Sunday, July 27, 2014

Butterscotch Rolls

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.  

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Crab Cakes on the Potomac River

Tuesday is usually District Training Meeting day, and we had a pretty good one today.  Our current district leader is an exceptional young man and he organizes good training meetings.  We had some good lessons and discussions.  Lezlie’s big contribution was that she played piano!  She picked out two hymns about a week ago and practiced them several times, playing with just the upper hand.  They came out well, and everyone enjoyed the hymns.  Much better than struggling through them with no piano!  Following the meeting we stopped off at Taco Bell where we picked up a bunch of tacos and then headed to the home of a marine family that is just moving in.  Their shipment arrived today so we took them lunch and helped out with the move in.  Lezlie checked off inventory numbers while I assembled beds and a table.  We think we helped out a lot and were happy to be of service.  And I loved the chance to work with some tools for a couple of hours.

Thursday was a flower day.  We bought some inexpensive vases at Goodwill and filled them with fresh yellow daisies.  We delivered them to several marine families and they were well received. We always love seeing one of the moms.  She has 7 children, having just had a new baby about 6 weeks ago.  The oldest child is about 10.  Every time we visit the kids are clean and well dressed, are polite and respectful to us, and responsive to their mom’s requests.  Not everyone we visit is like this.  She and her family are fully committed to and active in the gospel.  It seems to make all the difference.  We admire her and her husband so much.  Next we visited our marine family that has the new baby girl.  This is the mom that had the difficult pregnancy. We had a great visit there and entertained the kids while she got some work done.  This is me feeding the baby.  Below is Lezlie playing with the little boy and a picture of Lezlie with the mom and the kids.  This will be the last time we see them, and it was sad to say goodbye.  We visited her through the last 3 months of her pregnancy, got to experience her miracle little girl baby, and got to participate in blessing the baby.  We have really come to love this family and are so in awe of how they have handled much adversity.  They are another active church family that has been abundantly blessed by the Lord.  Our final activity was a family home evening with a new company of Officer Candidate School students.  We had 11 attend our service, 3 church members and 8 visitors, and it was fantastic.  It was great to meet and get to know these young marine trainees.  We had an excellent discussion about overcoming adversity and learning from your trials.  They are only in their second week, so are still a little shell shocked.  But they had no trouble inhaling a large serving of strawberry & blueberry shortcake.  I watched them putting mountains of Redi-Whip on top, which was fun to watch.  We do so love being around these outstanding and dedicated young marines in training.  They would be an inspiration to anyone. 

 Friday was a special birthday for one of the single members of our ward, so we took him out for a birthday lunch.  The young missionary sisters in our ward have befriended him so they came to lunch too.   We had a wonderful time visiting and eating good food.  We had a good experience at the restaurant that began in a bad way.  The hostess that seated us seemed a little cross.  We had asked for a large booth for 5 and she took us into the bar.  We asked not to sit in the bar, and she took us to another booth but seemed upset that we had changed her plans, kind of slamming the menus down on the table.  But then later she stopped by our table and asked what church we represented – she had seen our nametags.  We answered The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  She asked if we just met to talk about Jesus.  We told her that today we were just celebrating our friend’s birthday, but that we did teach about Jesus.  She said she had a good friend that was LDS and she would like to learn more about the church.  So the sisters got her name and phone number and made a tentative appointment to go visit her and teach her.  It was pretty interesting and rewarding.  We guessed that maybe she wasn’t cross but was just nervous around a bunch of people with nametags.  It is amazing to wear the missionary nametag that has the name Jesus Christ in large, bold letters.  It causes many people to stare at us and occasionally to stop and ask questions.  We were happy that this young girl that had seemed in a bad mood at first stopped ant talked to us.  After a great lunch we stopped at our friend’s apartment and picked up his dog Rocko, a Jack Russell Terrier.   We then took him to the nursing home where his mom lives so that he could have a visit.  He currently does not drive.  It turns out that Rocko is a star at this nursing home, and they all love it when he comes to visit.  We left him there for a bit while we dashed home to prepare for dinner with two other sisters.  I finally picked him up and drove him home, but was taken aback by the traffic mess on the only road to his home south of here.  It took us an hour to make a twenty minute drive.  But we finally made it, and all was well.  I got back home in time to help with the finishing touches for dinner and we had a good meal with the young sister missionaries.  They are great young ladies and it was fun to visit with them and get to know them better.  They provided an excellent spiritual thought.  The basic lesson was that living the gospel brings us not only spiritual blessings, but also temporal blessings.  We related to them that since we joined the church some 36 years ago we have always tried to live the gospel to the best of our ability.  And we know that we have received many temporal blessings from this.  We have always had comfortable homes to live in, food to eat, clothes to wear, and interesting jobs.  We (and our family) have always had good health and enjoyed interesting activities.  We know that our blessings are not just chance, but reflect the way we live, which is by the tenants of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  After a nice dinner and visit with the sisters we had time to rest and recover after a busy day. 

