Sunday, May 25, 2014

A Baptism in Virginia

On Monday evening we went to the home of a young Navy family and provided our family home evening on obedience.  This is a family in which she is a member and he is not.  But he has been investigating the church for many months.  We have come very close to them.  Our lesson went well, and there was a nice spirit.  We talked for a few minutes after and then I asked him if he would like to be baptized before they transferred away from here next month.  He said yes!  We talked about possible dates and we mentioned there was a baptism this Friday.  He said that would be good.  We are so excited for him and happy for the family.  We love this family a lot, and we know that this will be a wonderful thing for them.  They will find much joy and support for their young family.  Our experience with them has been a wonderful evolution.  At first, of course, we visited them because we are missionaries and that is our job.  But we quickly came to find out that we had much in common, and we really hit it off.  In a short time we came to love this family and we really enjoy seeing them.  Then their son was born, and they asked me to give him his formal blessing, which brought us even closer.  We know that our friendship with them will always be a highlight of our mission.  We told them that when they get sealed in the temple in a year that we will be there to support them.
On this Wednesday we first attended a “Para Chapel” meeting.  This is a meeting held by the head chaplain with all of the various lay leaders that volunteer on the base.  It was an interesting meeting.  A few of the protestants looked at us sort of funny, like what are you doing here.  But the chaplains and everyone else were very welcoming.  All of the folks at the meeting are working hard to help the marines and their families. 
We learned a lot about different activities on the base and are going to try to help out with some of them. We are going to try to use returned missionaries as translators for wives that come with the foreign officers that come to Quantico for training and do not speak English- something that has been a problem for the Marines in the past.  We then did our routine shift at Navy Marine Corps Relief Society, which is always rewarding. We helped out several marines in financial crises.  We then were going to take dinner to one of our marine wives, whose husband is gone for training for 3 months.  But she told us about free dinner at Chick-fil-A for all military personnel because it is Armed Forces Appreciation week.  So we met her and her children there for a free dinner. Chick-Fil-A even included retired military, so we ate free, too.  It was a bit crowded, but in their usual customer service way Chick-fil-A did a magnificent job of handling the crowds.  We were very impressed.  They had ropes strung outside for forming lines and there were about twenty junior ROTC marines directing traffic, controlling the crowds, throwing away trash, etc. The employees were super friendly and kept thanking people for their military service.  It was magnificent.  I love Chik-fil-A. We will sure miss it when we leave Virginia. 

We thought Thursday was going to be a slow day, but as usual something came up.  We were teaching two sisters a nice, quiet familijby history lesson in our apartment when I got a call from two young agitated elders.  One of them had a doctor’s appointment all the way down in Richmond in just a few hours.  They had arranged to get a ride from someone, but that person backed out at the last minute due to illness.  They had called several others with no luck, so they called me in a panic because the one elder really needed to get to the doctor.  So I spent several hours on the road driving them to the doctor, waiting through the appointment, and driving them home in the rain. The companion of the young elder that was seeing the doctor was so interesting. He has an amazing memory and is well read, so it was fun to talk to him about a wide variety of topics. The elder had a good appointment with his doctor and we finally hit the road home.  It was about a 200 mile round trip.  Such are the days of being a senior missionary, and I am very happy to do it.  It was fun to talk to both of  these young men and get to know them better.  And the one that saw his doctor was very happy that he made it to his appointment and got the medicine he needs.  We also had two sisters over for dinner, which was great fun.  We always love to have the young missionaries over for dinner as they are all great young people that are enjoyable to talk with.  It is such a pleasure to be with young people that are kind and respectful, that appreciate the efforts made to help them, and that have excellent goals and plans for their lives.  It makes the future seem bright.

