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.