We had an unusual assignment today, Saturday.  The Mission is planning on sending two new Spanish speaking sisters to our area and they will need an apartment.  So we got to go apartment hunting.  We found 3 sets of apartments in the general area where sisters are to live, and we visited all of them this morning.  One was kind of dumpy, with a lot of overgrown weeds and trash in the parking lot.  We decided that one was a no go.  The second one said they did not do corporate leases.  Since the church leases these apartments as a corporation the second place was also a no go.  The 3rd place was acceptable, so we forwarded the information to the Mission office.  Hopefully the new sisters will be there in a couple of weeks.  We took our young bachelor marine that had the major surgery in May out to lunch.  Through the recommendation of another church member we went to Tim’s Rivershore Crabhouse, and it was excellent.  It is located on the Potomac River in a very remote area and was hard to find.  If you were randomly driving around the area you would never imagine there was a restaurant nearby.  But it is a superb location, right on a sandy beach on the river.  There are several docks nearby where several beautiful boats were moored.  Although the d├ęcor was pretty eclectic, it was fun.  We saw tacky plastic palm trees and parrots, but also interesting photos of the sea and glass balls, anchors, and fishing nets.  The tables were close and a bit sticky, but the place was crowded with enthusiastic customers and sold delicious food.  We had an excellent view of the river and got to watch people and boats come and go.  Lezlie and I had tasty crabcake sandwiches.  We also saw lots of folks eating hard shell crabs, which we may try on our next visit.  We had a great chat with our marine, and when we invited him to come to church tomorrow he said yes.  We were very happy.  There are so many good people at the ward that will welcome him and help him, especially since he has two more major surgeries before he is done with his medical issues.  We thought that we were ready to leave the base after we dropped our marine off.  But we have developed the habit of double checking our phones for messages before leaving the base.  And sure enough, we had received a message from a marine wife that needed help.  She wanted to attend an event where they were giving away groceries and diapers for needy marine families at a church next to the base.  And they are a needy family.  He is a very junior marine and does not make much.  And they do not have a car.  So we took them to the event and they were thrilled to get not only some groceries and diapers, but some kids clothes as well.  On the spur of the moment we took them out to dinner at Chik-fil-a.  They were happy and so were we.  Their two little girls did well and enjoyed the dinner and the playground.   We eventually made it home about 4 hours later than we had planned.  But we were very happy to be of use to somebody, and content that we did our best to help others this day.   

