Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas Week 2014

California San Diego Christmas Devotional
Senior Couples 
Monday was an amazing day!  Right up there at the top of the mission days!  The Mission President and his wife planned a Christmas Devotional for the whole mission.  We met at a Stake Center - the biggest in the mission and for the first time since we have been here we were able to be where the whole mission was together at the same place.  What a great experience it was to sing together and feel the spirit of this wonderful group of missionaries - and to be a part of it!  Pride, humility, joy, thrill, love, gratitude, and happiness were all emotions that were in my heart as I sat there and enjoyed the event. We all met in the chapel and filled it to the brim.  We had an opening prayer and song and then filed out to the cultural hall.

Singing the mission song
We lined the outside of the hall, three or four deep and thens sang the mission song.  It is so fun to sing that together. There is such strength and power when we unite together.  Amazing.  You had to be there to experience it!

We then were fed breakfast casseroles that several Relief Societies put together for us along with muffins, fruit and hot chocolate.  Usually when we meet together in groups the mission president is quick to tell the missionaries to leave the meeting reverently and quickly return to the work.  If not, the missionaries just love seeing each other and catching up and would spend lots of time just socializing.  But this time they gave us a lot of time to eat and then to just enjoy each other.  Everyone was taking pictures with former companions and just really enjoying being together.

 I got to reconnect with our dear Mormon Battalion sisters and other missionaries that we have grown to love and respect and have moved on to areas farther away.  Everyone enjoyed that so much and it was such a happy group of missionaries!  What a nice present.  

Sister Kennedy and Sister Baker

We then went back in to the chapel and finished our devotional with beautiful music and a wonderful talk from Pres. Schmitt.  He then told us that he wanted to offer a blessing on us all.  He then bowed his head and prayed to the Lord for each one of us.  "Eye has not seen nor ear heard......"  It was beautiful and we all left lifted and blessed.  It has been interesting to have our mission president be about the same age as my oldest son!  At times I feel like he is a young kid and other times I see the mantle of his calling come upon him and he becomes a giant, wise man.  We love him.  

Now you see them...
We went back to the office and finished the Christmas package sorting!  We had to make sure we had all of the packages in the right piles for each zone.  This is what it looked like Tuesday morning before all of the Zone leaders came to pick up the packages.  This really doesn't do it justice.  They are all packed to tightly you can't really appreciate how many there are.  The past weeks have been about this full too.  Our missionaries were well taken care of.  

What is sad is that we are still receiving packages that well meaning parents thought might get here on time - but didn't.  They now won't get those packages until next Tuesday.  Oh well, two Christmas days are OK.
Now you don't!

Roger got his iPad set up to watch the BYU bowl game that afternoon but had to take off to do some housing business for the elders and ended up leaving his iPad on for several of the senior couples who were visiting the office at the time.  So they all sat around Roger's iPad and watched the game.  Quite a site and quite a game!  
Beach balls for ornaments!
Wednesday we were able to take part of the day and play a bit.  Of course we went to the beach.  I am not in to the cold water much but still love being on the beach and walking along it.  So while Roger played in the water I walked around and handed out "He is the Gift" cards.  I had my iPad with me so I was able to show the video to several people down there.  I showed it to one homeless man who told me he didn't even realize that Christmas was the next day and that the video didn't address him at all. He isn't caught up in the materialistic side of Christmas - he is worried about everyday life and surviving.  We talked a bit about what difference Christ's birth could make to him in his situation.  When I talked about the Atonement and that Christ has experienced all of his trials; that he knows his feelings and his heart, he seemed to really be touched.  It was interesting and very thought provoking for me.  Boy life can be so hard and I am so blessed.
It is wet suit time

That evening we were invited over to the Scott's place for a yummy Christmas Eve dinner.  They are  the couple who came to the La Jolla Institute and now stay in the place we stayed in this summer.  It was nice to be back "home".  We had the sister missionaries who serve at the Institute, the Knorrs who serve with us and the Bedkes.  We have been having the Bedkes and Scotts help us out in the office the past few days with all of the packages and extra work load from the holidays.  It was a nice group with great food and a sweet Christmas spirit.  We ate and then read from Luke 2 together, played Christmas carols with music pipes and enjoyed each other's company.