Today, Friday, will definitely be one of the highlight days of our mission.  I (Dan) got to baptize the young Navy guy I mentioned above.  We visited him and his wife the first week of our mission.  We quickly became very close to this young family.  We had a lot in common – she is from Washington State, he loves horses, they both love dogs, and he is in the Navy.   At the time we first met them the wife, a church member, had been less active for some time.  But she was pregnant with their first child and was feeling the need to get back to church.  Thus her husband  became interested.  He was taught for many months by both young sisters and elders, but kept saying he wasn't ready to be baptized.  We participated in several of these lessons, and visited many times on our own as well.  We took them out to dinner, took dinner into their home, and took them to a baptism.  Early this week after we taught them a family home evening lesson Steve agreed to be baptized.  Tonight was the baptism service, and it was wonderful.  He was excited and confident.  She  was happy and grinning the whole time.  A large group of ward members showed up.  The talks were excellent and the Holy Spirit was felt by all.  The baptism itself was smooth, and at the end of the service he bore a simple, sweet testimony.  He said that every time they started talking about church that someone would show up knocking at their door – the young elders, the sisters, the Couches, the hometeachers, the bishop, etc.  He said he knew that all of these folks were sent by God to encourage him to join the church.  Afterwards we had excellent refreshments of white cake and chocolate brownies, supplied by us.  It was such a joy to be involved in this momentous occasion for this young family.  We feel so blessed and joyful to have been a small part of it.  Just to help one person into the church such that their family will feel the blessings and joy we have – it is just an amazing feeling. (D&C 18:15)

Saturday morning found us up quite early.  Late last night the ward’s Young Men’s President called us and was quite worried.  There was an early morning youth temple trip today and someone had cancelled out at the last minute.  He needed two more chaperons.  We said okay, so got up early and planned to leave for the Washington DC temple at 6am.  At about 5:55am he called and said two sets of parents had unexpectedly showed up so he did not need us to help with the youth temple trip.  Since we were already up, dressed and ready to go we went to the temple anyway and went through a regular session, which was very nice.  We had been talking for some time about going to the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) library so Lezlie could do some genealogy work there.  So we headed into downtown DC, found what we thought was a perfect parking spot right across the street, and ventured into the DAR library.  It was a beautiful historic building (see pictures) with tons of family history information.  Lezlie found a lot of data about her Virginia ancestors, and I even found some facts about my Connecticut Hurd ancestors.  But when I went back to the car there was a $25 parking ticket on the windshield.  The meter stated “No Meter Fees collected on Saturday.”  A parking meter policeman happened to be nearby.  He said that some of the stickers saying “Parking Meter Fees Required on Saturday” had worn off, but he had to ticket the cars anyway.  He explained how I could protest the ticket.  So I took pictures of the meter, my car, the library, etc.  After returning  home I wrote a long, lawyerly letter explaining why the ticket should be rescinded.  Stay tuned, we will have to wait and see what happens between me and the Wash DC parking police.   Except for the ticket it was a great day at the temple and the DAR library.  

Our Sunday was wonderful, highlighted by the confirmation of the young man I baptized last night.  I got to do the confirmation.  He was once again humble and excited.   The blessing came out well, not due to me of course.  He thanked me and I said just thank your Heavenly Father.  The ward gave him such a great welcome today.  Everyone was gathered around him and congratulating him and his wife.  It was wonderful to see.  Then shortly after Sacrament meeting we gathered in the bishop's office and his home teacher ordained him as a Priest in the Aaronic Priesthood.  He received a very nice blessing there too, and was smiling big as he shook everyone’s hand.  Part of his blessing was that he was just at the beginning of his journey in the gospel, but that he would always find loving and supporting friends that would help him along.  We felt like right now we are some of those friends.  It will be sad to see them move in a month.  But it has been absolutely wonderful to get to know them.  We feel so blessed to know them and to have been a part of their journey.  

Monday, May 19, 2014

Gettysburg and a Senior Picnic

We had an extraordinarily busy week.  Our best event of Monday was providing a family home evening for a family that has been less active at church.  We have visited several times, but our reception has been a little cool.  But on a prompting I called and asked if we could give our family home evening on obedience, and the husband said yes.  We were a little surprised.  The family seemed genuinely pleased to see us and the obedience lesson featuring pictures of our dogs went over very well.  They have two dogs so liked all the doggie pictures.  The kids behaved and were actively involved.  At the end the dad said, “We need to have a song.”  He sat down and played piano while we all sang I am a Child of God.  It was a very warm feeling, and everyone sang along.   It was good to be in their home and share a good message.  The following Sunday most of the family came to church, the first time in a long while.

