Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Week That (almost) Wasn't

Jet lag is real and I’d heard it was worse coming back than going. I’ll add my amen to that! It probably didn’t help that I woke up at 4 am Monday morning, in anticipation of our day’s (and night’s and next day’s) activities—that of mainly sitting on a plane!

We received our itinerary on Friday and our first flight left Tuesday morning at 1:25. That meant that we would be in Delhi for their District Conference on Saturday and Sunday—one last time to say our goodbyes. In fact Elder David Evans (Counselor in the Asia Area Presidency) was in town for the conference and a mission tour complete with Zone Conferences (and since we work with a branch in each zone, we were invited to be in both pictures--lucky us!)
and a senior missionary dinner.
As we arrived at District Conference Sunday morning, he invited us to sit on the stand and bear our testimonies during the meeting. What a sweet experience. There were more hugs and tears following the meeting.
We knew we were leaving a part of our hearts in Delhi and most likely the next time we will see so many of our good friends there will be that sweet reunion in heaven.
How did we get so close to so many?
The tears still flow just thinking of them.

A few people made the trip to our apartment for one last visit with the two of us—the air pollution had gotten just awful following Diwali, even setting a new Delhi high of 1570. Consequently, Elder didn’t go out much our last two weeks there, but we loved having visitors.

It was a tender mercy that the Sunday of District Conference dawned pretty clear and clean so he was able to attend. Of course I got out a couple of times, including a fun shopping trip with the other senior sisters and the office financial manager Trija.

A couple other people we will miss is our mission driver, Anil, (he also drives a Camry and Innova)
and all of our guards of which Ramesh and Raj are just two.

So back to Monday, November 14: we did our final washing and cleaning and had lunch with the other senior missionaries—what loving supportive friends! We will miss them, but since they are all from Utah, we plan to meet up post mission. We had a final interview with President, then dinner and testimonies. We barely had time for a quick shower and it was time to head to the airport at 9:30 pm. It would be 56 hours after arising at 4 am Monday before I crawled into our California bed! Add in the fact that I only got about 5 hours of sleep on the plane enroute and I was missing half my brain this whole last week. For some reason, I couldn’t sleep more than 4-5 hours every night! I woke up between 2 and 4 am every day. I took a nap some of the days, but I still had a serious sleep deficit—until Sunday. We attended one of the Spanish branches from 9-12 in their stake center 5 minutes away. Then we met with the Stake President and one of the bishops we will be working with. Came home, ate lunch and I laid down for a nap at 2. Elder tried to wake me up 2.5 hours later but I just couldn’t do it. We didn’t make the baptism that night (we had attended one the night before) and I slept until 10 pm. He was getting ready for bed so I followed his lead. I slept until 4 am and felt much better when I woke up! Yeah!

Now there is one part of the trip I need to mention. Since we arrived with no working phones, we were anxious to hear about our airport pickup before we left Delhi. Sunday night we exchanged several emails with our new mission president and were glad to hear that they had an apartment waiting for us and that our daughter from Las Vegas had called him and asked if she could surprise us by picking us up at the airport! What a show of support! We loved it!
Even if we only got to spend 5 hours with her before she drove back to Vegas that night, she was awake and alert and drove me to Walmart to pick up a few things we would need the next day. Thanks so much! (Here are the pictures she sent us of our big Airbus 380 landing from Paris, us coming up the ramp and then a group selfie.)

So far this last week we have attended a district meeting, a baptism, met with the mission president, then with one of his counselors. Following the baptism, one of the wards meeting in the stake center was having a ward Thanksgiving dinner and the bishop’s wife invited us to come taste some of her turkey—Salvadoran style. It was delicious! Everyone is very friendly and gives lots of hugs (among the women at least).

So you might be asking: What will you be doing? We aren’t quite sure yet. Since Elder is fluent in Spanish, they want to utilize that. We’ve been told that 75% of the people in the San Fernando Valley speak Spanish. Now most also speak English, but the San Fernando Stake is one of only 3 stakes in the US that is totally Spanish speaking. There are 8 wards and 1 YSA Branch. The Stake Center is huge--having two chapels, 2 RS rooms, 2 of everything except just one full size cultural hall. So four of the wards meet there. The other 5 meet at chapels spread out over the valley. (Our mission has 6 stakes total and is pretty small geographically—maybe a 45 minute drive from one end to the other if the traffic is bad.) The mission president has assigned us to this Spanish speaking stake and it is the stake president who will give us our exact assignment. We are meeting with him and the counselor in the mission presidency again next Sunday.

