Sunday, October 26, 2014

Blessings Aplenty

We are tired today (Wednesday) catching up on our rest from our long trip.  Although a 3 hour time zone change is not much, it still is tiring to fly all day and shift your bio-clock back to Eastern Time zone.  We spent most of the day on the base at Navy Marine Corps Relief Society.  We worked a long shift and had several cases.  It is always rewarding to help out at NMCRS.  These young marines do not get paid a lot and sometimes they really get themselves into money problems.  Today we took a few pictures at our NMCRS office so you could see what our offices look like there.  
We again had a large crowd for our Thursday OCS family home evening, 34 people.  We had a lesson about achieving your full potential.  One of the points I made is that you have to remember why you initially wanted to reach a certain goal and what motivated you to seek it.  Sometimes we forget that initial desire, excitement and anticipation of pursuing a goal and thus become bogged down or stagnant as we seek it.  I asked them all to remember why they initially wanted to become marines and how excited it made them to think about it.  Afterward several of them said that it was good to hear that because in the trials and tribulations of OCS they had forgotten those initial reasons why they wanted to be here. Heavenly Father always guides us to say the right things there.  We also got to cheer up several of them that were worried about getting dropped.  It is the middle of their course and a lot of folks are getting dropped for not passing physical or written tests.  So we tried to reassure them and encourage them.  We absolutely love working with this group of young marines and feel blessed that we get to be a small part of their journey through OCS.

Friday we baked our first round of Halloween cookies to deliver- black cat cookies and pumpkin spice chocolate chip cookies. We also had the Sister Training Leaders over for lunch and a family history lesson.  We then went to Dumfries, near the base, and delivered our first 3 sets of Halloween Cookies to some military families that live off base.  Only 16 more to go.  But we love doing this!

Then on  Saturday we had a wonderful Senior Missionary activity.  We met in Charlottesville, Virginia, which is a two hour drive from our apartment.  We had a great visit with the other seniors.  We just love these folks and it was great to catch up.  The primary activity was for each senior couple to talk about some of the most special activities that occur in their area.  We all sent in a few pictures ahead of time to show some of the things we do.  It was just amazing to hear all of the wonderful service that is being provided by the thirty plus senior missionaries herein Virginia  – volunteering at a senior center, teaching lessons to shut ins, driving folks to and from church, serving in branch presidencies, providing activities for Young Single Adults, teaching institute, driving folks to the temple and to doctor appointments and on and on.  We were overwhelmed and amazed at what is being done here in our mission by seniors.  We told about our amazing OCS marines and how wonderful it is to work with them.  After the meeting we had a great lunch of homemade soup in bread bowls and got to visit with our friends some more.  Then we headed to a very cool mansion called “Swannanoa” near Charlottesville.  Almost a year ago we toured a mansion in Richmond called “Maymont” that was built by a man who became rich buying, building and selling railroads after the Civil War.  The mansion we saw today (see pics) was his summer home.  It was huge and had gorgeous marble columns, scrollwork, magnificent marble stairways, and intricate fireplaces.  It was built in 1912 for $2 million.   But the place was really run down.  The current owner is trying to make it into a bed and breakfast, but it will take millions of dollars to refurbish it.  Nevertheless, it was amazing to see.  It was on the top of a hill at the south end of the Shenandoah National Park and the views of the forested hills and valley were beautiful. 

After our visit to the mansion we drove on the Skyline Drive through a portion of the Shenandoah National Park.  It was spectacular.  We saw splendid fall colors on the forested hillsides and some incredible views down into the Shenandoah Valley.  It is an amazing park and we greatly enjoyed seeing it.  But we did make a comparison with the scenery in our beloved Washington State, and we realize we live in one of the most beautiful areas of the whole USA.  Shenandoah is awesome, but it is not any better than Snoqualmie Falls or Mt Rainier.

After putting 250 miles on the car we arrived home from Shenandoah tired but happy, which is how we often arrive home.  But our night was not done.  We attended an 8pm baptism at our ward for a young woman.  It was a sweet baptism.  We almost did not go because we were so tired from our long drive.  But we love to support baptisms, especially new converts.  We were glad we went.  One of the Sister missionaries that we know well sang a solo of “I Believe in Christ.”  It was wonderful.  We did not even know she sang and she had a beautiful voice.  Her testimony came through clearly and emotionally in the song.  So nice! 