 Our  Sunday service with our Officer Candidate School students was great this morning.  We had 13 show up, a mixture of two different classes.  They enjoyed sharing stories with each other about the trials of OCS.  The other couple gave a lesson on Gordon B. Hinkley’s book Standing for Something, which covered integrity, character and leadership.  It went very well.  They loved the treats of muffins and yogurt.  We received the nicest tender mercy this morning by one of our students telling us about what he and his visiting wife did last weekend.  As background, there is one young marine family we have been visiting since we arrived.  They had a significantly premature baby who has multiple health problems, which has really isolated this young couple for some time.  They have just started getting out a little bit.  We have gotten close to them and just took them out to dinner last week.  The husband is a marine lawyer.  Two weeks ago one of our OCS guys, who is a law student, asked me if I had any ideas where he and his wife could spend some time on base.  His wife was visiting for the weekend, but he was restricted to the base because he had done poorly on some test.  They just wanted someplace to hang out and talk on base.  I immediately thought of the family with the premature son that lives on base.  So I asked the family on base if they would mind if the OCS guy and his wife stopped by just to have someplace to hang out for a bit and to ask them questions about being a marine lawyer.  They said yes, so I gave our OCS guy their name and phone number.  The marine lawyer couple hosted them last weekend, and went above and beyond the call of hospitality.  They fed them dinner, let them stay overnight, gave them breakfast, and answered all of their questions about being a marine lawyer.  The thing that made me know that this event was arranged by Heavenly Father and not me was the fact that the OCS marine’s wife is a nurse that specializes in premature babies.   She was able to give them all kinds of information and advice about their son and give them some hope about his development.  We were so happy that both of these young couples could help each other out and feel extremely fortunate that we were in the right place at the right time to help it happen.  After our excellent OCS sacrament meeting we had a transportation assignment from our Zone Leaders.  We picked up 6 young people to take them to sacrament meeting.  It was kind of crazy, 6 kids between 8 and 16 crammed into the van.  But the elders had invited them to church and they said they wanted to come.  We had a nice sacrament meeting at which our friend that we took out for his birthday spoke.  It was his first time speaking at church, and he gave an excellent talk.  He compared following the straight and narrow path while holding onto the iron rod with maneuvering through the congested traffic in this area.  Everyone related to that, so it was a great talk.  And our marine that we took out to lunch yesterday did show up.  We were so happy to see him there, and several ward members greeted him warmly. Now on Sunday evening we are relaxing a little while winding down from the week.  We feel so blessed to be able to serve this mission. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Interviews and Appointments

Our week started out well with a great experience Monday evening.  We took a marine family out to dinner.  This is the couple that had the very premature baby that has multiple health issues.  We know that they do not get out very much because of the baby.  They seem a little self-conscious about the baby, too, because of his appearance.  So we asked if we could take them out to dinner.  They said yes, and we had a very nice time.   We went to Cracker Barrel and on a Monday evening it was not crowded.  Their little boy could not have been better.  He cooed and smiled and played with a spoon.  We had great food and got to know them a lot better.  I think that they enjoyed it too as there were a lot of smiles and laughs.  We just get to love these young marine families so much.  It is going to be hard to say goodbye to them.  Although our first visit may be because we are assigned as missionaries we quickly come to know them and love them.  We forget all about being missionaries and just want to help them because we care about them.

On Tuesday we attended our quarterly interview with our mission president, President Wilson.  He is a great guy and we are enjoying working with him very much. He spends almost all day for two days interviewing the young elders and sisters in the zone, trying to resolve their concerns and questions.   I think that he enjoys the break that he gets by interviewing us, because we just kind of chat about what we have been doing.  Typically when we have the president's interviews we give rides to several elders rides there.   Yesterday was no exception.  We ended up hauling 6 elders back and forth.  But they are always grateful, and we enjoy visiting with them.  After a successful morning of interviews we spent some time preparing for our The Basic School (TBS) family home evening.  We had a special treat this time because one of our bachelor marines went with us.  We have been trying to hook him up with some other LDS folks on the base for months, and we finally got him to attend.  We think he had a good time.  He contributed to the discussion and was smiling a lot.  We hope we can get him there more often now that he knows what it is like.  With our bachelor we just had 3 in attendance.  I guess our evenings with 7 or 8 attendees are over unless we get a big batch of LDS marines in the next TBS class.  But we still have good meetings even with a small group. We have begun to study the Pearl of Great Price.  One of the marines requested it, because it is a part of our scriptures that is not studied as often as others.  We had an excellent introductory discussion about it.

