Besides an excellent Tuesday District Meeting we held our weekly The Basic School (TBS) family home evening. We had a good turnout, four, considering the current number of students we have. We had a really good first lesson on the Book of Abraham. It has a lot of depth and requires more preparation and study for the lessons. But it went well. We found out some good but also sad news. One of our marines was enrolled in the Infantry Officers Course, which meant that he and his wife would be here for a couple more months. But after attending this course for a couple of weeks he decided that this was definitely not for him, so he asked to be transferred to Logistics school. He decided that there was too much glorification of violence and it made him very uncomfortable. We were happy for him because this is a change he wanted. Also, the infantry officers have the most dangerous job in the marines of commanding ground troops. So we were kind of glad he got out of that. But his change also means they will leave immediately and it will be sad to say goodbye. This will be the last marine to leave from our first group of OCS students that we started working with last fall right after we arrived. We will miss him and his wife. They taught us much while we were teaching them.
Our first activity on Wednesday was to attend the Para Chapel meeting. This is a meeting where all of the civilian religious volunteers on the base get together and talk about their activities and events. The chaplains always say nice things about the work we do. We had some success in determining how we could find our lost LDS bachelors on base and we also heard about many activities going on that we might be able to help with. So it was a successful meeting for us. The biggest event of the day however was welcoming the new senior missionary couple to our area. We spent some time putting together a lot of information that we would have liked to have our first week here. We also put together a fruit basket, bought some flowers, and Lezlie baked a loaf of French bread from scratch. So we had a nice welcome to Virginia package for them. They arrived late in the evening, but we, along with two young elders, were waiting. We all met each other and then began hauling all of their stuff into their apartment. Just as we finished a heavy rain began. It was a nice tender mercy. We really enjoyed meeting this new couple and think it will be fun to have them around. They are from Rexburg, Idaho. He was a professor of agriculture at BYU Idaho. We did not get to chat much because they were tired and needed to get things organized enough in their apartment to get to bed. They are attending a senior missionary activity with us in Richmond Saturday, so we will have a long car ride to get acquainted.
We spent most of our Thursday day time activity getting caught up. We had an excellent family home evening with our Officer Candidate School group. The other couple gave a lesson on prayer and there was a lot of participation and discussion. There was a very good spirit there and you could tell that these young men and women were really thinking about prayer. The conversations after the lesson were a bit sad, though. Two of our favorite guys are both going to review boards this week to see if they should be expelled or dropped. One guy flunked two training exercises and the other was just rated low in leadership skills. They were both a bit sad but also able to see the big picture. They said even if they have to leave they have learned a lot and are glad they came. They will grieve for a while, but they will get over it. We will know on Sunday whether they were dropped or not, because they will show up at our Sunday service if they are still there. This is a very tough course – 30% of the men and 50% of the women don’t make it. It is hard just to get selected to attend it. So these two guys have made it through 8 weeks of the toughest school that the marines have to offer. That is an accomplishment that they will eventually be very proud of, even though it will hurt at first.
We received a very heartwarming note from one of our female marines a few days ago. This girl was in our OCS and TBS group, the ones that we first met right after we arrived. She graduated from TBS a couple of weeks ago and has moved on to her next school. It was sad to say goodbye to her. We were totally humbled and grateful for her message. One of the most rewarding things she said was, “I felt your genuine love and concern for my well being.” Although we would not be here meeting with these marines if we were not senior missionaries, we quickly come to love them and care about them as dear friends. We try to let them know we really do love them, care about their lives and are not just doing our missionary duty. So it was wonderful to hear those sentiments from her.
