Sunday, August 31, 2014

Trip to Florida

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. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Chris and Stacey's Visit

We had a couple of nice marine visits on Monday.  We took one young lady, the sister of a marine, birthday brownies, sang happy birthday to her, and congratulated her on her recent mission call to Montana.  Cool!  We also dropped off a plate of brownies to a less active family that we have been trying to stay in touch with as best we can.  They were friendly, but did not invite us in.  We had a nice but short chat on the porch.  We do worry so about some of these families.

On Tuesday we had an excellent The Basic School (TBS) family home evening.  We thought we might have only one person there, but we ended up with four.  Our dear sister that is from Moldova returned from a month away for Army Reserve training, so it was wonderful to see her again after so long.  We had a lively discussion about recognizing and appreciating blessings from God.

We traveled to Richmond well ahead of the time we needed to pick up Chris and Stacey at the airport on Thursday.  We have had too many traffic jams headed that way and wanted to make sure we were on time.  So we spent a little time at the Virginia Historical Society Museum doing family history.  We had a great dinner at Chicken Fiesta, an amazing grilled chicken restaurant.  We also got to visit a Civil War battlefield site near the Richmond Airport called Cold Harbor.  It was quite interesting.  Finally we made our way to the airport and picked up Chris and Stacey, which was wonderful. We were so happy to see them!   Although it is usually about an hour and a half drive home, we hit a lot of traffic, and it took almost 3 hours, so we had a good visit just to catch up on things.   

Friday was our Washington DC tour day and it went well.  We left early and drove to Franconia, Virginia, which is the location of the Washington DC metro stop that is furthest south and closest to us.   We rode the subway to the Smithsonian Museum area.  We had a beautiful day that was sunny but not too hot or humid.  We walked all around the National Mall and saw the Washington, Lincoln, and Martin Luther King monuments.  As usual they were all beautiful and inspiring.  We also saw the sobering Viet Nam memorial.  We finally arrived at the National Museum of Natural History and it was excellent.  We all really enjoyed the gem section, which included the Hope Diamond.  There was a good exhibit of the birds of Wash DC.  The mammals section was really good too – my favorite was the leaping Tiger.  I think we could have spent all day at that museum.  Finally we got a bit tired so headed out of the museum.  We made a quick stop at the National Archives and saw the originals of the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights.  It was pretty moving to see these significant historical documents.  We walked back to our metro stop and were lucky to have seats on the subway all the way back to Franconcia.  We next made our way to George Washington’s Mt Vernon.  Although the estate grounds were closing when we arrived, we only went there for the restaurant.  We had a wonderful dinner at the Mt Vernon Inn and Chris and Stacey got to taste their famous peanut soup.  It was a long and tiring day, but it was just wonderful to visit with Chris and Stacey and share the amazing sights of Wash DC with them.  It was especially fun since it was Stacey’s first visit to Washington DC.  What a great day!