What a wonderful Sunday.  It began in one of our favorite ways, with our dear OCS group.  Today we had four females attend our sacrament service.  The guys all had liberty, and our one male member told us he was going to church with a friend in town.  But we had a delightful morning with these amazing ladies.  Our lesson was short and as they were sitting and enjoying refreshments they all began talking about their worries and hopes concerning OCS. They compared notes with each other about what classes were hard, who was the toughest Gunny Sergeant, and which physical test was the most demanding.  One was a runner and loved the 3 mile run but hated the pull-ups.  Another hated the run but loved the pull-ups.  Still another liked all of the physical stuff but hated the written tests.  It was incredible just to hear them describe the difficult training they are going through – a 5 mile hike with full gear and carrying a rifle, and a great deal of it uphill; a 9 mile hike at 4am with a blistering pace; a double run through the obstacle course; a comprehensive test over the history of the marine corps.  It was exhausting just to hear about it.  But they are almost over the hump and are starting to get a little bit of confidence.  After our wonderful OCS service we attended our own ward and had excellent meetings.  It was the primary program, a Sunday service in which all of the children under 12 read parts, sing and give talks.  We have a huge primary and it was excellent.  Lezlie taught a great lesson on Temple and Family History work.  We are already starting to realize how hard it is going to be to leave this ward and we have grown to love the people here so much.  After church we had 3 outstanding phone calls.  First, one of our dear marine friends, Melanie Roy, called us from North Carolina just to say hello and see how we were doing.  She was one of our original group that we met with for about ten months.  She went on our Annapolis, Temple, and Marine Parade field trips, so we got to know and love her well.  She is doing great in her advanced school and is excited about starting her real marine job, logistics, soon.  She is one of the people that will make sure all the marines in California will get what they need when they need it.  It was so delightful to talk to her and she thanked us for our support during her difficult training here.  Second was a great call with Aaron.  Although he is still having back problems he said there has been a little improvement.  He is doing okay otherwise and is busy as ever at work.  Finally my sister Karen called and we had a great visit.  All is well in her world.  She recently had an excellent trip to visit her son Nathan in Minneapolis.  Her other son Ian visited there at the same time, so she got to have a few nice days with both of her boys.  It was a huge blessing to have all three of these great phone calls.  Speaking of blessings I need to tell about another one we have recently received.  We  expect to fund everything regarding our mission ourselves. Recently however, we have talked about money and the fact that we may need to cut back a bit on some or our refreshments or trips because we have been spending a lot on food.  We contemplated, prayed, and discussed some ways we could spend a little less.  And within a period of two weeks we received donations for our mission work from two different friends that were a total surprise.  Both friends, neither members of our church,  said that we were doing good work and they simply wanted to help.  So we feel that we have been blessed and have been given a message from Heavenly Father that we are supposed to keep doing what we are doing.  We are so grateful for this tender mercy of these additional funds we were not expecting.  But it is typical of the blessings we have received while here on our mission.    Doctrine and Covenants 11:3  “ … assist to bring forth my work according to my commandments and you shall be blessed.” 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Vist Hongs in Seattle - Danny's Baptism

Tuesday means District Training meeting most weeks.  So we got our little district of 6 people together and had some good training.  These young elders are amazing.  They teach as if they have been Sunday School teachers for years.  We will be gone on the next transfer day since our trip to Seattle overlaps next Tuesday.  So we said goodbye to these good young men just in case they get transferred.  We will especially miss our District Leader, Elder Holloway.  We have really enjoyed getting to know him, a kind, smart, and dedicated young man. (Editorial note: Elder Holloway did not get transferred away but rather was made a Zone Leader here).  We also had our The Basic School family home evening tonight.  We are covering several of our favorite talks from conference as our lesson material.  We had a good lesson on Elder Klebingat’s talk about being spiritually ready.  We only had two attendees, our marine wife and her friend. But it was a good discussion and we greatly enjoyed being with them.
Since the Director of Navy Marine Corps Relief Society is out on vacation, she asked us to work a long shift today.  We have been volunteering for over a year now, and we actually are some of the more senior volunteers at this point.  We both have check signing authority, and the other volunteers working today did not.  So we were at the NMCRS office from 9am – 3pm.  It was a bit slow, but we did help out a few marines with some minor loans.  After dinner on the base and a little shopping at the Exchange we attended our Officer Candidate School family home evening.  It was lucky we made a lot of refreshments because we had 39 attendees.  Wow!  That is a new record for us.  I tried to capture the size of the group with a few pictures.  Lezlie gave her PowerPoint presentation on finding inspiration and spiritual insight in nature.  It is a great presentation and the lesson went exceptionally well, with lots of good discussion and interaction.  When the refreshment bar opened it was like a shark feeding frenzy.  There were not even any crumbs left from about 90 brownies, 8 dozen cookies, and $20 worth of fruit.  But it was a joy to see.  I had a heart-to-heart discussion with one young lady that is having doubts about whether she wants to become a Marine officer.  We have had a lot of OCS candidates go through those self-doubts so I was able to give her some objective input.  I told her that many candidates go through this because it is so hard, but that she should not take anything the drill sergeants say to her personally.  They are just doing their job when they yell at her.  It was a long but good day.  We are doing last minute travel preps.  We have to leave the apartment at 5:45am tomorrow morning. 