After transporting another batch of young elders to the stake center on Wednesday for their interviews with the president (it takes him two days to see everybody) we traveled to Stafford to help a marine wife whose husband is away at training.  We played with their 4 year old boy and baby while she got some sorting and packing done.  In two weeks they are leaving for a transfer to California.  So she is doing a majority of the packing and preparing without him.  We had a good time and were happy to be able to help her out.  Her little baby girl is just a couple of months younger than our new granddaughter Abby, so it is always nice to hold her and think of Abby.   Our afternoon was spent at Navy Marine Corps Relief Society.  But we had a bit of a slow day there.  Maybe the marines take care of the money better in the summer.  Finally we did our Officer Candidate School (OCS) family home evening, which went really well.  We had a rough start though.  Right when we arrived a huge thunder storm was passing over, and it was raining heavily when we had to unload our things.  We got soaked.  But the marines all thanked us for coming out in the rain to meet with them.  Lezlie did a lesson on obedience,  the one that uses pictures of Joy and Freckles.  They loved it.  She also incorporated multiple marine pictures, some of them pictures from the OCS website that are of them going through their training.  They really got a kick out of that.  They also loved the strawberry shortcake and carrot cake.  We found out that it was one marine’s birthday so we said the cake was for him. They ate it all.  They are a little over halfway through their training, and you can see their confidence building.  They have been through and survived some hard stuff, and they can almost see the finish line.  It is a joy to see them grow and gain such confidence as they go through the weeks.  Once again we feel so fortunate to work with them, and love our Wednesday evenings and our Sunday mornings with them.  We can’t imagine any better way to spend a mission than by working with these young people.   We feel like we get as much or more out of the deal than they do.

Our big activities on this Thursday were family history, lunch with friends, and a marine family visit.  We first hosted two young sister missionaries at our apartment for a family history lesson.  They have investigators that might want to do some genealogy so Lezlie gave them a lesson on the basics.  They were fun to have around.  Next we had lunch with the other senior missionary couple in our stake.  They are the ones that greeted us when we arrived, handed over our apartment key, and showed us the ropes that first month.  They are going home on Monday, so we took them out to lunch.  They have strongly mixed feelings as they prepare to depart – happy to be going home, but sad to leave behind good friends here; thrilled to be going back to Utah and a slower pace of life, but worried about the Young Single Adults they have been working with;  and grateful to leave behind the awful traffic in this region but sorrowful about taking off their nametags and not being missionaries anymore.  It made us contemplate our departure next March.  I am sure we will have many of the same feelings.  After our lunch we visited a young marine wife with 5 children under 8.  She recently lost her mom very unexpectedly.  She has been grieving about that.  We have visited several times to help her out and cheer her up.  I played with the kids for an hour while Lezlie talked to her.  It was a long hour for me because the kids are a handful.  But it went okay and we think it helped her out at least in a small way.

We took a p-day today on Friday.  That basically means a day off.  While we worked at many things, we did not go visit anyone or travel farther than the grocery store.  We spent some time cleaning the apartment really well.  We also worked on upcoming lessons, like Liberty Jail.  The Liberty Jail lesson is about overcoming trials, like Joseph Smith did when he was locked up in Liberty Jail.  The marines always seem to like this lesson since they are facing so much adversity as part of their OCS training. 
We got to attend a really nice baptism for two folks today, Saturday.  One was a young single mom that has had a pretty hard life up until now.  The ward was very welcoming and warm towards her and she had a big smile when she was baptized.  The second was young man of about twenty that just finished college.  He is an amazing, bright young man that is always smiling.  They will be wonderful members of the ward.  It was great to be at this baptism.  We felt a wonderful spirit of love and inclusion there.  As we watch these folks get baptized and start coming to church we can see their lives change for the better.

