Sunday, June 26, 2016

Week 16 Report

We had a pretty normal, smooth week in the mission office - nice! The commissary is finally organized and looks really good. We can finally find things in it. It will be much easier for Sister Overduyn to keep track of what we have and what needs to be ordered. The final count is 70 languages represented in our commissary. We don't use that many. I think they have accumulated over the years. The office windows will be washed inside and out on Tuesday and then the office will be ready for the arrival of our new president.

A landlord announced that he was raising the rent $400/month on one of our missionary pads. So Devon gave notice to cancel the lease and went looking for another pad. Fortunately he found one quickly. Devon has also been busy getting the new smoke/CO2 detectors installed in all 147 pads - monumental! 

We had two elders go home on an early release this week - one for medical issues, the other...??? Anyway, it causes major changes for companionships. I have a newfound respect for mission presidents. Someone once said that being a mission president is like going to scout camp for three years! I don't know a harder calling in the church. 

I wanted to add this photo of the Kauai Zone with President and Sister Warner, and the senior couple there. Notice the ties. The missionaries love to make matching ties.

Our Honolulu Stake had their spring concert on the weekend. It was amazing! They performed two hours of Broadway show tunes. There was a stake choir, stake orchestra, individual soloists, and dancing by the Honolulu Drill Team. I am amazed at the level of musical talent in Hawaii. Their next concert will the Christmas Concert in December. I decided to not participate this time. I felt I didn't have the extra time to put into practices. Maybe I'll decided to join the choir for the Christmas  Concert - we'll see.

Saturday we FINALLY made it to the beach. We found a beautiful small cove about 30 minutes from Honolulu. It's next to some pretty exclusive tourist spots and was very nice. I think the cove is man made...or at least man improved. The water was clear and fairly warm. Rocks had been placed as a breaker to keep waves to almost nothing. There was just a gentle in and out of the water - perfect for little ones and seniors.

After a struggle, we managed to get our fins and snorkels on and clumsily made it into the water. We paddled around for almost an hour watching the fish with our new snorkels and loving every minute. There weren't tons of fish, but enough to make it interesting. Some were really colorful. Others sort of plain. We plan to try out other beaches in our search for the best variety of fish.  

 Did we have better believe it!

Sunday we had visitors from the PCC. Four single senior sisters drove down to go to church in the Honolulu Tabernacle. One, Sister Nelson, is Devon's friend from high school. They loved the tabernacle. It was  also their first time at the mission office, so that was fun for them to see as well. We enjoyed seeing them.

I've been trying to play my ukulele more. I love it, and I think I'm improving. We are rested and ready for a very busy upcoming week - President Warner leaves, and President Bekker arrives. I'll have lots to report next week.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Week 15 Report

Another week gone - amazing! We were as busy as ever. The routine things keep us busy, but the constant unpredictable things really make mission office life interesting. I had to call Salt Lake four mornings this last week. Each call was to a different department for a different problem. Thankfully there are people there who know what the answer is and how to proceed. I'll note some examples:
1. A senior couple noticed their release date was a month farther out than it should be. Usually there is an icon in the internet system you can click on and change dates. But the BYUH seniors don't have that icon and so only SL can make the change. After a call, the change was made and everyone was happy.
2. We were notified through a missionary recommendation and on the arrival report that a sister from New Zealand was arriving in our mission next week. Great! Except I hadn't received a travel itinerary for her. A call to SL reported that she was at the MTC, but was going back to New Zealand to serve until her visa was she's not coming next week. We'll just have to watch for her. She could show up with only a few day's notice.
3. All the letters the mission secretary before me sent out were done the old fashioned way - one at a time. She didn't go to the MTC and learn how to use the template feature on the mission website. So, I've been converting the letters to templates. The only problem is that the font and page margins are different, so often a letter that was one page the old fashioned way ends up being 2 pages in a template. I thought surely there was a way to format the text, but a call to IMOS support confirmed that it is what it is. The only way to format the letter is to edit it down to fit one page. That's unfortunate, but at least now I know. I need to review all the letters with our new mission president, President Bekker, when he arrives in a couple of weeks. We'll see then what changes, if any, he wants to make.
4. Another senior couple who has been serving at BYUH has decided to extend their service here. The only problem is that they have already served for 23 months, so they will have to be released, and stay on as "volunteers." This means their stake president will have to release them on Skype, which had to be approved by SL. Their flight home has already been booked, so I had to cancel that. Upon their release, they will go completely out of our system. They will take over their rent and utility payments (which will be more than they were paying as missionaries), and will have to book and pay for their own flights home in December. Usually the seniors are ready to go on time or a week or so early. This is the first time I've had a couple that wants to stay longer.

