Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Christmas in Australia

Picture courtesy Sister Jenkins ASNM 2017

Who would ever have thought I would miss Snow?  In my mind, cold weather, snow and Christmas go hand in hand.  Even though I grew up in warm, sunny California, and love California in the summer months...I do love Utah and the warm coziness  of family times, warm fires, family outings and gatherings, hot soups and Hallmark Christmas movies in December.  This year is going to be very different.  Today it is 107 degrees.  I felt the hot sun on my arms, top of my head and neck walking home for something cool to eat for lunch.  I walked into our Flat to find it was 85+ degrees inside due to a non functioning air conditioner.  We made the calls to the grounds contractor.  He has put in the request for a repair, but?????  Lot's of people have A/C problems this time of year.  I see some sleepless nights ahead.  No one said it was going to be easy.  Maybe I will bring a pillow and blanket up to the mission office and sleep up here tonight?  Sounds like a good idea.

Last week we had our Christmas Zone Conference with all 7 Zones, 160 missionaries in one building.  These missionaries LOVE to visit with each other.  It is like long lost friends when they get together.  President and Sister Checketts had a wonderful day of activities planned.  While the President was teaching the missionaries, the seniors were working rapidly getting the tables, settings,  and decorations finished in the cultural hall.  Other senior missionaries were in the kitchen and Primary room prepping salads, watermelon, cooking pulled pork, sweet and sour meatballs and vegetables, and of course the Mission staple, rice and lots of RICE.  What a beehive of action we had going on.

After an hour or so we heard this wonderful, angelic sound coming from the Chapel.  It was all those amazing missionaries singing Christmas Carols.  We quickly finished what we were doing in other parts of the building and went into the Chapel looking for an empty seat here or there.  We joined in for the last 1-2 songs.  Now that is what you call enjoying the true meaning of Christmas.  Then President announced the rest of the day's activities.  We started with a few clippings the President edited from some LDS films.  Spirit of the Game, a great movie about missionaries in Australia 1950.  If you haven't seen it I highly recommend it. A simple story but inspiring.  Of course he had to put in some out takes from The Best Two Years.  Many of these missionaries had never seen this movie as they were just young kids when it came out.  I love this movie as well, but this day I loved watching these missionaries laughing hysterically as they watched for the first time and completely related to all the funny out takes.  Oh my, their reactions were priceless.  I was laughing so hard watching them laugh.

Beautiful Christmas decorations made by Senior Sisters

We then went and enjoyed a delicious meal that Sister Checketts planned.  There was an abundance of food.  Next on the agenda were  games.  Races stacking cups.  Getting Oreo cookies into your mouth from your forehead, and one other game?  We then did pictures by the different countries we were from.  (BTW Do you know where missionaries say missionaries from Utah are from??  The Factory! I thought was kind of funny)  The picture of missionaries from the States was 4-5 times bigger than any other country.  Mail was passed out which is always a big high light for missionaries.  Lastly the movie Moana was shown.  Fun movie and day of activities.

It was getting late and the President was anxious to get the Missionaries out the door and on their way home via cars or public transportation.  I was disappointed that the Mission song was not going to be sung.  Then I saw Sister Checketts talking to the President.  Guess what?  We sang the mission song and the President and his wife both recorded it.  I can not tell you how powerful this song is.  And when you add those beautiful Polynesian voices that harmonious so magically....well it brings one to tears!  It reminds me why we are serving and what our purpose is.  It makes all the difficult things that happen day in and day out  i.e. broken AC's worth the struggles.  Oh how I love these missionaries, these faithful Senior missionaries and this work.  This is time well spent.

Sydney Temple decorations 2017

Now for a story that I got permission from the President to relate.  President Checketts continually stresses and encourages each of us to have the spirit with us at all times.  He also sets an amazing example.  When new missionaries arrive to the mission he does not assign them to their areas until he has a chance to visit with them and feel directed by the spirit where to place them and with whom.  President Checketts knew we were getting a young man to the mission who has a heart problem and has a pacemaker.  This would cause any President concern because they never want anything bad to happen to one of their missionaries under their care.  I don't know how worried the President was, but  our mission nurse was quite concerned and doing background research so she would be up to speed on his condition.  President Checketts decided to put Elder Smith who has the heart condition with Elder Jones (names have been changed to protect the parties).  After visiting awhile with Elder Smith, who I can tell you is delightful, charming, and oh so faithful young man, President felt inspired to put him with a 2 month new missionary, Elder Jones.  When President Checketts told Elder Jones what the background was on Elder Smith, Elder Jones was not worried or put off in the least.  As an after thought Elder Jones mentioned to President Checketts that he had been a pre-med student before coming out on his mission and wants to someday be cardio thoracic surgeon.  Now this missionary wasn't going to perform any surgery, but he wasn't going to be afraid to help his new companion in any way he could.  Coincidence?  
I think not.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Say YES!

