Sunday, April 27, 2014

Marines Visit Annapolis

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. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Hong Family Visit

The most important day of this period was the Thursday that the Hong’s arrived - our daughter Carrie and grandchildren Danny, Kaylee and Abby. We picked them all up at the Richmond Airport.  It was wonderful to see everyone and meet Abby for the first time.   This picture is just after they arrived.  Were we ever happy to see them!  After picking them up we got Chik fil A for dinner, something they enjoyed since there are no Chik fil A’s in Seattle.  We then headed for Belle Grove, which is a plantation mansion that has been converted into a bed and breakfast.  The mansion was built by the Conways, Lezlie’s Virginia ancestors.  When we arrived Lezlie, Carrie and the kids got a tour.  Meanwhile I went out into the huge front yard that overlooks the Rappahanock River and hid Easter eggs and baskets for the kids. After their tour we had a great Easter egg hunt.  The kids enjoyed the Easter surprise and Carrie loved seeing the mansion.  After an hour drive we finally made it to our apartment, overjoyed at having family here to visit us.  It was so much fun to tell them all about our mission – all the things we are doing and all the blessings we are receiving. 

During the Hong’s visit we had a Wash DC tour day.  We first drove to Reagan National Airport and picked up Matt, who had flown a red-eye from Seattle so he could spend two days here before flying to London on business.  He got some sleep on the plane and was ready to go.  We hustled everyone onto the metro and first stopped at the Arlington National Cemetery.  Everyone was impressed by the thousands of rows of military gravestones.  Even though they were excited the children were very well behaved, seeming to understand that this was a sacred place.  We next stopped at the National Museum of American History, one of the outstanding Smithsonian museums.  We saw historic trains, cars and household items.  There were also many historical artifacts, like famous costumes stars had worn.  After hot dogs and pizza at a sidewalk vendor, we walked past the White House for photos and then stopped at the Lincoln Memorial.  Finally we strolled around the tidal basin to see the Cherry Blossoms in full bloom for the Cherry Blossom Festival. It was beautiful.  The kids loved playing in the cherry blossom petals that were drifting down like pink snowflakes.  After a looooong walk to the metro station we took the subway back to the airport.  We went to a hole-in-the-wall crab cake restaurant I had found online.  It looked a little sketchy, but the food turned out to be delicious.  We finally made it home about 8:30pm to enjoy some Blue Bell ice cream and put the exhausted children, and dad,  to bed.  It was a fantastic day.  

We started out on Saturday morning by traveling to Mt Vernon, George Washingtons’s historic home.  Danny and Kaylee got to do a fun Mt Vernon puzzle.  They had to find answers to multiple questions that required research all over the park.  They completed the puzzle and each won a souvenir penny for solving it correctly.  We saw Washington's home, historic buildings, a colonial blacksmith, lambs and pigs.  The beautiful green lawns, shrubs, and flowers were in full bloom, and it was spectacular.  After much walking we ate at the Colonial Inn and had some excellent peanut soup.  We toured the eduction center, which had many excellent interactive colonial history exhibits.  The grandkids really enjoyed it.  We saw a film about George Washington that included vibrating chairs when a cannon fired and snowflakes falling from the ceiling when a winter scene was shown.  Kaylee got to dress up in a Martha Washington dress.  Early in the afternoon we headed south for the Marine Museum and Quantico.  Unfortunately we hit terrible traffic, and our planned half hour drive turned into a two hour drive.  Nevertheless, we had a great time at the museum.  There were a lot of interactive exhibits for children and they really got into it.  They also had fun looking at all of the nice souvenir in the gift shop.  Kaylee got a marine action figure and Danny got a lego tank.  They also got to play on the excellent museum playground on the way out and had a good time there.  Then we went on a tour of the Quantico Marine Base and told all about the things we do there.   We showed them the office where we volunteer, the OCS school, the commissary and PX, and the housing area where a lot of our families live.  We finally made it home and ate Subway sandwiches for dinner.  Were we ever tired!  We forgot how much grand-kids wear us out. But we were happy after another great day with family.

