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?

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Mail Dilemma and Obedience

2 Aug 2017

Lessons to be Learned

The time was coming for outgoing missionaries to be heading home after 2 successful years of service in Australia.  Most missionaries had learned many valuable skills and lessons that would help them throughout their lives.  However there are some that still struggled with being obedient.

About a month before departing missionaries leave, we will give them instructions on how many suitcase and weight they can take home with them.  The missionaries returning to Islands or Countries with small airports are only allowed 1 checked on suitcase weighing 23 Kilo (approx 46 lbs), a carry on suit case no more than 7 Kilo and a personal item.  The Church will pay to mail 1 20K box with specific dimensions to the individual's home.  Several missionaries came into me early to get the appropriate size box.  The really organized missionaries returned a week or two before departing to fill in the proper forms and have it shipped early so they would receive the box by the time they got home.  One Elder we will call Elder K was going home to Cambodia.  I gave him the right size box and told him to be sure and not go over the allotted 20 Kilos.  A couple of days later he texted me and said he couldn't get everything in the box I gave him and could he ship 2 boxes home that totalled the 20 Kilos?  I tried calling him but he did not answer so I had to leave a voice message that 2 boxes could not be shipped because there was a charge per box.  I never heard back from him.

The day of departure came and Elder K showed up without a box.  I asked him where his box was?  He said the Zone Leaders would bring it the following week.  I totd him we needed to weigh it and fill out the proper forms.  He assured me the weight was correct.  I told him if it was even a little bit over weight I would have to go through his belonging and choose what to pull out of the box to get it within appropriate limits.  Once again he assured me there would be NO problem with his box.  I had him fill in the mandatory paperwork, strongly encouraging him to be sure and fill in All information and do it correctly.  Once again the cliche  "no problem" was his response.

Yesterday the Zone Leaders brought in Elder K's box.  Immediately I could tell there was going to be a problem.  He had packed his belongings in a flimsy box that circumference was bulging.  When we took it downstairs to the mail room, it was over weight and out of limits with it's circumference.  Not only was the size and weight a problem, but he had left off his Postal Code.  Without the postal code we can not ship it.  The weight and dimensions  of his bag would cost an additional $150.  Why didn't this Elder follow instructions?  I have sent him an email and hope to hear from him soon.  But I am not holding my breath as other returned missionaries have not responded to emails I have sent regarding left behind items.  We have a Sister that left 20 lbs of Beads, shampoo, hand lotion and candy that she wanted a member to ship to her at a cost of $200.  I am pretty sure she can buy those things for less, even in the Philippines.

So here we sit with 2 large boxes of items that will probably never make it home.  Some of the Seniors hate to throw anything away.  Not me.  I just want clean work spaces.  Just not sure what a reasonable amount of time is before donating or throwing personal items away?

Monday, July 10, 2017

Compassion in Action

On our 2nd Senior outing about 2 months ago I observed something that showed great Charity and Love.

Early Saturday morning 10 Senior couples met at the office building for our monthly outing.  We drove over to the dock where we took a 1 hour Ferry ride to downtown Sydney.  We arrived at 9 a.m. excited to see the sights and  shop at the outdoor market and walked along the bay.  We could see the Opera house across from us, it was a little too far for us to walk too.  We all met up at noon at a nice restaurant where you could eat vegetarian or choose your own meat and BBQ over an open pit.  It felt really good to sit and drink cold water and relax as we had been going pretty strong for 4 hours and walking 4-5 miles (and we ARE getting older).

After a delicious meal we walked some more to the dock for our return ferry ride.  We were approximately 30 minutes early with many empty seats on the dock.  We enjoyed visiting with each other and showing each other what we had bought.  As I was listening to one of the Sisters talk I noticed the dock was filling up with people taking  ferry's to various destinations.  I noticed an older gentleman struggling to walk as he passed by our group.  He was limping, and had a pained look on his face.  He soon was out of sight as he walked all the way to the end of the dock.  Shortly I noticed him walking back toward our group.  I supposed he was looking for a seat.  Just then I noticed President Checketts get up quickly, walk over to the elderly man, point to his empty seat next to his wife, and gently usher him over to the seat.  The gentleman took the seat gratefully as we waited another 10-15 minutes for our ferry.