Our Ward has about 50-70 people on a good Sunday.  But they are amazing people, striving to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Good people that even though many are elderly they still contribute to the ward in whatever way they can.  An example is our ward chorister.  This 94 year old Sister just spent months in the hospital and home recovering from Spinal Meningitis.  But as soon as she could she was back leading us in our Sunday Hymns.   We are so impressed with these valiant members.

SAY  Y E S !
This past weekend we enjoyed Stake Conference.  Saturday evening is met in a small Chapel and we fill up about ¾ of the Chapel and overflow area.  It is always so surprising to me when we walk in and see so many of our young missionaries already there.  This Saturday evening I was particularly impressed with how many of the young missionaries participated in the evening program.  Sister Walker conducted the music.  At the last minute they needed someone to conduct.  Someone suggested Sister Walker.  She did not have experience doing this but she said “Yes”.  Then Sister Walker and Elder Monterio sang a duet.  You could tell Elder Monterio was nervous, as he never looked up or smiled.  But he had an amazing voice.  They both agreed to do this performance when asked a few weeks earlier, they said “Yes”.  Later when Sister Checketts was leading a discussion from the pupit she asked for class participation and our young Missionaries were popping up their hands.  Twice she asked missionaries to read something up on the screen above the pulpit.  When she called on Elder Ashton, he said he forgot his classes but he stood up, button his suit coat and walked to the front where he could see better and read with a strong and powerful voice the paragraph.  He said “Yes” in his actions.  I think some 18 year olds would have hesitated or read in a timid voice.  The missionaries throughout the world are being shaped and moulded into our future church leaders. So amazing to watch and see it happen in our missionaries lives here in Sydney.

            Later that evening I told Sister Checketts how proud of these young people I was and she said she feels that way all the time.  I am surprised at how I feel so close to these young missionaries.  I guess working in the office and daily speaking to a number of these young people causes you to grow fond and even love each of them.  Our wonderful Sister missionaries always rush up to me when they see me and give me great big hugs.  It feels good to feel this love from them, although some of the Polynesians don’t realize how strong they are and how old I am getting (sob) and they about crush every bone in my body.  But I love getting their hugs too much to ever shy away from receiving this sign of love.

            I am preparing to give a talk in our ward at the end of the November.  My assigned topic is Elder Bednar’s conference talk “Quick to Observe”.  I have been doing a lot of observing and praying for guidance on this topic.  Elder Bednar talks about different types of Spiritual Gifts that we may not observe as a gift.  Such as, listening, asking, hearing the still small voice, being able to weep, avoiding conflict and on and on.  So, with my desire to observe at a more heightened level, I noticed something special about Sister Checketts, our Presidents good wife. 
She has a real gift at pronouncing missionary’s names, especially NEW missionary’s names perfectly on her first attempt. This might not sound like anything special to someone not here, so let me give you an example of some of our more challenging names and this is just a few.  There are dozens of names that I still struggle with.  Okay for Polynesian names how would you say Faasootauloa, Leaaemanu Tuimaseve, Taerea, Tahere, Taurere (last 3 names all pronunciated the same).  Asian names Ng (hint keep your lips closed), Tseng (first 2 letters with your lips closed) no it is not Zing, and Saengkabkeo.  A couple of random names from Australia and New Zealand, Riquelme, Ngatuvai and last but not least Venetsanakos.  This is just a handful of names that have me tongue tied whenever I see these missionaries.  Not Sister Checketts, she can pronounce them all… and even put a Polynesian accent, Asian Accent, Greek or Hispanic accent on these names.  I commented to Sister Checketts how well she does with these names and she admitted that she has been blessed with the ability to not struggle with the names of the missionaries and speak their names clearly and recognizably.  What a gift.  I think I will have to use that example in my talk. 

The other day after reading some church history I started thinking about how difficult it must have been for Joseph Smith Jr. to organize, spiritually lead and teach the many new and challenging members coming into the church.  I thought about today and how we often need to do new and challenging things in our personal lives.  Or when church leaders need to organize a new program or reinvent a program.  As I was pondering how difficult life can be, I thought to myself, why can’t Heavenly Father just tell us what he wants, when he wants it and how he wants it done?  I mean we get a lot of direction from our leaders why don’t we have answers to all our problems and needs?  That seemed reasonable to me.
The next day when we were having our scripture reading this verse jumped out at me. D&C 58:26 “For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant, wherefore he receiveth no reward.”  Well then, I had my question answered quite clearly.  Amazing how that works.