It was nice to have something special to do on Christmas Eve and we really enjoyed each other.  Thanks Scotts.  The Bedkes were called to go to India for their mission but are here waiting for their visas.  We have loved them and they are not too sad that they are having to hang out in beautiful San Diego while waiting.  The Scotts were supposed to be going to New York to an Institute there but that didn't work out so they were called here.  Sister Scott has had cancer and thought that she was good but after they got their call her cancer came back.  She is in the middle of treatments and just happens to be about 5 minutes from one of the finest cancer doctors in the world.  It is amazing how many times we hear those kinds of coincidences.  The Knorrs were called to do finance and housing at the office but they couldn't come until about 6 weeks to two months after the couple who was doing it before us.  So we were asked to do change our calling and be in the office and they have been able to do things they are better suited for.  It all seems to work.  Amazing how the Lord is in the details.

Christmas day was very unique but good.  We woke up and opened the presents that we had.  Thanks to those who remembered us and took the time to share with us!  It was so fun to know we are loved.  Then decided that it was a good day to go to the beach!  When we got there the waves weren't very good so Roger decided to hang out with me. We had a great time walking the beach and exploring.  I was actually was glad that Roger couldn't play in the waves because I got him to myself and enjoyed being with him.  It was great to be in the sun and enjoy.  It was a beautiful day!

On our way home we took one of the Walmart cards that we got from the kids to a sweet lady we have been working with since being here.  She is in our ward and has struggled with depression.  It was good to visit her and be able to share your gift with her!  She was so thrilled.  Thanks guys.  We are trying to decide who should receive the others and will let you know who we give them to.  What a great idea!

We then went home and I was able to get in a good swim.  Since we have been at the office we haven't been able to swim much.  It just isn't as fun to swim after dark.  It felt so good so I decided I will try to find a way to swim more.

We were invited Christmas evening to a lady in our ward's home.  It is the same place we went for the very untraditional Thanksgiving dinner.  This time Carol's son made roast duck - yes duck!, duck lasagne, three fabulous salads, wonderful homemade rolls (I asked for the recipe and they said that it was made out of a little bit of flour and lots and lots of butter!) angle food cake with raspberries, pecan pie, semi frio, and goodies galore!  Lots of great people and food.

We were able to FaceTime with many of Roger's kids and I got to see Mike and Kinley the next day.  That was great to see everyone.  We miss you all!

We had a great Christmas and one we will remember for a long time but I have to say that I will be ready to be back with family next year!

I have loved the theme for Christmas this year.  He is the Gift.  I have done a lot of thinking about why he is a gift to me and how that gift helps me in my life.  It has been a good effort to write down those things that the gift of the Savior specifically is to me.  I have also done a lot of thinking about the giver of the gift and how hard it must have been for him to watch his son go through what he did for us.  I appreciate the gift and the giver of the gift and have totally enjoyed the focus of that this year.

Love each other and help one another!  That is what this life is all about.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

December 21, 2014


What a great week!  And I again, hardly got any pictures of the BIG things.  You will just have to imagine them with me.  

Sunday started off with a bang.  Up early and started our missionary council meeting at 10:00, Ward Council at 11:00, Choir Practice at 12:00, Sing in Sacrament meeting Christmas choir at 1:00, Teach primary at 2:15, 3:00 set out hundreds and hundreds of cookies on trays for the 4:00 "Linger longer", home quickly to eat a bite and leave at 6:00 to pick up a darling older non-member couple to go to the fabulous Stake Christmas Concert, home at 9:00!  It was a great day!  A day full of music and the true meaning of Christmas.  We had lots of opportunities to be with good people and to share.  It doesn't get much better than this - or does it?

Our Sacrament meeting choir was so under rehearsed but  miraculously we really sounded great.  Such great music and talks.  It was fun to be a part of.  And then the stake concert....... Wow!  They had a 60 person adult choir, a 20 person children's choir, 10 person youth chime group and a 15 person orchestra.  Professional quality voices and musicians made it so great.  Wow!