Here are a few pictures of our very nice 2-bedroom apartment. Welcoming flowers from the President and his wife.
You can see we’ve added some Indian color with our wall hanging and matching pillows.
The zone leaders also live in these apartments and we’ve been told there is another couple coming in January where the husband speaks Spanish and the wife doesn’t. It will be nice to have them close. There is another senior couple just a couple miles away here in the valley, both just English speaking, who dropped by to introduce themselves as well. And the LA Temple is only about 15 minutes away! We get to go in just another week! I’m excited!

Thanks for your prayers and support and patience in hearing from us. It’s been a challenge getting working internet (a choice of exactly one very lowly rated and expensive cable company), phones (our apartments are a Verizon dead spot) and charge cards (even though we filed a travel plan showing we were moving to LA, Chase just wanted to hear from us that it was really us trying to use the card—something that is hard to do without a phone or internet and with only half a brain working). Well, things are looking up—I’m awake! Our phone works on our balcony and sometimes by the sliding glass door! Our internet works great this time of morning! (It’s 4 am as I finish writing this.) And we know that the fire alarms in the complex work since they have gone off early Sunday morning (a nice way to meet your neighbors) and several times yesterday as they were working on them so they don’t give any more false alarms.

We are excited to get back to work. We are excited for Thanksgiving this week. We have much to be thankful for, including the opportunity of serving a mission. But our relationships with family and friends both here in the states and back in India are some of our most precious blessings. We love you and wish you a blessed Thanksgiving Week.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

California Here We Come!

The wait is over—we have our reassignment! We are going to the California San Fernando mission just north of Los Angeles to complete our last five months.


Now all we have to do is wait for our travel itinerary and pack.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Saying our goodbyes

I’ve moved a lot in my life, so I’ve said a lot of goodbyes. However, after living in Littleton for 26 years, most of my recent goodbyes have been to other people leaving—until coming on this mission, of course. And since our call was for 18 months, I knew we would have to say goodbye to India sometime next spring. Five weeks ago when we decided we just couldn’t complete our mission here without seriously jeopardizing Elder’s health, we started to say our farewells. It’s been hard—we have both shed many tears. We truly love so many of the people, active members, inactive members and investigators alike. Add in the two visits from our kids (2.5 weeks of the five since our decision), and the time has just flown by. Here are a few pictures from this time:

Dwarka goodbyes:
With the Primary kids
 With the Young Women:

At a mutual activity:
With the Relief Society:
The front of our church building--we use the top two floors--see the sign :
With President Vijay and his family:

With First Counselor President Rajesh and his extended family, plus friends:
With Second Counselor President Jitender and his family:
With First Counselor in the District Presidency President Pandey and his new wife:
With the Talwars:
With the Sharmas:
With Brother Akram Shah and later with his wife and baby son:

With Sahil Sharma:
With the Sambaria family:
With Nicolas Massey:
And of course with a branch of 350 members, we have worked with and love many whose pictures aren't here. Some we neglected to take a picture with. Some we weren't able to see 'one more time.' We love you all and will miss you. I am crying as I write these words. Know that you are in our hearts. And the same goes for many we have worked with in the District. We will continue to pray for you all.

Noida goodbyes:
Our last week there was during our son's visit. They even brought a "Good Luck Allens" cake.

With the whole group of members following church:

With the missionaries:

With President James and the Gupta sisters, Monica and Ruchi:

With Sister Barnabus and Brother Rajiv:

With the Hukil family:

We also had a last District Self Reliance Committee monthly meeting with District Councilman Brother Paul Frost:

And District Self Reliance Specialists Sisters Honey Rai and Nicole Goldrup:
All of our Indian friends have a special place in our hearts reserved just for them and we will truly miss them when we leave.

Of course we had to go see some sights with Jon, Marci and McKinley:
Old Delhi is always crowded but this day it was extra crazy:

We finally saw the Lotus Temple here in Delhi--striking design and beautiful grounds.

We saw the Taj and Agra Fort again, but this time in Jaipur the elephants were riding to Amber Fort so we all hopped on:

The next day it was time for a camel ride:

Back in Delhi, Gandhi museum was a favorite:

Kinley found her favorite brand of bottled water:

It was great doing fun things together, but my favorite was the time we had for visiting. Thanks for taking the long plane ride to spend a week with us.

Last Sunday was Diwali, the Festival of Lights and stores go all out decorating:

Last night we had one more senior couples FHE activity at the mission home: cutting out the last of the fleece blankets we started a year ago. Notice what the men use of weights at the corners—pretty clever us of Institute manuals!

Now you might be asking yourself a question about now like, “Did I miss something? I don’t know where they have been reassigned to.” And I would respond, “Nope, you haven’t missed a thing. We haven’t received our reassignment yet. We have been assured that it is coming this week and after its arrival, we should be out of Delhi within a couple of days.” So once again I must end with a stay tuned. . . . .