Most of our TBS group was in the field, so we had a small but sweet Family Home Evening Group Tuesday.

We headed out mid-morning on Wednesday and traveled to Sterling, VA, about an hour away.  We had fun conducting a Canine Good Citizen test for the Veterans Moving Forward group.  This is an organization that trains service dogs for wounded or mentally disabled veterans.  They have had some great success stories with their dogs.  We tested a 6 month old black lab puppy and he did well.  He will make some needy veteran very happy one day.  

We next drove to the home of our friends the Wilsons in Biglerville, PA.  He and I were company mates at the Naval Academy.  It was so good to see him and his wife, whom we consider good friends.  We don’t see some of our academy friends for years, but then it is just like we live next door when we see them and get to visit.  We had a great time catching up and telling stories about our families and experiences.  Tom is a very funny guy, and he had us laughing at story after story.  He is the only one from our company that made Admiral, and he had a lot of great stories to tell about his experiences in the Navy.  It is a BIG deal to make Admiral in the Navy!  They live on a farm that belonged to her grandma.  The house is the home she remembers visiting as a child when she went to her grandma and grandpa’s house.  It is a beautiful old stone home over a hundred years old that they fully renovated inside.  We had a great time touring the house, barn, and grounds.  They own about 100 acres and they lease out a large chunk of it to a local farmer that plants crops there. 

Sue fixed us a wonderful dinner and we had a good rest for the night.  A secondary reason for visiting our friends in Biglerville was that it is right next to Gettysburg.  So after a great breakfast we headed for the Gettysburg Battlefield Park.  We had a very interesting if somewhat sobering day.  Our friends loaned us a superb audio auto tour CD.  It was really well done, with parts being read by dramatic actors rather than just park rangers. We saw the areas of all the battles, and stood on top of Little round Top hill, where Colonel Chamberlain’s Maine regiment withstood the attacking rebels to save the day.  We saw the place where General Meade had his headquarters, and the field of Pickett’s last charge.  I had recently read an excellent Civil War history book (thank you Anne and Rex).  I knew a lot about the battle of Gettysburg, so it was quite interesting to see all of it.  The visitors center was exceptional too, with a good movie summarizing the three days of battles.  We especially enjoyed the Cyclorama, and huge 360° painting of Pickett’s charge.  It was a wonderful day touring a fascinating historical site.  We finally departed Pennsylvania, and drove to Frederick, MD so Lezlie could do some family history work at the library there.  Much to our dismay, there was a torrential thunderstorm taking place as we left the library.  We were soaked just running to the car.  We had to battle the rain as well as heavy traffic in DC to get home.  We finally made it, tired but happy for our enjoyable two day trip.  Here are pictures of me with a field cannon and at the top of Little Round Top hill.
I (Lezlie) spent most of the day Friday cooking, and Saturday we held our senior missionaries picnic.  We headed for our picnic grounds first thing in the morning, and were pleased to find clear skies and a warm breeze.  We had rented a nice picnic shelter in a beautiful setting of Virginia hardwood trees.  The only problem was that it was about 100 yards down the trail from the parking lot.  So we hauled load after load of items down the rocky, dirt trail – salads, cookies, equipment for our games, ice chest full of water bottles, cleanup gear, etc.  I believe that  between 8:30am and 9:00am I (Dan) went up and down that trail about twenty times.  Then I had to run to the Subway shop and pick up our sandwiches.  When I returned Lezlie said the park ranger had stopped by and said we could drive our car down that 100 yard trail to unload!  But it was too late since everything had already been hauled by hand.  Oh well, we got some extra exercise.  About a half hour before we were to start the senior missionaries started to show up and everyone helped with final preparations.  We always love to get together with the other seniors here.  It is such a feeling of inclusion in a greater work when we see and hear about all the things the other senior missionaries are doing.  We just love these folks.  Lezlie made up an ice-breaker activity, a questionnaire relating to military and marine stuff.  Like, “Find a senior missionary that had to leave their dog behind.  Did you know that the mascot of the Marines is a Bulldog names Chesty?”  People seemed to enjoy that activity, and we really did learn a lot about each other.  After the getting-to-know-you game and final preparations we had a great lunch -  Subway sandwiches, chips, about 5 homemade salads, and plates of cookies.  Of course we had way too much food, but lots of folks took leftovers home.  (We ended up donating a bunch of sandwiches to a family in the ward with 8 children). We then introduced our games, which consisted of five activities that were loosely based on marine training.  We then correlated that training with missionary activities.  For example, the marines have to learn about logistics, or how to move a lot of gear from point to point out in the field.  As senior missionaries we are always hauling around treats, materials, or young missionaries from point A to point B.  For the logistics game they had to stack a group of about thirty odd shaped boxes within a small area in a short amount of time.  Besides the logistics we had a Target Range (rubber band shoot), Land Navigation (use the compass on your iPhone to find hidden animals), Teamwork (put together a USA map puzzle in 3 minutes), and an Obstacle Course (push balls through obstacles with yardsticks).  We were a little worried they might think the games were silly, but everyone seemed to have a great time.  They were laughing and joking and teasing each other the whole time.  It was good for everyone to unwind and relax.  Everyone hung around and visited for a bit longer and then helped us clean up and load everything back into the car.  We worked very hard on putting this together and felt rewarded that it turned out well.  We think all the senior missionaries had a good time.  After getting all of our gear back apartment we both took a short nap.  We had worked hard for a couple of days and were tired.  Finally we picked up a young marine and his wife from our Basic School group and took them out to a wonderful Greek restaurant for dinner.  She is the lady from Moldova that joined the church when she was in Army boot camp.  They are a very interesting young couple and we had a great time with them.   Besides hearing about her life as a child in Moldova, we heard about his previous enlisted service in the Marine Corps and his early life in California.  We also were able to discuss the soviet situation in the area of Ukraine and Moldova.  It was a long, full day, but great ly enjoyable one too.  Here are pics of the box stacking and rubber band shooting.