Devon had to deliver a new air conditioner to an apartment for some of our young sisters. He took the mission truck, but along the way the truck started making awful noises. Devon made the delivery, but the truck was out of commission to drive home. He was in Waipahu - about 30 minutes away with no traffic.  I left the office early to go pick him up - in traffic which took almost an hour. Fortunately I found him okay with the help of GPS, and the truck can be repaired.

Another challenge this week was being so far away when a beloved family member was ill. My brother-in-law has been in the hospital for a week and gave us all quite a scare. Many prayers and skilled physicians have worked and he is improving. We have other sweet family members and friends that are facing trials. I know a little about that. We try to pray for them all. I'm not sure we could do anything to help if we were home, but it would be satisfying for us to be able to at least give them a hug, look them in the eye, and reassure them that our loving Heavenly Father is in charge. He loves them. He knows them. He will help them through their trials.

We have so many wonderful missionaries. Some definitely struggle and your heart aches for them. Others are strong from the get go. One such elder is from the southeast part of the USA. He is the only member of the church in his family. He joined the church a couple of years ago and LOVES the gospel. He has an extremely rare genetic skin condition. Only 3 people in the whole world have it. Basically, his skin is morbidly scaly. It's so bad that there is also a bad odor with it. All his life he has been bullied, abused, and thrown aside. Before he arrived in our mission, our mission president was advised to consider sending him home because the odor was such a problem. Well, this sweet elder arrived...and yes, the odor was bad - or so I'm told. President said he got a clear impression that contradicted mission rules, but he decided to follow the impression. He bought the elder a swimsuit and told him to bathe in the ocean 15 minutes twice a day. This elder was assigned to an understanding companion in a rural area. The elder has been faithful in following the president's counsel, and the odor is almost gone! After the fact, our mission nurse looked up the skin condition and learned that one of the recommendations is that salt water might be beneficial. A few days ago the ward mission leader sent president a text praising this young elder and thanking president for sending him to them. This amazing elder has a powerful testimony and has been more successful in 2 weeks with the less actives than any other missionaries have been in months. President was in tears when he read the text. What a blessing this elder is to have in our mission...and what a blessing for this mission to have a president that is so in tune with the spirit.

A very sad thing happened in our mission. A sweet senior sister serving at the PCC passed away on Friday. She had been sick for over a month. We knew on Tuesday she was not expected to recover. Her husband is heartbroken. Their children flew in to be with them and help with delicate, heart wrenching decisions. They were scheduled to be released and go home on the 27th.

We have been working hard in the evenings trying to get things moved back into the commissary. It's the room where all the Books of Mormon, pamphlets, pass along cards, videos, stationary, etc., etc., etc. are kept. What a job!

Friday night the office staff got pizza and burritos and worked until late.
Hard to believe, but this is an improvement. We have literature in 30 to 40 different languages - many I've never heard of before. It took us a few tries before we settled on a system. We hope to have it finished by the end of next week.
Saturday, oh wonderful Saturday! We took a drive to Historic Haleiwa Town on the North Shore. It's basically a tourist trap, but very quaint and fun. I saw a beautiful painting of the coast of Hawaii with the tall, lush mountains and the beautiful blue waves crashing on the shore. The artist is Roy Tabora and one of his galleries is in Haleiwa. We found it and learned a couple of things: 1) the piece of art I wanted is sold out, and 2) I probably can't afford it anyway! I'm not giving up. I'll have to think about it. He does have pieces that are not limited editions - they are less, but I haven't found one I like as well. We'll see.

Unquestionably, the most popular place in Haleiwa is Matsumoto's. 
The lines of people waiting to buy his amazing shaved ice are as long as ever. If you've never had one, it is basically really good vanilla ice cream topped with finely shaved ice and a variety of flavors of syrup. There are about 15 flavors to choose from.

YUM!!! No other explanation needed!

