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, December 19, 2016

I have  been taking more pictures of the things we have been doing so there are a lot to post and it is hard to get them organized chronologically - mainly because I do not want to take the time to figure out what I am doing.  I do not really think this blog is user friendly.  For that reason, I am just putting the pictures on in random order and I will explain what the pictures are from.
 At the end of November we held Zone Conferences in three cities.  This was the first.  It was in Cranberry and the Relief Society sisters went above and beyond in decorating and feeding us a very special lunch.  It was wonderful.  We are lucky that we get to attend in all three areas so we were well fed that week.  At each conference, there were lots of musical presentations of Christmas music.  It added so much to the spirit that was there.  The training focused on the Light the World initiative for the Christmas Season and it was just such spiritual lift for all in attendance.
 The next week we had 6 new Sisters come in along with 4 Elders and 1 Sister who are waiting for Visas to come in so they can serve in South America.  We do not know how long they will be here.  Could be a few weeks or a few months.  On Dec. 6th we had orientation for these new missionaries.  This picture shows them with their trainers.  This is also transfer day and so after the training is done there is a massive shuffle of missionaries who are going to new areas.  Half of our mission meets here after the training to make the changes. 
 In our Young Single Adult Ward we have a lot of very talented people.  There are several who are music majors, in the theater arts or just plain like to perform.  One Saturday afternoon, we attended the Junior Recital of one of the young ladies.  I never even knew Maddie could sing. She did a fantastic job.  In the evening another young man, James Newton, was performing with a group called the PalPITTations,  The members of this group are all medical students.  They had volunteered to do this performance as a fund raiser for some clinics in Pittsburgh.  I felt like I was sitting in a Pitch Perfect competition.  They are all acapella.  A few of the numbers were VERY good and a few not so good but it was a fun evening.
 Since Maddie performed in the afternoon and James was in the evening, we decided to go to the Phipps Conservatory in between performances.  I had gone there with Margo during Christmas many years ago and I remembered how fantastic it was.  They go all out decorating for the season.  I took so many pictures but here is just one to give you an idea of how pretty things were.
 Last weekend we headed for Ohio.  We went to lots of fabric stores, some cute general stores and a wonderful Christmas store in Berlin and Millersburg.  This is in Amish country.  While I was in one of the fabric stores Wayne decided to sit outside on the porch even though it was freezing cold.  While waiting there an Amish man drove up in his buggy.  When he was tying up the horse he started talking to Wayne.  He told him that most of the Amish in the area no longer farm but work in some of the manufacturing plants.  He lives on acreage but he only has a few animals and just does a small garden.  When he left Wayne took a picture of his buggy driving away.  I was glad he got a shot like this because I had read that they do not like having their pictures taking so if you want a picture of their buggies you should do it from behind where it does not show the people. 
As we drove through the area, we were often driving through farmland along small country roads.  As we passed one farm we saw all these little structures that looked like oversized dog houses.  Each one had a calf in front of them.  I guess it is a way of protecting the young calves in the winter weather.  It just looked kind of funny.
 This was the real reason that we had gone to Ohio.  This is Jasper Li.  He is the cousin of our good friend Robin.  Robin was assigned to help us when we arrived in Jinan, China.  We ended up meeting most of his family.  Towards the end of our year there, Stan Pace and Wayne wanted to go to Yellow Mountain.  Robin offered to go with them and help with the arrangements.  Much easier if you have someone who speaks the language.  Jasper went with them.  We had also met Jaspers parents one night when they invited us over to make dumplings.  We knew Jasper was wanting to go to school in the United States and so we were really excited when we heard he was going to Dennison University in Ohio.  We had been wanting to visit him ever since we arrived in Pennsylvania.  We were able to meet him for dinner and then he took us on a little tour of his campus.  Dennison is in Granville, Ohio.  It is like stepping back in time.  It is just a quiet little University town.  The school is spread out over a hilly area and it is just a quaint area.  Jasper seems to like it there and is doing well.  We had not seen him for 2 years and so he seemed a little more confident and grown up.  It was just great seeing him.
We had booked a hotel room near Dennison and did not plan on coming home until Sunday.  We checked into our room and checked the weather report.  It did not look good.  It was supposed to start snowing at midnight both in Ohio and Pittsburgh.  After only 30 minutes in the hotel we decided we would not chance it and we headed home.  We made it back by 11pm with no snow.  In the morning this is what we woke up to.  We carefully drove into church and hoped it would not be any worse when church was over.  The weather held and the Department of Transportation does a wonderful job of salting the roads here.  Great for driving but not so good on the cars.
 Here is a bit of a contrast.  As we freeze we can be reminded of how warm it is in Guam. 

 When we go down to the theater area, we like to walk over to Market Square where they have the Christmas Market set up.  I enjoy looking in Kathe Wolfharts store at all the German nativities, nutcrackers and pyramids.  Just makes me want to go to Germany again.
 And last week we went to see Mannheim Steamroller.  That performance was on a night when a storm came in. 
 This was what it looked like when we left work before the Mannheim concert.  It was pretty snowy but we road the T into town and it was fine.
 On Thursday mornings we drive into Pittsburgh to attend District Meeting.  Pretty much every week we have seen Uber cars that are the self driving kind.  Pittsburgh is a test area for the driverless cars.  Of course there is an emergency driver in it and there is an engineer in there too to gather data, etc.  I am pretty sure that that is a modern technology that I am not going to take advantage of for a very long time.  It scares the heck out of me to even think of it.

