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.