Monday, February 27, 2017

February in Pictures

I know that February is a short month but it has passed especially quickly this year. So much to do and so little time to do it. I did take lots of pictures along the way.

Once a month we have a mission office meeting with the mission president and his wife,

the senior missionaries who work in the mission office,

us senior missionaries who work in the different wards (there are three couples now that the Dowells are here),

the mission nurse who works so hard trying to keep us all healthy,
and a few dedicated church service missionaries who serve as counselors in the mission presidency,
help find, furnish, and maintain apartments for us full-timers to live in,
 and even one sister who cooks or arranges the food at mission events/zone conferences.
We love them all!

We have also started taking photos of some of the families we work with. Here is Elder with the Bishop of our ward.
Here is the High Priest Group Leader and his wife, along with the yummy food we ate.
This brother was just released as a stake high councilor and put in as a counselor in the bishopric.
Here is a former bishop with his wife, currently serving as RS President, son, wife, and much adored daughter.
Here, just like in India, households are often multigenerational. Or brothers/sisters and their families can be sharing a home,
or live next door.
These two sisters recently decided to become roommates.
This sister from Guatemala sells imports from back home to supplement her income.

Our ward had a valentine’s dinner and dance.
Latinos love to dance! People of all ages were having fun moving to the music, partners not required. Toward the end of the evening, we did a line dance and almost everyone there was out on the floor. Even after the tables and chairs were put away and the decorations taken down, the music was still playing and I noticed an older sister out on the dance floor still dancing. It’s like there is music in their souls. I love it!

We had two service projects this month: our zone helped in Burbank to count and box up toys, books and games for next Christmas
and one boxing up 10,000 boxes for active service men/women through Operation Gratitude that us senior missionaries supported before our monthly get-together last Saturday.

Last week we were invited to a FHE hosted by one family in our ward
and attended by some young investigators
as well as another family in the ward. A wonderful lesson by the elders and pizza is always a hit.

Elder and I have started taking turns choosing activities for our weekly p-days. Last week I chose visiting the Nethercutt Museum with its wonderful collection of about 150 restored antique cars,
music boxes (notice the violin inside the box),
a fire truck and even a private train car.
Pretty amazing to see, even if you don’t know much about cars. This family made their fortune from the cosmetic company started by their aunt, Merle Nethercutt Norman. They share it with the public free of charge.

The week before we visited the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library,
complete with the Oval Office
and Airport One.
Again, it was very informative and interesting, even displaying a part of the original Berlin Wall.

A couple of weeks ago, we had our Ecuadorian daughter and her family come for a short stay.
We visited the Getty Center, which was perfect on a rainy Saturday afternoon. We loved that all three grandkids got to spend the night with us.
We showed them our favorite Indian Bollywood movie, complete with popcorn! Thanks for coming!

Tomorrow is tranfers for the junior missionaries with about 10 going home (including 2 from our district so are in mourning) and only 6 coming.

Since we are going home before the next transfer in 6 weeks, we got to go to the temple with them last Friday.

The LA temple is so beautiful! The sun was even shining that day!

Friday evening, one of the families in the ward invited us and one of the sets of elders to their home and it ended up being a going-away party for us and one of the other elders!
Three weeks early for us, but the young elder is leaving this week! Several other families came and after eating and a short program, the tables and chairs were cleared and it was dancing again! I found out at church that they didn't get to bed until 1 am! All of us missionaries left quite a bit earlier than that!
I tell you, they have music and love in their souls and we have loved getting to know them and feel of their spirits. It's been a privilege to serve here and we're not done yet! 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Time Flies on Wings of Lightning

Here it is the first of February already! Time truly seems to be flying by! I’m going to take a few minutes to share the last few weeks.

Every Thursday afternoon we attend our district meeting with about 8 junior missionaries. We take turns teaching each other from the Preach My Gospel book on how to be more effective missionaries. We also set goals, play a game, and just generally support each other. Right now none of the other missionaries in our district are serving in our ward, but in neighboring wards, some Spanish speaking and some English speaking. We love getting to know these young men and women.