On Sunday we snagged someone as soon as we arrived at church and they took this nice photo of all of us just outside the chapel.  We were proud to introduce all of the Hongs to our Quantico Ward friends.  They got to meet many of the Quantico Ward folks they had heard us talk about before.  It was wonderful to have them there.  We had good lessons and talks, and it was a nice day at church.   Danny and Kaylee fit in just fine in primary. Immediately afterwards I dropped off Lezlie, Carrie, Danny, Kaylee and Abby at home, and Matt and I headed for Dulles Airport.  He was on the way to London for some business meetings.  Although I had been concerned about traffic, we made it to the airport in plenty of time.  Matt and I had a good chat on the way.  In the evening we had a good time playing with the grandkids.  We helped Danny and Kaylee write in and add photos to their journals.  They are having fun here.  But they were tired too, so it was not to hard to get them into bed. 

We had a super Monday with Carrie, Danny, Kaylee and Abby.  We started our morning by delivering cinnamon rolls to all of the young missionaries that live in our apartment complex.  We wanted Danny and Kaylee to meet as many missionaries as possible.  The deliveries were fun and the missionaries were happy.  Who would not be happy getting a freshly baked cinnamon roll!  Next we did a short walk at the mall.  We wanted to show the Carrie and the kids where we walk 3 mornings a week.  We went over to the Potomac Mills mall at about 9am and walked half of a lap.  Everyone was impressed by how large our mall is.  Finally we headed for Annapolis and our visit to the US Naval Academy.  We did a driving tour all over the academy grounds and I showed them where many of my activities took place when I was there.  We saw the part of the dormitory, Bancroft Hall, where I lived.  We visited the tomb of John Paul Jones, the Tecumseh and Herndon Monuments, the Chapel, and the model Midshipman room.  This is a picture of us sitting at the Class of 1973 bench, a monument our class paid for. Carrie, Danny and Kaylee were quite impressed with everything.  We did a quick stop in the Midshipmen store to look for souvenirs.  Finally we watched noon meal formation, which is when all the midshipmen line up in ranks just before they march into the mess hall for lunch.  The Hongs were quite impressed with this.  We ate at the small public cafeteria on the academy grounds and walked around a bit more.  After a lot of walking we finally loaded up, made a quick drive through downtown Annapolis, and headed home to Woodbridge.  After a short time at home we quickly loaded up the van again, this time to deliver dinner to a young marine family on base.  This is the family for whom I blessed their baby boy. We were very happy for Carrie and her children to get to know them a bit because we have told many stories about this great young family.  It worked out well because it was a warm evening and the kids played on a playground across the street from their house.  We got a couple of nice photos of Abby and and their little boy together.  We finally had a quiet night at home where we all watched an episode of the Waltons.  Danny and Kaylee had never seen it before and they really liked it.  It was another wonderful day with Carrie and her family.  I was happy to show Carrie the Naval Academy where I spent four important years of my life.