We were delighted to share an Officer Candidate School graduation with Chris and Stacey this Saturday morning.  It was another beautiful day, sunny and breezy.  We have sat through a few OCS graduations that were rainy and cold, so this one was very nice.  Chris and Stacey got to meet the chaplain we work with at OCS who was very friendly and welcoming.  They enjoyed the pageantry that the marines put on – marching OCS students, an excellent Marine Band, multiple awards, cannons firing, and a short speech by a Marine General.  It was all great.  We then got to go say congratulations and goodbye to our LDS marines.  We were thrilled to see one of them because last Sunday he was quite worried he would get dropped.  He had failed his final PT test and he only had one more chance.  It turns out that he did not do enough situps for the final test, but they sent him to a review board.  The commanding officer of OCS decided that he was an excellent candidate otherwise and gave him a waiver on that final test.   He allowed him to stay and finish the course and graduate.  We were just overjoyed to see him.  He quickly came over to us and gave us each a big hug.  That was a huge reward for us.  We saw one other guy (see the picture below).  His mom had contacted us many times, so it was wonderful to finally meet her.  She told us a heartwarming  story about the impact our lessons had made on him.  We were touched deeply when we heard the story.  It was a great parade and Chris and Stacey seemed to enjoy it.  
After a quick tour of the marine base we visited the National Museum of the Marine Corps.  This is an exceptional museum, and even if you do not like the marines you can enjoy this place.  It is very well done with lots of great artifacts, realistic displays, videos, quotes, etc.  After an enjoyable museum visit we had lunch at the Tun Tavern, which is located inside the museum.  The original Tun Tavern, in Philadelphia, is where the first marines were recruited for the Revolutionary War.  It also is a hidden gem of a restaurant, and we had a delicious lunch there.  Next we headed south for a visit to the beach.  Chris had told us they wanted to visit the ocean, but it is about 5 hours to drive all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.  So we found a nice little beach town south of us on the Potomac River.  Although it was not an ocean beach, it was still very nice.  We had a typical stuck-in-traffic drive to get there.  But that allowed us some more visiting time.  On the way to the beach we visited Chatham, a colonial era mansion as well as a Civil War battlefield.  It was built by a Fitzhugh who is a distant relative to Lezlie.  The small visitor’s center was excellent and it was a good stop.  When we arrived at Colonial Beach, Virginia we enjoyed ice cream cones on the boardwalk.  We took a long walk along the sandy beach.  And we sat in the sand to enjoy the people, sun, wind and waves.  It was wonderful!  Although it was not like a west coach beach, we still had a good time there.  We drove to the very tip of the beach, which is located on a peninsula, and had dinner at a pleasant seafood restaurant.  Chris and Stacey wanted to try some real Maryland crab cakes, and they were not disappointed.  We all had some excellent seafood.  After a long drive home we were glad to get some rest.  It was a full and active day, and a highly enjoyable one too.

We took Chris and Stacey on an early Sunday morning drive to walk around the Manassas Battlefield Park.  This was an important location during the Civil War as there were two major battles here.  We enjoyed walking around the park, but were also sobered by what took place there many years ago.  It is incomprehensible to imagine the loss of life at many of these Civil War battles.  After a quick picnic lunch in the car we headed home.  Next we all went to church.  It was enjoyable for us to have many of our ward friends, marine families, and other missionaries meet Chris and Stacey.  It helped them get a feel for what we do on our mission.   We also heard some excellent talks about service.  One of the speakers mentioned the need for more senior missionaries and we felt proud that we were providing that service.  We had a relaxing afternoon and then a good spaghetti dinner.  However, after eating spaghetti we felt like we needed another walk.  So we drove a short distance to a small county park near our apartment.  In addition to taking a nice walk we also were able to see many birds.  We spotted an elusive Cardinal, the state bird of Virginia and some beautiful Egrets.  It was a pleasant evening walk in a nice wooded area, most enjoyable.  After teaching Chris and Stacey how to play the card game Euchre, Stacey and I teamed up to beat Lezlie and Chris soundly.  Hurrah! It was great fun! 

We were sad that Monday was Chris and Stacey’s last day.  But we had a good morning and early afternoon together.   We first stopped at the base and visited the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society offices where we volunteer each week.  We were happy to show Chris and Stacey where we spend a lot of time and glad they could meet our director and one of the other volunteers.  We love volunteering at NMCRS and that office is an important part of our mission.  We drove on south to Belle Grove, the Conway mansion that has been converted into a bed-and- breakfast.  We had arranged to have lunch there, and it did not disappoint.  We had a delicious lunch of crab salad, fresh baked rolls, cookies and brownies.  Absolutely wonderful!  The owner, Michelle, then took us on a detailed tour of the mansion and we all enjoyed it immensely.  Besides being an outstanding cook, Michelle is an avid historian, and she tells wonderful stories about the house and the history surrounding it.  The fact that Lezlie’s ancestors built the original house and lived in it for 3 generations made it all the more enjoyable.  We made one more quick stop on the way to the airport, another small Civil War battlefield (they are everywhere in Virginia.)  Finally we had to say goodbye to Chris and Stacey, sad to see them leave but happy for such a great visit.  Thank you Chris and Stacey!  We had a great time!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Officer Candidte School Graduation Week

