Our mission president, President Wilson, was in town doing interviews over a two day period this past week. We invited he and Sister Wilson to attend our Basic School family home evening and they did. The FHE could not have gone better. The Wilsons got to know everyone, hear the the lesson, and participate in the discussion. They also witnessed how much these marines enjoy the FHE treats. Afterwards all the marines hung around for a good 45 minutes just chatting with President Wilson and asking what it was like to be a Mission President. Likewise, he asked them what it was like to be an LDS marine. There was a warm, comfortable feeling there, and I know the Wilsons were impressed by the quality of these fine young people. We were flattered when one of the marines told the Wilsons, “We want you to know that the Couches are doing a great job. They have taken care of us very well.” Then the others chimed in and said yes, that is the truth. We were humbled and grateful for their comments. We just feel very blessed to work with these fine young people. After a wonderful time of visiting and finishing off the cherry cobbler and brownies everyone finally departed. Later that night we got an email from President and Sister Wilson thanking us for inviting them to the FHE, telling us what a wonderful group of young people they were, and thanking us for our good work. It was very humbling and very rewarding.
Friends from our home ward, Margie and Bernie Beldin, are vacationing in Virginia. So we had breakfast with them this morning. They used to live in this area and still have many friends here. They were actually baptized in the church building that is now our Stake Center. It was fun to catch up with them on what is going on back in our home ward and tell them about what we do here. We had a delightful breakfast and an enjoyable chat. The rest of our day was taken up by transporting a young sister missionary to Fredericksburg. She had to have a minor surgery on her eye to remove a cyst so we were there for a long time. Her companion came along so we got to talk to her for a long while. It was good to get to know her better. The doctor finally finished with her about dinner time, so we took both of the sisters to Red Lobster for dinner. The seafood was delicious. The doctor said the procedure went well but that she would be sore for a couple of days. We hope that this sister will be okay soon.
We spent most of our Friday making final preparations for our trip to Annapolis with our TBS marines. We did make a quick visit to see one family on base. This is the family where I blessed the little boy. Her folks were there and we wanted to meet them. We got to say hi to her mom but unfortunately her dad and husband were gone to visit where her husband works on base. But it was still good to see this great young gal and her mom. We also made a long drive to Manassas to visit a ward member who was in a halfway house there. He has been having some problems with reactions to his medications and actually had to be hospitalized for a few days. The halfway house is a place for him to recover since he lives alone. He is really a nice guy and we have enjoyed getting to know him. He was just baptized late last year. He had previously told us he was an artist. During this visit we asked him about that, and he showed us some of his work that he had in pictures on his cell phone. He is really talented. He had multiple painting and sketches with all kinds of media. We were really greatly impressed and asked if we could stop by his house and see all of his work. He said yes. Lezlie is doing a sketch right now of a family dog and baby. When we visited the family noted above about a week ago their dog sat down right by the baby. The baby reached over and touched his back as if to say, “This is my dog.” I caught it in a picture, and it is very sweet. Lezlie is working on drawing a sketch of it. Our artist friend said he would help her with it. We had a good visit and were glad we got to see him.
Our long planned Annapolis excursion with the TBS marines took place today. We picked up four marines at the TBS barracks and met up with three others in another car. We had six marines and one marine wife. After a quick drive to Annapolis we met up with one LDS midshipman who was great company with us on the tour of the academy grounds. We walked and walked all over the place, and the midshipman and I (Dan) pointed out all the buildings and monuments. I told lots of stories about things that happened there and I think they gained a new appreciation of the training Naval Academy officers receive. It was great to see the young midshipman talking to our marines. They not only told her what it was like to be in marine training, but also what it was like to be a Mormon in the marines. After almost 3 hours of walking we had a nice lunch at the snack bar on the grounds and then headed to the home of one of my classmates who had volunteered to take us all sailing. They could not have been more welcoming or hospitable to our marines. After changing into sailing clothes we boarded their boat and soon were out on the Chesapeake Bay. It was the first sailing trip for many of them, so it was great fun. It was a beautiful day, sunny and a nice wind for some good sailing speed. Denny and Paula were so generous. Not only did they take time out of their day to take us sailing, but they also provided drinks and homemade cookies to snack on. But they also really seemed to enjoy visiting with our marines. It was a wonderful sailing trip. We finally headed back to the dock where the marines all helped wash down the boat. Finally it was time to head home. The drive back was fun too though, because we got to listen to the marines talk about how much fun the day was as well as tell stories about their training. They are really an outstanding group of young people, and we are lucky to know and work with them. Although a trip to Annapolis and a sailboat ride might not seem like missionary work, it was a wonderfully bonding experience for these young folks. They need time to have fun together and just enjoy the company of other LDS marines. They were also an outstanding example to the young Naval Academy midshipman that we met.
The Annapolis trip could have been the end of a great day, but the day was not quite yet over. Although we were pretty late, we went straight from the base to our stake center, parked in the far reaches of the parking lot, and changed from our sailing clothes back into our missionary clothes in the car. We walked into the church building about 7pm to catch the last hour of an event called “A Taste of Africa.” We have multiple Africans in our stake from countries such as Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Ghana. The stake put on an event for them to show a bit about their cultures, share their testimonies, and provide samples of their food. We toured about a dozen rooms decorated with amazing African artifacts. There were many families dressed in beautiful clothes from their home countries. We read many posted testimonies of how these African Latter Day Saints joined the church. We listened to several of them tell their amazing stories. And we ate some delicious food, such as peanut chicken, smoked rice, cava, flat bread, humus, and many other things. Although we were tired and I had almost opted out, we were glad we got to attend this outstanding event. It was inspiring. One thing that we did not expect to learn here in Virginia were stories about the amazing African saints. But we are very glad we did. The church is growing very fast in that continent, and we are glad we have come to know some of these excellent church members.