On Sunday evening we attended a unique and enjoyable activity at our ward.  For teacher appreciation week the ward held a teacher appreciation night.  Children and youth in the ward hand delivered invitations to their teachers at school.  About twenty teachers showed up.  Each was given a flower hand-made with cloth and buttons.  There was a simple program of music and talks, mostly by the youth.  The youth all told stories of teachers that had made a difference in their lives.  One adult speaker noted that education and children are both important in our church, and he thanked the teachers for taking care of our children and educating them. An LDS high school teacher had been awarded teacher of the year and he spoke and played the cello. Then there were excellent refreshments in the cultural hall.  Each teacher was given a certificate thanking them for being teachers.  It was quite a nice event and we were impressed. 

This last picture has absolutely nothing to do with our activities this past week.  I just thought it was a wonderful picture of our new granddaughter Abby Hong- she was visiting Forks WA with her Mom and adopted Aunt Becky Billings for all of the Twilight vampire tour stuff- she seems to really be into it!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day

We began our week by visiting a man we have come close to.  This is the man we visited at the hospital halfway house earlier who has had a lot of medical and family issues.  He is an artist.  We marveled at his amazing work.  Not only did he have some wonderful paintings and pen and ink drawings of his own, he also had many excellent paintings that he had collected.  He had several drawings of faces, and he is so good at capturing emotion in the expressions.  It was good to get to know this man better and see his cozy little home.  We heard more about his life, family struggles, and health issues.  He is a good man, but he has had a hard life.  He has a black and white Jack Russell Terrier and I enjoyed playing with him. He reminded me so much of Joy.  We took a dog toy as a gift, and Rocko loved it.  We played tug and fetch just like I do with Joy. He gave Lezlie some suggestions for a drawing of a baby she was working on for a gift that were very helpful.

