Sunday, August 28, 2011

First "Real" Week

Our first week in the office went very well.  For me it has been a week of learning how to do the things I did in Japan the New York Utica way.  Even though the software has been drastically upgraded, the basics aren't that different.  Now it's just a matter of remembering where everything is and getting the computer letters, etc. up to a better way.  Sister Riedelbach is a wonderful person, but she freely admits the computer is not one of her strong points.

Bill, on the other hand, is almost starting from scratch.  The finance part of his job is totally different than what he did in Japan (he knew this was going to be so) and he never took care of the cars or apartments, either.  Not that he doesn't know cars, but this job has nothing to do with mechanics.  He will be selling cars, buying cars, dealing with all the details of getting damage and wear fixed (what? missionaries damage cars? No!), inspecting cars, and compiling reports from information the missionaries submit to him on their mileage and fuel usage.  No small job, he is discovering.  Thank goodness we don't have to change apartments very often, because he is going to be a very busy man.

Saturday we got some wonderful spiritual nourishment.  We went to the Zone Leaders Conference and got to listen to Elder David Cook of the Area Seventy preach for two hours without a break and it was wonderful!  He based his talk on D & C 4:2 "...O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength..."  He talked about the heart, defining it as worthiness.  He said there are two levels of worthiness: the minimum and the higher level.  The minimum is the rules outlined in the missionary handbook.  Then to illustrate the higher, he told about his experience in the Language Training Center (pre-dated the MTC).  He was learning Spanish to use in the New York mission and they spend 12 hours a day memorizing discussions.  By the time he was half way through, he wasn't making much progress, so he started getting up at 6:00 instead of 6:30 a.m. to study.  After a few weeks, he still wasn't making progress, so he started getting up at 5:30.  At the end of his training, all the missionaries were tested to see how well they had done with their memorizing.  A few got 100%, some got 90%, and so on.  He brought up the rear with 4%.  Memorizing wasn't his strong point.  It took him another 9 months to get the discussions memorized, but when he finally did it, he got the trophy (a toothpick missionary stuck in the top of an oatmeal box) for the best in the mission.  And how does that equate to a higher level of worthiness?  He put his heart into doing what was hard for him and learned what needed to be learned.  He also said he was a pretty poor student in high school--he went skiing 60 times his senior year.  "Do the math, elders!  There aren't 60 weekends in a year, much less a winter."  But after his mission, he became a straight A student.

The next principle was "might" which he defined as work.  He talked about the importance of hard work in missionary work and began quoting President Ezra Taft Benson.  President Bulloch interrupted him and said, "They know this, Elder Cook.  Would you like them to recite it?"  And all the missionaries got to their feet and began quoting, "I have often said one of the greatest secrets of missionary work is work!  If a missionary works, he will get the Spirit; if he gets the Spirit, he will teach by the Spirit; and if he teaches by the Spirit, he will touch the hearts of the people and he will be happy.  there will be no homesickness, no worrying about families, for all time and talents and interests are centered on the work of the ministry.  Work, work, work," and here the missionaries put their heads down and pumped their fists and said "Work, work, work!" as loud as they could without shouting.  It was fun and impressive and moving.

Mind was defined as skills.  We use all the skills we have been blessed with and have developed to further the work.  Instead of taking the path of least resistance (giving service to members) we take the harder path and spend more time finding people to teach.

Strength was equated with urgency.  "Don't waste your time", he said.  "Faith requires sacrifice."  As you can see, we really enjoyed Elder Cook.  We had lunch with the missionaries and had a good time getting to know some of them.  I'm sure we will share more about them in future blogs.

As some of you may be aware, Hurricane Irene showed her face in New York today.  She didn't do any damage in Utica that we know of, but it started to rain in the middle of the night and continued throughout the day.  I think it stopped about 8:00 p.m., but I'm not sure; it gets quite dark by then.  The Weather Channel called it a light rain, but it seemed pretty heavy to us.  We had to use our windshield wipers on high as we drove to church today.  We also got some pretty heavy winds, but it quieted by the middle of the afternoon.  We were going to take a picture of us in front of our apartment today to include with the blog, but it really wasn't a good idea today.

We talked in church today.  Bill told some really great stories about missionary work and I gave the same talk I gave in Lovell before we left, since it was on missionary work.  We were told we would probably be speaking quite often since our branch is so small.  I guess we'll be using the skills we developed in Hong Kong when we had to speak on average twice a month.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Aaaaah! New York!

We arrived in Utica at about 5:00 p.m. eastern time, tired and happy to get out of the car.  Provo to New York is a long way.

We left Provo by way of Vernal and were pleasantly surprised by the pretty town that is Vernal.  They have gorgeous flower baskets and planters all along their main street, as well as beautiful parks and clean streets.  We attended the Vernal temple which is their old tabernacle that was remodeled into a temple several years ago.  The ordinance workers were very helpful when they found out that this was our first visit to their temple.  One of them told us that the inside of the tabernacle was complete gutted then re-structured into a temple and that when it was finished, it had cost twice as much as if they had torn the old building down and started from scratch.  Church officials then said, “Well, that’s the last time we’ll do that!”