We had a wild and crazy day on Saturday. It was the day of a senior missionary activity in Richmond. We planned to give a ride to the new senior missionary couple that arrived in Woodbridge Wednesday night. We wanted to get to know them better and we thought they were probably tired of driving after their cross country trip from Utah. Our activity was to begin with breakfast at a famous restaurant in Richmond, so we picked them up bright and early. We had driven only about 1 mile from their home when billows of what we thought was smoke started coming up from the hood of the car. We quickly pulled over, opened the hood, and discovered that we had a radiator or hose leak. Luckily it had all been steam and not smoke. But with a coolant leak it was obvious we were not going to drive to Richmond. We slowly limped back to the other couple’s apartment with steam puffing out from the hood and parked our van. We got into their car and started again. Unfortunately the car problem, as well as heavy traffic, delayed us such that we arrived right as everyone else had finished breakfast. Quick thinking Lezlie ordered us milkshakes to go so we could have something for breakfast but still attend part two of our activity. We drove to the Hollywood Cemetery, a huge and very old cemetery in the middle of town. The “Hollywood” in this case is not related to movie stars, but rather the cemetery’s wooded area that has many holly trees and bushes. We met all the other senior missionaries at a chapel there and got a chance to visit and catch up with them. There are many famous folks buried at Hollywood, and we saw ornate sculptures and monuments at their gravesites – Presidents Monroe and Tyler, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, as well as 18 different ancestral families of Lezlie's. We also saw an amazing hand built pyramid, made without mortar, that is a monument to the of confederate soldiers buried here. We saw a beautiful bird of prey perched on top, maybe some kind of hawk. After a nice tour we headed back home. We had to fight more heavy traffic on the way home, but that gave me time to make some phone calls related to our sick car. We arranged for an early Monday morning appointment at our auto repair shop, scheduled a tow truck to haul the car to the shop, and reserved a rental car. Our friends dropped us at the car rental place, I met the tow truck back where our car was parked, and our car was taken to the repair shop. All is in order to have it repaired first thing Monday. We then got to meet our young female friend from Richland that is here at the FBI academy. We had a superb dinner at an old fashioned diner named the Silver Diner. This girl is great fun to talk to, as she tells us all kind of amazing stories about working at the FBI. She is a very nice young lady, and we have enjoyed spending time with her here. Back at home late on Saturday night all is well. We are grateful that our car broke down so close to our friend’s apartment rather than in the middle of Richmond, or worse yet on the Interstate half way to Richmond. While it is a minor inconvenience to get it repaired, it could have been much worse. Here is a picture of us at the Hollywood Cemetery with the James River in the background. Also is a picture of the pyramid monument honoring confereate solidiers. The tiny spec on the top is the raptor we spotted.
Today was a busy Sunday. We were up before 6am to get ready for our Officer Candidate School sacrament meeting. Lezlie made some outstanding butterscotch rolls, the kind you make with frozen yeast rolls. They had to bake for 25 minutes so I was up early to turn on the oven. We had a smaller OCS group today (four), but still had a wonderful meeting with great input by all. I believe that I mentioned on Thursday last that two of our candidates were going to boards Saturday to be considered for expulsion. The first one did get dropped, but we kind of expected that. He had flunked two tests. However, some of the guys told us that he almost seemed relieved to be going home. He was really missing his two young daughters. Our other guy was retained, and he was quite happy about that. It really restored his confidence. The OCS group loved the butterscotch rolls, and even with just 4 in attendance they finished off two pans of rolls, plus large servings of fresh fruit. Directly from there we went to the home of our ward mission leader for what we thought was going to be a breakfast missionary coordination meeting. We had skipped breakfast. When we arrived he said sorry, no breakfast, the family is gone and I was too busy to fix anything. Ugh! But it all worked out okay and we had a good meeting to discuss missionary activities. Lezlie then headed for church with the sister missionaries because I was picking up a family of four for church. With this little rental car we only have 5 seats so Lezlie had to get a ride to church. This young marine family is pretty needy. They have no car and we took them to a military event at a church to get free diapers and groceries last week. They have been fairly inactive, but they wanted to go to church today. So I picked them up. The ward members were super friendly and welcoming to them. They have two girls under age 2, so it was hard for them to keep their little girls entertained during the meeting. However, I think they enjoyed the friendly ward people very much. At the end of sacrament meeting they asked me to take them home, which I did. We were very happy they came to church and we hope it was a good experience for them. We were happy to get home after being gone from 6:30am – 4:30pm. We get tired with these long days, and are glad to be home for the evening. But we so love these busy days in which we get to be fully engaged as senior missionaries. We are grateful to have this period in our lives that we get to devote to helping others, working together 24/7, and growing closer to Heavenly Father in all that we do.