From Aug 21 – 25 we traveled to Venice, Florida to visit Lezlie’s elderly parents. We had a pleasant surprise when we arrived. Avis was out of compact cars so they gave me a red Chrysler 200 convertible for the same price. It was fun to take a few rides around Venice with the top down. But mostly we found that the sun was so bright and hot that we just kept the top up. We found grandmother and papa (Lezlie’s parents) doing just okay. They both have multiple health issues and are finding it harder and harder to take care of the house and each other. We tried to help out as much as we could. We quickly made friends with their new cat Precious. She is a small calico who is very sweet and friendly – she really loves people and grandmother and papa are really enjoying her. We immediately began taking care of several handyman jobs around the house, which was not really work for me, just fun. I fixed a hose, bought and installed a new pool filter, fixed a trellis, worked with the sprinkler system, and resolved some issues with the television. Lezlie glued down some floor tiles in the bathroom that were peeling up and tripping papa. She also fixed a broken hand on their large wall clock and gave Grandmother some Facebook lessons. As was expected, it was very hot in Florida, even worse than Virginia. The humidity was tough there. One day I took papa out for breakfast and he seemed to enjoy it very much. Even though he has multiple health issues he has not lost his appetite, so he had a good breakfast. He had eggs, hash browns, toast and pancakes! Later that day Lezlie took grandmother out for lunch and shopping in old town Venice. One evening we drove to the beach in the convertible to see the sunset. It was a very nice evening, and we enjoyed being by the water. Grandmother liked riding in the convertible. When I was out running errands one day I saw two young elders on the street. It was about 98 degrees so I gave them a ride, which was appreciated. They both were soaking wet with sweat. These are the young missionaries that have stopped by grandmother and papa's several times to visit and do service for them, so it was good to meet them and thank them for helping grandmother and papa. Saturday morning we attended a fundraiser for Hannah's volleyball team. It was breakfast at Applebees, and Hannah acted as our waitress. We also got to see Liz and David. Also Lindsay was there. She had driven from Tampa where she currently lives. On Sunday grandmother attended church with us and it was a very nice service. There were excellent talks about the blessings that come from obeying the commandments. There was also a beautiful special musical number, a solo by an alto with a gorgeous voice. It was wonderful to have her there with us and she seemed to enjoy the service. David, Liz and Hannah visited Sunday evening and we had a small birthday party for Hannah. She had turned 15 the week before. Everyone had a nice time. Lezlie and I enjoyed playing with her two dogs, Benji and Ariel. They are both small dogs and very smart. Hannah has taught them many tricks. Although it was fun to play with them, it also made us miss our dogs. Our flight home Monday afternoon was delayed for over two hours because the pilot’s seatbelt was broken. They had to fly a new seatbelt bracket in from Atlanta. As a result we missed our connection to Washington DC, so we stayed overnight in Atlanta with Lisa and Pete. So our airline difficulties turned out to be a blessing. Even though it was a short visit, we had great fun visiting with Lisa and Pete. So our trip to Florida was a success. We got to help grandmother and papa a lot, but best of all we got to have some unstructured time to just visit with them and find out how they are doing. It was a good visit.
As soon as we returned home we swung right back into action. We worked a long Wednesday shift at Navy Marine Corps Relief Society. We had a good shift and helped out a few marines. We also got to visit one of our marine wives that just had a new baby girl. We had done several things to help her out before the baby was born, so it was wonderful to see her healthy new little girl. She and the baby are doing well.
On Friday I (Dan) did a lot of driving. A lot! In the middle of each transfer cycle (6 weeks) a meeting is held called the Return and Report meeting. All of the brand new missionaries and their senior trainers attend a meeting with the Mission President. He asks all of the new missionaries how their first few weeks are going and separately asks the trainers how their new trainees are doing. Anyway, I picked up six elders early this morning and drove them all the way to Richmond and back (about 200 miles). Although it was a lot of driving, I love doing it. It is a pleasure to be around these great young men, and long rides in the car lend themselves to good conversations. I heard about one young man’s dream to be a doctor, stories from another one that swam competitively in high school, and heard about another one’s love of music. It was wonderful. After all of that driving I got home to find we were needed on the base. Our marine family with no car needed to make a trip to get groceries. So we drove to the base and took care of that. Thinking we would get home around 9pm and get to collapse onto our sofa and rest, we got another phone call . The Zone Leaders, who are our ward’s missionaries, are having a baptism tomorrow morning and needed to come over to use our printer to print out baptism service programs. This is another one of the small ways that we contribute to the mission. But it is also fun when they come over and we enjoy visiting with them. They are on fire as far as missionary work in our ward. They have had 33 baptisms this year which is amazing. And there are a lot of great new people in our ward because of them.
Our young bachelor marine with the medical issues had his second surgery yesterday, so today, Saturday, we drove to Wash DC to see him. He did really well and we found him in good spirits. He said that his doctor reported that the surgery was very successful. He had teased us about sneaking in a “Five Guys Burgers and Fries” cheeseburger for him. So as an alternative we brought him a gift card to Five Guys and told him it was something to look forward to when he recovers. He was eating jello and broth today. It was good to see him smiling and optimistic. He felt so bad for so long that it was just wonderful to see him sort of come to life after his first surgery. Today he seems even better. He is glad to be 2/3 of the way to having his problems taken care of. Walter Reed hospital, where his surgery took place, is very near to the Washington DC temple. So we went to the temple for a couple of hours. The temple is closing next week for a month so that the roof can be replaced. Also today is Saturday of Labor Day weekend. So, the temple was extremely crowded. We had planned on doing an hour of work, but we would have had to wait for an hour to begin. So we just sat inside the temple and looked at the giant mural in the entry hall. It is a very beautiful and inspirational painting. Then we took a long walk through the gardens outside the temple. Beautiful! We returned for another short visit with our young marine before heading home for the night. We are so grateful to be able to support this young man and help him in a small way while he is undergoing this difficult medical treatment so far away from home and family.
Since we found out that our young bachelor marine in the hospital had no family coming to visit we decided to pay him another visit this Sunday morning. Our church service begins at 1:00pm so we were able to drive to the hospital to see him in the morning. Our young friend is still doing well and was much more animated and talkative today. I think his anesthesia finally wore off. He is glad to be eating semi-solid foods again like fruit and applesauce. Our relationship with him reminds me of Doctrine and Covenants 64:33 – “Wherefore, be not weary in well doing for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.” For six months all we did was take this young marine out to lunch and dinner. At first he hardly talked at all. Each time we invited him he said yes and each time talked a little bit more. We thought we were not doing enough for him, and simply taking him out for a meal seemed like an insignificant effort. But now he is turning to us for comfort and talking to us about family, fears, and future dreams. He even told his folks that we were his local grandparents, which brought us great joy. We had excellent church services with good talks and lessons today. We got to sit by one of our female marines that we had not seen for a while. It was good to catch up with her. We were also pleased to see one of our very young bachelor marines at church. He just arrived about a month ago and is a very new member of the church. We were afraid he would not make the effort to come to church, but he got a ride with another member of the ward. It was a joy to see him there. As we begin the month of September we realize that we have reached a significant milestone. In two day we will reach the one year anniversary of the day we reported to the MTC. So much has happened in that year that it is hard to believe how quickly the time has seemed to pass. A year ago we could not have imagined the joy we find in serving others and in being simple instruments in the hand of God. We are just normal, average people that have this short period of time to dedicate ourselves to serving others and thereby serving the Lord. It has brought us such fulfillment and gratitude. We have been involved in so many amazing things and have received so much. We are grateful to be senior missionaries.