiritual journey. Lezlie made a heartfelt statement to them that even if we weren’t missionaries we would love them, would want to spend time with them, and would want to help teach them. We told them if he joined, and if a year later they get sealed in the temple, that we will make every effort to travel to their home in Arizona to go to the temple with them.
We are on daylight savings time, it is late March, we live in Virginia, and Spring is only 4 days away. But we still woke up on Monday morning to about 6 inches of snow. We are tired of this snow. This is Virginia for goodness sake!. This has been a record snow year for northern Virginia. The locals say it is the worst they have seen in twenty years. We just want the real spring weather to arrive. We know that July and August will be hot and humid, so we are looking forward to the warm and pleasant days of spring. Our only big activity today was to provide dinner to two wonderful young sisters that live in our apartments. They are both from Utah. One is a music major at BYU and the other just worked for two years before her mission. She is not sure what she will do when she goes home, but thinks she wants to be a hairdresser. These missionaries never cease to surprise us because they do not fit any mold. We have met some that want to be doctors and engineers and some that want to be mechanics or just work in the family business. We had a great time visiting with these two young sisters and getting to know them better. Lezlie made a scrumptious pavlova desert. (You would have been proud Rex, it was magnificent.) Happy St Patrick’s Day to all!
We also spent two full days in training for the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society. The society just got new computers with Windows 8.1 and updated Microsoft Office products. And the computers are touch screen. It is really cool. We had excellent training on the touch screen features as well as the upgraded programs. It was fun to get to play with the laptops and the new software. As part of the training we were treated to lunch at the Quantico Base Officer’s Club. They serve an excellent lunch buffet, and it was great fun to compare stories with the other volunteers.
On Tuesday we had a wonderful dinner at the marine family with the new baby girl that I helped bless. It is always fun to visit with this family, play with their 4 year old boy, and hold baby Charlotte. They fed us an excellent beef stew and we had carrot cake that Lezlie had baked. Yum. It is such a joy to see this young family. Three months ago they were so concerned about the health of both mom and the unborn baby. It is so good to see them healthy. We held our normal Tuesday night family home evening for our Basic School marines. We had a smaller turnout than normal because a couple of guys were on duty. But we still had five enthusiastic attendees and we had an interesting discussion on apostasy. We covered both the great apostasy and also how to avoid personal apostasy. It is fascinating to initiate these discussion with this group because they all are so intelligent and well versed in the scriptures. They have amazing insights and comments. They all loved the carrot cake and German chocolate cake we provided. It a very long day, but we were happy and full of a wonderful sense of accomplishment when we arrived home.
On another evening we had two young elders over for dinner (see picture). It was great fun. The taller Elder is a Tongan from Hawaii and a very interesting young man. He told us about his adventures in Hawaii and about his large Tongan family. The other Elder is from Utah and is one of our favorites that lives in our apartment complex right now. We enjoyed the dinner and visiting with these great young men.
One of our ongoing jobs is to inspect the apartments of the young sisters and missionaries. The Church leases all these apartments and wants to make sure they are kept up. Also, these young missionaries are engaged in serious spiritual work, and they need to have a wholesome, bright atmosphere in their apartments so that they can study, plan and work well. The apartment inspections are always a fun assignment and not too difficult. We found mostly very clean apartments. They were very conscientious about fixing things from the last inspection. We heard several comments like, “Hey Sister Couch, did you check out those blinds this time,” or “We have the cleanest microwave in the whole mission today.” One of the sets of young elders had a bad apartment last time, but this time it was excellent. So we told them they had the most improved apartment and took them out to a nice lunch. Afterwards we spent some time completing our assigned apartment inspections. One of our most impressive apartments was the one that belonged to the two Elders we just had over for dinner, pictured above. As mentioned, the one Elder is from Hawaii. When we walked in there was some soft Hawaiian music playing. They also had two scented candles burning and offered us a piece of candy. Besides this, their apartment was simply immaculate. We were generous with our praise. Not only was it a nice, wholesome apartment in which to live. But the cleanliness and order made it seem like a spiritual place to live.
Saturday we were pleased to be able to attend a senior missionary activity. We have thirty senior missionaries in the Virginia Richmond, and we get together every 2 or 3 months. Our mission president happened to meet an older couple in one of the wards he visited. The couple told him that they had recently returned from a mission to Paris. They went on to explain that they owned a restored plantation mansion that they had converted into a bed and breakfast. They offered the use of their place for a senior missionary activity, so that is where we met. Although it was a long drive, about 2.5 hours for us, it was a delightful get together. It is so great to chat with the other senior missionaries and compare stories and experiences. We always enjoy visiting with the couple from Pasco, Washington (their mom used to go to our ward), as well as the other military relations couple that serves on an Army Base near Richmond. We had a short training and information meeting, and then had a wonderful lunch prepared by the owners and their helper – ham and potato casserole, homemade bread, fresh fruit, grape leaves with rice, and cherry cobbler. The owners told about their experiences on their mission in Paris. They had worked at the church visitor’s center in downtown Paris. They said that one way they could get people to come in was to leave the door open and play the piano. People would wander in to listen to the music. So as we gathered inside the mansion to begin a tour the husband sat down and played a couple of wonderful piano pieces. He was a retired doctor but sounded like he could have been a retired concert pianist. His wife had studied art history, and covered the walls of the mansion with hundreds of beautiful paintings. It was a magnificent home and we enjoyed the tour greatly. It was a great get together. On the way home we stopped at the Sailor’s Creek Battleground Park. This was the location of the last battle between Robert E Lee and Ulysses S Grant. The Union army decisively beat the Confederates, wiping out about a fourth of the rebel army to casualties and surrenders. It was just 3 days later that Lee surrendered at Appomattox, just a few miles away. It is always interesting to see these Civil War sites, but also sad and sobering to think of all the soldiers that died there. It was a long drive home, but we thoroughly enjoyed the activity.
We experienced a wonderful Sunday here in northern Virginia, with sunny skies and soft breezes. But Spring is struggling to get out of the gate. Although we have had a few sunny days, snow is again in the forecast for Tuesday. Ugh! We have had more than enough of that here. We had some exceptionally good talks today- from a young marine couple that are moving next month. He is a marine and she is an ex-marine. They actually met at marine Officer Candidate School when she invited him to attend church. He was eventually baptized and they got married. They both gave talks on forgiveness that were simply excellent. They talked about how lack of forgiveness usually is worse for the person holding the grudge than for the person that did the wrong. So true! We had very good lessons at the rest of our meetings as well. After services today we had a linger longer, which is a post church service potluck (see picture). We have these once a month, and this one was very well attended. We have come to know and love the great people here. We were looking around today and we were amazed that we knew the names of almost everyone in the room. We have sure come to love these people, and we already realize how hard it is going to be to say goodbye one day. We will always have a very warm spot in our hearts for Virginia and the good folks here. We surely love our missionary work here. We feel grateful to be involved not only with our great ward family, but also with two groups of exceptional young people. We feel totally blessed to be working with the marines and the young missionaries. They inspire us and not only make us feel younger but very confident of the future of the world.