We have returned from our fabulous trip to Seattle to attend the baptism of our grandson Danny Hong, son of Carrie and Matt.  We were gone Oct 16 – 21, and we had a wonderful, wonderful time!  (Thanks Carrie and Matt).  It would be impossible to describe every enjoyable moment we had, so this will just cover the highlights.   After an early but uneventful flight to Seattle we were picked up by Carrie and my dog Joy.  It was so nice to see them both.  We got to go directly to the school and pick up Kaylee from kindergarten.  Shortly after that Abby woke up from a nap, and a few minutes later Danny got home from school.  We quickly got reacquainted and got to see Danny and Kaylee’s new room and new things.  Since we have been gone so long we thought the grandkids might be a little shy or something, but not at all.  They gave us huge hugs and immediately wanted to tell us things and play.  Although Abby definitely thinks Carrie is her best friend, she was very friendly to us, and her smiles and pleasant disposition gave us many happy moments.  Matt’s mom, LaRue, was also there for Danny’s baptism so we got to visit with her as well.  We had a great time visiting and playing.  Friday was a school day. Dan walked Danny and Kaylee to the bus stop. It is hard to believe that they are both getting so old!  It was also the day of Danny’s Harry Potter birthday party.  So after getting the kids off to school we spent a lot of time preparing for the well planned party. Danny was student of the week, because it is his birthday week, and he got to bring something in every day to tell about. He asked if we would be his show and tell Friday, so we went in and Carrie gave out cookies and we answered questions from  the second grade class. Danny put the airplane drawings we had done the night before on the overhead. Then we went home and the party started 30 minutes later.  Here are shots of the Honeyduke Store and the wands  (Carrie made cool wands with small dowels, hot glue, and some paint). 
After all the potential wizards and witches arrived we used the Sorting Hat to tell them if they had the correct wand.  I got to be the voice via a cell phone, which was great fun.  They found magical creatures (stuffed animals) in the yard and held a Quidditch practice, including finding Snitches in the yard.  Finally it was time for potions class, and Lezlie was the teacher.  She looked great in her witches outfit and taught a great class.  With some dry ice (angry glacier chips), pop rocks (mini moonstones), vinegar (horsesweat) and baking soda (powdered unicorn horn) and a variety of other ingredients, they brewed potions for Happiness, Good Luck, and Sleeping Well.  They finally chowed down on a Great Hall meal fit for Hogwarts students.  It was all so much fun and Danny had a blast.  Below are some pictures of Lezlie and the Potions Class students, as well as the spectacular Hogswarts birthday cake LaRue made.   

 Saturday began with some wet soccer matches.  Danny and Kaylee both had games in the rain on muddy fields.  Danny’s game was quite enjoyable and he played well.  His team won 4 -0, and the kids were old enough to play some good soccer.  Danny made one particularly spectacular pass to a teammate right in front of the goal.  But alas, his teammate did not make the dramatic shot.  Kaylee’s group had great fun, but it was more of a chase the ball type game.  She enjoyed it and so did we.  But I think she had almost as much fun playing in the mud as playing soccer.  After a quick cleanup and lunch it was time for the baptism.  All of us family members were choked up over how many people showed up.  It was overwhelming to see the support Danny and the Hong family received from so many different friends.  One touching attendee was Danny’s soccer coach, who is not a member of the Church.  But he was there with his son, who is also on Danny’s team, full of good words and smiles for Danny.  It was very nice.  Of course we are not unbiased, but we thought it was an exceptionally good baptism service.  Everything went so well, and there were definitely strong feeling of the Spirit.  Danny was grinning the whole time.   Another highlight was Kaylee and Carrie singing I Am a Child of God.   At home they practiced and Kaylee danced while she sang, calling it her baptism dance.  Mom said she could not dance at the real baptism and asked if she was sure she still wanted to sing.  Kaylee said yes.  And it was just beautiful.  It was mostly Kaylee singing with her mom singing along to help her remember the words.  It was another very touching moment.  Both the Primary President and the Bishop said some encouraging and inspiring words congratulating Danny for his decision to be baptized.  After the baptism all of the family went to Pizza Hut for a feast, and Danny got to open his family birthday gifts.  It was great, great fun!  Here are some pictures of the whole afternoon. Kaylee is wearing a dress Matt brought her back from India. Abby is wearing one of her many cute hair flowers, so people know she is a girl.