We have found that although we had a busy, busy week, we did not write a lot in our journal and we have no pictures to share.   So we must have been too busy to write or take pictures.  Monday is preparation day (P-day) for the missionaries so I spent a good part of the morning running missionaries to the library, barber shop and grocery store.  After various chores at home we went out to dinner with our niece Cindy Stremel, her husband Jeff and their daughter Sarah.  They just returned from a 2 year Air Force deployment in Germany and Jeff just retired from the AF as a Lt Col.  They are staying with friends right here in Woodbridge waiting for Jeff’s vehicle to be shipped over from Germany.  It was wonderful to visit with them and catch up on their adventures overseas.  It is always great to see family members.  Even though we don’t see them very often we had a very enjoyable dinner and visit with Cindy, Jeff and Sarah. 

We had an excellent District Training meeting on Tuesday morning.  Our new District Training Leader is outstanding, and he organized some great lessons.  He is a little unique in that he is from Louisiana.  A great majority of the young missionaries are from the West. We were amazed to hear that he is from LA because he has absolutely no southern accent.  Quite the contrary, he has a beautiful deep and resonant speaking voice and is very eloquent as well.   We were also able to take our marine family with no car shopping at the commissary.  We were glad to be able to help them out.  Before our The Basic School (TBS) family home evening we got to visit one of our marine families in Stafford.  The TBS family home evenings are not like the past when we had 6 – 10 each week.  But we had 3 folks show up and we had a really good lesson.  We are getting to know our newTBS  marine, a recent Naval Academy grad, and we really like him.  We love meeting with our marines. 

Our only activity during the day was attending the Chaplain’s Briefing for the new TBS class.  During this meeting each of the various lay leaders gets to introduce themselves.  Then afterwards any folks of your faith can find you.  We had one LDS marine in TBS and we had already met him at our family home evening.  He is a great guy, but we were hoping to find someone else that was LDS in the 200 plus marines.  But alas, he was the only one that stopped by to say hello.  I (Dan) then helped out with a youth temple trip.  At the last minute they were short on Priesthood for the session so I drove up to the temple and worked by recording names.  It was fun to interact with some of the youth of the ward and see their dedication to serving in the temple.  We enjoy helping out the ward when we get the chance. 

Thursday was a great Officer Candidate School day.  The day before graduation they have Family Day.  At 9am the parents, family, and friends meet in an auditorium for a presentation about what the candidates have been through for the past ten weeks.  It is pretty amazing to hear and see videos about all that they have to do at OCS.  The staff members are introduced and the commanding officer answers some of the questions that parents may have.  We arrived early and stood just outside the door so that the parents of our marines could find us.  And they did!  The families of all three of our LDS marines found us and said hello.  They all expressed gratitude for the services and family home evening we had held and said that their sons had been grateful too.  It was so wonderful to meet them after exchanging multiple notes and phonecalls with them to and from their sons.  Meeting the families is one of the most fun parts of OCS.  Although they thank us, we feel like we should be thanking them for wonderful sons and daughters they have raised that teach us so much by their examples of dedication, faith and hard work.  Following OCS family day we worked a long shift at Navy Marine Corps Relief Society.  However, it was certainly easier than last week when we were moving boxes and furniture.  We  helped 3 marines by giving them checks to help them out of their financial difficulties.  Upon returning home from NMCRS we quickly put together dinner for two of our sister missionaries.  It is always great fun to have the young missionaries over and we love getting to know them better.  We tried something new that one of the sisters told us about.  They are called Navajo Tacos.  They are similar to regular tacos, but you use a flattened, deep fat fried biscuit instead of a tortilla or taco shell.  They were delicious.  After an excellent dinner with these two young sisters I accompanied one of our ward members to the base to help him do his home teaching.  He is assigned to one of our bachelor marines but he had never been to the barracks.  So I took him in and showed him how to get signed in and everything.  We had a good visit with our marine that is undergoing the major surgeries.  We hope that this will spur the home teacher into making his own visits to the barracks to visit this young marine.  It was good to see him looking so healthy, but he is a bit worried about his next surgery coming up in 3 weeks.

