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.