Called to Serve

We have loved traveling and being with family for the past two years but we felt the call to serve another mission so here we are in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania for the next year.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Flowers to Dancing

It has been a very nice, quiet week. Since we were only in the office for 1 1/2 days last week, there was almost a weeks worth of mail (lots of bills) to keep me busy.  Then I missed work on Thursday because I had a cold.  We had had a discussion in the office when Sister Casler and Wayne had their colds and so I did not dare go in and expose Elder Haroldsen.  I laid around all day and found a new series (at least to me) on Netflix which kept me occupied for at least 5 hours.  Too bad there are about 30 more episodes.  I missed District meeting but, again, did not want to expose the Elders.  I did make a ton of chocolate chip cookies to send to them though.  A day of rest did wonders as I was almost back to normal in one day.

Sister Johnson came in to brighten our office in appreciation of all we had done for Zone Conferences.  It really did make it seem like Spring was coming.  The weather had warmed up a bit.

A few days later this is what we woke up to.  We had 4-5 inches overnight.  It was so cold the next 2 days that even though there was no more snow falling it did not melt and it was white everywhere.

Friday night the Young Single Adults put on a Valentine dance that was really great.  The decorations were excellent.  These kids amaze me at how hard they work to make a good activity.
 They had a photo spot with a bucket full of props.  Alec is our wonderful Relief Society President.
The food is always over the top.  We had a chocolate fountain with lots of yummy things to dip and a ton of other great finger foods.

Saturday morning we had to meet at the office for the annual audit.  While waiting for the man who would do the audit, President Johnson was telling us about some issues that had come up as he did interviews that week.  I was checking the office email and I came across the following.  All I could think of was oh no, poor President.  Here are more problems.

          Hey President! We just wanted to bring to light an issue that we've
          recently discovered in our Zone. It happens to be between a Sister and
          an Elder. We thought they we just friends, but lately we've noticed
          that it's clearly been taken to the next level. We really don't know
          what to do and we are looking for your direction and advice. Here is
          what it's gotten too, they may need to be counseled.

          Love Elder Gneiting and Walker

This is the picture that they sent with the email. 
I am sure this was Elder Gneitings idea.  As we get to know him better I am really liking this kid. Not only is he funny and personable but he and Elder Walker are doing a great job leading our Zone.

This weekend was Stake Conference.  All the full time missionaries, which included the sisters, were asked to be in attendance at the Saturday Priesthood Leadership session.  The emphasis was on missionary work.  President Petersen presented the Stake vision for how Ward Councils could work with the Missionaries.  It is a great program and if implemented, should have some wonderful results.
That evening we had another great meeting as several individuals spoke about conversions and how members can work with the missionaries.  We were surprised when they announced that Jackson would be speaking.  This is the 3rd time I have heard him speak since he was baptized and he brings me to tears every time.  He is such an amazing young man.  All of the missionaries sang the closing song and it was so powerful.  President Johnson had told us to watch the faces of the audience as we sang but I could hardly even see my music, I was so teary myself.

Todays session had several really good talks.  One of the counselors in the Stake Presidency spoke about the new Self Reliance program which was started as a pilot program in our Stake.  They just finished up a 12 week program of small groups meeting weekly to work on Education for a Better Job, Personal Finances, Growing a Small Business and Finding a Better Job.  He gave some success stories and it sounds like this is a program that can really help those who are trying to make improvements in their lives.  
A sister spoke about serving.  One of the things she mentioned was a project that was listed on Just Serve that our Elders in downtown Pittsburgh have been working on for the past year.  It is Days for Girls.  The Elders go every Wed. to sew hygiene kits for third world countries.  Young girls miss up to two months of school each year because they do not have the necessary sanitary supplies.  These kits help them to stay in school.  The elders have learned to sew flannel pads that can be washed and reused.  We have heard stories about how impressed the organizers are with the Elders.  Good job!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

New Missionaries -  January 27th

 The Beginning of Ground Hog Day
 If you have seen the movie Ground Hog Day you will remember how every day was a repeat of the previous day.  Well our Zone Conferences had a little bit of that feel to it this time.  We headed to Northumberland for the Feb 1st meeting.  This was the first time we have met there and it was to be a trial run for future conferences.  President felt we would save missionary miles and times by meeting in a more central location.  Since we now have to meet every six weeks, staff is going to providing lunch every other time.  This was the trial run for that too.  I did a small survey to see what the missionaries would like for lunch and it was unanimous to have Hawaiian Haystacks.  A bit of an undertaking but everyone loved it. 

