We had a very gratifying experience on Monday morning. One of our marine wives recently told us about a friend of hers that had been asking her some questions about the Mormon Church because her church had offered a class on Mormonism which had some very interesting concepts which were very interesting, but very far from what we believe. The marine wife asked if we would talk to her because she was not sure how to answer all of her friend’s questions. So we did. We prepared as best we could and loaded up our bag with pamphlets, books, and our scriptures. She turned out to be a very, very nice lady. She was not hostile or confrontational at all, just curious. She told us all sorts of outlandish things she had been taught in the class about Mormonism, and we helped to clarify what the real story is inside the church. We were pleased that we were able to answer all of her questions and we realized how much we have learned on our mission. She was anxious to hear our story of converting to the LDS church. We gave her a Book of Mormon and some other things to read, and she said she would read them. Although she was just curious rather than interested in joining the church, we felt that we taught her truthfully and represented the Church well. It was a very good experience and we had a very pleasurable discussion about religion in general . We told her we would be glad to meet with her again if she wanted. At least we know that she no longer believes we are a secretive, cultish people that worship Joseph Smith and do not allow anyone in our meetings. We also got to go out with our young female friend from Richland that is here at the FBI Academy. We ate at a Bahama Breeze restaurant, which was a new one for us. It was great fun with excellent island music and delicious Caribbean food. She just completed her FBI certification as a Forensic Scientist as a fingerprint specialist. It is fascinating to hear from her how they do their work. Her certification program was really long and hard, which is as it should be since the FBI is the best. She is a great gal and we have really enjoyed getting to know her better here.
We worked a long shift at Navy Marine Corps Relief Society this week. It was an interesting day. I had a case with a retired Navy woman like I have never had before. She had numerous loans for thousands of dollars from NMCRS, and had recently defaulted on two loans. Her story about her needs did not add up and she had no documents to prove it. So I had to sit down with her one-on-one and tell her no. She was very angry. It was one of the worst cases I ever had. But my main feeling for this young woman was sadness. She blamed everyone else for her troubles but did not want to do the real work needed to help herself. In contrast I had a very nice young male marine from Montana. He did not want a loan but just wanted to work through a budget so that he could figure out how to save some money. He was pleasant, respectful and grateful. Quite a contrast from the lady I dealt with. Today we got a copy of the performance statistics for our NMCRS office. We are proud to be a part of this office and we think we did some good work over the past year. So here is our data: Total cases – 829, loans given - 609, grants given – 78, and total amount provided $498, 604. We helped a lot of marines this year.
We got to teach another Temple Preparation lesson to our friend from the ward. He is always a joy to visit, and we had a nice time. We will be excited to see him go to the temple.
On Thursday we attended a Zone Conference. This is the zone meeting when our Mission President and his wife attend and give training. This one was a little different because it involved two zones. So instead of 40 missionaries we had about 80. We had some very good training, especially from Sister Wilson who taught us to be happy in our work. One of the Sisters that works in our ward sang a sweet version of I Believe in Christ. It was pretty spectacular and the feeling of the spirit was obvious. When she finished there was absolute silence. President Wilson paused for a moment before he stood up to speak and it was a delicious moment. The strength of the spirit was enormous. Some women from one of the local wards prepared an excellent lunch for us – various soups, salad, rolls, and brownies with ice cream. As is traditional we all stood in a semicircle around these sisters and sang Called to Serve to thank them. It is pretty overwhelming to have 80 missionaries surrounding you and singing with zeal (see pics). All of the ladies were crying as the missionaries sang. It was pretty touching. In the evening we fed dinner to our two elders in the Quantico Ward that are also our zone leaders. We love these guys and really enjoyed feeding them and getting to know them better. The senior companion has been here for six months so we know him well. He has been here for dinner several times. The other Elder is a new zone leader. He is the black Elder from Louisiana that we have mentioned before. He is a very bright and articulate young man and we have enjoyed being trained by him very much. It is always a delight to feed the missionaries and we had a good time