Sunday was a wonderful Father's Day celebrated with "my man." He gave a great talk in sacrament meeting, had many phone/FaceTime calls, and we enjoyed a nice dinner with the elders assigned to our ward. He was one of many fathers sporting beautiful lei today.
Faith promoting experiences are all around us. Of course there are challenges and frustrations, but they help us to grow. We feel so much love and support from our family and friends. It is a joy to be a missionary and we are so grateful to be here. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Week 14 Report

Life continues to be wonderful in the Hawaii Honolulu Mission. It's been a routine but wonderful week. The work in the office continues in a constant and unpredictable way. Monday and Tuesday were pretty much spent getting caught up with transfer business. Devon is still working to close an apartment in Wai'anae. The elders had pretty much destroyed it. A handyman repaired everything. The carpets were cleaned. The elders and sisters came and cleaned. Devon thought it was ready to turn over to the landlord and so scheduled an appointment with her. Well, they forgot to clean the glass window louvers. So, Devon spent a day cleaning them. I think he's done more housework in three months than he's done in his entire life!

Wednesday we only worked till noon and then went to Laie. Devon needed to deliver some house ware items for some missionaries there and we had appointments with Dr. Hughes. Devon had some questions about a mediation he is taking and I have been having pain in my right lower rib cage. Common sense told me it was nothing to worry about, but given my history I was worried anyway. Wonderful Dr. Hughes listened carefully to both of us. He ordered a chest x-ray for me (4 views) just to be on the safe side. About an hour and a half later (after office hours) he called and reported no lesions seen. Such good news!!! He took Devon off his blood pressure meds as his BP was 91/60 and he has been having some lower leg swelling. There is a BP cuff and stethoscope at the office, so I'll be monitoring his BP carefully. We went to the PCC and ordered several handmade items from the Mission Settlement. I'm already shopping for Christmas presents. Then we had a wonderful dinner at Pounders and nice drive home.

We moved back into our remodeled offices on Thursday. We had planned to move on Friday and were given permission to wear our jeans to make moving things easier. But the worker showed up Thursday morning to move our computer lines back upstairs. That gave us two choices: close up for the day or just move. So we did the latter and moved into our new offices. Since we had permission to be casual on Friday, we all decided to follow through on that. Loved wearing jeans for the day! The only problem was that we had an unexpected visitor Friday afternoon. Bishop Causse and the head of the FM group came by to see the new office. Does that name ring a bell??? Well, sad to say, not to me at the time. I almost asked, "What ward are you with?" Boy am I glad I didn't! He is the Presiding Bishop of the Church. Yep, the big wig from Salt Lake! And here we were in our jeans! He was very gracious and friendly. We didn't realize who he was until after he was gone. Our bad!

The hard thing about being away is missing special events for our family, or when someone gets sick. My brother-in-law, Rodney, has been in the hospital dealing with out of control blood pressure, heart rhythm problems, and an infection. Thankfully everything is under control and we hope he will be going home soon. I'm so grateful we can keep in daily contact through the telephone and prayers.

Saturday our sweet children and some of their good friends gathered at our new Lehi home and emptied our storage PODS. We still have items in two storage units, and various furniture items at several of our kids' homes. What would we do without our family? I'm hoping Emily can find our swim suits in one of those boxes. We're anxious to go snorkeling.

Things have been very exciting at the Laie Temple Visitor's Center for several weeks. Elder Swinton is the Visitor Center's director. He kept noticing that tour buses would stop in the parking lot, look around, and then leave. He wondered why they didn't come in and so one day he walked out to a bus.
It seems they thought the grounds and Visitor's Center were private property and not open to tourists, so they just stopped in the parking lot to let them have a look at the beautiful grounds. Well, Elder Swinton invited them in. When they found out it was free, and that it had free bathrooms it was a game changer. Now they the busloads. It's a regular stop on the tour schedule. Currently up to almost 200 Chinese tourists stop at the Visitor's Center every day! They are hungry to learn about Christianity and love taking their picture in front of the statue of Christ. They are only allowed to bring one religious book back to China with them, but many are taking Chinese Books of Mormon. They can't keep them on the selves. It's been a wonderful thing!

Chinese tourists love taking their picture with someone with blonde hair - in this case, Sister Swinton.

Chinese tourists with some of our cute sister missionaries.

Saturday was a special mission conference with Elder and Sister Renlund. Also speaking were our area seventy and his wife, and President and Sister Warner. It was a great conference. For me, the theme that stood out was how important our attitude and effort are. Sister Warner (I love her!) reminded us that attitude is a choice. She taught that to be successful we must show up (1) everyday, (2) on time, (3) with a good attitude. Always act as if we are what we need to become (or as Devon says, be the missionary your mother thinks you are).