Our only formally scheduled activity on Tuesday was our weekly family home evening for the The Basic School marines.  We had a good group of six folks, and were happy that our gal from Moldova was back from her trip home.  She is a very intelligent person and adds greatly to our discussions.  Lezlie taught a wonderful lesson about faith, and as usual the group had excellent input and discussion.  True faith causes action and brings power.  We have experienced that over and over here.  Even when the lesson was over the marines hung around for a while just to talk with us and each other.  After downing many cookies and bowls of tapioca pudding, the group finally headed back to their barracks.  We love working with this outstanding group of young people. They are an inspiration to us every time we see them.

Because the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society closed early on our day, we had some unexpected free time.  We visited about four marine families.  Lezlie felt inspired to visit one particular family, not knowing exactly why.  It turns out that they are going to get out of the marines after twenty years, and the wife was feeling very nervous about becoming civilians – will he get a job, can we afford it, where should we live, can we find a house we can afford, etc., etc.  So we were able to talk about our experience in getting out of the Navy and how nervous we had been.  But we assured her that everything would work out just as it did for us.  We promised her that if she stayed close to Heavenly Father that all would be well.  We visited with her for an hour (a very long visit for us), and she just seemed to want to pour out her heart about this.  She thanked us over and over for stopping by just when she needed us. We truly felt directed by the spirit.  We also had an outstanding dinner.  Our young friend from Richland who is at the FBI Academy here invited us out for dinner.  She bought us a superb meal at an Italian restaurant.  Afterwards she invited us over to see her apartment, give her a spiritual thought, and have some desert.  Lezlie gave an excellent mini-lesson on faith.  We had homemade ice cream sandwiches for desert.  Very yummy!  We always enjoy Krystal and hearing about her adventures in the FBI.  She is a nice young woman and it has been fun to get to know her better. 

On this Thursday we went to the home of a new marine family to provide a family home evening, our lesson on Obedience.  They have four children, girl 11, boy 8, girl 4, and baby about 5 months.  They are a very interesting family.  He is from Ghana and he came to the U.S. to go to school.  He went to school in Utah, joined the church, married a church girl from Utah, and joined the marine corps.  He was enlisted for almost ten years and did deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq.  So they have had to be apart several times.  Then he finally finished his college degree and got into the officer program, which he is finishing up now.  She is a tough lady, having been home alone several times with all of those kids while he was deployed.  Their kids were very respectful and attentive, and we had a lot of fun giving the lesson and visiting with them.  We just love getting to know these young marine families.  They are good people.

On Friday we had two sister missionaries over for dinner.  We have known one for a while since she has lived in out apartment complex for about 3 months.  But we also got to meet her new companion who is from Utah.  She finished one year of college and wants to be a nurse.  The first girl is majoring in vocal music at BYU.  She has a gorgeous voice, and she sang a song for us after dinner.  It was just wonderful.  It was about going through trials and calling upon the Lord, who will always be there.  She sounded like an angel.  . 

We had a great Saturday with several varied activities.  We go past a small museum every time we drive to the marine base.  Each time we see the sign we think we need to stop and check out the museum.  Today we had a lunch appointment to take out a marine.  So we left a little early to make a stop at the museum.  To our surprise they were having a Founders Day celebration because it was the anniversary of the founding of the town Dumfries. Interestingly, one of Lezlie's ancestors- Wm Fitzhugh, was one of the founders of this town. There were several booths and exhibits.  We became aware that the US Army Traditional Drum and Fife band were going to perform in an hour.  We called our lunch marine and asked if he would like to see them.  He said yes, so we dashed onto the base and picked him up.  The band was excellent.  Not only did they play well, they wore very cool revolutionary era uniforms.  The only down side was that it rained while they were playing.  We then took our marine to lunch and had a good talk.  We were sad to hear that he has a major medical issue that may cause him to receive a medical discharge from the marines.  He has a serious issue with his intestines, some sort of immune disease.  He may have to have surgery to have part of them removed.  His parents will not be able to afford to fly out to see him.  We told him that if he does have the surgery to let us know and we will help him in any way we can.  He thanked us and said he would let us know.  We are worried about hims and really want to help.  We next  met up with the young family whose baby boy I blessed.  We have become very close to them.  We took them to a baptism.  The husband is getting close to making a decision to be baptized and we wanted him to see a real baptism.  They both seemed to enjoy it, and their baby could not have been better.  We then took them out to a scrumptious dinner at Cracker Barrel.  It was a great meal and great conversation.  We sure do love this little family, and we pray for them often.  We just hope we get to see the day when he gets baptized. 