On Tuesday morning Danny helped me haul missionaries to the District Meeting.  Danny seemed to enjoy visiting with the 6 different elders we took to the meeting.  They talked about legos and Star Wars – all of the elders agreed they loved legos, and especially Star Wars legos.  It was fun to see them talking to Danny and joking around with him.  After some baking and arranging plates of Easter cookies we headed for the marine base.  We got to stop at the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society where we volunteer.  We were happy that the Hongs could see where we do our volunteer work and meet some of our coworkers there.   Next we drove all over the base delivering Easter cookies and messages.  I believe we delivered ten plates, and some of them weredelievered in a hard rain.  Danny and Kaylee took turns helping us deliver the cookies. We were glad they actually got to take part in some of our work.  I think they enjoyed it, but they also found out that missionary work is really "work."  We then drove south to Stafford and stopped at the home of another marine family that we have visited often.  She is the one who had the difficult pregnancy and then eventually had a healthy little girl.  We were glad for Carrie to meet this family too.  We stopped at Chik fil A for dinner and let the kids play on the playground there.  They had been in the car for a long time, so they enjoyed unwinding in the play area.  Finally we attended our Basic School family home evening.  We had eight show up, which made it a joyful and fun meeting.  All the marines were very nice to our family and they particularly spoiled Danny and Kaylee.  They talked to them, shared treats with them, and one marine even gave Danny an official marine canteen.  When we were at the Marine Corps Museum Danny read that the marines never leave an injured person behind.  Danny asked how the marines took their wounded men off the battle field.  So we asked them if they could show us.  One of the marines walked right over, picked up Danny, and carried him all around the room.   He loved it.  We had a great lesson about Adam and Free Agency.  Danny and Kaylee helped by playing the Easter egg game (find the egg with the candy inside, if you don’t get it right the first time you get more chances, like repentance).  We had excellent treats and all of the gang stayed for a long time, visiting with Carrie, holding Abby, and talking to Danny and Kaylee.  It was a great evening, and we were so happy for the Carrie and her children to see a little bit of what we do.    

Wednesday was a sad day, because we had to say goodbye to Carrie, Danny, Kaylee and Abby.  They flew out of Richmond, so we left first thing in the morning to make sure they were on time.  We had a very nice lunch at the airport before they went through security.  Carrie was pretty amazing getting three children, two suitcases, a baby stroller, a baby car seat, and three backpacks through security.  She is a brave mom!  We later heard that they arrived home tired but safe and sound.  I am sure there will be a few grumpy days ahead as they get over the jet lag.  We had a wonderful time during their visit, and are so grateful that Carrie, Matt, Danny, Kaylee and Abby took the time and energy to come visit.  It was just perfect.  Thank you so much you guys!  After doing some shopping and baking Wednesday afternoon we attended an extra choir practice.  We are singing with the choir for Easter, and there are several hard songs.   Many choir members missed several of the earlier practices, including us, so the director held a special practice at her home.  Although it lasted a long time, we did get a lot of work done.  We are a bit concerned because we still do not have some of the songs down 100%.  So the director said to go over our music at home and pray hard.  We are enjoying singing with choir again, but it is difficult for us to make the practices.  They are usually after church, and we are often at a different ward on Sunday.  So after Easter we may not continue.  We have really enjoyed the beautiful Easter music though.

We had aother major Easter cookie delivery day.  We delivered 11 plates of cookies!  So we spent a lot of time crisscrossing the base and stopping at our marine families’ homes.  We found almost everybody home and folks were happy to receive the Easter cookies and message.  Several families are being transferred in the next month, so we tried to make sure there was nothing they needed help with as they prepared to leave.   It was a long day though, because we had some waiting time to make sure some people were home after work.  And the traffic was fairly heavy.  So we were quite tired when we finally arrived home.  But we were also full of joy for the great people we get to see and work with.  It may sound like all we do is deliver treats, but we also typically provide a spiritual message.   Sometimes these short visits lead to very special interactions with these wonderful families.

Later in the week we were able to deliver a plate of cookies to our single female marine.  She is a security guard at HMX, the President’s helicopter group.  She was actually in the guard shack at the entrance to the HMX area and we were able to hand her the cookies directly.  It was fun, and she and her fellow guards were happy. It was cool to see her in her full gear with her helmet and flak jacket on  and toting a weapon around. We then took one of our bachelor marines out to dinner.  We have come to know him a lot better and this time he shared a bit more of his personal story. He was excited that his parents were coming to visit for the week after Easter, and he had plans to show them a lot of tourist spots in the area.  We are sad that he is less active at this point, but for some reason he likes to meet with us and just talk.  If that is the only connection to church we can offer him right now then we will gladly do it.  He is a very nice young man, and we have come to really care for him. 