Our Friday morning was spent attending the OCS class graduation parade.  The other new senior couple here, the Andersons, have never been around the military at all, so we took them to the parade and for a tour of the base.  It was a really good one because the weather was perfect.  The Chaplain gets us reserved seats under an awning, so we get to be in the shade.  It was a standard military parade – the marine band, lots of marching marines, cannons that fired to honor a general, flags, awards, and a short speech by the general.  The best part is when the platoon commanders dismiss their troops.  Within moments the precise ranks of the marines disintegrate, families go running out onto the parade deck, and hundreds of marines and their families greet each other with hugs and smiles.  It is wonderful to be a small part of the whole thing.  The Andersons seemed to enjoy it, and we had fun visiting with them throughout.  Later we made visit to a marine wife and her children.  It turned out that a another LDS mom was visiting with her two children.  So I entertained all 7 kids while Lezlie and the two moms talked.  But it was all good.  These young moms need a little break and a little advice from an experienced mom.  We went for two in a row on feeding young missionaries.  We had two other sisters over for dinner, and we did a repeat meal on our Navajo Tacos.  It was delightful to visit with them and get to know them better.  Both of these sisters have already completed some college and both are studying to be nurses.  As I have said many times before, these young people inspire us with their dedication, knowledge, and maturity.  We love to be able to associate with them. 

We had a quiet Saturday, spending time cleaning house, shopping and planning.  We thought we were having a nice little dinner of leftover spaghetti at home.  At about 4:30pm I got an email from the military relations couple at marine base Camp Lejeune North Carolina.  They wrote about a young bachelor marine that was transferring to Quantico and gave us his contact information.  So I was prompted to call him right away.  And so we found a 19 year old marine that just arrived.  I asked if we could take him out to dinner and he said he was not busy tonight.  So ten minutes later we were in the car headed to the base.  We took this young man to Applebees and found out all about him.  He went to marine boot camp in San Diego and he joined the church there just this past March.  Since graduating from boot camp he has been at a marine school in California and another school in North Carolina.  He is in the barracks, has no car, and has no roommate yet.  So he is a little lonesome.  It appears that he may have joined the marines to escape a tumultuous home life.  He said his folks were getting a divorce, and that he and his two sisters both knew this was coming several years ago.  He said his sisters are both kind of wild and are both into Wicca stuff (I think they consider themselves witches).  He said that some guys join the marines and feel all stressed.  He told us that joining the marines was a relief from the stress he felt at home.  It was kind of sad.  He also told us of a sweet experience at boot camp where he felt the presence of his favorite grandpa who is dead, expressing how proud he was of this young man for finishing boot camp.  So it was a nice evening to get to know this young man, and we hope we can help him out since he is such a new member and does not seem to know too much about church yet.