            As I have mentioned before, our offices sit across the parking lot of the Sydney Temple.  It is really exciting walking to work these days.  Watching the hustle and bustle of the many electricians, grounds people and workers getting the grounds ready for the Christmas Season.  They have trenched all over the oversized lawn, running new power lines to massive trees to be wired with Christmas lights.  It will be a small version of Temple Square here.  They say we will have 1000’s of visitors during the holidays.  The junior missionaries will give the tours and answer the questions.  The senior missionaries will be support and supervise all the action.  It will be long days and nights during the holidays, but what better way to spend Christ’s birthday?  Wouldn’t you agree?

Monday, November 6, 2017

Royal Botanical Gardens - November

Last Saturday was a rainy cooler day here in Sydney.  Monty and I decided to take a P-day and go to the Royal Botanical Gardens downtown Sydney.  It was wonderful.  No crowds.  We found street parking at $8 an hour.   A moderate rain.  We had umbrellas. It was just so pleasant to be out and seeing nature and all its beauty.  We stayed about an hour.  I am just coming off being sick for 3 weeks so my energy isn't all the way back to full speed.  We then drove downtown and went to a Malaysian restaurant that I had read good reports on AND it was a moderate price. The food was delicious and a little spicy, but we both enjoyed it.  I can't tell you how expensive things are here.  Houses start at a Million $$.  That is for dumps.  Nicer ones are 4-6 million.  Restaurants serve everything a la carte and usually around the $20-30 range.  One restaurant I was reading about was $40 appetizers and $60-70 for main course.  I find I like to eat home and save the money.  Of course there are food courts, but that gets old after awhile. 

It has been nice to get a weeks worth of rain as it is finally greening up the lawns and trees.  It does seem many places don't use sprinklers, they just take what mother nature gives them.  The lawns around here have been turning brown and not very pretty.  The Church Service Center has sent out electricians to run more power to the distant trees on the campus so they can light more trees this Christmas.  President Checketts was briefing us on the upcoming December schedule and our responsibilities hosting thousands of people to the Temple grounds during the holidays.  It sure is going to be different to have Christmas taking place during the heat of summer.

The trees in these pictures are the much beloved Jacaranda trees.  They are all over Sydney, and just beautiful.  I love having this color for a few weeks.  

I don't have much to report due to being under the weather.  However, I must say so many senior missionaries sure came to my rescue.  Missionaries picked up my work load while I was out of the office.  They were probably glad I stayed away so they didn't get sick.  However the Junior missionaries have this Flu passing from one to another throughout the mission.  Sister Bott brought me the best tasting vegetarian soup twice.  Monty took really good care of me, making multiple trips to the store for items I needed.  Sister Merrill recognized I was depleted on electrolights and bought me some replacements.  Boy did they help.  I was worried Monty would get sick as well, but he didn't.  I will be really happy if I never have the flu again.  That was miserable. Another challenge that I made it through.  

Sunday, October 8, 2017

We have had the opportunity to attend and help at our 3 different Special Training Conferences.  Elder Ellison and I gave driving tests and consulted on Flat Inspections.  I enjoyed the driving tests as most of the young Elders I tested were very competent.  There was one Elder from Texas that kept hugging the left side of the road.  I pointed out 5-6 times he was too close to the left side.  He would politely say "Yes Ma'am", momentarily center the car then be on the left gutter again.  He also drove with one hand and faster than I thought necessary in a neighborhood.  But he wasn't listening.  Sure enough I could see what was coming.  As he sped along zipping up on a round-about he hit the left curb and gave the car a big jolt.  I looked at him and once again told him to keep his eye on the white line out his right window and to stay closer to it than he had been doing.  This is a very unnatural feeling for us American drivers, but I found it to be helpful in my driving in Australia.  Maybe I will have a new career when I get home as a driving instructor?  "NOT".

October 5, 6 2017
President Checketts comments:
The Gospel has a plan, it is called “The Plan of Salvation”.  Learn it.  Gain a testimony of it if you don’t have one already.
We can learn how to live life by following Jesus Christ.
The Holy Ghost can comfort you, he can tell you what to do.
Your Mission is your MTC for LIFE.
The Church is not a Sunday “thing”.  The Church is what we are every Day.  Live the Example.
Forever is comprised of “NOWS”.  The Past is just that…the past.  The Future never comes.  It is just “NOW”.