And that brings us up to today  We went to bed last night having heard that there was going to be an ice storm and to expect icy roads today.  Wayne woke early and was looking at his phone where he saw an alert for the icy conditions and he also saw something about flooding.  He did not think much of it until we got a call from our Fleet Coordinator saying the police had called and told him the creek behind the Mission Office had flooded and our vehicles we store there were under water.  We rushed to the office and were met with quite a sight. 
This is what you see from the road above our parking lot.
This is standing below the steps into our office.  
There were several police cars with lots of officers there watching the scene.  They said that one of the cars lights had been blinking off and on and then just quit.  We assume the computer on that one is fried.  They advised us that the current was rushing pretty strong and they figured there was mud on the bottom that would make it pretty slick to try to wade over to the vehicles.  They were concerned that someone would slip and fall into the water and risk hypothermia.  The fire department would not even risk trying to get them out. The pickup on the left is brand new.  We had just picked it up on Friday.  The van next to it is a 12 passenger one used to pick up the new missionaries when they arrive.  Hopefully it is high enough that it is not too damaged.  The rest of the cars were to be sold.  Thank goodness that 4 cars had been picked up by a dealer who bought them yesterday.  We went back after church and several of our Elders had pulled the truck out of the water.  The water had been high enough that it flooded the inside but the truck started and seemed to run okay.  They pulled two other vehicles up to drier land but then they were so wet and cold they had to stop.  

Monday, December 12, 2016

Catch Up

I have to say, I am so impressed with my friend the Paces who are serving in the Mission Office in Ghana.  They post on their blog every Sunday.  I aspire to do that but I forget to take pictures and find that there really isn't a whole lot for me to write about.  I have been saving up for weeks and these are a few of the activities we have participated in over the last three weeks.
The Young Single Adults Ward that we have been assigned to likes to have activities.  Once a month we have a game night.  People bring all kinds of games.  Everyone goes for the game that they want to play and we have lots of snacks.  I have discovered Bannanagrams!

We also have Linger Longer after church several times a month.  There is always a theme.  The last one was just before Thanksgiving so of course it was a Thanksgiving theme. 
Kiery, Rebecca and Alec.
 The Relief Society had had a pie baking night a few weeks ago.  Attendance was sad.  Only three girls came but they made lots of yummy pies and so we got to enjoy them at Linger Longer on Sunday.
Elder and Sister Stevenson

 On November 13 we had the great blessing to have an ALL Mission Conference with Elders Halstrom and Stevenson.  All 185 missionaries traveled to Altoona.  We had some wonderful instruction from servants of the Lord and all who attended were blessed for the time we had there.  The next day, we had a special Stake Conference and Elder Stevenson spoke there.  We had met the Stevensons when we were in Guam and it was good to be able to attend these meetings and hear him again.  His wife spoke in the Stake Conference.  They have a son attending Carnegie Mellon University here in Pittsburgh and so Elder Stevenson asked his daughter -in-law to speak in Conference.
This is our entire group of missionaries in the PA Pennsylvania Mission.

Elder Haroldsen is our Fleet Coordinator and works in the office with us. He really enjoys photography and takes all the Zone Conference pictures and any others he can. This was when he was taking the picture at the All Mission Conference.  He does a really good job of photo shopping.  If you go back to the group pic you will find he added himself on the right hand side.

We got to drive this new Suburu to the conference to switch out for a car we are now selling.  Wayne really liked the cruise control.

This is Elder Gull.  He was assigned to produce the Mission Video for 2016.  For the entire month of November he came to the office a few times a week and worked on it the entire day.  The finished product was presented at our December Zone Conferences.
This is Sister Casler.  She is the Mission Secretary and works in the office also.  On this day, she was working on gift bags that were given to all the missionaries at the Zone Conference.
I had been working on these all week to go in the bags Sister Casler made.  This is the Mission Cookbook.  Next time I get an idea I really need to think through how much work it will involve.  I also bought myself a binding machine so I could make them.  One of the Elders mothers had also made a PPM Christmas ornament that was really cute and that went in the bag. Sister Johnson had mission recommend holders, a picture of Christ, a Christmas card from the First Presidency and another from the Johnsons.  They turned out really nice but of course I did not get a picture of the finished product.

I did take a picture of a finished product I had been working on.  This was my fall wreath.  It is a stitch and fold project and I now have a Christmas one hanging on the door.  The fall one is now on my table with a flower in the center as my centerpiece. 

We went into the downtown area of Pittsburgh and enjoyed the lights and a Christmas Market. 
One of the favorite vendors was a Kathe Wolfhart store.  We had been to her store in Rothenburg Germany and it is amazing.  I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of merchandise in this little temporary shop in the middle of Pittsburgh

They also have a beautiful, big tree in the middle of a big ice skating rink they set up.  Not many people on this night but we went back a week later and it was very full.