We had our last Sunday sacrament service at OCS for the summer session.  It was a little sad, because we only had one guy.  But he needed us today, so we were glad to be there.  It turns out that on Friday he failed his final PT test – he did not do enough sit-ups.   He is from Oregon and his family has already started driving to Quantico to see him graduate.  He will be a senior at U of Oregon this fall.  When we arrived he was in the room working on an essay.  They get assigned essays when they goof something up and he had to write a 300 word essay about something.  So he is feeling a lot of pressure.  So we chatted with him for a while, had our sacrament service, did a lesson about standing alone, and gave him a blessing.  Then we fed him muffins.  So he has been very much in out thoughts and prayers.  He is a great young man and we have admired his faith throughout our meetings.  We know that whatever happens things will work out well for him in the future.  After our early morning OCS service and a short missionary coordination meeting we headed back to the base to give our new young marine, that we met last night a ride to church.  He seemed to enjoy the meetings and met a lot of people.  He said he would like to come back, so we will working out rides for him to church since he has no car.  We had a Sunday School lesson that was exceptional and unique.  At the start of class the teacher, an 85 year old woman, told us all about her rock collection, and passed around several rocks for us to see.  Then with no comment about the rocks she started her lesson on charity.  The rocks were just sitting there on the table in front, and we were all wondering, what about the rocks.  After about twenty minutes she read a scripture about being charitable to all.  She noted that sometimes there are people that are just hard to love.  Then she used the rocks to describe different types of people and how we must try to love them.  For example, she had a geode that was rough outside but inside had a beautiful crystal.  The rock is like some people that are rough and crusty on the outside, but our love for them can help us to see how beautiful they are on the inside.  It was a wonderful object lesson and everyone in class was following very closely.  And now it is Sunday evening after a busy week for us.  We have a joyful tiredness.  And we are so excited that Chris and Stacey are coming to visit this week! 
Yesterday we got a wonderful gift in the mail.  Anne recently visited her sister Carrie in Seattle, so all 8 of our grandkids were together.  The moms organized the kids to make tracings of themselves that are life sized.  Then they decorated them the way they wanted.  They are very cool!  We have them posted on our kitchen wall.  Now when we come home we say hello to all of the grandkids  Thanks to all of you.  We love it.  

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Adventure in Moving

Monday was great.  We were able to get our car repaired and it was not too expensive.  The mechanic said that a fitting on a radiator hose just gave out because it was old and continuously hot, so it got brittle and cracked.  He said we were lucky that it happened in town and had it towed because if we had tried to drive it we could have overheated the engine badly.  We were grateful to get the car back, and also grateful that things did not turn out worse.  Although we were delayed in getting to Richmond and we had some unexpected expenses, we did have the rental car to fulfill our responsibilities yesterday and we were not stranded outside of town with no car.  We did some special work for Navy Marine Corps Relief Society (NMCRS).  The building where we are located is being renovated.  They are installing a brand new heating and cooling system as the old one has asbestos in it.  So we are moving our operations into a double wide trailer.  We spent about 3 hours at the office helping get ready.  Lezlie packed many boxes while I threw away trash.  That may not sound like much, but we had a lot of trash. It had to be carried down some stairs and about a hundred yards around behind our building.  It was very hot and I did about ten loads.  So it was tiring.  But we were glad to help. 

It was one of those days where everything changed with a 7am phonecall.  Today, Tuesday, is transfer day.  As of 10pm last night we were not going to have to drive anyone to Richmond for transfers.  We planned to help with the NMCRS move some more.  But at 7am we got a call from the other senior couple who was to take some elders to Richmond but had some issues.  Moments later we got a call from the sister training leaders who had extra sisters returning from Richmond that needed a ride.  After getting it all sorted out it ended up that I drove to Richmond and hauled 5 elders back to Woodbridge.  Lezlie stayed home to bake and work on her lesson for our family home evening.  So it was a long driving day.  It is always fun to go to transfer meeting.  It could be classified as controlled chaos bordering on total bedlam.  The meeting itself is pretty inspiring.  There are about 150 missionaries in the chapel.  After some very nice testimonies by a few of the elders and sisters that are leaving they start calling out the names of who will be paired with whom.  As soon as they call the two names the elders or sisters get together, share a big hug, and then sit together.  It is a touching sight to see, as these young people that don’t know each other at all run up and give huge hugs and grins to each other.  We had a very special, touching moment that was truly extraordinary.  The church has a program that for lack of a better title is a “trial mission” program.  For young people that may have a learning disability, are autistic, or have some sort of handicap, the church allows them to serve a 2 to 3 month mission in their home state.  They are carefully evaluated during that time to see if they can and should serve a full time mission.  We recently had such a young man in our area, and we got to know him because he lived in our apartment complex.  He was a really guy, just a little shy, kind of awkward socially, and did not say too much.  At this meeting the mission president sensitively announced that the church headquarters had approved this young man for a full time mission, that he had received his mission call, and that he wanted to open it in front of those in attendance.  The young man and his parents went to the front and he nervously opened his call. It was for Tucson, Arizona, and when he read it everyone stood up,  cheered and clapped in support of him.  It was very cool!  The young man was just beaming while his parents stood to the side crying.  Following the meeting everyone adjourned to the parking lot, luggage was loaded onto trailers or into vehicles, and all the missionaries tried to find their ride back to their new area (see photos).  It took about a half an hour for me to be paired up with the five I was supposed to take home.  We had a quiet drive back, because all of the elders fell asleep as soon as we hit the Interstate.  But we did chat a bit, and I was once again impressed by the caliber of young men serving missions here.  After getting them all where they needed to go, Lezlie and I headed south again for our The Basic School (TBS) family home evening.  We only had two attendees, but we still had a nice lesson and discussion.  One of the two was a brand new TBS student, and young man that just graduated for the Naval Academy.  It was fun to get to know him and talk about his experience at USNA. 