Our Sunday was particularly busy.  We began with our early morning sacrament meeting for our OCS class.  It was a small group, but we had an enjoyable discussion about our lesson on overcoming trials and learning through adversity.  These are such sharp young people.  They ask intelligent questions and provide interesting insight.  After the lesson they enjoyed two huge plates of Lezlie’s excellent bread pudding.  Since it was a small group I had a taste too, and it was outstanding.  One young man (not a church member) had arranged to stay after so that we could answer some of his questions about the LDS church.  A friend of his stayed also, as well as one of our LDS marines that is a friend of both.   We had a wonderful discussion.  We began by just answering some of his questions about things.  One thing he wanted to know was how we became members of the church, so we told our conversion story.  We then asked him for permission to teach him the first missionary lesson, which is the restoration.  So Lezlie and I did our first official missionary lesson to a true investigator without the help of any young missionaries.  It was fantastic.  We felt like we answered all the questions both of the young marines had, and we gave them the information that they really needed today.  We definitely felt the spirit.  As I was reading the account of Joseph Smith’s first vision I got all choked up and Lezlie had to finish it.  They could see how deeply I felt about it and it touched them too.  We had them read some scriptures and we also invited them to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it.  It was a very humbling and inspiring experience to teach these young men. We could tell that they were really pondering and thinking about what they heard.   Our member marine closed with a sweet prayer, and we felt great joy in our lesson.  Following this great experience we made a quick stop at home on the way to church.  We had to make some final preps for a dinner for two young elders this evening.  Our services at our ward went very well.  We find that on the days we have our early OCS services that we are quite tired by the time we get to our sacrament meeting.  However, we had good meetings and good lessons.  We have come to love and care about the folks in our ward here so much.  The most special thing today was that one of our marine families asked me (Dan) to participate in the blessing of their new baby.  I felt very honored.  Being part of a baby blessing is always wonderful.   After returning home and putting finishing touches on our dinner the two young elders arrived (Pese and Bushman).  We had a great time with them.  The one young man (the bigger one in the picture)  is from Hawaii and has lived in our apartment complex for a long time.  We have come to know him well.  The other young man, from Payson, Utah, was really interesting to talk with as well.  He was a big athlete in high school and liked dogs.  So after a busy, busy Sunday, as well as an active week,  we are tired, but also content.  We feel so good about being able to help others while we are here.   

Sunday, July 6, 2014

4th of July Week

We worked an extra shift at the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society today (Monday) at the request of the director.  She is out of town this week and had only one volunteer scheduled for today,  so we stepped in and worked so there was more than one person in the office.  I had one very interesting case.  A young 2nd Lt that graduated from the Naval Academy May 24 had not yet been paid.  When he left the Naval Academy they coded his pay entry wrong and the pay center in Kansas is having trouble unraveling it.  So he has not received any pay since May 1, and he has bills to pay.  We have something called a bridge loan just for such cases.  It is not the first time there have been pay problems for marines. Anyway, as soon as I heard his story I told him I was an alumni too, and we had fun telling stories about the Naval Academy in between doing our paperwork.  I was able to give him a check for $1300 as he left and he was very happy.  We next delivered about 15 plates of our 4th of July cookies and messages.  It was very hot, but still great fun to see so many of our outstanding marine families.  They were all appreciative of the treats and we got to go in and chat with several of them to get out of the heat for a few minutes.  After a quick dinner out we met with an inactive young family that we have been working with.  He has been here about a year but just got base housing, so his wife and two daughters just moved in a couple of months ago.  They are a nice young family and we would love to get them back to church.  There are so many marines in our ward that would just surround them with friendship, help and love.  We are starting to really love this young family and hope that we can help them out a bit.  They have no car right now so we are trying to help them get around.