Sunday was Stake Conference for Carrie and Matt’s stake so we all attended that together in the morning.  It was an excellent meeting with several inspiring and uplifting talks.  We enjoyed helping keeping the kids entertained, especially Abby.  We had a pleasant walk around the temple while we waited for some of the traffic to clear out.  We got some nice pictures on the temple grounds

In the afternoon it was a glorious, sunny Pacific Northwest day.  Nothing is more beautiful than a sunny day in Seattle.  It was just the right temperature for an outdoor activity, so we went to Snoqualmie Falls and took a nice walk.  The falls and the river were beautiful, and we had an excellent time.  It was one of those days when Washington is at its best, with spectacular mountains views, a crystal clear river, and blankets of evergreen trees dotted with fall colors as far as you can see.  After a scrumptious roast beef dinner we had a quiet evening at home visiting and playing with the grandkids. 
Monday was a school day again, so we saw the kids off to the bus.  We did some packing, catching up and cleaning up as the evidence from Danny’s party was still in plain sight.  We had to close down Honeyduke’s candy store because all of us were snacking on the sweets a little too much.  Lezlie and I each got some individual time with each grandchild since Kaylee got home at noon and Danny did not get home until 4pm.  Building Lego kits, designing and making horses, and playing games with Danny and Kaylee was super fun.  Danny enjoyed trying out his new bow and arrow as well as his new chess set. Kaylee loved doing anything with art. It was so delightful to spend time with them and just listen to them talk about their day at school.  I am sure that this will make us miss them all the more for the last 4 months of our mission, but it was worth it.  Monday evening we had a nice dinner out at Panda Express and enjoyed some good Asian food.  Then we had a fun family home evening about Family Communication, topped off with eating the remainder of Danny’s birthday cake.  All too soon we had to get to bed because of our early morning flight.  We were out to door at 5:15am to catch begin our long but smooth trip home.  So we are back in Woodbridge, Virginia ready to get back to our mission responsibilities, refreshed and inspired by our outstanding trip to visit Carrie, Matt, Danny and Kaylee in Seattle.  Seeing the blessings this dear family enjoys was a very personal reminder of why we are out here in the first place. The Gospel works…

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Fitzhugh Reunion

We began our week by presenting our new family home evening lesson on teamwork to a family with seven children.  The marine dad is gone for the week so we took dinner as well as doing the FHE.  It was very successful.  Although seven children under the age of 10 is pretty chaotic, the kids were well behaved, respectful, and responsive.  They helped get things ready for dinner and then did the clearing and cleanup.  They asked us many questions and participated well in the lesson.  They were not grabbing and whining for more when it came time to prepare and hand out the treats.  So we were quite pleased at how well things went.  We believe the mom was grateful too, especially for the dinner.  We used all paper goods so there would be no dishes to wash too.  We felt humbled and happy that we could help her out a bit. 