Now the interesting thing is President Checketts is a large man with bad knees and hips.  I know he has had one hip replacement and maybe some knee surgeries.  All the walking we did that day could not have felt good on his aching bones and muscles.  But President Checkettes noticed, maybe because he could relate to this older gentleman's difficulty in walking and  showed compassion towards this man and gave up his seat.

I don't know if anyone else in our group noticed what was taking place as there was so much laughing and talking place.  I don't know if anyone outside our group noticed the kind act.  But I noticed and I was so impressed by the gesture, I am writing about 2 months later.  What a good example President Checketts is, even when no one is paying attention.  I am sure this is something Christ would do.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Water Leak on the 27th Floor

I forgot I was going to write about a small water problem we had last month.

Driving home from doing Flat inspections up in the Central Coast Area we received a call about some Elders Flat on the 27th floor in downtown Sydney that had flooded.  Apparently one of the Elders had turned the kitchen sink on full force, then forgot about it, and left for the day to do proselyting.  When the Elders returned that evening they came in to carpet covered in water.  As I was listening to the Senior Companion explain what his Junior Companion had done, I started wondering why the drain hadn't drained out the water.  Then my mother's intuition  kicked in.  Ahhhh,  a sink full of dirty dishes would keep the sink from draining properly.  Now I don't know that is esactly what happened for a fact, but I am pretty sure something like that happened.

Without going into all the details about how NO other missionaries were available to help mop up excess water or get fans and heaters to help dry up the mess....let me just say that my GOOD HEARTED husband, after a long day of doing flat inspections drove downtown into a mass of people visiting the yearly event of "VIVID LIGHT SHOW" (see earlier June Entry) and drove into massive traffic to take equipment to expedite the clean up.  Getting home close to midnight.

I have not heard if there was leaking on lower floors, or what other damage was done to the Elders Flat.  But here is the lesson to be learned.  Don't leave dirty dishes in your sink and Definitely don't leave your faucet on all day while out doing other things.

This is just another adventure in the mission field. Yeah!

This is a picture of a church on the grounds of The Kings School.  A Private School just a couple miles up the road from us.  The campus is beautiful and I am not a very good photographer.  This building was built in the late 1800's

Monday, June 19, 2017

Gifford Nielson

20 June 2017    

At our weekly Devotional we had a special opportunity to hear from the Area Presidency in Auckland NZ.  It was a farewell to a member of the Area Presidency, Brother and Sister Gifford Nielson.  It was interesting to hear a little bit more about someone I was familiar with.  Gifford Nielson was a star quarterback for BYU when Monty and I were first married and living in Provo.  Before being called to the Quorum of the Seventy's Brother Nielson had been Mission President in the Melbourne AU mission.  Wonderful remarks were made about Brother and Sister Nielson and then they each took a few minutes to express things they had learned and grown from while serving in the Pacific Area.

Brother Nielson encouraged all of us to build our foundation upon the Rock of Christ.  This is done by doing the simple things. Reading our scriptures daily, saying personal and family prayers, and giving Service.

Brother Nielson told how when he and his wife flew to New Caledonia he asked the local Stake President if there might be a couple of families they could visit in the short time they had in the area.  The Stake President set up 2 appointments.  When the time came Brother  Nielson went into the designated home with the Stake President, introduced himself to the family and then said something like this.  "The Lord has sent me here to your home.  I do not know why I am here, but you do.  Brother______can you tell me why I am here?"  The father of the house would first say, "I don't know"?  Brother Nielson would look deep into his eyes, smile, and start nodding his head.  Shortly, the Brother would start to say something like "You are here because I need to do better.  I need to take my wife to the Temple and we need to become a forever family  We need to be reading our scriptures".  Brother Nielson would say "That is right."  Without saying anything the member would intuitively know what needed to be said and done.