Our Tuesday began with a District Training Meeting.  We have a new district leader, and he did an excellent job in organizing the meeting.  We had some good training and we felt inspired to see the dedication of these young elders and sisters.  They take their work very seriously and are mature beyond their years in the things they accomplish.  We continued our delivery of 4th of July treats but we had much more driving this time.  We are about done with our on base deliveries, but have about 6 off base marine families to see.  They all live far apart, so we put a hundred miles on the car today just driving between home and several small towns near the base.  But once again we had wonderful visits, and we love to see all of these families.  Tuesday evening is always our The Basic School (TBS) family home evening.  Our big group graduated, so we only had two at FHE, a marine and his wife.  But we had a nice discussion about freedom and tolerance.  The young marine that was there is taking the initial  physical test to get into Infantry Officers School on Tuesday.  From what we have heard this is a very difficult test where they run around in full pack and gear all day, doing maneuvers, running obstacle courses, and doing physical tests.  Usually about a third of those that take it do not pass.  So our young marine asked for a blessing, which I was able to give him.  It was a sweet moment and we feel privileged to serve young marines like this one. (P.S. He did pass the test!).  Here is an excerpt from an email message we received today from one of our marines that just graduated from TBS and has moved on to his next training at an Army base.  What a tender mercy.  Thank you so much for your love and support! I am now at Ft Benning getting settled in, and I miss Virginia already! I never thought that I would miss Quantico! Thank you for the book you gave me! I haven't been to busy so far, but I have needed some uplifting thoughts so it is the perfect gift!   Thank you also for taking us to the Naval Academy and the Parade and always thinking of us! I miss you both!     We are so lucky to work with these young marines.
 Wednesday we  got to attend a reenlistment ceremony for a Navy Religious Programs Assistant that we work with.  He is the assistant to the chaplain at TBS, so we see him whenever we are there.  He has helped us out with several things throughout the months.  Usually when we finish with our Tuesday family home evenings we leave a treat on his desk for him to find on Wed morning.  so he likes us!  He invited us to his reenlistment so we went.  It was a nice ceremony and we got to say hello to several of the chaplains and the other lay leaders we know. They are very supportive and appreciative of the work we do with the marines. Our final task of the day was to attend the Officer Candidate School family home evening.  It went very well, with twelve attending.  Our 2 six-week groups are finished now, so none of them were there.  We had a good lesson and lots of good discussions with the marines afterwards.  One of the non-member guys that usually comes told us he was interested in learning more about the church.  So Sunday when he has liberty after our church service we are going to meet with him and his member friend and teach him a lesson.   He seems like a sponge right now and is really asking a lot of questions and making good comments during the Sunday lessons and Wednesday family home evenings.  It will be fun to see him away from the group for a couple of hours.  Here are photos of our Wednesday night group of marines. 

We headed to the base bright and early this Thursday morning and attended the OCS graduation of one of the summer companies.  We got to sit in one of the reviewing stands. Before the ceremony began, the head chaplain came up and thanked us for our service and told us that he had had very good feedback from the LDS marines and those others attending our services that we were really meeting their spiritual needs. That was very humbling and gratifying. Even though the marines are always so appreciative, it was a surprise to hear it from a third party. We only had one LDS guy in this group, but a lot of others had attended our services as guests.  So we knew several that were graduating. The marines really know how to do ceremonies well, so it was great.  They start with the excellent Quantico Marine Band marching on.  Then the OCS students march on looking very sharp.  About ten awards are presented to the top candidates.  A general gives a short speech, and today his talk was actually quite good.  He kind of reminded them that although OCS is an important step in becoming a successful marine officer it is just the first step and there is much more to learn.  Then the OCS students all march past the reviewing stand looking outstanding.  Finally the commanding officer says to the platoon commanders, “Dismiss your troops.”  They dismiss all the marines and all the parents and family members run out and greet them.  It is very cool.  We got to meet the family of our one LDS guy from Alaska and they were great.  The parents always thank us for looking after their children while they are here.  We also met the family another of our guys that came to most of our meetings as a guest.  He is from Hawaii.  Lezlie had exchanged many emails and phonecalls with his mom and dad transmitting messages back and forth to and from their son.  It was fun to meet them and they brought us a box of macadamia nut chocolates and a carryall all the way from Hawaii.  It was a fun graduation parade and it made us proud to be a small part of the process.  After that we visited two far flung families in Stafford.  We presented them with our 4th of July treats and messages and finally came home.  This marked the end of our holiday deliveries.  We passed out 25 plates of cookies in all, and had some wonderful experiences doing it. 