LDS Charities:  Elder McSweeney
The McSweeneys are a Senior couple on a Family History mission in ASNM. For the past 6 years Elder McSweeney goes on 3 week Missions, several times a year, with his single daughter who is Nurse Practitioner at an Ob/Gyn practice in Provo Utah.  Elder McSweeney makes contact with the different governments in selected countries and arranges for LDS Charities to go in and educate the medical Professionals.  So far 60 locations have been identified as countries that need assistance.  46 of these countries have been cleared to move forward.  32 have been completed.  They need to have at least 100 people in attendance in order to make it cost efficient.
The LDS Charities helps countries with Neonatal problems.  Such as helping babies that aren’t breathing when they are first born.  They teach resuscitation to nurses and doctors that don’t have current information.  When a mother and child have problems during or after delivery the policy is to help the mother first.  They will lay the baby on the floor, because there aren’t little beds for newborns. Elder McSweeney showed pictures of 5-6 babies sharing 1 bed in the hospital.   The policy is that it is more important to save the mother who typically has little children at home that need care.  The government can’t help orphans so they try and save the mother first, thereby loosing babies unnecessarily. 
When a baby is born and having trouble breathing, quite often it is because their airway is blocked.  With a simple device called the “Penguin” they can clear the airway, get the debris out of the air passage and the baby immediately starts breathing again.  This simple fact and device are not had in most 3rd world countries.  Many babies are lost due to a problem that is so easy to resolve.
Physicians with language skills are desperately needed.  All the Portuguese medical literature has been translated by Elder and Sister McSweeney’s daughter who served a mission in Portugal.  Angola Africa is a large country where they speak Portuguese.   
On one of the trips Elder McSweeney went on with his daughter, before serving a full time mission with his wife, was to Mozambique Africa.  It was NOT well attended or accepted that they needed help with their medical care.  Elder McSweeney felt that they would not be able to return because they had only about 30 people attending.  Just as they were getting ready to leave, a late arriving nurse walked in and saw Sister McSweeney (daughter).  This nurse had been trained earlier by Sister McSweeney in another country.  The nurse was so excited to see her, ran up and gave her a big hug, then asked if the LDS Team could come to her village/city where she had 120+ medical professionals that would willingly take the training.  This same scenario repeated again with another nurse only she said her village would have 150+ people to take the training.   They have gone back to Mozambique for the past 3 years
The point being made:  The Lord has his hand in our lives but especially in HIS work.  

We are commanded to “Clothe the naked, relieve the sick, feed the hungry”.  We can ALL do our part.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Australian Flag and Moroni

Sydney Temple and Australian Flag
Sydney Temple and Australian Flag.

When I glance out my office window this is my view.  How lucky am I?  For a second I think something is off because I am not seeing the American Flag.  Then I remember I am in Australia.  Every time I look at Moroni at the top of the steeple I am overwhelmed with gratitude for what he and other men of the scriptures did for each of us.  Keeping valuable records so that each of us would be able to read and learn from history.  To learn from the past and hopefully not make similar mistakes.  Sometimes I feel as a society we are not remembering what is important and how to live life so we can return to our Heavenly Father.

I don't know why it is so challenging to make Blog entries.  Sometimes I think I don't have anything important to record.  Sister Jenkins keeps a small notebook and jots down things that happen on a daily bases.  Then at the end of the week she makes her entries.  I need to start doing this.  Here is my excuse.  I am constantly tired.  I go home between 5-6, which is an improvement from a couple of months ago.  When I get home I make dinner, maybe do a load of wash and fall into bed between 8-9.  Then I repeat this every day.

Spring is here.  Flowers are blooming every where.  Once again it is hard to wrap my brain around spring/summer about to start when, my head tells me we should be moving into fall.  But flowers don't lie.  I think I am going to attempt growing some azaleas when I get home they are so pretty here.  It is getting very warm, actually hot.  Today was 90 degrees.  Tomorrow is scheduled to be in the 60's.  Go figure.  I am really nervous about the heat here.  I hope I can survive it!