Our Wednesday Officer Candidate School family home evening was amazing!  We had 29 students crammed into our little conference room that is sized for about 15.  Thankfully we had made plenty of treats.  Lezlie gave a good lesson on “ and out of small things proceedeth that which is great.”  Of those 29 only 3 were LDS, and all the rest came because the LDS trio invited them.  Those three are such outstanding people.  You can tell that they are leaders among the group.  It was just so rewarding to see all of them chatting with each other and boosting their spirits.  They loved the refreshments and thanked us over and over again.   I got to chat with one young lady from Seattle who was a huge Seahawks fan.  Her dad has held season tickets for many years and she said she was missing going to games with him right now.  Two girls told me they had been going to another service but were kind of sad it was so unstructured.  They were glad that we had a song, a prayer and a real lesson.  Once again mingling with these outstanding young people has lifted our spirits.  We are so grateful to be working with them and giving them a little spiritual and physical nourishment to help them through this difficult training.  We are also grateful to them for be willing to become Marine Officers and to serve our country.
After working an excellent Thursday shift at Navy Marine Corps Relief Society we pointed the car north and began to drive.  We drove to the Wilson’s home, dear old Naval Academy friends of ours.  Tom and I were in the same company all four years.  They live near Gettysburg and we stayed with them when we toured the battlefield last spring.  Lezlie completed a painting for them, a view of their historic home.  We drove up to present the painting to them and for a short visit.  We arrived just before dinner and Lezlie got to give them the painting, which they really liked. She was able to make a last minute correction with her “paint first aid kit.”  We had a lovely and relaxing evening, not to mention an excellent dinner, and thoroughly enjoyed visiting with the Wilsons.  Their country home is warm, comfortable and relaxing.  We felt like we were in a cozy bed and breakfast.  It was wonderful to retell old Naval Academy stories from out time there.  Of course we both loved playing with their dog Bailey.

After a great breakfast with the Wilsons we headed to Hershey, Pennsylvania, about an hour away.  We visited Hershey’s Chocolate World, which is right next door to the large amusement park.  It was a fun stop.  They have a mock factory tour, which is like an amusement park ride.  It told the interesting story of how their chocolate is made, from beans to wrapped candy bar.  I thought the tote board was cool.  It provided an update on how many candy bars of each type had been made on that day, and it was thousands.  On the recommendation of the Wilsons we had a dark chocolate hot fudge sundae, and it was delicious.  The gift shop had every imaginable type of Hershey’s chocolate for sale.  Did you know that chocolate kisses come in about ten flavors?  I almost bought a 5 pound Hershey bar, but came to my senses before purchasing it.  For me one of the most interesting parts of the day was hearing all about Milton Hershey, who was a great philanthropist besides being such a successful businessman.  He built the Hershey School for boys in the early 1900s.  In his will he set up a large trust fund so that the school would be funded for the foreseeable future.  It is now a private school for needy boys and girls and runs grades K – 12.  The trust fund still finances it, and those in need pay no tuition.  It was a long drive home in the rain, but our visit to the Wilsons and stop at Hershey were both greatly enjoyable.  We arrived home early enough for one more activity.  Meet the Mormons was playing in Woodbridge, so we invited several different bachelor marines.  Only one took us up on it, so we drove to base, took our marine to the late movie, and then drove him home.  It made for a long day, but he was thrilled to see it.  This young man is a fairly recent convert and it was good for him to see the breadth of the LDS Church. 

Our Friday began two days of attending the Fitzhugh reunion.  This is one of  the main Virginia families that Lezlie is part of. William Fitzhugh immigrated to Virginia for opportunity and land in the mid 1600s.  He did well, and after a generation the Fitzhughs were very wealthy and owned a ton of land here.  We first toured a beautiful mansion built by one of the Fitzhughs, Chatham.  Although we had visited it before, we got a superb personal tour this time.  The tour guide was very funny and also very knowledgeable about both the house and the Fitzhughs.  It was thoroughly enjoyable.  He told story after story about things that had happened at the house.  It appears that everything about the house was designed to show wealth and power, and it certainly did that.  After his we got to take a luncheon riverboat cruise on the Rappahannock River, another highly enjoyable adventure.  By now we were getting to know some of the Fitzhugh cousins, so we had a nice time chatting with them and hearing their stories.  One very interesting couple were from England.  The man was actually from Texas originally, but he had gone to England to go to grad school and he ended up staying there.  He was an avid Fitzhugh historian, and he gave a wonderful talk after dinner.  I always love boats, so the cruise was great fun too.  I enjoyed watching how the paddle wheels worked.  The headquarters for the reunion was a nice Marriott in downtown Fredericksburg.  After the boat cruise we had several hours to just hang around, so we spent a lot of time in the lobby area talking to cousins and resting.  I found a small cubby that had a television, so I got to watch a good portion of the Oregon – UCLA football game.  I loved it, because I do not have live tv and have really missed watching college football.  Finally we attended the dinner, which was excellent.  The Fitzhugh lecture was very interesting.  We learned about how the Fitzhughs had lost their great wealth and large land holdings in England, which was why William came to America.  Mom had drawn an excellent pen-and-ink sketch of Chatham for the silent auction, which was to raise money for future reunions.  It sold for $55! The dinner and lecture lasted well into the night so we got home way too late for senior missionaries.  But we did enjoy the day with the Fitzhughs.  Our night was not done though.  We had to put together 40 butterscotch rolls, a fruit plate, and a lesson for our Sunday morning OCS service.  But we got it all done. Below are photos of all the Fitzhugh cousins at Chatham and of us in front of the riverboat.