Friday was Stake Temple day so we spent a long afternoon and evening at the Washington DC temple. We traveled up to the temple with the other senior couple here in Woodbridge, the Andersons. We have come to be good friends with them and love to spend time together. We attended a nice temple endowment session and then had some time before a special stake meeting was to be held. We had barely enough time to leave the temple to go out to eat, or we had plenty of time to go to the vending machine cafeteria in the basement. We chose the latter. Although it sounds bad, the vending machine cafeteria is pretty nice. They have packaged dinners, pizzas and sandwiches with several microwaves. The nice thing about eating there is that it gave us plenty of time to just sit and visit. We greatly enjoyed getting to know the Andersons better. They are interesting and accomplished folks. He was an agriculture professor at BYU-I and she was a nurse. I don’t know if we mentioned this before, but in one of those amazing coincidences we discovered that our daughter Carrie and their son Seth were on a program together in China about 10 years ago. Carrie dug into her scrapbook and found this picture of them together in China (Seth is 2nd from the left and Carrie is on the right). And to think that these many years later his folks and us are serving together as senior missionaries! Pretty remarkable! After our delightful chat with Andersons we attended a stake meeting held in a special assembly room on the top floor of the temple. It was a beautiful room and we had some powerful speakers. It was great to see so many people we knew from our ward at the meeting. We finally journeyed home via a Wendy’s for some ice cream. It was an excellent temple day.Our Saturday morning we attended a very pleasant baptism. A sweet young girl, about 12, that has
Down ’s syndrome was baptized. In cases like this the Bishop does a very careful interview to make sure the person is capable of understanding what they are doing and what they are accepting. He did so in this case and determined that this girl was capable of understanding what she was doing. She was very happy and smiley the whole time. When she came up out of the water after the baptism she had a huge grin and let out the most joyful laughter possible. Everyone was moved by it. At the end of the service she bore a short but very sincere testimony that she was happy to follow Jesus. Every baptism is good, but this one was very special. After that we traveled to Mt Vernon (George Washington’s home) where we met Jerry Hong, father of Matt Hong, our daughter Carrie’s husband. Jerry was in this area for a business trip and called to ask us out to lunch. He is staying near Mt Vernon so we met there and ate in their cafeteria. We had an excellent time discussing our children and grandchildren. It was fun to share some stories about Danny, Kaylee and Abby that the other had not yet heard. We very objectively agreed that we have the smartest, kindest, most beautiful grandchildren in the world. After Jerry left we took advantage of our season passes and did a short tour of the Mt Vernon museum. We scoped things out so that we can be all ready to take Anne and all her family through when they visit us at Thanksgiving. It was a quick but enjoyable tour. What an amazing man – George Washington.
Sunday morning began with a service on the base for our dear Officer Candidate School students. We do love being able to meet with them. We had a good discussion today about faith. We only had four females today, and they are all still worried about finishing. Even though they have only two more weeks there still are some hard things left. We talked about having faith in themselves to accomplish this hard goal. Our one LDS gal is quite worried because she has had trouble with academics. She has not scored well overall on her written tests so she has an academic board this week. She asked for a blessing and of course we gave her one. She cried but we know she left feeling better. Although there were only 4 young ladies there today they ate almost every bit of the fruit and muffins we provided. One of the best times during these meetings is the last 30 minutes when they have eaten their fill and are just sitting and talking with each other. They share their triumphs and challenges at OCS and buoy up each other’s spirits. It is wonderful to see. We feel so grateful that we get to work with this wonderful group of young people, and we are continually inspired by their dedication and effort. After OCS we have to go directly to church for our regular meetings. Today the speakers all followed the topic of gratitude. A young marine couple that is new to the ward spoke, and they gave exceptional talks on this subject. We have visited them and they are in a tough situation right now. He had some sort of injury so cannot do his regular marine job. He is being evaluated by a medical board for discharge. They were transferred here from Japan and they have not yet received their shipment of household goods. So their home is almost bare and they have only a suitcase full of clothes. But they stood there and talked about how grateful they were for their family, their health, prayer, the earth, and their faith. It was very heartwarming and moving. We were so glad we were there to hear this humble marine family show such tremendous examples of faith and gratitude. It made us remember how grateful we are for our many, many blessings. Right now we are grateful for our mission here in Virginia. We are also very grateful for all of our family and friends that have been so supportive of our mission.