Every six weeks we have a zone conference. Our zone consists of 3 districts but for zone conference this month we combined 3 zones together and even had a General Authority doing a mission tour. Elder Ardern and his wife of the 70’s are from New Zealand and they were simply delightful. They demonstrated good teaching techniques (as do President and Sister Henrie) and there was a lot of participation during the 6 hours we spent together (and a yummy lunch as well). 

Last week all of us senior couples were invited to a dinner at the mission home with the Arderns. It was pretty informal and nice to get to know them a bit. Elder Ardern wanted each of us to know how much the leaders of the church appreciate all of us seniors and the contribution we make to the church and to the junior missionaries. Of course we loved their New Zealand accent!

Most all of the members we work with are immigrants, some fairly recent but many who have been here for 20-30 years. We have noticed a pattern in their stories. Often, the mother leaves her kids with her mother and comes alone to the USA to earn money to send back home to help support her kids. She wants them to have a better life. (The dad has exited the family.) Sometimes she is here for just a few years and is able to bring them up. Sometimes she brings them when her own mother dies. Sometimes she gets a new husband here, has more kids, and it can be a decade or two before she is able to bring them here. Now we do know of a few families where there is a dad involved all the way through the process and either just the dad comes to the USA or both parents come, again leaving the kids with grandparents. We know of two families in our ward where the older kids (14 and 18 in one family, 13 and 16 in the other) have been here only a few months, joining a new dad and 3 other kids ranging in age from 3-12 years old.

We also heard an inspiring story from an older couple (husband mid-80’s and wife late 70’s) who are from El Salvador. They married, joined the church, and had their 5 children all in El Salvador. They decided they wanted to be sealed in the temple and the closest one was in Mesa, Arizona. A whole group of members hired a bus to drive them there. They sold their home to finance the expense and spent 5 days in the bus each way. Their youngest son was eight at the time, but since the doctor dropped him on his head at birth, he suffered from cerebral palsy and had to be held the whole time. When they got to the border of the USA, the immigration officer denied entry to the young son due to an “infectious cough.” Members of the church (from the mission, the temple, the stake) came to try and help and a Relief Society President ended up staying with the boy so the rest of the family could continue on to the temple. They ended up making a second trip to the temple to have their youngest son sealed to them after he died a short time later.

This same family told us of having to walk to church (over an hour each way) after they came to the USA because they had no car nor the money for bus fare—and the busses didn’t run on Sundays then anyway. This same couple served a mission a few years ago as a senior couple—I think the only one from this stake so far. And they were sent back to El Salvador. What a faithful couple!
He is the Sunday School President and she is the music leader in Sacrament meeting and the choir director (when we have one). And we have come across them making visits to some of the same families we are trying to invite and love back into activity.

One family feeds all the missionaries in our ward two nights a week—and that has been 6 junior missionaries plus they invite us, though we have only gone two times as we don’t expect to be fed like the younger elders/sisters are.
What a dedicated supportive family! The dad is a counselor in the bishopric and the mom is YW President with the RM son teaching Primary and the oldest daughter a counselor to her mom in the YW Presidency.

A couple of weeks ago, we found a great place close to home to take a 6-mile hike!
Great views of the San Fernando Valley!
This last week on P-day, we took a drive to the mountains about 30 minutes east of us. We found snow at the higher elevations!
So we drove back down and took our hike on Mount Wilson, along a ledge where there once were train tracks. We loved the views!
And the rate of elevation gain/loss! There even was a tunnel!
We like to attend Mutual when we can. Here is New Beginnings
and last night’s joint activity with fun games! Build a pyramid,
move a ball,
and move a cookie from your forehead to your mouth without using your hands. Fun!

I want to mention one other activity we did: take Jose to the Visitor’s Center at the LA Temple. We first thought he could do baptisms for the dead, but he hasn’t received the Priesthood yet, so that will be next time. He thoroughly enjoyed seeing the Christus Statue.
Here he is with the Sisters who showed us around—and they remembered him from his first trip there a few months ago!
One of them is Hermana Searle (as some of you know her). It is exciting to watch someone progress in their knowledge and appreciation of the Gospel.

We love the work we are doing here and love feeling like the Lord is using us to touch others and invite them back to Church. The time does seem to be flying by but we plan to continue to work hard right up to the end!