Our Sunday morning began early with our OCS service.  We did a lesson on courage that we have presented before, and it was well received.  They absolutely loved the hot butterscotch rolls and almost licked the pan clean.  We had some great chats with our beloved marines. An LDS candidate and I gave one young female marine a blessing.  It was all good.  By 9am we were on the road to Fredericksburg for part 2 of the Fitzhugh reunion.  We attended 10:00am worship services at the St Paul’s Episcopal church in King George, Virginia.  The church's land and silver communion set were donated by the Fitzhugh family in the early 1700s.  The church was 300 years old but still had a large and active congregation.  They had a reception for the Fitzhughs afterwards with delicious goodies- we felt very welcome. We got to wander around the church and adjacent cemetery after the services.  We saw many Fitzhugh gravesites. Our final reunion activity was to have an outdoor luncheon at Eagles Nest, a historical home of one of the Fitzhughs.  The current owners bought the home about forty years ago and have done wonders to restore it and keep the property up.  They are very generous in letting the Fitzhugh reunions hold a luncheon there.  They actually live in the Eagles Nest home, but they opened the ground floor and just let us wander through it at our leisure. The picture does not do this beautiful home and wooded property justice. It was spectacular. There was a family cemetery on this property, also, where the original William and his wife are buried.  All too soon we had to say goodbye to our new friends and long lost cousins.  It was a good bunch of people, friendly and down to earth.  We wore our name tags throughout the reunion activities, so we had many good discussions with folks about our church and what we are doing in serving the marines in Virginia.  We are now home trying to catch up on things we neglected while taking these excursions.  It was all tiring but oh such great fun.  We are grateful that we are able to have occasional time to explore Virginia and have wonderful adventures here.  We will always have a love for Virginia in after this experience. Below are St Paul's Church and Eagles Nest.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Marine Ceremonies

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has produced a movie called Meet the Mormons which will be shown at major theaters starting in October.  The Church has arranged for all missionaries in the field to see this movie before it goes to theaters, partly for fun and partly for inspiration.  We got to see it on this Monday morning.The movie is six separate segments about the lives of Mormons all over the world – the football coach at the Naval Academy, a Cost Rican mom who is a kick boxer, a man from Nepal that has dedicated his life to improving life in the poor villages near his home town, the candy bomber who is a man that dropped candy to German children at the end of WWII, a black bishop in Atlanta, and a mom and her son who is a new missionary.  They were wonderful stories that were moving, inspirational, and enjoyable.  It made us all very proud to be Mormons.  I especially loved the segment on Ken Niumatololo, the Navy coach who is from Hawaii.  Seeing all that footage of the Naval Academy and of the brigade of midshipmen marching onto the field before the games brought back many memories.  We really enjoyed the movie and may go pay to see it again.  We are enjoying our challenge of reading the Book of Mormon in one week.  We can really follow the storyline well when reading it all at once.  We have found many new “favorite” scriptures that now have special meaning to us as missionaries.  One that we read today that really captures how we feel working here is as follows - Alma 26:3 – And this is the blessing which hath been bestowed upon us, that we have been made instruments in the hands of God to bring about this great work.  This is how we feel every day.  When folks thank us for doing something we just feel like we should be thanking them for a moment in time when we were able to be the hands or feet or mouth that were needed to help them and carry out the work of Heavenly Father.  We feel so privileged to be a small part of this work. 

