Saturday, December 17, 2016

There is Work Enough to Do

I can’t believe December is already half over. Time is passing quickly and as the hymn states, “I have work enough to do.” Here are a few of the things we have done these last few weeks:

Shared Thanksgiving Dinner with some Hermanas (Spanish-speaking sister missionaries)
These are the Hermanas who joined us for Thanksgiving
and had 4 other missionaries stop by to wish us Happy Thanksgiving, some even bearing a plate of cookies that quickly got shared with everyone else. (Sorry for not having pictures but I don’t have a smart phone anymore and just recently decided to use my tablet for pictures—but now I can’t figure out how to get them onto my computer. I love technology when it works and can get pretty frustrated when I don’t know how to make it work when it isn’t.)

Met with the other MLS senior couple and later with the whole mission staff, including the office couple, the mission nurse, and 5 church service missionaries supporting the mission (data entry, cars, apartment couple, and food). Another office couple is coming next week and will replace the data entry and cars locals who have been serving for 1-4 years already. In January, another Spanish speaking MLS senior couple will come and even live in our same apartment complex.

Received our assignment: North Hollywood 5th Ward (Spanish), San Fernando Stake (Spanish). We felt very welcomed and needed from the first time we attended (3 weeks ago). The bishop always has a smile on his face and everyone is very friendly—lots of hugs between the sisters. The first week (Nov 27), there were only 14 people there at the beginning of Sacrament, but about 70 by the end so we felt right at home—this is very similar to Dwarka Branch back in Delhi. The last couple of weeks, there have been more like 30 there at the beginning and 80 at the end, but there are over 400 on the role so we have lots of work to do.  So far we have met with about 20 families/members and most will speak some English during our visits, which I really appreciate.
Two faithful sisters who live together in our ward
There seem to be more from El Salvador and Guatemala than Mexico. We have also met people from Bolivia, Peru, and the Dominican Republic. (Someone told us that 75% of the people in the valley speak Spanish and there are also lots of people from Armenia.) We have been blessed to make a good connection with several members already and one Hermana (Sister) came to the Christmas Party last night who hasn’t been out to church for a couple of years. Yeah! One big challenge is lack of active Melchizedek Priesthood holders. Consequently, we have a HP Group Leader, an Elder’s Quorum President, and an YM President all with no counselors or secretary.

We have attended Mutual a couple weeks and even got to support a trip to the LA Temple for Baptisms for the dead one Saturday morning at 7. We’ve enjoyed getting to know the youth (about 6 active YW and 3 active YM) and even got invited to one YW’s 18th Birthday Party held at church the next week. We only stayed an hour but it seemed to be a big deal--the birthday cake was as big as a wedding cake.
This is a picture of the picture on my tablet. I got desperate.

We’ve also been attending our District and Zone Meetings, getting to know quite a few different Elders and Sisters/Hermanas. Here we are with our original district.
Just last week our ward got white washed—that means that all those who had been serving here were transferred and we got totally new missionaries. Here we are with our original missionaries.
Old NH 5 missionaries
In fact 2 of the 6 Elders now serving with us are greenies, straight from the MTC. One is from a small branch in Mexico and one from Utah. One is adjusting to America and one to speaking Spanish. The districts and zones are mixed here, half English and half Spanish. For example, our district is comprised of missionaries from 4 different wards and two different stakes (one English and one Spanish), and the missionaries serving our ward go to 3 different districts all in the same zone.

We have been enjoying having a car. It’s about 5 or 6 miles to our building and only half that to the edge of our ward. Most of the time we can be to our visit in about 20 minutes, but we do try to avoid the freeways at rush hour—this is LA after all. We’ve done a little exploring, visiting UCLA after the temple baptisms,
driving to Malibu and Pepperdine one P-day.
Road to Malibu
on the beach at Malibu
lots of trees still have colored leaves on them here
Pepperdine Elf Activity
We’ve also attended some special holiday events—a Nativity Festival in Burbank, complete with a live nativity;
Nativities on loan from Bob Hope's family
an Inter-faith Concert at a church next to the LA Temple Visitor’s Center;
Hallelujah Chorus combined choirs from my tablet
and just last week a special “When Love is Born” program in Santa Clarita/Valencia Stake with a 170 chorus and 60 piece orchestra. We’ve been told that it included a lot of the local professionals—including conductor Richard Rich (who I googled when we got home). It really feels like Christmas this year, even if we don’t have any snow.
Our apartment's tree of lights with the grandkids pictures inside. 

Here are a couple of pictures of our surroundings--the first taken of the courtyard of our apartment complex from our balcony;

This picture is of Sherman Avenue, just north of us. I think it's pretty with majestic palm trees planted on both sides. Most streets here are wide with many lanes of traffic going each way.

An investigator (Jose) of one set of Hermanas in our zone asked Elder to baptize him on December 17. For some reason he had attended our ward one week and they had met in Priesthood. We took him to the “When Love is Born” program last Sunday night and enjoyed getting to know him better.
Another picture of my tablet's picture. This scene was in the foyer. Amazing program!

Attended the LA Temple with half the missionaries of our mission (about 70). Now when we drove to the temple at 6:30 Saturday morning it took us 15-20 minutes—it really is very close. However, last Wednesday morning, we left at 7:30 to go pick up some elders needing a ride from our ward building (35 minutes), and then it was just about an hour on back roads to the temple. The LA Temple is huge! I’ve read it’s the second largest next to SLC. It is beautiful, with very high ceilings and very large rooms! The walls are painted in all the rooms (you move several times), even the celestial room has murals on the walls. There are lots of elegant drapes and chandeliers. It was good to be back in the temple after 14 months.

Thursday night we had an appointment reschedule so we stopped by the church to help decorate for the ward party the next night. Some youth and leaders had arrived early and most of it was already done.
They had done a great job and seemed to enjoy doing it!
Thanks! It was a fun well-attended (about 100) party with dancing!

We do like to take walks and found a nice park just down the road that works well if we have enough time.

Well I need to wrap this up. We are meeting other senior missionaries for breakfast before a service project at Operation Gratitude from 9-noon
and then Jose’s baptism at 2 and more member visits this afternoon and evening.

We are thankful to be here, though think often of all our good friends back in India. We are amazed at what deep relationships we formed in those precious 13 months. But the church is true everywhere and there is indeed work enough for all of us to do wherever we happen to be. And for us right now, that is North Hollywood 5th Ward.

Merry Christmas everyone!