We drove on to Laramie on Saturday and spend Sunday with Val and Andy and their girls.  The next morning we headed east.  We drove all the way through Nebraska to Lincoln, admiring corn fields and lots of green hills on our way through.  Neither Nebraska nor Iowa is really as flat as they claim, they just don’t have any mountains.  Wednesday we skirted south of Chicago on I-80 (thank goodness we didn’t have to go into the city) and across Ohio.  We missed Kirtland because we didn’t realize it was so close to the Interstate—none of the maps showed it.  We got as far as Erie that night, but never saw the canal!

Thursday we went to Niagra Falls.  Wow!  What a sight! And a wet one at that.  We took a tour on the American side and were not sorry.  We rode the “Maid of the Mist IV” almost to what felt like it was the base of the falls.  We got very wet in spite of the ponchos they gave us to wear.  Then we climbed to the “Cave of the Winds” which is an area very close to the Bridal Veil Falls and again, got very wet.  We drove down to an area where the river reverses itself into a giant whirlpool, then back into Niagra where we watched a 3-D movie with water effects (they sprayed water on us at appropriate times).  We probably walked and climbed between three to four miles and by the time we got to the movie, we were both dead tired and neither of us could remember anything about the movie after it was over!  But we really enjoyed the day

Our first view of the falls

We are at the top of the tower that holds the elevator that takes you down to the "Maid of the Mist."

We're on the boat getting close to the American Falls.


This is the staircase to the "Cave of the Winds" as viewed from the boat.  You can see from the spray how close it is to the falls.

Way close!

Don't think we can get any closer than this.

We drove on to Rochester and met our cousin, Dick Johnson, for supper and got to visit with him that evening.  We had a lovely visit and the next morning got to meet his son, Rick, and granddaughter.

Palmyra was next on our itinerary.  We took so long saying goodbye to Dick that we missed the 11:00 a.m. session at the temple, so we participated in a sealing session and admired all the beautiful leaded glass windows throughout the building.  We drove to the Sacred Grove and had a nice walk and sat on a lovely bench to enjoy the beautiful day and feel the Spirit there.  Then we drove back into Palmyra and had lunch at the Akropolis Diner!

The Reidelbachs and President Bulloch and his wife were waiting for us at the mission office when we arrived.  They were all very happy to see us and after a few minutes, took us to our Apartment on Sadaquada Circle.  It is quite nice—two bedrooms, one bath, nice size living room/dining room and kitchen.  The laundry is in the basement and we have no garage or really, any place to park.  The roads around the complex are quite narrow and are considered fire lanes.  So we have decided to park in front and put our names on the waiting list for a garage.

Saturday we rested, unpacked, rested, shopped for food, rested, shopped for stuff we forgot on the first shopping trip, rested, did laundry, and rested.  Sunday Sister Reidelbach picked us up and took us to church in Oneida, a small town 20 miles from our house.  It is a small branch and I think there were about 25 people there today.  There was one deacon to pass the sacrament, assisted by one of the young missionary elders; and one child in Primary.  There is no one that plays the organ or piano, so they used the CDs of the hymns provided by the church.  Apparently the organ has some hymns programmed in, but there was no one there today who knew how to run it.
All in all, it has been an interesting, exhausting week and we are happy to be here.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Aaaaand, we're off!

Well, we finished up at the MTC last night.  Even though it was only 4 days of class, it was a very long week!  We were in class from 8:00 to 4:30 or 5:00 every day, and for those of us who haven't had to sit that long for a while, it was tough!  We both learned quite a lot.  The mission software the church has developed is lots better than it was 5 years ago when we were getting ready to go to Japan.  I'm looking forward to using it.
So this morning we loaded up and are headed to New York!  We decided to buy a new car before we left and you see us here with our brand new Camry, and yes, it really is that red!  We love it.

We traveled to Vernal and did a session in their beautiful temple.  It was a great experience.  The people were so helpful when they found out this was the first time we had been there.  This is the only temple in the church that is a renovated tabernacle.  It is really gorgeous.  We traveled up through Flaming Gorge after leaving Vernal and were really impressed with the geology.  Really amazing with lots of red cliffs and a beautiful lake.  We will travel to Laramie tomorrow (I know, short trip) and will spend Sunday with my brother Val, his wife Andy and girls, Miranda and Keisha.  Then Monday morning we will head for New York in earnest.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Missionary Training Center

We reported to the Provo MTC last Monday, August 1, where we were assigned to live downtown at the Marriott hotel.  Nice digs!  We eat our meals at the MTC with all the other missionaries.  We have spent this week going to meetings and classes, studying from the missionary handbook, Preach My Gospel.  We have really been spiritually fed.

One of the couples that reported with us on Monday has really been changed.  He seemed rather blase about everything and telling us about all the places they had been.  They sat by us in church this morning and while we were waiting for the meeting to start, he turned to me and said, "I can't believe how much time we have wasted just traveling around having fun.  If our mission in South Africa is as great at this past week, we are going to sell everything we have acquired in this life and spend the rest of our lives doing this!"  We all feel blessed.

This week we will spend 4 days learning office procedure, including computer basics (I know, but not everyone is as computer literate as we are), Microsoft Word and Excel, finance, newsletters, etc.  I'm sure the software has been updated since we were here 5 years ago, so I'm sure we will learn a lot.  We are looking forward to all of it.

We will leave Friday to drive to Utica and will take a week to make the trip.  That should be a fun post, huh?