It's beginning to look A LOT like Christmas!
The picture above was of Monday mornings
package before the missionaries picked them up
to take them to their zones on Tuesday.  This
is a picture of Wednesday's new arrivals.  Our
missionaries are loved and missed!
The rest of our week was great too.    It is amazing to see the amount of packages that we are getting in preparation for Christmas!  What is sad is that some get ten - yes ten packages and other's haven't received anything.  We have been trying to figure out who need the special gift baskets we have made up for sub for Santa  and keeping track of who isn't getting anything.  It is usually the foreign missionaries but amazingly enough we find that some of our very best missionaries are here without much support at home.  You would never know it if you didn't count the packages.  

Table set up for Schmitts and Nielsons.  We suggested
that we set it up on the foyer so that they didn't
have to sit in the middle of the office busyness
but this is what they wanted soooo....
This week was Zone Conferences.  We had Elder and Sister Brent Nielson of the Seventy come be with us for three wonderful days.   We were able to have several opportunities to be with the Nielsons and grew to love them and appreciate their wisdom strength.  Monday night they came and interviewed with the Mission President and his wife for over TWO hours.  We baby sat the kids and set up the table for a dinner they had with the Schmitt family after the interview.  

Tuesday we got to have them come over after the first Zone Conference and eat dinner with us.  We made a wonderful meal of a pork tenderloin with a fruity rich sauce spooned over it, string beans, rice pilaf, a raspberry almond salad and of course, cheesy rolls.  I think the rolls were the hit of the menu.  I am sad that I didn't even think of getting a picture of us with them.  It was a lovely evening with wonderful - very real - people.  

Zone Conference dessert table!
We had only two conference with half of the mission at each one.  What a great spiritual feast with so many wonderful ideas of how to work more effectively as missionaries and in our families.  We stayed at the office on Tuesday while one of the couples went to the conference and then we took our turn on Wednesday.  It started at 8:00 with a Sister's meeting.  Sister Nielson told them that they are here, now for a very special reason.  They should find those reasons.  She told how the church leaders have been praying for years about lowering the age of the sisters to go and how thrilled she was with that when it happened.  She said that there was a great thing that they need to take advantage of happening while on a mission.  They are able to watch wonderful young men and how they use their priesthood to make decisions to guide their lives.  She told them that it was OK to watch these young men and choose what kind of man they want to help them raise their children.  Kinda interesting stuff to be telling sister missionaries.  We then had our combined meetings from 9 - 12, lunch at noon and more meetings from 1-3.  Sounds horrible and long but it was very interesting.  He gave wonderful insight to the missionary program and the future of it.  I have 20 pages of notes but won't go into it now.
Missionaries EVERYWHERE!  We LOVE being with missionaries!


Wednesday night was our scripture class.  We had a small group and have decided that Christmas time is not a good time for extra things like this so we are going to cancel class until the new year.  We were able to get Bart there this time.  It is amazing how quickly he has jumped into activity.  It is so fun to have him involved.  

Beautiful rainbow outside our office!  
Christmas office staff lunch
We had a busy week in the office beside all of the outside the office stuff.  Sooooo many packages.  I had heard that it was a bit crazy but oh my!  It was the week to pay the rent and we were able to get it off without a hitch.  It used to seem like such a big deal to pay all of the rent and get it right.  But we are getting better at it, working on it through the month and it is now quite easy.  Yay!  I can spend $150,000 with one click of the mouse!  We had an office Christmas dinner on Friday and a couple of the elders that live right by the office cooked the meal for us.  

Elder Jennings and Elder Gillespie
It seems like each time we plan a little meal for the office staff there are always others that come by and we end up feeding lots of extras.  Elder Gillespie's dad died a few months ago.  He went home for a week and came back.  He is amazing and doing well.  We love being able to be with these wonderful guys!  They teach us so much.  

Saturday was a great Relief Society activity in our ward.  We had a "White Christmas" and all went to the temple together.  It was fun being with all those wonderful ladies in white.  I have grown to love and respect these good women.  It will be hard to leave them all.  