The day before Easter we got to help out at a delightful activity for the primary children at our ward.  They opened with a few short talks and then fed the children various breakfast foods, like donuts and muffins.  Then the children were divided into 6 groups and they rotated among 6 stations with different activities.  It was nice because each station focused on some aspect of Jesus Christ and not on the Easter Bunny or candy.  At the end they did pass out some Easter candy and favors, and the children were delighted even without an Easter egg hunt.  We next met with another one of our bachelor marines to take him out to lunch.  He is another fine young man and is doing his best to stay close to church while working a demanding schedule as a security guard on base.  He served a mission in the Philippines, but then had a heartbreaking event.  After his mission he married his high school sweetheart, but after only 3 months she asked for a divorce.  He was just crushed and felt they could have worked things out.  So he joined the marines to get totally away from that situation.  We enjoyed visiting with him and he seems in a little bit better spirits than last month.  After an excellent lunch with him we attended a sweet baptism.  The 8 year old son of one of our marines at The Basic School was baptized and confirmed by his dad.  The talks and music were superb, and we felt honored to be there.  We also got to make contact with several people that just happened to be at the baptism – some military folks we had met earlier but who had moved out of our ward, a brand new bishop, another military couple that want to serve a military relations mission someday, and some sister missionaries that used to live nearby.  So it was a fine afternoon.  The rest of the day was spent in working on our lessons for tomorrow and early next week and preparing multiple side dishes for the Easter dinner for marines tomorrow.  We are hosting 4 marines along with the couple that works with us on base.  It will be at their home, so should be very nice. 

We had a fine Sunday this Easter Day.  The choir Easter program went very well, although we did have a couple of songs that were a little shaky.  In addition to the choir songs there was a solo, a duet, some flute accompaniment, and some outstanding piano playing.  The narration was excellent and it was a strong, spiritual meeting.  The closing hymn was “I Believe in Christ,” and it was just superb.  The congregation sang the regular hymn, the choir sang a really nice descant to the hymn, and both the organ and piano accompanied (played by our stake president and his wife.  The feelings of the spirit, joy, love and compassion were tangible during that song.  We were glad we participated with the choir for the Easter program.  After sacrament meeting I was the substitute teacher for the Gospel Principles class.  We had an interesting discussion about covenants.  The second counselor in the Stake Presidency, who is a member of our ward, attended the class.  He made an astute observation.  He said that the blessings we receive often greatly outweigh the effort and faith we have provided.  He said that in the gospel, one plus one does not equal two.  One plus one might equal ten or even fifty.  If we make our best efforts at stepping forward in faith we will be blessed immensely.  I thought that his phrase, “In the gospel one plus one can equal fifty” might be a good title for a talk.  The lesson went well and I was pleased that I had been asked to substitute.  We had a short and frenzied preparation period at home of finishing touches on the vegetables, putting everything into containers and bags, and loading up the car.  We then went to the home of the couple we work with on the base for the Officer Candidate School (OCS) services.  Three of our marines came over for Easter dinner.  We had a wonderful time.  There was plenty of good food, including ham, scalloped potatoes, rolls, deviled eggs, and jello.  There was also plenty of good conversation.  We had been feeling a little sad since Carrie and her family just departed a few days before, so this nice holiday meal with friends was just what we needed to pick us up.  The three marines that came are from our original OCS group, so over the past six months we have come to know them well.  They are really outstanding young people.  We had fun talking with them about their training activities on base, their families, and their future plans.  One of the guys admitted that he had a date on Saturday, and that things had gone very well.  He said it was not a big deal, just a date.  But he did admit he was going to ask her out again. The other two marines ribbed him mercilessly about it. We finally said goodbye to these dear friends and came home full, tired, and happy. Here is a picture of the outstanding relish plate/deviled egg display mom created.  