We spent about 5 hours working at NMCRS helping with the move on Wednesday.  It was quite tiring, carrying boxes down a flight of stairs, loading them into trucks and vans, and then unloading them at the other end.  But we did a good job. There was supposed to be a Marine work crew to help us, arranged by a Marine volunteer. Unfortunately the men they had recruited were all on restriction, so couldn't come help- ironic since they train to be strong and fit a good portion of their waking hours...Lezlie called a couple of our young elders and it just happened they were nearby.  They quickly rearranged their schedules and were there within 15 minutes.  So for a couple of hours they donated their time and effort to helping with the move.  They carried several large, heavy sets of shelves down the stairs and then unloaded them at the other end.  All of our volunteers were impressed with their efforts.  So we had a hot, tiring morning and early afternoon, but we did good work. In the evening we held our Officer Candidate School (OCS) family home evening, which was attended by eleven students.  Lezlie gave an excellent lesson based on a paper Anne had written.  It was based on a Japanese word for thank you, and was about realizing and appreciating the great blessings you receive by doing your best to live the gospel.  It went well.  (Thank you Anne).  We really did a great job on refreshments too, serving hot fudge brownie sundaes with bananas tonight.  Every one of them had at least two servings, and they all loved the hot fudge.  So it was an excellent meeting, and we did well in feeding them spiritually and physically. 

We spent several hours on Thursday at NMCRS helping with the move.  I believe I walked up and down the stairs about 50 times today.  We did not have anything heavy left to move, but we had a multitude of small boxes with every conceivable type of office supply.  We also had a well stocked kitchen in the old office, so we moved tons of napkins, paper plates, plastic silverware, cups, and on and on.  But we were happy to do it.  The new office is taking shape, and even though it is a bit chaotic right now we were able to help several clients.  The IT folks did a great job getting our computers moved and up and running quickly.  Once we had computers and a printer to print the checks, we were in business.  The other part of this whole moving process was the accumulation of stacks of items that the boss was going to haul to Goodwill.  We just do not have enough room for everything at the new office.  However, our Stake is having an event in a month called Gifts of the Heart.  Everyone in the Stake donates items that they would otherwise give to Goodwill or sell at a garage sale.  They advertise by word of mouth and to the local charitable organizations that help with needy families.  Then they give everything away.  So we took a couple of van loads of items for that event.  It was a great help to the boss because she was going to haul all the stuff to the Goodwill herself.  It was nice stuff too – some metal shelves, office supplies, good books, Christmas decorations, an artificial  Christmas tree, many baby clothes and blankets,  etc.  Just as we were leaving we got a call from a marine couple who are leaving this weekend.  They had received orders suddenly and were inviting a couple of friends for dinner before departing, and they asked us to come.  We felt greatly flattered.  So we sat in the car and rested for about an hour and then met them and their other friends at a nice Mexican restaurant.  It was delightful to visit with them and meet their friends.  The friends had a two month old baby, a girl that made me think of Abby.  After an excellent Mexican meal we went to their apartment for an hour to help them pack up their kitchen for their move.    She is pregnant and not supposed to lift heavy things.  We got all of their dishes, pots n’ pans, silverware, etc. packed up, so we were a somewhat helpful.  All too soon we had to say goodbye to them.  They are the last of our marine group that started OCS about the time we got here.  We will really miss them a great deal.  (I am in casual clothes in this picture because we came directly from moving boxes for NMCRS).