We had a bit of snow driving across the state to get to Northumberland.  It wasn't too bad until we had to get on I80 and got surrounded by big rigs.

                                                This was the first of our repeating days. 
 Sisters always go first.  We have such polite Elders.
 This was the group in Northumberland.  We had approximately 57.
 This is our mental health couple , Elder and Sister Christensen.  She helped me in the kitchen with the lunch and then they did a presentation in the afternoon session.
 This was the first time for presenting awards for the cleanest apartment.  It is amazing what a little competition will do.  One set of Elders and one set of Sisters in each Zone can win.  It was surprising that overall, the Elders had higher scores reported from their inspectors.  
              Willing Elders helping to clear the walkways in Brookville, our next repeating day.
 Another day but the lunch looks surprisingly the same.
The missionaries always write little thank yous to the ladies who provide lunch.  They post these all over the kitchen while they are out being sung to.
 This is the Altoona and Jamestown Zones meeting in Brookville.
 We always have a ton of supplies and mail that we haul to each Zone Conference.
 Elder and Sister Caanan with Sister Johnson.  The Caanans are on a Member and Leadership Support Mission.  He was an Institute teacher and so they teach an Institute class one night a week and they are doing an Addiction Recovery class one night a week.  They just celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary last month.
 Sister Casler helped out at the Greentree conference.  She always seems to get stuck cleaning the floor (which was filthy before we got there).  Sister Casler is our Church Service Missionary.  She works in the office with us but she will be leaving us in April. She has been working there for 2 years.

 This is the Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh West and Pittsburgh North Zones meeting at Greentree.
           Sister Wall will be leaving us March 1st and so she had a Tshirt out for everyone to sign.
These are our two Chinese missionaries.  Elder Li is from Qing Dao originally but his family now lives in Utah.  Sister Lyu is a Temple Square missionary on loan to our mission for a couple of months.  She will be leaving us Feb. 21st along with Sister Shum.      
Now why did I refer to all of this as the Ground Hog Days?  When we were in Brookville, we were just 20 miles away from Punxatawny PA.  And it was on Feb. 2nd.  That is where  Gobblers Knob is - the home of Punxatawney Phil.  After we finished with our conference, President Johnson made sure that he and the senior couples headed up there.  He was so excited to be at Gobblers Knob on Groundhog Day.  We were just glad that we went long after the other 10,000 people had gone. Elder Clarke made a joke about us experiencing the repeating Groundhog Day.  We had three days of the same meetings and the same food each day.

The rest of these pictures just show some of the activities we have been involved in over the past few weeks.  Most of our extra curricular activities are with the Young Single Adults.

Family Home Evening - We had a boat making competition.  Each team of two had 10 straws, 2 pieces of paper and some masking tape.  The competition was to see who could construct a boat that would float the longest when weight was added to it. 

                                                                Mark and Andre stratagizing.

Alec and Dan

James and Jill.  Should have gotten the award for spending the most time on meticulously designing and building tactics.  Theirs was the one that sunk the fastest.

The master builder.  Also the winner with a little help from me.
Bryan and Jackson.  

Twice a week, Monday and Friday nights, we are now conducting English class with several Spanish speaking people.  It started with us going to the home of a husband and wife who are members of the church but we now meet at the church. Last week we had a lady and her son join us who are not members.  They are from Venezuela. This week the Elders found a man and his son from Guatamala who joined us.  None of these people speak English so it has been quite interesting.  Thank goodness the Elders are with us most of the time.  The Reyes family also have 4 children who speak English and an interpret when necessary.  The other two boys do not speak any English.

 This week at FHE they did soap carving.  There were cars and hearts and Alec did a great fish.
We also went to several performances this month.  The first was a Neil Diamond tribute band that performed with the Pittsburgh Symphony.  If you closed your eyes the singer sounded just like Neil.  It was a really good performance.
The second performance was The Hunchback of Notre Dam.  Very good performance and I really enjoy being able to go to these old theaters.  They have been restored beautifully.