Sister Nielson quoted Albert Einstein who said:  There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; or you can live as if everything is a miracle.   So with that comment I will tell you about a miracle, that happened Saturday.  

Monty and I had a very busy day.  We/I was gearing up for one of the busiest times of my job, MLC (Missionary Leadership Conference).  This is where all the Zones put their orders in for  supplies and Housing needs for all 150 missionaries.  I am feeling much more comfortable with this big responsibility than when I first arrived.  But this week coincided with our Senior FHE that Monty and I were in charge of Lesson and dessert.  Elder Ellison was also getting ready to take a rental truck up north to close out a Senior Flat and help the seniors move everything out as they were headed back home and no replacement was coming to take their spot. We needed to clean our flat as it gets NO attention during the week. We also had our YSA lesson to prepare for Sunday and a Stake YSA evening meeting.  We also had an Engagement Party to attend Saturday for the son of Glen Karaka who we have become very fond of down in the Service Center.  Saturday was a pack full day.  By 2:30 I was exhausted and needed a nap if I was going to make the Engagement Party.  I laid down thinking I needed to get up by 3:30 or 4 p.m. at the latest.  At 3:30 I sat up in bed and thought, "I can sleep for another 1/2 hour and it is so cold.  Lay back down and sleep just a little bit longer.".  But I couldn't go back to sleep for some reason.  I got up, put on my sweater and thought to myself, "I wonder what the weather is like outside?"  I went to the back door and opened it.  On the other side of our electronic gate was a tall Polynesian fellow.  He said "Is this the church Mission Home?"  I told him the office was down closer to the Temple, was there something I could help him with.  He told me his brother was serving a mission in this Australia Sydney North Mission and he had 2 packages he wanted to drop off to him.  I told him to bring them to me, as I am the person that actually gets the mail to the missionaries.  He and his wife brought 2 huge 
packages that weighed between 20-30 lbs.  I had him put them in the car so I could drive them down to the office later.

Now there is no reason I should have been awake.  I heard no noise or stirring outside my gate.  If I had not woke up this poor brother would have had no where to leave these large packages and he certainly would not have wanted to pay postage on those heavy boxes.  Now this is just a little miracle.  Well, maybe a big one for Elder Kaipuke who will be so excited to get these gifts from home.  I would say it was really a BIG Miracle for the Brother that had driven up from Melbourne to  deliver these package among other errands he had to do.  And it was faith promoting to me that Heavenly Father cares about the DETAILS of our lives, BIG or small.  He is interested in each of our lives.


Vivid Senior Activity June 2017

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

FLAT Inspections

Monday Elder Ellison and I  drove up to the Central Coast Zone to do 3 flat inspections.  For those that may not know, a flat is NOT a flat tire.  Rather a flat is an apartment, condo or some type of housing.  Flat inspections have not been done for several months as Elder Ellison and I are just coming up to speed.  Elder Ellison has involved all the Senior Couples in helping inspect flats in different areas of the mission.  That way we don't have to do 60 inspections and drive extremely long distances.

We started with the Zone leaders flat.  It looked like a small older twin home.  We pulled up about 15 minutes later than we told them we would be there, due to the fact I had Elder Ellison go back to our flat so I could pick up some cleaning gloves (per Tyler's recommendation) and cleaning supplies, just in case we would have to get involved with showing missionaries how to actually clean.

The minute we walked into Elder Riquelme (pronounced Rikaleme)  and TangiPi flat I could sense it was VERY clean.  Things were definitely older, worn and seen better days BUT it was clean, organized and well taken care of.  I was so shocked at how nice it was, I wanted to give them a big hug, but that would be breaking Mission Rules.  The study area was so impressive with maps of their Zone, the missionaries under their charge, spiritual thoughts and quotes on the walls etc.  (I even flipped the picture of the Prophet to the back side to make sure their were no inappropriate pictures like in the movie "The Best 2 Years"). They had a few weights and bars for lifting so they could get their exercise in.  The fridge and stove were all very clean albeit the fridge was quite empty due to the fact that it was P-day and they had not been out shopping.  I was so proud of these 2 Elders I gave them an A+ for a job well done.  Now on to the Sisters.