Holidays always seem a little lonely here, but today things went really well for Mother’s Day.  In the morning Lezlie got to Facetime with both Anne and Carrie, including several of the grandchildren.  She enjoyed that very much and it started out Sunday quite well.  We had a good program at church.  It was nothing dramatic, just some nice, simple talks honoring mothers, a primary chorus song, and some testimonies.  They gave some excellent Ghirardelli chocolates to all the women.  Then just after church a dear older couple, the Condies, invited us to their home for dinner.  They are returned senior missionaries ( they served in India), and have been very kind to us.  We were grateful and said yes.  At first we thought it was just them, but then as she talked we quickly realized we were being invited to a big family gathering of some of their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  We dashed home for a short time and there was a card slipped under the door.  It was a Mother’s Day card for Lezlie from 4 of the Elders that live in our apartment complex.  They thanked her for “always taking care of us”  and “making sure we have what we need.”  It was very touching.  We then traveled to the Condie’s home, and Lezlie got to talk to Aaron on the drive there, which was very nice.  It was a joy to be in a house full of multi-generational family.  All of them were very gracious about our presence and made us feel very welcome.  All of the kids and grandkids spoke to us and asked about our mission.  It was so much fun to see them all interacting and visiting with each other, although it did make us miss our family a little bit.  We had a wonderful meal of prime rib, mashed potatoes, gravy, peas, and chocolate brownies with ice cream It was soooo Good – much better than the frozen dinner I was going to microwave for us.  Finally we headed home where Lezlie got to talk to Chris and Stacey, which she also enjoyed immensely.  So I think she had a wonderful Mother’s Day.  She also got cards from most everyone, with a few cards expected to arrive tomorrow too.  I got her some tulips.  The Billings sent some cool paper flowers with messages on the back.  Aaron sent 4 bags of fancy Hershey’s chocolate drops.  Here is a picture of her things.  She was happy with everything! 
 We both spent a quiet evening preparing for our busy week ahead. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Taught by an Apostle

Last Sunday I (Dan) had a relapse of a cold I thought I was over.  Feeling pretty lousy, I went to the doctor Monday morning.  I had bronchitis.  Thankfully I got antibiotics right away and recovered pretty quickly.  I am so grateful we have established ourselves as patients of a nearby doctor, that we have good medical insurance, and that there are amazing medicines that can make us better so quickly.

We did not schedule anything early in the week because my throat was still sore and I did not feel like talking to anyone.  But I did feel good enough to go for a drive.  So on Wednesday we spontaneously decided to go to Orange, VA, which is about an hour and a half drive.  Orange is the county seat for Orange County, the home of many of Lezlie’s ancestors.  There is a library and also a family history center there and Lezlie has been wanting to do some genealogy research there.  So about mid morning we headed out and drove to Orange through the rain.  There was some beautiful rural scenery – lots of farms, beautiful flowering trees, and lush Virginia forests.  The flowering trees here are spectacular in spring – white, pink, and purple blossoms in the middle of deep stands of hardwood forests.  Beautiful!  We spent some time at each of the genealogy spots and Lezlie did find some additional clues and information about her Virginia kin.  Unfortunately there were no major breakthroughs.  We found that we were very close to Montpelier, the home of one of our founding fathers, James Madison.  So we took advantage of it and toured the visitor’s center and mansion.  It was a spectacular home and we had an exceptional tour guide.  He told us a lot of interesting historical facts and figures spiced up with several personal stories about Madison and his family.  When we arrived it was pouring rain so we almost cancelled our plan. You can see the rain in the first picture.  But we used our trusty umbrella to get into the visitors center and stayed mostly dry (thank you Aaron).  Towards the end of the tour it stopped raining so we got to walk around outside the home as well.  I did not know much about James Madison, but he was one of the key writers of the Constitution.  He could read about 7 languages, so he read every book he could find about different types of European governments before the constitutional convention.  It sounded like he was a very intelligent man.  So he was well prepared to help write the constitution, adding the best parts of the most successful governments in Europe.  It was a good tour and we enjoyed it very much.  After a safe drive home we tucked in for the night because of the pounding rain.