Our Tuesday breakfast included a nice surprise.  We usually open the shades first thing so we can look out at the green trees.  We know that the leaves will be gone soon so we have been enjoying the trees a lot.  A few minutes after opening the blinds we sat down to breakfast.  We noticed a deer had come up to the edge of the woods just outside our window.  It was so peaceful to watch him grazing as we ate our breakfast.  He was there for at least ten minutes before he faded into the woods.  We had a full day.  Lezlie got inspired to bake and bake and bake.  We made dozens and dozens of sugar cookies.  They were made in the shape of leaves and died various shades of yellow and red, so they appeared as beautiful fall leaves.  In addition we baked 4 loaves of bread and made some honey butter. We also wrote a nice spiritual thought based on Psalms 1: 1-3.  It basically says that blessed is the one who walketh in the council of God and "his leaf also shall not wither."  It went nicely with the leaf cookies.  So we visited 10 families/bachelors, delivering 7 plates of cookies and 3 loaves of bread.  It was great - we had a lot of nice conversations.  At one point we realized we were going to have an extra loaf of bread and we felt inspired to take it to a certain young couple.  The wife had been to the emergency room that morning.  She has not been feeling well for some time.  She found out that she has an ovarian cyst.  While she was not happy, she was quite relieved to finally have a diagnosis. She was happy to talk to Lezlie who had something similar many years ago.   She and her husband were pleased with the bread, and we felt we had been at the right place at the right time.  We also had an excellent family home evening with our The Basic School (TBS).  We have been studying the Articles of Faith in detail and we had a good discussion.  We both got another large chunk of the Book of Mormon read, and we have been enjoying that greatly. 
Wednesday - We got to start out our day by attending an advancement ceremony for one of our very young marines named Ryan.  He has only been in the Corps for about a year and he got promoted from Private First Class to Lance Corporal.  He is a great young man and faithfully makes it to church each week even though he has no car.  It was fun to support him and meet some of the folks he works with.  One of the other attendees at the event was Dan pictured below with Ryan.  Dan is a Master Sergeant and a member of our ward.  Ironically the Master Sergeant is retiring tomorrow after about 20 plus years in the marines.  So one morning we see a 20 year old Lance Corporal just starting his career, and the next day we see a 45 year old Master Sergeant retiring.  That is kind of full circle.   Ryan is pictured with MSGT Dan, our friend from the Quantico Ward, and us.  


After the ceremony we served a long but good shift at Navy Marine Corps Relief Society.  We never tire of this job.  We get to work with good people and help marines, so how could we not like it.  After our shift we were able to make a couple of additional family visits.  Then we had our second family home evening with our Officer Candidate School students.  Last week we had two, and tonight we had 12.  Wow!  A third LDS girl had shown up and all the rest had been invited by our LDS students.  We had a great meeting.  Most of them were in shell shock and just sort of melted into their chairs.  A few of them were in tears they were so happy to be in a loving and kind environment.  We had introductions all around and we were so impressed by their backgrounds and motivations to become marines.  The other couple that works with us brought outstanding refreshments of fruit and sweet bread, and the students gobbled everything up quickly but appreciatively.  We had a nice lesson on Heroes – what a real hero is and what it takes to become one.   After the lesson we got to mingle and chat with these fine young people.  I met - a 31 year old gal that had been a police officer on the Houston Police Department for six years who had always wanted to be a marine but could not get in before; a young lady from Pasco, Washington that knew people we know; a young man that was distraught because his grandma that helped raise him had died this week; and a former enlisted marine that had fought twice in Afghanistan, was impressed by the officers and wanted to become one.  It was so humbling to be a part of the family home evening for them.  We are so grateful we get to work with them. 

Today (Thursday) we saw the second half of the full circle of a Marine Corps career.  We attended the retirement ceremony of our friend in the ward, Master Sergeant Dan.  He served for 23 years.  His ceremony was much more elaborate with more attendees than the promotion of the brand new marine yesterday.  It was held in the atrium of the Marine Corps Museum, which is an awesome place for such an event.  It is a large, high-ceilinged, circular area with huge pictures of hero marines on the walls, a tank and helicopter displayed on the ground, and a marine jet hanging from the ceiling (see pictures).  Dan received several awards upon his retirement, and the Marine Corps gave his wife and each of his three children certificates of appreciation too.  It was very cool.  The marines really know how to do ceremonies.  The man that has been his boss for the past several years gave a very nice tribute speech highlighting the areas of his long career, which included service in Afghanistan.  There were many people from church as well as many of his fellow marines there.  Afterwards they had a nice luncheon reception too.   It was a enjoyable and uplifting event.  We have been teaching a man in our ward the Temple Preparation classes in anticipation of his first attendance at the temple in November.  We had a nice time with him as well, a wonderful man of amazing talent.  His house is filled with art, many of the paintings being his own.  We love to go there and feel of his spirit.  We are excited to help him get to the temple.