Sunday, April 6, 2014


We were not able to add a post to the blog last weekend.  We had a bit of a crisis related to one of our young elders that lives near us.  It turns out that the mission president had a crisis with another missionary down in Richmond, so he turned this one over to us.  It was a personal situation so I can’t get into it.  But we were very busy last Friday through Sunday on the issue.  But at the tail end of the situation there was a silver lining.  We ended up having to transport two elders to a location that was fairly near colonial Williamsburg.  So as a spontaneous activity  we spent the night at a Williamsburg hotel and spent the next day touring the “Revolutionary City.”   That night we studied all the literature about what to see and when to see it.  We developed a Disney-worthy plan to see it all in one day.  Our plan worked and we had a terrific day touring the city.  At the visitors center we watched an old, old movie that was made just for Williamsburg.  It was called “A Patriot’s Story” and it really gets you in the mood to visit a revolutionary war city.  We made our way into the town via a beautiful garden path and began by watching a group of angry citizens, including us, march toward the governor’s mansion to demand action against the British.  It was very cool how the “cast” draws the visitors into the action and dialogue.  We then visited historic homes, artisan shops and stores, all manned by folks dressed and acting as revolutionary era people.  It was great fun.  We particularly enjoyed the tailor, furniture maker, wheelwright and blacksmith.  The tailor told us amazing stories about who wore what back then, how they made the clothing, and most interesting, how they cleaned them.  He pretended to be offended when I asked why he was wearing a strange looking robe.  He indignantly told me that it was the latest thing and that all the upper class men wore housecoat robes during the day while they were working.  Of course he would never wear it outside because it was an indoor garment.  Lezlie loved the apothecary shop and asked many questions about how they treated disease, what medicines they used, and what they knew about how the body worked.  The apothecary lady was excellent, not only staying in character but also providing a wealth of knowledge.  We enjoyed a lesson on how to do some colonial dances.  It was interesting because they were very much like the reels we learned with our dogs at dog camp.  We went on a tour called “Bits and Bridles” that included walking around the stables to see the colonial carriages and the working horses.  They have 25 horses that give carriage rides to tourists and also carry the cast around when they are acting out a story.  There were some beautiful horses and a couple of rare breeds Lezlie had never seen ( a "Canadian", and a "Cream" for all you horsey folks...Light draft horses developed in early America).  We had lunch at the Kings Arms Tavern, and enjoyed crab cakes and spinach salad.  We took a quick tour through the colonial era art museum, which was good.  It included many original pieces from colonial times, like furniture, toys, utensils, dishes, etc.  By 5pm we were very tired, so made it back to the car for our two and one half hour drive home.   It was a great adventure.