We had several sad things happen in our mission last month.  We had 2 missionaries go home early.  Many tried to work with these 2 sisters but it just didn't work out.  Another Sister had a tragedy happen to her family.  Her Mother and Father were killed in a small air plane crash outside of the Ogden Airport.  It was really hard on everyone to see this valiant sister go through such an unimaginable ordeal.  This missionary was the oldest sibling of 4 and she needed to go home and take care of family matters.  She was an excellent missionary, and had served for a little over a year.  She was honorably released.  She had a younger brother just starting a mission in Florida, he too came home, but returned shortly after the funeral.  A really important lesson learned;  Do not take life for granted.  Treat everyone like it might be your last day with them.
Be kind, be a good example, serve others.

We had a wonderful time with Nathan, Sharlyn and children.  It was something I had been looking forward too since I arrived in Australia.  Once again Nathan did a great job researching activities that we could all participate in and enjoy.  The hard part was saying goodbye.  I have always known how important family is.  However, saying goodbye to them made me realize how much I want to be with ALL my family in the Eternities.  So grateful for the Gospel and it's teachings.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Arrival of Grandchild #10

    Today we were going to go into the City and have Elder and Sister Lems take us out to Watson Bay.  A beautiful beach area I am told, with the best fish and chips in Sydney.

    At 5 a.m. our daughter, Cambria called to say she was admitted to the hospital and getting close to delivering their 3rd child.  Monty and I were both very excited for this new ones arrival.  No one knew what the sex of this child was, not even the parents.  Since we all knew the sex of #1 and #2 child, Cambria and Josh decided to not find out and have a surprise birth.  How excited we all were to find out who would be joining our family.  We hurried, got ready for the day and rushed down to the office to hook up to Facetime.
   I was concerned about missing the birth of this grandchild.  I have been to most of our grandchildren's arrival into the world and I had been feeling sad that I would miss this birth.  Well, this actually turned out to be a pretty amazing experience.  Here we are halfway around the world in Sydney Australia, connected to Facetime with perfect visual and audio.  It was so wonderful that Josh and Cambria are so willing to share this special experience with us.  It was also very interesting to hear the doctor tell Cambria  to "push" and watch this strong woman push as hard as she could,  then, stop, turn, look at the phone, smile at us, and casually pick up where we had left off on our earlier conversation.  I think it was only 3 or 4 pushes before the baby was born.  They had one of the nurses video record Josh, Cambria and Lynlee as they brought the baby out and lay the child on Mommy's tummy and announce, It's a BOY!".  I think we were all expecting a girl but oh so happy to have another precious little boy.  We were able to see him as soon as he was cleaned up and once again another Penrod with lots and lots of dark hair.  Mr. Nameless weighted 7 lbs 11 oz and 19 inches long.

   How lucky are we to live in a world with modern technology that allows us to be part of this special experience when we are so far away?  When I asked Josh how he felt about having a new baby in the house he pointed out this is child number 3 and he is in his 3rd year of medical should be a perfect baby.

    I am always so impressed with Josh and Cambria, they make a good team.  They are doing an outstanding job balancing the heavy demands of medical school, parenting, and spiritual strength.  I love this little family.  So grateful to Heavenly Father with blessing us with each of our wonderful and gifted children and their spouses.  I am also, excited to be a grandmother to 10 of our Heavenly Fathers special little spirits.  They touch my heart each day and make me happy to be called Grandma.


    I have mentioned in earlier blogs about a wonderful Senior couple that were in our District at the MTC.  The Jenkins are the Self Reliance Missionaries for our mission.  They work very hard and travel many kilometres to present the church's Self Reliance Program to interested parties.  They seem to be at one end of New South Wales or the other end.  Along with the many miles or "K's" they travel they see some pretty amazing sites and Sister Jenkins is a good photographer as well.
    Since Elder Ellison and I stay put in the office, I like to borrow some other missionaries travelling photographs.  Isn't this sunset just stunning?  I love looking at it.

 Another interesting picture and thought from Sister Jenkins follows below.

We stopped to take a picture. After I had taken the picture I realized the sun was almost ready to give its golden glow that comes just before dusk. So, I waited a few moments for that glow and then took a second picture. 
After I saw what I had taken I realized that there was an object lesson in the contrasting pictures. 

The first one, although I like it a lot, is in contrast to the second photo which is bathed in light. I realize that our lives are like that. We can live our lives doing things  "our own way" or we can live our lives doing as the Savior has asked and be bathed in His light.

It is my hope and prayer that any of you reading this will desire to know the way to return to our Father in Heaven with your families. I  just cannot imagine Eternity without my family!

I feel like Sister Jenkins.  
As we have been anxiously awaiting part of our family to come visit us in Australia, my excitement to see them is beyond measure.  

How great will our Joy be when ALL our family will be reunited together again?