Sister Owens from Alaska and me
at zone conference.
We are amazed that it is Christmas already.  Time seems to fly by.  I guess that is good because otherwise this time of year would be even harder.  I am missing the regular Christmas stuff that we do at home.  We miss the Christmas programs at the elementary schools, the piano recitals etc.  I keep seeing how family members are gathering and it gives me a bit of a twinge of sadness.  But we really are enjoying the service here and will miss it when we are gone. Isn't that how it is?  We miss home when we are here and will miss here when we are home.  

We are happy and healthy.  We feel blessed to have the gift of the gospel in our lives and the opportunity to help with the missionary force here in San Diego.  What would we ever do without the gift of the atonement in our lives?  I have loved the "He is the Gift" program this year.  It has really helped us put Christmas in perspective this year.  

May Christmas be wonderful!  Let us know what you do and let us be a little involved in your Christmas by hearing about it.  We love you and miss you all!


Anthony our mail man.  He was using Sister
Soffe's phone so I clicked a picture of him.
We love him and are working on him to
receive the lessons.  

Saturday, December 13, 2014

December 13, 2014

TRANSFER WEEK!  It is still a blur!

Things are always busy while on a mission but transfer week seems to speed things up to ridiculous.  And then having one during December with all of the Christmas extras just made this week a bit of a blur.  But here we are at the end of the week and we made it through......

I didn't get many pictures taken.  My phone kept running out of battery.  I guess I need to remember to plug it in eh?  When it gets too busy I forget things even as routine as that.

Tour guides
Monday was our last "official" tour guide meeting with the San Diego Professional Tour Guide Association.  My year being the secretary is over and we aren't associated with the Mormon Battalion any more so we won't have any good excuses to go - except to visit the good people we have met and learned to love there.

They say that we are honorary members and come back any time we want to!  It has been a very good thing to be involved with and I hope that I can find things like this to do when we get home where we are associating with others who are from different religions and walks of life. We met so many good people who I normally would not have been able to know and interact with.  We had a Christmas Party at a restaurant where they made sure it was during the "happy hour" so they could take advantage of that.  They had great appetizers and we all had a gift exchange.

We weren't sure that we should go because there would be drinking but it was a very nice event and we were glad we went to say goodbye.  Some of our favorite people weren't there though.  Vera and Charles are on a vacation to Costa Rica for three weeks.  And Irina is too busy working to come.
Elder Cardiff felt bad for us that
we didn't have presents under
the tree. He is being our gift.

 Tuesday was the day that all of the missionaries leave for home and the new ones come in.  What a zoo that can be!  Salt Lake made a few mistakes that I didn't catch until almost too late.  It made things interesting but we ironed it all out and everyone is here that is supposed to be and the others leaving are all home to the right city.  They had made arrangements for one of our sisters from Taiwan to go to Kiribati and the one who was supposed to go to Kiribati was going to Baltimore Maine.  They had also sent us information about an elder that we didn't have on our lists but came in with the other missionaries from Provo MTC.  We finally figured out that he belonged in the Carlsbad Mission just up the way from us and got him there.

A YSA ward made us a temple
gingerbread house.
Tuesday night was a fun one!  But we were so tired we could almost not enjoy it!  We ushered at the Old Globe Theatre for "Grinch"!  They do such a good job of it.  They have done it for 18 years straight.  It was our second year to do it and will try to stay on their lists for ushering and come to help with plays when we come in town.
Sister Burmedez at transfer meeting.

Wednesday was transfer meeting day.  That is when everyone finds out where they will be serving and who their companion will be.  The chapel is usually full of missionaries and it is a big puzzle to put together.  Pres. Schmitt has made sure that it is a very spiritual meeting and that it is well organized.  He invites missionaries to come up without telling them before hand and give a short talk on the topic for the month that he has assigned.  He is teaching them to prepare short talks to have on hand at any given moment with three components - a scripture, an experience to go with the scripture and bear testimony.  It really is that easy to a great talk  This transfer meeting went without hardly any hitches.  Maybe we are all getting better at this.