Our monthly zone meeting was held on Friday.  As is usually the case the young Elders and Sisters gave some excellent training.  One of the most touching was a Spanish speaking Elder from Mexico who is finishing his mission in a week.  He gave a touching testimony.  He told about his conversion, along with his family, when he was a young teenager.  He gave a heartfelt testimony about how much he loved being a missionary and that it was a wonderful two years.  He was sad that it was ending, but also excited to get on with the rest of his life.  Sometimes when we attend these meetings we find it hard to believe that this is a bunch of twenty and twenty-one year olds teaching eighteen and nineteen year olds.  It is amazing to experience.  In the evening we had two elders from our apartment complex over for dinner.  It was great fun.  These two elders are great young men.  The larger young man is from Hawaii, and he told us about his life there.  The other is from Blackfoot and knows some of the relatives of our son-in-law Matt.  We had a very enjoyable time visiting with them.  We are sending a copy of this picture to their moms with a note about how well they are doing. 

I also had time to do one hardware project this evening.  Lezlie got several plants to put onto our little patio, but they were hard to see because they were down on the floor.  About a month ago I made a goal to build some kind of plant shelf without spending any money.  The apartment complex has three large trash dumpsters in different areas.  We found out that when people move or get new furniture, they just put their old stuff out by the dumpster.  Anyone that wants the old stuff just takes it.  We see tables, chairs, beds, and all sorts of things at the dumpsters.  I felt that if I just kept watching I would see something I could use as a plant shelf.  Yesterday I noticed some louvered window shutters at the dumpster, so I picked them up.  By using some wire and hooks that I already had I was able to construct this shelf for Lezlie’s plants.  I was pleased and happy I actually did this with no money.  Hooray! 