Hmmm, well the Sisters are very sweet and kind, bubbly and full of energy but not quite as responsible as the Zone Leaders.  A couple of the Sisters I think really did want to have a cleaner flat but being in a 4 missionary flat made it more challenging.  I gave them a number of things to improve on.  As we walked out to our car Sister Walker and Lam walked out with us to get some light bulbs. They forgot to bring their flat key so Sister Lam stayed holding the locking gate open.  As Elder Ellison was rummaging through the car looking for the light bulbs Sister Walker asked if they got the award for "Most Improved Flat"?  We did not know what she was talking about.  She said she was brought in last transfer and asked to help the other Sisters do a better job of cleaning and organizing.  What a hard job she had.  She could not become the "Boss" or do all the cleaning on her own.  She had to encourage and lead by example.  That is a difficult job for one so young.  She was really doing the best with the situation she moved into.  Good Job Sister.

The last Flat was another set of Elders.  We had gradually fallen farther behind in out time schedule.  They were patiently waiting for us sitting on their deck reading scriptures.  Once again, when I walked in I could tell this was a clean flat.  Lucky for these Elders this flat was new, and pristine and they were doing an excellent job keeping it that way.  Their study room once again was organized and clean.  Motivating quotes in a couple of spots.  The only problem I found was they had a Fan, heater and vacuum in a closet that were not being used.  Elder Ellison didn't want to fill up the car with more junk, but I felt we needed to bring it back in to the warehouse so we would know where things were instead of sitting in closets and no one knowing where they were.  We tested all the items to make sure we were not hauling back nonworking items.  The vacuum was broken so we told them to just throw it in the trash/rubbish.  They were hesitant to do so.  No one around here wants to throw things away.  They think they can be fixed!  BY WHO?  Elder Ellison doesn't have the time and taking them into repair shops takes money and TIME.  By the time you do this the cost is almost as much as a new vacuum.  These Elders had their 2 beds in the living room as the 2 small bedrooms would not hold the two beds.  It was interesting to see no furniture but 2 beds (neatly made) in the living area.

I am happy to report that I did NOT need my cleaning gloves or have to demonstrate how to clean a toilet.  We have 8 more flats to inspect in the next 10 days.  I hope we find all of them in as good of condition as we did these 3 flats.  It is really enjoyable getting out and putting names with faces of the missionaries.  Such outstanding young people.

Driving the hour home from Central Coast we got a phone call from an Elder living in the City on the 27th floor of a building.  He called to report a flood they had in their flat.  Another story for another time.  Stay tuned.


Here is a question for you.  NO looking up on Google.  Who knows where they speak BISLAMA?
I have had missionaries guess Middle East, India, Philippines etc.  First the story.

A couple of weeks ago I had 2 Elders come in very excited and wanted to know if I had any Books of Mormon in the Bislama language.  I actually had ordered 2 Books of Mormon in that language a couple of weeks earlier so I had 1 extra Bislama Book of Mormon.  The Elders needed 15 Books of Mormon in Bislama.  Their Ward had 15 investigators from the Island of Vanuatu come visit their Ward on Sunday.  They have been hired as field workers for some farms in the area and they came with a friend that was either a member or very close to joining the Church.  It was contagious to see how excited these missionaries were about the potential investigators.

I quickly ordered the requested supplies and they came in lightening fast, very unusual actually.  We will see how this all turns out.

  Bislama also known under its earlier name in French Bichelamar  is a creole language, one of the official languages of Vanuatu.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Opposition and the Tree May 2017

I love the Stories President Checketts sends out once a week in his weekly letter to the Missionaries.  I hope you enjoy them as well.  This is a good reminder about the purpose of Opposition.