We are taking off to take the two
temple square sisters back to the
airport.  They are on the ends.  The other
sisters are their companions and some of my
favorite people on the earth!  
I got the assignment to pick up the two Temple Square sister missionaries and take them to the airport to go back to Salt Lake.  I have done this many times and each time the sister missionaries don't want to go back.  I think that we are all resistant to change.  They really loved serving here in beautiful San Diego and weren't really excited about being outside all day in the Utah weather.  We said tearful goodbyes.  One thing about being on a mission - there are so many changes - so many good byes - so many new hellos.  All so sad and good and mostly wonderful.  If you see Sister Talatoka or Sister Asuro on Temple Square give them a big hug from me.

The rest of the week is when we really get crazy busy.  We have to come back from the transfer meeting and change all of the lists we have.  We don't ever really know what the details of the changes until after the meeting.  With 250 missionaries, it really is a big deal.  We can't get out packages until we know what where all of the missionaries will be serving.  In December that is a huge deal.  So many packages!!!

Also Roger has probably the hardest job.  He all of a sudden has to find new apartments and close up old ones, move missionaries around, etc.  It really isn't that easy to find apartments and get all the things settled very quickly so we have to have missionaries double bunking etc until it all gets ironed out.  One apartment complex actually denied the church because our credit wasn't good enough!  They changed their mind after they checked better into things but it was funny to have them think that the church wouldn't be a good credit risk!

Getting Sub for Santa stuff put together.
We are gearing up for Zone Conferences for next week too.  Usually it takes a couple of weeks to get through them.  The mission president usually meets with one or two zones every other day and has day long meetings with them.  This time we have a General Authority coming, Elder Brent H Nielson.  Don't know that I know much about him.  Zone Conferences will be just two huge meetings and they are two days in a row.  He will arrive Monday and tour the Mormon Battalion, do surprise checks on apartments, go on splits with missionaries and then come to the Mission Office to interview the Mission President and his wife for two hours!  We are in charge of keeping their children busy during the interview.  We have catered a meal for them so we will set up tables for dinner and then leave them to eat there together.

Tuesday and Wednesday will be the Zone Conferences and we will take turns going so that the other couples can keep the office running.  We are having a dinner for the Nielson's, the Mission President and his wife and us on Tuesday evening.  Elder Nielson wants to tour the mission office and meet with us then.

We were hoping that we might be receiving iPad with zone conference but we aren't hearing any rumors - yet!  Probably won't happen.

It has rained a ton this last week too.  Everyone here has been praying for rain so it has been much appreciated.  I even have found myself liking the rain.  Usually I feel that rain is not that cool.  It is too wet.  Give me a good snow storm any day.  But it has been fun to have the rain.  It usually rains while we are at the office and then clears up at night any way.

Hope all is well with you all!  We miss all of the Christmas gatherings and people.  It is hard during the holidays to be so far away.  But we are challenging our selves to make this a "different Christmas".  We will have lots of normal ones when we return.  But we are trying to make this one special.  It is wonderful to have the emphasis on Christ and really have no other shopping agendas.  It is too bad that we have so much glitter and glitz during this time of year.  We are enjoying the gift of the Savior and the emphasis on that this year.  Sharing that gift with others is tons of fun!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

December 6, 2014

Ho, Ho, Ho, Merry Chrsitmas!

Our week started with an amazing Sunday!  We have been working with Cherie and Bart to help them back to church.  Cherie has come back and has been to the temple, accepted a calling as a RS counselor and is going great guns at being a member missionary.  It has been one of the great joys of our mission to be a part of that.  Bart has held back but has been coming around in the last few months and this last Sunday he came to church!  We told the bishop that he was going to be there and he decided that they would give him a calling!  He called him to be the person in charge of the cleaning of the building - and he accepted.  He said, "At last they give me a calling that I am good at."  He is really excited about doing it.  Amazing.  They also asked him to set up the chairs in the cultural hall once we go to 9:00 am church.  That means that he has to be here EVERY Sunday before church and set them up.  He accepted that too!  We are so excited.  It has been fun to see the change in his demeanor.  He looks people in the eye and his posture is more erect.  Everyone was so cute to him when during the day at church too!  They did their job in making him feel welcome and a part of the church family.  Wow!  Prayers are answered.  There is more during the week with Bart too.

Monday evening was our FHE for Senior Couples.  We had a really nice meal and wonderful entertainment.  We really love our association with these wonderful people.