Saturday was our special missionary conference with Elder David A. Bednar, one of the Twelve Apostles of the church, and it was spectacular.  Along with Elder Bednar were his wife Susan, Lynn Robbins of the Presidency of the Seventy, and Dean M. Davies- 2nd counselor in the presiding bishopric.  All of them gave short talks that were superb.  Of course Elder Bednar did most of the teaching, and he was simply outstanding.  He was so humble and down-to-earth.  When he looked out at us and said, “We love you and we thank you,” you really knew he meant it.  He did not mince words and talked very plain and straightforward.  When I say he did the teaching, I do not mean that he gave a talk or lectured us.  He taught in many different ways, but primarily he asked questions of the Elders and Sisters.  He began by telling us not to try to write down everything.  He explained that in the Book of Mormon there are the large plates, which describe the secular history, and the small plates, which describe the spiritual history of the Nephites.  He said too many members take notes at conference and at meetings by trying to write everything down that is said by the speaker – large plates.  He said rather we should write down what we learn that is not said, the things that inspire our spirits and touch our souls – small plates.  About two weeks ago we were given copies of three talks that Elder Bednar has given over the past couple of years and asked to read and study them.  He simply asked, “What did you learn from the talks you read?”  Many Elders and Sisters described what they had learned.  He then would ask follow on questions and would repeat what he thought he heard them say.  He was so encouraging and full of praise.  “That was a great thought.”  “You expressed that very well.”  He used many of the responses to give mini-talks on whatever point that response had made.  A few examples - faith is active, and we must act on our faith to receive power and knowledge.  We can’t stand at the edge of the darkness and wait for light to come.  Rather we must step into the darkness and we will find that the light then comes from God.   Teaching is primarily listening not talking.  We must be an agent and not an object.  An agent acts upon others and an object receives the action of others.  Make your prayers be prayers of action.  (Lord we plan on doing this and that and we ask for your help and blessing.)  Get out of the way and let the Holy Spirit teach.  After he did a session of asking for input on what we had learned by reading the talks, he then asked, “What have you learned by the pattern we have followed this morning – of you giving input, me listening,  and me giving additional input.”  Then the Elders and Sisters came up with all sorts of amazing observations about how to teach – by listening, by rephrasing and giving feedback, being humble and respectful, by finding out what your students understand and what their concerns are, and by allowing the Holy Spirit to lead the way.  He then answered several questions from the Elders and Sisters, which was also amazing.  One of my favorite answers was when a sister asked how we could best support the apostles as members and he just said, “Love Him.” There was nothing about the Church, the leadership, etc. They are all working doing their jobs just as we are doing ours. Everyone is doing it for the advancement of Christ’s teachings- of love, of kindness, of forgiveness, of progression and new starts. It is all for the honor and glory of God and Christ.  He then gave us an assignment to write down two questions and then to consider them later and write down our answers.  1.  Based on what I have observed, learned and felt today, what will I do?  2.  Based on what we have observed, learned and felt today, what will we as a companionship do?  Then he talked for just a few minutes as a summary in which he thanked all of the Elders and Sisters and encouraged them to keep on with their good work.  Then was one of the most moving and powerful parts for Lezlie and me.  I will try to capture his words as best as I can.  He said, “I would like to address all of you senior missionaries for a moment.  We thank you for your service.  We thank you for missing graduations, soccer games, blessings, baptisms and births.  I promise you that your absence from your family will have a profound effect on them, far greater than you can ever imagine.  Your grandchildren will remember that they missed you on those occasions and they will remember why.  Your sacrifice will have an impact on them and will make them more likely to stay active in the church and to serve a mission.  Your service will do more good for your family than your attendance at any one of those events would ever have done.”  I think almost every one of the senior missionaries had tears in their eyes during this part.  After Elder Robbins and Davies bore their testimonies, Elder Bednar bore his.  Besides a sweet, clear, and emotional testimony he gave us an apostolic blessing.  He promised great rewards and lifelong blessings due to our service as missionaries.  It was a powerful and moving meeting and we knew we were being taught by an Apostle of the Lord and by the Holy Spirit.  It was an amazing and moving experience to be taught by an Apostle of the Lord.  It was a great day!

Sunday was a momentous day at the Quantico Ward.  Our Bishopric was changed.  The previous man was the bishop for 6 and a half years, so he was due to be released.  He and his counselors have been so supportive of us.  They really helped us get going that first month or so.  We know all of the new bishopric pretty well.  The 2nd counselor is one of our military guys.  He is a high level Sergeant in the Army who works at the Pentagon.  The 1st counselor was a fellow bass in the Easter choir, so I got to know him at practices.  The one we know the least is the new Bishop, but he seems like a great guy.  Last night we were at a baptism and the man that is now the new bishop was there.  On the way to the baptism Lezlie was speculating about who the new bishop might be.  When we got to the baptism and this man came over and shook our hands and asked how we were doing.  When he left Lezlie immediately said, “I bet he is the new bishop.”  The way he walked over and shook our hands seemed very bishop like, and she was right.  He was called as the new bishop today.  Once again we marvel at how smoothly and easily this transition of leadership takes place.  By priesthood the new Bishopric had all been set apart by the Stake President and the new bishop led the opening of priesthood without missing a beat.  Everyone supported him, thanked him and congratulated he and his wife.  And there was not anyone complaining or talking bad about the new bishop.  It is a miracle.  It is another testament to me that this is truly God’s work.

We realized it is now eight months since we entered the Missionary Training Center.  Wow!  It is hard to believe that much time has passed.  While we miss everyone at home, we love being here as well.  It is going to be hard to leave when our 18 months are up.  We truly feel like we are doing some good here.  Some days seem slow, and we wonder if we should be doing more.  But then we have another day when we are going non-stop and when every visit, lesson, and plan goes even better than had hoped.  That is when we know why we are here and that we are doing some good.