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.