President Morgan and his

President Schmitt and son Clayton
A counselor in our mission presidency, Marty Morgan gave a wonderful musical presentation.  His two daughters sang with him on one of the songs and it was beautiful.  Our mission president then spoke to us and his 7 year old son played a couple of his piano Christmas songs for us.  He was so darling.  7 years old and there was no nervousness.  He stole the show.

We had a quiz that all were supposed to guess the answers to and then they gave out teddy bears to those who were the answers to the questions.  We got TWO.  We didn't realize that we are the couple who has been here the longest.  We have seen a lot of great couples come and go.  Most who come anymore, come for a year, so many who came after us have already gone home.  We, of course, won the one for having the largest number of posterity!

We got our Christmas tree up in the office.  We made it a "He is the Gift" tree.  We took the "He is the Gift" pass along cards and put a sticker on the back that says "I will share the Gift by______________________."  The missionaries have filled that out in many wonderful ways and have signed their  names to it.  They inspire us in so many ways.

A very unusual thing happened this week.  It has only happened about 5 times on our mission - if that.  IT RAINED!  Just in cast you don't believe me I took a picture.  It was really amazing to see how the San Diegans handled it all.  They hardly know what to do when it rains.  Many didn't go to work!  Seriously.  Most decided to wait until the horrible weather changed to do things - because it is always does get better quickly.  The rain actually lasted TWO whole days and everyone was depressed with the grey skies.  I found myself actually enjoying the rain for a change.

We got a real treat on Friday of this week.  One of the senior couples works with the Marines at the MCRD (Marine Corp Recruit Depot).  It is the base camp for Marines.  There are about 500 recruits that graduate forty two out of fifty two weeks of the year.  They receive a new group of recruits each week and are responsible to help with the LDS meetings for the group.

They have many, many baptisms and reactivations.  The boys come pretty cocky and excited and within two days are crying and wanting to go home.  By the time their 12 weeks here are done, many have grown up and become men.  Many realize that the gospel can bless their lives and come back to activity in the church.  Many are great missionaries to invite their friends to come realize that too.  We were invited to come along to the graduation ceremony for this week.  It was quite a sight!  Over 500 Marines graduating.  They had a great Marine Corp band who played off and on through the one hour graduation!  Pomp and circumstance!  Lots of marching, saluting, protocol etc.  So organized and precise.  I couldn't help compare this training and the training our missionaries are getting.  We really enjoyed being there.
The Marine Corp band!  Wonderful!

Some of my favorite people in our ward.  The lady
in the middle with grey hair is my
adopted mom, Sister Guyman!

Friday was our ward's Christmas party.  We had a great Christmas meal and then had the tried and true Christmas Nativity with the Primary children.  Oh my, they did such a good job.  I was in Primary helping out last Sunday as they practiced for the program.  They were so horrible and naughty.  I couldn't imagine how it would ever go over.  But the thrill of being on stage must have sobered some of them.  Of course, they were darling!  We had a great turn out and filled the whole cultural hall with people.  Lots of the members invited friends and family members who are not members.  It was a great event.

Bart - SANTA!
One of the best highlights of the evening was that Bart was Santa!  He really was excited about doing it and was so darling with the kids.  He was on cloud nine by the end of the evening.  And the kids just loved him!

Elder LeMmon and Elder Smith with Santa.

Our ASL missionaries with Santa

Saturday was a great day to go to the softball fields and watch the team that Roger has been working with.  They lost the game in the last inning but went on to win the next one.  Bart was in charge of his first cleaning day in his new calling.  He really has changed and it is so cool to see the confidence and joy that comes from him now. 
Today was exceptionally great!  Bart bore his testimony!  I was sitting by Cheri and she was planning on getting up and bearing her testimony but was a little nervous.  She was so afraid that she would cry and not be able to say anything.  She has been so pleased with Bart's coming to church and accepting a calling.  While she was waiting to go up, Bart stood up and walked to the pulpit!  What a great thing it was to hear him bear his testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel!  We feel we have been a part of a miracle!  Yay!  We love the gospel and the joy it brings to those who embrace it.