For the first time we attended the transfer day meeting.  We were asked to transport two sister missionaries to Richmond, which is about 1.5 hours away.  Although we had a slow start because of a spring snowfall, as we got further south the snow slacked off and eventually stopped.  We had an excellent chat with these two young ladies and shared a great lunch at Chik Fil A. The transfer activity is something to behold.  Imagine about 100 young elders and sisters all arriving at a church building with their luggage, bikes and other possessions.  All of their stuff was stacked around the sidewalks and in the gym. Then everyone headed into the chapel for a meeting.  Along with the seasoned missionaries that are being transferred, and the senior missionaries that will be trainers, there were about twenty or so “greenies”, brand new missionaries that just arrived in the mission field the day before.  They were easy to spot.  They were shocked, nervous, and their suits, shoes and clothing were immaculate at this point.  There were a few short talks and spiritual thoughts shared.  But the heart of the meeting was when the mission president began reading a list of all the companionships and where they will serve.  All of the veteran missionaries that were paired up with greenies were there, and as the names were called the two companions found each other, shared a big hug, and then sat together.  It was heartwarming to see.  Another special part of the meeting was when 3 missionaries that were going home the next day spoke.  They bore moving testimonies about what they had learned on their missions.  And every one of them got teary eyed and said they did not want to leave, that they wished they could stay here longer and do more work.  It was pretty amazing.  It made us realize how hard it will be to leave here!  Then the meeting was over, and suitcase chaos began.  Everyone was trying to find their luggage and figure out where to load it.  And the rows of bikes were something to behold. Dozens of bikes. Somehow everything eventually got loaded into the correct trailer, truck, van or car, and everyone departed.  We ended up hauling just one sister back to Woodbridge, and greatly enjoyed getting to know another outstanding young lady.  We finally met up with the other sisters she will work with and said goodbye.  But our day’s work was not over.  We got a text from one of our Basic School marines who said that they had to go into the field that night and would not be able to attend family home evening.  But if we could come early they would swing by to say hello for a quick taste of the refreshments.  We rapidly ate dinner and loaded three pies into the car – lemon meringue, chocolate cream, and coconut cream (Lezlie did the crusts and I did the fillings).  We headed south again to the base and arrived 45 minutes early for our family home evening.  Two of our marines soon arrived in their field uniforms, ate 3 pieces of pie each in about ten minutes, and dashed back to put on the rest of their gear for their night exercises.  We know they enjoyed the pie, but we were exceptionally touched that they made the effort to stop by and say hello.  Because of the night exercise we only had two attendees for our lesson.  Nonetheless, we had a great discussion about the restoration and really enjoyed it.  These young marines and their wives are amazing in their gospel knowledge and strong testimonies.  We learn as much from them, or more, than they learn from us.  We had another slight letdown though.  The one marine that attended was scheduled for blood tests early the next morning, and he had to fast after dinner until his blood test - so he could not eat any pie!  We wrapped up half a chocolate pie and sent it back with him for storage in his refrigerator until after his blood test.  On the way home we contacted the 8 young elders that live in our apartment complex and invited them for pie.  Right after that I got a call from the sister missionaries that live in our apartment complex.  They were teaching a lady that was ill and wanted a blessing.  So I dropped Lezlie and the pies off and drove to the lady’s house.  We had a nice chat and another elder and I gave her a blessing.  When I arrived home all 8 elders were in our apartment gorging on pie.  It was a sight to behold.  They polished off almost all the rest of our pie, and that made us very happy.  Another interesting, enjoyable, and rewarding day in the Virginia Richmond mission. 
We discovered a good way to spread spring cheer.  We had a sizable snowfall even though it was the 4th day of spring.  It does not look or feel like spring at all.  We discovered that our grocery store was selling daffodils at a good price.  So we bought a bunch of them and stopped at the homes of about half a dozen marine families and delivered daffodils.  We just said, “Happy Spring!”  The flowers were very well received and we had nice chats with several wives and children, and even a couple of marines that were home for lunch.  We enjoyed that so much that we are getting additional daffodils to drop off at more marine homes.  It was also our day to work at the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society.  I (Dan) had one of the most complex cases I have ever faced.  I spent almost 3 hours with a young marine, his mom and his grandma.  The situation was way too complicated to explain.  But I will just say I had to make multiple phone calls, rework the budget several times, and get some firm commitments from this young marine.  I was finally able to give him a check to help him out of his serious financial problems.  It is always greatly rewarding when you can make that happen.  Finally we took a Navy wife out for dinner, the mom of the little boy that I blessed.  Her husband is away with the president’s helicopter group, so we wanted to visit with her and provide some company.  We had a delightful Asian dinner and wonderful visit with her.  I got to hold her baby boy too, so it was a fun evening.  We really care for this young lady and her family and feel very close to them.  The dinner with her was a great way to end the day.

Our first task on another day this past week was to tour Locust Shade Park, which is right next to the base.  We were researching a spot for the next senior missionary activity that we are planning.  The mission president asked us to plan and host it.  We found the park to be very pretty and we rented a covered picnic site for our activity.  We have yet to plan all the details, but we are going to have a picnic style meal and hopefully some marine or patriotic themed activity.  We next journeyed to The Basic School for our weekly family home evening.  It was a great night.  Our lone LDS guy from Officer Candidate School is now in TBS. He attended the FHE and got to meet all of the other LDS marines in our group.  He was very happy to see them.  He had been pretty lonesome.  We had a good lesson on the Book of Mormon and served make your own shortcake – blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, angel food cake, sponge cake, Redi-whip and chocolate sauce.  It was heartwarming to see the veteran TBS guys rally around the new guy.  They all sat and talked for a good half hour after the lesson was done just getting to know the new guy better.  It was a very joyful and satisfying night for us.