We were happy to be able to help out a marine mom this Friday morning.  She has 4 children that she home-schools.  Her car was in the shop for a repair and was supposed to be done yesterday at by 5pm when her husband could help her pick it up.  But the shop did not finish and she needed to get the car this morning.  Our van came in handy.  We were able to haul her and all 4 kids to the shop, entertain the kids in our car while she went inside and paid, and unload all of them directly into her car.  We had our usual monthly zone meeting today, which is when all 40 of the missionaries from the Woodbridge Zone meet together for training and companionship.   This was a particularly touching meeting because of a special assignment this week.  As mentioned before our mission president instigated a Book of Mormon challenge wherein everyone in the mission was to read the entire book in one week.  Today was the last day and Lezlie and I finished it. Hooray!  Many of the missionaries talked about how much they had gained by reading it this way.  As for Lezlie and I we enjoyed it greatly.  It is amazing to read it straight through so that you can really keep track of all the people and stories.  We discovered many new verses that inspired us as missionaries.   For example, Ether 12:27 says   And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men hat humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.  This scripture really hit home with us.  When we first came out on our mission Lezlie and I were shy about calling people or knocking on doors of people we did not know.  It humbled us so much to see and hear of the young missionaries knocking on the doors of strangers fearlessly.  And we were just knocking on doors of less active members.  For example, we were asked to find several lost members that the ward is trying to find.  It made us very nervous to call such folks or march up and knock on their door.  We were aware of this and we tried to work on it when we first got here.  Now it has become something we do easily and confidently.  We have had a testimony of the Book of Mormon for a long time, but this accelerated reading really strengthened that.  We know that it is a true book.  We know it has important guidance that can help us live happier and more fulfilled lives as well as helping us get through hard times.  We feel fortunate that we had this opportunity to read it all the way through in a short time.

We received a nice early Christmas gift from Aaron on Friday.  A few years ago he got me a deluxe large umbrella, which has been of great use on our mission.  But after several years of good use it recently broke on a windy day.  Aaron kindly agreed to get us a new one as an early Christmas present since we are just entering the heaviest rainy season here.  This evening we also got to attend a joyful going away party for the marine family that retired yesterday.  They are moving to San Antonio, TX.  It was a casual, low key affair with just people and refreshments. But there was such a feeling of love and closeness as many, many friends of this family showed up to bid them farewell.  The attendees included family members, so many children and teenagers mingled with the adults.  It reminded me of some of the simple parties we had with branch members when we lived in Korea.  No big program, no fancy entertainment, and no fancy food - just good people, good conversation, and good cake.  A perfect recipe for a fun time. 
As Saturday was a General Conference day we spent most of it at home watching all of the conference sessions.  As always it was a great experience of learning and spiritual nourishment.  Every time one of the General Authorities mentions that there are 88,000 missionaries serving now or when someone blesses missionaries in their prayer we feel so warm and blessed.  I loved President Uchtdorf’s talk about knowledge brings belief.  He pondered what it would be like if we could go back in time 1000 years and try to explain a cell phone, television, or airplane to someone of that age.  Though those things were inconceivable then they are now truth.  So many things we may not understand now will become clear to us as we attain more knowledge and experience.  Just because we do not understand them they are still real.  The more we learn the more now things that will be revealed to us.   As always it was wonderful to hear all of the amazing General Conference talks and the outstanding music.  

This Sunday is the end of yet another busy but wonderful week on our mission.  We had an outstanding service with our Officer Candidate School group.  We had 15 attend today, and they are in the heart of their hardest challenges.  We had two girls and one guy that were crying.  Another girl was sick and coughing, another injured.  Several fell asleep within moments of sitting down because of total exhaustion.  We did a lesson on the dichotomy of living as a Christian while serving in the military that deals in destruction.   We have given this lesson about 4 times now, so we have it fine tuned.  It went well.  We talk about being a peaceful people. But that precious things, like family, home, freedom, and liberty, may require sacrifice.  Someone must be willing to make that sacrifice to protect those precious things.  The military provides that protection.  It is always so inspiring and humbling to work with this group.  Although it is tiring to get up at 5am to conduct the early morning service, it was worth every minute of lost sleep.  We again enjoyed a day of wonderful conference talks and music.  What a good day and what a good week.