Happy 4th of July.  After a day of catching up we attended the Ward 4th of July celebration, and it was a unique event.  A family in our ward (the past bishop) happens to live right next to a golf course, and his back yard opens right out onto one of the fairways.  The community has a large fireworks display that is set off from the golf course just about a hundred yards from his house.  So for many years the ward 4th of July party takes place at his house.  Everyone brings blankets, lawn chairs and deserts.  They have a large table of deserts in their back yard, and everyone spreads out on the golf course to eat goodies and watch the fireworks.  Of course all of the neighbors do the same thing, so there were about 400 people there, about half of which were our ward members.  It was great fun to visit in a relaxed setting like that.  The fireworks show was spectacular, especially since we were so close.  Best of all one of our young bachelor marines came.  He has not attended any church event since we arrived.  He is the one that just had the major surgery.  The ward really reached out to him during that time, and it seemed to have touched him in some way.  We had given him a plate of cookies with an invitation to the party, but we have invited him to many things before and he never came.  So we were surprised and happy when he showed up.  The ward members were very friendly to him, and he seemed to enjoy it.  We now hope we can get him to come to church.  These are pictures of the 4th of July party on the golf course.  The fireworks were spectacular- some of the best we have seen for a long time, and we had primo seats!

On Saturday we traveled to the base and met with a young marine family that is less active at church, the ones we mentioned above.  They currently have no car, so we took the wife and 2 year old daughter shopping.  She got about two weeks worth of groceries.  She seemed very pleased to get that done.  Although they are trying to get another car her husband is a fairly young enlisted man, so his pay is not much.  So we are going to act as their “wheels” until they can get some transportation.  It was enjoyable to spend a few hours with this young lady and to get to know her a little better.

Our early morning Officer Candidate School Sunday service was small today with only 3 students attending.  However, we had a great lesson and good chats with the gang.  The first wave of six week classes is over and the next wave does not start for a few days.  So we only had the group that is in the ten week class, and they have liberty now so many of them were out in town.  Still, it is always a joy to meet with these fine young men and women and hear their life stories.  We feel privileged to work with them.  One young man was asking a lot of questions about life in the military.  He is in law school and wants to be a marine lawyer.  However, it sounds like his wife is not keen on the idea.  He was trying to get some idea about what he could say to her that might smooth things a bit, as he is already well on the path to becoming a marine lawyer.  All we could say is that military life can be hard on families, but it can also bring out strengths and foster closeness.  As it says in Doctrine and Covenants 122:7  “…know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.”  The 3 marines that attended our service, plus a Catholic candidate that straggled in after his service was over, ate two plates of breakfast pizza that normally could have fed ten.  Their appetites are unbelievable.  They told us that yesterday they did a nine mile hike with full packs among other physical challenges, so no wonder they are always hungry.  We had a very nice sacrament meeting at our own ward, but we came home after that.  Lezlie is still getting over her cold, and all the talking at church was making her cough a lot.  We came home and she took a two hour nap, quite unusual for her.  So this evening she is doing much better.

We were thrilled to hear that Chris and Stacey are going to come out to visit in August. We miss all of you so much! But we love what we are doing as well, and feel we are making a difference here. The time is going very fast.  It is great being senior missionaries.  We are receiving many, many blessings.