Opposition - The Tree
The tree that never has to fight for sun or sky or air or light
That stood out in the open plain and always got its share of rain
Never became a forest king but lived and died a scrubby thing.
The man who never had to toil to work    or plow his share of soil
Who always got what ere he asked and never worked a full day’s toil?
Never became a manly   man but lived and died as he began.
Good timber does not grow with ease.
The stronger wind the stronger trees.
The greater storm the greater strength
The higher sky the greater length.
Where   thickest lies the forest growth
We find the patriarchs of both.
Who hold their councils with the stars?
Whose battered branches show the scars?
Of much of storm and much of strife
This is the common law of life.

I’m grateful for the common bond that is built for those who believe in the Living Christ. It creates a friendship that encircles the world and crosses all bounds.
I know that part of this life is intended to help us grow in strength to prepare for the opportunities of eternity. To do so we need the strength that comes from challenges and the scars of growth.
May God bless us one and all to embrace the growth with all it scratches and sores and recognize his hand in forming us into the sons and daughters that he sees us to be. In so doing it is with love that he works for our return to him.
President Checketts

3 Small Miracles May 21 2017

A few things worth mention happened this week.

After a long, busy week, Monty and I decided to go out to a nice Italian dinner recommended to us by Elder and Sister Grant.  I made early reservations so we could be home at a reasonable time and get to bed early as we were both fighting colds and very tired.  We were the first ones in the restaurant.  It was very nice.  Food was only served Ala Cart and it was a bit pricey.  I was looking forward to my Lasagna.  We were waiting for Monty's Rocket Salad to come to the table when his phone rang.  Not a good sign for a quiet dinner.  He answered and went outside to take the call.  His salad came and I began to have a few bites.  After about 15 minutes he came back in and I turned his salad over to him with 3/4 of the salad still waiting for him.

The call was from two Elders from Central Coast Zone explaining they had been driving to a dinner appointment with a member family.  Traffic stopped suddenly, they managed to stop in time, but the car behind them rear ended their car and pushed their car into the car in front.  There by making their car an "accordion".   Fortunately neither Elder was hurt, nor the driver in front or behind was injured.  The Elders believe the car will be totalled.  Miracle #1

President and Sister Checketts left Wednesday for and Area meeting held in New Zealand.  Since their VISA was only good for 2 years, they had started the filing process 6 months earlier for an extended VISA.  Their fingerprints had been lost twice and other delays had occurred during the refiling process.  Before they left for New Zealand everything was in order with their VISA's.....or so we thought.  Monty and I were to pick them up at the airport when we received a call saying they had been detained and not allowed back into Australia due to problems with their VISA's.  Well you should have seen the office hustling , the Service Center  Travel Department got hopping, and the Consulate was contacted.  After an extra night in New Zealand and early morning departure they arrived home at noon on Saturday.  Miracle #2

Sunday, before starting our 1 hour drive to our Toukley Ward, we stopped in the office to grab mail for the missionaries that meet in our building.  A quick pop in and out and be on our way.  When we came around to the front of the Mission Office/Service Center there were about 12-15 cars parked out front.  I asked Monty what was going on.  He reminded me that they were having an Area Stake President's Meeting that Sunday.  We quietly crept up the back stairs and up to our offices.  As we were gathering the mail,  President Checketts popped his head into the mail room and said "Oh Good the Ellison's are here.  I have been looking in the supply room for a particular pamphlet for our meeting downstairs.  Can you help me find it"?  The Supply room is my territory and I knew right where to look.  I got the pamphlet for the President and we were all off to our meetings within minutes.  Miracle #3

Now you might think those were all cute little coincidences.  I beg to differ.  Help was given in each  incidence.  Missionaries were protected.  Paper work was approved  when it should have been held up due to Bureaucracy.  Elder Ellison and I just happened to be in the Mission Office on a Sunday when we normally are not there so we could assist the President with something he needed for an important meeting.  AMAZING how this all works out isn't it?