Elder Renlund continued that theme. He drew this diagram on the chalkboard and then asked us which box we would put ourselves in? 
It caused me to evaluate myself. I know the box I want to be in, but in truth I probably bounce around a bit. Elder Renlund said, "It's totally up to you - what kind of missionary you will be." Then he asked us to make hymn #131, More Holiness Give Me, our prayer. It was a wonderful and inspiring meeting. The principles taught are ideals that will bless our lives in whatever we are doing.

Sunday also did not disappoint. I find myself so grateful for the many blessing of this past week. I know without a doubt we are constantly receiving divine guidance and blessings. I see them in my life and so many others. 

Monday, June 6, 2016

Week 13 Report

Our week started in a wonderful way - celebrating Memorial Day. In the evening we had the privilege of meeting a new elder at the airport. He went to the Provo MTC a couple of months ago, but was sent to the Vancouver Mission to serve while he waited for his visa. Well, he finally arrived Monday evening. It was a real treat for us to pick him up as Devon went to high school in Taber with his grandfather. He arrived safe and sound, but very tired after a long day of travel.

Elder Colton Ball

We were also blessed to pick up Sister DeLeon at the airport Wednesday afternoon. Most of our new missionaries come directly from the Provo MTC and are usually on the same Monday afternoon flight. But three of our new missionaries were visa waiters and so came on different flights directly from their temporary mission assignment - one in Canada and two in the Philippines. President Warner likes to meet all the missionaries at the airport, but he couldn't this week as it was transfer week and he was busy at either the mission home orienting the main new group, or at the temple with the departing group. One of the other senior couples picked up Elder Villanueva Wednesday evening.

Tuesday was the first day in our temporary office. Things were crazy busy, but for the most part we could find everything we needed to do our work. The temporary space actually is pretty comfortable except that the air conditioning only seem to run at freezing. We were all putting on sweaters trying to keep warm. I did the weekly Come and Go Report, and my part of the office orientation for the new arriving missionaries. We got 19 new missionaries and had 19 departing missionaries. The week of transfers is always my busiest week. Besides the Come and Go Report, I have to rotate the files (add in the arrivers and remove the departers and shred files), make email changes in Contacts in Outlook, order the photos of the new missionaries and make cards for the Transfer Board. Because it is the first of the month, the monthly mission newsletter needs to be created and distributed; print and distribute the new phone and organization rosters, oh...and get the weekly batch of birthday cards in the mail. Also it is time to request return home travel for the missionaries departing in September. I had to make a couple of calls to SLC to clarify passport renewal instructions for an elder, discuss special travel requests from a departing senior sister (this drives me crazy), and I have a missionary whose last name on his driver's license doesn't match the name in Global Visa Management. It's a big problem if his ticket home doesn't match his ID. That was my week in a nutshell!

Sister Whipple (on the left) departed this week. She and her companion, Sister Barber, were serving in Honolulu. We did their pad checks and got to see them quite often. They are great missionaries and ukulele players!

Devon and I enjoyed dinner out by ourselves on Friday. We went to a really nice Italian restaurant in the Ala Moana shopping center. We slept in on Saturday and in the afternoon went to the Waikiki Aquarium with Elder and Sister Reeder. We decided to take the bus. Traffic and parking is crazy in Waikiki and very expensive. As we are seniors, our bus ticket was only $1.00 each, each way. We made it with no problems so will probably be using the bus system again. 

The aquarium is quite small, but they did have some amazing things to see.
More jellyfish. By the way, they have no heart or brain, but do have four stomachs.
Lots of pretty fish, coral, and large clams

It was a great day. We came home, made a big pot of taco soup, and relaxed in our pad.

Sunday was wonderful. I accompanied in Primary and Relief Society again. Playing the piano is hard with my neuropathy. Sometimes I have a hard time knowing which keys my fingers are on because the feeling in my fingers is limited.  I have to look down at my hands frequently and it's distracting. and pretty strange! Sunday evening we drove to Laie for Break the Fast with the senior missionaries at BYUH and the PCC. It was a wonderful potluck dinner and great visiting. I'm surprised at how many people I know just by seeing their profile pictures as I keep track of their coming and going. After the dinner we went to a fireside at BYUH with Coach Sitake, Ty Detmer, another football coach and a couple of players from the BYU Provo team. It was excellent! I'm impressed with the coaching staff. They love football, but know it is not the most important thing in the world. They are most interested in developing quality young men, representing the Church well, and being devoted to family. Sounds like a win win to me.

I close this week feeling so grateful for all Heavenly Father has given me. I have had such a good life and serving here in Hawaii is just one of my many blessings. I'm ready and excited for a new week.