Well that is our first half of February.  It has been very busy and we look forward to a slow week this week.  More to come though.  We will be preparing for new missionaries coming in the end of the month, a few missionaries going home before then.  We have tickets for a few more performances and in a couple of weeks we are having an activity for the senior missionaries.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Jan 1 to Jan 17

The first half of the month was a fairly busy one filled with lots of activity outside of our office duties.

President and Sister Johnson came to our District Meeting.  This was the time for individual interviews with the President.  
Elder Clarke, Sister Clarke, Elders Richens, Holley, Hunter, Walker, Ibarra, Chaifin, President Johnson and Sister Johnson.  This was our last meeting with Elders Richens and Holley who were transferred to another area and Elder Hunter who was waiting for his Visa to come through.
We meet at the same time in the same building with another District and so between interviews Sister Caanan and I prepared lunch for all the missionaries and the Johnsons.  They always appreciate being fed.

Elder Clarke took Elder Hunter and Hatch to the airport a few days later,  Their Visas came through and they are now in their originally assigned area, which is Argentina.
The next day we took Sister Mackelprang to the airport to return to Enoch Utah, her hometown.

Elder Clarke accompanied Elders Halls and Ibarra on a teaching assignment.  They live near the incline up on Mt. Washington and so when he picked them up, he did a selfie with downtown Pittsburgh in the background.

Just thought I would throw in a picture of what I work on occasionally.  I am doing a wooden spool quilt.  All I need to do is add the borders and it will be ready to quilt on my new machine that is waiting for me back home.
Friday night game night with the Young Single Adult Ward.  I was teaching them to play Mexican Train.
You can't really tell how big this pizza is by this picture but just think about the fact that that is a 2 liter bottle sitting there.  Could not believe how big it was.
The kids had fun trying to figure out how to do this trick.  They were ready to pull out the chairs before they were in the right position.  I was sure they were going to end up on the floor.
After we finished our game of Mexican Train, the kids decided to use the dominoes in another way.
On Sunday we had a Linger Longer.  Theme for the lunch? Favorite cereals.  It was a really big hit.

Enjoying all that sugary cereal.  At least they added some fruit to make it a little healthy.

On January 16th we had 15 new missionaries arrive and 1 returning Elder who had gone home to have knee surgery.  So glad he was able to return .
We did training for the newbies the next day.  When missionaries gather you always have to have lunch for them.
On Saturday the 23rd we attended two baptisms.  The first was for Jackson, on the right, who is amazing.  He just walked in to church several months ago and has been meeting with the missionaries ever since.  He has taken his time to get to this point but what an amazing testimony he has.  His baptism has to be the most spiritual I have ever attended.  I am sure that Andre playing his violin contributed greatly to that spirit.  James , on the left, baptized Jackson.                                         
After Jackson's baptism we went to a Peruvian restaurant with the Bushmans for dinner.  Brother Bushman had forgotten his glasses and so he borrowed his wifes.  You can't see it that well but they are chartreuse on the front and white with pink polka dots on the sides.  Quite styling.

After dinner we headed back to the church for another baptism.  We are teaching English to a Mexican family and their daughter was being baptized.  The room was full of Ward members and friends.  There was a small contingency of English only people there so Elder Ibarra translated for the speakers.  I was so impressed that they had several children give the talks and Joanna's brother and sister gave the prayers.  The family served dinner after but we were so full we just headed home.

I mentioned we are teaching the Reyes family English.  We have gone for a couple of weeks now to their home.  We are trying to do 2 nights a week.  As they have been doing this they have mentioned it to others and it sounds like we may have a few more joining us.  Next week we will start teaching Monday and Friday nights at the church where we hope to pick up a few more participants.  The program we are using is called Daily Dose and is one the Church recommends. It is an interesting way of teaching but we have been having fun with it.  It is a good thing that the Elders start out with us each time though because the Reyes' speak un pocito English and we speak even less Spanish.  The interesting thing is that Bro. Reyes works in a restaurant around the corner from his home where no one speaks Spanish.  We asked if his children speak both English and Spanish.  The answer is yes but the children will tell you they do not like to speak Spanish.

As we get more and more involved with things outside of the office we are enjoying our time here more and more.  This next week will be a very busy one as we travel to 3 Zone Conferences.  I am doing the food at all 3 and so it should be an interesting time.  I will be sure to post lots of pictures next week.