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Learning to be a Missionary May 2017

  We are between crunch times and enjoying the lull before the storm.   The Assistants are able to go out into the general public and preach like the rest of the missionaries.  The Assistants were in the office getting more supplies, and I was helping them find what they needed.  I asked how they find people to teach.  They said they spend  all day at the train station or the bus stops.  I couldn't believe what I heard, "how long?" I asked.  6-8 hours a day they said.  I asked how they approached someone, Elder Bush demonstrated using the Restoration pamphlet.  I was suppose to be the stranger at the train station.  He stopped me and asked a very simple question and then launched into a very heart felt approach to the Restoration.  I couldn't believe how sincere, kind and informative his approach was.  I played a non believer and answered negatively to his questions about praying, and my knowledge of Jesus Christ.  He was so sincere that I really felt if I WAS the nonbeliever I would definitely want to know more.

I felt encouraged to give it a try the next time I was out in public.  Unfortunately my 2 attempts did not glean any interest from the 2 different people I was talking to but I felt a little more secure in my attempts.  These young missionaries are just so impressive.  They don't have to be super smart, or cool, they are just sincere and bringing knowledge to those looking for answers.  The first 3 pamphlets, The Restoration, The Plan of Salvation, and The Gospel of Jesus Christ are so informative and answer questions so simply that it makes teaching the lessons a little bit easier for the missionaries and the novice missionary.

I enjoy getting to know these missionaries and hearing their stories.  Maybe I'll have a new story the next time I make an entry.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Fence or Ambulance 10 May 2017

G'day Family and Friends,

President and Sister Checketts do a wonderful job leading and guiding our mission and Missionaries.  Sister Checketts does a monthly newsletter and President Checketts sends out a weekly letter to all the missionaries.  I really liked the following story and wanted to share it with those that may be interested.  And Remember KEEP CALM and Read the BOOK OF MORMON.

by Joseph Malius
Twas a dangerous cliff, as they freely confessed
Though to walk near its crest was so pleasant.
But over its terrible edge there had slipped,
A duke and full many a peasant.
So the people said something would have to be done
But their projects did not all tally.
Some said, "Put a fence round the edge of the cliff,"
Some, "An ambulance down in the valley."
But the cry for the ambulance carried the day,
For it spread through the neighboring city.
A fence may be useful or not, it is true
But each heart became brimful of pity,
For those who slipped over that dangerous cliff
And the dwellers in highway and alley
Gave pounds or gave pence, not to put up a fence
But an ambulance down in the valley.
"For the cliff is all right if you're careful," they said,
And if folks even slip or are dropping,
It isn't the slipping that hurts them so much,
As the shock down below when they're stopping.
So day after day, as these mishaps occurred,
Quick forth would their rescuers sally,
To pick up the victims who fell off the cliff
With their ambulance down in the valley.
Then an old sage remarked, "It's a marvel to me
That people give far more attention
To repairing results than to stopping the cause
When they'd much better aim at prevention.
"Let us stop at its source all the mischief," he cried
"Come neighbors and friends let us rally.
If the cliff we will fence, we might almost dispense
With the ambulance down in the valley."
"Oh, he's a fanatic," the others rejoined,
"Dispense with the ambulance? Never.
He'd dispense with all charities too, if he could,
No, no we'll support them forever."
"Aren't we picking up folks just as fast as they fall
And shall this man dictate to us? Shall he?
Why should people of sense stop to put up a fence
While the ambulance works down in the valley?"
But a sensible few who are practical too,
Will not bear with such nonsense much longer.
They believe that prevention is better than cure,
And their party will still be the stronger.
Encourage them then with your purse, voice and pen,
And while other philanthropists daily
They will scorn all pretense and put up a fence
On the cliff that hangs over the valley.
Better guide well the young than reclaim them when old,
For the voice of true wisdom is calling.
To rescue the fallen is good but 'tis best
To prevent other people from falling.
Better close up the source of temptation and crime,
Than deliver from dungeon and galley.
Better put a strong fence round the top of the cliff
Than an ambulance down in the valley.
Enjoy this transfer, build your fences and find the joy from being the Saviors helper as you save souls.