Bad pic but we returned to the Benedem Theater to see Christmas Story the Musical.  It was very good but as you can tell, we were way up in the balcony. 
The theater is very old.  It has been restored but much of the d├ęcor is original.
For Thanksgiving, the Ader Family, the Clarke's and the Chritensen's cooked dinner for all those in the YSA Ward who had not gone home.  We had about 17 show up.  They played games before dinner and then we ate.  Brother Ader had cooked two turkeys and then he told everyone to take leftovers home in the Styrofoam trays that he had brought.

Elder Clarke really enjoyed his meal.

I have a lot more that I could post now but this is getting way too long so I will save it for another day.  I have been taking a lot of pictures or at least I have been trying to.

As you can see, we do keep active and we have fun here and there.  We have been seeing a lot of Pennsylvania and we love it here.  But the thing we enjoy most is working with the missionaries and members here.  We love the work we are doing and try to make ourselves available to help in any way we can.  We miss family but know this is where we are supposed to be at this time. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Because I neglect to take pictures and have not had a lot of these before now, I am agoing to go back and post some pictures from past happenings. 

A little hard to see but this was taken when Elders Perkins and Meurs met with our missionaries in Sept.  We had some wonderful training on Friday and then the Stake that we attend had the pleasure of having Elder Perkins speak Saturday and Sunday.

At the end of September we had Zone Conferences. These are held in 3 different locations.  The first was in Greentree and this was our group there. 

 The next day we met with another group in Cranberry.  The third day we met with the rest of the missionaries in State College.  Greentree and Cranberry are within a half hour of where we are and so we just go for the day.  State College is quite a drive so we left from the Cranberry Zone Conference and headed for State College.  As always, it was a beautiful drive. 

This is Sister Christensen.  Her husband is the Mental Health person for 23 missions in the North East US.  If the rest of the missions are having as much trouble with anxiety issues as we have had then he is kept very busy.  Sister Christensen acts as his secretary.  She also does the luncheons when we have new missionary training.

In between new missionaries arriving, orientations and Zone Conferences, we work in the office 5 days a week.  Some days we are very busy and do not leave until well after 5pm. Other days, we run out of things to do by 2:30 and we take off.  On those days we entertain ourselves by shopping or going to a movie.

This is our latest group of new missionaries learning the nitty gritty of missionary life - medical, finances and housing issues. We had 20 new Elders and Sisters arrive on Oct. 23.

Elder Clarke giving his instructions on housing and referrals. We have a little over 80 apartments that we oversee.  We have found that we have some really nice landlords that we deal with.  We are trying to train our missionaries to contact those landlords when they have problems.  One week we had three separate issues of water leaking in an apartment.  One of those was an apartment of Sisters who stayed up most of the night dumping a bucket and putting it back again in their closet because water was dripping.  They waited until the next morning to call Elder Clarke.  He contacted the apartment but instructed the Sisters to call the landlord immediately next time - day or night.

On Friday, Nov. 4th, I had to do the lunch for the Friday Forum at Institute  It was a good thing that I had planned an easy meal.  We had a few issues in the Mission and Wayne ended up having to drive one missionary up to Warren and bring another one back to catch a flight home.  I ended up having to drive myself into Pittsburgh and do the luncheon.  The speaker was a retired professor from BYU.  He spoke about a non-profit that he organized in a class he taught.  They go into South American countries and work with the people in providing small business loans and training.

Again I have no pictures but that night we had a Senior Missionary game night.  All of the seniors came to the Mission Home and we had a yummy soup and salad dinner.  We then played Three Degrees of Glory (Bunco). Most everyone had a good time.  I felt bad for the husband of our Church Service Missionary though.  He does not like to play games and you could tell it.   Two of the couples who came from across the mission stayed the night at the Mission Home and the next morning we all met at the National Aviary.  This was a thoroughly delightful experience.  There were so many different birds.  All sizes - from canary to condor, and colors - plain black to a rainbow parrot. 

 Sister Samuelson just had to compare her height to that of the Flamingos.  She is a bit short.
Cute little Kukaburra.

 Our Senior Gang: Elder Haroldsen, President Johnson, me, Sister Johnson, Wayne, Sister Caanan, Elder Caanan, Elder Samuelson, Sister Samuelson, Elder Thompson, Sister Thompson, Sister Casler, Elder Christensen and Sister Christensen.

One of our little oddities.  Elder Kotter is from cowboy country and I don't think that he is used to being without his hat.   Since we are close to Amish country, I guess he thinks it is okay to wear one of their hats.   We discovered that Elder Kotter has a PVC steer that he practices roping on P day.  Sister Johnson was telling us about how skilled he is with the bull whip.

I thought I would close this post with a picture that my niece had taken of my parents.  95 and 96 years old and still going strong.  They have always been an example to family and friends.  When you talk about enduring to the end, I think of them.  My Dad always wanted to serve a mission and that did not happen so in a way I serve my mission in honor of him.