Our grocery store got in a new shipment of cut Daffodils, so we bought another huge batch.  We then traveled to the base and delivered some “Spring” to multiple marine families.  We love these families and are happy to just stop in and say hello. And it seems to be helpful to them to know that someone at church cares about them and is thinking about them.  Even the less active families welcomed us in and raved about the flowers. Many of them are receiving transfer orders, so it is good to know who is going where.  We let our home bishop know and contact the Military Relations folks at the new base to welcome them. We also traveled further south to Stafford and got to deliver more flowers to our marine families there.  Finally we returned to TBS where we had been the night before.  We attended the Chaplain’s briefing for the new company of marine students, one of whom was our solo LDS guy from Officer Candidate School.  At this meeting all of the dozen or so lay leaders get to stand and introduce themselves and explain what meetings or services they provide. Afterward the marines have a chance to mingle with the lay leaders and chat with anyone they want to.  Our one LDS guy stopped to say hello and we were about convinced that there were no other LDS marines in the class.  We were chatting with him when another marine came up and said hello.  He introduced himself as a church member.  We were so happy to meet him and for our guy to have a friend.  He was an impressive young man, very tall and good looking with arms like pistons.  He explained to us that he was originally from Ghana, had joined the church in Utah in 1999 (we think when he was there for school), had been an enlisted marine for ten years, was accepted for a commissioning program, and just recently got his college degree.  He is married with four children.  He was a very friendly and outgoing guy, and we asked if we could stop and visit his family.  He said of course.  We were thrilled to have another LDS marine in our little flock, and are anxious to meet his wife and children. We also had a small and timid marine come up and ask us if he could come to our meetings if he wasn't a member. We assured him we would be glad for him to come.  It will be interesting to see if he shows up.

We had a wonderful day delivering more Daffodils and attending a recognition lunch for the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society volunteers.  For the NMCRS we traveled to Fredericksburg, about 30 miles south, and met at a Tea Room.  Although I (Dan) thought  it was kind of a feminine place, ( its name was Pinkadilly if that is a clue)  it was very enjoyable.  The NMCRS is very good about giving recognition.  Lezlie and I got our 25 hour nametags (just a nice plastic nametag with the logo) and our 50 hour service pins.  In addition we got some nice NMCRS logo gifts – a hat for me, a bag for Lezlie, and t-shirts and thermal mugs for both.  We had an excellent lunch and good visiting with the other volunteers, a really nice group of people.  We got multiple bunches of spring flowers delivered to marine families, about eight in all.  We also took a batch of brownies and flowers out to the family of the new man we just met at the TBS Chaplain’s briefing.  He just started the school so they will be here for six months.  It was delightful to meet his wife and the two of his four children that were not in school. 

We had an excellent zone meeting on Friday.  We feel that the zone meeting have improved and become much more focused possibly because of a new zone leader that recently was assigned here.  We enjoyed some excellent talks and as usual were impressed by the maturity of these young people.  It is so impressive to see them teach and take care of one another.  One of the most exciting announcements is that we are going combine with the Virginia Chesapeake Mission, which is the next mission south, to have a special missionary conference on May 3.  One of the twelve apostles will be coming to speak to us.  How cool is that!  I guess we will not know who it is until the day of the meeting.

We started out our Saturday by attending a large baptism service.  Seven people were all baptized into our ward.  It was the most amazing baptism service ever.  There were 3 different families involved.  There were two sets of moms and sons baptized as well as 2 teenage siblings from another family and then another teenager.  Besides an excellent talk on baptism by our relief society president the young women from our ward sang a beautiful song.  After the baptisms six of the seven bore their testimonies, including most of the young people.  It was amazing and very spiritual.  As if the baptisms were not enough of a spiritual boost today we have been able to watch General Conference.  We love all of the talks and music.  We really have a special feeling when we hear anyone pray for or talk about the missionaries.  We feel privileged and humbled to be numbered among them.  We feel extremely blessed to be here and love being senior missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.