Monday, May 15, 2017


Someone is trying to tell me something.

Every 2 weeks we have a Seniors FHE.  Last night Elder & Sister Jenkins (we were in the same district at the MTC, they feel like family) gave the lesson.  The Jenkins have 10 children.  One family home evening they were counting the many miracles they had experienced in their marriage and family life.  Child number 9 & 10 did not know hardly any of these stories.  One of the daughters started writing each miracle on a sticky note. All the sticky notes covered the fridge.  After a year the sticky notes started falling off the fridge and Sister Jenkins thought that they need to write these miracles down in hard copy format.  Thus begun the journey of compiling a "Book of Miracles" that they now give to the grandchildren as they turn a certain age that can appreciate this family book of Miracles.  What a GREAT Idea.  They gave us 5 minutes last night to write a few thoughts of miracles that have happened to each of us while out in the mission field.  #1

My son asked how my Blog was coming.  (He thought he was being sly, but I knew what he was hinting at).  I told him I was lucky if I got 1 entry a month down.  He told me that was a weak excuse and I needed to do better.  #2

Elder Ellison and I are speaking in the Toukely Ward next Sunday.  My topic is from General Conference Oct 2016 Lest Thou Forget by Elder Rasband.  This is a great topic and I have enjoyed preparing for it. Toward the end of Elder Rasband's talk he states "Never forget, question, or ignore personal, sacred spiritual experiences.  The adversary's design is to distract us from spiritual witnesses, while the Lord's desire is to enlighten and engage us in His work.  #3

So now to my story.  Sister Barr is the Sydney Australia North and South Nurse.  Her husband passed away about 9 years ago.  Years before she attended Stake Conference and the Stake President talked about the importance of Seniors serving a mission when the time was right.  So this thought kept creeping back into her thoughts until finally she decided to go serve a mission.  I admire her for being strong enough to serve a mission by herself.  She is a strong woman.

Sister Barr works out of the Sydney North Mission office.  She arrived about 3 1/2 months before we arrived.  About 6 weeks ago she was out walking with another Senior couple when she took a spill.  She doesn't remember what or how it happened.  When she came too she knew something was seriously wrong with her shoulder.  After a few days of excruciating pain and no comfort in any position she went to the Doctors. X-rays, CT and MRI were all taken.  It was finally determined she had dislocated the shoulder, chipped pieces of bone off the socket, already had arthritis in the area and a few other details that I can't recall.  They determined not to do surgery and see if it would heal on its own.  She was in a sling for about 6 weeks.  The doctor says she needs to be careful as she will now have a tendency to dislocate the shoulder.  She is still on the mend.  You don't heal as quickly when you are in your 60's as you do in your teens and 20's . I have wondered if she is questioning why she came out on a mission.  The other day she had no intention of quitting, but finishing her mission.

Well, the other morning I was getting ready for my 5:45 a.m. walk.  I opened the front door and thought for a moment, "it is awfully dark.  There are 4 steps to go down, turn on the light."  NOPE didn't listen to the small voice in my head. Took a step, closed the door, took a step and fell down all 4 steps, grabbing at the plant to my right, cutting the palm of my hand, landing on my knees, then rolling to the side. OUCH! It took a few seconds to regain my calm, I wanted to scream, but would have woken neighbors.  Went back inside with leaves and debris in my hair, clothes and skin.  Darn. When will I learn to listen?  Fortunately, I didn't repeat Sister Barr's accident. I was bruised physically and mentally but well enough to go for the walk.  Later that day when the Assistants were in I told them what happened and Elder Lamb said "Never ignore the still small voice.  Not a good idea".  True true.

This was miracle number 4.  I need to go back and write about the others at a later time.  But I got my entry in for the day.  YEA Sister Ellison!