On Friday we met up with the new senior couple here and drove into DC.  We went to the temple, met up with some other senior missionaries, and attended a temple session together.   It was very nice to be in the temple with all of them.  We had a few special moments talking about our missions in the temple.  Then we all went to a Brazilian Steakhouse in DC.  We just found it by looking on the map and picked it because it was close to the interstate.  It turned out to be a pretty high-class spot with valet parking, beautiful decor, a large crowd, outstanding food, and an expensive menu.  It was a the type of place where they serve you unlimited meat from skewers.  We had a wonderful time visiting and getting to know the other three couples – all really great folks.  We do not get much chance to socialize and just talk for a couple of hours like that, so we all enjoyed it very much.  And we ate some outstanding food as well.  It is wonderful to get together with these good people and hear about the things they are doing in their areas.  At times we feel a bit isolated, like we are here in Woodbridge all alone doing our best to take care of the marines and their families.  When we hear about what the senior missionaries are doing in other areas of the mission and hear about the miracles they are experiencing it makes us feel less isolated and part of a much bigger work. The blessings we all receive as senior missionaries are awesome. Although we are doing totally different things we have heard so many stories from other seniors about the miracles they have experienced that we know God’s hand is in the middle of this work.  It was also great fun to talk about our grandchildren and show each other pictures of them. 

Our OCS Sunday sacrament service was a bit sad.   We found out that one of our young LDS guys got dropped yesterday, just a week before graduation.  We knew that he was having some issues, and that the company commander thought he lacked the leadership skills to be a marine officer.  But he was a wonderful young man that we had come to love.  Also, Lezlie had talked to his wife on the phone several times after he had given Lezlie lengthy messages about his struggles at OCS.  After a short rest at home we arrived at church, hopeful to see two of our less active marine families that said they would come to church.  By about 5 minutes after the start of sacrament meeting we knew they were not coming and we were kind of sad.  But then we saw our young man mentioned above that was dropped from OCS school yesterday.  He walked into the chapel with his beautiful wife and two young daughters and sat right next to us.  Our sadness disappeared.  After a wonderful, spirit filled meeting we got to visit with them for a bit before they headed south to go home.  His wife and daughters had come to visit for the weekend, and when he got dropped from the school they decided they would just stay overnight anyway before heading back to southern Virginia where they live.  It was just wonderful to meet his wife and two cute little girls, about18 months and three.  He was a little disappointed in not graduating from OCS, but was also peaceful about the whole situation.  He said that he knew the Lord must have something else in store for them so they were not worried.  It was humbling to have both of them thank us for our help while he was here at OCS.  We felt like we should be thanking him for being such an inspiration to us.  Another small miracle happened.  We were standing just outside the church building where we had taken some pictures.  The absolutely perfect person to speak with them happened by.  I am sure God sent him by, because he gave them some inspired words of comfort and guidance that were just perfect.  The man that came by was our previous bishop who has long worked with the marines and is very familiar with OCS.  The things that he said to them were just perfect and were comforting and hopeful to them.  It was a pure miracle that he came by just then.  After an all too brief visit they had to start their long drive home.  We hope to visit them in southern Virginia one day before we finish our mission.  Once again we feel so totally blessed to be here as servants of Heavenly Father, stepping in and out of the lives of these precious young marine families.  We love doing this work.  Here is a picture of this young man and his beautiful family.